Apollinaris of Laodicea

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Apollinaris the Younger (died 390) was a bishop of Laodicea in Syria. He collaborated with his father Apollinaris the Elder in reproducing the Old Testament in the form of Homeric and Pindaric poetry, and the New Testament after the fashion of Platonic dialogues, when the emperor Julian had forbidden Christians to teach the classics.


He is best known, however, as a noted opponent of Arianism, Apollinaris's eagerness to emphasize the Godhead of Jesus and the unity of his person led him so far as to deny the existence of a rational human soul (νοῦς, nous) in Christ's human nature, this being replaced in him by the Logos, so that his body was a glorified and spiritualized form of humanity. Over against this view the orthodox and catholic position (maintained by Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Church of the East, Oriental Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, and most traditions within Protestantism) that God as his Logos assumed human nature in its entirety, including the νοῦς, for only so could he be humanity's perfect redeemer and prototype. It was alleged that the Apollinarian approach implied docetism, that if the Godhead without constraint swayed the manhood there was no possibility of real human probation or of real advance in Christ's manhood. The position was accordingly condemned by several synods and in particular by that of Constantinople (381).[1]

This did not prevent its having a considerable following, which after Apollinaris's death divided into two sects, the more conservative taking its name (Vitalians) from Vitalis, the Apollinarist claimant to the see of Antioch, the other (Polemeans) adding the further assertion that the two natures were so blended that even the body of Christ was a fit object of adoration. The Apollinarian emphasis on the unity of human and divine in Christ and on the divine element in that unity was later restated in the form of Eutychianism and persisted in what was later the radically anti-Nestorian monophysite school.[1]

Apollinaris did make a lasting contribution to orthodox theology in declaring that Christ was consubstantial (of one substance) with the Father as regarding his divinity and consubstantial with us as regarding his humanity. This formula, which originated with Apollinaris, later became official orthodox doctrine. Apollinaris was also one of the first to claim that God suffered and died on the cross, a claim which received immediate condemnation but later became acceptable in orthodox theology.[citation needed]

Although Apollinaris was a prolific writer, scarcely anything has survived under his own name. But a number of his writings are concealed under the names of orthodox Fathers, e.g. ἡ κατὰ μέρος πίστις, long ascribed to Gregory Thaumaturgus. These have been collected and edited by Hans Lietzmann.

Two letters of his correspondence with Basil of Caesarea are also extant, although there is scholarly debate regarding their authenticity because they record the orthodox theologian Basil asking Apollinaris for theological advice on the orthodox term 'homoousios'. These concerns may be unfounded, as before Apollinaris began promulgating what were seen as heretical doctrines, he was a highly respected bishop and friend of Athanasius and Basil.

He must be distinguished from the Apollinaris Claudius, bishop of Hierapolis, who bore the same name, and who wrote one of the early Christian "Apologies" (c. 170).


  • Adolf von Harnack, History of Dogma, vols. iii. and iv. passim
  • Robert Lawrence Ottley, The Doctrine of the Incarnation
  • Guillaume Voisin, L'Apollinarisme (Louvain, 1901)
  • Hans Lietzmann, Apollinaris von Laodicea und seine Schule (Tübingen, 1905).
  • Alessandro Capone, "La polemica apollinarista alla fine del IV secolo: la lettera di Gregorio di Nissa a Teofilo di Alessandria", in Gregory of Nyssa: The Minor Treatises on Trinitarian Theology and Apollinarism. Proceedings of the 11th International Colloquium on Gregory of Nyssa (Tübingen, 17–20 September 2008), ed. By V.H. Drecoll, M. Berghaus, Leiden – Boston 2011, pp. 499–517.
  • Edwards, Mark (2009). Catholicity and Heresy in the Early Church. Ashgate. 
  • Alessandro Capone, "Apollinarismo e geografia ecclesiastica" in Auctores nostri 9, 2011, pp. 457–473.
  • Christopher Beeley, The Unity of Christ: Continuity and Conflict in Patristic Tradition (Yale, 2012), chapter 4.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Apollinaris". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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