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A fourth-century Christological heresy that denied the human soul in Christ. It received its name from Apollinaris, Bishop of Laodicea, who had been a champion of Nicene orthodoxy and a friend of St. athanasius of alexandria. Apollinarianism signalized the point of transition from the Trinitarian to the Christological heresies.

Its principal thesis was a result of the anti-Arian polemic of Apollinaris, but in attempting to defend the divinity of the Word, he actually accepted the Arian postulate minimizing the human nature in Christ (c. 352). In his zeal to preserve the humanity of Christ, and his lack of a distinction between the concept of nature and person, Apollinaris relied on the Platonic trichotomy of the human being: body, sensitive soul, and rationality (σάρξ, ψνχή, σαρκική and ψνχή λογική).

In his literal interpretation of the Johannine text "The Word became Flesh," Apollinaris believed that he had found the key to the solution of the Christological problem. He taught that (1) if one does not admit a diminution of the human nature in Christ, the unity of Christ cannot be explained since two complete natures cannot constitute one unique entity; (2) where there exists a complete man, sin exists since sin resides in the will, that is, in man's spirit, for free will and sin are interdependent; hence Christ's being exempt from sin cannot be explained if he had a human spirit in the Incarnate Word; and (3) the Word of God did not assume a complete human nature, but only a body (σάρξ) and what is strictly connected with the body, the sensitive soul. The Word itself has taken the part of the spirit of man, or the rational soul (νο[symbol omitted]ς). Only thus can one speak of "one sole nature incarnate of the Word of God" (μία φύσις το[symbol omitted] λóγου το[symbol omitted] θεο[symbol omitted] σεσαρκωμένη). This formula is found in Apollinaris' Incarnation of the Word of God, which is frequently interpolated among the works of St. Athanasius.

As intended by Apollinaris, the sentence cannot have an orthodox meaning, but because it was reputedly accepted by St. Athanasius, St. cyril of alexandria, in his polemic against nestorianism, gave it an orthodox interpretation. After the Council of ephesus, however, it was accepted by eutyches and dioscorus of alexandria in a strictly Monophysitic sense, and by Sergius of Constantinople with a Monoenergetic and Monothelite meaning. Apollinarianism appears in the history of Christian dogma as a heresy more disturbing in its consequences in the long perspective than in its immediate effects.

Examined first in the Synod of Alexandria in 362, the doctrine of Apollinaris was condemned on the principle common in Oriental theology that "that which is not assumed [by the Divine word] is not healed." Hence if the Logos had not assumed a rational soul, the redemption would be inefficacious as regards human souls. This condemnation was formulated in a delicate manner, not mentioning the name of Apollinaris, but his position was definitively compromised when his disciple Vitalis, after the meletian schism (362), founded an Apollinarian party at Antioch (375). Vitalis at first deceived Pope damasus i, but in a Synod of 377, on the basis of further information, the pope admonished Vitalis to reject Apollinarianism and called for the deposition of Apollinaris and the bishops infected with his heresy.

Apollinaris gave final definition to his ideas in his Demonstration of the Divine Incarnation (376), answered the papal condemnation by consecrating Vitalis a bishop for his sect in Antioch, and helped his follower Timotheus to become bishop of Berytus. However, neither these measures nor the attempt to spread his teaching among the Egyptian bishops exiled by the Emperor Valens to Diocaesarea succeeded.

The Roman Synod's decision was confirmed by Synods of Alexandria (378) and Antioch (379) and by the General Council of constantinople i (381). It was reconfirmed by Damasus' Roman Council in 382. Thereupon the Emperor theodosius i intervened with decrees in 383, 384, and 388, outlawing the Apollinarists and sending their major representatives into exile. The imperial decrees did not succeed, however, and the heresy was well received among many Orientals, but it did not long survive its originator, who died in 390.

Toward 420 the schismatic community was reabsorbed into the Catholic Church, although a group of intransigents, called Sinusiati, finished later by joining the Monophysite movement, with whom they had a theological affinity.

The dogmatic writings in which Apollinaris exposed his doctrine have been handed down as having other authorship than his: Profession of Faith, among the works of St. Athanasius, and a letter to the presbyter Dionysius, under the name of Pope julius i. His principal work Demonstratio Incarnationis divinae is known mainly through its refutation in the writings of St. gregory of nyssa (Antirrheticus adv. Apollinarem ). St. gregory of nazianzus, diodore of tarsus, and theodoret of cyr also wrote against Apollinarianism, but their works have not been preserved. The work Adv. fraudes Apollinaristarum is probably to be attributed to leontius of byzantium.

