Aphthartodocetism

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Aphthartodocetism (Greek aphthartos, “incorruptible”) is a heresy of the sixth century that added an extreme position to the heresy of Monophysitism, claiming that the body of Christ was divine, and therefore incorruptible, imperishable, and free to will his sufferings and death voluntarily as he did.

The doctrine of aphthartodocetism was originated by the Monophysite Bishop Julian of Halicarnassus, present day Bodrum in Turkey. The Monophysite patriarch of Antioch Severus to be strongly challenged Julian on the ground that the doctrine of salvation was meaningless unless Christ’s body was truly human. Their two parties emerged into a schism that lasted until the following, seventh, century.

Concerning the often asserted claim that the emperor Justinian supported aphthartodocetism, it is noted that Justinian's supposed decree imposing aphthartodocetism is not preserved. The only source concerning such a decree contemporary to the time is the testimony of the historian Evagrius. Fr. Asterios Gerostergios notes in his book Justinian the Great: The Emperor and Saint that other parties involved at the time the decree was alleged to have been issued make no mention of the act.

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