Adoptianists or Adoptivi

Adoptianists or Adoptivi a sect which originated with Elipandus, archbishop of Toledo, and his instructor, Felix, bishop of Urgel, in Spain. They taught that Jesus Christ, as to his human nature, was not the natural, but merely the adopted Son of God, whence they were called Adoptivi or Adoptiani. This error was brought before the Council of Narbonne in 791; but it does not appear that Felix, who was present, was then condemned, as was the case at Ratisbon in the following year, at Frankfort in 794, and at Urgel in 799. The Adoptian doctrine had existed before in the East, but this development of it in Spain seems to have been aboriginal there, though it is not impossible that Felix may have seen some of the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia (q.v.).

By the use of the term Adoptio this school wished to mark the distinction of proper and improper in reference to the Son. They made use of the illustration that, as a son cannot have two fathers, but may have one by birth and the other by adoption, so in Christ a distinction must be made between his proper sonship and his sonship by adoption. Still, they regarded as the important point the different relation in which Christ is called the Son of God according to his divine or his human nature. The former relation marked something founded in the nature of God, the second something that was founded not in his nature, but in a free act of the Divine will, by which God assumed human nature into connection with himself. Accordingly Felix distinguished between how far Christ was the Son of God and God according to nature (natura, genere), and how far he was so by virtue of grace, by an act of the Divine will (gratia, voluntate), by the Divine choice and good pleasure (electione, placito); and the name Son of God was given to him only in consequence of his connection with God (nuncupative); and hence the expressions for this distinction, secundum naturam and secundum adoptionem. The sect is fully treated by Walch, Historia Adoptianorum (Gotting. 1755, 8vo). See also Neander, History of Dogmas, 337, 432, 442 (transl. by Ryland, Lond. 1858, 2 vols. 12mo). Neander, Ch. Hist. 3, 156, 157; Hase, Ch. Hist. § 169; Mosh. Ch. Hist. bk. 3, c. 8, pt. 2, ch. 5, § 3. SEE ELIPANDUS; SEE FELIX.

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