What is Apollinarianism?


Apollinarianism was a fourth-century heresy. It denied the full humanity and sinlessness of Jesus Christ. Apollinaris of Laodicea originated this false doctrine (ca. 361) which was rejected by various early church councils, including the First Council of Constantinople in 381.

Apollinarianism taught that Jesus' two natures - human and divine - could not co-exist in one person. According to Apollinarianism, since Jesus was human he must have been a sinner. Since Apollinarianism considered Jesus a sinner, they believed that human nature could not share the same body with his divine nature. To counter this, Apollinaris suggested that though Jesus had a human body and a human soul, his mind was taken over by the eternal Logos. See "What is Monophysitism?" below.

So, according to Apollinarianism, Jesus was not fully divine and fully human. Apollinarianism denied the hypostatic union of Christ; that Jesus Christ has two distinct natures (human and divine) united in one Person (see John 1:4; Col 2:9; 2 John 1:7). That Jesus Christ is 100% God and 100% man, fully the Son of God and the Son of Man, at one and the same time.

Biblically Jesus Christ needed to be fully divine in order to offer a pure and holy sacrifice to satisfy God the Father and fully a sinless man (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26) in order to die for men. However, since Apollinarianism denied the full humanity of Jesus Christ, it therefore must necessarily deny the biblical atonement provided by Christ for his elect at Calvary. In essence, by denying the full humanity of Jesus Christ, Apollinarianism diminished Christ's holiness and made his atonement insufficient for any. So, Apollinarianism, denied that Jesus Christ was the perfect mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5; 1 Pet 1:19). Apollinarianism was clearly a false doctrine.

Despite all the heresies in the early church (among them, Adoptionism, Albigenses, Apollinarianism, Arianism, Docetism, Ebionism, Gnosticism, Kenosis, Marcionism, Modalism, Monarchianism, Monophysitism, Nestorianism, Patripassionism, Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Socinianism, Subordinationism, and Tritheism, etc.) the Word of God still abides (1 Pet 1:23). Amidst all these assaults against God and his church by numerous false religions, the church has grown stronger, not weaker. In many ways, the church should be thankful for the gift of opposition!

Related Topics:

Could Jesus Sin?
Christological Heresies?
What is Adoptionism?
What is Albigenses?
What is Arianism?
What is Docetism?
What is Ebionism?
What is Gnosticism?
What is Kenosis?
What is Marcionism?
What is Modalism?
What is Monarchianism?
What is Monophysitism?
What is Nestorianism?
What is Patripassionism?
What is Pelagianism?
What is Semi-Pelagianism?
What is Socinianism?
What is Subordinationism?
What is Tritheism?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).