Julian of Halicarnassus (fl. ca. 520) [Syr. Orth.]

Bp., theologian, controversialist. In 511 Julian, bp. of Halicarnassus, sided with Severus, future bp. of Antioch, to successfully depose Patr. Macedonius of Constantinople. Seven years later, due to the anti-Miaphysite policies of the emperor Justinian, Julian and Severus were both exiles in Egypt. Here Julian offended Severus by claiming that his belief in the incorruptibility of Christ’s body was inspired by Severus’s own work, the Philalethes. The resulting epistolary exchange between these former allies soon escalated into multiple polemical tractates and finally a significant schism among the Miaphysites that lasted for centuries.

Julian’s three letters to Severus as well as nearly all of Severus’s anti-Julian writings are extant in a Syriac translation that Pawlos of Kallinikos made in 528. We also possess 154 fragments attributed to Julian, also preserved mostly in Syriac. Although these works shed little light on Julian’s life, they do allow us to reconstruct much of his theology.

Central to Julian and Severus’s dispute was the question of how to properly characterize Christ’s body. Although both agreed that after the resurrection Christ’s body was incorruptible, Julian declared Christ’s pre-resurrection body to be uncorrupted (aphthartos) as well. According to Julian, unlike the post-lapsian human body, Christ’s body would not naturally undergo changes such as sleep or death. It was only through Christ’s will that he voluntarily subjected himself to human suffering. For Julian this both reinforced Christ’s single nature and, by distinguishing Christ’s body from human bodies, assured that Christ was immune from the transmission of sin. Severus argued that if Christ had not participated fully in human nature, he could not have saved humanity. Severus thus saw Julian’s theology as a direct challenge to Christ’s role in salvation, and he characterized Julian as a follower of Eutyches, Mani, and the early docetists, calling his theology ‘aphthartodocetism’.

By the end of the 520s Julian and Severus no longer wrote treatises against each other, but by this time there already was a substantial Miaphysite rift between pro- and anti-Julianists. The Alexandrian Patr. Timothy  IV seems to have had pro-Julianist leanings, and after his death the pro-Julianist Gaianus was patr. for three months. Although Justinian soon replaced him with the Severian Theodosius, Gaianus continued to enjoy popular support. Throughout much of 6th-cent. Egypt there were competing Severian and Julianist/Gaianite hierarchies and occasionally dual Patrs. The controversy soon spread outside of Egypt into Syria and Asia Minor and in 564 or 565 Justinian himself wrote an edict on the incorruptibility of Christ’s body. 7th- and 8th-cent. sources continue to attest to Julianists throughout the East. Of particular note is the aphrthartodocetic leanings of Armenian Christianity. A case for Julian’s influence on Armenian christology is difficult to substantiate, however, as none of Julian’s works are extant in Armenian. Unfortunately, most of the later anti-Julianist writings remain unedited and there has been relatively little work done on the development of this movement and its eventual demise.


  • CPG 7125–7127.
  • P. Allen and C. T. R. Hayward, Severus of Antioch (2004).
  • L. Draguet, Julien d’Halicarnasse (1924).
  • L. Draguet, ‘Le Pacte d’union de 797 entre les Jacobites et les Julianistes d’Antioche’, LM 54 (1941), 91–106.
  • Grillmeier and Hainthaler (ed.), Jesus der Christus, vol. 2/2 (1989), 82–116. (79–111 in ET)
  • R.  Hespel, La polémique antijulianiste (CSCO 104–5, 124–7; 1964–71).
  • L. Van Rompay, ‘Society and Community in the Christian East’, in The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian, ed. M. Maas (2005), 239–66.

| Julian of Halicarnassus |


Front Matter A (73) B (53) C (26) D (36) E (27) F (5) G (30) H (22) I (31) J (15) K (11) L (12) M (56) N (19) O (3) P (28) Q (11) R (8) S (71) T (39) U (1) V (5) W (3) X (1) Y (41) Z (4) Back Matter
URI   TEI/XML   Purchase  

Resources related to 5 other topics in this article.

Show Other Resources