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§ 131. The Paulicians.


I. Petrus Siculus (imperial commissioner in Armenia, about 870): Historia Manichaeorum, qui Pauliciani dicuntur ( JIstoriva peri; th’” kenh’” kai; mataiva” aiJrevsew” tw’n Maniccaivwn tw’n kai; Paulikianw’n legomevnwn). Gr. Lat. ed. Matth. Raderus. Ingolst., 1604. Newly ed. by J. C. L. Gieseler. Göttingen, 1846, with an appendix, 1849. Photius (d. 891): Adv. recentiors Manichaeos, lib. IV. Ed. by J. Chr. Wolf. Hamburg, 1722; in Gallandii “Bibl. PP.” XIII. 603 sq., and in Photii Opera ed. Migne, Tom. II., col. 9–264 (reprint of Wolf). For the history of the sect after a.d. 870 we must depend on the Byzantine historians, Constantine Porphyrogenitus and Cedrenus.

II. Mosheim: Century IX., ch. V. Schroeckh: vols. XX. 365 sqq., and XXIII. 318 sqq. Gibbon: Ch. LIV. (vol. V. 534–554). F. Schmidt: Historia Paulicianorum Orientalium. Kopenhagen, 1826. Gieseler: Untersuchungen über die Gesch. der Paulicianer, in the “Studien und Kritiken,” 1829, No. I., 79 sqq.; and his Church History, II. 21 sqq., and 231 sqq. (Germ. ed. II. 1, 13 and 400). Neander, III. 244–270, and 586–592. Baur: Christl. K. im Mittelalter, p. 22–25. Hergenröther, I. 524–527. Hardwick, Middle Age, p. 78–84. Robertson, II. 164–173 (revised ed. IV. 117–127). C. Schmidt, in Herzog2 XI. 343–348. A. Lombard: Pauliciens, Bulgares et Bons-hommes en Orient et Occident. Genève, 1879.


The Monothelites, the Adoptionists, the Predestinarians, and the Berengarians moved within the limits of the Catholic church, dissented from it only in one doctrine, and are interwoven with the development of’ catholic orthodoxy which has been described in the preceding chapter. But there were also radical heretical sects which mixed Christianity with heathen notions, disowned all connection with the historic church, and set themselves up against it as rival communities. They were essentially dualistic, like the ancient Gnostics and Manichaeans, and hence their Catholic opponents called them by the convenient and hated name of New Manichaeans; though the system of the Paulicians has more affinity with that of Marcion. They appeared first in the East, and spread afterwards by unknown tracks in the West. They reached their height in the thirteenth century, when they were crushed, but not annihilated, by a crusade under Pope Innocent III.

These sects have often been falsely represented752752    Antipathetically by Roman Catholic, sympathetically by Protestant historians. as forerunners of Protestantism; they are so only in a purely negative sense, while in their positive opinions they differ as widely from the evangelical as from the Greek and Roman creed. The Reformation came out of the bosom of Mediaeval Catholicism, retained its oecumenical doctrines, and kept up the historic continuity.

The Paulicians753753    Παυλικοί, Παυλικιανοί, Παυλιανῖτοι. are the most important sect in our period. They were confined to the territory of the Eastern church. They flourished in Armenia, where Christianity came in conflict with Parsism and was mixed with dualistic ideas. They probably inherited some traditions of the Manichaeans and Marcionites.

I. Their name is derived by their Greek opponents754754    Peter the Sicilian and Photius, followed by Mosheim and Schroeckh. from two brothers, Paul and John sons of a Manichaean a woman Kallinike, in Samosata; but, more probably, by modern historians755755    Gibbon, Gieseler, Neander, Baur, Hardwick. from their preference for St. Paul whom they placed highest among the Apostles. They borrowed the names of their leading teachers from his disciples (Sylvanus, Titus, Timothy, Tychicus, Epaphroditus), and called their congregations after his (Corinth, Philippi, Achaia, etc.). They themselves preferred simply the name “Christians” (Cristianoiv, Cristopoli’tai), in opposition to the professors of the Roman state-religion ( JRwmaivou”).

II. The founder of the sect is Constantine a Syrian from a Gnostic (Marcionite) congregation in Mananalis near Samosata. Inspired by the epistles of St. Paul and pretending to be his genuine disciple, he propagated under the name of Sylvanus dualistic doctrines in Kibossa in Armenia and in the regions of Pontus and Cappadocia, with great success for twenty-seven years, until the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus (668–685) sent an officer, Symeon, for his arrest and execution. He was stoned to death in 684, and his congregation scattered. But Symeon was struck and converted by the serene courage of Constantine-Sylvanus, revived the congregation, and ruled it under the name of Titus. When Justinian II. heard of it, he condemned him and the other leaders to death by fire (690), according to the laws against the Manichaeans.

But in spite of repeated persecution and inner dissensions, the sect spread throughout Asia Minor. When it decayed, a zealous reformer rose in the person of Sergius, called Tychieus, the second founder of the sect (801–835). He had been converted by a woman, visited the old congregations and founded new ones, preached and wrote epistles, opposed the antinomian practices of Baanes, called “the Filthy” (oJ rJuparov”), and introduced strict discipline. His followers were called Sergiotes in distinction from the Baanites.

