Cyprian the Bishop

Cyprian the Bishop

Cyprian the Bishop

Cyprian the Bishop

Synopsis

This is the first up-to-date, accessible study on the rule of Cyprian as the Bishop of Carthage in the 250s AD. It controversially shows that Cyprian radically enforced the primary emphasis on the unity of the church, interpreting loyalty in the community as fidelity to Christ.It uses cultural anthropology to examine the impact of Cyprian's policy during the Decian persecution. Cyprian attempted to steer the middle ground between compromise and traditionalism and succeeded by defining the boundary between the empire and the church.J. Patout Burns Jr. concentrates on social structures to reveal the logic of Cyprian's plan, the basis for its success in his time, and why it later failed. This book will be of great interest to classicists, ancient historians and sociologists as well as theologians.

Excerpt

This study began in a faculty seminar in the Department of Religion at the University of Florida in which Dennis Owen and Sheldon Isenberg explained the value of Mary Douglas’ scheme for correlating the social structure of a community and its assumptions about its position in the cosmos and the efficacy of its practices. The foundational essay, “Cultural Bias,” and the book, Natural Symbols, suddenly appeared to offer tools for understanding the theological positions which Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage in the middle of the third century, had developed to help his community cope with the defections they experienced during the persecution of Decius and the divisions within the church which followed it. Cyprian presented a scripturally based and tightly argued theory of sacramental efficacy which was rejected by the Roman church, championed by the African Donatists, and then so reinterpreted by Augustine that it had little further influence. How could such a coherent and cogent system have been simply abandoned in favor of one whose sole supports were custom and political influence? Cyprian’s system was not so much refuted as shoved aside and ignored. The answer to understanding its success and then its failure might lie, then, in the social rather than the intellectual context. It might have failed because the social structures supporting it changed with the toleration and support of Christianity by the Roman Empire. Fortunately, the collection of Cyprian’s letters provide significant information about his church community and its members, as well as his dealings with both his fellow bishops and opponents. These documents provide clues for understanding what his people and his colleagues, as well as their opponents, were doing and thinking. Douglas’ schema for comparing communities was first applied to the opposing positions taken by the African and the Roman bishops in the baptismal controversy. When the results proved satisfactory, the present

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.