Learning to Pray from Jesus Christ

Andrea Mantegna, Agony in the Garden (1455)
Andrea Mantegna, Agony in the Garden (1455)

In Luke 11:1, we hear that Jesus “was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.'” It’s this request that leads Jesus to share with us the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father), and it’s a good place to start an inquiry into how to pray: watch Jesus pray, and listen to what He tells us.

That’s the theme of a talk that I gave on Wednesday at Christ the King parish in Topeka, Kansas. You can watch the full talk here (with slideshow):

At the end of the talk, I referred to two commentaries on the Our Father: this one by St. Cyprian of Carthage, and this one by St. Augustine. Here’s an excerpt from my handout with some of my favorite bits from each commentary:

Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise on the Lord’s Prayer (252 A.D.)
Our Before all things, the Teacher of peace and the Master of unity would not have prayer to be made singly and individually, as for one who prays to pray for himself alone. For we say not My Father, which art in heaven, nor Give me this day my daily bread; nor does each one ask that only his own debt should be forgiven him; nor does he request for himself alone that he may not be led into temptation, and delivered from evil. Our prayer is public and common; and when we pray, we pray not for one, but for the whole people, because we the whole people are one. The God of peace and the Teacher of concord, who taught unity, willed that one should thus pray for all, even as He Himself bore us all in one.
Father, who art in Heaven The new man, born again and restored to his God by His grace, says Father, in the first place because he has now begun to be a son. He came, He says, to His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His name. [John 1:11] The man, therefore, who has believed in His name, and has become God’s son, ought from this point to begin both to give thanks and to profess himself God’s son, by declaring that God is his Father in heaven; [….]

But how great is the Lord’s indulgence! How great His condescension and plenteousness of goodness towards us, seeing that He has wished us to pray in the sight of God in such a way as to call God Father, and to call ourselves sons of God, even as Christ is the Son of God, -a name which none of us would dare to venture on in prayer, unless He Himself had allowed us thus to pray! We ought then, beloved brethren, to remember and to know, that when we call God Father, we ought to act as God’s children; so that in the measure in which we find pleasure in considering God as a Father, He might also be able to find pleasure in us.

Hallowed be Thy Name not that we wish for God that He may be hallowed by our prayers, but that we beseech of Him that His name may be hallowed in us. But by whom is God sanctified, since He Himself sanctifies? Well, because He says, Be holy, even as I am holy, [Leviticus 20:7] we ask and entreat, that we who were sanctified in baptism may continue in that which we have begun to be. And this we daily pray for; for we have need of daily sanctification, that we who daily fall away may wash out our sins by continual sanctification.
Thy Kingdom Come We ask that the kingdom of God may be set forth to us, even as we also ask that His name may be sanctified in us. For when does God not reign, or when does that begin with Him which both always has been, and never ceases to be? We pray that our kingdom, which has been promised us by God, may come, which was acquired by the blood and passion of Christ; that we who first are His subjects in the world, may hereafter reign with Christ when He reigns, as He Himself promises and says, Come, you blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom which has been prepared for you from the beginning of the world. Matthew 25:34 Christ Himself, dearest brethren, however, may be the kingdom of God, whom we day by day desire to come, whose advent we crave to be quickly manifested to us. For since He is Himself the Resurrection, since in Him we rise again, so also the kingdom of God may be understood to be Himself, since in Him we shall reign.
Thy Will be Done not that God should do what He wills, but that we may be able to do what God wills. For who resists God, that l He may not do what He wills? But since we are hindered by the devil from obeying with our thought and deed God’s will in all things, we pray and ask that God’s will may be done in us; and that it may be done in us we have need of God’s good will, that is, of His help and protection, since no one is strong in his own strength, but he is safe by the grace and mercy of God. [….]

Now that is the will of God which Christ both did and taught. Humility in conversation; steadfastness in faith; modesty in words; justice in deeds; mercifulness in works; discipline in morals; to be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one’s heart; to love Him in that He is a Father; to fear Him in that He is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ, because He did not prefer anything to us; to adhere inseparably to His love; to stand by His cross bravely and faithfully; when there is any contest on behalf of His name and honour, to exhibit in discourse that constancy wherewith we make confession; in torture, that confidence wherewith we do battle; in death, that patience whereby we are crowned—this is to desire to be fellow-heirs with Christ; this is to do the commandment of God; this is to fulfil the will of the Father.

On Earth as it is in Heaven Moreover, we ask that the will of God may be done both in heaven and in earth, each of which things pertains to the fulfilment of our safety and salvation. For since we possess the body from the earth and the spirit from heaven, we ourselves are earth and heaven; and in both— that is, both in body and spirit— we pray that God’s will may be done. For between the flesh and spirit there is a struggle; and there is a daily strife as they disagree one with the other, so that we cannot do those very things that we would, in that the spirit seeks heavenly and divine things, while the flesh lusts after earthly and temporal things; and therefore we ask that, by the help and assistance of God, agreement may be made between these two natures, so that while the will of God is done both in the spirit and in the flesh, the soul which is new-born by Him may be preserved.
Give us This Day our Daily Bread And this may be understood both spiritually and literally, because either way of understanding it is rich in divine usefulness to our salvation. For Christ is the bread of life […] And we ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ, and daily receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation, may not, by the interposition of some heinous sin, by being prevented, as withheld and not communicating, from partaking of the heavenly bread, be separated from Christ’s body […]

 

But it may also be thus understood, that we who have renounced the world, and have cast away its riches and pomps in the faith of spiritual grace, should only ask for ourselves food and support, since the Lord instructs us, and says, Whosoever forsakes not all that he has, cannot be my disciple. [Luke 14:33] But he who has begun to be Christ’s disciple, renouncing all things according to the word of his Master, ought to ask for his daily food, and not to extend the desires of his petition to a long period, as the Lord again prescribes, and says, Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow itself shall take thought for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. [Matthew 6:34]

Forgive us our Trespasses as we Forgive those who Trespass Against us After the supply of food, pardon of sin is also asked for, that he who is fed by God may live in God, and that not only the present and temporal life may be provided for, but the eternal also, to which we may come if our sins are forgiven […]
Lead us not into Temptation In which words it is shown that the adversary can do nothing against us except God shall have previously permitted it; so that all our fear, and devotion, and obedience may be turned towards God, since in our temptations nothing is permitted to evil unless power is given from Him.
Deliver us from Evil a brief clause, which shortly and comprehensively sums up all our petitions and our prayers. […] And when we say, Deliver us from evil, there remains nothing further which ought to be asked. When we have once asked for God’s protection against evil, and have obtained it, then against everything which the devil and the world work against us we stand secure and safe. For what fear is there in this life, to the man whose guardian in this life is God?

And here’s St. Augustine, describing what petitions of the Our Father do to us:

Augustine, Letter 130 (412 A.D.)
When we pray… Here’s what happens:
Hallowed be Thy Name we admonish ourselves to desire that His name, which is always holy, may be also among men esteemed holy, that is to say, not despised; which is an advantage not to God, but to men.
Thy Kingdom Come which shall certainly come whether we wish it or not, we do by these words stir up our own desires for that kingdom, that it may come to us, and that we may be found worthy to reign in it.
Thy Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven we pray for ourselves that He would give us the grace of obedience, that His will may be done by us in the same way as it is done in heavenly places by His angels.
Give us This Day our Daily Bread the word this day signifies for the present time, in which we ask either for that competency of temporal blessings which I have spoken of before (bread being used to designate the whole of those blessings, because of its constituting so important a part of them), or the sacrament of believers, which is in this present time necessary, but necessary in order to obtain the felicity not of the present time, but of eternity.
Forgive us our Trespasses as we Forgive those who Trespass Against us we remind ourselves both what we should ask, and what we should do in order that we may be worthy to receive what we ask.
Lead us not into Temptation we admonish ourselves to seek that we may not, through being deprived of God’s help, be either ensnared to consent or compelled to yield to temptation.
Deliver us from Evil we admonish ourselves to consider that we are not yet enjoying that good estate in which we shall experience no evil. And this petition, which stands last in the Lord’s Prayer, is so comprehensive that a Christian, in whatsoever affliction he be placed, may in using it give utterance to his groans and find vent for his tears— may begin with this petition, go on with it, and with it conclude his prayer.

 

81 Comments

  1. What great teachers are the early Catholic Fathers! And what a great Blog host we have who presents such excellent Christian teachings in this particular way, and on the most important prayer the world has ever known. And on top of that, giving us 2 great Fathers on this subject. Who cannot love the Catholic faith! What wisdom and spiritual depth is found in it! What great saints it has!

    I wonder if Protestants read, enjoy and spiritually benefit by such excellent writings?

    1. This one did-which is how I ended up a Catholic 5 years ago. But, in the world I grew up in (a conservative United Methodist, and then a more traditional/evangelical leaning Episcopalian church), reading the saints/heroes of the faith was encouraged. I became a Catholic through reading John Wesley and C.S. Lewis, who (directly and indirectly) encouraged me to read Augustine, Thomas a Kempis, John Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, Chesterton, and Newman.

      1. Which saints, might I ask, did they encourage you to read? Was it only ‘the Church Father’s’ from about the 1st-5th centuries, or did they include St. Francis, or some of the more modern Saints?

        1. awlms, it was a real mixed bag. The first distinctly “Catholic books” (books that I knew were by Catholics, as opposed to the Bible) I read were the Confessions of St. Augustine and the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis (Wesley actually published his own edition of the Imitation-never seen one before, but it does speak to its popularity in Protestant circles). After that, I went to Fr. Henri Nouwen’s book on the Desert Fathers, the Little Flowers of St. Francis*, Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God, St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life, and an edition of the Apostolic Fathers. Big avalanche of books after that… 🙂

          margo, the first work I read by Newman was the Dream of Gerontius (it was mentioned by C.S. Lewis as “purgatory reclaimed.” As that doctrine was accepted by Lewis [and essentially accepted by Wesley, “a state of purification after death”], and was the only unfamiliar doctrine found in the deuterocanonical books, I wanted to look into that specifically. Purgatory and the deuterocanon were the first distinctively Catholic doctrines I ended up accepting as well.) After reading it, I got a collection of Sermons, Prayers, and Devotions in the “Vintage Spiritual Classics” series. The Apologia, Tract 95, and the Essay on the Development of Doctrine came much later.

          1. Completely forgot to put in the footnote….
            *This whole trend of book reading and diving into the Christian faith started in freshmen year of high school. I was baptized two years earlier, but I was very much a sort of “Sunday-Wednesday Christian.” The conversion of my heart to the faith happened at my great grandfather’s funeral. Hearing the stories of how his faith effected his life, defined his work, his interaction with his family, how Christ was truly the Lord of his life-I was convinced that if I was to keep calling myself a Christian, I needed to live the faith like that. (Though he was a Catholic, I did not want at that point to become one.) The two books on the nightstand of his deathbed were the Bible and the Little Flowers of St. Francis. That is what piqued my interest in that book.

