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to ecumenical authority was unprecedented. As such, it became a benchmark for later conciliar actions.

The synodal letter against Paul is the only contemporary account we have of Paul's situation, and it says little about his theology except that he taught a 'low' Christology: that Jesus Christ had been a mere man, and thus was not 'from above'. A number of later sources expand on this charge, but their accuracy is dubious, clouded as they are with the technical vocabulary and agendas of later theological disputes. Here one is given the impression that Paul distinguished between Word and Son, but it may be that Paul and his accusers were approaching Christology from different paradigms of how the human and divine elements of Jesus Christ were united in one person.26

In a flurry of further scandal, Paul refused to give up his church until the emperor Aurelian was drawn into the dispute and had him exiled. Despite the vindictive charges of later writers, there is no evidence that Paul was given any kind of special protection by queen Zenobia. Indeed, the so-called 'revolt' of Palmyra shortly after the emperor Aurelian's death in 272 is an event about which we know little, and which lends itself to various interpretations. But there is no basis for the idea of a separate 'Palmyrene' position which Paul might have represented, or which might have galvanised local populations against Roman rule. The immediate instability of the imperial throne appears to have been the salient issue.

Two developments of the fourth century bear upon the evidence here considered for the first three centuries. First is the appearance, essentially new, of martyrdom as a possibility for Christians of Syria and Mesopotamia. Apart from occasional (admittedly dramatic) incidents in Antioch,27 and despite the account of the apostle's martyrdom in the Acts of Thomas, Christians in this region had little if any direct experience with persecution until the fourth century. The semi-autonomous political states of the Syriac-speaking territories under Roman domination lasted until well into the third century, a situation perhaps preventing the legal problems and fears that led to sporadic Roman persecutions of Christians elsewhere. In Persian territory, several martyrdoms occurred in the 270s - including the execution of Mani, but also ofthe Christian woman Candida. These seem to have happened only because of conversions within the royal family, offending the larger Zoroastrian frame of government.28 But in the early fourth century, several Christians in the territory of

26 Behr, Way to Nicaea, 207-35.

27 Euseb. HE 6.29,34,39 (Babylas). For Antioch's martyrs in the great persecution instigated by Diocletian, see further 8.12-13.

28 Brock, 'A martyr at the Sasanid court'.

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