Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Word of the Day: APHTHARTODOCETISM

(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.

2 comments:

mpb said...

Thank you for this. Very nice.I'm thinking about the claim "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."

On its face, this looks troubling for a lot of reasons. Considerations of heresy completely to the side, the view might have serious coherence issues. First,

(1) It is morally wrong to will suffering and death on anyone.
(2) Christ never did anything morally wrong.
(3) Christ willed suffering and death on someone (himself).

These are incompatible. At least one of them has to go, and I don't want to give up (1) or (2). It is plausible to suppose(3)is false.

Second, to will or decide to corrupt or bring on death are the general traits belonging to Satan, not God (obviously). God is the giver, sustainer, and remaker of everything in the world. This is no less true of the Son than of the Father. During the incarnation, why would Jesus get into the business of slowly destroying flesh? Are we to believe that when Jesus is performing healing works, restoring others from various deformities, that he was all the while causing similar kinds of deformities to himself? This seems odd.

Third,if Jesus' body is divine, isn't it just weird to say that God is anywhere from 5'7" to 6'0"? If it is true that anything divine is God or God is anything divine, and Jesus' body is divine, then we'd be able to take more than a few corporeal measurements of God, and this doesn't seem right. Suppose Jesus weighed 160 lbs. (we don't know how much He weighs now)and a Galilean Glutton weighed 190. We could say the Galilean Glutton weighs more or is bigger than or out weights, God. This doesn't seem right, but it would be true if the body of Jesus is divine.

Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Re the Darby you mentioned, not long ago I ran into "Our Daily Bread" by Joe Ortiz (dated Nov. 12) and read an astonishing article titled "Edward Irving is Unnerving" - and I am still shaken over the implications derived from it! In short, Darby should never have been viewed as the "father" of dispensationalism! Everyone should visit Joe's blog which is always filled with outstanding information. Winston