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Monday
Mar312008

Theological Term of the Week

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docetism

The heretical teaching that Christ only appeared to be human, but that he was not really human, since he did not have a real human body.
  • From the Apostle John:
    By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (1 John 4:2-3)

    For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John 1:7)
  • From The Definition of Chalcedon (451)
    Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man, with a rational soul and a body. He is of the same reality as God as far as his deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted. Before time began he was begotten of the Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these “last days,” for us and behalf of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of his humanness.

    We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten — in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without con- trasting them according to area or function. The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the “properties” of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one “person” and in one reality . They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-begotten Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us; thus the Symbol of Fathers has handed down to us.
  • From Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D., with an Account of the Principal Sects and Heresies.
    St. Jerome scarcely exaggerates when he says (adv. Lucif. 23): “While the apostles were still surviving, while Christ’s blood was still fresh in Judea, the Lord’s body was asserted to be but a phantasm.” Apart from N.T. passages, e.g. Eph. ii. 9, Heb. ii. 14, which confute this assertion, but do not bear clear marks of having been written with a controversial purpose, it appears from I. John iv. 2, II. John 7, that when these epistles were written there were teachers, stigmatised by the writer as prompted by the spirit of Antichrist, who denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh, a form of expression implying a Docetic theory. Those who held that evil resulted from the inherent fault of matter found it impossible to believe that the Saviour could be Himself under the dominion of that evil from which He came to deliver men, and they therefore rejected the Church’s doctrine of a real union of the divine and human natures in the person of our Lord….

Learn more

  1. Truth for Today: Docetism
  2. Theopedia: Docetism
  3. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry: Docetism
  4. Basic Theology.org: Docetism
  5. Justin Holcomb: Know Your Heretics: Docetism
  6. Greg Johnson: Human, Body and Soul.
  7. Here at Rebecca WritesQuiz on Jesus as a human being.
Related terms:
The term docetism was suggested by Leslie of Lux Venit, who writes that she is reminded of
a sermon I heard in which the pastor preached that Jesus’ blood was not human blood, but completely divine….I’ve heard this particular teaching is called Doceticism, but I don’t know why or what all it entails..
Have you come across a theological term that you don’t understand and that you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

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