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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [1]

The same as the Patripassians: which see.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [2]

is a name given to those Christians of the early Church who denied the distinction of persons in the divine nature. They insisted on the divine. unity, which they thought was infringed by the common and orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. "Monarchiam tenemus" was their frequent assertion when comparing themselves with the orthodox fathers, whom they accordingly charged with Tritheism. Yet it is apparent that the Monarchians did not properly use the term Μοναρχία at least not in the catholic sense, as maintaining that there is only one Ἀρχή , source or fountain of Deity, the Father, which sense implies the existence of the Begotten Son and Proceeding Spirit as distinct Persons; nor in the sense of unity, for unity can only be asserted when there is plurality (in which lies the misuse of the term by the Unitarians); nor, again, in the sense of God's sole government, which affirms nothing concerning the existence or non- existence of a distinction of Persons in the Godhead; but they used it .in the sense of simple oneness, from which oneness they argued that the Godhead is so simple a being as to be Μονοπρόσωπος a solitary, single Hypostasis. That this was the meaning in which they used the term Μοναρχία is apparent on the very face of the controversy. Thus Tertullian goes on to assert that monarchia means nothing else than "singulare et unicum imperium."

The Monarchians are generally credited as the adherents of Praxeas, a writer of the Grecian school. They were sometimes called Patripassians, because their views led to the conclusion that, if the union between God the Father and his Son Jesus were so intimate as they affirmed, then the former must be supposed to have suffered with the latter all the afflictions of his life and death. Praxeas held that the Word of God (Jesus Christ) meant nothing more than the word of his mouth the emissions of his voice, to which distinct agency had been metaphorically ascribed. These heretics considered that the doctrine of the Church with respect to the personality of the Son was a disparaging representation of Christ, whom they held to be the supreme God himself, and who, in a way he had never (done besides, had revealed himself in human nature, and had appeared in a human body. They taught that God was to be considered in two different relations: 1, the hidden Being, as he was before the Creation the Father; and, 2, in so far as he revealed himself, the Son of the Logos; and it was only in virtue of these considerations that Christ, as the most perfect revelation of God the Father, was called the Son of God. They maintained that this doctrine was most eminently calculated to dignify Christ. (See, however, below.) The Monarchians received both the Old and New Testaments, and held doctrines somewhat resembling modern Unitarianism.

This general class, however, comprehended many who differed more from each other than they did even from those reputed orthodox, and who, indeed, had nothing in common but a great zeal for Monotheism, and a fear lest the unity of God should be endangered by the hvpostases of the Alexandrian fathers. Thus Theodotus, Artemon, and Paul of Samosata were placed by the side of Praxeas, Noetus, Beryllus of Bostra, and Sabellius, between whom and themselves, on every essential point of Christian doctrine, there was an unmistakable opposition. Monarchianism is generally supposed to have originated about the end of the 2d century. It seems to us, however, that this heresy may be traced to the very earliest times of Christianity. Justin Martyr expressly denounces it, and his notice guides us to its source. for he finds the heresy to exist both among Jews and Christians. He condemns the Jews for thinking that, when God was said to have appeared to the patriarchs, it was God the Father who appeared. Such, he says, are justly convicted of knowing neither the Father nor the Son; for they who say that the Son is the Father are convicted of neither understanding the Father nor of knowing that the Father of the universe has a Son, who, being the first-born Logos of God, is likewise God (First Apol. chapter 63). In the Dialogue with Trypho he handles the same topic, and extends the charge to Christians. "I am aware that there are some who wish to meet this by saving that the power which appeared from the Father of the universe to Moses, or Abraham, or Jacob, is called an Angel in his coming among men, since by this the will of the Father is made known to men; he is also called Glory, since he is sometimes seen in an unsubstantial appearance; sometimes he is called a Man, since he appears under such forms as the Father pleases; and they call him the Word, since he is also the bearer of messages from the Father to men. But they say that this power is unseparated and undivided from the Father, in the same manner that the light of the sun when on earth is unseparated and undivided from the sun in heaven, and when the sun sets the light is removed with it; so the Father, they say, when he wishes, makes his power go forth, and when he wishes he brings it back again to himself" (Dial. c. Tryph. cc. 127, 128).

