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(pôlĭsh`ənz), Christian heretical sect. The sect developed in Armenia from obscure origins and is first mentioned in the middle of the 6th cent., where it is associated with NestorianismNestorianism,
Christian heresy that held Jesus to be two distinct persons, closely and inseparably united. In 428, Emperor Theodosius II named an abbot of Antioch, Nestorius (d. 451?), as patriarch of Constantinople.
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. The teachings of the Paulicians seem to show some gnostic influence, possibly that of MarcionMarcion
, c.85–c.160, early Christian bishop, founder of the Marcionites, one of the first great Christian heresies to rival Catholic Christianity. He was born in Sinope. He taught in Asia Minor, then went (c.135) to Rome, where he perfected his theory.
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 or Paul of SamosataPaul of Samosata
, fl. 260–72, Syrian Christian theologian, heretical patriarch of Antioch. He was a friend and high official of Zenobia of Palmyra. Paul enounced a dynamic monarchianism, denying the three Persons of the Trinity.
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, and many of the adherents leaned toward adoptionismadoptionism,
Christian heresy taught in Spain after 782 by Elipandus, archbishop of Toledo, and Felix, bishop of Urgel (Seo de Urgel). They held that Jesus at the time of his birth was purely human and only became the divine Son of God by adoption when he was baptized.
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. The sect especially valued the Gospel of Luke and the Pauline Epistles. They rejected the sacraments but nevertheless considered baptism of the greatest importance. They were iconoclasts and rejected extreme asceticism. By the 7th cent. the sect spread to the eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire, where it met with strong persecution. The Council of Dvin (719) brought on new persecutions of the Paulicians in Armenia, but the permissive Isaurian emperors allowed them to flourish and even settled them as allies in Thrace. Renewed persecution caused them to side with the Muslims against Byzantium. By 844, at the height of its power, the sect established a Paulician state at Tephrike (present-day Divriğ̇, Turkey) under the leadership of Karbeas, or Corbeas. In 871 the Byzantine emperor Basil I ended the power of this state and the survivors fled to Syria and Armenia. In 970 the Paulicians in Syria were deported to the Balkans, where they combined with the BogomilsBogomils
, members of Europe's first great dualist church, which flourished in Bulgaria and the Balkans from the 10th to the 15th cent. Their creed, adapted from the Paulicians and modified by other Gnostic and Manichaean sources, is attributed to Theophilus or Bogomil, a
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. Those in Armenia became identified with a minor sect, the Tondrakeci. They ceased to be a threat after the 11th cent. and did not survive to modern times.


See N. G. Garsoïan, The Paulician Heresy (1968).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Greek, Paulikianoi, presumably from the name of the apostle Paul), members of a large medieval heretical movement in Christianity.

The Paulician heresy originated in the mid-seventh century in the eastern Byzantine Empire (Western Armenia). The founder of the movement was the Armenian Constantine, who subsequently took the name Silvanus. By the early eighth century, the Paulician movement had also spread to Eastern Armenia and the Byzantine area of Asia Minor. Most Paulicians were peasants, and some belonged to the lower urban strata. The movement was antifeudal in nature, directed against enserfment and the yoke of the state. By the mid-eighth century in Armenia the Paulician movement had also become a national liberation movement against the caliphate.

Manichaeism and Mazdaism (Zoroastrianism) influenced the Paulician religiophilosophical doctrine. In their philosophical views the Paulicians were dualists. They believed in a god of good, the heavenly father, and a god of evil, Satan. Christ was regarded as one of the angels and the son of the god of good. According to the teaching of the Paulicians, after the destruction of the god of evil, who is the creator of the visible world and people, the god of good will reign over the earth. The Paulicians rejected the veneration of the mother of god and the prophets and saints. They also repudiated the church and the clergy and especially monasticism. The only book considered holy was the New Testament, exclusive of the epistles of the apostle Peter. The Paulician doctrinal beliefs were formulated during the first half of the ninth century by the heresiarch Sergius-Tychicus.

In the mid-ninth century, the Paulicians shifted to an open struggle, engaging in an armed uprising against Byzantine domination. In this period, Karbeas and Chrysocheir became the Paulician military leaders. The Paulicians established their own state with its capital at Tephrike on the Arab-Byzantine border. Led by Karbeas and Chrysocheir, they carried out campaigns into the inner regions of Byzantium, reaching Nicea, Nicomedia, and Ephesus. In 872 Byzantine troops defeated the Paulicians at Bathyryax. Chrysocheir died in the battle. In 878, the Byzantines captured Tephrike. The surviving Paulicians found refuge in Armenia, where the Thondraki became their successors. (In Byzantine sources they are often called Paulicians.) During the eighth and ninth centuries the Byzantine government on several occasions resettled the Paulicians in the Balkans (primarily in Philippopolis), where they played a significant role in the rise of the Bogomil sect.


Lipshits, E. E. Ocherki istorii vizantiiskogo obshchestva i kul’tury. Moscow-Leningrad, 1961. Pages 132–69.
Bartikian, R. M. Istochniki dlia izucheniia istorii pavlikianskogo dvizheniia. Yerevan, 1961.
Lemerle, P. “L’Histoire des pauliciens d’Asie Mineure….” Travaux et mémoires …, 1973, vol. 5.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Garsoian (The Paulician Heresy: A Study of the Origin and Development of Paulicianism in Armenia and the Eastern Provinces of the Byzantine Empire [The Hague/Paris: Mouton, 1967] 157, 166, 185).