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MONARCHIANISM. Down to the end of The second century, not only the Logos doctrine, but also the conception of Christ as the Son of God, pre-existing before the creation of the world, was the exclusive possession of a few theologians. Though it was generally recognized that there should be spoken of Christ, os peri theou (" in the same manner as of God," II. Clem. ad Cor., 1.), hardly any one, with the exception of the philosophically trained apologists, was thereby led to speculate on the idea of God. All that was developed and defined concerning the personality of the Redeemer during the period between 140 and 180 was based upon the short formula of Matt. xxviii. 19. The acknowledgment of the supernatural conception of Jesus, by which his preexistence was vaguely but indubitably presupposed, was considered sufficient to distinguish the true Christian from the strict Jewish-Christians and those who in Christ admired only a second Socrates; while, on the other hand, the acknowledgment of a real birth by a woman, and a real human life in accordance with the prefigurations of the prophets, formed a bar against Gnosticism.

During this state of incipiency, a multitude of various christological views began to germinate, co-existing, at least for a time, peacefully side by side. In spite of their multitudinousness, however, they may all be reduced to two formulas, - either Christ was considered a man in whom the Deity, or the Spirit of God, had dwelt; or he was considered the Divine Spirit, who himself had assumed flesh, and appeared in the world. For both formulas, Scripture might be quoted. Proofs of the former were taken from the synoptical Gospels; of the latter, from a series of apostolical writings which also claimed absolute authority. Nevertheless, there existed a radical difference between them; and though, for a long time, that difference may have been visible to the theological reflection only, without touching the religious instinct, there came a time when it could not fail to attract the attention even of the masses.

In the contest which then arose, the latter formula had one decided advantage: it combined more easily with those cosmological and theological propositions which were borrowed from the religious philosophy of the time, and applied as foundation for a rational Christian theology. He who was conversant with the idea of a divine Logos as the explanation of the origin of the world, and the motive power in the history of mankind, found in that very idea an easy means by which to define the divine dignity and Sonship of the Redeemer. There seemed to be no danger to monotheism in this expedient; for was not the infinite substance behind the created world capable of developing into various subjects without exhausting itself, and splitting? Nor did the idea itself - the idea of an incarnate Logos seem insufficient to explain the Godhead of Christ. On the contrary, the more energetically it was handled, the more fertile it proved, able to correspond to any depth of religious feeling and to any height of religious speculation. Nevertheless, in spite of this great advantage, as long as the idea of a divine Logos had not reached beyond such definitions as "the fundamental type of the universe," "the rational system of the laws of nature," etc., the second formula could not help rousing a certain suspicion among those who in the Saviour wanted to see the Godhead itself, and nothing less.

It was, however, not an anxiety with respect to the divine dignity of Christ, which, in the second century, called forth the first direct opposition to the Logos-christology: it was an anxiety with respect to monotheism. For was it not open ditheism, when worship was claimed for two divine beings? Not only uneducated laymen were forced to think so, but also those theologians who knew nothing of the Platonic and Stoic philosophy, and would hear nothing of its applicability in Christian dogmatics. How the controversy began, and who made the first attack, is not known; but the contest lasted for more than a hundred and fifty years, and presents some aspects of the highest interest. It denotes the victory of Plato over Zeno and Aristotle in Christian science; it denotes the substitution, in Christian dogmatics, of the pre-existent Christ for the historical, of the ideal Christ for the living, of the mystery of personality for the real person; it denotes the first successful attempt at subjecting the religious faith of the laity to the authority of a theological formula unintelligible to them.

The party which was defeated in the contest, the representatives of that severe monotheism in the ancient Church which retained the office of the Redeemer in the character of Christ, but clung with obstinate tenacity to the numerical unity in the personality of the Deity, are generally called "Monarchians," - a term brought into circulation by Tertullian, but not perfectly adequate. In order to fully appreciate the position which this party occupies in the history of Christian dogmatics, it must be remembered that it originated within the pale of Catholicism itself, and had a common basis with its very adversaries. In its deviations from what has afterwards been defined as true Catholicism, it is pre-catholic, not a-catholic. Thus, for instance, with respect to the canon of the New Testament. The deviations of several Monarchian groups on this point are simply due to the circumstance that the true canon of the New Testament had not yet been established. Nor should it he overlooked, that, with the exception of a few fragments, the writings of the Monarchians have perished. The party is known only through the representations of its adversaries. The history of Monarchianism is consequently very obscure: indeed, it cannot be written with any continuity. Only the various groups can be pointed out and described. Even the old and generally accepted division into dynamic and


modalistic Monarchianism cannot be carried through without straining the texts on which it is based.

