Sunday, 3 May 2015

Emanuel Fiano: The Affair of Paul of Samosata: A Geo-Ecclesiological Reading

This paper focuses on the implications of Paul of Samosata’s condemnation (264-272) for a reconstruction of the institutional profile of third-century Syrian Christianity, in particular connection with the ongoing attempts on the part of segments of the Antiochene Church to negotiate their position on the atlas of imperial Christianity. Scholarship concerning this episode has mostly investigated Paul’s intriguing connection with the Palmyrene queen Zenobia; focused on the theological issues at stakes in the debate; and explored the significance of Paul’s opponents’ appeal to the emperor for the history of the relationships between Christianity and the Roman empire. My paper centers instead on the net of regional and trans-regional connections woven on the occasion of Paul’s affair, through which Antioch made for the first time—prospectively speaking—the headlines of Church Histories. The bishops from Syria and other Eastern regions that promoted the campaign against Paul obtained the support of such important figures as Dionysius of Alexandria and Firmilianus of Caesarea in Cappadocia. Likewise, the condemnation synod of 268-269 saw the participation of Origenist bishops from Syria, Asia Minor, Palestine, Arabia, and Egypt, and addressed an encyclical letter to bishops including Dionysius of Rome and Maximus of Alexandria. The paper shows that the attempts on the part of the Antiochene ecclesiastical leadership to craft alliances with other dioceses in the Eastern Roman empire and promote the involvement of the Alexandrian and Roman clergy were a conscious geo-ecclesiological move, through which the Syrian Church aimed to hog the limelight of the imperial ecclesiastical stage.

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