Classic DACB CollectionAll articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.
Thascious Caecilius Cyprianus was born in or near Carthage (modern Tunisia) in a wealthy aristocratic family. He was given a good education and became a very successful and wealthy barrister. A career in the higher echelons of the civil service appeared to be opened to him. It seemed that Cyprian was quite familiar with all constitutional laws and political ideas and when he became a Christian, he transferred this immense experience quite naturally to the sphere of his ecclesiastical activity in favour of the church.
How he was converted we do not know for certain. It is, however, generally believed that a presbyter named Caecilianus (or Caecilian) won Cyprian for the church. It is also believed that Cyprian adopted the name Caecilius or Caecilianus because of his personal and spiritual relationship with this presbyter. He did not become a Christian until 246 A.D. He was baptized into the church the same year. After his conversion Cyprian disposed of most of his wealth and property and gave it to the poor. In the year 248 A.D., shortly after the death of the incumbent, Donatus of Carthage, Cyprian was rapidly appointed to the priestly office.
His meterioc rise to a position of such immense dignity and authority caused misgiving and doubt even among many older and senior members of the clergy in Carthage. Novatus, a senior presbyter and other clergy like Deacon Felcissimus were opposed to Cyprian’s election. Unfortunately, before Cyprian had time to prove himself, the persecution of Emperor Decius (249- 251 A.D.), fell upon the church. The persecution was directed against Christian leaders. The bishops of Rome, Antioch, and Jerusalem were all executed. Cyprian of Carthage and Dionysius of Alexandria only escaped by going into hiding.
The First General Persecution (249 - 251 A.D.)
Prior to the Decian persecution, Christians had found favour in the highest government quarters and were among some of the ablest literary men. Toleration of Christians, however, rested not on law, but on the favour of Syrian governors, amiable enough, but a failure in the act of government. Persecution broke out and Decius (249 - 252 A.D.) came to the throne as a reformer at a time when everything seemed to be going wrong everywhere. In his zeal for the restoration of the historic national gods, he organized an attempt to wipe out Christianity.
The second phase of persecution began in June 250 A.D. when Decius ordered a general sacrifice. All governors were commanded to search out everyone who rejected the national worship and the highest penalties were enforced. This reached all classes and no one was spared. The bishops were attacked first, Fabian, bishop of Rome, being an early victim. The bishop of Antioch and Jerusalem died in prison. The great church scholar, Origen, in spite of his old age and learning, was not spared but suffered refined and continuous torture. He died in prison as a result of his sufferings. Other bishops such as Cyprian of Carthage, fled for safety and governed their flocks from a distance.
A systematic and thorough search by local governors and magistrates was carried out. This persecution took the church by surprise: apostates were many and martyrs few. In the case of those who had been under suspicion of being Christians but who now conformed by offering sacrifice, a certificate of libellus was issued to prove their compliance. Every effort was made to secure apostasies and imprisonment. Persecution and torture were meted out to those who refused to conform in order to break down their resistance.
The success of the persecution was immediate in Rome, Asia Minor, and Alexandria. Carthage, in particular, had a far greater number of those who denied the faith than Alexandria where the Christians flocked to sacrifice. But once the first or initial shock had passed the impetus of the persecution slackened. Decius became preoccupied with war against the Goths and in June 251 A.D he was defeated and killed. He had reigned for only two years, 249-251 A.D.
The death of Decius was followed by two years of anarchy, a period which ended when Valerian (253-260) became emperor. For four years he left the church in peace, but in the continuing disturbances of his reign, he too, like Decius before him, considered that the Christians were a disturbing and even a treacherous element in society, and in 257 A.D. he introduced a policy of persecution.
At first Christian leaders alone were affected. They were required to make some act of acknowledgement to the traditional Roman ceremonies. The following year, however, Valerian launched a full-scale attack on the church and a carefully graduated scale of punishments was devised with the object of depriving the church of its clergy, its upper-class support, and its property, (See W. H. C. Frend, The Early Church, p. 117). It was during this persecution that Xystus, bishop of Rome, and Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, were executed. In 258 A.D., Cyprian was brought before the authority. He refused to sacrifice and was put to death in September 258 A.D. by public beheading.
But this wave of persecution, like that of Decius, did not last long. In 260 A.D. Emperor Valerian was taken prisoner by the Persians and died in captivity. His successor Gallienus (260-268 A.D.) declared the persecution at an end and actually restored to the church her property which had been confiscated. The peace lasted until the end of the century.
