« Apollinaris, Claudius Apollinaris of Laodicea Apollonia, Saint »

Apollinaris of Laodicea



The name of two men, father and son, known to Church history. Apollinaris the Elder was an Alexandrian, taught grammar at Berytus, and then at Laodicea in Syria, and was made a presbyter at the latter place. What Socrates (Hist. eccl., ii, 46) says of his literary activity belongs probably to the son (cf. Sozomen, Hist. eccl., v, 18). Apollinaris the Younger was born presumably about 310, and was likewise a teacher of rhetoric. About 346 he became acquainted with Athanasius; and 230 they remained warm friends, notwithstanding theological differences. Athanasius calls him a bishop in 362; and, as he was at first an energetic representative of Homoousianism in Syria, he was presumably the Homoousian antibishop of Pelagius of Laodicea, who belonged to the right wing of the middle party. When he proclaimed his peculiar views openly can not be stated with certainty. The synod at Alexandria in 362 seems to declare against them, and he was considered a heretic at the beginning of the seventies. Roman synods in 377 and 382 and one at Antioch in 378 testified against his doctrine. The second ecumenical council (Constantinople, 381) condemned the Apollinarians as the last heretics who issued from the Trinitarian controversy, and the emperor Theodosius set the great seal upon this condemnation in 388. Apollinaris was dead when Jerome wrote his Viri Illustres in 392.


Great as is the confusion concerning the life of the man, it is still greater as regards his literary activity, which is the more to be regretted, as Apollinaris was evidently one of the most prominent ecclesiastical writers of the fourth century. This may be seen from the high esteem in which he was held during his lifetime by friend and foe and from the expressions of later writers. According to Philostorgius (Hist. eccl., viii. 11; cf. xii. 15), Athanasius as a theologian was a child when compared with Apollinaris; and as concerns “experience” (e.g., knowledge of Hebrew) he would give the preference to the Laodicean above Gregory and Basil. Apollinaris was famous not only as a theological author but also as a poet. As a new Homer he treated the Old Testament history from the Ovation to Saul in twenty-four books, wrote comedies after the pattern of Menander, tragedies in the style of Euripides, and odes after Pindaric models. There is extant only a “Paraphrase upon the Psalter,” which fails to exhibit the poetic genius ascribed to the author. Of his exegetical efforts there have been preserved only fragments on Proverbs, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the Epistle to the Romans; the exegesis is sober, sensible, and avoids allegory. As Christian apologist Apollinaris is said to have surpassed his predecessors in his thirty books against Porphyry (Philostorgius, viii. 4; Jerome, De vir. ill., civ.; idem, Epist., xlviii. 13, lxx. 3; Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium, xi.); he wrote a work, “On Truth,” against Julian and the philosophy of the time, and opposed the Arians in a work against Eunomius of Cyzicus; he wrote also against Marcellus of Ancyra. All these writings seem to have been lost. It is also impossible to form a correct estimate of his dogmatic writings. All that has been directly transmitted are seven larger and some short fragments from an “Exposition of the Divine Incarnation in the Likeness of Man” (in the rejoinder of Gregory of Nyssa to Apollinaris). But it is known that the Apollinarians and Monophysites circulated some of the productions of Apollinaris under the names of Gregory Thaumaturgus, Athanasius, and Julius of Rome to deceive innocent readers as to their true origin and nature, and Caspari has proved that the “Sectional Confession of Faith,” ascribed to Thaumaturgus, belongs to Apollinaris. The same may be said of the treatise “On the Incarnation of the Word of God,” ascribed to Athanasius, and of the alleged epistles of Felix of Alexandria and Julius of Rome to Dionysius of Alexandria. Attempts (especially of Dräseke) to ascribe other works to Apollinaris have been unsuccessful.

His Christology.

