The Origin of the Paulicians - A.D. 653

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The Gnostics, who had been so numerous and powerful during the early days of Christianity, were now an obscure remnant, chiefly confined to the villages along the borders of the Euphrates. They had been driven by the all-powerful catholics from the capitals of the East and the West, and the remains of their different sects passed under the general and odious name of the Manicheans.
In this region, at the village of Mananalis, near Samosata, lived about the year 653 one Constantine, who is described by the Roman writers as descended from a Manichean family. Soon after the Saracens' conquest of Syria, an Armenian deacon, who was returning from captivity among the Saracens, became the guest of Constantine. In acknowledgment of his hospitality the deacon made him a present of a manuscript, containing the four Gospels and the fourteen Epistles of St. Paul. This was indeed a rare gift, as the scriptures were already concealed from the laity. The study of these sacred books produced a complete revolution in his religious principles, and in the whole subsequent course of his life. Some say he had been trained in Gnosticism, others, that he was a member of the Greek established church; but, however this may have been, those books now became his only study and the rule of his faith and practice.
Constantine now thought of forming a new sect, or rather, of restoring apostolic Christianity. He renounced and cast away his Manichean books, say his enemies; he abjured Manicheism, and made it a law to his followers not to read any other books whatsoever, but the Gospels and the epistles of the New Testament. This may have given their enemies a pretext for charging them with rejecting the Old Testament and the two Epistles of St. Peter. But it is more than probable that they did not possess these portions of the word of God. It is to be feared however, from their peculiar attachment and devotion to the writings and character of St. Paul, that other scriptures were neglected.
It is generally agreed that the word Paulician is formed from the name of the great apostle of the Gentiles. His fellow-laborers, Silvanus, Timothy, Titus, Tychicus, were represented by Constantine and his disciples; and their congregations, as they sprang up in different places, were called after the names of the apostolic churches. It is difficult to see, in this "innocent allegory," as it has been termed, how the catholics could have been so grievously offended with the Paulicians, or could have found a pretext for hunting them down with fire and sword. Yet so they did, as we shall presently see. Their unpardonable sin was their separation from the State church; their testimony against superstition and apostasy; their reviving the memory of a pure primitive Christianity.