A heretic of the fourth century, a Galatian and deacon to Marcellus, Metropolitan of Ancyra ; d. 376. He became the Bishop of Sirmium in Pannonia, an important position on account of the frequent residence of the Emperor Constantius there. The city was more Latin than Greek, and Photinus knew both languages. Marcellus was deposed by the Arian party, but was restored by Pope Julius and the Synod of Sardica (343), and was believed by them to be orthodox. But Photinus was obviously heretical, and the Eusebian court-party condemned them both at the Synod of Antioch (344), which drew up the "macrostich" creed. Three envoys were sent to the West and in a synod at Milan (345) Photinus was condemned, but not Marcellus; communion was refused to the envoys because they refused to anathematize Arius. It is evident from the way in which Pope Liberius mentions this synod that Roman legates were present, and St. Hilary calls its sentence a condemnation by the Romans. Two years later another synod, perhaps also at Milan, tried to obtain the deposition of Photinus but this was impossible owing to an outbreak of the populace in his favour. Another synod was held against him at Sirmium ; some Arianizing propositions from it are quoted by St. Hilary. The heretic appealed to the emperor, who appointed judges before whom he should be heard. For this purpose a great synod assembled at Sirmium (351). Basil, the supplanter of Marcellus as Bishop of Ancyra and the future leader of the Semi-Arians, disputed with Photinus. The heretic was deposed, and twenty-seven anathematisms were agreed to. Photinus probably returned to his see at the accession of Julian, like the other exiled bishops, for St. Jerome says he was banished by Valentinian (364-75). Eventually he settled in Galatia. Epiphanius, writing at about the date of his death, considered his heresy dead in the West. In Pannonia there were still some Photinians in 381, and a Photinian named Marcus, driven from Rome under Innocent I, found adherents in Croatia. In later writers, e.g., St. Augustine, Photinian is the name for any who held Christ to be a mere man.
We obtain some knowledge of the heresies of Photinus from the twenty-seven anathematisms of the council of 351, of which all but 1, 10, 12, 13, 18, 23, 24, 25 (according to St. Hilary's order: 1, 10, 11, 12, 17, 22, 24, 25) and possibly 2 are directed against him. We have corroborative evidence from many writers, especially St. Epiphanius, who had before him the complete minutes of the disputation with Basil of Ancyra. The canons obviously misrepresent Photinus's doctrine in condemning it, in so far as they sometimes say "Son" where Photinus would have said "Word". He makes the Father and the Word one Person ( prosopon ). The Word is equally with the Father unbegotten, or is called a part of the Father, eternally in Him as our logos is in us. The latent Word ( endiathetos ) becomes the explicit Word ( prophorikos ) not, apparently, at the creation, but at the Incarnation, for only then is He really Son. The Divine Substance can be dilated and contracted (so St. Hilary translates platynesthai and systellesthai , while Mercator's version of Nestorius's fourth sermon gives "extended and collected"). This is exactly the wording of Sabellius, who said that God platynetai , is broadened out, into Son and Spirit. To Photinus the expansion forms the Son, who is not, until the human birth of Christ. Hence before the Incarnation there is no Son, and God is Father and Word, Logopator . The Incarnation seems to have been conceived after a Nestorian fashion, for Photinus declared the Son of Mary to be mere man, and this is the best-known point in his teaching. He was consequently classed with Paul of Samosata ; Jerome even calls him an Ebionite, probably because, like Mercator, he believed him to have denied the Virgin birth. But this is perhaps an error. He certainly said that the Holy Ghost descended upon Christ and that He was conceived by the Holy Ghost. By His union with the prophoric Word, Christ was the Son. The Holy Ghost is identified like the Word with the Unbegotten; He is a part of the Father and the Word, as the Word is a part of the Father. It is evident that Photinus went so far beyond Marcellus that it is unfair to call him his follower. In his Trinitarian doctrine he is a Modalist Monarchian, and in his Christology a Dynamistic Monarchian, combining the errors of Theodotus with those of Sabellius. But it is clear that his views were partly motived by the desire to get away from the Ditheism which not only the Arians but even the Eastern moderates were unable to avoid, and he especially denounced the Arian doctrine that the Son is produced by the Will of the Father. His writings are lost; the chief of them were "Contra Gentes" and "Libri ad Valentinianum", according to St. Jerome ; he wrote a work in both Greek and Latin against all the heresies, and an explanation of the Creed.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online