The Docetic Heresy

Docetism and Christianity:

Docetism was a heresy that attracted interest in the third century. Docetists believed that there was one eternal father who was eternally transcendent and unable to experience any sort of human emotion of suffering. The belief that Jesus became human flesh and experienced life as a human was unthinkable.

The early orthodox church opposed Docetism. Irenaeus wrote a five-volume work against Valentinus (136 A.D. – 165 A.D.) who one of Docetism’s prominent teachers. Polycarp condemns the Docetists by saying that “everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an anti-Christ,” echoing 1 John 4:2-3.

The Bible teaches us that Jesus experienced hunger (Matt. 4:2) and thirst (John 19:28), was sympathetic (Matt. 9:36), became weary (John 4:6), felt sorrow to the point of weeping (John 11:35), and grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52). Yet, His humanness never caused Him to sin (Heb. 4:15).

Docetism strikes at the heart of Christianity; as the author of Hebrews plainly teaches, Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17 ESV)

The Bible teaches:

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51 ESV)

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 1:7 ESV)

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