Apollinarianism: Concise Introduction For Skeptics

Church Fathers

Apollinarianism is a fourth century doctrine that taught that Christ Jesus possessed a human body with a divine mind and spirit. A bishop of Laodicea in Syria, and a friend of Athanasius, named Apollinarius (ca. 310- ca. 390 A.D.) understood human mind and spirit/soul as the seat of sin.

He viewed Jesus as having a mental and spiritual life of Logos operating through human flesh. Phillip Schaff explained:

Apollinarius, according to S. Gregory, declares that the Son of God was from all eternity clothed with a human body, and not from the time of His conception only by the Blessed Virgin; but that this humanity of God is without human mind, the place of which was supplied by the Godhead of the Only-begotten.(Schaff & Wace 1894:  437)

Being frightened by Arianism, a doctrine of a created Logos, Apollinarius adopted this position because he  wanted to preserve Christ’s deity.  By safeguarding Him from sin, Jesus’ deity remained intact.  Apollinarius’ Christology was of Alexandrian School of Athanasius and Cyril which were “strong in declaring for the deity of Christ and the union of the two natures in his incarnate person.”(Ferguson & Packer 2000:35),

Alex B. Bruce correctly recorded that the opponents of this view contended against it mostly because of it’s soteriological implication. He wrote,

Gregory Nazianzen put the matter in a nut-shell when he said: ‘That which is not assumed is not healed.’ The patristic theory of redemption was, that Christ redeemed man, so to speak, by sample, presenting to God in His own person the first-fruits of a renewed humanity. Athanasius contrasts the Apollinarian and the orthodox theories of redemption thus: ‘Ye say that believers are saved by similitude and imitation, not by renovation, or by first-fruits.’ Salvation being by first-fruits, of course the Saviour must be physically like His brethren in soul as well as in body, otherwise the sample would not be like the bulk. As Cyril put it: Christ must take flesh that He might deliver us from death: and He must take a human soul to deliver us from sin, destroying sin in humanity by living a human life free from all sin,—rendering the soul He assumed superior to sin by dyeing it, and tinging it with the moral firmness and immutability of His own divine nature(Bruce 1900:45-46)

For Christ to save the whole of us, He must have assumed all of human body, mind, spirit and soul. It was mainly because of this reason that Apollinarianism was rejected by several church councils, from the Council of Alexandria in a.d. 362 to the Council of Constantinople in a.d. 381.(Grudem 2004: 555).

Question: Have you heard of Apollinarianism before?


Bruce, A. B. (1900). The humiliation of Christ in its physical, ethical and official aspects. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark.

Ferguson, S. B., & Packer, J. (2000). New dictionary of theology (electronic ed.) Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Stevenson, J & Kidd, B. J. (1966) Creeds, councils, and controversies: Documents illustrative of the history of the church A.D. 337-461.. New York: Seabury Press.

Schaff , P & Wace H. & Gregory Nazianzen. (1894). Select Letters of Saint Gregory Nazianzen C. G. Browne & J. E. Swallow, Trans.). In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume VII: S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Gregory Nazianzen (P. Schaff & H. Wace, Ed.) New York: Christian Literature Company.

Stevenson, J & Kidd, B. J. (1966) Creeds, councils, and controversies: Documents illustrative of the history of the church A.D. 337-461. New York: Seabury Press.

Satanus Victor: Atonement As Ransom to Satan

Atonement Nails

Ransom to Satan theory views Christ’s atoning work as a payment to Satan to ransom those whom God the Father gave Christ. Wayne Grudem clarified this view as “the ransom Christ paid to redeem us was paid to Satan, in whose kingdom all people were by virtue of sin.”(Grudem 1994: 581)

Supplementing Grudem, R. C. Sproul expounded that “Satan was the kidnapper who had snatched us away from our Father’s house, and Christ came and paid a ransom to the Devil to set us free.”(Sproul 2007: 54)

A brilliant Christian theologian Origen of Alexandria (185-254 A.D.) was the main champion of the ransom to Satan theory. He contended that, “it was the devil who held us, to whom we had been sold by our sins. He demanded therefore as our price, the blood of Jesus.” (Origen 1985: 142) He articulated,

“To whom did he [Christ Jesus] give his life a ransom for many? Assuredly not to God; could it then be to the evil one? For he was holding us fast until the ransom should be given him, even the life of Jesus; being deceived with the idea that he could have dominion over it, and not seeing that he could not bear the torture in retaining it.”(ibid)

Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335- ca. 395) added his own twist, as he viewed God deceiving Satan when Christ’s deity hide under Christ’s flesh and offered himself as a ransom and as a result, Satan lost both his victims and Christ. He argued,

“in order to secure that the ransom in our behalf might be easily accepted by him[Satan] who required it, the Deity[of Christ] was hidden under the veil of our nature, that so, as with ravenous fish, the hook of the Deity might be gulped down along with the bait of flesh, and thus, life being introduced into the house of death, and light shining in darkness, that which is diametrically opposed to light and life might vanish; for it is not in the nature of darkness to remain when light is present, or of death to exist when life is active.(Gregory 1893: 494)

Why did many early Church fathers fell for this theory, which gives the Satan much more power than he actually have? How could they accept a view that finds no support in the Scripture, even though the New Testament does indeed speaks of man fallen into the bondage of sin?  It could be “because Satan is the enemy of God and the tempter, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that Satan held us in bondage and demanded a ransom from God.”(Sproul 2007: 55) but we cannot know for sure why.

 “If Christ paid a ransom to Satan to deliver us from Satan’s clutches, who is the victor?”(ibid 57) asked Sproul, as he questioned the validity of this view. If random was paid to the Satan, then Jesus is not Christus Victor, but Satan, hence Satanus Victor.

Grudem contended that those who held ransom to Satan theory “falsely thinks of Satan rather than God as the one who required that a payment be made for sin and thus completely neglects the demands of God’s justice with respect to sin.”(Grudem 1994: 581) He point out that the idea of sinners owing anything to Satan is nowhere to be found in the Old or New Testament. It is God, not Satan, who requires of us a payment for our sins.

Question: Are there modern theologians supporting ransom to Satan theory today?


Gregory of Nyssa. (1893). The Great Catechism W. Moore, Trans.). In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume V: Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, etc. (P. Schaff & H. Wace, Ed.) New York: Christian Literature Company.

Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Sproul, R. C. (2007). The Truth of the Cross (53). Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.

Origen (1985), Commentary on Matthew 16:8, cited in H. D. McDonald, The Atonement of the Death of Christ in Faith, Revelation, and History. Grand Rapids: Baker.

Elizabeth’s Poetic Case Against Transubstantiation

Queen Elizabeth I

Is the communion bread and the wine a physical or spiritual, or only symbolical body and blood of Christ Jesus? Ludwig Ott correctly presented Roman Catholicism answer to our question, viz.,

“The Eucharist is that Sacrament, in which Christ, under the forms of bread and wine, is truly present, with His Body and Blood, in order to offer Himself in an unbloody manner to the Heavenly Father, and to give Himself to the faithful as nourishment for their souls.” (Ott 1954 370.)

From this view, Christ Jesus is truly, really, and substantially present in forms of bread and wine. The communion bread and wine transubstantiate to actual body and blood of Christ. Thus as pope Paul VI concluded that “they are holy of themselves, and owing to the virtue of Christ they confer grace to the soul as they touch the body”(Paul VI 1965: 38)

Martin Luther rejected this view and contended for consubstantiation. He argued that “[i]t is not that the bread and wine have become Christ’s body and blood, but that we now have the body and blood in addition to the bread and wine.”(Erickson 1986: 1117). Lady Elizabeth rejected both the Roman Catholicism and Germany Reformed views in favor of the French/Geneva reformed understanding.

Elizabeth’s Calvinistic Theology + Case Against Transubstantiation

At twelve years old, Elizabeth had access to the first French copy of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (Geneva, 1541), to which she later translated the first chapter for Queen Katherine. (Elizabeth I 2009: 204-207)

Following John Calvin’s reformed theology, Lady Elizabeth, imprisoned on suspicion of her pro-Protestant stance during the reign of Queen Mary, gave a profound poetic case denying the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.

Lady Elizabeth, in prison, wrote:

Twas God the Word that spake it,
He took the Bread and brake it:
And what that Word did make it,
That I believe and take it.

The depth of Elizabeth’s theology is expounded in her poem, A Meditation how to discern the Lords Body in the Blessed Sacrament, that embodied Calvin’s theology.