Background to Cyprian’s Ecclesiology
Unfortunately, before Cyprian had had time to prove himself, the Decian persecution had fallen upon the church and throughout his ten years as bishop of Carthage, he was engaged in controversy concerning three problems which arose directly or indirectly as a result of this persecution. The first problem was that of the lapsed and the second, that of the baptism of heretics and schismatics. They compelled Cyprian to examine his understanding of the nature of the church.
I. The Lapsed
As soon as the first wave of persecution had passed, those Christians who had obtained libelli either by submission or bribery, certified that they brought another kind of libellus. This was, in effect, a certificate of readmission to the church, bearing the signature of some martyr or confessor who, it was held, was able to hand over or transfer the fruit of his own victory or steadfastness to his weaker brethren. One can imagine the possible problem associated with this practice. These certificates were issued by the confessors sometimes wholesale and often with great irresponsibility. If their authority had been accepted it would have meant the breakdown of all discipline in the church.
Cyprian himself was in a precarious situation. When persecution had threatened he had chosen to seek safety in flight, withdrawing into comparative safety even before the persecution had reached its highest pitch. This seemed to be a deliberate act of policy on Cyprian’s part who governed his people from a distance. Some accused him of unfaithfulness and cowardice. To his credit, however, Cyprian refused to justify or excuse his flight to safety. He never behaved as public figures usually behave, issuing statement after statement in their own defence. There is no reason to doubt that his decision was made in good faith, in the belief that it was more important that he should remain alive to rally his people, albeit at a distance, than accept martyrdom and leave his church leaderless. In these circumstances it proved difficult for him to assert his authority.
He was inclined to take a strict line with the lapsed Christians but realized that a certain amount of accommodation was necessary. He asked the confessors to show a little more care and caution and accepted their certificates not as readmissions but only as recommendations for future readmission at the hand of the bishop. The lapsed were to be treated as penitents and none were to be readmitted for the time being save any whose life was in danger. These judgments were unacceptable to Cyprian’s opponents who favoured greater leniency. An open conflict occurred and both parties sought support in Rome.
But in Rome, too, a similar situation had arisen. After the martyrdom of Fabian, Cornelius was appointed as successor. The presbyter Novatian, who had hoped for the position, allowed himself to be elected by his own faction as a rival bishop. Novatian was a champion of extreme rigorism. The dissident partisans of the policy of leniency in Carthage joined hands with Novatian.
In 251 A.D., Cyprian was able to return to Carthage and immediately held a council of bishops which upheld his views by adopting the following messages:
The certificates issued by the confessors were to be ignored.
The libellatici (i.e. those who had obtained a libellus from the authorities but had not actually sacrificed) were to be readmitted after suitable penance.
The sacrificati (i.e. those who had sacrificed) were to be accepted as penitents but only readmitted on their death-beds.
Fallen clergy were to be readmitted to communion on the same terms but were not to be allowed to resume their clerical functions.
These measures were effective in Carthage where unity was largely restored. In Rome, too, similar measures were adopted and the confessors returned to the communion of Cornelius. Novatian’s schism persisted, however, and spread to other parts of the empire. In 252 A.D. a fresh turn was given to the problem of the lapsed when a new wave of persecution seemed imminent and Cyprian issued a general pardon to all penitents in order that they might be strengthened against the impending conflict.
The second problem concerned baptismal controversy. A difficulty had arisen over admission into the church of people like those who had been baptized in some heretical or schismatic body. Should they be rebaptized or not? The usual practice in the past had been to accept their baptisms and not to rebaptize them. But in Africa there had been some opposition to this custom and Cyprian now took the line that, since there could be no salvation outside the church, heretical and schismatic baptisms were vehicles. Penitents coming into the church from such bodies must therefore be admitted by baptism. It was a mistake to regard this as rebaptism because all sacramental acts performed outside the one true church were ipso facto null and void.
Cyprian had support for his view in Africa but Stephen, the new bishop of Rome, held an opposite opinion. A controversy developed between the two men and Stephen acted with a high hand. A council of African bishops in 256 A.D. was unanimous in declaring the need for a further baptism and there was support for this view in Asia Minor. Dionysius of Alexandria sought to mediate but in vain. The controversy was eventually silenced by external events. In 257 A.D persecution set in again with Emperor Valerian on the throne: Stephen died a martyr’s death in Rome and Cyprian was exiled.
