Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Paulus of Samosata, patriarch of Antioch
Paulus (9) of Samosata, patriarch of Antioch, a.d. 260–270. A celebrated Monarchian heresiarch, "the Socinus of the 3rd century" (so Bp. Wordsworth), deposed and excommunicated for heretical teaching as to the divinity of our Blessed Lord, a.d. 269. His designation indicates that he was a native of Samosata, the royal city of Syria, where he may have become known to Zenobia, queen of Palmyra, through whom Cave and others ascribe his advancement to the highest post in the Syrian church. Dr Newman points out that the beginning of Paul's episcopate synchronizes with the commencement of the successes of Zenobia's husband Odenathus against Sapor (Asians of the Fourth Cent. p. 4, n. 6). Athanasius distinctly calls her Paul's patroness (Athan. Hist. Ar. c. 71).
Our only knowledge of his career and character is from the encyclical letter of the bishops and clergy who condemned him. The picture of him is most unfavourable there. He is described as haughty, ostentatious, vain-glorious, worldly-minded, a lover of pomp and parade, avaricious, rapacious, self-indulgent and luxurious; as one whose manner of life laid him open to grave suspicions of immorality; and as a person originally of humble birth, who had adopted the ecclesiastical career as a lucrative speculation, and, by the abuse of its opportunities and the secular office obtained by favour of Zenobia, had amassed a large fortune. In public he affected the pomp and parade of a secular magistrate rather than the grave and modest bearing of a Christian bishop. He stalked through the forum surrounded by attendants, who made a way for him through a crowd of petitioners whose memorials he made a display of dispatching with the utmost celerity, dictating the replies without halting a moment. In his ecclesiastical assemblies he adopted an almost imperial dignity, sitting on a throne raised on a lofty tribunal (βῆμα), with a cabinet (σήκρητον) for private conferences screened from the public gaze. He is said to have suppressed the psalms which were sung to Christ as God, which had ever proved a great bulwark to the orthodox faith, as modern novelties not half a century old (cf. Caius ap. Routh, Rel. Sacr. ii. 129), and to have introduced others in praise of himself, which were sung in full church on Easter Day by a choir of women, causing the hearts of the faithful to shudder at the impious language which extolled Paul as an angel from heaven. By his flatteries and gifts, and by his unscrupulous use of his power, he induced neighbouring bishops and presbyters to adopt his form of teaching and other novelties. His private life is described in equally dark colours. He indulged freely in the pleasures of the table, and enjoyed the society of two beautiful young women, as spiritual sisters, "subintroductae," and encouraged other clergymen to follow his example, to the scandal of all and the moral ruin of many. Yet, disgraceful as his life was, he had put so many under obligations and intimidated others by threats and violence, so that it was very difficult to persuade any to witness against him (Eus. H. E. vii. 30).
However great the scandals attaching to Paul's administration of his episcopal office, it was his unsoundness in the faith which, chiefly by the untiring exertions of the venerable Dionysius of Alexandria, led to the assembling of the synods at Antioch, through which his name and character have chiefly become known to us. The first was held in 265, Firmilian of the Cappadocian Caesarea being the president. The second (the date is not precisely known) was also presided over by Firmilian, who, on his way to the third synod, in 269, was suddenly taken ill and died at Tarsus, the bishop of that city, Helenus, taking his place as president. In the first two synods Paul, by dialectical subtleness and crafty concealment of his real opinions (ib. vii. 29), escaped condemnation. The members of the second synod heard from all quarters that his teaching was unaltered and that this could be easily proved if the opportunity were granted. A third synod, therefore, was convened at Antioch, towards the close of 269. The leading part was taken by Malchion, a presbyter of Antioch, at one time president of the school of rhetoric there. Athanasius says that 70 bishops were present (Athan. de Synod. vol. i. p. ii. p. 605, ed. Patav.), Hilary says 80 (Hilar. de Synod. p. 1200). Malchion, as a skilled dialectician, was chosen by them to conduct the discussion. Paul's heresy being plainly proved, he was unanimously condemned, and the synod pronounced his deposition and excommunication, which they notified to Dionysius bp, of Rome, Maximus of Alexandria, and the other bishops of the church, in an encyclical letter, probably the work of Malchion, large portions of which are preserved by Eusebius (H. E. vii. 30). In it the assembled fathers announced that they had of their own authority appointed Domnus, the son of Paul's predecessor Demetrianus, to the vacant chair. The sentence of deposition was easier to pronounce than to carry out. Popular tumults were excited by Paul's partisans. Zenobia supported her favourite in his episcopal position, while the irregularity of Domnus's appointment alienated many of the orthodox. For two years Paul retained possession of the cathedral and of the bishop's residence attached to it, asserting his rights as the ruler of the church of Antioch. On the defeat of Zenobia by Aurelian towards the end of 372, the Catholic prelates represented to him what they termed Paul's "audacity." Aurelian relegated the decision to the bp. of Rome and the Italian prelates, decreeing that the residence should belong to the one they recognized by letters of communion (ib.). The Italian bishops promptly recognized Domnus, Paul was driven with the utmost ignominy from the temporalities of the church, and Domnus, despite his irregular appointment, generally accepted as patriarch (ib.; Cyril Alex. Hom. de Virg. Deip.; Routh, iii. 358).
