Christological Heresies


Ebionism teaches that Jesus is just a man and not divine. The Ebionites were Jewish Christians in the early church. The Ebionites rejected the virgin birth, regarding Jesus as a man normally born of Joseph and Mary; they held he was the predestined Messiah, and in this capacity he would return to reign on earth. There are plenty of “Ebionites” around today. Everybody who says Jesus was just a good man or one prophet or holy man or good religious teacher among many.


Jesus was human, but he became the Son of God by Adoption. At some point in Jesus life (usually at his baptism) God adopted him as his Son. The early church document The Shepherd of Hermas taught that Jesus was an ordinary man, born of Mary and Joseph; at his baptism the Spirit or Christ descended upon Jesus and at his crucifixion the Christ departed, leaving the man Jesus to suffer alone. Some said Jesus became the Son of God at his resurrection.

In this christological heresy Jesus is not human at all. He is completely divine. The word Docetism comes from the Greek, dokein = “to seem”). The Docetists said Jesus just ‘seemed’ to be human. This was not a formal heresy with a group of people and a leader, but more an error in thought and perception which was overly influenced by Gnosticism and Greek philosophical ideas.

Arianism teaches that Jesus is related to God as his son, but he is not fully divine. Arius was a presbyter in the church of Alexandria. His teachings were an attempt to defend the transcendence of God. In the end, Arius had to conclude that Jesus Christ the Son of God was a demi-god–and therefore a created being. The argument focussed on two Greek words: homoousias, the Son is of the same essence as the Father, and homoiousias, the Son is of similar essence as the Father. The Nicene creed uses the word first word “homoousias” meaning one of substance with the Father, and so we say today, “Consubstantial with the Father.”

In this heresy the Word (which was a perfect divine nature) assumed a human body in Jesus, and thus replaced his human soul and mind. Apollinaris, the Bishop of Laodicea, proposed this idea in answer to Arius. But if  the divine Word of God took the place of the human mind and soul, Christ the Lord was not completely human. After many years of controversy, Apollinarianism was condemned at the Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381.

Nestorius was the  Bishop of Constantinople (A.D. 428). He did not like the term for the Virgin Mary”Theotokos” because he said it implied that the baby in Mary’s womb had only one nature, divine nature. He proposed the use of the term “Christokos“, Christ-bearer, to better emphasize the unity of the two natures of Jesus. Cyril of Alexandria countered by saying that God Himself had entered the womb of Mary; therefore she was “Theotokos“. The Concil of Rome in 430 condemned Nestorianism.

Monophysitism taught that the Lord’s humanity was totally absorbed by His divinity, and thus denied the orthodox view of Christ having two natures in one being.