(also known as modalism
) is the second century belief that the three persons of the Trinity
are merely different modes
of God, rather than three distinct persons. It is attributed to Sabellius, who taught a form of this doctrine in Rome
in the second century. Hippolytus
knew Sabellius personally and mentions him in the Philosophumena
. He knows Sabellius disliked Trinitarian
theology, but he calls Modal Monarchism the heresy of Noetos, not that of Sabellius. Hippolytus thought he had very nearly recounciled Sabellius to the mainstream church. However, during the controversy surrounding Paul of Samosata
, the Patriarch of Antioch
who was deposed in 268
for his Christology
, Sabellius' name was mentioned. No one in Antioch had heard of him, but his name was associated with Rome. So they wrote to Rome about him. Pope Dionysius
replied in a letter of which only a small fragment has been preserved, but this letter was enough to make Sabellius famous among the Greek theologians.
Sabellianism was also embraced by Christians in Cyrenaica, to whom Demetrius, Patriarch of Alexandria, wrote letters arguing against this belief.
Another name for this doctrine is Patripassianism from the Latin words patris for "father", and passus for "to suffer". This name was given because the doctrine implies that God the Father came to earth and suffered in the form of God the Son.
Today, Sabellianism is rejected by most types of Christianity. It is accepted primarily by some Pentecostal groups, sometimes referred to as Oneness Pentecostals or "Jesus Only" Pentecostals.
Historic Sabellianism taught that God the Father was the only person of the Godhead, but the Oneness doctrine of today says that this one member of the Godhead is Jesus. Oneness doctrine claims that when Scripture describes the Father or the Holy_Spirit, it is actually Jesus, who is only revealing Himself as one of the other modes of God. Some Oneness followers call this the "Jesus Only doctrine".