1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Paul of Samosata
PAUL OF SAMOSATA, patriarch of Antioch (260-272), was, if we may credit the encyclical letter of his ecclesiastical opponents preserved in Eusebius's History, bk. vii. ch. 30, of humble origin. He was certainly born farther east at Samosata, and may have owed his promotion in the Church to Zenobia, queen of Palmyra. The letter just mentioned is the only indisputably contemporary document concerning him and was addressed to Dionysius and Maximus, respectively bishops of Rome and Alexandria, by seventy bishops, priests and deacons, who attended a synod at Antioch in 269 and deposed Paul. Their sentence, however, did not take effect until late in 272, when the emperor Aurelian, having defeated Zenobia and anxious to impose upon Syria the dogmatic system fashionable in Rome, deposed Paul and allowed the rival candidate Domnus to take his place and emoluments. Thus it was a pagan emperor who in this momentous dispute ultimately determined what was orthodox and what was not; and the advanced Christology to which he gave his preference has ever since been upheld as the official orthodoxy of the Church. Aurelian's policy moreover was in effect a recognition of the Roman bishop's pretension to be arbiter for the whole Church in matters of faith and dogma.
Scholars will pay little heed to the charges of rapacity, extortion, pomp and luxury made against Paul by the authors of this letter. It also accuses him not only of consorting himself with two " sisters " of ripe age and fair to look upon; but of allowing his presbyters and deacons also to contract platonic unions with Christian ladies. No actual lapses however from chastity are alleged, and it is only complained that suspicions were aroused, apparently among the pagans.
The real gravamen against Paul seems to have been that he clung to a Christology which was become archaic and had in Rome and Alexandria already fallen into the background. Paul's heresy lay principally in his insistence on the genuine humanity of Jesus of Nazareth, in contrast with the rising orthodoxy which merged his human consciousness in the divine Logos. It is best to give Paul's beliefs in his own words; and the following sentences are translated from Paul's Discourses to Sabinus, of which fragments are preserved in a work against heresies ascribed to Anastasius, and printed by Angelo Mai: —
I. " Having been anointed by the Holy Spirit he received the title of the anointed (i.e. Christos), suffering in accordance with his nature, working wonders in accordance with grace. For in fixity and resoluteness of character he likened himself to God; and having kept himself free from sin was united with God, and was empowered to grasp as it were the power and authority of wonders. By these he was shown to possess over and above the will, one and the same activity (with God), and won the title of Redeemer and Saviour of our race."
II. "The Saviour became holy and just; and by struggle and hard work overcame the sins of our forefather. By these means he succeeded in perfecting himself, and was through his moral excellence united with God; having attained to unity and sameness of will and energy (i.e. activity) with Him through his advances in the path of good deeds. This will be preserved inseparable (from the Divine), and so inherited the name which is above all names, the prize of love and affection vouchsafed in grace to him."
III. " The different natures and the different persons admit of union in one way alone, namely in the way of a complete agreement in respect of will; and thereby is revealed the One (or Monad) in activity in the case of those (wills) which have coalesced, in the manner described."
IV. " We do not award praise to beings which submit merely in virtue of their nature; but we do award high praise to beings which submit because their attitude is one of love; and so submitting because their inspiring motive is one and the same, they are confirmed and strengthened by one and the same indwelling power, of which the force ever grows, so that it never ceases to stir. It was in virtue of this love that the Saviour coalesced with God, so as to admit of no divorce from Him, but for all ages to retain one and the same will and activity with Him, an activity perpetually at work in the manifestation of good."
V. " Wonder not that the Saviour had one will with God. For as nature manifests the substance of the many to subsist as one and the same, so the attitude of love produces in the many an unity and sameness of will which is manifested by unity and sameness of approval and well-pleasingness."
From other fairly attested sources we infer that Paul regarded the baptism as a landmark indicative of a great stage in the moral advance of Jesus. But it was a man and not the divine Logos which was born of Mary. Jesus was a man who came to be God, rather than God become man. Paul's Christology therefore was of the Adoptionist type, which we find among the primitive Ebionite Christians of Judaea, in Hermas, Theodotus and Artemon of Rome, and in Archelaus the opponent of Mani, and in the other great doctors of the Syrian Church of the 4th and 5th centuries. Lucian the great exegete of Antioch and his school derived their inspiration from Paul, and he was through Lucian a forefather of Arianism. Probably the Paulicians of Armenia continued his tradition, and hence their name (see Paulicians).
Paul of Samosata represented the high-water mark of Christian speculation; and it is deplorable that the fanaticism of his own and of succeeding generations has left us nothing but a few scattered fragments of his writings. Already at the Council of Nicaea in 325 the Pauliani were put outside the Church and condemned to be re baptized. It is interesting to note that at the synod of Antioch the use of the word consuhstantial to denote the relation of God the Father to the divine Son or Logos was condemned, although it afterwards became at the Council of Nicaea the watchword of the orthodox faction.
Literature.—Adolph Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. iii.; Gieseler's Compendium of Ecclesiastical History (Edinburgh, 1854), vol. i.; Routh, Reliquiae sacrae, vol. iii.; F. C. Conybeare, Key of Truth (Oxford); Hefele, History of the Christian Councils (Edinburgh, 1872), vol. i.; Ch. Bigg, The Origins of Christianity (Oxford, 1909), ch. XXXV.
(F. C. C.)