I. THE ALOGIANS. - The first opponents to the Logos-christology, the so-called ‘Alogians" in Asia Minor, were undisputed members of the Church, and were treated as such by Hippolytus and Irenæus. It was only by comparing their tenets with a later development of Catholicism, that Epiphanius found out they were heretics: it was also lie who gave them their name. The starting-point of their opposition was the Montanist prophecy. which they rejected. They rejected, indeed, all prophecy as a still existing charisma; but in doing so they were only more catholic than the Church itself. Their disbelief, however, in an age of the Paraclete, led them into a criticism of the writings of St. John; and the result was, that they rejected both his Gospel and the Apocalypse, probably, also, his Epistles. The Gospel, they ascribed to Cerinthus: the Apocalypse, they ridiculed. But, rejecting the Gospel of St. John, they also rejected the doctrine of the Logos; and thus they came into conflict with the new christological issue. Hippolytus, however, who knew them only from their writings, and Irenæus, treated them with much circumspection: they regretted their opinions, and warned against the inferences which might be drawn from their tenets; but they did not condemn them.

LIT. - The principal sources are EPIPHANIUS (Hær., 51) and PHILASTRIUS (Hær., 60), both of whom have derived their information from the Syntayma of HIPPOLYTUS. On Epiphanius depend Augustine, Isidore, Paulinus, Honorius, and John of Damascus. See also MERKEL: Aufklärung der Streitigkeiten der Aloger, 1782; HEINICHEN: De Alogis, 1829; and the respective chapters in SCHWEGLER Montanismus; VOLKMAR: Hippolytus; DÖLLINGER: Hippolytus und Kallistus; LIPSIUS: Quellenkritik d. Epiphanius and Quellen der altesten Ketzergeschichte; SOYRES; Montanism; JWANZOW-PLATONOW; Haresien und Schismen d. 3 ersten Jahrhund., etc.

II. THEODOTUS THE LEATHER-DEALER, HIS PARTY IN ROME (Asclepiadotus, Hermophilus, Apollonides, Theodotus the Money-Broker, Natalias), AND THE ARTEMONITES. - Towards the close of the episcopate of Eleutherus, or in the beginning of that of Victor, about 190, Theodotus, a leather-dealer from Byzantium, came to Rome, and began to expound his christological views, which he probably had developed under the influence of the Alogians of Asia Minor. Orthodox in other points, he taught, with respect to the personality of Christ, that Jesus was not a heavenly being, which had assumed flesh in the womb of the Virgin, but a human being, which had been borne by a virgin, in accordance with a special providence and under the concurrence of the Holy Spirit; that, having proved himself worthy by a pious life, he had received in the baptism the Holy Spirit, and thereby the powers (dunameis) necessary to fill his office, etc. Theodotus was thus a representative of the dynamic Monarchianism, which held that the divinity of Christ was only a power communicated to him. It is not known how many adherents he found in Rome, but the number was probably small. Nevertheless, he was excommunicated by Victor between 189 and 199. Under Victor’s successor, however, Zephyrinus (199-218) his pupil, Theodotus the money-broker, probably also a Greek, attempted, in connection with Asclepiadotus, to form an independent congregation, and found an independent church, in Rome. A certain Natalius, a native of Rome, and a confessor, was, for a monthly salary of a hundred and seventy dinari, induced to become the bishop of the new church; but he was afterwards, by visions of "holy angels," who whipped him while he was sleeping, forced back into the bosom of the great Church. Twenty or thirty years later on, a new attempt at reviving the old Monarchian christology was made by Artemas; but lie seems not to have identified himself with the Theodotians. Very little is known of him, however. He was still living about 270, as proven by the decision of the synod of Antioch against Paulus of Samosata.

Generally speaking, the dynamic Monarchians of Rome present the same realistic character as their brethren, the Alogians of Asia Minor. They studied Aristotle and Theophrastus, Euclid and Galen; but they neglected Plato and Zeno. They substituted the grammatico-historical method for the allegorical in the interpretation of Scripture; and, as foundation for their Bible study, they employed a very sharp text-criticism. With respect to the canon they were perfectly orthodox. They accepted the writings of St. John, which, however, simply means that the canon of the New Testament in which those writings were contained had now been firmly and finally established. But they remained an army of officers, without any rank and file. For their text-criticism, their grammar, their historical researches, the mass had no sense. Their church in Rome waned away, leaving behind no traces of itself; and it took about seventy years before the school of Autioch was strong enough to throw the dogmatics of the church into one of the most violent crises it ever has had to go through.