          2. Hi Anthony,

            Your reading list, above, is almost IDENTICAL with my own when I was reverted back to the Catholic faith. My reading list started with ‘Everyman’s edition’ of the Life of St. Francis, consisting of ‘The Little Flowers’, ‘Bonaventure’s Life I’, and the ‘Mirror of Perfection’, all in one book. This book alone brought me back to my baptismal faith.

            Immediately after, I talked with some nun’s in a cloistered monastery (of perpetual adoration) and asked the porter if she could recommend some books. And she recommended St. Augustine’s ‘Confessions’, and ‘The Imitation of Christ’. So, I read those almost immediately. Very shortly after I was recommended the ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’, and so, read that one also. A few months later, I decided to take a course on the History of Christianity at UC Berkeley, and discovered the Desert Fathers, Eusebius Church History, writings of Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, etc…

            ….and after that, I was hooked…until this very day.

            Now, I’m a distributor and print up and give out copies of St. Francis, St. Patrick, Br. Juniper, and others…to people at Farmers Markets, ect.. on a weekly basis. Last week, I gave out about 120 pages front and back to people, derived from stories in ‘The Little Flowers of St. Francis”.

            Best to you, and keep up the good study!

    2. Joe’s talk on prayer was the best one I’ve ever heard! There are so many good points and insights that it would take too much time to tell them all.

    3. As with Catholics, I’m sure it varies from person to person – but there are a fairish number of Protestants who would echo your sentiment (albeit with the word “Christian” replacing “Catholic”).

      One of the delightful things about Christianity is our access to the wealth of writings of both ancient and modern Christians – Augustine side-by-side with Piper, Athanasius next to Grudem, Clement paired with Lewis, Cyprian alongside Spurgeon.

      1. One of the delightful things about Philosophy is our access to the wealth of writings of both ancient and modern Philosophers — Plato and Heidegger; Aristotle and Kant; Seneca and Schopenhauer; Nietzsche and Rawls, Hobbes and Schmitt…

      2. Hi Irked,

        It would seem that there would be some serious ‘trust’ issues for Protestants in believing what St. Cyprian writes above, as you yourself have said that there was major apostasy going on in the Christian faith even as early as the time of St. Justin Martyr in about 140 AD. Moreover, both Sts. Cyprian and Augustine were bishops and priests, which would also be a stumbling block to Protestants who don’t believe in the sacrament of Holy Orders… or episcopal ordinations, as Catholics do. And that Augustine was a professed monk, having written his own monastic rule, which is still followed extensively in the world today; and also, that St. Cyprian was a prominent supporter of the monastic movement of his time, as was St. Athanasius….all of these ecclesiastical realities should cause any Protestant to doubt the credibility of the above mentioned bishop’s theology, considering that Protestantism is almost universally against the institution of monasticism.

        This is why I would be surprised that Protestants would promote the writings of any of these particular Saints, or any of the Church Fathers, for that matter. The Fathers of the Church were highly Catholic, as was demonstrated by the sophisticated organization of the early Church and it’s ability to convoke it’s various synods and councils in the first 5 centuries of Christianity. ‘Catholicity’ was very well defined by these synods and councils, and particularly by the creeds and canon laws they promulgated and also enforced. So, do Protestants only support a ‘sliver’ of the theology to these Church Fathers…overlooking the majority of their other teachings? And if Protestants are against the majority of the teachings of these Fathers, then why would they trust anything that they write?

        Best to you.

        1. Hi Al,

          It would seem that there would be some serious ‘trust’ issues for Protestants in believing what St. Cyprian writes above, as you yourself have said that there was major apostasy going on in the Christian faith even as early as the time of St. Justin Martyr in about 140 AD.

          I mean, I hope we can both affirm that serious heresy in the church is much older than that – it’s the driving force behind many of the epistles, after all.

          To your point, I think we as Protestants look at these elder Christians a little bit differently than you do – we view them as valuable, but maybe not… authoritative in quite the same way?

          So, for instance: when you read Aquinas, you see that he has a borderline-reverential respect for the people he’s citing. He might find some way to reinterpret what they’ve said, but he almost never just straight-up says, “Yeah, and Augustine/Aristotle/whoever was wrong about this, and here’s the real answer…” I don’t think Catholicism in general goes as far as he did on this point – which, more on that in a second – but I think Protestantism in general takes things at a slightly further remove. We see these folks as wise elders, but also as… well, as a bit wrong on some stuff, when weighed against the Scriptures. They’re more like reading really good philosophy: it’s interesting and informative and can change the way you think about stuff, but they’re also going to disagree with each other and just be incorrect sometimes.

          From your perspective, maybe that counts as a trust issue; for us, I think we read the early Christians the same way we would any other theologians in history, with the same healthy critique.

          Moreover, both Sts. Cyprian and Augustine were bishops and priests, which would also be a stumbling block to Protestants who don’t believe in the sacrament of Holy Orders… or episcopal ordinations, as Catholics do.

          So several things. First, I think it’s profoundly incorrect to say that Protestants “don’t believe in” bishops – the bishop/elder/overseer is clearly an established office of the church. What we don’t believe in is a mandatory hierarchy within the church terminating in a bishop of bishops.

          Happily, neither did Cyprian: “For neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops, nor by tyrannical terror does any compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience; since every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another.”

          There are matters aplenty where we can both say, “Oh, but I would think you’d have a problem with so-and-so…” on various fathers. We could talk about Augustine and Mary, or Athanasius and Origen on the canon, or Cyril on doctrine. The honest truth of the matter is that most of these men don’t fit perfectly with either of our theologies.

          And that’s okay! As said above, I’m not looking for them to be an infallible guide (I already have one of those!) – just a wise one.

          The error I think a lot of Protestants make (and one I’ve made before) is that we just assume the formation of full modern Catholic doctrine was a lot earlier than it actually was, and so we concede the fathers to your position entirely – when the actual truth is that an enormous quantity of fathers harshly condemn things Rome now takes as essential doctrine. I said this in my discussion with Matthew (I think?) the other day, but at least we’d let most of the fathers take communion with us – if they woke up from their graves today, teaching the things they taught in life, there’s an awful lot of them who couldn’t do that with the RCC.

          1. The problem that I see in your argument, above, is that, yes every Church Father, and every Christian will always disagree on some parts of Christian doctrine, as no one understands PERFECTLY anything regarding to Christianity except God Himself. However, discounting ‘perfect’ understanding, we do have various levels of faith and understanding, that is ‘levels or degrees’ of doctrinal divergence, or disagreement, that is important to quantify. This is to say, that I might believe 95% of what St. Cyprian teaches, and be unsure on the rest. But you might believe only 25% of what he is teaching and disagree the other 75%.

            And, the Early Church knew that this was how the Christian faith was believed from the very beginning, with everyone being slightly on different pages, but also, at the same time the same Church of Christ always sought UNITY, as Cyprian describes above when he terms Christ as the “Teacher of peace and the Master of unity”. And, for the purpose of such unity, after a time( maybe, 80AD?) the Church coined the term ‘Catholic’ to describe the level of conformance necessary for Christians to agree upon to maintain unity of belief. For the apostles, this attempt at ‘conflict management of doctrine’, occurred both at the time of selecting Judas Iscariot’s replacement, as well as with the establishment of ‘deacons’ within the Church, and then more prominently with resolution of the ‘Judaiser conflict’ at the 1st Council of Jerusalem. That is to say, they made RULES that everyone in the Church should agree to so as to maintain Church UNITY.

            So, the very coining of the term ‘Catholic’ at this very early date in Christian history was an attempt to describe the boundaries of who was ‘in the Church’ and who was ‘farther away from it’…ie..gnostics, apostates and heretics’ in their beliefs and teachings. That’s also to say, that if everyone could interpret their own doctrine, as Protestants do today, they never would have needed to usethe term ‘Catholic’ to begin with. All of the gnostics and heretics would have been part of the Church of Christ, regardless of what they were teaching as long as they merely said: “I believe in Jesus Christ”.

            Now, regarding levels of divergence from the ‘Catholic’ faith, there are more important items and less important items. So, there is a weight, or gravity, as to what is more essential to agree on, and less important to agree on (..and Augustine’s famous quote regarding this comes to mind). For instance, on which Christian writings, or books, should be considered canonical is a rather small item, because the various Churches were familiar with different texts. But on the understanding of the Eucharist, it was a very essential item, as it dealt with the daily, and weekly, liturgies held by Christians at that time. In the early second century, the Montanist’s ,for example, were allowing women to consecrate and distribute the Eucharist as priests do. And, this was one reason why they were termed as a heretical and apostate organization. Also, above, we have Cyprian teaching on the Eucharist and it’s Catholic and orthodox understanding and practices, when he says:

            “For Christ is the bread of life […] And we ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ, and daily receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation, may not, by the interposition of some heinous sin, by being prevented, as withheld and not communicating, from partaking of the heavenly bread, be separated from Christ’s body […]”

            So we see the gravity that Cyprian uses concerning the Eucharist, and mentions it as being something that can separate one from “Christ’s body”…which is extremely serious.

            Moreover, I think that you would agree with me that most Protestants have a very different view regarding this teaching, above, of St. Cyprian on the Eucharist. So, this is just one example of many, on how disagreement can occur on varying levels, or degrees, of importance in the Church. And this is to say, that it might be normal for a Christian to discount 5% of what St. Cyprian teaches, but to contradict 30% would probably be considered ‘heretical’ and outside ‘Catholic’ belief. So, we can fairly well test the ‘orthodoxy’ level of our Christian belief by gauging our degree of acceptance of the major doctrinal elements taught by the Early Church Fathers, and especially those doctrines concerning the Eucharist, Baptism, Penance, the Forgiveness of sins, Church organization and Ordinations,…etc… Small deviations regarding understanding might be acceptable, but major deviations can be considered outside the boundaries of Catholic belief…which is heretical.

            Best to you.

          2. Hi Al,

            This is to say, that I might believe 95% of what St. Cyprian teaches, and be unsure on the rest. But you might believe only 25% of what he is teaching and disagree the other 75%.

            Sure, that’s possible. It’s also possible that the stats run the other direction, and that you’re the one who diverges from him by a greater degree; it seems to me that rejecting the concept of the papacy itself would have some pretty significant knock-on effects regarding modern Catholic doctrine.

            More specifically, whatever the degree of agreement or disagreement, it’s enough of a difference that your denomination declares anyone who continues to teach as he did to be anathema. I don’t think you can fairly use a man who (teaching today as he did in life) would of necessity be Protestant to condemn Protestantism.