Bibliography: h. lietzmann, Apollinaris von Laodicea und seine Schule (Tübingen 1904). g. voisin, L' Apollinarisme (Louvain 1901). c. e. raven, Apollinarianism (Cambridge, Eng. 1923). h. de riedmatten, "Some Neglected Aspects of Apollinarist Christology," Dominican Studies 1 (1948) 239260; a. grillmeier and h. bacht, Das Konzil von Chalkedon: Geschichte und Gegenwart (Würzburg 195154) 1:102117, 203212. b. altaner, Patrology, tr. h. graef (New York 1960) 363365. j. quasten, Patrology (Westminster, Maryland 1950) 3:377383. a. geschÉ, Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 54 (1959) 403406.

[f. chiovaro]

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(Aizanoi, Phrygia, fl. first or early second century CE)


Apollinarius was among the most prominent Greek astronomers of the time immediately preceding Ptolemy, a period in the history of Greek astronomy about which scholars are very poorly informed. His chief contributions were apparently in lunar theory.

In his second century CE commentary on Hippocrates’s Airs, Waters, Places(c. 400 BCE), a work extant only in Arabic translation, Galen found occasion to attack intellectuals of his time living at Rome for their ignorance of the writings of the most important astronomers. Among them he lists Apollinarius of Aizanoi (a city in Phrygia) along with Hipparchus (second century BCE), two other men otherwise unknown, and—if the name is not an interpolation in the Arabic text—Ptolemy (second century CE). Like Galen’s catalogue of astronomers as a whole, Apollinarius is emblematic of the tenuous knowledge of Greco-Roman science, for though he is frequently mentioned in sources, none of his works has survived or is even known by title.

One specimen of Apollinarius’s writings survives, a passage of about five hundred words quoted in a fragment of an anonymous commentary on Ptolemy’s Handy Tables, composed in the early third century CE and fortuitously preserved in a medieval astrological manuscript. Apollinarius begins by defining terms for the various periodicities associated with the Moon—the synodic month and the sidereal, anomalistic, and dracontic months—and he explains how the Moon’s anomalistic motion, characterized by its varying distance from the Earth, affects the length of the synodic month. The bulk of the passage, however, sets out Apollinarius’s correct contention that the Moon’s motion in latitude, reckoned as its progress in the plane of its orbit relative to the nodal line, is also affected by the anomaly, contrary, he says, to what the “Chaldeans” (Babylonian astronomers) believed. Hence, if one seeks a precise value for the dracontic month by comparing pairs of observed lunar eclipses widely spaced in time, ideally one ought to look for eclipses such that the Sun and Moon are in the same situations with respect to their anomalies as well as at precisely the same locations in the zodiac; these conditions, however, cannot be fulfilled within a span shorter than “many myriads of years.” The fragment breaks off at this point, but it is enough to show that Apollinarius was criticizing the kind of approach to measuring lunar periodicities that Ptolemy attributes to Hipparchus in Book IV of the Almagest.

The late-second-century astrologer Vettius Valens claims to have used Apollinarius’s tables for computing positions of the Sun and Moon, and that these tables employed the Babylonian convention according to which the vernal equinoctial point is at the eighth degree in Aries, not the beginning of the sign as Hipparchus and Ptolemy assumed. From numerical details given elsewhere in Valens’s work, it appears that Apollinarius’s lunar tables were of a type well-known from Greco-Egyptian papyri, using Babylonian-style zigzag functions to represent the Moon’s daily motion in longitude and argument of latitude. By contrast, Paul of Alexandria (fourth century CE) and Porphyry (third century CE) both group Apollinarius with Ptolemy as astronomers who computed ascensional arcs by means of spherical trigonometry rather than the Babylonian arithmetical methods in common use.


Jones, Alexander. Ptolemy’s First Commentator. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1990. The testimonia concerning Apollinarius are listed and discussed here.

Neugebauer, Otto. A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy. Vol. 2. Berlin; New York: Springer-Verlag, 1975. The testimonia regarding Apollinarius are presented and considered.

Toomer, Gerald J. “Galen on the Astronomers and Astrologers.” Archive for History of Exact Sciences 32 (1985): 193–206. Contains Galen’s Hippocratic commentary.

Alexander Jones

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Apollinarius or Apollinaris (c.310–c.390). Christian heretic. Although as bishop of Laodicea he was an orthodox opponent of Arianism, his christological teaching was condemned, finally in 381 at the Council of Constantinople. He left the church c.375. Apollinarianism is the view which defends the divine nature in Christ by refusing to allow that there could be moral development during his lifetime. There can be a human body and soul, but the Logos replaces the human spirit and is thus not subject to change. Such a view, according to opponents, means that Christ was not fully human.

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Apollinarianism (əpŏlĬnâr´ēənĬzəm), heretical doctrine taught by Apollinaris or Apollinarius (c.315–c.390), bishop of Laodicea, near Antioch. A celebrated scholar and teacher, author of scriptural commentary, philosophy, and controversial treatises, he propounded the theory that Jesus possessed the Logos in place of a human mind, and hence, while perfectly divine, he was not fully human. Apollinarianism was popular in spite of its repeated condemnation, particularly by the First Council of Constantinople. It anticipated Monophysitism.