Paulicians, a sect of eastern Christians, of obscure origin. It probably originated in the middle of the 7th century, its founder being Constantine, a Marcionite preacher of Mana-nalis, near Samosata on the Euphrates, who took the name of Sylvanus, as that of one of Paul's companions (Silas), and established the precedent, closely followed by the brethren of the sect, of assuming the names of those who were friends of the great apostle. After 27 years of labor, Constantine was put to death as a heretic (about 684). The officer Simeon, sent to put down the heresy, became a convert, took the name of Titus, assumed the leadership of the sect, and was in his turn, after three years of toil, burned at the stake. His successor was Paul, under whose sons, Timothy and Theodore, the sect was rent by schism, Timothy holding to the transmission of spiritual gifts by apostolic succession, which Theodore rejected. Timothy (whose proper name was Gegnsesius), having adroitly evaded the charges of heresy, continued his preaching for 30 years. On his death another schism arose.
The sect had gradually increased and diffused itself, until it was found not only in Syria and Armenia, but in the provinces of Asia Minor. About the beginning of the 9th century the conversion of the Galatian Sergius by a Pauli-cian woman gave new life to the sect. Under the new name of Tychicus, he preached as an evangelist in every part of Asia Minor, imitating the apostle not only in his discourse, but in his manner of life. The Paulicians were now driven beyond the territories of the empire to find protection from the Saracens, and reprisals were made, until Sergius, though he had protested against this return of evil for evil, was in 835 assassinated by a fanatic named Izanio. Yet the sect continued to grow and spread. Under the empress Theodora, a new expedition was sent to exterminate them from Armenia, and 100,000 perished. About 970 the emperor John Zimisces transported a large number of the sect to Philippopolis in Thrace, whence they were able to extend themselves in Europe, not justifying by any change of faith the emperor's hope of their conversion. A similar attempt by Alexis Comnenus a century later had hardly better success.
The sect continued to flourish under other names, and the principles of the Paulicians were perpetuated by the Euchites, the Bogomiles, the Ca-thari, the Waldenses, and to some extent by the English disciples of Wycliffe. - The Paulicians held that the evil spirit, born of darkness and fire, was the creator of the lower world; that the soul of man, originally related to God, had been made liable to sin by its union with the flesh; that all men are capable of recovery; that Christ brought with him from heaven a body of finer mould, with which he passed back to heaven when his work of redemption was finished; that the mother of Christ was not sinless or a proper object of worship; that the cross was properly a symbol of Christ's diffusive love, and not of the curse which he bore or of his vicarious sufferings. They denied the validity of the sacraments, interpreted baptism and the Lord's supper spiritually, would not recognize any priestly dignity, and insisted upon simplicity both in the ritual and in the households of the church.
They rejected the Hebrew Scriptures, but rated highly the study of the New Testament, and especially honored those who would multiply and expound its record. - The ancient authorities on the Paulicians are Photius and Peter of Sicily, ambassador to Armenia of the emperor Basil (868).