A heretical Christian sect of the 4th century, known for its unique views on the nature of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Early Church
Founded: 4th century CE
Ended: Declined in influence by the 5th century CE
Location: Roman Empire (primarily in the Eastern provinces)

The Bonosians were a Christian sect that emerged in the late fourth century, closely associated with Bonosus, who was a bishop in Sardica (now Sofia, Bulgaria). Bonosus diverged from established Christian doctrine by denying the perpetual virginity of Mary, a belief that placed him and his followers at odds with the broader Christian community of the time. This belief led to Bonosus being labeled a heretic and eventually condemned by the council of Capua in 391, a condemnation that he and his followers ignored, continuing their religious practices independently.

Following Bonosus’s death at the turn of the fifth century, the sect that bore his name, the Bonosians, persisted in their theological beliefs, which extended beyond their views on Mary’s virginity. They also questioned other core Christian doctrines, such as the divinity of Christ. According to their interpretation, Jesus was divine but was created at a point in time by God the Father, contrasting with the official church belief in Christ’s dual nature as both fully divine and fully human. By denying the inherent divine nature of Jesus and instead advocating for a purely adoptive divine filiation, the Bonosian view echoed the earlier Arian controversy and aligned with other contemporary heretical movements like the Photinians.

Another distinctive feature of Bonosian theology was their view on the Holy Spirit. The sect is reported to have held that the Holy Spirit was not a distinct person within the Godhead, but rather a creation of the Son. They also held distinctive views on ecclesiastical matters, such as the validity of baptism, resulting in a division within the Christian community regarding whether baptisms performed by Bonosians should be considered valid.

Overall, the Bonosians represent one of the many groups that sought to define Christian identity and belief during a time of theological exploration and debate. Their existence and the reaction they provoked from the wider Christian community highlight the boundaries of orthodoxy being negotiated in the early church and the challenges of maintaining doctrinal unity amidst diverse interpretations of Christian faith and practice​​​​​​.

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