Calvin rejected both transubstantiation and consubstantiation. He pointed out that even some of the Catholic father opposed others. He cited Gelasisus Papa expound: “That the substance of bread and wine in the Eucharist does not cease but remains, just as the nature and substance of man remains united to the Godhead in the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Gelasius Papa in Conc. Rom. Gelasius I, 492-96. cited by Calvin) as an example.

For Calvin, Eucharist is a spiritual feast to which “souls are fed by Christ just as the corporeal life is sustained by bread and wine”. He contended,

Thus when bread is given as a symbol of the body of Christ, we must immediately think of this similitude. As bread nourishes, sustains, and protects our bodily life, so the body of Christ is the only food to invigorate and keep alive the soul

When we behold wine set forth as a symbol of blood, we must think that such use as wine serves to the body, the same is spiritually bestowed by the blood of Christ; and the use is to foster, refresh, strengthen, and exhilarate.(Calvin 2007: n.p)

In A Meditation how to discern the Lords Body in the Blessed Sacrament, Lady Elizabeth wondered how men, who are not able to make with their own fingers wheat that makes the bread, can make God of wafers. She poetically reductio ad absurdum the  notion that the bread and wine were real body and blood of Christ Jesus since if:

He gave his Flesh, and Blood in Bread and Wine:
For if his Body he did then divide,
He must have eat himself before he dyd.

She expounded, what I believe is correct, what happens when we take bread and wine:

We must believe the Words of him, who said,
This is my Body; when he gave the Bread:
And sure that Blood which curdld in each Vein,
Did in his Sacred Body still remain,
Till he was Crucifyd and Slain.
However, theres great Influence therein,
Which expiates and cleanseth us from Sin:
We are made One with him in Holy Union,
When we in Faith receive the Blest Communion.
In Commemoration of his bitter Passion,
Who shed his Blood to purchase our Salvation;
We on his Merits must depend alone,
Sufficient tis that Merit we have none:
Nor can there any other Name be given
To save us, but by him who sits in Heaven.
His Body here on Earth need not appear,

She offered compelling reasons not to take the bread and wine literally as true body and blood of Christ Jesus when she poetically expounded,

He calld himself a Vine, and yet we see,
He was a perfect Man, and not a Tree.
He calld himself a Door; tis understood,
We enter Heaven through Him, and not thro Wood.
He calld himself a Way, the which doth lead
Our Steps to Heaven, yet none doth on him tread.(Elizabeth I 1688: n.p)

If, indeed, this is Queen Elizabeth I work, I solute her brilliancy since she did not only captured French reformed position but transformed it in a poetic way. Even though, Elizabeth does not comprehensively capture the whole of  Calvin case  in his Institute of the Christian Religion but does, I believe, she successively  presented Calvin’s opinion concerning the Eucharist.

Question: Do you agree with lady Elizabeth’s theology? Give reasons.


Calvin, J. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Elizabeth I   (1688) Queen Elizabeth ‘s Opinion concerning Transubstantiation: London: Printed for F.E.  English Broadside Ballad Archive

________  (2009) Elizabeth I: Translations, 1544-1589. University of Chicago Press

Erickson, Millard J.(1986) Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Bake.

Paul IV (1965) Mysterium Fidei: Encyclical Pope Paul VI On The Holy Eucharist. Vatican.

Ott, Ludwig (1954) Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Ed. James Canon Bastible, Trans. from Germany: Patrick Lynch. Roman Catholic Books. Fort Collins.

Adoptionism: Concise Introduction For Skeptics


A doctrine that taught that Jesus of Nazareth was a mere man until his baptism where God the Father adopted him as his Son. Wayne Grudem explained that “[a]doptionists would not hold that Christ existed before he was born as a man; therefore, they would not think of Christ as eternal, nor would they think of him as the exalted, supernatural being created by God that the Arians held him to be.”(Grudem 1994: 245)

Adoptionism was rejected and exposed to be a false teaching because it failed to square with passages that explicitly demonstrated the preexistence of Christ Jesus (e.g. John 1:1, 8:58 and Phil. 2:6). This teaching failed to portray Christ Jesus as David’s Son and David’s Lord (Matt. 22:45 Luke 1:43) that is clearly taught in God-breathed Scriptures.

