(Greek aphthartos, “incorruptible”), a Christian heresy of the 6th century.
With Aphthartodocetism, the implications of Monophysitism (“Christ had but one nature and that divine”) were brought to a new extreme. This teaching claims that the body of Christ was divine, therefore incorruptible and imperishable. Still, Christ was free to will his sufferings and death voluntarily, which is also what he did.
The Aphthartodocetist doctrine was originally espoused by Julian, bishop of Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum, Turkey). His teaching was strongly opposed by Patriarch Severus of Antioch, who also was also a condemned Monophysite. Severus vigorously challenged Julian on the ground that the doctrine of salvation was meaningless unless Christ’s body was truly human. Their two parties emerged into a schism that would last until the 7th century.
Some historians believe the Byzantine emperor Justinian I proclaimed the new heresy in an edict of 564 and would have imposed it on the Eastern church but for his death the following year.
Aphthartodocetism found acceptance in the Armenian Church and was espoused by John Nelson Darby and other early dispensationalist writers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Adapted from the online Encyclopedia Britannica and LookLex Encyclopedia entries.