The teaching of Paul of Samosata was a development of that of Artemon, with whose heresy it is uniformly identified by early writers. Like the Eastern heresiarch, Paul held the pure humanity of Christ, "He was not before Mary, but received from her the origin of His being" (Athan. de Synod. p. 919, c. iii. s. 10). His pre-existence was simply in the divine foreknowledge. He allowed no difference in kind between the indwelling of the Logos in Christ and in any human being, only one of degree, the Logos having dwelt and operated in Him after a higher manner than in any other man. This indwelling was not that of a person, but of a quality. There is no evidence that he denied the supernatural conception of Christ. Athanasius distinctly asserts that he taught Θεὸν ἐκ παρθένου, Θεὸν ἐκ Ναζαρὲτ ὀφθέντα (Athan. de Salut. adv. Apoll. t. i. p. 635); but he laid no particular stress upon it. His inferior Being was ἐκ παρθένου; his superior Being was penetrated by the Logos, Whose instrumentality by it was continually advancing itself towards God, until the "Jesus Christ from below" (κάτωθεν) became worthy of union with God (ἐκ προκοτῆς τεθεοποιῆσθαι). Therefore, although he called Christ God, it was not as God by His nature, but by progressive development. The Deity of Christ grew by gradual progress out of the humanity. He was convicted, according to Eusebius, of asserting that Christ was mere man deemed specially worthy of divine grace (Eus. H. E. vii. 27). He taught also that as the Logos is not a Person, so also the Holy Spirit is impersonal, a divine virtue belonging to the Father and distinct from Him only in conception.
It deserves special notice that Paul's misuse, "σωματικῶς et crasso sensu," of the term ὁμοούσιος, "consubstantial," which afterwards at Nicaea became the test word of orthodoxy, is stated to have led to its rejection by the Antiochene council (Athan. de Synodis, t. i. in pp. 917, 922). This is allowed by Athanasius, though with some hesitation, and only on the testimony of his semi-Arian opponents, as he said he had not seen the original documents (ib. pp. 918–920) by Hilary (de Synod. § 81, p. 509; § 86, p. 513) on the ground that it appeared that "per hanc unius essentiae nuncupationem solitarium atque unicum sibi esse Patrem et Filium praedicabat" (in which words he seems mistakenly to identify the teaching of Paul with that of Sabellius), and still more emphatically by Basil (Ep. 52 ).
Dr. Newman regards Paul of Samos "the founder of a school rather than of a sect" (Arians, p. 6). A body, called after him Paulianists, or Pauliani, or Samosatensians, existed in sufficient numbers at the time of the council of Nicaea for the enactment of a canon requiring their rebaptism and the reordination of their clergy on their return to the Catholic church, on the ground that orthodox formulas were used with a heterodox meaning (Canon. Nic. xix. Hefele, i. 43). The learned presbyter Lucian, who may be considered almost the parent of Arianism, was a friend and disciple of Paul, and, as being infected with his errors, was refused communion by each of the three bishops who succeeded the heresiarch. The many references to them in the writings of Athanasius show that for a considerable period after the Nicene council it was felt necessary for Catholics to controvert the Samosatene's errors, and for semi-Arians to disown complicity in them (Athan. u.s.). The Paulinians are mentioned by St. Augustine as still existing (Aug. de Haer. 44), though pope Innocent spoke of the heresy as a thing of the past in 414 (Labbe, ii. 1275), and when Theodoret wrote, c. 450, there did not exist the smallest remnant of the sect (Haer. ii. 11). Cf. Epiphan. Haer. 65; Tillem. Mém. eccl. t. iv. pp. 289–303.