What is Cerinthianism?

by Matt Slick

Cerinthianism is a heresy taught by Cerinthus (died approximately A.D. 100) that deals with the person of Jesus.  It stated that "the Christ" came upon Jesus at his baptism and left him just prior to his crucifixion.  Essentially, Cerinthus taught that the Christ and Jesus are separate beings.  He taught that Jesus was born naturally without the Virgin birth.  Cerinthus was educated in the wisdom of Egyptian issues from Ephesus.  So, he would've had a mixture of Christian theology and paganism.

We do not have the original writings of Cerinthus but he is addressed by Irenaeus.

"Cerinthus, again, a man who was educated in the wisdom of the Egyptians, taught that the world was not made by the primary God, but by a certain Power far separated from him, and at a distance from that Principality who is supreme over the universe, and ignorant of him who is above all. He represented Jesus as having not been born of a virgin, but as being the son of Joseph and Mary according to the ordinary course of human generation, while he nevertheless was more righteous, prudent, and wise than other men. Moreover, after his baptism, Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove from the Supreme Ruler, and that then he proclaimed the unknown Father, and performed miracles. But at last Christ departed from Jesus, and that then Jesus suffered and rose again, while Christ remained impassible, inasmuch as he was a spiritual being. 2. Those who are called Ebionites agree that the world was made by God; but their opinions with respect to the Lord are similar to those of Cerinthus and Carpocrates. They use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law. As to the prophetical writings, they endeavour to expound them in a somewhat singular manner: they practise circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the law, and are so Judaic in their style of life, that they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book 1, Chapter 26 paragraph 1)

Cerinthus was of the Gnostic influence which taught that the divine God was too pure and perfect to be involved the material world.  Therefore, the world was created by a lesser god--a power far removed from the supreme divine being.

Cerinthianism is a false teaching.  The correct teaching concerning Jesus is called the hypostatic union.

 

 

 

 
 
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