Help Now >
FREE Catholic Classes
A dualistic heretical sect, derived originally from Manichaeism. The origin of the name Paulician is obscure. Gibbon (Decline and Fall, liv), says it means "Disciples of St. Paul" (Photius, op. cit., II, 11; III, 10; VI, 4). Their special veneration for the Apostle, and their habit of renaming their leaders after his disciples lend some colour to this view. On the other hand, the form ( Paulikianoi , not Paulianoi ) is curious; and the name seems to have been used only by their opponents, who held that they were followers of Paul of Samosata (Conybeare, op. cit., cv). The birthplace of their founder evidently suggested this; but there is no connection between their doctrine and his. Photius relates that a certain Manichee woman, named Kallinike sent her two sons Paul and John to Armenia to propagate this heresy ; the name is corrupted from Pauloioannoi (Friedrich op. cit., I). The existence of such persons is now generally denied. The latest authority, Ter-Mkrttschian (Die Paulicianer, 63), says the name is an Armenian diminutive and means "followers of little Paul", but does not explain who little Paul may be. It occurs first in the Acts of the Armenian Synod of Duin in 719, a canon of which forbids any one to spend the night in the house of "the wicked heretics called Pollikian" (Ter-Mkrttschian, 62).
The cardinal point of the Paulician heresy is a distinction between the God who made and governs the material world and the God of heaven who created souls, who alone should be adored. They thought all matter bad. It seems therefore obvious to count them as one of the many neo-Manichaean sects, in spite of their own denial and that of modern writers (Ter-Mkrttschian, Conybeare, Adeney, loc. cit.; Harnack, "Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschicte", Tübingen, 1909, II, 528). But there is a strong Marcionite element too. They rejected the Old Testament ; there was no Incarnation, Christ was an angel sent into the world by God, his real mother was the heavenly Jerusalem. His work consisted only in his teaching; to believe in him saves men from judgment. The true baptism and Eucharist consist in hearing his word, as in John, iv, 10. But many Paulicians, nevertheless, let their children be baptized by the Catholic clergy. They honoured not the Cross, but only the book of the Gospel. They were Iconoclasts, rejecting all pictures. Their Bible was a fragmentary New Testament . They rejected St. Peter's epistles because he had denied Christ. They referred always to the "Gospel and Apostle ", apparently only St Luke and St. Paul ; though they quoted other Gospels in controversy.
The whole ecclesiastical hierarchy is bad, as also all Sacraments and ritual. They had a special aversion to monks. Their own organization consisted first of the founders of their sect in various places. These were apostles and prophets. They took new names after people mentioned by St. Paul, thus Constantine called himself Silvanus; apparently they claimed to be these persons come to life again. Under the apostles and prophets were "fellow-workers" ( synechdemoi ) who formed a council, and "notaries" ( notarioi ), who looked after the holy books and kept order at meetings. Their conventicles were called, not churches, but "prayer-houses" ( proseuchai ). They maintained that it was lawful to conceal or even deny their ideas for fear of persecution ; many of them lived exteriorly as Catholics. Their ideal was a purely spiritual communion of faithful that should obliterate all distinctions of race. Their enemies accuse them constantly of gross immorality, even at their prayer-meetings. One of their chief leaders, Baanes, seems to have acquired as a recognized surname the epithet "filthy" ( ho ryproz ). They would recognize no other name for themselves than "Christians"; the Catholics were "Romans ( Romaioi ), that is, people who obey the Roman emperor, as the Monophysites called their opponents Melchites. Harnack sums them up as " dualistic Puritans and Individualists and as "an anti-hierarchic Christianity built up on the Gospel, and Apostle, with emphatic rejection of Catholic Christianity " (Dogmengeschichte, II 528).
Since Gibbon the Paulicians have often been described as a survival of early and pure Christianity, godly folk who clung to the Gospel, rejecting later superstitions, who were grossly calumniated by their opponents. Conybeare (op. cit.) thinks they were a continuation of the Adoptionists. Dr. Adeney calls them "in many respects Protestants before Protestantism " (The Greek and Eastern Churches, 219). This idea accounts for the fact that the sect has met among modern writers with more interest and certainly more sympathy than it deserves.