Cyprian’s View of the Church
The background to Cyprian’s influence on the development of the “Catholic” doctrine of the church arises out of the problem of persecution and the lapsed and in the ideas of repentance especially “second repentance.”
Cyprian’s central idea was the unity and oneness of the church. He expressed this in two of his works - The Lapsed and The Unity of the Catholic Church. Both reflect the effects of the Decian persecution.
Those treatises presupposed a background of custom in dealing with serious public sins such as murder and adultery. To gain or regain their position among the faithful and to be readmitted to the eucharist, offenders had to do a public ceremony in which reconciliation would be granted. During this ceremony the bishop, assisted by his presbyters, laid hands upon the offenders as a sign of readmission to the eucharist among the faithful.
For Callistus, bishop of Rome (217-22 A.D.)
… the church is an institution which is subject to the control of the bishop who pardons or retains sins by divine authority and by his own sovereign judgment. The bishop is lord over the faith and life of the people by virtue of an absolute supremacy divinely bestowed upon him… Callistus was the author of the Roman Catholic conception of the church (see Heick, p. 103).
Cyprian justified forgiveness for apostasy (in the Decian persecution) for the lapsed but proposed that decision be made by the bishops. Cyprian took the position that “the church was established upon the bishops. They could be judged by no one except God. To criticize the bishop was rebellion.” Cyprian did not stress apostolic succession as a test of the validity of the episcopal office, but he emphasized the idea that the bishop was the successor of the Apostles and the legitimate interpreter of the apostolic tradition.
The unity of the church existed for Cyprian through the office of the bishops, the successors of the apostles and through the solidarity of the episcopate as a whole. He liked to say that “the bishops are the glue that binds the church together.” Every bishop possessed in his own diocese the powers and functions of all of Rome. The bishop, he contended, was the symbol of this unity but not the centre, and Cyprian, as his controversy with Stephen indicates, did not ascribe any juridical authority to the occupants of St. Peter’s chair. He believed that originally the government was laid upon one man, Peter, in order to emphasize the unity of the church’s authority, and then was conveyed in the same terms to the apostles as a whole.
Thus for Cyprian, the authority in the church resided in the whole body of bishops. Needless to say, this was contrary to Stephen’s view. Stephen referred to the “primacy” which was his as the holder of Peter’s throne. Cyprian set out his judgment on the question in his treatise On the Unity of the Catholic Church. This was the most complete statement on the nature of the church and its ministry up until this time.
For Cyprian, the church might be spread abroad through all the world yet she remains one: “Even as the sun has many rays, yet one light.” It follows from Cyprian’s view that to separate from the church was the worst of sins. This feeling was at the root of Cyprian’s intransigent attitude toward schismatics, such as the Gnostics. He argued that the church is the only absolute and the only voice of God’s mercy and God’s grace is limited to her. He asserted: “No man can have God as his Father who has not the church as his Mother.” “Outside the Catholic church,” Cyprian maintained, “there is no salvation.” Thus schism became a deadly sin. Cyprian thereby enhanced the authoritarian, hierarchical, institutional aspect of the church. His ideas were firstly, that the church is an institution “for salvation,” where it can be obtained, secondly, that the church is built on the episcopate. This is part of the Christian faith and law: “Therefore you must know that the bishop is in the church and the church is in the bishop and that if somebody is not with the bishop, he is not in the church.”
As regards the ministry, Cyprian taught a new view of the bishop. Many things had combined to exalt this office, but Cyprian set the bishop on a pedestal higher than had ever been thought of before. God’s grace was dispensed by the bishop who was equated with the priest of the Old Testament. According to Cyprian all bishops had equal authority since they derived this from the equality of the Apostles. Bishops were an aristocracy of co-equal leaders. Bishops are divinely appointed, each independent in his own bishopric. Should the bishop prove unworthy, then neighbouring bishops had the right to depose him. The bishop’s power was from above and his main function was to represent God to the people. He (the bishop) did not owe his election to any popular verdict; the people merely acquiesced in what was given.
