Apollinaris is a figure in the early church that certainly has his share of controversy. At the young age of twenty, he was excommunicated for singing a hymn to the Greek god Dionysius.
He eventually would come back to Christianity and confessed the newly formed Nicean creed under the tutelage of Basil of Caesarea. In 360AD, he became bishop of Laodicea and was a supporter of St. Athanasius in his battle against the Arians.
Apollinaris Sought To Avoid Heresy
Apollinaris sought to circumvent the Arian view that Christ was a created being. He sought to deny the notions that the Logos dwelled within human nature of Christ, and wanted to establish and affirm the two natures, human and divine, of Christ.
He argued that Christ’s humanity could only result through divine union. In his letter On the Union of Christ in the Godhead Apollinaris writes, “And in this regard, he differs from every other body, for he was conceived in his mother not in separation from the Godhead but in union with it” (Norris 103). In his view this had to happen then the Logos would have descended upon a man, and that would mean that Jesus was just an ordinary man. This is the adoptionist mentality that Apollinaris was seeking to avoid.
As seen above, his views of Christ appear to be orthodox, but he would later stray. His desire to oust the Arian view would lead him into a bit of Christological trouble himself.
This all comes down to his definition of man. In the orthodox view, man is made up of flesh and a soul. Apollinaris took this a step further and taught a two-soul theology. In his view, man has an animal soul and a rational soul. Regarding this Apollinaris writes, “But the flesh is not soulless, for it is said to fight against the spirit and to resist the law of the intellect, and we say that even the bodies of beasts without reason are endowed with a soul” (Norris 108).
Unity With The Godhead
To complete the humanity of Christ Apollinaris says the animal soul was necessary, but the unity with the Godhead came to be when the rational soul of Christ became unified with the Logos. This unity replaced, even eliminated, the human soul of Christ.
This position was rejected, but some explanation must be made as to why. The human soul, as most of us can vouch for, is weak and can be swayed. In the view of Apollinaris, this soul, as previously stated, was replaced by a unity with the Logos.
If the human soul of Christ was replaced, that would mean that Christ was not completely human. He may have had flesh, but if his soul was replaced by a unity with the Logos then Jesus would lack a basic humanity. In short, he would not be able to identify with what we go through as Hebrews 4:15 states. Therefore, humanity is in the same condition it was before because the human nature of Christ was eliminated.
Norris, Richard A. The Christological Controversy. Fortress Press Philadelphia: PA, 1980. Print.