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Bogomilism was a Gnostic religiopolitical sect founded in the First Bulgarian Empire by the priest Bogomil during the reign of Tsar Petar I in the 10th century. It most probably arose in what is today the region of Macedonia as a response to the social stratification that occurred as a result of the introduction of feudalism and as a form of political movement and opposition to the Bulgarian state and the church.
The Bogomils called for a return to early Christianity, rejecting the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and their primary political tendencies were resistance to the state and church authorities. This helped the movement spread quickly in the Balkans, gradually expanding throughout the Byzantine Empire and later reaching Kievan Rus', Bosnia, Dalmatia, Rascia, Italy, France.
The Bogomils were dualists in that they believed the world was created not by the Abrahamic God, but by an evil demiurge — the Devil. They did not use the cross nor build churches, preferring to perform rituals outdoors.
The term Bogomil in free translation means "dear to God", and derives from the Proto-Slavic language *bogъ ("God") and *milъ ("dear"). It is difficult to ascertain whether the name was taken from the reputed founder of that movement, the priest Bogomil, or whether he assumed that name after it had been given to the sect itself. The word is an Old Church Slavonic calque of Massaliani, the Syriac name of the sect corresponding to the Greek Euchites. The Bogomils are identified with the Massaliani in Slavonic documents from the 13th century.
The members are referred to as Babuni in several documents. Toponyms which include the river Babuna, the mountain Babuna, the Bogomila Waterfall and village Bogomila, all in the region of Azot today in central Republic of Macedonia, suggests that the movement was very active in the region.
Much of their literature has been lost or destroyed by the Bulgarian state, the Roman Empire (Byzantine) and the Holy Roman Empire (Western). The earliest description of the Bogomils is in a letter from Patriarch Theophylact of Bulgaria to Tsar Peter of Bulgaria, and the main source of doctrinal information is the work of Euthymius Zigabenus, who says that they believe that God created man's soul but matter was the invention of Satan, God's older son, who in seducing Eve lost his creative power. Concerning the Bogomils, something can be gathered from the polemic Against the Newly-Appeared Heresy of the Bogomils written in Slavonic by Cosmas the Priest, a 10th-century Bulgarian official. The old Slavonic lists of forbidden books of the 15th and 16th century also give us a clue to the discovery of this heretical literature and of the means the Bogomils employed to carry on their teachings. Much may also be learned from the doctrines of the numerous variations of Bogomilism which spread in Medieval Kievan Rus' after the 11th century.
||This article may contain original research. (December 2010)|
A dualist and docetist sect that arose and flourished in medieval Bulgaria and Macedonia, the Bogomils derive their name from their founder, the priest Bogomil (Theophilus) and their teachings from the Paulicans, a Manichæan group settled in Thrace in the late 8th century. Because grace could not bind itself to matter, Bogomils believe that Christ had only the semblance of a human body, and they reject the Eucharist and other sacraments, as well as relics and the use of material items in worship. The Bogomils were ascetical and also rejected marriage and the eating of animal products. Although the group saw the authority of the established hierarchy as invalid, they set up a separate hierarchy. They accepted only the New Testament and Psalms as scripture.
Christian dualism originated in Armenia in the mid-7th century, when Constantine of Mananalis, basing his message solely on the New Testament, began to teach that there were two gods: the good God who had made men's souls, and the evil God who had created the entire physical universe including the human body. His followers, who became known as Paulicians, led perfectly normal lives, despite their belief that the world was evil, and were renowned as good fighting men.
Under Turkish rule, the Armenian Paulicians lived in relative safety in their ancient stronghold near Philippopolis, and further northward. Linguistically, they were assimilated into the Bulgarians, by whom they were called pavlikiani. In 1650, the Roman Catholic Church gathered them into its fold. No less than fourteen villages near Nicopolis, in Moesia, embraced Catholicism, as well as the villages around Philippopolis. A colony of Paulicians in the Wallachian village of Cioplea near Bucharest also followed the example of their brethren across the Danube.
