The purpose of this paper is to uncover similarities and differences between the works of the famous 3rd-century Carthaginian bishop written in adverse of his lapsed and heretic “colleagues”. The former ones are primarily the object of Letters 65 and 67, while the latter ones appear in the De Ecclesiae Unitate and in Letters 69–75. Their comparative analysis is motivated by the fact that in both cases the author’s purpose is to prove that these ecclesiastic leaders had become inconvenient to their office and thus to carry out their job substantially. Causes mentioned by Cyprian are the following: they call wrongfully for the right of performing a sacrifice; their sacraments are invalid because of their sins; they are separated from the Church; their inaptness is proclaimed by both contemporary and former bishops and synods; and finally, they contaminate their followers, so it is necessary to be separated from them. These arguments are formulated concerning both groups, so it can be supposed that in Cyprian’s opinion lapsed and heretic bishops were not sharply different from each other, therefore he may have used the same thoughts about the former group to apply them to the latter one as well.
For Cyprian’s life and works see e.g. Burns, J. P.: Cyprian the Bishop. London - New York 2002; Brent, A.: Cyprian and Roman Carthage. Cambridge 2010; or in Hungarian: Albrecht, M. von: A római irodalom története [The History of Roman Literature]. Vol. II. Transl. into Hungarian by I. Tar. Budapest 2004, 1269–1280; Vanyó, L.: Szent Cyprianus művei. Bevezetés [The Works of Saint Cyprian. Introduction]. Budapest 1999, 9–30; Chadwick, H.: A korai egyház [The Early Church]. Transl. into Hungarian by K. Ertsey and Sz. Tornai. Budapest 2003, 108–110; Adamik, T.: Római irodalom a késő császárkorban [Roman Literature in the Late Imperial Period]. Budapest 1996, 103–110; Adriányi, G.: Az egyháztörténet kézikönyve [A Handbook of Ecclesiastical History]. Budapest 2001, 76–77.
Confessors (confessores): Christians, who did not renounce their religion during the persecution, not even in jail or under torture. After the disengagement (because of their “merits”) they required for themselves the privilege to forgive the sin of lapse as mediators. For Cyprian this seemed to be the usurpation of episcopal power, so he forcefully tried to impede the confessors’ activity. See his treatise De Ecclesiae Unitate and many letters.
Cyprian had already left Carthage at the beginning of the persecution, and he was in communication with the faith community by letters. Many bishops treated Cyprian’s behaviour as cowardice and escape, and even criticized him very severely. For Cyprian’s opinion about martyrdom see Brent, A.: Cyprian’s Reconstruction of the Martyr Tradition. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 53 (2002) 241–268.
I use the term “pope” as “bishop of Rome.” For his place in contemporaneous Christianity and Cyprian’s view of the Church, see below.
For the Donatist movement, see Frend, W. H. C.: Donatist Church, A Movement of Protest in Roman North Africa. Oxford 1985; or (as a shorter summary) Frend, W. H. C.: Donatismus. In Dassmann, E. (Hrsg.): Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum. Bonn 1959, IV 128–147; González, J. L.: Donatism. In González, J. L. (ed.): Essential Theological Terms. Louisville 2005, 47–48.
Frend W H C, '', in Donatist Church, A Movement of Protest in Roman North Africa, (1985) -.
Frend W H CDonatist Church, A Movement of Protest in Roman North Africa1985)| false
E.g. Bévenot, M.: “Primatus Petro datur.” St. Cyprian on the Papacy. The Journal of Theological Studies 5 (1954) 19–35; Bévenot, M.: Pari Consortio Praediti et Honoris et Potestatis (De unitate, 4). The Longevity of a Cyprianic Phrase. Studia Patristica 15 (1984) 209–211; Dunn, G. D.: Clement of Rome and the Question of Roman Primacy in the Early African Tradition. Augustinianum 43 (2003) 5–24; Vidmar, J.: The Catholic Church through the Ages: A History. New Jersey 2005, 40–42.
Bévenot M, '“Primatus Petro datur.” St. Cyprian on the Papacy' (1954) 5The Journal of Theological Studies: 19-35.
Bévenot M“Primatus Petro datur.” St. Cyprian on the PapacyThe Journal of Theological Studies195451935)| false
E.g. Bévenot, M.: “Hi Qui Sacrificaverunt.” A Significant Variant in St. Cyprian’s De Unitate. The Journal of Theological Studies 5 (1954) 68–72; Dugmore, C. W.: Sacrament and Sacrifice in the Early Fathers. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 2 (1951) 24–37, 560–572; Shuve, K.: Cyprian of Carthage’s Writings from the Rebaptism Controversy: Two Revisionary Proposals Reconsidered. Journal of Theological Studies 61 (2010) 627–643; Brent (n. 1) 290–327; Burns (n. 1) 151–165.
