Paul of Samosata

Paul of Samosata

Paul of Samosata (lived from 200 to 275 AD) was Bishop of Antioch from 260 to 268. He was a believer in monarchianism, and his teachings anticipate adoptionism.


Paul was born at Samosata into a family of humble origin. He was elected bishop of Antioch in 260. He held the civil office of Procurator ducenarius. [CathEncy|wstitle=Paul of Samosata]

He aroused controversy with his Monarchianist teachings. In 269, seventy bishops, priests and deacons assembled at Antioch as a synod. They deposed Paul as bishop and elected Dominus as his successor. They also wrote an encyclical letter to Dionysius and Maximus, bishops of Rome and Alexandria respectively. This letter is the only indisputably contemporary document concerning him and was preserved in Eusebius of Caesarea's "Ecclesiastical History". [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 7, chapter 30]

Despite being deposed by this synod, Paul still considered himself bishop and since he had friendly relations to Zenobia, the separatist queen of Palmyra ruling in Syria, he continued to occupy the bishop's house in Antioch. Late in 272 however, when the emperor Aurelian defeated Zenobia, Paul lost her protection. The Christians of Antioch brought their case before the Emperor who ordered Paul to yield the house to Domnus.

This was no interference into doctrinal issues, as Aurelian was a pagan and later even planned another persecution. The event however gives witness of the position of early Christians as Roman citizens and their relationship to the government in times when there was no persecution.

Scholars have paid little heed to the charges of rapacity, extortion, pomp and luxury made against Paul by the authors of this letter. It also accused 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 were alleged, and its only complaint is that suspicions were aroused, apparently among the pagans.


Paul's teaching is a form of Monarchianism, which emphasized the oneness of God. Paul taught that Jesus was born a mere man, but that at his baptism he was infused with the divine Logos or word of God. Hence, Jesus was seen not as God-become-man but as man-become-God. In his Discourses to Sabinus, of which only fragments are preserved in a book against heresies ascribed to Anastasius, Paul writes:

: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.":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."

Paul was an early forerunner of Adoptionism. Possibly, the Paulicians of Armenia adhered to his teachings, and received their name from him. However historical records show instead that the Paulicians were bitterly persecuted more for their gnostic and iconoclastic views than for a position on homoousious. Paul's pupil Lucian also had some influence on Arianism.



* Clifton, Chas S. (1992) :Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics, ABC-CLIO Books.

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