            ***

            I don’t really want to get into yet another Eucharist conversation, but let me take a moment to address comments on unity. I think it’s great to seek for the unity of the church, and that’s a wish of ours as well; God grant we all can have the mind of Christ, and in being united with him be likewise united with each other. But if the RCC would reject me for teaching exactly what Cyprian taught, then clearly we both believe there are issues more important than unity: that adherence to the truth of God comes first.

            As is right and proper! But then here’s my question: so, we as Protestants are firmly convinced that the revealed truth of God is different from that taught by the Catholic church. Given a person in that position – a person who, in prayer and study, remains firmly convinced that this is true – what should that person do? Can you really say that the morally upright thing for him to do is to join a church that he believes teaches contrary to God’s truth?

            Surely not. So criticize us for our conclusions being wrong – by all means let’s have that conversation! But you agree that we should reject false teachers in the church, even at the expense of unity; it’s exactly what you do when you reject us. Don’t criticize us for hewing to that same principle.

          3. Hi Irked,

            You said:

            “…it seems to me that rejecting the concept of the papacy itself would have some pretty significant knock-on effects regarding modern Catholic doctrine.”

            I haven’t studied this exact claim that you make of Cyprian’s outright rejection of ‘Rome’s primacy’, but I do know that Cyprian did indeed write in support of Rome’s authority, here:

            “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven . . . ’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. . . . If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith?” (Catholic Answers website)”

            *************************************

            And here is a commentary and explanation on the erroneous idea of a pope being a type of ‘Bishop of Bishops’ from Catholic.com.
            https://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=721776 . See Below:

            *************************************

            “There is a palpable distinction between the concept of a “bishop of bishops” and a “head bishop.” A bishop in Catholic ecclesiology has the prerogative to act unilaterally for the good of his local Church, and all power in the diocese is delegated from him. A “bishop of bishops” thus implies that there is only one real bishop in the Church, and all other bishops don’t have any power except what that one bishop delegates to them. It is why Popes have consistently refused the title “universal bishop,” because such a title implies that the Church only has one real bishop. This is the fantastic error of the Absolutist Petrine view. (Today’s Absolutist Petrine advocates are wily: they will admit that bishops have real authority in and of themselves, but when pressed, they will claim the exact opposite – that the Pope has the authority to replace any single bishop in his diocese unilaterally on his mere discretion, and override any bishop in the daily affairs of his diocese, acting as if his brother bishop has no real authority; they will also claim that the Pope’s power is not unlimited, but when pressed, it turns out all they mean is that the Pope cannot violate divine law, but that in all else, he is an absolute monarch who can replace or override the authority of any single bishop in his local diocese on his mere discretion.)

            So different from this exaggerated and erroneous conception of the papacy, a “head bishop” always works with his brother bishops, and does not lord it over them. He is the servant of the servants of God, instead of the absolute monarch over them. A head bishop operates under the prescription of the ancient Apostolic Canon, being conscious of the necessity and importance of his office for the Church as a whole, but at the same time conscious of the necessity and importance of the office of his brother bishops as well for the Church as a whole.

            Whereas a “bishop of bishops” is as an absolute monarch whose supreme authority can be used according to his mere discretion, a “head bishop” is as a president whose supreme authority can only be used when it is actually needed by the Church. Sts. Stephen and Firmilian had justification in their complaint that Pope St. Stephen was acting like a “bishop of bishops” instead of a “head bishop.” Pope St. Stephen abused his personal authority by attempting to act unilaterally instead of collegially.

            In short, a Low Petrine advocate will use this incident to claim the Pope has no real authority (neglecting the fact that the same St. Cyprian appealed to the Pope to excommunicate other bishops). An Absolutist Petrine advocate will use this incident to claim the Pope has absolute, unilateral authority to excommunicate (neglecting the fact that many otherwise orthodox bishops challenged such an action). A High Petrine advocate will see in this incident the necessity for the Pope to act as a “head bishop,” not as a “bishop of bishops”- striving for unity through agreement, not overlordship. The High Petrine view does not see the Pope as a micromanager with unilateral power, but as the court of final appeal, in the context of a divine constitution that keeps in mind and respects the authority of his brother bishops.”

            (from a Catholic comment from an apologist named Marduk at Catholic.com)

          4. Hi Al,

            I haven’t studied this exact claim that you make of Cyprian’s outright rejection of ‘Rome’s primacy’, but I do know that Cyprian did indeed write in support of Rome’s authority, here:

            So I see a lot there about Peter. As I understand it, Catholicism asserts both that Peter had primacy, and that this primacy was inherited by the bishop of Rome. I’m not contesting what Cyprian thought about the former, but there’s nothing in your quote where he suggests the latter.

            (Also, Catholic Answers neglects to mention that Cyprian later revised The Lapsed – from which your quote comes – to make it entirely clear that he was not attributing such authority to the current bishop of Rome.)

            By contrast, I quoted you a bit that explicitly denied any such authority – a quote that comes from the 256 AD Council of Carthage, called by Cyprian in direct contradiction of Stephen, bishop of Rome. He’s not on your side in this – and I don’t think you can use a man who rejected the papacy as an argument against Protestantism.

            And here is a commentary and explanation on the erroneous idea of a pope being a type of ‘Bishop of Bishops’ from Catholic.com.
            https://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=721776 . See Below:

            I mean, we can invent all kinds of after-the-fact, no-citations-given definitions of “bishop of bishops” that strip it of any kind of teeth, sure. But this is a statement Cyprian makes as part of an outright denial of the bishop of Rome’s judgment, as part of a series of councils that three times flatly repudiate Stephen’s teachings on matters of faith and morals – specifically, on who is and is not part of the church! It’s not really unclear whether he thinks the bishop of Rome has superior authority on this point; if you can read him say, “But let us all wait for the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only one that has the power both of preferring us in the government of His Church, and of judging us in our conduct there,” and conclude that he would have accepted current Catholic doctrines regarding the papacy, I got nothin’ else.

            ***

            I would appreciate it if we could have this discussion with each other, and not with page-long quotes from other people.

        2. In my own experience, there are a few reasons for this:
          1. We did not have an understanding of Newman’s development of doctrine. In reading the various books I read, I assumed that, “Unless this guy directly prays to Mary, the immaculately conceived Queen of all heaven and earth who was assumed into heaven, then he can’t be said to hold the Catholic doctrines about Mary-the Catholic doctrines about Mary cannot be said to be held from the beginning.” So, Catholics did not believe in transubstantiation until the Council of Trent, or in the Immaculate Conception until the 1850s. Therefore, if I read about people who held to simpler similar doctrines, that did not necessitate belief in the Catholic doctrines.

          2. It was a normal experience to disagree with authors. While our church was going through a work of Richard Foster, we gained a lot of fruit. We disagreed with and ignored his Quaker emphasis on the “inner light,” but that did not stop us from reading and gaining from his work. Because there is no official interpreter of Jesus’ statement about the sin against the Holy Spirit (which, we Catholics know as despairing of forgiveness), there was this idea that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit meant that you looked at some working of the Spirit’s grace in someone and rejected it as “not of God.” While a person may embrace some error, if the Holy Spirit was working in them and we rejected them because of the error, then we were in a sense committing this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. We of course rejected the errors present, but to not listen to and dismiss the Christian as worthless was very rarely done. Sure, Augustine had some “interesting” ideas about the Church, Mary, et cetera, but to not read him because of those doctrines? While I did avoid certain authors (think St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s Glories of Mary), they had to be pretty crazy for me to dismiss them as if God was not working in them.

          3. Along with all that, we were people who trust the text/scholars. If the footnote says it, it is probably true. In the edition of the Apostolic Fathers I own by Michael Holmes, 1 Clement begins “The Church of Rome to the Church in Corinth.” There is a footnote which reads essentially that this occurs in one of the ancient texts. All of the other ones begin with Clement naming himself. But, “because there was not a monarchial episcopate in Rome until much later,” this one text must be more accurate. Now, looking back on it, I know he sounds ridiculous and reaching. But to someone who trusts scholars and their work, when I first read it, I thought nothing of it. Or think of the most common translations of the fathers out there online, the Ante-Nicene, and the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series by Philip Schaff. It was arranged, translated, and edited by a modernist Presbyterian. Looking at the version of On the Unity of the Church by St. Cyprian available online, there are huge parts relegated to footnotes (which you don’t even get on New Advent most of the time)-all of them about the primacy of Peter. And, while I eventually got to the Catholic faith reading them, it took a while. Why? Because the Eucharistic homilies by St. Augustine are pretty well hidden or not available, the only treatise of St. John of Damascus available in that collection On the Orthodox Faith does not have much exclusively Catholic material [and the homilies on the Dormition are not easy to find], et cetera.

          So combine all those. What is the most commonly read work of all the Fathers? Augustine’s Confessions. While he does explicitly call the group of Christians he joins Catholics, there is not much else that is directly out there. While he prays for his dead mother and is inspired by an Egyptian monk, he never directly calls it purgatory and God can work in different ways at different times (meaning, monasticism can be a way that followers of Christ followed back then, but it does not necessarily mean that it needs to be that way today.) And, depending on its presentation/commentary/et cetera, even these few Catholic distinctives can easily be overlooked.

          1. Hi Anthony,

            Thanks for sharing your own development toward Catholicism. Love the granddad. Your mom’s dad?

            One point: If Protestants (or you personally) didn’t understand the idea of “doctrinal development” within the Catholic system (i.e.,the Assumption, etc.), then HOW did/does Protestantism justify its very own doctrinal development??

          2. Margo,
            The father of my father’s mother.
            “then HOW did/does Protestantism justify its very own doctrinal development??”
            Two positions:
            1. A lot of the time, they are simply unaware of it. For example, most of the people I knew in the conservative leaning (essentially Evangelical) UM Church believed in pretribulation premillennialism (Christ will rapture believers away just before a seven year tribulation, after which He would establish a literal thousand year reign on the earth.) But when I and a few of my friends became aware that this teaching was not taught anywhere by anyone before the 1850’s in America, we corrected (not sure what they ended up believing after that, but we did reject the novelty.)
            2. The other response is to say that they are not developed, that they are not novel doctrines, or fuller realizations of doctrines, but that it is the restoration of something that is lost. Starting with Luther, we claimed that the original gospel was restored to the Church, after it had been modified/paganized/watered-down. A good analogue is the charismatic movements in the different churches. While the Azusa Street revival was doing things that were considered novel, strange, et cetera, they claimed to be restoring something that had fallen out of use.

        3. “So, do Protestants only support a ‘sliver’ of the theology to these Church Fathers…overlooking the majority of their other teachings? And if Protestants are against the majority of the teachings of these Fathers, then why would they trust anything that they write?”

          I see Irked hasn’t answered that at all.