LIT. - The principal sources are the Syntaynza of HIPPOLYTUS, represented by EPIPHANIUS (54), PHILASTRIUS (50), and PSEUDO-TERTULLLAN (28); his Philosophumena (vii. 35, x. 23); his fragment against Noëtus (c. 3); and, most important of all, the so-called Little Labyrinth, an excerpt preserved by EUSEBIUS (Hist. Eccl., V. 28), dating back to the fourth decade of the third century, and by many ascribed to Hippolytus. See also KAPP: Hist. Artemonis, 1737, and the literature given at the end of the first division.

III. PAULUS OF SAMOSATA. - By the Alexandrian theology of the third century, the dogmatical use of such ideas as , etc., was not only made legitimate, but indispensable; and, at the same time, the view of the essential nature of the Saviour, as being not human, but divine, became more and more prevalent. Though Ebionitic elements were still found in the intricate christology of Origen, they were present only in a latent and ineffective state; and though he himself taught a Godhead in Christ, to which it was not allowed to address prayers, he directly attacked all those teachers who attempted to establish such a difference between the personality of the Son and that of the Father as seemed likely to destroy the essential Godhead of the former. A few years, however,


after his death, Paulus of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, that is, occupant of the most illustrious episcopal chair of the Orient, undertook once more to emphasize the old view of the human personality of the Saviour, in opposition to the prevailing doctrine. The next occasion of the controversy is not known; but it is worth noticing, that, at that time, Antioch did not belong to the Roman Empire, but to Palmyra. Paulus was vicegerent of the realm of Zenobia. To reach such a man was no easy task. Through a common provincial synod, over which he presided himself, it could not be done. But, during the Novatian controversy, the experiment of a general Oriental council had been successfully tried, and it was now repeated. The two first councils, however, failed to accomplish the condemnation of Paulus: at the third, probably in 268, he was excommunicated, and Dommus chosen his successor. But, by the support of Zenobia, he continued in possession of his see until 272. In that year, Antioch was reconquered by Aurelian. An appeal was made to the emperor; and he decided that the church-building should be surrendered to those who maintained communication with the bishops of Italy and of the city of Rome. The deposition, however, and removal of Paulus, did not at once destroy his influence. On the contrary, under the three following bishops of Antioch, Lucian stood at the head of the rising Antiochian school of theology, and lie taught in the spirit of Paulus. Yea, in the persons of the great Antiochian Fathers, Paulus may, indeed, be said to have been condemued a second time; and how long the dynamic Monarchianisni lived on in Asia Minor may be seen from the christology of the author of the Acta Archelai.

The christology of Paulus is characterized by the total absence of all metaphysical speculation, instead of which he employs only the historical research and the ethical reflection. Essentially it is simply a development of the christology of Hermas and Theodotus, only modified in its form by accommodation to the prevailing terminology. The unity of the personality of God is most severely vindicated. Father, Son, and Spirit are the one God; and, when a Logos or Sophia can be distinguished in God, they are only qualities or attributes. From eternity, God has brought forth the Logos in such a way that the latter may justly’ be called his Son; but that Son remains, nevertheless, an impersonal power, and can never become a concrete manifestation. In the prophets, the Logos was active; also in Moses, and in many others, more especially in the son of David, born by the Virgin. But Mary did not bear the Logos: she bore only a man, who in the baptism was anointed with the Logos.

LIT. - The principal sources are the acts of the Antiochian synod of 268; that is, the report of the disputation between Paulus amid the presbyter Malchian, and the final decision of the synod. In the sixth century those documents were still extant in extenso; but only fragments of them have come down to us, in EUSEBIUS: Hist. Eccl., VII. 27-30; JUSTINIAN: Tract. e. Monophysit.; Contestatio ad Clerum C. P.; the acts of the Council of Ephesus; LEONTIUS BYZANTIUS: Adv. Nestor et Eutych., etc., - all gathered together by Routh, in Eel. Sacr., iii. Important are also the testimonies of the great Fathers of the fourth century, - Athanasius, Hilary, Ephraem, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil, etc. See FEUERLIN: De haeresi P. S., 1741; EHRLICH: De erroribus P. 8., 1745; SCHWAR: Diss. de P. 8., 1839.

