Category: MONOPHYSITISM PAST AND PRESENT
Apollinaris was, as far as we know, the first theologian to approach
this subject. We may note in passing that, though he was bishop of
Laodicea in Syria, Alexandria was his native place. His father was an
Alexandrian, and he himself had been a friend of Athanasius. The fact
of his connection with Alexandria deserves mention, because his
doctrine reflects the ideas of the Alexandrian school of thought, not
those of the Syrian. Apollinaris set himself to attack the heretical
view that there were two "Sons"--one before all time, the divine Logos,
and one after the incarnation, Jesus Christ. In doing so he felt
constrained to formulate a theory of the union of natures. He started
from the Platonic division of human nature into three parts, rational
soul, animal soul, and body. He argued that in the statement "the
Logos became flesh," "flesh" must mean animal soul and body. He urged
in proof that it would be absurd to suppose the Logos conditioned by
human reason; that rational soul was the seat of personality, and that
if it were associated with the Logos, it would be impossible to avoid
recognising "two Sons." He expressly asserted that the humanity of
Christ was incomplete, contending that this very defect in the human
nature made possible the unity of His person. According to
Apollinaris, then, the union was a composition. The Logos superseded
the human reason, and was thus united to body and animal soul.
Apollinarianism was a form of docetism. In ascribing imperfection to
the human nature of Christ it eo ipso denied its reality.
Apollinaris, in fact, said of Christ's reason what the early docetists
said of His body. The system is more ingenious than convincing. It is
highly artificial. It provides no intellectual basis for a living
faith in an incarnate Christ. The theory, however, was very
influential in its day, and was intimately connected with the rise of
monophysitism. Eutyches, the "father of the monophysites," was
condemned by a local synod at Constantinople in A.D. 448 on the ground
that he was "affected by the heresy of Valentinus and Apollinaris."
Harnack goes so far as to say that "the whole position of the later
monophysites, thought out to all its conceivable conclusions, is
already to be found in Apollinaris." Apollinarianism was condemned at
the second general council, and there the Church made her first
declaration, a negative one, on the subject of the hypostatic union.
In conflict with the heresies which arose in the next two generations,
she evolved a positive statement of the truth.
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