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Cyprian, Faithful, Bishop


In 249 A.D., in an attempt to bring about a renewal in the devotion to Roman authority and the Roman gods, Roman Emperor Decian issued an edict. The edict called for Roman citizens to take part in a simple sacrifice to the Roman deities. Cyprian, the recently named bishop of Carthage, opted to flee the city and avoid the persecution. Upon his return to Carthage in 251 A.D., Cyprian was forced to deal with the results of the persecution among those who had given in to the edict and those who had resisted. He did so with his now famous On the Lapsed. In dealing with both groups, Cyprian was faithful first to Christ and the biblical mandates that he felt the church was obligated to uphold. He was faithful also to the authority of the Church hierarchy, which he felt was being undermined even by the martyrs, whom he did believe had a special place within the Church. Finally, Cyprian was faithful to his position of bishop, which meant he was not only to lead but also to unite his community during difficult times such as persecutions, regardless of what situation or conditions existed that may have led to it. To complete this task, this study will look at a number of challenges that Cyprian faced while he attempted to remain faithful to these three areas. In doing so, the paper will focus mainly on Cyprian’s response to these challenges in his writings from On the Lapsed. The story of Cyprian and the issues surrounding the lapsed do not end with what he wrote in On the Lapsed, and the conclusion of this study will take a few moments to address some of those issues.



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