A 4th-century Christian theologian known for his controversial teachings Christological views, which led to the Photinian controversy.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Early Church
Founder: Photinus of Sirmium
Founded: 4th century CE
Location: Sirmium (modern-day Serbia)
Other Names: Photinianism

Photinus, a bishop of Sirmium in the fourth century, became notable for his distinctive Christological beliefs that led to his condemnation as a heretic by the broader Christian community. Born in Ancyra, Galatia, and serving as a deacon to Marcellus, Metropolitan of Ancyra, Photinus’s teachings eventually led to significant theological controversies. His core doctrine, which starkly opposed the pre-existence of Christ and posited Christ as merely a man upon whom divine favor rested, stood in direct conflict with established Christian Trinitarian doctrines.

Photinus’s views were shaped by his understanding of the relationship between God the Father and the Logos or Word. He argued that the Logos was not a distinct person within the Godhead but a manifestation of God’s activity in creation and revelation, which only became the Son upon Jesus’s incarnation. This stance, aligning with Adoptionism, suggested that Jesus was born a mere man and was adopted as God’s son due to his fidelity and moral superiority. Photinus’s teachings therefore rejected the pre-existence of Christ as a divine person alongside the Father, a viewpoint that led to his repeated excommunication and condemnation by various synods, including those at Milan and Sirmium between 345 and 351.

Despite his excommunication and eventual exile, Photinus maintained a significant following, which demonstrates the influence and appeal of his teachings. His theological positions, particularly his emphasis on the strict monotheism of God and Jesus as a man who achieved divine sonship, later contributed to the development of Unitarian thought in Europe. His works, primarily directed against prevailing heresies of his time and explicating his doctrinal positions, were lost to history, leaving much of our understanding of his teachings to be derived from his opponents’ writings​​​​​​.

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