Adoptionism

Adoptionism is a heresy which, rather than accepting that Jesus is Christ come in the flesh, states that Jesus was a normal man whom God adopted into divine Sonship because of his unusual virtue and holiness. This adoption is usually assumed to have taken place at Jesus’ baptism.

The earliest known teacher of this idea is the leather merchant Theodotus, in Rome at around AD 190. Theodotus taught that the ‘Spirit’ or ‘Christ’ descended into the man Jesus, and invested him with miraculous powers and divine authority. In this way it could be claimed that Jesus was a mere man and not the divine Son of God. Adoptionism contradicts the identification of Jesus as the divine Logos.

An early convert to adoptionism was Paul of Samosata, Patriarch of Antioch, who was condemned by the Synod of Antioch in AD 268. He was later accused by the church historian Eusebius for deying his God and his Lord by holding such a low view of Jesus.

Church Councils at various times have condemned adoptionism as heresy, and in particular at the First Council of Nicaea, because it contradicts the doctrine of the Trinity, which identifies Jesus as eternally God.

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