The Gnostic social-religious movement and doctrine originated in the time of Peter I of Bulgaria (927 – 969) as a reaction against state and clerical oppression of the Byzantine church. In spite of all measures of repression, it remained strong and popular until the fall of the Second Bulgarian Empire in the end of the 14th century. Bogomilism was an outcome of many factors that had arisen in the beginning of 10th century, most probably in the region of Macedonia. It was also strongly influenced by the Paulicians who had been driven out of Armenia.
The Slavonic sources are unanimous on the point that his teaching was Manichaean. A Synodikon from the year 1210 adds the names of his pupils or "apostles," Mihail, Todur, Dobri, Stefan, Vasilie and Peter. Zealous missionaries carried their doctrines far and wide. In 1004, scarcely 25 years after the introduction of Christianity into Kievan Rus, we hear of a priest Adrian teaching the same doctrines as the Bogomils. He was imprisoned by Leontius, Bishop of Kiev. In 1125, the Church in the south of Rus had to combat another heresiarch named Dmitri. The Church in Bulgaria also tried to extirpate Bogomilism. Several thousand went in the army of Alexios I Komnenos against the Norman, Robert Guiscard; but, deserting the emperor, many of them (1085) were thrown into prison. Efforts were again put forth for their conversion; and for the converts the new city of Alexiopolis was built, opposite Philippopolis. When the Crusaders took Constantinople (1204), they found some Paulicians, whom the historian Geoffrey of Villehardouin calls Popelicans.
The Legend of Saint Gerard discloses that followers of Bulgarian Bogomilism were present during the early 11th century in Ahtum's realm, which comprised present day Banat. They invoked Archangel Uriel, whose name is common in amulets and magic rituals.
The Bogomils spread westwards and settled first in Serbia; but at the end of the 12th century Stefan Nemanja, Great Župan of Serbia, expelled them from the country. Large numbers took refuge in Bosnia and Dalmatia where they were known under the name of Patarenes or Patareni.
In 1199 Bosnian ruler Ban Kulin became converted and ruled until 1204; his reign was characterised by peace and even today is referred to as a time of peace and prosperity within Bosnia. During this reign, a Bulgarian Christian sect known as Bogomilism (from Bulgarian language: 'Bog', i.e. God, and 'Mil', i.e. friend) began to attract followers in Bosnia, as Bosnian principalities adopted Bogomilism in order to offset the strong influences of its Catholic and Orthodox neighbours. In addition to Kulin the prince of Herzegovina and the Roman Bishop of Bosnia followed him in his beliefs. Altars and crosses were removed, the distinction between clergy and laity disappeared. A fixed amount of believers income was set aside for alms and the support of itinerant evangelists.
War with Hungary
In 1203, Pope Innocent III, with the aid of the King of Hungary, forced an agreement of Kulin to acknowledge Papal authority and religion: in practice this was ignored. On the death of Kulin in 1216 a mission was sent to convert Bosnia to Rome but failed. In 1234, the Catholic Bishop of Bosnia was removed by Pope Gregory IX for allowing heretical practices. In addition, Gregory called on the Hungarian king to crusade against the Bogomils. However, Bosnian nobles were able to expel the Hungarians. It was not until Pope Nicholas' Bull "Prae cunctis" in 1291 that the Franciscans-led inquisition was imposed on Bosnia. Bogomilism was eradicated in Bulgaria and Byzantium in the 13th century, but survived in Bosnia and Herzegovina until the Ottoman Empire gained control of the region in 1463. Both Catholics and Orthodox persecuted the Bogomils as heretics. The early pressures by its Catholic and Orthodox neighbours drew Bosnia to Bogomilism. Later, with the introduction of Ottoman rule, Bosnians were often more susceptible for conversion to Islam since they were not friends of either the Roman Catholic or Serb Orthodox churches.
From Bosnia, their influence extended into Italy (Piedmont). The Hungarians undertook many crusades against the heretics in Bosnia, but towards the close of the 15th century, the conquest of that country by the Turks put an end to their persecution. Few or no remnants of Bogomilism have survived in Bosnia. The Ritual in Slavonic written by the Bosnian Radoslav, and published in vol. xv. of the Starine of the South Slavonic Academy at Agram, shows great resemblance to the Cathar ritual published by Cunitz, 1853.
