1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Monarchianism

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MONARCHIANISM, a theological term designating the view taken by those Christians who, within the Church, towards the end of the 2nd century and during the 3rd, opposed the doctrine of an independent personal subsistence of the Logos. During the middle of the 2nd century a number of varying christological views began to germinate, growing for a time side by side. They fall into two great classes: (a) Christ was a man in whom the Spirit of God had dwelt; (b) Christ was the Divine Spirit who had assumed flesh. Each class based its position on Scripture, but the latter (which prevailed) had the advantage of being able easily to combine with cosmological and theological propositions current in the religious philosophy of the time. The opposition to it arose out of a fear that it threatened monotheism. The representatives of the extreme monotheistic view, which while regarding Christ as Redeemer, clung tenaciously to the numerical unity of the Deity, were called Monarchians, a term brought into general use by Tertullian. It has to be remembered (1) that the movement originated within the pale of the Church, and had a. great deal in common with that which it opposed; (2) that it was ante-Catholic rather than anti-Catholic, e.g. the Canon of the New Testament had not yet been established. It is usual to speak of two kinds of monarchianism–the dynamistic and the modalistic, though the distinction cannot be carried through without some straining of the texts. By monarchians of the former class Christ was held to be a mere man, miraculously conceived indeed, but constituted the Son of God simply by the infinitely high degree in which he had been filled with Divine wisdom and power. This view was represented in Asia Minor about the year 170 by the anti-Montanistic Alogi, so called by Epiphanius on account of their rejection of the Fourth Gospel; it was also taught at Rome about the end of the 2nd century by Theodotus of Byzantium, a currier, who was excommunicated by Bishop Victor, and at a later date by Artemon, excommunicated by Zephyrinus About the year 260 it was again propounded within the Church by Paul of Samosata (q.v.), who held that, by his unique excellency, the man Jesus gradually rose to the Divine dignity, so as to be worthy of the name of God. Modalistic monarchianism, conceiving that the whole fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Christ, took exception to the “subordinatianism” of some Church writers, and maintained that the names Father and Son were only two different designations of the same subject, the one God, who “with reference to the relations in which He had previously stood to the world is called the Father, but in reference to His appearance in humanity is called the Son.” It was first taught, in the interests of the “monarchia” of God, by Praxeas, a confessor from Asia Minor, in Rome about 190, and was opposed by Tertullian in his well-known controversial tract. The same view—the “patripassian” as it was also called, because it implied that God the Father had suffered on the cross—obtained fresh support in Rome about 215 from certain disciples of Noetus of Smyrna, who received a modified support from Bishop Callistus. It was on this account that Hippolytus, the champion of hypostasian subordinatianism, along with his adherents, withdrew from the obedience of Callistus, and formed a separate community. In Carthage Praxeas for a time had some success, but was forced by Tertullian not only to desist but to retract. A new and conciliatory phase of patripassianism was expounded at a somewhat later date by Beryllus of Bostra, who, while holding the divinity of Christ not to be ἰδία, or proper to Himself, but πατρική (belonging to the Father), yet recognized in His personality a new πρόσωπον or form of manifestation on the part of God. Beryllus, however, was convinced of the wrongness of this view by Origen (q.v.), and recanted at the Synod which had been called together in 244 to discuss it. (For the subsequent history of moralistic monarchianism see Sabellius.)

See the Histories of Dogma by A. Harnack, F. Loofs, R. Seeberg; also R. L. Ottley, The Doctrine of the Incarnation.