Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ANF V: Cyprian Epistle LXII

Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 5

Cyprian: Epistle LXII

This Epistle (LXII) seems to be a good compendium of everything right and wrong with Cyprian so far. (The rest of his epistles and his treatises I have yet to read.) On the one hand, there's some excellent foundation for his theology "For because Christ bore us all, in that He also bore our sins, we see that in the water [of baptism] is understood the people, but in the wine is showed the blood of Christ." While this is an unusual way to say it (at least it's not anything I've ever heard a modern Christian say), the point is a good one. The sign of a Christian having become a believer is baptism, while the Lord's Supper is our regular reminder and declaration of the atoning work of Christ. What's more, Cyprian is entirely right that we shouldn't use water for communion, or anything but water for baptism--and this because this is the practice that Christ laid down for us in Scripture, which is our guide and is the practice of the "tradition of the Lord." That is, the faithful church has always been marked by its desire to obey Scripture as the highest authority, and to use the sacraments to declare the Gospel (among other things).

With that said, there are the problems of applied theology and exegesis that we also see throughout Cyprian. Connecting the sacraments of the church to Old Testament practices is problematic at the best of times, and never explicitly condoned in Scripture. Likewise, he dances near to baptismal regeneration as a doctrine (though he doesn't quite get there in this epistle), and has some poor exposition of the story of Noah and Melchizedek.

So yeah, this one is definitely one to read--it gives you a good general taste of Cyprian's writing.

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