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History of Armenian Christianity

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Considering himself the last prophet, Mani wrote a book, Erdengi Mani, claiming that it was dictated to him in heaven. His doctrine taught that there were two opposite initial elements in the universe – God, and Matter, of which God is superior. According to this teaching people could be divided into the Elect, the Hearers and the Wicked. After death, the Elect easily ascended to the moon to be admitted to paradise. The Hearers had to pass through long purifying wandering before they could join the Elect. The Wicked had no chances for paradise, being condemned to roam in the Universe until the realm of darkness took them.

Mani was prosecuted as a heretic, eventually being crucified and flayed in 227. However, his teaching was very influential and had many followers. From Persia, it spread to Syria and Palestine, Egypt and North Africa, Gaul and Spain, Turkey and Greece. It was popular in Arabia and Iran, India and China. Both Iranian and Roman rulers persecuted the Manichaeans. The teaching was announced an “ insane heresy” , a “ dangerous and wicked” faith in Syria, Iraq, Italy, Greece, and Armenia.

However, the influence of the sect is evident from the fact that many bright people of the time, including St. Augustine, were its members. The Paulicianism was a movement that appeared in Armenia. The Paulicians must have descended from the Pualians, or Adoptionists, the Unitarian sect condemned at the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in 325. The history and doctrine of the Paulicians are known to us from the Greek sources of the ninth century, especially those belonging to Gregory Magistros and Petrus Siculus, as well as the Catholicos John of Ozdun.

Though the information is scarce, it is clear that the movement was spread at the frontier zone of the country and was headed by the Armenian leaders. The sect was founded about 653 by Constantine Silvanus (the name adopted after one of Paul’ s disciples), who came from the city of Manali, which is near modern Erzurum. The teaching combined the dualistic doctrine with orthodox Christianity.

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