This notion of authoritarian provision may owe something to Cyprian’s close association with the imperial government before his conversion. Indeed Von Campenhausen believes that Cyprian was responsible for the substitution of the secular concept of authority for the original Christian idea of spiritual power. (See H. Von Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in the Church of the First Three Centuries p. 291). He believes that Cyprian was simply obeying the logic of political thinking. Resistance to the bishop was resistance to God and “whosoever is alien from him is alien from Christ.” A wise bishop, contends Cyprian, will do nothing without the counsel of his presbyters and deacons and the consent of his people. But this is a grace and not a right for he is not accountable to them.
This theory of the divine right of bishops was quite new and even stronger than Ignatius had claimed. Tertullian held that the episcopate was a convenient arrangement; Cyprian insisted that it was a divine institution.
Cyprian claimed that the bishop is a sacrificing priest. Both Jews and Gentiles were familiar with the idea of priests and sacrifices but Cyprian was the first to relate this new religion (Christianity) with the older ones in this way.
The earlier doctrine of the priesthood of all believers began to be abandoned and slipped into the background, almost into oblivion. In Cyprian is found the germ of the division of the Sacrament into two: (a) the Eucharist - the sacrifice of thanksgiving; (b) the mass - a new development. And now the bishop became a sacrificing priest and the bloodless but real sacrifice that he offered was the passion of our Lord.
Church and Sacrament according to Tertullian and Cyprian
The need for the view of the church and sacrament arose out of practical necessity for Tertullian and Cyprian as it had indeed for St. Augustine.
The real problem which faced the church was: “Who has authority to forgive sins in the community? Was it the bishop?” A further problem was: “What kind of sin can be forgiven?”
It was a question of church discipline,–that is, who in the Christian community had power to forgive sins,–that led Tertullian to work out his own view of the nature of the church and sacrament. The problem of discipline became acute owing largely to the expansion of the church. As the church expanded and gained more and more members it became increasingly difficult to maintain the high moral standards which apologists such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian had in their writings commended to the emperor and other Roman officials.
The problem was raised in the Roman Christian community–the diocese or province of Bishop Callistus (217-222 A.D.). Bishop Callistus of Rome was faced with the question of whether he should bring sinners back by clemency or whether by severity he should drive them back into paganism. He chose the former alternative. By this way alone could the church be led out from the straits of separation from the world to a conquest of the world. Callistus seems to have adopted a new approach as to who could forgive sins.
According to Hippolytus,–who was not an unbiased critic and who indeed could be regarded as Callistus’ rival,–Calistus’ view stated that bishops guilty of any “sin unto death,” that is, mortal sins such as sexual aberrations, homicide or apostasy, should not be forgiven, but that any other sin apart from mortal sins could be forgiven.
Hippolytus accused Callistus of allowing men married three times in succession (either because of the death of their partners or because of divorce) to take up church office. Hippolytus also alleged that Callistus allowed men in holy orders to marry, that Callistus discouraged celibacy. It was further alleged that Callistus allowed Roman ladies of noble birth to marry slaves. This practice was regarded as morally and ethically wrong.
The issue of the “forgiveable” sins came to a head with baptism. The question was basically, “Is sin committed after baptism forgiveable?” After baptism Christians are expected to live up to the Christian confession. On this issue, The Shepherd, the pastoral treatise written by Hermas of Rome, had tried to give practical guidance. Hermas the shepherd had suggested that a concession might be made to the general rule. In other words, there was one chance of repentance after baptism, that is, only one lapse was allowed. After that no further opportunity for forgiveness existed.
In his treatise On Modesty Tertullian attacked a certain unnamed bishop for forgiving sexual offences committed after penance. In attacking the unnamed bishop Tertullian writes: “Who does he think he is setting up himself as imperial bishop to forgive sins?” He also used the expression “Bishop of bishops” for the unnamed bishop. Tertullian argues that the church has the authority to forgive sins,–the church as the manifestation of the Spirit.
At this point, from the end of the 2nd century to the beginning of the 3rd century when the church was putting forward its ideas, was the period of the Gnostic heresies with their unbridled individualism and enthusiasm. It was essential for the church to erect barriers against the torrent in the interest of its own security and self-preservation. It did so first, by establishing a canon of apostolic writings in reaction to the canon of Marcion who was half Gnostic. Secondly, the church drew up a firm rule of faith and credal statements and defined dogma–the official norm for all church teachers against heretical teaching. Both these things could only be accomplished by creating a third–but most important,–guarantee of unity and coherence, namely, the apostolic and priestly office of bishop. St. Ignatius makes the bishop the centre of ecclesiastical unity. This view was followed by Tertullian and Cyprian. Tertullian, one of the most formidable opponents of the Gnostics–in particular Marcion,–argued vehemently that heretics were outside the church. Consequently, they had no right to claim apostolic authority. He even described them as usurpers.