Constantine of Mananalis, calling himself Silvanus, founded what appears to be the first Paulician community at Kibossa, near Colonia in Armenia. He began to teach about 657. He wrote no books and taught that the New Testament as he presented it (his "Gospel and Apostle ") should be the only text used by his followers (Georgios Monachos, ed. Friedrich, 2). The other Paulician Apostles after Constantine were Symeon (called Titus), sent by the emperor Constantine Pogonatus (668-85) to put down the sect, but converted to it; then Gegnesius an Armenian (Timothy); Joseph (Epaphroditus); Zachary, who was rejected by many and called a hireling; Baanes; Sergius (Tychicus). They founded six congregations in Armenia and Pontus, to which they gave the names of Pauline Churches (Kibossa was "Macedonia", and so on).
Constantine-Silvanus, after having preached for twenty-seven years and having spread his sect into the Western part of Asia Minor , was arrested by the Imperial authorities (by Symeon), tried for heresy and stoned to death. In 690 Symeon-Titus himself, having become a Paulician, was also executed with many others. The history of these people is divided between their persecutions and their own quarrels. An Armenian Paul (thought by some to have given his name to the sect ) set up congregation at Episparis in the (Armenian) district Phanaroea (d. c. 715). His two sons Gegnesius-Timothy and Theodore quarreIled about his succession. Gegnesius went to Constantinople in 717 and persuaded the emperor Leo III and the patriarch Germanus I that he was orthodox. Armed with an imperial safe-conduct he came to Mananalis and succeeded in crushing Theodore's opposition. After his death his son Zachary (the "hireling") and his son-in-law, Joseph-Epaphroditus, again quarrelled and formed parties as to which should succeed. Zachary's party went under; many of them were destroyed by the Saracens.
Joseph (d. 775) founded communities all over Asia Minor. Then came Baanes (Vahan; d. 801). Under him the sect decreased in numbers and influence. But a certain Sergius-Tychicus, who made a new schism, reformed and strengthened the movement in his party. The Paulicians were now either Baanites (the old party), or Sergites (the reformed sect ). Sergius was a zealous propagator of the heresy ; he boasted that he had spread his Gospel "from East to West. from North to South" (Petrus Siculus, "Historia Manichaeorum", op. cit., 45). The Sergites meanwhile fought against their rivals and nearly exterminated them. From the Imperial government the Paulicians met with alternate protection and persecution. Constantine IV, and still more Justinian II, persecuted them cruelly. The first Iconoclast emperors (Leo III and his successors) protected them; Conybeare counts these emperors as practically Paulicians themselves (op. cit.). Nicephorus I tolerated them in return for their service as soldiers in Phrygia and Lycaonia. Michael I began to persecute again and his successor Leo V, though an Iconoclast, tried to refute the accusation that he was a Paulician by persecuting them furiously. A great number of them at this time rebelled and fled to the Saracens. Sergius was killed in 835. Theodora, regent for her son Michael III, continued the persecution ; hence a second rebellion under one Karbeas, who again led many of his followers across the frontiers.