In the 18th century, the Paulician people from around Nicopolis were persecuted by the Turks, presumably on religious grounds, and a good part of them fled across the Danube and settled in the Banat region that was part of the Austrian Empire at the time, and became known as Banat Bulgarians. There are still over ten thousand Banat Bulgarians in Banat today in the villages of Dudeştii Vechi, Vinga, Breştea and also in the city of Timişoara, with a few in Arad; however, they no longer practice Bogomolism, having converted to Roman Catholicism. There are also a few villages of Paulicians in the Serbian part of Banat, especially the villages of Ivanovo and Belo Blato, near Pančevo.
The gradual Christianization of the Bulgarian population, the fact that the service was initially practiced in Greek, which only the elite knew, resulted in a low level of understanding of the religion among the peasantry. Due to the constant wars during the time of Simeon I, the lands near the Byzantine border (Thrace) were devastated, and the people living there were left without occupation. The constant change of authority over these lands, and the higher taxes during the time of Tsar Peter I, gave birth to a great social discontent at the beginning of the 10th century. Moreover, the corruption of the church as an institution, led to grave disappointment among its recently converted flock.
The existence of older Christian heresies in the Bulgarian lands (Manichaeism and Paulicianism), which were considered very dualistic, influenced the Bogomil movement. Manichaeism’s origin is related to Zoroastrianism; that is why Bogomilism is sometimes indirectly connected to Zoroastrianism in the sense of its duality.
Connections to the royal court
Some sources claim the originator was the brother of tsar Petar, the fourth of the sons of Simeon I - Beneamin-Boyan, known in Bulgaria under the name Boyan the Magus. According to these sources (Roman clergy documents in Constantinople) Beneamin was heavily influenced by "strange Syrean visitors" who visited Beneamin-Boyan on several occasions during his studies at the imperial Magnaur University in Constantinople. Upon returning to Bulgaria Beneamin-Boyan used his position to receive a monastery from the state which he used to convert a large portion of the aristocracy and clergy into Bogomil followers.
Some historians claim that tzar Samuil and in particular his son Gavril Radomir supported the movement. The core of Samuil's empire corresponds to the region where the Bogomils were most active. Most probably, as Samuil revolted against the Byzantine Empire, he relied on the popular support of the movement. There are no sources of Bogomil persecution during his reign (976 - 1014).
Possible source texts for Bogomil doctrine include:
The possible Bogomil use of pseudepigraphic texts:
- Apocryphon of John - Interrogatio Johannis, Oratione of St. John, also called "The Secret Supper" (or, The Book of St. John)
- The pseudepigraphic Vision of Isaiah (according to Euthymius Zigabenus)
The Bogomils had a system of altered traditional orthodox beliefs and rituals. The essence behind their teaching was a dualistic doctrine that the world is divided by God and Satan (good and evil). God rules the spiritual part of the world, and Satan the material. They regarded every material being to be the work of Satan. They also opposed established forms of government and church, which brought them close to modern anarchists (see Christian anarchism).
From the imperfect and conflicting data which is available, one positive result can be gathered: that the Bogomils were both Adoptionists and Manichaeans. They had accepted the teaching of Paul of Samosata, though at a later period the name of Paul was believed to be that of the Apostle; and they were not quite free from the Dualistic principle of the Gnostics, at a later period too much identified with the teaching of Mani, by Photius, Petrus Siculus, and other authors. They rejected the Christianity of the orthodox churches and did not accept the docetic teaching of some of the other sects.
Dualist beliefs and customs
The Bogomils taught that God had two sons, the elder Satanail and the younger Michael. The elder son rebelled against the father and became the evil spirit. After his fall he created the lower heavens and the earth and tried in vain to create man; in the end he had to appeal to God for the Spirit. After creation Adam was allowed to till the ground on condition that he sold himself and his posterity to the owner of the earth. Then Michael was sent in the form of a man; he became identified with Jesus, and was "elected" by God after the baptism in the Jordan. When the Holy Ghost (again Michael) appeared in the shape of the dove, Jesus received power to break the covenant in the form of a clay tablet (hierographon) held by Satanail from Adam. He had now become the angel Michael in a human form; as such he vanquished Satanail, and deprived him of the termination -il = God, in which his power resided. Satanail was thus transformed into Satan. Through his machinations the crucifixion took place, and Satan was the originator of the whole Orthodox community with its churches, vestments, ceremonies, sacraments and fasts, with its monks and priests. This world being the work of Satan, the perfect must eschew any and every excess of its pleasure. They were extreme ascetics, and prohibited the eating of meat.
