Adoptionism

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Adoptionism (also referred to asdynamic monarchianism) owes its origin to Theodotus, a leather-merchant active in Rome about AD 190, and was spread by Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, who was condemned for his views by the church in AD 268.[1]

Adoptionism is most commonly applied to the notion that Jesus was merely an ordinary man of unusual virtue or closeness to God whom God ‘adopted’ into divine Sonship. Adoptionism was rooted in second-and third-century monarchianism but also flourished in the eighth century. According to adoptionism, Jesus was only a man but was adopted by God because of His sinless life. This is said to have occurred when God declared from heaven: “This is my Son.” (Matt. 3:17).[2]

Bits of this doctrine can be found in certain of William Branham's sermons. Adoptionism was intertwined with some Nestorianism and Arianism by Lee Vayle and his followers .

William Branham's adoptionist leanings

William Branham seemed to believe at times that prior to his baptism, Jesus was not God and that he also ceased being God in the Garden of Gethsemane:

And on the day that John baptized Jesus at the river of Jordan, one of the greatest events that had ever taken place, taken place right there. Notice, how beautiful. ...There you are. The Dove and the Lamb united together. That's when God and man became one. That's when heaven and earth embraced each other. Hallelujah. That's when God was made flesh…?… it; that's when God came down from the Spirit form and was made a Man and dwell among us. That's when all eternity embraced each other. That's when the human fallen race of Adam's people and Jehovah God and every angel come together, when God and man was made one on that great memorial day when John baptized Jesus. Now, what if they would've been a wolf? The sweet cooing of the Dove would've never been able to stand by the wolf.[3]


But once adopted, positionally placed in the body of Christ, you are heir of all things. Notice, that's what God did to His Son. God didn't ask us to do anything that He would not do. He took His own Son, Who had been obedient. This was just a little before the crucifixion. Remember what He said come down? The Son of man goes to Jerusalem, be delivered in the hands of the Gentiles. Said, "Don't tell the vision to anyone." But while they were standing there, God adopted His own Son, for He overshadowed Him. And the Bible said that He put a robe on Him, insomuch that His raiment shined like the sun in its strength, set Him up before heavenly witnesses, before earthly witnesses. And a voice said, "This is My beloved Son, hear ye Him." Whatever He says, it's just as good as My Word. He was adopted. Jesus said, "All powers in heaven and earth is given unto My hands." There's the adoption of God adopting His Son. [4]


And when he did, He went straightway out of the water. And he looked up and saw the Spirit of God, like a dove, and a Voice coming from It, said, "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am pleased to dwell in." God and man become one.[5]


He never died as God. He died as a man. The sin of man was upon the Son of man, and He had to become a man in order to pay the penalty.[6]


When He was--last cry, "Eli, Eli. My God, My God," That was a man. "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
In the Garden of Gethsemane, the anointing left Him, you know, He had to die as a sinner. He died a sinner, you know that; not His sins, but mine and yours. That's where that love come in, how He took mine. Oh, hallelujah, how He took mine.[7]

William Branham's proof from the Greek

William Branham stated that when Jesus was baptized God chose to enter into him. And what was his evidence for making this claim?

It was that the English translation was wrong, and he had the right translation from Greek:

...the day that when John baptized Him, God a vindicated Him. God spoke from the heavens. John saw Him coming in the form a dove, and said, 'This is My beloved Son in Whom I'm pleased to dwell.' The right translation there is, 'In whom I am pleased to dwell in.' Jesus immediately anointed with God, He was just a man till that time, but now He becomes the God-man.[8]

William Branham’s claim here is that the Greek text should give us the right translation of “in whom I’m pleased to dwell in.” Let’s look at another example from the “Seven Seals” series:

Now, in there it says, "This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." You see? Now, that's wrote in the actual form of the Greek, putting verb before adverb; but you notice here, it'd actually be this... Now, just take the Word. See? The Bible says, in the translation of St. James here: "This is My beloved Son in Whom I'm pleased to dwell." But actually, if we'd say it like we'd say it today: "This is My beloved Son in Whom I'm pleased to dwell in." You'd turn it around. See, see? "This is My beloved Son in Whom I'm pleased to dwell." See? Now, we'd say it today: "This is My beloved Son in Whom I'm pleased to dwell in," (See?) same word just turns it around. See?[9]

But what does the actual Greek say? Matthew 3:17 states:

καὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν λέγουσα· οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα. And behold, a voice from heaven saying, this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.

Matthew 3:17 in the Greek does not say, “in whom I’m well pleased to dwell in.” Nor does it say that in any Greek manuscript we have.

