Novatian - Controversy About the Baptism of Heretics

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Text edited by Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson and first published by T&T Clark in Edinburgh in 1867. Additional introductionary material and notes provided for the American edition by A. Cleveland Coxe, 1886.


Acts and Records of the Famous Controversy About the Baptism of Heretics.

A Roman Council Celebrated Under Stephen.

From the Synodal Roll.

A Divine and sacred provincial synod, gathered together at Rome by Stephen, the blessed martyr and father [5282] which excommunicated those who in an African synod had, without reason, conceded that they who came to the Catholic Church from any heresy should be re-baptized. [5283]


Carthaginian Councils.

The Third Carthaginian Council Under Cyprian, on the Baptism of Infants; Held Anno Domini 253.

This document is translated at p. 353, Ep. lviii.

The Fourth Carthaginian Council Under Cyprian; Held Anno Domini 254. About Basilides and Martial, Bishops of Spain, Who Had Received Certificates.

This document is translated at p. 369, Ep. lxvii.

The Fifth Carthaginian Council Under Cyprian, the First About Baptism; Held Anno Domini 255, the Third Year of St. Stephen's Episcopate.

This will be found translated at p. 375, Ep. lxix.

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The Sixth Carthaginian Council Under Cyprian, the Second About Baptism, from a Province of Africa and Numidia; Held Anno Domini 256, in the Third Year of Stephen's Episcopate.

This will be found translated at p. 378, Ep. lxxi.

The Seventh Carthaginian Council Under Cyprian, the Third About Baptism, from Three Provinces of Africa; Held Anno Domini 256, in the Third Year of Stephen's Episcopate.

This will be found translated and given in full on p. 565 of the present volume.

Introductory Notice [5284] To an Anonymous Treatise Against the Heretic Novatian.

The writer of the following treatise was undoubtedly a contemporary of Cyprian, and wrote in the early part of the reign of Valerian (254-256), during an interval of peace to the Church. This much may be collected from the fact that he names one, and only one, persecution after that of Decius namely, that of Gallus and Volusianus and speaks of those who had lapsed under the former, as having been stedfast and victorious in the latter. [5285] He is generally believed to have been an Africa, and Tillemont is only withheld from attributing the work to Cyprian himself by what he judges to be a difference of style. But although from the exordium it may be concluded that the writer was a bishop, yet, from his manifest uncertainty as to the fitting way to treat those who had lapsed, it is evident that Cyprian cannot have been the author; for that prelate, when the persecution of Gallus and Volusianus was just threatening, had already decided upon receiving to communion the penitents who had yielded to temptation under Decius. [5286]

Ceillier [5287] says that this treatise was written about the year 255, while Novatian was still alive, [5288] and when the schism of Felicissimus was all but extinct.

Erasmus first published it among the known works of Cyprian in the year 1520.


The American editor subjoins as follows: Cyprian, and Cornelius afterward, had decided, with their councils, that the lapsed should be classed, and dealt with accordingly, as (1) Libellatici, those who had compounded with the heathen, and bought off from offering sacrifice; and (2) Sacrificati, those who had actually offered sacrifice to idols. Different degrees of discipline were awarded, but all were admitted to pardon finally.


[5282] "Papa" [as applied to all bishops. See p. 154, supra.] [5283] Reference is made to this council in Epistles of Cyprian, No. lxxiii., and at large in Epistles lxix. to lxxiv., pp. 375-396, supra. [5284] [By Dr. Wallis, editor of voL xiii., Edinb. series.] [5285] Epistles, liii. p. 336, supra. [5286] Ch. (or sec.) 6, p. 659 infra. [5287] Hist. Gen. des Auteurs, tom. iii. ch. i. art. 4, sec. 2, note 4. [5288] Ch. (or sec.) I, p. 657, infra.
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