Monday, February 2, 2015

ANF V: Cyprian Epistles XXXII-XXXIV

Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 5

Cyprian: Epistles XXXII-XXXIV

In Epistle XXXII, Cyprian informs the elders and the congregation that he has placed one Aurelius in the office of "reader." Normally, it is his practice to consult with the church first, but in this case given Aurelius remarkable faithfulness through persecution (being twice-over a "confessor"), Cyprian felt that he could go ahead and just declare it. And yet, he still doesn't do this alone, Cyprian ordained Aurelius with his "colleagues who were then present." There are no solitary decisions in the visible church--or at least there shouldn't be any...

Epistle XXXIII takes on the same subject with a different person, this time the ordination of Celerinus as a "reader." Once again Cyprian notes his more-than-usual unilateral action, arguing that the offices of the church are best filled (when possible) by those who have made it through persecution since they are some of the best models of faithfulness. Celerinus is such a model, and just as he served the Lord in persecution, now he ought to serve the Lord in ecclesiastical leadership.

The same is said about Numidicus as a presbyter, though in this case we are not told exactly how he is put in office. Whether Cyprian did it himself (with others in his exile) or he was instructing the church to do so is unclear, since all he says is "I have been admonished and instructed by divine condescension, that Numidicus the presbyter should be appointed in the number of Carthaginian presbyters, and should sit with us among the clergy." Does this mean Cyprian has made a unilateral decision? Or is he giving the church his vote, one among the congregation? There's just not enough here for a conclusion about polity either way.

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