So we can conclude that William Branham was wrong. God did not enter into Jesus at his baptism.

The critical question is why would William Branham say something that was so clearly wrong and had no basis in fact?

And we would ask the reader the question: Is Scripture my authority, or is William Branham?

Many will say the Scriptures! But the reality is, if you are a message follower, you trust in William Branham, and not Christ.

Monarchianism

Monarchianism, emphasizes the unity of God as the only monarchia, or ruler of the universe and came in two different flavours - Dynamic monarchianism (adoptionism) and modalistic monarchianism (oneness or modalism).

If the premise “God is one” is foremost in one’s thinking about the Godhead, then the deity of the Son and the deity of the Holy Spirit can be problematic. If God (the Father) is God, and Jesus (the Son) is God, to some it appeared that there were two gods. Additionally, if the Holy Spirit is God, then they would argue that a belief in three gods is affirmed. Although this is not what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches, this was the underlying difficulty that both movements sought to address[10]

Classical adoptionism

As indicated above, adoptionism is the doctrine that Jesus was just an ordinary man, though one who was particularly good and holy. The Spirit (or Christ) descended upon Jesus at his baptism, enabling him to perform miracles without making him divine. Thus, Jesus was a man indwelt in an unusually powerful manner by the Spirit, but he was not God. [11]

Theodotus was an offence to his critics for defining Jesus as a ‘mere man’ (psilos anthrōpos — from which another label for adoptionism arose - ‘psilanthropism’, a term underlined by the adoptionist’s own description of his previous lapse from faith as denial ‘not of God but of a man’. According to Hippolytus, Theodotus ‘determined to deny the divinity of Christ’. Artemon, a convert in Rome to the teaching of Theodotus, sought to establish the historical pedigree of adoptionism; the significant response of one contemporary, held by some scholars to be Hippolytus, was to demonstrate that each of the early Christian apologists ‘proclaim Christ both God and man’.

The most famous heir to the early adoptionist tradition was Paul of Samosata who, in most of the early witnesses, is firmly linked with the teaching of Artemon. Paul was finally condemned for his views by the church in Antioch (AD 268). We have no contemporary record of his doctrine but it is plain that he was understood to teach that Jesus was ‘by nature an ordinary man’.

In the next century he was accused by the church historian Eusebius of holding a demeaning view of Christ and thus denying both ‘his God and his Lord’. It was his misdemeanour, alleged Eusebius, to draw back from acknowledging that the Son of God came down from heaven, confessing instead that Jesus was ‘from below’.

Modern Christologies sometimes defend themselves, with some justness, from the suspicion of adoptionism by consciously renouncing certain untenable features of the original movement, such as its impersonal interpretation of the divine presence with Jesus, its neglect of divine initiative over against human achievement and its blurring of the New Testament distinction between Christ’s Sonship and the adoptive counterpart in believers. These unsound traits, however, were, at least in the minds of the movement’s critics, quite secondary to the inadequately expressed identity accorded in adoptionism to the Jesus borne by Mary. Its really characteristic error was to deny the divine origin and identity of Jesus, calling him a mere man, a failing combated by the later title Theotokos (God-bearer) for Mary.[12]

Hippolytus explained some of the major ideas of adoptionism:

Jesus was a (mere) man, born of a virgin, according to the counsel of the Father. After he had lived indiscriminately with all men and had become preeminently religious, he subsequently — at his baptism in the Jordan River — received Christ, who came from above and descended (upon him) in the form of a dove. This was the reason, according to Theodotus, why (miraculous) powers did not operate within him prior to the manifestation in him of that Spirit which descended and which proclaims him to be the Christ[13].


Footnotes

  1. Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 6.
  2. Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Two: God, Creation (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2003), 297.
  3. William Branham, 56-0805 - The Church And Its Condition, para. 33
  4. William Branham, 58-0126 - Hear Ye Him, para. 25
  5. William Branham, 64-0404 - Jehovah-Jireh #3, para. 226
  6. William Branham, THE MIGHTY CONQUEROR, JEFF.IN, 56-0401M
  7. William Branham, ADOPTION 2, JEFF.IN, 60-0518
  8. Jesus Christ the Same Yesterday, Today and Forever, preached in Campbellsville, KY, 1955 (tape #55-0806J)
  9. Questions and Answers on the Seals," Revelation of the Seven Seals, 1963 (tape #63-0324M)
  10. Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 235.
  11. Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 235.
  12. Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 6.
  13. Hippolytus, The Refutation of All Heresies, 7.23, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, Philip Schaff, and Henry Wace, 10 vols. (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1994


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