They held the "Lord's Prayer" in high respect as the most potent weapon against Satan, and had a number of conjurations against "evil spirits." Each community had its own twelve "apostles," and women could be raised to the rank of "elect." The Bogomils wore garments like mendicant friars and were known as keen missionaries, traveling far and wide to propagate their doctrines. Healing the sick and exorcising the evil spirit, they traversed different countries and spread their apocryphal literature along with some of the books of the Old Testament, deeply influencing the religious spirit of the nations,[dubious ] and preparing them for the Reformation.[dubious ] They accepted the four Gospels, fourteen Epistles of Paul, the three Epistles of John, James, Jude, and an Epistle to the Laodiceans, which they professed to have. They sowed the seeds of a rich, popular religious literature in the East as well as the West. The Historiated Bible, the Letter from Heaven, the Wanderings through Heaven and Hell, the numerous Adam and Cross legends, the religious poems of the "Kaliki perehozhie" and other similar productions owe their dissemination to a large extent to the activity of the Bogomils of Bulgaria, and their successors in other lands.
Christology and the Trinity
For Bogomils "the Logos was not the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Eternal Word incarnate, but merely the spoken word of God, shown in the oral teaching of Christ." Although Bogomils regarded themselves as "Trinitarian," anathemas against Bogomils (circa 1027) charge Bogomils with rejection of the Trinity.
Opposition to Institutions and Materialism
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The essence of Bogomilism is the duality in the creation of the world. This is why it is considered a heresy by the Catholic Church. Bogomils explained the earthly sinful corporeal life as a creation of Satan, an angel that was sent to Earth. Due to this duality, the church believes that their doctrine undervalues everything that is created with materialistic and governmental goals and further claims that the doctrine does not come from the soul, the only divine possession of the human.[clarification needed] Its followers refused to pay taxes, to work in serfdom, or to fight in conquering wars. They ignored the feudal social system, which was interpreted by their enemies as suggesting disorder if not the destruction of the state and church.
Karp Strigolnik, who in the 14th century preached the doctrine in Novgorod, explained that St. Paul had taught that simpleminded men should instruct one another; therefore they elected their "teachers" from among themselves to be their spiritual guides, and had no special priests. There is a tradition that the Bogomils taught that prayers were to be said in private houses, not in separate buildings such as churches. Ordination was conferred by the congregation and not by any specially appointed minister. The congregation were the "elect," and each member could obtain the perfection of Christ and become a Christ or "Chuist." Marriage was not a sacrament. Bogomils refused to fast on Mondays and Fridays, and they rejected monasticism. They declared Christ to be the Son of God only through grace like other prophets, and that the bread and wine of the eucharist were not physically transformed into flesh and blood; that the last judgment would be executed by God and not by Jesus; that the images and the cross were idols and the veneration of saints and relics idolatry.
These doctrines have survived in the great Russian sects, and can be traced back to the teachings and practice of the Bogomils. But in addition to these doctrines of an adoptionist origin, they held the Manichaean dualistic conception of the origin of the world. This has been partly preserved in some of their literary remains, and has taken deep root in the beliefs and traditions of Balkan nations with substantial Bogomil followings. The chief literature of all the heretical sects throughout the ages has been that of apocryphal Biblical narratives, and the popes Jeremiah or Bogumil are directly mentioned as authors of such forbidden books "which no orthodox dare read." Though these writings are mostly of the same origin as those from the older lists of apocryphal books, they underwent a modification at the hands of their Bogomil editors, so as to be useful for the propagation of their own specific doctrines.
In its most simple and attractive form — invested with the authority of the reputed holy author — their account of the creation of the world and of man, the origin of sin and redemption, the history of the Cross, and the disputes between body and soul, right and wrong, heaven and hell, were embodied either in "Historiated Bibles" (Palcyaf) or in special dialogues held between Christ and his disciples, or between renowned Fathers of the Church who expounded these views in a simple manner adapted to the understanding of the people (Lucidaria).