It appears, then, there were persons in Justin's time who called themselves Christians, but who believed that the Son was merely an unsubstantial energy or operation of the Father (see Bull, Def. Fid. Nic. Song of Solomon 2, qu. 4, 4; Burton, Bampt. Lect. note 103). Now in this the Jews had deserted the better teachings of their earlier rabbins; for these ascribed a divine personality to the angel of the Presence, and the doctrine of the holy and undivided Trinity subsisted, though in a less developed form, in the synagogue of old (see Mill, Panth. Prin. part 2, page 92 sq.). The cause of this declension in doctrine was, that opposition to the Incarnate Word, when he really appeared, seemed to have predisposed them to accept a heathen philosophy, and to represent the Logos as Philo did as the manifest God not personally distinct from the concealed Deity. This error found its way into Christianity through the Gnostics, who were largely indebted to the Platonic school of Alexandria. It appears as the foundation of the system of Simon Magus, who taught that the originating principle of all (which he asserted to be Fire, for "God is a consuming fire") is of a twofold nature, having a secret part and a manifest part, corresponding, as Hippolytus remarks, to the potentiality and energy of Aristotle. If this be nothing else than Philo's representation of the Logos, there is some sure ground for the notion that Simon held the heresy afterwards called Sabellian.

Burton rejects the notion, inasmuch as the doctrine of emanations is not to be confounded with the theory of Sabellius; but Hippolytus (whom Burton did not possess) shows that the Logos, in Simon's theory, employed certain portions of the divine fulness, which portions he called AEons; and that the Logos, although Simon uses the word Begotten, is really the manifest God not personally distinct from the concealed Deity (see Burton, Bampton Lect. note 46). Although, therefore, the doctrine of emanations is not to be confounded with the doctrine of Sabellius, it had in its original form, as constructed by Simon, a foundation of Sabellianism. Traces of Sabellianism are found even in the later schools of Gnostics, and the later Sabellianism approached to an emanation theory. A resemblance has been noticed between the tenets of Valentinus and those of Sabellius (Peturius, Dogmz. Theol. II, 1:6; Wormius, Hist. Sabel. 2:3), and Neander is inclined to think that Marcion may have adopted some of the Patripassian doctrines in Asia Minor (Clhurch Hist. 1:796; Burton, Bampton Lect. note 103). The leading tenet of the Monarchians thus appears to have been introduced into Christianity principally through the Alexandrian Jews and the Gnostics. It may also have been derived immediately from heathen philosophers, as in the case of Noetus it is ascribed by Hippolytus immediately to Ieraclitus, (See Noetians).

But whatever its origin in its development, Monarchianism must be carefully distinguished among two opposite classes claiming to be Monarchians: the rationalistic or dynamic Monarchians, who denied the divinity of Christ, or explained it as a mere power ( Δύναμις ); and the patripassian Monarchians, who identified the Son with the Father, and admitted at most only a modal trinity, a threefold mode of revelation. "The first form of this heresy," says Schaff, "involved in the abstract Jewish monotheism, deistically sundered the divine and the human, and rose little above Ebionism. The second proceeded, at least in part, from pantheistic preconceptions, and approached the ground of Gnostic docetism. The one prejudiced the dignity of the Son, the other the dignity of the Father; yet the latter was by far the more profound and Christian, and accordingly met with the greater acceptance."

1. The Monarchians of the first class saw in Christ a mere man, filled with divine power; but conceived this divine power as operative in him, not from the baptism only, according to the Ebionitish view, but from the beginning; and admitted his supernatural generation by the Holy Ghost. To this class belong:

(1) The Alogians, a heretical sect in Asia Minor about A.D. 170, of which very little is known. (See Alogians).

(2) The Theodotians, so called from their founder, Theodotus, who flourished near the close of the 2d century. He denied Christ in a persecution, with the apology that he only denied a man; but still held him to be the supernaturally begotten Messiah. He taught that Jesus was born of the Virgin according to the will of the Father, and that at his baptism the higher Christ descended upon him. But this higher Christ Theodotus conceived as the Son of him who was at once the Supreme God and the Creator of the world, and not (with Cerinthus and other Gnostics) as the son of a deity superior to the God of the Jews. (See Theodotians).

(3) The Artemonites, or adherents of Artemon, who came out somewhat later at Rome with a similar opinion, declaring the doctrine of the divinity of Christ an innovation, and a relapse to heathen polytheism. They asserted that until the time of Victor, bishop of Rome, their doctrine was the reigning one in the Roman Church, and that it was first proscribed by Victor's successor, Zephyrinus (after A.D. 200). This was an unreasonable charge, but may have been made possible by the indefiniteness of the earliest formulas of the Christian Church. The Artemonites were charged with placing Euclid and Aristotle above Christ, and esteeming mathematics and dialectics above the Gospel. (See Artemonites).

(4) Paul Of Samosata, bishop of Antioch in the second half of the 3d century, who denied the personality of the Logos and of the Holy Ghost, and considered them merely powers of God, like reason and mind in man; but granted that the Logos dwelt in Christ in 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 (a Θεοποίησις Ἐκ Προκοπῆς ). His overthrow by the emperor Aurelius in 272 decided the fall of the Monarchians, though they still appear at the end of the 4th century as condemned heretics, under the name of Samlosatenians (q.v.), Paulianists (q.v.), and Sabellians (q.v.).

