Paul of Samosata and Photinus of Sirmium

By Sean Finnegan

Over the last couple of sessions, we’ve looked at the shameful battle between egalitarians and subordinationists. Both parties believed Jesus pre-existed but couldn’t agree on whether he was eternal and equal with the Father or not. However, at the same time, another stream of Christians fought for another view – a theology they thought was more biblical and less fraught with philosophical conundrums—the dynamic Monarchians.

Paul of Samosata’s Life (200-275)

• 260 - Ordained Bishop of Antioch
• 264 - Synod at Antioch
• 268 - Synod at Antioch, debate w/ Malchion
• 272 - Emperor Aurelian deposed Paul.

Robert Lynn Sample: “Paul’s particular brand of Christianity had an ecstatic or spontaneous character, with a stress on spiritual power.”1

Artemon of Rome (fl. 230)

• Claimed that non-pre-existence dominated throughout the time of Bishop Victor of Rome (d. 199)
• Artemon taught that though Christ was born of a virgin, he was a “mere man”.
• Theodotus of Byzantium was Artemon’s predecessor.

Paul of Samosata’s Beliefs

• Lumped in with Artemon and Ebionites by Eusebius
• Epiphanius accused Paul of importing Judaism (though not circumcision or Sabbath observance).
• Paul said the logos was homoousios with the Father.
• The Son is what the logos became when it was made flesh.
• Christ did exist prophetically before he was born.
• Paulinians or Paulianists continued to hold a unitarian faith long after Paul died.

Photinus of Sirmium’s Life (d. 376)

• From Ancyra in Galatia
• 343 - Ordained Bishop of Sirmium
• 344 - Council at Antioch (Macrostitch Creed)
• 345 - Council at Milan condemned him.
• 347 - Council at Rome condemned him.
• 351 - After a debate, Constantius deposed him.
• 351 - Council at Sirmium denounced Photinian doctrine.
• 361 - Returned to Sirmium as Bishop
• 364 - Valentinian I deposed him.

Photinus’ Beliefs

• Jerome accused him of reviving the Ebionite heresy.
• Very biblical; quoted 1 Corinthians 15.47; 1 Timothy 2.5; John 8.40
• Christ only existed from Mary’s time when she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
• The Son did exist, but only according to foreknowledge or predestination.
• Photinians persisted in the Roman Empire for another century and a half.


• From 260 - 272, Paul of Samosata was the bishop of Antioch, one of the four most important churches in the world.
• He was a charismatic preacher whose animated congregation participated with applauding, waving handkerchiefs, shouting, and even jumping.
• Paul prevented singing the newer hymns to Jesus, probably because they differed from his beliefs.
• Other bishops challenged him in 264 and tried to depose him in 268. Paul did not leave his church.
• In 272, Emperor Aurelian took back the region for Rome from Queen Zenobia of Palmyra and deposed Paul.
• Like Artemon a generation before him and Theodotus before him, Paul taught that Jesus was the Christ, but that he did not exist before his birth, though he agreed that he "existed prophetically."
• Paul taught that the logos was of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father.
• Photinus was bishop of Sirmium in the middle of the fourth century until emperors Constantius and Valentinus I deposed him.
• Like Paul, he believed that the logos was "in the Father" but was not equivalent to the Son, though the Son is what the logos became when it became flesh.
• Photinus placed a heavy emphasis on scripture and said he had a hundred prooftexts for his Christology.
• After Photinus died, Photinians persisted in the Roman Empire for another century and a half in small pockets.


1. Robert Lynn Sample, “The Messiah as Prophet: The Christology of Paul of Samosata,” PhD diss., Northwestern University, June 1977, 5.
PhD diss., Catholic University of America, Washington D. C., March 1990, 145.

LHIM Weekly Bible Teachings
LHIM Weekly Bible Teachings
Paul of Samosata and Photinus of Sirmium

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