Cyprian of Carthage and the North African Church
Posted: March 28, 2007 Filed under: Patristic Church History
Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus was born of a rich but pagan family in Carthage in North Africa। He was born in A.D 200 but we know little about him till his conversion in 246 through the influence of presbyter Caecilianus. Cyprian was chosen to be bishop at a very early stage in his conversion and seemed hesitant himself to accept the position. He had a few that opposed him that were led by a man named Novatus. However nervous he seemed d at first he once he accepted the position he threw himself into it with enthusiasm and became the pastor of a waning church. Later in 250 the emperor Decius let out a decree that all were forced to sacrifice to Roman gods and hold a certificate that they had complied. Sadly, many Christians of the churches turned towards the other gods but Cyprian went into hiding and tried to maintain the church he pastured through letters. He received much discouragement from people who saw that the Bishop of Rome had been martyred. When the persecution stopped in 251 many people who had turned to the Roman gods wanted entrance back into the church. Cyprian came out of hiding and had to deal with the many issues that were going on with the Christians. Cyprian became friends with the new bishop of Rome who had joined Cyprian in the middle course with regard to what should be done with the people who had given in to the edict. Novatus, Cyprian’s old nemesis went and joined with Novatian, who had adopted the approach of no mercy for the believers who had given in. in 252 Cyprian gained extensive approval when he rallied the church to help victims of a plague in Carthage. Throughout the coming years he proved himself to be a wise and very able administrator and pastor. New problems arose with the people who wanted to be reinstated into the church and Cyprian and Stephen the new bishop of Rome were at the head of the clash. In Rome the people were receiving membership by the laying of hands upon them, but many in the Eastern churches insisted that baptism was the answer. The bishop threatened to break off communion with them if they did not stop holding to the baptizing of heretics. Immediately Cyprian joined ranks with the North African bishops who also held to his belief. Cyprian based his theology upon a legalistic reading of the Bible, but to a certain degree was charismatic because of his holdings to importance in dreams and revelations. Because of his high view of the church Cyprian held that there could be no sacraments outside the official churches. Cyprian’s views were very influential in future generations and both Augustine and Hippo looked to him as their spiritual father.