          That’s why a mega-church in South America refused to open any “Theological Seminary” even after decades, and millions of, conversions to their “prosperity theology”. They don’t trust theology, much less traditional Christian thought. They just don’t believe in “theology”, just like all “non-denominational” and “multi-confessional” Protestant theological colleges. Of course there are levels of rejection; theirs is just an extreme level. Protestant theological thought in the 20th-21st century is either bland, abstract and prolix, all-encompassing gibberish, or Fundamentalist anti-rationalist non-sense. Not that I openly embrace Catholic dogma anymore, though. On the contrary. But 90% of Protestants nowadays are incapable of reading any Church Father and finding anything useful there. They’ll just find ‘Catholic heretics’, or else they’ll claim that those thinkers were proto-protestants, picking and choosing quotations and making them contradict themselves. If it’s up top them, pre-reformation Christian thinkers were just a bunch of schizophrenics. Or, more often, they’ll tell you it’s useless “tradition”, that all that’s important is how Jeeeeeeeeeeeezuz changes your life — health, finance, family, friends — to the better. It’s all about being psychologically happy, when we all know (atheists included) that we’re drowning in a “valley of tears”.

          1. KO, so what then is your issue with the Catholic Church? If I may ask, why did you leave Her?

          2. Matthewp, thanks for asking. My issue with the Catholic Church is a long one. I once thought that apologetics would make me more of a Catholic, but instead, I learned to despise Protestants (most of the time) because they make Christianity according to their own self-image and most times are so self-righteous that it is nauseating (reverend Dark Hans from this forum is an exception, whereas Craig Truglia is a good example of the self-righteous bigot). I also learned and put everyone on the same level: Hinduism, Wicca, Paganism, Native-American beliefs, Christianity, all the way to Ufology. (Islam is on a lower level, though.) The issue is, I painstakingly learned that if I don’t believe 100% in the Catholic dogmas, I’m a heretic, and I that if I know I’m a heretic and persevere in that, I’ll be damned (not that I believe in damnation anymore, though). I won’t even start listing things I don’t believe in. Most people go on with their lives and either not care or just believe it’s not important. I’m sure where I live, in a predominantly Catholic nation (things are changing for the worse, but Catholics are still the majority), most people couldn’t care less about what the Pope and the church teach about divorce, homosexuality, hell, the historicity of the Bible, sex, the evolution (though on this matter we’re better than the ilk of Craig’s fundamentalism), papal primacy etc. What they think is that religion is a way of doing good deeds, and people who do good deeds go to heaven. Simple as that. But, taking seriously the argument that I’d better leave the Church if I didn’t believe in X, Y or Z, then I thought, “Wow, I don’t believe in 90% of what the Church teaches, so I’d better leave, better sooner than later”. I realize that most Protestants are usually historically illiterate, if not downward stupid (Lutherans and Anglicans notwithstanding). That’s why I take issue with them: I find them funny, annoyingly anti-rational, overwhelmingly emotional. Apologetics, specially the Protestant variety, is not scholarship, just a bunch of crap. Otherwise, apologetics forums just helped me clarify what I didn’t believe in.

    4. And not only the early Catholic fathers! No kidding, I learned everything I know about child rape, coverups, victim abuse, and rising to the highest levels of the Vatican on a long trail of ugly scandal from studying the ministry of Cardinal Pell. No wonder Pope Francis made Pell the third highest ranking clergy in all of Catholicism, the guy’s a genius!

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/30/world/australia/cardinal-george-pell-australia-scandal-catholic-church.html

  2. It’s clear that Jesus intended for there to be communities of Christians. It’s also clear he intended them to be instructed by his apostles, which today we would call clergy. So far, so good.

    But where did Jesus suggest that there should be a clerical hierarchy? Where did he say that his apostles should have ranks, titles, costumes, offices, budgets and other trappings of the clerical bureaucracy? Where did Jesus teach that Christian communities should create a trillion dollar real estate empire that spans the globe? When did Jesus, a carpenter, teach that Christian communities should spend huge sums of money constructing fancy church buildings that sit empty most of the time?

    The Jewish clergy of Jesus’s day was in to all of this structure, and Jesus was very informed about it. But he chose not to be part of it. And as best I can tell, he said and did nothing in his ministry to try to create such bureaucratic structures.

    And so, all this back and forth between Catholics and Protestants about who is the truest Christian seems just so much bunk.

    Both parties willingly and knowingly completely ignore what Jesus himself did in his own time, and what he didn’t do. Both parties willingly and knowingly read in to the New Testament whatever it they want to see there. Both parties willingly and knowingly have their bureaucratic structures, their vast real estate holdings, their clerical ranks, titles and costumes. And both parties willingly and knowingly spend vast fortunes constructing elaborate church buildings using money that might have been invested in the needy instead.

    You’re all squabbling over penny ante nonsense. And that too is not what Jesus did.

    1. Jesus never taught any of that.

      It’s human nature to “organize” stuff, it makes it easier to use and understand what you’re dealing with if there is some system of organization. It’s a recipe for chaotic anarchy if you don’t have some sort of organization.

      No one told anyone to organize books in libraries by category and by author, they just do it, because it works. No one told anyone to organize cars by “make and model,” that just how it’s done, because it works.

      “The Jewish clergy of Jesus’s day was in to all of this structure…”

      The Jewish of clergy of Jesus’s day had been developing for over 1,000 years, anything 1,000 is going to have some organization to it.

      “knowingly spend vast fortunes constructing elaborate church buildings using money that might have been invested in the needy instead.”

      You know that Judas is the patron saint of social justice, right? (John 12: 4-6 for reference..)

  3. Regarding the ‘Lord’s Prayer’, there is also a commentary/ paraphrase on it commonly attributed to the great St. Francis of Assisi…to add to Joe’s collection. Here is a modern translation, for those interested. It provides some interesting insights, as do the commentaries of St. Cyprian and St. Augustine:

    ***************************************************************************

    “Our Father: Most holy, our Creator and Redeemer, our Saviour and our Comforter.

    Who art in Heaven: In the angels and in the saints: You give them light so that they may have knowledge, because You, Lord, are light; You inflame them so they may love, because you, Lord, are love. You live in them continually and fill them so that they may be happy, because You, Lord, are the supreme good, the eternal good, it is from You all good comes, and without you there is no good.

    Hallowed be Thy Name: May our knowledge of you become ever clearer, so that we may realize the extent of your benefits, the steadfastness of your promises, the sublimity of your majesty, and the depth of Your judgments.

    Thy Kingdom come: So that You may reign in us by Your grace and bring us to Your Kingdom, where we shall see you clearly, love You perfectly, be happy in your presence, and enjoy you forever.

    Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven: That we may love you with our whole heart by always thinking of you; with our whole mind by directing all of our intentions towards you and seeking your glory in everything; and with all our energies and affections of soul and body in the service of your love alone. And may we love our neighbors as ourselves, encouraging them all to love you as best we can, rejoicing at the good fortune of others, just asif it were our own, and sympathizing with their misfortunes, while giving offence to no one.

    Give us this day our daily bread: Your own Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to remind us of the love he showed for us and to help us understand and appreciate it and everthing that he did or saidor suffered.

    And forgive us our trespasses: In Your infinite mercy and by the power of the Passion of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, together with the merits and intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the saints.

    As we forgive those that trespass against us: And, if we do not forgive perfectly, Lord, make us to forgive perfectly, so that we may really love our enemies for the love of you, and pray fervently to you for them, returning no one evil for evil, anxious only to serve everybody in you.

    And lead us not into temptation: Hidden or obvious, sudden or unforseen.

    But deliver us from evil: Present, past or future. Amen.”

    (Translation derived from St. Francis Omnibus of Sources” )

  4. Hi Irked,

    Can you please explain WHY you think Cyprian rejected the authority of Roman primacy, and what this has to do with the re-baptism controversy in the Church at that time, and especially regarding Novatian, Pope Cornelius, Pope Steven and Cyprian? And, do you think Cyprian supported any type of supposed ‘ana-baptist’ position during his time? I’ve read this ‘re-baptism history’ a year or two ago, and I found no reason why anyone would say that Cyprian was a rebel against the institution of the papacy. He might have had a different opinion than Pope Steven on the issue of re-baptism FOR A WHILE, as did many North African Bishops and martyrs…but in the end almost all of the North African Bishops ended up agreeing with Pope Steven. A similar thing happened with most of the other heresies in the early Church. There were proponents on both sides of almost any argument, including the ‘Judaism’ conflict described in the Acts of the Apostles. But, after much bitter strife, the Church largely maintained unity, leading up to the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea.

    So, if you have any statements that Cyprian was an ‘anti-papist’, can you please give me the references you are reading from. The Catholic Encyclopedia covers the ‘re-baptism’ conflict, the ‘anti-pope’ situation with Novation, and the Council of Carthage challenging Popes Cornelius and Steven …in a pretty thorough way. But in all of this, I haven’t found anything to suggest that Cyprian was an ‘anti-papist’ in any way.

    So, if you can lead me to a source to review, I’d appreciate it.

    – Al

    1. Hi Irked,

      I might make it simpler for you. Are you relying ONLY on the one short “Bishop of Bishops” quote you provided from the North African Synod of Carthage? Or are you including Cyprian’s writings and particularly “On the Unity of the Church”, wherein you think he supports an anti-papist ecclesiology?

      1. Hi Al,

        In how many places does Cyprian need to deny Roman primacy before we believe him?

        I don’t see that “On the Unity of the Church” speaks to the papacy at all. As I said before, there’s a great deal here about Peter; where in this letter does Cyprian teach that Peter’s authority as leader of the church is inherited by the Roman bishop?

    2. Al,

      I’m certainly not trying to claim any sort of “secret anabaptist” tradition – I find some of the chains of descent claimed to be pretty dubious. My point is, simply, that the fathers differed vigorously from the modern Roman church on many issues it now considers mandatory articles of faith – and that it seems hypocritical to hold as a bulwark against Protestants men who, if they continued now to teach as they did in life, would of necessity be Protestant.

      (Or, well, non-Roman Catholic; perhaps some of them could be Orthodox of some variety.)

      Cyprian is one such. And you find Cyprian’s view of the bishop of Rome in a number of places; look, for instance, at his 66th epistle, or his other letters to Stephen. See how Cyprian addresses Stephen as a peer: “Cyprian to his brother Stephen.” Surely, Stephen, you know what’s been told to you by “our fellow-bishops.” This is language used throughout his epistles: that the bishop of Rome and he stand on an equal spiritual plane, though he clearly appeals to the influence of his “dearest brother” in resolving matters.

      But that Cyprian talked to the bishop of Rome as a peer doesn’t really prove anything, so let’s go to the passage I quoted you upthread from the Council of Carthage. Look at the history here: Stephen appoints a pair of bishops. Cyprian promptly holds a pair of councils to deny that, in fact, these bishops are reappointed. Stephen flatly repudiates the councils’ judgment. Cyprian responds by holding a third Council of Carthage that repudiates Stephen’s judgment. It’s in that context – the context of a meeting held in repudiation of Stephen’s teaching and authority on these matters – that Cyprian says:

      “It remains, that upon this same matter each of us should bring forward what we think, judging no man, nor rejecting any one from the right of communion, if he should think differently from us. For neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops, nor by tyrannical terror does any compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience; since every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another. But let us all wait for the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only one that has the power both of preferring us in the government of His Church, and of judging us in our conduct there.”