Gerrit C. Berkouwer informed as that,

Felix of Urgel, for instance, taught that the human being adopted by the Son of God must be sharply distinguished from Christ who, as God’s own Son without adoption, was the second person of the Trinity. The man Jesus was predestined to be united with the Son of God. This Adoptionism was condemned by the Western Church in 792 (Regensburg), in 794 (Frankfort), and in 799 (Aken), because the church regarded this as a doctrine of two persons and spoke explicitly of the Nestorian impiety by which Christ was divided into two persons: God’s own Son and the adopted son.(Berkouwer 1954: 322)

He wonderfully remarked that “in order to find Adoptionism in the New Testament, one must make a radical selection in Scripture—a selection which obscures the mystery of the person and work of Christ.”(Berkouwer 1954: 176) Berkouwer explained that the Gospel does not present Jesus Christ as a man who was adopted as Son of God as a reward for his work on earth but a person whose work and person direct us to His divinity.

Millard J. Erickson noted that the doctrine Adoptionism recurrent appearances throughout the Church history but “[t]hose who take seriously the full teaching of Scripture, however, are aware of major obstacles to this view, including the preexistence of Christ, the prebirth narrative, and the virgin birth.”(Erickson 1998: 748)

Question To Skeptics: What case could you offer against preexistence of Jesus of Nazareth?


Berkouwer, G. C. (1954). The Person of Christ. Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.

Erickson, M. J. (1998). Christian theology (2nd ed.) Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.

Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Ben Witherington III + Jesus’ Wife Controversy

Seven Minute Seminary provided a brilliant intake of Ben Witherington III thoughts on Karen L. King “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”.

J. W. Wartick did a brilliant task of assembling an array of responses:  Jesus’ wife? A survey of responses.

I will add to Wartick’s list:

What About the Back of the So-Called Gospel of Jesus’s Wife? by Michael Kruger

Did Jesus Have A Wife? : A Caution to Media Sensationalism by Randy Hardman

Btw: It is wonderful to be back after a 3 weeks visit in Arusha, Tanzania. My wife, Lea, and I took our 6 months daughter, Eliose Madaleine, to see her grandparents and great grandma. It was lovely to be back to my native country.

Tertullian: Trinity + The Rule of Faith

Writing against Praxeas, who taught Monarchians viz., the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one and the same person, Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus’(c. 160 – c. 225 AD) gave one of the earliest and robust defense of one and only God in three distinct persons. Tertullian contended:

Bear always in mind that this is the rule of faith which I profess; by it I testify that the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit are inseparable from each other, and so will you know in what sense this is said. Now, observe, my assertion is that the Father is one, and the Son one, and the Spirit one, and that They are distinct from Each Other. […] Father and the Son are demonstrated to be distinct; I say distinct, but not separate.[He explained further that its “on the ground of Personality, not of Substance—in the way of distinction, not of division”]

Quoting Isaiah 42:1, 45:1 61:1(Luke 4:18) 53:1-2, Psalms 71:18, 3:1, 110:1, Tertullian argued:

Still, in these few quotations the distinction of Persons in the Trinity is clearly set forth. For there is the Spirit Himself who speaks, and the Father to whom He speaks, and the Son of whom He speaks.

He went further to contend:

If the number of the Trinity also offends you, as if it were not connected in the simple Unity, I ask you how it is possible for a Being who is merely and absolutely One and Singular, to speak in plural phrase, saying, “Let us make man in our own image, and after our own likeness;” whereas He ought to have said, “Let me make man in my own image, and after my own likeness,” as being a unique and singular Being?

In the following passage, however, “Behold the man is become as one of us,” He is either deceiving or amusing us in speaking plurally, if He is One only and singular. Or was it to the angels that He spoke, as the Jews interpret the passage, because these also acknowledge not the Son? Or was it because He was at once the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, that He spoke to Himself in plural terms, making Himself plural on that very account? Nay, it was because He had already His Son close at His side, as a second Person, His own Word, and a third Person also, the Spirit in the Word, that He purposely adopted the plural phrase, “Let us make;” and, “in our image;” and, “become as one of us.” For with whom did He make man? and to whom did He make him like? (The answer must be), the Son on the one hand, who was one day to put on human nature; and the Spirit on the other, who was to sanctify man.

With these did He then speak, in the Unity of the Trinity, as with His ministers and witnesses In the following text also He distinguishes among the Persons: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him.” Why say “image of God?” Why not “His own image” merely, if He was only one who was the Maker, and if there was not also One in whose image He made man? But there was One in whose image God was making man, that is to say, Christ’s image, who, being one day about to become Man (more surely and more truly so), had already caused the man to be called His image, who was then going to be formed of clay—the image and similitude of the true and perfect Man.