IV. THE MODALISTIC MONARCHIAN5 IN ROME AND CARTHAGE (Noëtus, Epigonus, Kleomenes, Praxeas, Victorinus, Zephyrinus, Kallistus). - In the period between 180 and 240, the most dangerous opponents to the Logos-christologv were not the dynamic, but the modalistic Monarchians, known in the West as Monarchiani or Patripassiani; in the East, as Sabelliani; though the name Patripassiani was used there too. They taught that Christ was God himself incarnate, the Father who had assumed flesh, a mere modus of the Godhead: hence their name. Tertullian, Origen, Novatian, and Hippolytus wrote against them.

Like the dynamic Monarchians, the modalistic arose in Asia Minor; and thence they brought the controversy to Rome, where, for a whole generation, their doctrines formed the official teachings of the Church. Noëtus was the first of this group of Monarchians who attracted attention. lie was a native of Smyrna, taught there, or in Ephesus, and was excommunicated about 230. Epigonus, a pupil of his, came to Rome iii time times of Zephyrinus, about 200, amid founded there a Patripassian party. At the head of that party stood, afterwards, Kleomenes, and then, after 21 5. Sabellius. The latter was vehemently attacked by Hippolytus, but had the sympathy of the great majority of the Christians in Rome: even among the clergy Hippolytus was in the minority. Bishop Zephyrinus tried to temporize, in order to prevent a schism from taking place; and his successor, Kallixtus, or Callistus (217-222), adopted the same policy. But the controversy grew so hot, that the Pope was compelled to interfere. Kallistus chose to excommunicate both Sabellius and Hippolytus, and draw up a formula of reconciliation, as the expression of tIme views of the true Catholic Church; and, indeed, the formula of Callixtus became the bridge across which the Roman congregation was led towards the hypostasis-christology.

It is a curious circumstance, that Tertullian, in his polemics against the Monarchians, never mentions the names of Noëtus, Epigonus, Kleomenes, and Kallistus; while, on the other hand, the name of Praxeas, against whom lie chiefly directs his attack, does not occur in the numerous writings of Hippolytus. The explanation seems to be, that, when the controversy was at its highest in Rome, Praxeas had been forgotten there, while Tertullian might still find it proper to start from him, because he had been the first to bring the controversy to Carthage. Praxeas was a confessor from Asia Minor. In Rome he met with mo resistance; but when, in Carthage, he began to expound his Patripassian views, in opposition to the Logos-christology, he was by Tertullian compelled, not only to keep silent, but even to retract. A representation of the individual system of Praxeas cannot be given, on account of the scarcity of the sources. It is, nevertheless, evident that a development had taken place from the Noëtians to those Monarchians against whom Hippolytus amid Tertullian wrote. The Noëtians said, "If Christ is God, he must certainly be the


Father; for, if he is not the Father, he is not God." And this very same passionate vindication of pure monotheism is also found among the later Monarchians. But when the Noëtians went further, and declared, that, if Christ had suffered, the Father had suffered, because Christ was the Father, the later Monarchians avoided this Patripassian proposition by recognizing a difference of subjectivity between the Father and the Son.

LIT. - HIPPOLYTUS: Philosophumena; TERTULLIAN: Adu. Praxeain; PSEUDO-TERTULLIAN (30), EPIPHANIUS (57), PHILASTRIUS (53-54), and the literature given after the art. CALIXTUS I. See also LANGEN: Geschichte der rom. Kirche, Bonn, 1881, pp. 192-216.

V. SABELLIANISM AND THE LATER MONARCHIANISM. - During the period between Hippolytus and Athanasius, Monarchianism certainly developed several different forms; but this whole various development was, by the writers of the fourth and fifth centuries, comprehended under the one term, "Sabellianism." The consequence is, that it would be very difficult to point out in details the propositions which actually made up the individual system of Sabellius. He was probably a Libyan by birth, and stood, even in the time of Zephyrinus, at the head of the Monarchian party in Rome. By Kallistus he was excommunicated, but the excommunication produced only a schism. His party was too strong to be at once suppressed: it lived on in Rome until the fourth century. Of the latter part of his personal life nothing is known. It seems that he was still living in Rome when Hippolytus wrote his Philosophumena. A dim but characteristic reflex falls on him - or, rather, on the Monarchians in Rome - from the works of Origen. The latter came to Rome in the time of Zephyrinus, and sided, as was natural, with Hippolytus. But that circumstance had, no doubt, something to do with his condemnation by Pontianus in 231 or 232; and the hints which he himself throws out, about bishops who can make no difference between the Father and the Son, are, no doubt, aimed at the bishops of Rome. It was, however, in another direction, Origen had to encounter the Monarchians. In Bostra in Arabia, Bishop Beryllus openly taught Monarchianism. His brother-bishops of the province remonstrated with him, but in vain. Then Origen was invited, in 244, to hold a public disputation with him in Bostra, and he succeeded in converting him. Unfortunately, the acts of that synod have perished.

