Monday, January 19, 2015

ANF 5: Cyprian Life and Passion

Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 5

Cyprian: Life and Passion

The interesting comment by the editors of the 19th century edition of the Ante-Nicene Fathers says that "Cyprian is the Ignatius of the West," presumably with all the strengths and weaknesses that entails. That is, he had an essential deep and doctrinal concern for the organic life of the church, but perhaps too top-heavy a view (though were I of the Anglican or Presbyterian persuasion I might be more inclined to agree with even this aspect of his writings).

So, we have a record of Cyprian's life from "Pontius the Deacon." Pontius tells us that everyone knows of Cyprian, and that his fame will probably last until the end of the world. But, just in case (and so that the next generations will have a record of the great men of the past) Pontius has given us a brief overview of the life and martyrdom of Cyprian.

Pontius begins with Cyprian's conversion, mentioning only that he had a background in the "liberal arts" and had already become discontent with Classical learning when he came to believe the promises of Scripture. Cyprian very quickly became a presbytr and a preacher, in addition to being a husband and father, and eventually he went on to become a bishop. He served through persecution and plague and banishment, until finally being martyred (which he had been told about in a vision beforehand).

Honestly, this piece is a little heavy in the "oh he was the holiest person ever to live" department, but that's probably to be expected of ancient hagiography. It is worth skimming through by way of preparation for reading the epistles.

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