Paul of Samosata

views updated May 14 2018


Heretical bishop of Antioch (260268); b. Samosata on the Euphrates. He had acquired wealth and influence under Odenatus II, King of Palmyra, after the Persian defeat of the Roman Emperor valerian (260). Under Queen Zenobia, Paul succeeded Demetrianus as bishop of Antioch, while retaining his secular position. In 264, as a result of widespread criticism of his conduct and doctrine, Bps. firmilian of Caesarea and Helenus held a synod of local bishops in Antioch to consider those accusations that referred to his financial interests and misconduct as well as to his encouragement of East Syrian usages, such as the virgines subintroductae and the chanting of psalms by alternating choirs of virgins and men. He was also accused of banning hymns in honor of Christ since "he considered Him but an ordinary man" (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 7.27.2). Paul was judged in two further synods at Antioch, and was deposed in 268. Credit for his final condemnation is given to the priest Malchion, who had been head of a school of rhetoric at Antioch (Jerome, De vir. ill. 71).

Paul of Samosata's doctrine is known only from records of the debate with Malchion preserved in the works of hilary of poitiers (De synodis 81.86); St. Basil (Ep. 52); the De sectis (3.3); justinian i; and in the account given by Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 7.27), who says that the council that condemned Paul sent an encyclical letter to Pope dionysius and Bp. Maximus of Alexandria for distribution in all the provinces. A Letter to Hymnaeus supposedly sent by six bishops to Paul before the Council of 268 seems apocryphal, as are the Orations to Sabinus.

The Council that condemned Paul is said to have repudiated the term homoousios, or consubstantial, which is the orthodox term explaining the equality of Godhead in Christ and the Father, because Paul used it in a modalist sense. He is accused of having "given the name of Father to God Who created all things, that of Son to Him Who was purely Man, and that of the Spirit to the grace which resided in the Apostles" (De sectis 3.3) and of having considered Jesus to be greater than Moses, but not to be God. His doctrine thus recognized a Trinity merely of names, for he taught monarchianism; in the area of christology he is considered one of the founders of adoptionism.

Bibliography: g. bardy, Paul de Samosate (Spicilegium sacrum Lovaniense 4; 1923); Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 12.1:4651. j. quasten, Patrology (Westminster MD 1950) 2:140142. h. j. lawlor, "Sayings of Paul of Samosata," Journal of Theological Studies 19 (191718) 2045, 115120. f. loofs, Paulus von Samosata (Leipzig 1924). h. de riedmatten, Les actes du procès de Paul de Samosate (Fribourg 1952). r. m. grant, Vigilae christianae 3 (1949) 225229.

[p. lebeau]

Paul of Samosata

views updated May 18 2018

Paul of Samosata (3rd cent.). Christian heretic. He became bishop of Antioch c.260 but was deposed by a synod there in 268 on account of his Christological teaching, little of which has survived. The best-attested accusation against Paul is that he taught that Christ was a mere man.