      No bishop of bishops! No bishop with authority to judge another! No one above a bishop in the government of the church, save Christ himself. That simply does not unify with the First Vatican Council, no matter how one massages the meaning.

      And these are not accidental turns of phrase, of unclear meaning and context; they’re a direct response to Stephen, a direct rebuke of him exceeding his authority as one (very influential) bishop among many, made as part of the proceedings of a council designed specifically to contradict his teaching.

      (And comparatively, Cyprian is mild here. Have you read Bishop Fermilian’s letter to Cyprian regarding the same matter – the one where he compares Stephen to Judas? Where he says that Rome pretends to the authority of the apostles? The letter he writes to Cyprian as an ally of like mind?)

      And yet, despite all this, I think it’s misleading to call Cyprian anti-papist, for the simple reason that I don’t think there’s a papacy at this point. It seems to me that Cyprian is opposing the growing authority given to the bishop of Rome, and not a received doctrine of his primacy – and that he’d be horrified by Vatican I.

      This is the thing I was originally arguing: that we as Protestants too often concede the fathers to Catholicism, when in truth very many of them flatly denied doctrines now considered essential. Does that answer your question?

  5. Hi Irked,

    To understand St. Cyprian, St. Steven, Marcion of Arles and St. Firmilian …and their attitudes regarding the authority Rome (as the “chair of Peter”) it is necessary to know the whole history of what was going on back then during the ‘re-baptism controversy’ in the Church. And, of course this takes time to read through it. However, when reading their letters it is important to pay attention to not only their usage of terms honoring the pope at Rome as the ‘chair of Peter’, but also to note what these bishops are actually asking the Pope in Rome to do for them. In one case they ask Pope Steven to excommunicate a Bishop for them, even though that said Bishop iwas under their particular jurisdiction, and so, they themselves should have been the ones excommunicating the heretical Bishop.

    A dialogue between Bishop Firmilian and Cyprian highlights a mutual attitude that they had for the office of the Pope back them, and it is good to highlight some of this correspondence between the two bishops. this can be found in potions of Letter 74 of Firmilian to Cyprian, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050674.htm.

    In it, we find bishop Firmilian complaining to Cyprian that Pope Steven is being too kind to the heretics who go to him from their dioceses to find help and an open ear from the pope. Firmilian is highly agitated that Pope Steven recognizes the baptisms of known heretics as valid, and says that by agreeing with the heretics Pope Steven is actually DEGRADING his own authority being that he sits in the ‘chair of St. Peter’.

    Here is what he said to Cyprian in the same Letter 74,above, Par. 16 &17:

    16. ” But what is the greatness of his error, and what the depth of his blindness, who says that remission of sins can be granted in the synagogues of heretics, and does not abide on the foundation of the one Church which was once based by Christ upon the rock, may be perceived from this, that Christ said to Peter alone, Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:19 And again, in the Gospel, when Christ breathed on the apostles alone, saying, Receive the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins you remit they are remitted unto them, and whose soever sins you retain they are retained. Therefore the power of remitting sins was given to the apostles, and to the churches which they, sent by Christ, established, and to the bishops who succeeded to them by vicarious ORDINATION. But the enemies of the one Catholic Church in which we are [my note: i.e.. heretics and apostates], and the adversaries of us who have succeeded the apostles, asserting for themselves, in opposition to us, unlawful priesthoods, and setting up profane altars, what else are they than Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, profane with a like wickedness, and about to suffer the same punishments which they did, as well as those who agree with them, just as their partners and abettors perished with a like death to theirs?

    17. And in this respect I am justly indignant at this so open and manifest folly of Stephen [my note: nothing wrong with this, I even complain about Pope Francis on occasion], that he who so boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church were laid, should introduce many other rocks and establish new buildings of many churches [my note: …helping the heretics]; maintaining that there is baptism in them by his authority. For they who are baptized, doubtless, fill up the number of the Church. But he who approves their baptism maintains, of those baptized, that the Church is also with them. Nor does he understand that the truth of the Christian Rock is overshadowed, and in some measure abolished, by him when he thus betrays and deserts unity. (my note: here Firmilian is defending the authority of Rome, and complaining that Steven is actually damaging it by his leniency to the heretics] The apostle acknowledges that the Jews, although blinded by ignorance, and bound by the grossest wickedness, have yet a zeal for God. Stephen, who announces that he holds by succession the throne of Peter, is stirred with no zeal against heretics”

    ************************************************

    In the above passage we note that Firmilian claims in the first few sentences that the power to forgive sins was given by Christ to the apostles and then was passed on to their successors by ordination. You can see some of my own notes provided next to important text.
    Firmilian, above, also says “Peter alone” was the foundation of the one Church, having the power of ‘binding and loosing’ with authority.
    And moreover, he no where disagrees with the idea of Peter having left a “throne” or seat..or ‘chair’ to be filled by a successor bishop in Rome.

    To the contrary, Firmilian above, is MOST concerned that the authority that he recognizes that the ‘ chair of Peter’ possesses…. will be degraded or damaged through too much communion with heretics who seek favors and support from the Pope at Rome. And surely both firmilian and Clement were familiar with former bishops of Rome who exerted power in the Church from holding the seat of St. Peter. Irenaus wrote on Pope Clement I demonstrating papal authority, when when Pope Clement was requested to help resolve the disruptions occurring at Corinth via his 1st epistle to the Corinthians. And, also, about 100 years later with Pope Victor’s demand that the Pascal feast (Easter) be celebrated on the date that the Roman Church mandated, as was demanded against the Churches throughout all Asia. And even though Irenaus was able to dissuade Pope Victor, the power of the Papacy was demonstrated in action…even at that early date..around 190 AD. So, we have some precedent of papal authority leading up to the the Cyprian/Pope Steven controversy, and both Firmilian and Cyprian were well aware of such precedence. It is revealed in both their language and their petitions when dealing with the Pope.

    There is more interesting info. on this topic, and history, but I better leave other items for another comment, as this one is already too long.

    Best to you.

      1. Hi Al, Awlms, and Irked,

        Y’all are engaged in a great discussion from my seat in the grandstands. If any of you fellows run out of catalyst for your fireworks, here is a scholarly piece to use as fuel. Author Dom John Chapman uses Cyprian’s epistles, Firmilian’s letters, Augustine’s view, etc. as evidence to support his views. There is mention of White, Webster vs. Stephen Ray.

        http://www.biblicalcatholic.com/apologetics/num44.”

        “Cyprian…was a practical man, without philosophy or theology. His generalisations are working rules for the moment, and do not apply beyond the circumstances with regard to which he framed them. His outlook was extremely narrow, and his logic was very short-sighted. In his passionate anger at Pope Stephen’s unreasonableness (as he thought it), he argues as though the Roman tradition were heresy of the most absurd and blasphemous character, but he adds that every bishop is free to hold it if he pleases — the Roman view cuts at the root of Church unity, and thus at the ground of all truth and of all authority, but it would be wrong to break with a bishop who holds it — baptism by heretics defiles instead of cleansing, yet the bishop is to rebaptize or not as he thinks fit!….

        “….The measures he took in the case of the lapsed are based on propriety, prudence and kindliness, rather than upon theological principles. Not that he cannot argue from principle; on the contrary, he lays down the law and deduces the conclusion, without seeing how far it may lead him. He never perceives that his theory of the independence of bishops leads to anarchy, and could not be acted upon for a single year. He does not realise that his doctrine of church unity has led him into heresy and into schism. When tradition is quoted against him, his answer is ready: So much the worse for tradition! What would Irenaeus, what would Tertullian have said to such a doctrine?….

        “….Cyprian never quite took in the situation; he never realized, as Firmilian realized at once, that here was a command from one who meant to be obeyed, or he would have denied his credentials. I think he is quite convinced that the Pope has some undefined sphere of authority, but he must not interfere with the rights of bishops as exercised at Carthage!

        More on Cyprian’s “Theory of the Episcopate”
        Cyprian must, I think, have been at the moment blinded by rage against Stephen, for he heard only one side, and yet declared that Stephen had been basely deceived! He sees that Stephen gave a formal sentence; but he never denies his right to do so. Yet his decision is that the judgment is incorrect, and therefore need not be attended to; the rights of the other side remain what they were. This is bad law….

        ….I fear it was the shortness of his experience which made it possible to put forward a theory which no one has ever held before or since. This is why I think “St. Cyprian’s theory of the episcopate” is of no importance except for his own biography. No one else has ever held it, and Cyprian himself held it only as a practical determination: “I will be master in my own diocese,” and did not push it to its ultimate results; he did not see where it must lead and he did not apply it to other bishops.

        1. Hi Margo,

          Interesting article! While I might disagree with some of his side points, it seems like he does agree more-or-less with my contention: Cyprian doesn’t think the bishop of Rome has authority over the other bishops. (He just thinks Cyprian was wrong.)

          Your link doesn’t seem to work, though?

    1. Al,

      In one case they ask Pope Steven

      If you give me an original-source citation with a reference, and I’ll be glad to address the excommunication of Novatian or whomever you like.

      And moreover, he no where disagrees with the idea of Peter having left a “throne” or seat..or ‘chair’ to be filled by a successor bishop in Rome.

      Sure. Peter had been (so they believed) the bishop of Rome; these men now were likewise. That does not imply that “Peter’s seat” – his office – conveyed what they saw as Peter’s unique authority; where, anywhere, do they suggest that’s true?

      Because it’s easy to find places where they’re dismissive of that idea, starting in that very letter: Stephen as Judas, Stephen’s pretense to the authority of Peter, that Stephen contends that he holds the succession. These are not things you say of someone who legitimately does have that authority; if you really are what you claim to be, you don’t have a pretense of it. The passage you cite says, “Look at how great Peter was, and what authority he had! And now there’s this jerk – who has the temerity to claim that, because he sits in Peter’s office, he has Peter’s authority. Can you believe this?”

      There’s no defense here of the actual authority of Peter’s successors; there’s a righteous indignation that these men, despite their moral shortcomings, would falsely claim to have the sort of authority Peter had.

      And this indignation comes as Firmillian and Cypiran are, by their actions, outright denying Stephen’s authority to do what he’s done. I don’t think there’s any great puzzle here, or any deep mystery of what they meant when they turned to a man who claimed authority over them and said, “There is no bishop of bishops, no church authority over us save Christ himself,” and then agreed in council to ignore everything he’d said on a matter of faith and morals.