On the whole, Cyprian followed the general outline of the view of the church and sacrament as expounded by his predecessors, particularly Tertullian whom he regarded as his “master.” If there are close similarities in both theologians’ views, there are also differences. On occasion, Cyprian thought it wise to modify or even criticize the view of his master Tertullian.
Cyprian’s view of the church evolved out of the problem of the schismatics who, strictly speaking, were not heretics.
The Lapsed and The Unity of the Catholic Church, both written in 251 A.D., reflect the effect of the Decian persecution, and provide a good introduction to the faith and practice of a man who was dedicated to the Scriptures, to the leadership of his people, and to the preservation of unity throughout the church.
These treatises presuppose a background of custom in dealing with serious public sins, such as murder, adultery and apostasy. Those wanting to gain or regain their position among the faithful and be readmitted to the eucharist had to do public penance expressing their repentance in their general conduct, and besides, present their prayers to God for mercy by humbling themselves publicly in the assembles of the faithful. Such penance might last for years but always with the expectation of reconciliation to be granted in a public ceremony during which the bishop, assisted by his presbyters, laid hands upon them as a sign of readmission to the eucharist among the faithful.
The fierceness of the Decian persecution had, however, caused many to lapse so that it was difficult to decide how the customary process should be followed. As soon as the first wave of persecution had passed, those Christians who either by submission or bribery had obtained libelli certifying that they had sacrificed, at once streamed back to their old congregations. Accordingly, some of the presbyters, in Cyprian’s absence and against his explicit ruling, had been allowing the lapsed to be admitted without doing any penance at all, on the pretext that they had been recommended. This “recommendation” meant that they had obtained a certificate of readmission to the church bearing the signatures of the confessor or martyr, who, it was held, was able to hand over the fruit of his victory to his weaker brethren.
Cyprian had insisted that no change should be made in the usual practice until the end of the persecution when the bishop could convene and decide on an overall policy. But Cyprian himself was not in an easy position. When persecution had threatened him, he had chosen to seek safety in flight. Now that the persecution was over, he recalled what had happened and explained his policy. Of those who stood firm in their confession of Christ some had been martyred, others imprisoned and tortured. A few, like Cyprian, had gone underground, leaving all they had to be confiscated. But those who had sacrificed (sacrificati) were very numerous. Others were hardly less guilty: they had bribed the officials to give them the certificate of sacrifice (libellatici) in spite of their abstention. The agreed ruling still stood that the lapsed (sacrificati) and the libellatici alike should do public penance until the bishops had met and taken common counsel. The independent action of the presbyters was unwarranted and Cyprian exhorted all who had fallen to remain for the time being in the ranks of the penitent.
Soon after, the bishops in Africa met in council as did those of Rome and its surroundings and it was agreed that each case should be examined for itself and that at least the libellatici could be dispensed from further penance and admitted again to communion. Even this mitigation was violently attacked by Novatius who was described as a rigorist. The following year, however, under the threat of fresh persecution under Gallus, it was decided that those sacrificati who had been faithful to their penance should also be reconciled, that they might face the new danger strengthened by the blood of Christ since they now had to acknowledge him at the risk of their own lives.
Was such a reconciliation of idolaters a departure from the rigorism of the early church? If this were so, Novatius alone was being true to tradition and Cyprian and his supporters were the innovators. There had been pockets of such rigorists in the second century church, but Dionysius of Corinth seems to report those expressing the dominant practice when he wrote that “those who repent, whatever may have been their lapse or crime, even that of heresy, are to be received back.” The only serious counter-evidence is found in Tertullian who, having turned Montanist, asserted that the churches refused forgiveness for idolatry and murder and attacked the church for not refusing it for adultery. No doubt Cyprian and Cornelius were faced with a new situation, due to the number of “idolaters” and had to adopt new measures to deal with it. Nevertheless, nothing suggests that they went beyond applying the church’s longstanding principles which stated that all sins called for repentance and that there was no sin that could not be forgiven.
