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Adoptionism is a view held by some early medieval Christians, that Jesus Christ was born a human only, and was not divine until his baptism, at which point he was adopted as the Son by God the Father.

It is one of two main forms of monarchianism; the other is modalism. Adoptionism held that Christ as God is indeed the Son of God by generation and by nature, but Christ as man is Son of God only by adoption and grace, dispensed from the moment of his baptism. This position was one in a long series of Christian disagreements about the precise nature of Christ (see Christology) in the developing dogma of the Trinity, an attempt to explain the relationship between Jesus Christ, both as man and God and God the Father, while maintaining Christianity's monotheism. It differs significantly from the doctrine of the Trinity that was later adopted by the ecumenical councils. (this statement needs to be made explicit)

There were three waves of Adoptionist speculation. The first adoptionism, called Hispanicus error, in the late 8th century maintained by Elipandus, bishop of Toledo in the Caliphate of Cordoba and by Felix, bishop of Urgell in the foothills of the Pyrenees; Alcuin, the leading intellect at the court of Charlemagne was called in to write refutations against both of the bishops. Against Felix he wrote:

"As the Nestorian impiety divided Christ into two persons because of the two natures, so your unlearned temerity divided Him into two sons, one natural and one adoptive"

A second wave was the revived form ("Neo-Adoptionism") of Abelard in the 12th century. Later, various modified and qualified Adoptionist tenets of some theologians from the 14th century.

One of the early exponents of Adoptionism was Theodotus of Byzantium. The belief was declared heretical by Pope Victor I.

See also: heresy

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