The fate of the sect varied with the policy of the Greek emperors. The iconoclastic Leo the Isaurian did not disturb them, and gave the leader of the sect, Gegnaesius, after a satisfactory examination by the patriarch, a letter of protection against persecution; but the wily heretic had answered the questions in a way that deceived the patriarch. Leo the Armenian (813–820) organized an expedition for their conversion, pardoning the apostates and executing the constant. Theodora, who restored the worship of images, cruelly persecuted them, and under her short reign one hundred thousand Paulicians were put to death by the sword, the gibbet, or the flames (844). Perhaps this large number included many iconoclasts.

Provoked by these cruelties, the Paulicians raised the standard of revolt under the lead of Karbeas. He fled with five thousand to the Saracens, built a strong fort, Tephrica,756756    Now Divrigni in the mountains between Sirvas and Trebizond, still occupied by a fierce people. on the Arab frontier, and in alliance with the Moslems made successful military invasions into the Byzantine territory. His son-in-law, Chrysocheres, proceeded as far as Ephesus, and turned the cathedral into a stable (867), but was killed by the Greeks in 871, and the sect had to submit to the Emperor Basil the Macedonian. He sent among them the monk Petrus Siculus, who thus became acquainted with their doctrines and collected the materials for his work.

After this the sect lost its political significance, and gradually disappeared from history. Many were transferred to Philippopolis in Thrace about 970, as guards of the frontier, and enjoyed toleration. Alexius Comnenus (1081–1118) disputed with their leaders, rewarded the converts, and punished the obstinate. The Crusaders found some remains in 1204, when they captured Constantinople.

III. The doctrines and practices of the Paulicians are known to us only from the reports of the orthodox opponents and a few fragments of the epistles of Sergius. They were a strange mixture of dualism, demiurgism, docetism, mysticism and pseudo-Paulinism, and resemble in many respects the Gnostic system of Marcion.

(1) Dualism was their fundamental principle.757757    Petrus Siculus puts this first (p. 16): Πρῶτον μὲν γάρ ἐστι τὸ κατ̓ αὐτοὺς γνώρισμα τὸ δύο ἀρχὰς ὁμολογεῖν, πονηρὸν θεὸν καὶ ἀγαθόν. He says the Paulicians reject the impious writings of the Manichaeans, but propagate their contents by tradition from generation to generation. The good God created the spiritual world; the bad God or demiurge created the sensual world. The former is worshipped by the Paulicians, i.e. the true Christians, the latter by the “Romans” or Catholics.

(2) Contempt of matter. The body is the seat of evil desire, and is itself impure. It holds the divine soul as in a prison.

(3) Docetism. Christ descended from heaven in an ethereal body, passed through the womb of Mary as through a channel, suffered in appearance, but not in reality, and began the process of redemption of the spirit from the chains of matter.

(4) The Virgin Mary was not “the mother of God,” and has a purely external connection with Jesus. Peter the Sicilian says, that they did not even allow her a place among the good and virtuous women. The true theotokos is the heavenly Jerusalem, from which Christ came out and to which he returned.

(5) They rejected the Old Testament as the work of the Demiurge, and the Epistles of Peter. They regarded Peter as a false apostle, because he denied his master, preached Judaism rather than Christianity, was the enemy of Paul (Gal. 2:11) and the pillar of the Catholic hierarchy. They accepted the four Gospels, the Acts, fourteen Epistles of Paul, and the Epistles of James, John and Jude. At a later period, however, they seem to have confined themselves, like Marcion, to the writings of Paul and Luke, adding to them probably the Gospel of John. They claimed also to possess an Epistle to the Laodiceans; but this was probably identical with the Epistle to the Ephesians. Their method of exposition was allegorical.

(6) They rejected the priesthood, the sacraments, the worship of saints and relics, the sign of the cross (except in cases of serious illness), and all externals in religion. Baptism means only the baptism of the Spirit; the communion with the body and blood of Christ is only a communion with his word and doctrine.

In the place of priests (ἱερεῖςand πρεσβύτεροι) the Paulicians had teachers and pastors (διδάσκαλοιand ποιμένες), companions or itinerant missionaries (συνέκδημοι), and scribes (νωτάριοι). In the place of churches they had meeting-houses called “oratories” (προσευχαί); but the founders and leaders were esteemed as “apostles” and “prophets.” There is no trace of the Manichaean distinction between two classes of the electi and credentes.

(7) Their morals were ascetic. They aimed to emancipate the spirit from the power of the material body, without, however, condemning marriage and the eating of flesh; but the Baanites ran into the opposite extreme of an antinomian abuse of the flesh, and reveled in licentiousness, even incest. In both extremes they resembled the Gnostic sects. According to Photius, the Paulicians were also utterly deficient in veracity, and denied their faith without scruple on the principle that falsehood is justifiable for a good end.



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