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Julianists (Aphthartodocetism)


Heresy concerned with the incorruptibility of Christ's body. Among the Monophysites who took refuge in Egypt when justin i became emperor in 519 was julian of halicarnassus, a strong partisan of severus of antioch. Julian and Severus disagreed on the question of the incorruptibility of Christ's body. Severus maintained that the value of Christ's sacrifice on the cross would be null if His body were not capable of corruption. Julian denied this, saying that Christ was not subject to the effects of original sin. While Christ's sufferings were real, they were due to an act of His will which made it possible for His body to experience death, though it was naturally not subject to suffering or corruption. This disagreement caused a split among the Egyptian Monophysites. The Julianists accused the Severans of maintaining that Christ's body was corrupted in the tomb. The Severans called the Julianists "aphthartodocetists," because they believed the body of Christ to be a mere appearance, and consequently not corruptible; furthermore, they attributed to the Julianists radical heresies, such as that of the Actistetae who affirmed that the body of Christ, as well as His divinity, was uncreated. Under Gaianus, patriarch of Alexandria, the Julianist heresy spread quickly through Egypt, establishing itself in Ethiopia, Syria, Mesopotamia, Albania, and Armenia, and in the mid-6th century it seemed about to prevail in the East. Although eventually absorbed by strict Monophysitism, it caused the further disintegration of that belief into various sects. Toward the end of 564, Emperor justinian i, evidently under the influence of the bishop of Joppa in Palestine, issued an edict affirming that the body of Christ was by nature incorruptible and impassible, whereupon the Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople protested and was deposed on Jan. 31, 565. Led by anastasius, patriarch of Antioch, the patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem also resisted, and on the death of the Emperor the Justinian cause ended.

Bibliography: r. draguet, Julien d'Halicarnasse et sa controverse avec Sévère d'Antioche sur l'incorruptibilité du corps du Christ (Louvain 1924); Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350) 8.2:193140. m. jugie, "Julien d'Halicarnasse et Sévère d'Antioche," Échos d'Orient 28 (1925) 129162, 257285. e. stein, Histoire du Bas-Empire, tr. j.r. palanque, 2 v. in 3 (Paris 194959) 1:233235, 685687.

[g. a. maloney]

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