      These men oppose Stephen’s “contention” that he holds the authority of Peter! And in doing that, they oppose Vatican I. They are not on your side.

      Here, let’s make this a little bit more concrete: what of the things that Stephen did, that the Councils of Carthage condemned, did Stephen not have authority to do by virtue of his office as bishop of Rome? In what did they rightly repudiate him, not for acting maybe unkindly, but for actually exceeding his authority? Because if the answer is “Nothing,” then you cannot possibly defend their statements in defense of this repudiation.

      my note: nothing wrong with this, I even complain about Pope Francis on occasion

      Okay. Do you, like Firmillian, compare him to Judas? Do you think that’s appropriate language to use of “the head of the whole church, and father and teacher of all Christian people?”

      And, also, about 100 years later with Pope Victor’s demand that the Pascal feast (Easter) be celebrated on the date that the Roman Church mandated, as was demanded against the Churches throughout all Asia.

      You know, I’m glad you brought that up. Let’s see what Cyprian has to say about Rome determining Easter, in his 74th epistle:

      “But they who are at Rome do not observe these things in all cases which are handed down from the beginning, and vainly pretend to the authority of the apostles; anyone may know also from the fact, that concerning the celebration of Easter, and concerning many other sacraments of divine matters, he may see that there are some diversities among them, and that all things are not observed among them alike, which are observed at Jerusalem, just as in very many other provinces also many things are varied because of the places and names.”

      Pffft, Rome, says Cyprian. They don’t even do Easter the way it’s supposed to be done, the way everybody else does; where do they get off pretending to apostolic authority?

      He’s not on your side in this!

      1. I am repeating my comments because I used the wrong formatting. It get’s tougher for an old man to remember formatting on multiple websites.

        Hi Irked,

        I see several problems with your reading of Cyprian that you seemingly have not considered. Hear are some comments you made with a reply from the link above.

        You said:

        Because it’s easy to find places where they’re dismissive of that idea, starting in that very letter: Stephen as Judas, Stephen’s pretense to the authority of Peter, that Stephen contends that he holds the succession. These are not things you say of someone who legitimately does have that authority; if you really are what you claim to be, you don’t have a pretense of it. The passage you cite says, “Look at how great Peter was, and what authority he had! And now there’s this jerk – who has the temerity to claim that, because he sits in Peter’s office, he has Peter’s authority. Can you believe this?”

        The reply:

        MARTYR’S CERTIFICATES

        In his own diocese Cyprian had to deal with a widespread threat to the Church’s discipline. Confessors (those being punished by the state for not renouncing the faith) and martyrs awaiting execution were usurping the authority of the bishop.

        Under intense persecution by the Roman government, many Christians had lapsed or apostatized, thereby coming under the Church’s ban. After the persecution abated, the lapsed who repented would obtain from the martyrs and confessors certificates requesting the bishop to reduce or cancel the punishment due them. It was the bishop’s responsibility to evaluate the sincerity of the penitents. The bishop also had to decide what effect the confessors’ and martyrs’ certificates should have on the penance of the lapsed.

        (Note this fact. What the Catholic Church teaches today about “indulgences” she was teaching and practicing in Cyprian’s time. The granting of indulgences is made possible by the solidarity of the Mystical Body of Christ. By virtue of that solidarity, the sufferings of some members of the Body have the power to lessen the punishment of other members of the Body. This is precisely what the martyrs’ and confessors’ certificates were intended to do.)

        Imprudent confessors were ignoring the bishop and, on their own authority, freeing the lapsed from the prescribed penance. Cyprian believed, rightly, that this irregular procedure threatened the whole of the Church’s discipline. He wrote letters to several persons about this problem and sent copies of all the letters to Rome, asking the Roman clergy to consider what he had written.

        He addressed the Roman clergy rather than the pope because there had been no incumbent in the see of Peter for a couple of years: After the martyrdom of Pope Fabian (250), active government persecution had prevented the election of his successor. Yet Cyprian showed deference to the see of Peter even when it was vacant. He would take no final action with regard to reconciling the lapsed and apostates without consulting with Rom

        During the persecution, Cyprian himself had gone into hiding. Some of his people criticized his action and sent their complaint to the Roman clergy. (Why would Carthaginians take this matter to Rome, if the local churches were absolutely independent, as Eastern apologists assert?) [/strong]The Roman clergy wrote to Cyprian and asked for an explanation. Did Cyprian indignantly reject their request and assert his complete independence as a bishop? No. On the contrary, he sent the Roman clergy a defense of his conduct.

        Still another action on the part of the Roman clergy, when the see of Peter was vacant, reflects the primacy of Rome. In a letter to Cyprian’s archdeacon (bypassing Cyprian, bishop of the diocese), the Roman clergy told the Carthaginian clergy how they should deal with the lapsed. Did Cyprian condemn this action as interference infringing on his autonomous jurisdiction? Not at all. He wrote the Roman clergy that he had read their letter and in practice would uphold their opinion.

        Schismatics from Carthage went to Rome to join the schism of Novatian there. Cyprian denounced the wickedness of the Novatians in Rome and spoke scornfully of the Carthaginian schismatics who had gone to Rome, “the chair of Peter and to the principal [or ruling] church, whence episcopal unity has taken its rise.”

        Obviously Cyprian did not regard his own see, Carthage, as “the” or “a” chair of Peter. He said the schismatics who went to Rome were going to “the chair of Peter.”

        You said:

        And this indignation comes as Firmillian and Cypiran are, by their actions, outright denying Stephen’s authority to do what he’s done. I don’t think there’s any great puzzle here, or any deep mystery of what they meant when they turned to a man who claimed authority over them and said, “There is no bishop of bishops, no church authority over us save Christ himself,” and then agreed in council to ignore everything he’d said on a matter of faith and morals.

        The reply:

        ”SOVEREIGN RULING”

        This “chair of Peter,” said Cyprian, is “the principal Church.” Irenaeus had used these same words about Rome. Tertullian had defined the phrase to mean “that which is over anything, as the soul presides over and rules the body.” Cyprian called Tertullian his “master” and read his writings every day. We can assume that he followed his master in using “principal” to mean “sovereign ruling.”

        Speaking of the schismatics who had gone to Rome, Cyprian said, in effect, “They are wasting their time!” Not only is Rome the source of the Church’s unity (“whence episcopal unity has taken its rise”), the schismatics are wasting their time because the Romans—the “chair of Peter,” the pope—are “they to whom faithlessness can have no access.” This is an astonishing statement—astonishing, that is, outside the context of papal infallibility. But we must assume that Cyprian meant what he said.

        You said;

        No bishop of bishops! No bishop with authority to judge another! No one above a bishop in the government of the church, save Christ himself. That simply does not unify with the First Vatican Council, no matter how one massages the meaning.

        The reply:

        In practice Cyprian contradicted his own teaching about the independence of each bishop. When Marcion, bishop of Arles, left the Church’s communion and joined the schismatic Novatians, the bishops of the province wrote to the pope asking him to take action. (If they were independent of Rome, why did they not take action themselves?)[/strong] The action required was for the pope to excommunicate Marcion and appoint a replacement. For unknown reasons, the pope delayed his response. Faustinus, bishop of Lyons, wrote to Cyprian about the matter, seeking his advice.

        Cyprian thereupon wrote to the pope, urging him to take action. His letter implies that the pope was the one—the only one—to set matters straight in Arles. He urged the pope to write “letters of plenary authority [literally ‘most full letters’] by means of which, Marcion being excommunicated, another may be substituted in his place.”

        Regardless of what Cyprian may have written about the independence of each bishop, here he clearly recognized the authority of the pope to remove and install bishops (for good cause) anywhere in the world.

        BAPTISM BY HERETICS

        It was Cyprian’s struggle with Pope Stephen over the subject of baptism by heretics which has most endeared Cyprian to Eastern Orthodox and Anglican apologists. It is also that.aspect of Cyprian’s career that caused the Donatists (fourth-century heretics) to claim him as patron saint of their position. Repeatedly to their chief opponent, Augustine, the Donatists quoted Cyprian. Augustine acknowledged Cyprian’s error, but emphasized Cyprian’s refusal to break with Rome.

        In his conflict with the schismatic Novatians, Cyprian drew the erroneous conclusion that baptism by heretics is invalid, contrary to the Church’s teaching. By the force of his personality and of at least three African councils that he dominated, Cyprian lined up the bishops of Africa behind his position. Rejection of heretical baptism was an innovation that found wide support in the East.

        On this issue, as on others, Cyprian’s thinking was confused. On the one hand he insisted that each bishop was perfectly free to decide whether to accept or reject baptism by heretics, since the issue was not doctrinal. At the same time, in vehemently expounding his position he invoked weighty dogmatic considerations. Cyprian sent Pope Stephen a report of the African synods, explaining that he and the synods had not laid down any law binding all the African bishops. He sent the report because he believed that the Pope should be consulted, even though this was not a doctrinal issue.

        The issue was whether persons outside the Church’s unity could baptize validly. Stephen ruled that they could, if they used the proper form. Persons who were baptized by heretics and who repented and returned to the Church were to be received by the laying-on of hands. Stephen’s answer to Cyprian makes it plain that his ruling is not a definition of faith, yet Stephen forbade rebaptism of those who had received heretical baptism and decreed excommunication for those who performed rebaptisms.

        In his reply to Cyprian’s report, Stephen reminded Cyprian that he (Stephen) was successor of Peter, whom Cyprian had extolled in his writing on unity and on whom Jesus Christ had founded his Church. Stephen further reminded Cyprian that he (Stephen) held the chair of Peter, about which Cyprian had written enthusiastically. Finally, Stephen called for Cyprian’s obedience.

        Immediately upon receiving Stephen’s reply, Cyprian dispatched legates to Rome to try to persuade the Pope to change his ruling. It was a most inopportune time for Cyprian to do this. The Pope was then contending with schismatic Novatians who were rebaptizing Catholics who joined them. The African legates would probably have been identified in people’s minds with the Novatians. This would have lent the eminent name of Cyprian to a heretical group.

        So, for the good of the Church and of Cyprian, Stephen refused to receive the legates, ordering them not to spend a single night in Rome. When the legates returned to Carthage, Cyprian sent messengers to the East to enlist support for his cause of rebaptism. He wrote to Firmilian, bishop of Cappadocia and partisan of Cyprian’s cause. Firmilian responded to Cyprian’s letter, and Stephen’s ruling, in a letter filled with indignation and bitterness. Yet Firmilian’s letter itself implicitly recognized the Pope’s authority. Firmilian expressed no indignation over Stephen’s emphasizing his role as Peter’s successor and his claim to what we call universal jurisdiction.

        If Stephen’s claim had not been universally accepted, Firmilian’s ultimate weapon against the despised ruling would have been to deny and reject papal authority. That weapon was not available to him, so all he could do was fulminate in bitterest terms.

