ADOPTIONISTS. Modern scholars use this name to refer to the monarchians, who considered Christ to be a mere man, adopted as the Son of God for his merits the Lat. adoptiani is very late. Theodotus of Byzantium the Tanner taught this doctrine at Rome in the late 2nd c. He claimed that Jesus was a man born of the Virgin by the will of the Father and lived as other men, though more piously, such that at the baptism in the Jordan the dove descended on him to signify the divine spirit given him, called the higher Christ. Only from this point did Jesus Christ begin to work miracles. Some adoptionists placed the deification of Jesus at this moment, others after the resurrection. They based their doctrine scripturally on gospel passages and biblical passages generally from which it could be concluded that Jesus was only a man: Dt 18:15; Mt 12:31; Jn 8:40. A student of Theodotus who was also named Theodotus and from Byzantium, called the Banker, accentuated the merely human character of Jesus, asserting that Melchizedek was a divine power greater than Christ, who was made in the former’s image based on Heb 5:6. Adoptionism was taken up again at Rome between 230 250 by Artemon, who seems not to have innovated with respect to Theodotus; rather, he emphasized the traditional character of his teaching, claiming that it went back to the apostles and was held at Rome until Victor’s pontificate but that Zephyrinus, at the beginning of the 3rd c., corrupted the truth with innovations. More developed forms of adoptionism were proposed by Paul of Samosata ca. 260 270, to whom Nestorius was linked, and by Photinus of Sirmium mid-4th c.. Marcellus of Ancyra, who acted as trait d’union between Paul and Photinus, can also basically be considered an adoptionist. The ancients considered adoptionism to be a Jewish-type heresy and associated it with Ebionitism, in that the adoptionists, like the Jews, did not recognize the divine character of Christ, reducing him to a mere man. A. Hilgenfeld, Die Ketzergeschichte des Urchristentums, Leipzig 1884, 609-615; J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, London 1958, 115-119, 158-160; J.C. Cavadini, The Last Christology of the West: Adoptionism in Spain and Gaul 785-820, Philadelphia 1993; G. O’Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical and Systematic Study of Jesus Christ, Oxford 1995.
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