Just as we do in our own times, the early Church faced serious challenges to its teachings. Among these were Docetism, Apollinarianism, Ebionism, and Eutychiaism— all of which represent false views of the relationship between Jesus’ deity and humanity. Each of these views was rejected by the early church in the various early ecumenical councils.
Throughout the twenty-one centuries of the Church’s existence it has been impossible to fathom how Jesus Christ can be both 100% God and 100% man in the same person. This biblical truth of the dual nature of Christ is described theologically as the mystery of the hypostatic union. Because of the difficulty in making logical sense this and other doctrines taught in scripture, “alternative christianities” attempted to explain Jesus in ways which made more sense to the limited human understanding.
Each of the heretical views listed above fails to account for the biblical evidence in that they either overemphasize or under-emphasize Jesus’ deity or humanity. For example:
Docetism is the view that Jesus possessed a divine nature, but not a truly human one. Docetists essentially taught that Jesus only appeared (dokeo= to seem) to be human, but that he was, in fact not human in the least. The doctrines of Docetism contradict many scriptures, with John 1:14 and 1 John 4:1-3 being the most clear refutations of its teachings.
Apollinarianism is the view that Jesus was God, but not fully human. Apollinarians taught that Jesus’ human spirit was replaced by a divine spirit. In other words, they taught that Jesus had a human body and soul, but not a human spirit. Similarly to Docetism, Apollinarianism is refuted by the many Scriptures which teach that Jesus was truly a human being (John 1:14; 1 John 4:1-3).
Ebionism is the view that Jesus was fully human, but not divine. Ebionites seem to be associated with the Judaizers referred to in Paul’s letters. Denying the deity of Christ, they viewed Jesus as a normal human being who was simply empowered by God. Ebionism is refuted by a multitude of Scriptures (John 1:1,14; 8:58; 10:30; 20:28; Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 1:8).
Eutychianism is the view that Jesus was neither fully human or fully divine, but rather a mixture of humanity and divinity. Eutychianism is refuted by all of the Scriptures previously mentioned, both those affirming his deity and affirming his humanity.
Nestorianism held that Jesus had two natures, human and divine, and that the two natures were entirely separate. According to Nestorianism, Jesus was God, and Jesus was man, but essentially in two separate persons, making Jesus into a sort of split personality.
All of these heterodox (heretical) doctrines of Christ are to be rejected because they do not successfully account for the biblical information describing Jesus’ nature. Docetism and Apollinarianism deny Jesus’ true humanity. Ebionism denies Jesus true deity. Eutychianism denies both Jesus’ true humanity and true deity. Nestorianism misunderstands the relationship between Jesus’ humanity and deity. Contrast these views with the orthodox doctrine in which the nature of Christ is described as being both fully God and fully human united seamlessly in one person.