Link with later religious movements
The Bogomils were the connecting link between the so-called heretical sects of the East and those of the West. They were, moreover, the most active agents in disseminating such teachings in Kievan Rus' and among all the nations of Europe. In the 12th and 13th century, the Bogomils were already known in the West as "Cathars" or in other places as "Bulgari", i.e. Bulgarians (българи). In 1207 the Bulgarorum heresis is mentioned. In 1223 the Albigenses are declared to be the local Bougres, and in the same period mention is made of the "Pope of the Albigenses who resided within the confines of Bulgaria" (see also Nicetas, Bogomil bishop). The Cathars and Patarenes, the Waldenses, the Anabaptists, and in Russia the Strigolniki, Molokani and Doukhobors, have all at different times been either identified with the Bogomils or closely connected with them.
In modern and popular culture
In Foucault's Pendulum, a novel by the Italian philosopher and writer Umberto Eco, the plot concerning a widespread secret and mystic conspiracy has its ground in the disappearance of the Bogomils after the fall of the Second Bulgarian Empire under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
The Secret Book is a Macedonian feature film combining the detective, thriller and conspiracy fiction genres, based on a fictional story of the quest for the original Slavic language "Secret Book", written by the Bogomils in Bulgaria and carried to Western Europe during the Middle Ages.
An English profanity and the name of a crime emerged from reports of the Bogomils by the Catholic Church. The words "bugger" and "buggery" emerged, by way of the word "bougre" in French, from "Bulgar" (Bulgarian). "Buggery" first appears in English in 1330 with the sense "abominable heresy", though "bugger" in a sexual sense is not recorded until 1555.
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- Dissertation abstracts international: University Microfilms International - 1994 "... texts ascribed to him: "The Story of the Cross-tree" and "The Prayer against Fever," two genuine Bogomil texts providing a clear understanding of the basic tenets of the Bogomil heretical movement of the tenth-eleventh centuries."
- Gilles Quispel, Johannes Oort Gnostica, Judaica, Catholica: collected essays of Gilles Quispel Page 11 2008 "Die Interrogatio Johannis, eine der wenigen authentischen Quellen über die Katharer, die also nicht von den Inquisitoren der römischen Kirche stammt, besitzt dieselbe Form und denselben Inhalt wie das Apokryphon des Johannes."
- Michael C. Thomsett The Inquisition: A History 2010 - Page 48 "Early Bogomil texts included The Secret Supper (or, The Book of St. John) and The Vision of Isaiah. These both appeared around 1170, originally in Greek and later translated into Latin. In The Secret Supper, the Bogomil theology is laid ..."
- Christopher Tyerman - God's war: a new history of the Crusades Page 573 2006 "This distinct 'Latin' dualist community probably provided western converts with Latin translations of the Greek Bogomil texts including the consolamentum ritual and the New Testament, collated with the Vulgate."
- The Bogomils: A Study in Balkan Neo-Manichaeism Page 211 Dimitri Obolensky - 2004 "The Logos was for them not the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Eternal Word incarnate, but merely the spoken word of God, manifested in the oral teaching of Christ.* Hence the Bogomils taught that Christ was ..."
- Contra Patarenos Page 39 Hugh Eteriano, Janet Hamilton, Sarah Hamilton - 2004 "He was aware that the Bogomils regarded themselves as Trinitarians: 'Do not be astonished, my brothers', he writes, '. . . when you hear them say that they believe in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that they keep the apostles and saints ..."
- Heresy in medieval France: dualism in Aquitaine and the Agenais, ... Page 64 Claire Taylor, Royal Historical Society (Great Britain) - 2005 "Anathemas against Bogomils were in use in the early decades of the eleventh century, contained in versions of the Synodikon of orthodoxy and included in a euchologion produced in 1027. They attest to Bogomil rejection of the Trinity,"
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Bogomilism|
- Anna Comnena's The Bogomils
- Raoul Vaneigem, The Resistance to Christianity
- Djordje Capin: Myth about Bogomils
- Christian Dualist Heresies in the Byzantine World C.650-C.1450
- L. P. Brockett, The Bogomils of Bulgaria and Bosnia - The Early Protestants of the East
- Euthymius Zygadenus, Narratio de Bogomilis
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