2. The second class of Monarchians, called by Tertullian Patripassians (as afterwards a branch of the Monophysites was called Theopaschites), together with their unitarian zeal, felt the deeper Christian impulse to hold fast the divinity of Christ; but they sacrificed to it his independent personality, which they merged in the essence of the Father.

(1) The first prominent advocate of this class of Monarchians, rather than the founder of Monarchianism, was Praxeas, of whom we have already spoken above. Noetus of Smyrna, who differed but little from Praxeas, is frequently recognised as the leader of a branch of this class; and Callistus (pope Calixtus I), who adopted and advocated the doctrines of Noetus, as the leader of a third branch. Those who strictly followed him were called Callistians, in distinction from the direct followers of Noetus, who were called Noetians (q.v.). Noetus taught (according to Hippolytus, Philos. 9:7 sq.) that the one God who created the world, though in- himself invisible, had yet from most ancient times appeared from time to time, according to his good pleasure, to righteous men; and that this same God had himself become also the Son, when it pleased him to submit to being born; he was consequently his own son, and in this identity of the Father and the Son consisted the "monarchia" of God. An associate and disciple of Noetus was Epigonus, who brought the doctrine he professed to Rome; and His pupil, again, was Cleomenes, who defended the doctrine of Noetus in the time of bishop Zephyrinus, the successor of Victor. With this Cleomenes, according to Hyppolytus, Callistus, the successor of Zephyrinus, was on terms of friendship, and was of like opinions. Callistus declared the Son to be merely the manifestation of the Father in human form; the Father animating the Son, as the spirit animates the body ( John 14:11), and suffering with him on the cross. "The Father," says he, "who was in the Son, took flesh and made it God, uniting it with himself, and made it one. Father and Son were therefore the name of the one God, and this one person ( Πρόσωπον ) cannot be two; thus the Father suffered with the Son." After the death of this pope, Patripassianism virtually disappeared from the Roman Church.

(2) The stepping-stone from simple Patripassianism to what we shall presently deal with as Sabellian modalism constitutes the doctrine advanced by Beryllus of Bostra, in Arabia. From him we have only a somewhat obscure and very variously interpreted passage in Eusebius (H.E. 6:33). He denied the personal preexistence ( Ι᾿Δία Οὐσίας Περιγραφή , i.e., a circumscribed, limited, separate existence), and in general the independent divinity ( Ι᾿Δία Θεότης ) of Christ, but at the same time asserted the indwelling of the divinity of the Father ( ῾Η Πατρικὴ Θεότης ) in him during his earthly life.

(3) The Sabellian modalism had its starting-point in the views evolved by Sabellius (q.v.), who flourished in the beginning of the 2d century. He differed from the orthodox standard mainly in denying the trinity of essence and the permanence of the trinity of manifestation; making the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost only temporary phenomena, which fulfil their mission and return into the abstract monad. He differed from the other Monarchians by embracing the Holy Ghost in his speculation, and thereby reached a trinity; not a simultaneous trinity of essence, however, but only a successive trinity of revelation. He starts from a distinction of the monad and the triad in the divine nature. His fundamental thought is that the unity of God, without distinction in itself, unfolds or extends itself ( ῾Η Μονὰς Πλατυνθεῖσα Γέγονε Τριάς ) in the course of the world's development in three different forms and periods of revelation ( Ο᾿Νόματα , Πρόσωπα not in the orthodox sense of the term, however, but in the primary sense of mask, or part [in a play.]), and, after the completion of redemption, returns into unity. The Father reveals himself in the giving of the law or the Old- Testament economy (not in the creation also; this, in his view, precedes the trinitarian revelation); the Son, in the incarnation; the Holy Ghost, in inspiration. He illustrates the trinitarian relation by comparing the Father to the disk of the sun, the Son to its enlightening power, the Spirit to its warming influence. His view of the Logos, too, is peculiar. The Logos is not identical with the Son, but is the monad itself in its transition to triad; that is, God conceived as vital motion and creating principle the speaking God ( Θεὸς Λαλῶν ), in distinction from the silent God ( Θεὸς Σιωπῶν ). Each Πρόσωπον is another Διαλέγεσθαι , and the three Πρόσωπα together are only successive evolutions of the Logos or the worldward aspect of the divine nature. As the Logos proceeded from God, so he returns at last into him, and the process of trinitarian development ( Διάλεξις ) closes (comp. Baur. Gesch. D. Dreieinigkeitslehre, on this point). Athanasius traced the doctrine of Sabellius to the Stoic philosophy; and it must be confessed that in the Pythagorean system also, in the Gospel of the Egyptians, and even in the pseudo-Clementine homilies, there are kindred ideas. But, notwithstanding these, it is now generally conceded that Sabellius was in all respects original in the propounding of his theory of the Trinitarian doctrine. Says Schaff (Ch. Hist. 1:293): "Sabellius is by far the most original, ingenious, and profound of the Monarchians. His system is known to us only from a. few fragments, and some of these not altogether consistent, in Athanasius and other fathers. It was very fully developed, and has been revived in modern times by Schleiermacher .(Ueber den Gegensatz. der Sabellianischen u. Athkanasianischen Vorstellung v.d. Trinitat) in a peculiarly modified form." Since the writing of the above by Dr. Schaffthe general Monarchian view of the incarnation has been revived by the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, who in his Life of Christ (N.Y. 1871, 8vo), volume 1, denies the union of the human and divine nature in Christ, and asserts that he was God dwelling in and subject to the infirmities and limitation of the human flesh a view which he supports largely from chapter 2 of Hebrews. (See Arians); (See Incarnation); (See Monophysites); (See Patripassians); (See Sabellians); (See Unitarians).