The principal tenet of Sabellius says, that the Father is the same as the Son, and the Son the same as the Spirit: there are three names, hut only one being. That being he often designates as huipater - an expression which he had no doubt chosen in order to prevent any misunderstanding with respect to the strict nionotheism of the system. Nevertheless, Sabellius taught that God was not Father and Son at the same time; that he had been active under three successive forms of energy (prosopa - as the Father, from the creation of the world; as the Son, from time incarnation in Christ; and as the Spirit, from the day of the ascension. How far Sabellius was able to keep those three forms of energy distinct from each other cannot be ascertained. It is probable that he could not help ascribing a continuous energy (in nature) to God as the Father, even while the energy was active as the Son or as the Spirit. However that may be, the doctrine of three successive forms of energy was at all events a step towards that formula, the Athanasian homoousia, which finally made Monarchianism superfluous, and founded Trinitarianism.

LIT. - Besides some sporadic but very important notices in the works of Origen and Athanasius, the principal sources are HIPPOLYTUS (Philosophumena), EPIPHANIUS (51), and PHILASTRIUS (54). See also ULLMANN: De Beryllo, 1835; FOCK: De Christol. Berylli, 1843; ZAHN: Marcellus, 1867.

Adolf, Harnack, "Monarchianism," Philip Schaff, ed., A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd edn, Vol. 3. Toronto, New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894. pp.1548-1551.

Primary Sources

Book or monograph Athanasius, On the Opinion of Dionysius 26.
Book or monograph Athanasius, Against the Arians 3.23.4
Book or monograph Basil of Caesarea, Letter 210.
Book or monograph Epiphanius, Panarion 62.
Book or monograph Eusebius, Church History 7.6, 26.
Book or monograph C.L. Feltoe, The Letters of Dionysius of Alexandria. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1904.
Book or monograph Hippolytus, Contra Noetum, R. Butterworth, trans. London: Sheed & Ward Ltd., 1977. Pbk. ISBN: 0905764013. pp.160.
Book or monograph Hippolytus, Philosophumena, or The Refutation of All Heresies, F. Legge, trans. New York: Macmillan, 1921. (On Sabellianism see 9.7).
Book or monograph Novatian, On the Trinity 12; 18; 21-22.
Book or monograph Origen, "Dialogue with Heraclides," Alexandrian Christianity, Henry Chadwick, trans. J. Baillie, ed. Library of Christian Classics, Vol. 2. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1954. pp.430-455.

General Secondary Works

Article in Journal or Book H.J. Carpenter, "Popular Christianity and the Theologians in the Early Centuries," Journal of Theolgical Studies, Vol. 14 (1963): 294-310.
On-line Resource Monarchians (John Chapman)
Book or monograph Adolf von Harnack, History of Dogma, Vol. 3. 1897.Chapter 1, pp.1-118.
Book or monograph Kelly: Early Christian DoctrinesJ.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, revised. HarperCollins. Pbk. ISBN: 006064334X. pp.125-123.
Article in Journal or Book G. La Piana, "The Roman Church at the End of the Second Century," Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 18 (1925): 201-277.
Book or monograph G.L. Prestige, God in Patristic Thought. London: SPCK, 1952.
Article in Journal or Book R. Sample. "The Christology of the Council of Antioch (298 C.E.) Reconsidered," Church History, Vol.48 (1979): 18-26.
Article in Journal or Book C.H. Turner, "The 'Blessed Presbyters' Who Condemned Noetus," Journal of Theological Studies, Vol. 23 (1921-1923): 28-35.

Adoptionism or Dynamic Monarchianism

Modalist Monarchianism or Sabellianism

Article in Journal or Book E. Klinger, "Modalism," Sacramentum Mundi, Vol. 4. New York: Herder and Herder, 1969. pp.88-90.

Related Subjects

Alogi | Apollinarianism | Arianism | Docetism | Donatism | Ebionites | Gnosticism | Manicheaism | Marcion | Monarchianism | Montanism | Nestorianism | Pelagianism

Heresies | Apostolic Brethren | Arnoldists | Beguins | Flagellants | Bogomils | Cathari | Henricians | Humiliati | Hussites | Lollards | Manichees | Passagians | Paulicians | Petrobrusians | Speronists | Spiritual Franciscans | Waldensians


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