Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVII.—Paul of Samosata, and the Heresy introduced by him at Antioch.
1. After Xystus had presided over the church of Rome for eleven years, 2375 Dionysius, 2376 namesake of him of Alexandria, succeeded him. About the same time Demetrianus 2377 died in Antioch, and Paul of Samosata 2378 received that episcopate.
2. As he held, contrary to the teaching of the Church, low and degraded views of Christ, namely, that in his nature he was a common man, Dionysius of Alexandria was entreated to come to the synod. 2379 But being unable to come on account of age and physical weakness, he gave his opinion on the subject under consideration by letter. 2380 But all the other pastors of the churches from all directions, made haste to assemble at Antioch, as against a despoiler of the flock of Christ.
Xystus II. was bishop only eleven months, not eleven years. See chap. 5, note 5. Eusebius chronology of the Roman bishops of this time is in inextricable confusion.312:2376
After the martyrdom of Xystus II. the bishopric of Rome remained vacant for nearly a year on account of the severe persecution of Valerian. Dionysius became bishop on the 22d of July, 259, according to the Liberian catalogue. Lipsius accepts this as the correct date. Jeromes version of the Chron. gives the twelfth year of “Valerian and Gallienus” (i.e. 265–266) which is wide of the mark. The Armenian Chron. gives the eighth year of the same reign. As to the duration of his episcopate, authorities vary considerably. Eusebius (chap. 30, §23, below) and Jeromes version of the Chron. say nine years; the Armenian Chron., twelve; the Liberian catalogue, eight. Lipsius shows that nine is the correct figure, and that five months and two days are to be read instead of the two months and four days of the Liberian catalogue. According to Lipsius, then, he was bishop until Dec. 27, 268. Dionysius of Alexandria addressed to Dionysius of Rome, while the latter was still a presbyter, one of his epistles on baptism (see above, chap. 7, §6, where the latter is called by Eusebius a “learned and capable man”). Another epistle of the same writer addressed to him is mentioned in chap. 9, §6. Dionysius of Alexandrias four books against the Sabellians were likewise addressed to him (see chap. 26, above, and Bk. VI. chap. 40, note 1). Gallienus edict of toleration was promulgated while Dionysius was bishop (see chap. 13, note 3).312:2377
On Demetrianus, see Bk. VI. chap. 46, note 12.312:2378
Paul of Samosata was one of the most famous heretics of the early Church. He was bishop of Antioch and at the same time viceroy of Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra. Both versions of Eusebius Chron. put the date of his accession to the see of Antioch in the seventh year of Valerian and Gallienus, the year of Abr. 2277 (2278), i.e. in a.d. 259 (260); and Jeromes version puts his deposition in the year of Abr. 2283, i.e. a.d. 265. These dates, however, are not to be relied upon. Harnack (Zeit des Ignatius, p. 51) shows that he became bishop between 257 and 260. Our chief knowledge of his character and career is derived from the encyclical letter written by the members of the council which condemned him, and quoted in part by Eusebius in chap. 30, below. This, as will be seen, paints his character in very black colors. It may be somewhat overdrawn, for it was written by his enemies; at the same time, such an official communication can hardly have falsified the facts to any great extent. We may rely then upon its general truthfulness. Paul reproduced the heresy of Artemon (see above, Bk. V. chap. 28), teaching that Christ was a mere man, though he was filled with divine power, and that from his birth, not merely from his baptism, as the Ebionites had held. He admitted, too, the generation by the Holy Spirit. “He denied the personality of the Logos and of the Holy Spirit, and considered them merely powers of God, like reason and mind in man; but granted that the Logos dwelt in Christ in a larger measure than in any former messenger of God, and taught, like the Socinians in later times, a gradual elevation of Christ, determined by his own moral development, to divine dignity. He admitted that Christ remained free from sin, conquered the sin of our forefathers, and then became the Saviour of the race” (Schaff). At various Antiochian synods (the exact number of them we do not know), efforts were made to procure his condemnation, but they were not successful. Finally one of the synods condemned and excommunicated him, and Domnus was appointed bishop in his place. The date of this synod is ordinarily fixed at 268 or 269, but it cannot have occurred in 269, and probably occurred earlier than 268 (see below, chap. 29, note 1). Since Paul was in favor with Zenobia, his deposition could not be effected until 272, when Aurelian conquered her. Being appealed to by the Church, Aurelian left the decision between the claims of Paul and Domnus to the bishops of Rome and Italy, who decided at once for Domnus, and Paul was therefore deposed and driven out in disgrace.
Our sources for a knowledge of Paul and his heresy are the letter quoted in chap. 30; a number of fragments from the acts of the council, given by Routh, Rel. Sac. III. 287 sq.; and scattered notices in the Fathers of the fourth century, especially Athanasius, Hilary, Gregory of Nyssa, &c. Cf. also Jeromes de vir. ill. 71, and Epiphanius Hær. 65. See Harnacks article Monarchianismus, in Herzog, second ed. (abbreviated in Schaff-Herzog); also Smith and Waces Dict. of Christ. Biog., art. Paulus of Samosata.312:2379
This synod to which Dionysius was invited was not the last one, at which Paul was condemned, but one of the earlier ones, at which his case was considered. It is not probable that the synod was called especially to consider his case, but that at two or more of the regular annual synods of Antioch the subject was discussed without result, until finally condemnation was procured (cf. Harnack, ibid. p. 52, and Lipsius, ibid. p. 228). Dionysius mentions the fact that he was invited to attend this synod in an epistle addressed to Cornelius, according to Eusebius, Bk. VI. chap. 46.312:2380
Jerome, de vir. ill. 69, tells us that Dionysius wrote a few days before his death, but that is only an inference drawn from Eusebius statement. This epistle of Dionysius is no longer extant, although a copy of it was originally appended to the encyclical of the Antiochian synod (as we learn from chap. 30, §4), and hence must have been extant in the time of Eusebius, and also of Jerome. An epistle purporting to have been written by Dionysius to Paul of Samosata is given by Labbe, Concil. I. 850–893, but it is not authentic.
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