The tendency of the Athanasian doctrine of redemption to the deification of humanity, little as Athanasius himself doubted that the Logos had assumed the perfect humanity, was not fitted for reviving interest in the human personality of the Redeemer. Thus it is not strange that so zealous a champion of the homoousios as Apollinaris, with his logical and dialectic training, started with doubts upon this point. Perfect God and perfect man is, according to his opinion, a monstrosity, contradicting all laws of reason. In this way would originate a “man-god,” a “horse-deer,” a “goat-stag,"—fabulous beings like the Minotaur. This proves true not only logically, but also on comparing the notion of the perfect man with the demands to be made upon the Redeemer in the interest of redemption. Supposing him to be perfect man, how could Christ be without sin? If, as the apostle knew, man consists of spirit (mind), soul, and body, the human mind can not be adjudicated to Christ, for this is changeable; but the Redeemer has an unchanging mind. Since he can not be composed of four parts, he has indeed assumed a human body and a human soul, but not a human spirit. The logos homoousios rather takes its place. Thus originated the μία φύσις τοϋ θεοϋ λόγου σεσαρκωμένη (not σεσαρκωμένου), in which the flesh is deified and which as a whole becomes an object of adoration. The consequence is obvious, that all passive conditions [the susceptibility to suffering] of the historical Jesus are referred to the Logos and consequently to the Deity itself, though Apollinaris and some of his adherents recoiled from it. The Apollinarian Christology, which made great advances to the consciousness of the believers, which in the first line is always directed to the divine in Christ, and which seemed to lead away farthest from the generally detested thought of the “mere man” (Paul of Samosata), has exercised great influence on the further development of the Christological doctrine in the Eastern Church. With a certain right, one can even say with Harnack (Dogmengeschichte, p. 314) that the view of Apollinaris, when compared with the presuppositions and aims of the Greek conception of Christianity as religion, is perfect; but one can only do so by regarding the extremest consequences as the correct expression of what is intended. On the further development of Apollinarianism see the articles treating of the Christological controversies of the fifth and sixth centuries.

G. Krüger.

That Apollinaris, side by side with Paul of Samosata and Arius, should have come to be regarded as an archheretic, nay as in a certain sense the archheretic, is thoroughly intelligible. All 231 three with their theories came in violent conflict with essential postulates of the Christian piety of the Church; Paul destroyed the complete Deity, Apollinaris the complete humanity, Arius both. The pious Christian consciousness required in the person of Christ ideal humanity and absolute Deity and was content to regard the manner of the union of the two as a mystery, i.e., as transcending the comprehension of the human mind. Yet in so far as it tended to set aside the conception of Christ as a “mere man” (Paul of Samosata), the theory of Apollinaris was for the time acceptable to many.

A. H. N.

Bibliography: The best collection of the writings of Apollinaris and his pupils is that by H. Lietzmann, Apollinaris von Laodicea und seine Schule, TU, i., Tübingen, 1904. Cf. also I. Flemming and H. Lietzmann, Apollinarische Schriften (Syriae), in the Abhandlungen der königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, vol. vii., Berlin, 1904. Apollinaris’ paraphrase of the Psalms is in MPG, xxxiii.; the remains of his dogmatic works are in TU, vii. 3, 4, Leipsic, 1892; of his exegetical writings, in A. Mai, Nova patrum bibliotheca, vii. 2, pp. 76-80, 82-91, 128-130; in A. Ludwich, Probe einer kritischen Ausgabe, Königsberg, 1880-81; The Sectional Confession of Faith is in ANF, vi. 40-47; cf. C. P. Caspari, Alte und neue Quellen, Christiania, 1879.

On the name: T. Zahn, Forschungen zur Geschichte des Kanons, v. 99-109, Leipsic, 1893. For life: J. Dräseke, Apollinaris von Laodicea, sein Leben und seine Schriften, in TU, vii. 3, 4, ib. 1892. On his writings: A. Ludwich, in Hermes, xiii. (1878) 335-350, and in ZWT, xxxi. (1888) 477-487, xxxii. (1889) 108-120. On his theology: A. Dorner, Die Lehre von der Person Christi, i. 975-1036, Stuttgart, 1846; A. Harnack, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, ii. 309-321, Freiburg, 1895; J. Schwane, Dogmengeschichte der patristischen Zeit, pp. 277-283, ib. 1895; G. Voisin, L’Apollinarisme, Paris, 1901. On literary and theological problems: C. W. F. Walch, Entwurf einer vollständigen Historie der Ketzereien, iii. 119-229, Leipsic, 1766.

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