Docetism

Docetic comes from the Greek word meaning “to appear.”

Those who proposed this heresy maintained that Jesus really did not possess, or inhabit a physical body, but only “appeared” to have a body.

The basis of docetism is that Jesus was truly a spiritual being, and as such, could not have had a true body. Beginning with the apostle Paul, the leaders of the early church had to address wrong headed ideas that threatened the integrity of the gospel message. One of the first, docetism, was mentioned in our discussion of the first century.

There are aspects of the New Testament that suggest docetism was already a problem in the first century. Some scholars believe John’s gospel contains some anti-docetic texts, for example in chapter 21 where Jesus eats fish with disciples.

It seems that 1 John may have been written to combat this heresy, “…every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God.”

1 John 4:2 Ignatius of Antioch is clearly writing against docetics when he says, “He was then truly born, truly grew up, truly ate and drank, was truly crucified, and died, and rose again.” Philippians 3

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