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Adoptionism (Early Christian heresy) {Ecumenical}
CARM ^ | 2004 | CARM

Posted on 04/29/2011 2:26:08 AM PDT by Cronos

Adoptionism is an error concerning Christ that first appeared in the second century. Those who held it denied the preexistence of Christ and, therefore, His deity. Adoptionists taught that Jesus was tested by God and after passing this test and upon His baptism, He was granted supernatural powers by God and adopted as the Son. As a reward for His great accomplishments and perfect character Jesus was raised from the dead and adopted into the Godhead.

This error arose out of an attempt by people to understand the two natures of Jesus. The scriptures tell us that Jesus is both God and man: "for Him dwells all the fullness of deity in bodily form," (Col. 2:9). This is known as the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union where in the one person of Christ, there are two natures: God and man.

Theodotus of Byzantium was the most prominent adherent to this error.

Adoptionism was condemned as a heresy by Pope Victor (A.D. 190-198).

8th Century revision

Adoptionism was later revived in the 8th Century in Spain by Elipandus, archbishop of Toledo, and Felix, bishop of Urgel. This was a variation of the first error but it held that Christ was the Son of God in respect to his divine nature, but that as a man, he was only adopted as the first born of God.

In 798 Pope Leo III held a council at Rome that condemned adoptionism as a heresy.

TOPICS: History
KEYWORDS: heresy
From Newadvent, we have the following details
Adoptionism, in a broad sense, a christological theory according to which Christ, as man, is the adoptive Son of God; the precise import of the word varies with the successive stages and exponents of the theory. Roughly, we have:
(1) the Adoptionism of Elipandus and Felix in the eighth century;
(2) the Neo-Adoptionism of Abelard in the twelfth century;
(3) the qualified Adoptionism of some theologians from the fourteenth century on.

  1. This, the original form of Adoptionism, asserts a double sonship in Christ: one by generation and nature, and the other by adoption and grace. Christ as God is indeed the Son of God by generation and nature, but Christ as man is Son of God only by adoption and grace. Hence "The Man Christ" is the adoptive and not the natural Son of God. Such is the theory held towards the end of the eighth century by Elipandus, Archbishop of Toledo, then under the Mohammedan rule, and by Felix, Bishop of Urgel, then under the Frankish dominion. The origin of this Hispanicus error, as it was called, is obscure. Nestorianism had been a decidedly Eastern heresy and we are surprised to find an offshoot of it in the most western part of the Western Church, and this so long after the parent heresy had found a grave in its native land. It is, however, noteworthy that Adoptionism began in that part of Spain where Islamism dominated, and where a Nestorian colony had for years found refuge.

    Elipandus's obstinacy and Felix's versatility were but the partial cause of the temporary success of Adoptionism. If that offspring of Nestorianism held sway in Spain for wellnigh two decades and even made an inroad into southern France, the true cause is to be found in Islamitic rule, which practically brought to naught the control of Rome over the greater part of Spain;

  2. Adoptionism of the 12th-13th centuries: The Spanish heresy left few traces in the Middle Ages. It is doubtful whether the christological errors of Abelard can be traced to it. They rather seem to be the logical consequence of a wrong construction put upon the hypostatical union. Abelard began to question the truth of such expressions as "Christ is God"; "Christ is man". Back of what might seem a mere logomachy there is really, in Abelard's mind, a fundamental error. He understood the hypostatical union as a fusion of two natures, the divine and the human. And lest that fusion become a confusion, he made the sacred Humanity the external habit and adventitious instrument of the Word only, and thus denied the substantial reality of "The Man Christ" — "Christus ut homo non est aliquid sed dici potest alicuius modi." It is self-evident that in such a theory the Man Christ could not be called the true Son of God.

    Was He the adoptive Son of God?

    Abelard's new-Adoptionism was condemned, at least in its fundamental principles, by Alexander III, in a rescript dated 1177: "We forbid under pain of anathema that anyone in the future dare assert that Christ as man is not a substantial reality (non esse aliquid) because as He is truly God, so He is verily man."

1 posted on 04/29/2011 2:26:21 AM PDT by Cronos
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To: Cronos

Is there any real way to prove this is an error?

2 posted on 04/29/2011 2:42:37 AM PDT by stuartcr (The soul is the .cfg file for the body)
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To: stuartcr

John 1, beginning at the 1st verse. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning...”

3 posted on 04/29/2011 2:53:27 AM PDT by bobjam
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To: bobjam

Excellent proof, thanks

4 posted on 04/29/2011 3:32:58 AM PDT by stuartcr (The soul is the .cfg file for the body)
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To: stuartcr; bobjam

I concur, thank you bobjam. The entire Christological discussion can be quite confusing and mentally strenuous!

5 posted on 04/29/2011 4:46:19 AM PDT by Cronos
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To: stuartcr; Cronos

Christ, as the 2nd Person of the Trinity, does appear in the Old Testament. Some examples often cited are:

When Jacob wrestled with God
The man who stood with Daniel’s friends in the furnace
The high priest Melchizidek (called priest of “God Most High”- Abraham bowed down to him- somthing Jews only did toward God.

6 posted on 05/01/2011 9:06:06 AM PDT by bobjam
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