Bévenot M, '“Hi Qui Sacrificaverunt.” A Significant Variant in St. Cyprian’s De Unitate' (1954) 5The Journal of Theological Studies: 68-72.
Bévenot M“Hi Qui Sacrificaverunt.” A Significant Variant in St. Cyprian’s De UnitateThe Journal of Theological Studies195456872)| false
Cyprian used the term “sacerdos” only for bishops (episcopi). See Bévenot, M.: Sacerdos as Understood by Cyprian. Journal of Theological Studies 30 (1979) 413–429; Zell, R. L.: The Priesthood of Christ in Tertullian and St Cyprian. Studia Patristica 11 (1972) 282–288.
Bévenot M, 'Sacerdos as Understood by Cyprian' (1979) 30Journal of Theological Studies: 413-429.
Bévenot MSacerdos as Understood by CyprianJournal of Theological Studies197930413429)| false
Lev 16. At Cyprian: Ep. 67. 3; 73. 8. (Cyprian’s texts, including his quotations from the Bible, are taken from Clarke’s translation.)
Ep. 67. 3: sacrificandi sibi licentiam vindicaverunt; Ep. 73. 8: sacrificandi licentiam sibi usurpare conati sunt.
Ex 19. At Cyprian: Ep. 65. 2; 67. 1; 72. 2.
Isa 29,13. At Cyprian: Ep. 67. 2; 74. 3.
Ep. 67. 2: ...inmaculatos et integros antistites eligere debemus, qui sancte et digne sacrificia Deo offerentes audiri in precibus possint...
Augustine quoted their words (De baptismo 3. 4–6).
Aug. De baptismo 1. 1. 1.: de beatissimi martyris Cypriani auctoritate, unde suam perversitatem, ne veritatis impetu cadat, fulcire conantur.
Aug. Contra litteras Petiliani 3. 49. 59.
See Burns (n. 1) 144; Brent (n. 1) 16, 306, 311.
Adriányi (n. 1) 76–77.
Ep. 67. 6: ... Cornelius collega noster, sacerdos pacificus et iustus et martyrio quoque dignatione Domini honoratus... It rendered the case more difficult that Cyprian recognized Cornelius as bishop because of the time of his election: Cornelius was inaugurated earlier than Novatian. But in the Hispanian controversy Cyprian wanted to depose the original bishops against their successors.
Aug. De baptismo 5. 25. 36.
Ep. 67. 5.
See n. 10.
Ep. 71. 4.
Ep. 69. 1: De qua re quantum fidei nostrae capacitas... suggerit.
Ep. 75. 5: Quoniam vero legatus iste a vobis missus regredi ad vos festinabat...
Ep. 65. 4: consilium nobis erit singulos fratres ab eorum fallacia separare, et... ab eorum contagione secernere.
Ep. 67. 3; 69. 9; 70. 1.
Bévenot: Sacerdos (n. 15) 421.
Burns (n. 1) 143–144. In the Donatist controversy Augustine criticized exactly this opinion when he asked: what if a sinful bishop baptizes, who could occult his crimes? (Aug. Contra litteras Petiliani 1. 2. 3)
Burns (n. 1) 143.
Bévenot (n. 10) 32.
Aug. De baptismo 5. 25. 36.
The hypothesis is confirmed by the fact that half a century later this schism became reality: Donatists made reference to this Cyprianic statement when they seceded from the “sinful” Catholics. The fast spread of their movement shows the rigorist and exclusivist nature of African Christianity; also Cyprian’s and Pope Stephen’s conflict is an indication of this, or Tertullian’s works at the beginning of the 3rd century. About Cyprian’s role in the conflict, see Placher, W. C.: A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction. Louisville 1983, 113–114.
Placher W C, '', in A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction, (1983) -.
Placher W CA History of Christian Theology: An Introduction1983)| false
About Cyprian’s view of the Church see Halliburton, R. J.: Some reflexions on St. Cyprian’s doctrine of the Church. Studia Patristica 11 (1972) 192–198; Wickert, U.: Zum Kirchenbegriff Cyprians. Theologische Literaturzeitung 92 (1967) 257.260.
Halliburton R J, 'Some reflexions on St. Cyprian’s doctrine of the Church' (1972) 11Studia Patristica: 192-198.
Halliburton R JSome reflexions on St. Cyprian’s doctrine of the ChurchStudia Patristica197211192198)| false