        There is no evidence that either Cyprian or Firmilian was excommunicated. Did Cyprian accept Stephen’s decision and stop rebaptizing those who had received baptism from heretical hands? Jerome says the African bishops corrected their decision to rebaptize and “issued a new decree.” Augustine says the Easterners followed the Pope’s directive: “they rescinded their judgment, by which they had decided that it was right to agree with Cyprian and that African council.” In another place he writes that the Easterners “corrected” their judgment about rebaptism.

        Anti-papal apologist John Meyendorff asserts that this event was simply a regional reaction against incipient Roman centralization. There was nothing “incipient” about what Meyendorff calls Roman centralization, but which Catholics call papal universal jurisdiction. That jurisdiction had been exercised since the first century, as has been shown. Furthermore, the controversy was not about centralization at all, but about sacramental and ecclesiological issues of the deepest import.

        Eastern and Anglican apologists who rely on Cyprian’s controversy with Pope Stephen to support their case for independent national churches forget or ignore the key fact: Cyprian never even questioned, much less denied, the Pope’s authority to make his ruling and its penalty for non-observance. He only opposed the content of the ruling. Cyprian’s insistence on rebaptism was attractive to many minds. It seemed to safeguard Catholic truth by drawing a sharp line between orthodoxy and heresy. But papal universal jurisdiction and papal teaching authority made all the difference.

        In this controversy, “it needs only a few lines from the pen of the Pope to overthrow all that scaffolding of texts and syllogisms. The partisans of innovation may resist as they please, write letter after letter, assemble councils; five lines from the sovereign Pontiff will become the rule of conduct for the universal Church. Eastern and African bishops, all those who at first had rallied round the contrary opinion, will retrace their steps, and the whole Catholic world will follow the decision of the Bishop of Rome.”

        Irked, doesn’t it seem strange to you that on the issue of re-baptism, that the African bishops ended up doing what Stephen had told them to do, after all the protestations they made and holding a contrary view than Stephen?

        I have read that both St. Jerome and St. Augustine said that it was only the blood of Cyprian’s martyrdom that washed away the sin of his actions in dealing with Stephen.

        1. Hi Duane,

          That’s a lot of text to reply to all at once, and some of it… feels like it’s aimed at arguments that we aren’t making here? There’s just no way I can respond to everything ever written in defense of Catholicism simultaneously; by all means, write me a reply, but I’d appreciate it if we didn’t just turn this into a copy-paste war.

          A couple of things, though, and then maybe I can return to the other points. First, it’s very difficult to reply to quotes given without any context or citation; I don’t really want to dig through Cyprian’s epistles looking for the exact use you cite. If you’d like to use the things Ryland quotes, please give me references for them.

          Second:

          Yet Firmilian’s letter itself implicitly recognized the Pope’s authority. Firmilian expressed no indignation over Stephen’s emphasizing his role as Peter’s successor and his claim to what we call universal jurisdiction.

          With apologies to Ryland, this is simply not true. You’ve read Firmilian’s letter, right? In it, he speaks of “the manifest folly of Stephen, that he who so boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter…” should sin so greatly; he says that Stephen “who announces that he holds by succession the throne of Peter…” has no zeal for the church. Most clearly, he says that those in Rome “vainly pretend the authority of the apostles.”

          These are exactly the things you say he does not do: he mocks Rome’s presumptions. He flatly does reject in indignation the authority of the bishop of Rome over himself and Cyprian.

          Did Cyprian accept Stephen’s decision and stop rebaptizing those who had received baptism from heretical hands?

          I don’t think we can use “well, maybe this happened and we don’t know about it” as an argument in opposition to the actual historically-recorded words and deeds of Cyprian. Let’s judge the man by what he said and did – and what he said and did repeatedly denied the primacy of Rome.

          Furthermore, the controversy was not about centralization at all

          No one disputes that the rebaptism controversy was the start of the fight, but the quotes I’ve provided are directly aimed at Stephen’s centralizing actions during that controversy.

          Cyprian never even questioned, much less denied, the Pope’s authority to make his ruling and its penalty for non-observance.

          He literally does exactly that in the citation I have several times provided. No bishop of bishops! No higher authority save Christ himself!

          There is no evidence that either Cyprian or Firmilian was excommunicated.

          Yes. How odd that a man that openly defied the bishop of Rome should face no such punishment – nor even removal from his seat by that bishop! Perhaps this is because, as Cyprian says, the bishop of Rome had no authority to do these things to him.

          Or perhaps there are other reasons! But speculation makes poor opposition to Cyprian’s own words and actions on the subject.

          I have read that both St. Jerome and St. Augustine said that it was only the blood of Cyprian’s martyrdom that washed away the sin of his actions in dealing with Stephen.

          It… kinda seems like that proves my point – what “sin” did he commit, if not the one I’m pointing out?

          1. Hi Irked,

            You must read Firmilian, and all ECF’s carefully, something I am afraid you have not done.

            1.) With apologies to Ryland, this is simply not true. You’ve read Firmilian’s letter, right? In it, he speaks of “the manifest folly of Stephen, that he who so boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter…” should sin so greatly; he says that Stephen “who announces that he holds by succession the throne of Peter…” has no zeal for the church. Most clearly, he says that those in Rome “vainly pretend the authority of the apostles.”

            These are exactly the things you say he does not do: he mocks Rome’s presumptions. He flatly does reject in indignation the authority of the bishop of Rome over himself and Cyprian.

            I have read Firmilian’s letter, several times, and I have never once read into it, what you read into it. Actually, he mocks and calls into question that a person who would claim to hold the succession of Peter would hold such a viewpoint, not that the successor of Peter did not have universal jurisdiction. He does say that Stephen, in issuing his edict, proves himself not to be a true successor to Peter. You have read something into Firmilian, that is just not there.

            2.) I don’t think we can use “well, maybe this happened and we don’t know about it” as an argument in opposition to the actual historically-recorded words and deeds of Cyprian. Let’s judge the man by what he said and did – and what he said and did repeatedly denied the primacy of Rome.

            Actually, we do know what happened. We know from Cyprian that Stephen issued an edict which ordered obedience under pain of excommunication. We learn from Firmilian that Stephen based his edict on an appeal to his succession from Peter. We know that Cyprian was never excommunicated. And we know that the African Church stopped the re-baptizing of those that had been baptized by heretics, just as Stephen commanded. You do the math. Cyprian was not excommunicated because Africa aligned themselves with Rome!!!!

            He literally does exactly that in the citation I have several times provided. No bishop of bishops! No higher authority save Christ himself!

            In Cyprian’s epistle 66, he writes to Stephen to depose the bishop of Arles, and to appoint a new one.

            How can Cyprian ask Stephen to do this, if Cyprian does not believe that Stephen has universal jurisdiction?

            It… kinda seems like that proves my point – what “sin” did he commit, if not the one I’m pointing out?

            And it hurts your point. You must realize that both Firmilain and Cyprian had already seen the popes exercising universal jurisdiction at least once. I have read a Protestant historian who said that the abomination of universal jurisdiction is clear in Clement’s first epistle. Clement tells the Corinthians, who you would claim are not part of his jurisdiction, that to disobey what he had written would be a sin. You only command someone to obey you, if you believe you have jurisdiction over that person. Ergo, Clement believes he has jurisdiction over the Corinthians, and they must have believed it also, because they did what he commanded of them. Obviously, Augustine and Jerome felt that Rome had jurisdiction over Cyprian, and that his sin was at first opposing Stephen.

          2. Hi Duane,

            You must read Firmilian, and all ECF’s carefully, something I am afraid you have not done.

            I confess it’s becoming vexing to be told, “You disagree, so you must not be reading it correctly.” We can both say that.

            I have read Firmilian’s letter, several times, and I have never once read into it, what you read into it. Actually, he mocks and calls into question that a person who would claim to hold the succession of Peter would hold such a viewpoint, not that the successor of Peter did not have universal jurisdiction. He does say that Stephen, in issuing his edict, proves himself not to be a true successor to Peter. You have read something into Firmilian, that is just not there.

            So I stared at this for a while, and it finally clicked where our division is coming in. You’re reading a baseline of “Well, so everyone knew the bishop of Rome was Peter’s successor, and so Firmilian is only denying that Stephen specifically was part of this chain of descent.” I’m reading it as “Can you believe this guy claims to be the successor of Peter’s authority? Have you ever heard such a nutty thing in your life, particularly coming from a guy like that?” – without the underlying “but of course in general the successors of Peter have this authority.”

            We agree, it sounds like, that Firmilian denies that Stephen has this authority. On what do we ground the argument that he thought any of the other bishops of Rome had it?

            Follow-up: is it appropriate behavior for a bishop who disagrees with the official teaching of the bishop of Rome to reply, “Well, I disagree, and I don’t like your character, and so you aren’t really the pope?” Is that consistent with modern Catholic doctrine?

            Actually, we do know what happened. We know from Cyprian that Stephen issued an edict which ordered obedience under pain of excommunication. We learn from Firmilian that Stephen based his edict on an appeal to his succession from Peter. We know that Cyprian was never excommunicated. And we know that the African Church stopped the re-baptizing of those that had been baptized by heretics, just as Stephen commanded. You do the math. Cyprian was not excommunicated because Africa aligned themselves with Rome!!!!

            That’s an explanation that fits the facts, sure. There are others; an obvious one is that Stephen didn’t dare excommunicate Cyprian (as he did Firmilian), because of the political reality that it would have split the church – that too many people would not have acknowledged his claimed authority over Carthage. Another is that he did so, and we simply aren’t aware of it – to my knowledge, we only know about Firmilian’s excommunication through some fragments of Dionysius, so we have far from a complete record here. Another is that he simply died while still making up his mind on this point – his murder is less than a year after the third Council.

            But any of these is speculation; Cyprian’s words in council are not.

            In Cyprian’s epistle 66, he writes to Stephen to depose the bishop of Arles, and to appoint a new one.

            How can Cyprian ask Stephen to do this, if Cyprian does not believe that Stephen has universal jurisdiction?

            So there seem like a couple of possibilities here. One is that Cyprian felt, as Nicaea would later state, that each bishop of a major city controls a “sphere” of influence, and that Arles fell within Cyprian’s more than any other extant church. Another is that the move was effectively political: “Look, you excommunicate him, and those jokers in Gaul will have to fall in line.” No one denies that Rome was a very prominent and politically influential church, wielding enormous influence; it’s only her primacy that’s challenged.

            Another, and one seemingly close to that held by the Catholic scholar that Margo linked, is that Cyprian was simply inconsistent over time: he thought Rome could slap down lesser bishops, until Rome tried to slap down him and he had to rethink the whole idea of “lesser bishops.”

            Now I’d appreciate an answer to my question.

