Last modified on January 29, 2020, at 16:12


Docetism was one of the very early church heresies. The Docetists were a group of early Christians who believed that Jesus was totally divine and His humanity was simply an appearance (God pretending to be human[1]).[2] According to O.Skarsaune the early ordinary or orthodox Christians such as Ignatius and Polycarp were fighting valiantly against docetic Christology that was native for Gnostic heresy. The usual Christian conception of incarnation of Christ was remote to Gnostics, in their heretical belief system the whole point of Christ's mission was to free humans from the material universe. He himself could not be a part of it by carrying a real, physical body, he only appeared (Greek, dokein) to have one.[3] [note 1] In reality, he was supposed to be some kind of pure spirit-being, with no affinity to matter or the material world, thus his suffering and death were not real either. Ignatius tried to refute this error also by appeals to the 'eucharist' which referred to Christ's body and blood[5] and by emphasis put on word "truly" before expressions "born of a Virgin" and "nailed to a tree in the flesh" in his creed.[3] Docetic heresy of the early second century reappeared in various forms later in other heresies, such as Bogomilism and Catharism.[5]


  1. cf. Latin phrases (most often associated with Tycho Brahe):[4]
    • esse potius quam haberi - To be rather than to be thought. Thus, not being thought to be something but actually to be it.
    • esse potius quam videri - To be, rather than appear (to be).


  1. John Stott (2003 (First Edition 1999)). "Chapter I: The Revelation of God", Evangelical Truth: A Personal Plea For Unity, Integrity And Faithfulness. Inter-Varsity Press, 59. ISBN 978-88511-19885. 
  2. Cited by M. Scott Peck in Further Along the Road Less Traveled, Page 206
  3. 3.0 3.1 Oskar Skarsaune (2002). "12:Orthodoxy and Heresy", In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influence on Early Christianity. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 252. ISBN 978-0-8308-2844-9. 
  4. S.O.M.A. (2010). Soma's Dictionary of Latin Quotations, Maxims and Phrases. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 978-1425-144975. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 M.A.Smith (1971). From Christ to Constantine. London: Inter-Varsity Press, 35, 184. ISBN 0-85110-570-X.