Gregory Paul of Brzeziny

A pioneering figure in the Polish Reformation, advocating a radical nontrinitarian Christianity and early socialist ideas.

Grzegorz Paweł z Brzezin, better known in English as Gregory Paul of Brzeziny (1525–1591), was a pivotal Socinian theologian, writer, and a major figure in the radical wing of the Polish Brethren. His life and work played a crucial role in shaping theological discourse in Poland and contributed significantly to the development of literary Polish during the Reformation period.

Educated at the University of Königsberg, Paweł was initially exposed to Lutheran and Calvinist teachings. His early career saw him as the rector of a school at the Catholic Collegiate Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Poznań. However, his adherence to Calvinism led him to vacate this position. By 1550, he was actively promoting the Reformation, conducting Protestant worship in Kraków, and eventually becoming the pastor of the city’s church in 1557. His theological perspectives continued to evolve, becoming more radical over time, and by 1562 he openly rejected Trinitarian doctrine, positing Jesus as merely a perfect human, whose miraculous birth and life led to his exaltation by God.

Paweł’s move to Raków in 1569, a settlement founded by castellan Jan Sienieński, positioned him as a leading figure among the radical Polish Brethren. He was instrumental in fostering a community that embraced early forms of socialist utopianism, advocating for communal assets and shared labor. He articulated a vision of a Christian community that existed beyond the need for a state, which he viewed as an institution necessary only for governing those inclined towards evil.

A significant schism within the Polish Brethren occurred in 1567, driven by differing views on the pre-existence of Christ. Paweł, alongside others like Georg Schomann, opposed this concept, though they maintained belief in the virgin birth, a stance that later Unitarianism would move away from. Among his notable works are “Rozdział Starego Testamentu od Nowego” (Division of the Old Testament from the New), “O prawdziwej śmierci” (On the Mortality of the Soul), and “O różnicach teraźniejszych” (Of the Distinctions in the Present-day), which were foundational in promoting his theological views and the Polish language​​​​​​.

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