From this cursory glance at the history of Monarchianism, there is apparent an endeavor to escape from the revolting tenet of Patripassianism, and to retain or supply that which the nature of man almost instinctively requires a superhuman mediation and atonement. The working of these two motives, as the Monarchian adopted either the Arian or the Patripassian alternative, is very remarkable; inasmuch as the return to catholicity appears to be much easier in the school which adopted the former alternative. Where Patripassianism was at once and decisively rejected, it was open to the Monarchian to satisfy the need for a mediator by magnifying the divine element in our Lord, which at first he considered to be only the highest degree of prophetic grace, and passing through stages of Arianism and semi-Arianism to approach nearer and nearer to the truth. Whereas, when Patripassianism had been adopted, and the need was felt for freeing the mind from-a tenet at which one shudders, it was only done by diminishing the divine nature in Christ, through the stages of supposing it to be a portion of the divine fulness, then an emanation from the Godhead. The result was a deliberate Psilanthropism. Regarding the heresy itself of pseudo-Monarchianism, the main points for consideration are the following: First, an eternal mind must needs have in it from eternity an Ἔννοια or Λόγος , a notion or conception of itself, which the schools term Verbum Mentis: nor can it be conceived without it. "This Word in God cannot be. as it is in us, a transient, vanishing accident, for then the divine nature would indeed be compounded of substance. and accident, which would be repugnant to its simplicity; but it must be a substantial, subsisting Word" (Bull, Cath. Doct. concerning the blessed Trinity).

The Monarchians denied this ( Τελειότατον Καὶ Ζῶντα Καὶ Αὐτοῦ Τοῦ Πρώτου Νοῦ Λόγον Ἔμψυχον ). Denying this, they denied also that substantial Vinculum Caritatis in which the Father and the Son are one Ἑνότητι Πνεύματος . Secondly, thus is destroyed that Αὐτάρκεια which we attribute to God, i.e., his self-sufficiency and most perfect bliss and happiness in himself alone, before and without all created beings. For this we: cannot well conceive without acknowledging a distinction of persons in the Godhead. The Monarchians, it is clear, denied this individual society of the Trinity (comp. Blunt, Dict. of Sects, Heresies, etc., page 332). See Mohler, Athanasius der Grosse (Mainz, 1827), book 1 (Der Glaube der Kirche der drei ersten Jahrh. in Betreff der Trinit. etc.), pages 1-116; Baur, Die christl. Lehre von der Dreieinigkeit u. Menschwerdung Gottes in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwickelung (Tub. 1841-43, 3 volumes), 1:129- 341; Meier, Die Lehre von der Trinitat in ihrer hist. Entwickelung (Hamb. 1844, 2 volumes), 1:45-134; Dorner, Entwickelungsgeschichte der Lehre von der Person Christi (1839; 2d. ed. Stuttg. u. Berl. 1845-56, 2 volumes), 1:122-747; Lange, Gesch. d. Lehrbegriffes der Unitarier vor der nicanischen Synode (Leips. 1831); Schleiermacher, Werke, 1:2, pages 485- 574; Vogt, Lehre des Athanasius von Alexandrius (Bremen, 1861); Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, 1:62 sq., 116 sq., 131 sq.; Mosheim, Comment. Ecclesiastes Hist. (see Index); Milman, Hist. of Christianity, and Latin Christianity, 1:70-73; Pressense, Early Years of Christianity, Heresy, and Christian Doctrine (N.Y. 1873, 12mo). chapter 5; Neander, Hist. Dogmas (see Index in volume 2), and Ch. Hist. volume 1; Ueberweg, Hist. Philos. 2:30611; Ebrard, Dogmengesch. volume 1; Hase, Ch. Hist. page 98 sq., 196, 704; Schaff, Ch. Hist. volume 1, § 81 and 83.