These Paulicians, now bitter enemies of the empire, were encouraged by the khalifa. They fortified a place called Tephrike and made it their headquarters. From Tephrike they made continual raids into the empire; so that from this time they form a political power, to be counted among the enemies of Rome. We hear continually of wars against the Saracens, Armenians, and Paulicians. Under Basil I the Paulician army invaded Asia Minor as far as Ephesus, and almost to the coast opposite Constantinople. But they were defeated, and Basil destroyed Tephrike in 871. This eliminated the sect as a military power. Meanwhile other Paulicians, heretics but not rebels, lived in groups throughout the empire. Constantine V had already transferred large numbers of them to Thrace; John I Tzimiskes sent many more to the same part to defend it against the Slavs. They founded a new centre at Philippopolis, from which they terrorized their neighbours. During the ninth and tenth centuries these heretics in Armenia, Asia Minor , and Thrace constantly occupied the attention of the government and the Church. The "Selicians" converted by the Patriarch Methodius I (842-46), were Paulicians. Photius wrote against them and boasts in his Encyclical (866) that he has converted a great number. In Armenia the sect continued in the "Thonraketzi" founded by a certain Smbat in the ninth century. Conybeare attributes to this Smbat a work, "The Key of Truth ", which he has edited. It accepts the Old Testament and the Sacraments of Baptism. Penance, and the Eucharist. This work especially has persuaded many writers that the Paulicians were much maligned people. But in any case it represents a very late stage of their history, and it is disputed whether it is really Paulician at all. Constantine IX persuaded or forced many thousands to renounce their errors.
The emperor Alexius Comnenus is credited with having put an end to the heresy. During a residence at Philippopolis, he argued with them and converted all, or nearly all, back to the Church (so his daughter: "Alexias", XV, 9). From this time the Paulicians practically disappear from history. But they left traces of their heresy. In Bulgaria the Bogomile sect, which lasted through the Middle Ages and spread to the West in the form of Cathari, Albigenses, and other Manichaean heresies, is a continuation of Paulicianism. In Armenia, too, similar sects, derived from them, continue till our own time.
There were Paulician communities in the part of Armenia occupied by Russia after the war of 1828-29. Conybeare publishes very curious documents of their professions of faith and disputations with the Gregorian bishop about 1837 (Key of Truth, xxiii-xxviii). It is from these disputations and "The Key of Truth " that he draws his picture of the Paulicians as simple, godly folk who had kept an earlier (sc. Adoptionistic) form of Christianity (ibid., introduction).
Download Now >
There are four chief documents: (1) Photius, Four books against the Paulicians( Diegesis peri tes ton neophanton manichaion anablasteseos ), in P.G., CII, 15-264. (2) Euthymius Zigabenus, in his "Panoplia", XXIV [P.G., CXXX, 1189, sqq., separate edition of the part about the Paulicians, ed. Gieseler (Gottingen, 1841)]. (3) Peter the Abbot, "Concerning the Paulicians and Manichees", ed. Gieseler (Gottingen, 1849), who idlentifies the author with Petrus Siculus, who wrote a "Historia Manichaeorum qui Pauliciani dicuntur", first published by Rader (Ingolstadt, 1604), of which work Gieseler considers "Concerning the Paulicians" to be merely an excerpt. (4) George Monachos, "Chronikon", ed. Muralt (St. Petersburg, 1853).
Of Photius's work only book I contains the history; the rest is a collection of homilies against the heresy. There is interdependence between these four sources. The present state of criticism (due chiefly to Karapet Ter-Mkrttschian) is this: — Photius's account (book I) falls into two parts. Chapters i-xiv are authentic, xv-xxvii a later edition. The original source of all is lost. George Monachos used this. Peter the Monk either copied George or used the original work. Photius may have used Peter (so Ter-Mkrttschian) or perhaps the original. Derived from these are Zigabenus and the spurious part of Photius's book. Bonwetsch (Realencyklopädie für prot. Theol., 3rd ed., Leipzig 1904, XV, 50) represents (according to Friedrich and as probable only) the order of derivation as: (1) An account contained in a manuscript of the tenth century (Cod. Scorial. I, phi , 1, fol. 164 sqq.) ed. Friedrich in the "Sitzungsbericht der Münchener Akademie", (1896), 70-81; (2) Photius, i-x; (3) George Monachos; (4) Peter the Abbot ; (5) Zigabenus; (6) Pseudo-Photius, x-xxvii; (7) Petrus Siculus.
Other sources are the Armenian bishop John Ozniensis [ed. by Aucher (Venice, 1834) and used by Döllinger and Conybeare] and the "Key of Truth " [Mrkttschian in "Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte", 1895, and Conybeare's edition, Armenian and English, with introduction and notes (Oxford, 1898)].
Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.