Tertullian assembled John 1:1-3, Psalms 45:6-7, 110:1, and Isaiah 53:1 to argue that “the Father is Lord, and the Son also is Lord”(Lord = Yahweh). He went on to expound:

A much more ancient testimony we have also in Genesis: “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” Now, either deny that this is Scripture; or else (let me ask) what sort of man you are, that you do not think words ought to be taken and understood in the sense in which they are written, especially when they are not expressed in allegories and parables, but in determinate and simple declarations?

Tertullian believed that He was following the apostle Paul teaching of Romans 9:5.

I shall follow the apostle; so that if the Father and the Son, are alike to be invoked, I shall call the Father “God,” and invoke Jesus Christ as “Lord.” But when Christ alone (is mentioned), I shall be able to call Him “God,” as the same apostle says: “Of whom is Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever.”

Oneness Apostolic, also known as “Jesus Only”, do uphold Praxeas teachings today. A teaching which, I believe, Tertullian strongly and successively refuted. The doctrine of Trinity is the rule of faith that early Christians taught and believed.

Question: Did you know that the doctrine of Trinity was taught by Ante-Nicene Church fathers?


Tertullian. (1885). Against Praxeas P. Holmes, Trans.). In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian (A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe, Ed.) (603-8). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.(paragraphs added)

Image Credit: Ressonância Trinity Symbol

Hippolytus: This is Jesus of Nazareth

Hippolytus of Rome(ca A.D. 160–236.) was a disciple of Irenæus and a brilliant theologian. He was a defender of Logos doctrine that distinguished the persons of the Trinity. In Against The Heresy of One Noetus, Hippolytus gave a wonderful description of Jesus of Nazareth:

This (Word) was preached by the law and the prophets as destined to come into the world. And even as He was preached then, in the same manner also did He come and manifest Himself, being by the Virgin and the Holy Spirit made a new man; for in that He had the heavenly (nature) of the Father, as the Word and the earthly (nature), as taking to Himself the flesh from the old Adam by the medium of the Virgin, He now, coming forth into the world, was manifested as God in a body, coming forth too as a perfect man. For it was not in mere appearance or by conversion, but in truth, that He became man.

Thus then, too, though demonstrated as God, He does not refuse the conditions proper to Him as man, since He hungers and toils and thirsts in weariness, and flees in fear, and prays in trouble. And He who as God has a sleepless nature, slumbers on a pillow. And He who for this end came into the world, begs off from the cup of suffering. And in an agony He sweats blood, and is strengthened by an angel, who Himself strengthens those who believe on Him, and taught men to despise death by His work.

And He who knew what manner of man Judas was, is betrayed by Judas. And He, who formerly was honoured by him as God, is contemned by Caiaphas. And He is set at nought by Herod, who is Himself to judge the whole earth. And He is scourged by Pilate, who took upon Himself our infirmities. And by the soldiers He is mocked, at whose behest stand thousands of thousands and myriads of myriads of angels and archangels. And He who fixed the heavens like a vault is fastened to the cross by the Jews.

And He who is inseparable from the Father cries to the Father, and commends to Him His spirit; and bowing His head, He gives up the ghost, who said, “I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again;” and because He was not overmastered by death, as being Himself Life, He said this: “I lay it down of myself.” And He who gives life bountifully to all, has His side pierced with a spear.

And He who raises the dead is wrapped in linen and laid in a sepulchre, and on the third day He is raised again by the Father, though Himself the Resurrection and the Life. For all these things has He finished for us, who for our sakes was made as we are. For “Himself hath borne our infirmities, and carried our diseases; and for our sakes He was afflicted,” as Isaiah the prophet has said.

This is He who was hymned by the angels, and seen by the shepherds, and waited for by Simeon, and witnessed to by Anna. This is He who was inquired after by the wise men, and indicated by the star; He who was engaged in His Father’s house, and pointed to by John, and witnessed to by the Father from above in the voice, “This is my beloved Son; hear ye Him.” He is crowned victor against the devil.(Hippolytus 1886: 230 paragraphs added)

I called this a gospel according to Hipppolytus.

Source: Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Public Domain)

Hippolytus of Rome. (1886). Against the Heresy of One Noetus S. D. F. Salmond, Trans.). In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume V: Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Novatian, Appendix (A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe, Ed.) . Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.