At Carthage the unruly presbyters, who carried favour with the repenting lapsed, formed a party against their bishop under the leadership of a deacon, Felicissimus. They elected a bishop of their own in opposition about a year later. This schism, characterized by laxity in the reconciliation of the lapsed, was but one of the schisms which Cyprian had to confront. In the midst of all this, Cornelius, recently consecrated bishop of Rome, was challenged by a presbyter called Novatius, a man of outstanding ability, who had himself consecrated. Having verified Cornelius’s rightful appointment, Cyprian repudiated Novatius’s views, initially as those of an unwarranted intruder. At this point he wrote the treatise De Ecclesiae Catholicae Unitate but he did not seem to be aware of the doctrinal roots of the Novatian breakaway, i.e. the refusal to allow any reconciliation of the lapsed whose presence would only contaminate the pure body of the saints. Thus Cyprian was in fact meeting two diametrically opposed movements–the extremes of laxity and rigorism. In De Unitate though, he envisaged the letter only as a revolt against duly constituted authority and, to that extent, it was comparable to the schism in his own church in Carthage. This double threat to the church’s unity prompted this treatise and led Cyprian to express some of his ideas on the nature of the local church as well as on the church universal.
At the council of 252 AD, it was decided by a council representing the clergy from all over North Africa that a member of the clergy who had been found guilty should be re-admitted on confession but only as a layman, that he would be stripped of his clerical duties. With such a judgment passed in Carthage, Cyprian wrote that he awaited confirmation of God’s final judgment. Drawing from the parable of the wheat and the tares in which Christ had commanded that the wheat grow alongside the tares until the harvest, Cyprian held forth that tares were the penitent lapsed members. The church may include serious offenders although they must be penitent. This decision required a higher standard among the clergy than among the layman.
Cyprian’s main idea on church unity was that of the coherence of bishops in mutual concord and he quoted Ephesians 4, which points to the mystery of church unity. “This oneness,” Cyprian explains, “We must hold to firmly.” He argued that the episcopate form of unity was one in which each held his part for the whole,–the idea being that the episcopate formed a unity in real situations: each holds part of the episcopate. The bishop is the representative of his locality, but the agreement of all bishops is essential.
Common to Cyprian is the idea of the glue of concord among bishops, thus emphasizing the principle of unity,–the Christian congregations being kept in concord with each other through the mutual agreement of bishops. The bishop is in the church, the church is in the bishop. Christian unity is represented, according to Cyprian, by bishops remaining in agreement. He who is in disagreement does not have the Holy Spirit. Thus the Novatians had, by their discord, put themselves outside the church.
For Cyprian, heretics and schismatics were the same–they were outside the church. He regarded councils as a meeting of those joined by the Spirit. Therefore the Spirit inspires all like-minded people.
Cyprian took the view of the church as understood and expounded by St. Paul–the body of Christ. In accordance with this view, he talked about love and charity: charity which he understood in terms of unity and concord and love which he identified with strict unity. Thus for Cyprian no one could be a martyr unless they stayed within the unity of the church and those guilty of disagreement could never attain the kingdom of heaven. He who does not have love does not have God.
In spite of what Cyprian said concerning the individuality and right of each bishop to lead and rule his congregation, it does not seem that he allowed genuine and honest disagreement For him unity was all important. Cyprian’s idea of unity also involved his idea of Apostolic succession. Cyprian used the Petrine text in which Christ said to Peter, “Feed my sheep,” explaining that Christ built the church upon Peter who was the primate, because the primacy had been given to Peter. Yet all the apostles were important and united. “If a man does not maintain the unity of Peter, how does he maintain faith?” asked Cyprian.
The treatise De Unitate has come down in two versions and there have been various attempts to explain this fact. In De Unitate, except for one sentence there is nothing which suggests that Cyprian was addressing a gathering of bishops. On the contrary, he was rebuking and encouraging his own faithful, lapsed and otherwise. In De Lapsis he was speaking to them for the first time on his return among them. There is no suggestion in this treatise that the libellatici might be dispensed from further penance that was only decided of the Council. De Unitate makes no allusion to schism. It is thus generally agreed, except for a few dissenters, that this passage was not in Cyprian’s original text but formed part of the revision which he himself made to the original after he had spoken it.
G. A. Oshitelu
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This article is reproduced, with permission, from The African Fathers of the Early Church, copyright © 2002, by G. A. Oshitelu, Ibadan, Nigeria. All rights reserved.