            And it hurts your point. You must realize that both Firmilain and Cyprian had already seen the popes exercising universal jurisdiction at least once. I have read a Protestant historian who said that the abomination of universal jurisdiction is clear in Clement’s first epistle. Clement tells the Corinthians, who you would claim are not part of his jurisdiction, that to disobey what he had written would be a sin.

            I’d appreciate a concrete citation of Clement and/or the unnamed Protestant historian on this point before pursuing this further.

            Obviously, Augustine and Jerome felt that Rome had jurisdiction over Cyprian, and that his sin was at first opposing Stephen.

            Sure. But that doesn’t tell us that Cyprian shared this belief, which is our topic of conversation; if anything, it tells us that he didn’t.

          3. One is that Cyprian felt, as Nicaea would later state, that each bishop of a major city controls a “sphere” of influence, and that Arles fell within Cyprian’s more than any other extant church.

            Derp, within Stephen’s.

      2. The problem is, that you seem to think that the entire scenario of the re-baptism conflict revolves around Rome’s powers of authority in the Church, but really, they are all really only trying to resolve a tricky question as to whether, or not, a heretic can baptise someone into the one true Church that Jesus founded. This is the focus of the whole controversy, NOT papal authority. Cyprian and Firmilian are arguing that heretics, because they have separated themselves from the Church through excommunication, they no longer have the authority to baptize new Christians into the ONE flock of Christ. And they see such baptisms as a great danger to the unity of the Church. So, it is Cyprian and Firmilian who are actually the most concerned about the damage to Church unity in all of this and it is shown in the quote I provided. You need to read it slowly. Here are an important portion to focus on, from passage 16, above, with my clarifications imbedded in brackets, below :

        “…the adversaries of us [those former Catholic bishops and priests who have become heretics and schismatics] who have succeeded the apostles [by their apostolic succession and ordinations], asserting for themselves, in opposition to us, unlawful priesthoods [ordaining priests after their own heretical doctrine unlawfully] , and setting up profane altars [celebrating an apostate Eucharist], what else are they than Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, profane with a like wickedness, and about to suffer the same punishments which they did, as well as those who agree with them, just as their partners and abettors perished with a like death to theirs? [God and truth are against these heretic priests and bishops and they will be punished by Him]

        17. And in this respect I am justly indignant at this so open and manifest folly of Stephen [because he is allowing all of this to happen, even though he has the authority to stop it by agreeing with our side…our side, which forbids such heretics to baptize and celebrate the Eucharist, because they are excommunicated from the one and only true Church], that he who so boasts of the place of his episcopate [defends his authority even to rejoicing in it, as indeed he possesses it], and contends that he holds the succession from Peter [again reinforcing his right to make decisions to resolve such difficult questions, ie..on whether heretics can baptize, or not] on whom the foundations of the Church were laid, should introduce [the Pope has this power, and he might actually wield it] many other rocks [allowing the establishment of heretical denominations…ie..such as Protestant type congregations] and establish new buildings of many churches [again, like Protestant type Churches]; maintaining that there is baptism in them by his authority. [That he, Pope Steven, indeed has such authority, but that his foolish (folly)decision is causing great damage to that that authority at the same time]

        So, Irked, this is really Cyprian’s and Firmilian’s complaint! They are disturbed that Pope Steven is, by his papal authority allowing heretic Churches to thrive throughout the world. Cyprian and Firmilian are complaining that Pope Steven is ABUSING his power and authority, he is basically allowing Protestants (ancient though they be) to LAWFULLY baptize new Christians. They don’t want them to be able to allow them to baptize or celebrate the Eucharist, thereby allowing weeds, or forged copies of the True Church to spread throughout the world..as Protestantism has done, thereby destroying the unity of the Church that Jesus founded on Peter.

        This is to say, if you support Cyprian and Firmilian, you are advocating for the ‘ultra orthodox’ side of ancient Christianity, which they were promoting. It was Pope Steven who was acting like a liberal back then, and being very lenient in the eyes of the more rigid, and orthodox, bishops, such as were Cyprian and Firmilian.

        It might be added, that Pope Steven WON the argument. And Firmilian and Cyprian agreed with him in the end.The Church now allows Protestants to baptize new Christians VALIDLY so long as they use the ‘trinitarian’ formula…ie..”in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. And Cyprian himself wrote a letter to Steven afterthe conclusion of the Council of Carthage, stating to Pope Steven:

        “…We have brought these things, dearest brother, to your knowledge, for the sake of our mutual honour and sincere affection; believing that, according to the truth of your religion and faith, those things which are no less religious than true will be approved by you.” (Cyprian, letter to Stephen, 3, 255 A.D.)

        I hope this helps you to understand better the entire scenario of what happened back then.

        – Al

        1. Hi Al,

          The problem is, that you seem to think that the entire scenario of the re-baptism conflict revolves around Rome’s powers of authority in the Church, but really, they are all really only trying to resolve a tricky question as to whether, or not, a heretic can baptise someone into the one true Church that Jesus founded.

          Again, no one denies that the rebaptism issue is the start of the controversy. But Cyprian objects both to Stephen’s claim to authority and to the particular application of that authority. The quotes are right there; he objects to the one in the context of the other.

          So, it is Cyprian and Firmilian who are actually the most concerned about the damage to Church unity in all of this and it is shown in the quote I provided.

          Yes. And they see Stephen as an enemy to that unity, by his opposition to his peer, Cyprian: “And yet on this account there is no departure at all from the peace and unity of the Catholic Church, such as Stephen has now dared to make; breaking the peace against you, which his predecessors have always kept with you in mutual love and honour.”

          We’re not debating his view of church unity. We’re debating his view of the bishop of Rome.

          So, Irked, this is really Cyprian’s and Firmilian’s complaint!

          Man, the specific passages I quoted to you don’t go away just because you quote other passages. Their complaint is both his judgment and his claim to authority, as they plainly, repeatedly, say.

          Cyprian and Firmilian are complaining that Pope Steven is ABUSING his power and authority,

          No. They say he is pretending to have the authority of Peter. They literally say this: “they who are at Rome… vainly pretend the authority of the apostles.”

          Nothing – nothing – you have cited has Cyprian make any acknowledgment that the bishop of Rome has authority over him. By contrast, I have cited you passages where Cyprian and Firmilian create councils denying the bishop’s rulings; where they call his claims to authority a “pretense”; where they say outright that there is no one save Christ to whom they must yield.

          Against this, you have quotes that say that, yes, they’re also very concerned about rebaptism, and places where Cyprian addresses Stephen politely, as a peer. That does not hold up against the man’s specific statements and actions in denial of the primacy of the bishop of Rome.

          ***

          So here’s the issue: Cyprian and his allies are not subtle here. By multiple letters, by multiple councils called and decrees repudiated, by explicit statement, they repudiate a doctrine – a doctrine they, at least, seem to see as an innovation, a pretense, a vain claim.

          A doctrine that Rome now considers mandatory, on pain of the anathema.

          And this is the problem. I don’t need the fathers to all agree with me; I don’t think those old boys ever all agreed with anybody on anything. But I don’t pronounce infallible judgment against most of their teachings. Can you tell me with a straight face that a bishop today could say what Cyprian said – could say there was no authority over him, no one who stood above bishops as bishops stand above parishioners but Christ alone, no one who could give judgment on his councils – and Rome would nod and say, “Yes, that’s fine doctrine, no problem here”?

          And yet it seems to me that you need Cyprian, because the Catholic Church’s central thesis is that you preserve the truth handed down by the testimony of the fathers: one unbroken line of succession, preserving a once-for-all received truth. If those same fathers flatly deny – if they mock – the things you now require… it seems like that’s kind of a problem for you guys. If the authority of the Roman bishop was still a matter of open debate, clearly denied by other influential bishops, two hundred years after Christ… then maybe it’s your denomination that’s left the path of the fathers, that’s introduced an innovation into the church in contradiction of their teachings.

          Why do you ignore the testimony of the fathers on this point? Or, if you’re against the testimony of Cyprian on this key issue, then why would you trust anything that he writes?

          1. To understand the issues we are discussing, it is essential to understand the whole story, and a lot of ancillary information is needed, not only a paragraph or two that can EASILY be taken out of context, or exaggerated. And so, I think you should consider the article that Shane provides below, because it includes a wealth of background information that needs to be considered.

            This article is a better response than any that I can give, because I haven’t yet received a doctorate degree in 3rd century Ciprianiology. Actually, I think I need to read this history a few more times as a starting point for some future studies on the subject.

            But, in any case, whether you believe in the authority of the Pope or not, as valid, you still find the Catholic Church at the time of Cyprian, to be filled with current Catholic custom and practice…that is, concerning the Eucharist, excommunications, Church jurisdictions canon law, Church ordinations, serious attempts to avoid Church schisms, fraternal correction and fraternal liberties afforded to Church priests and bishops,….and many other items. the Church really hasn’t changed that much since his times. The important things are the same.

            Best to you,

            – Al

          2. That’s …DUANE, below. Sorry. There is a poster Shane that also comments here. But….great resource that you provided!

          3. To understand the issues we are discussing, it is essential to understand the whole story, and a lot of ancillary information is needed, not only a paragraph or two that can EASILY be taken out of context, or exaggerated. And so, I think you should consider the article that Shane provides below, because it includes a wealth of background information that needs to be considered.

            I have already addressed the article, in Duane’s reposting of it just above. In brief, it factually misrepresents Cyprian and Firmilian’s actual remarks, ignoring places where they do exactly the things it asserts they don’t.

            If you think we need further context to understand Cyprian’s denial of any church authority above the level of bishop, made during a council whose purpose was to repudiate a teaching of the bishop of Rome, then by all means present it. I’ve made my case, and so far mine is the only explanation of these remarks made by anyone in this conversation.

            But, in any case, whether you believe in the authority of the Pope or not, as valid, you still find the Catholic Church at the time of Cyprian, to be filled with current Catholic custom and practice

            Maybe, but that’s a different conversation. Let’s finish this one.

            the Church really hasn’t changed that much since his times. The important things are the same.

            I mean, I would think “Well, now you have to obey the pope” counts as a pretty important change.

  6. Hi Irked,

    I see several problems with your reading of Cyprian that you seemingly have not considered. Hear are some comments you made with a reply from the link above.

    You said:
    [blockquote]Because it’s easy to find places where they’re dismissive of that idea, starting in that very letter: Stephen as Judas, Stephen’s pretense to the authority of Peter, that Stephen contends that he holds the succession. These are not things you say of someone who legitimately does have that authority; if you really are what you claim to be, you don’t have a pretense of it. The passage you cite says, “Look at how great Peter was, and what authority he had! And now there’s this jerk – who has the temerity to claim that, because he sits in Peter’s office, he has Peter’s authority. Can you believe this?”[/blockquote]

    The reply:
    [blockquote][indent]MARTYR’S CERTIFICATES

    In his own diocese Cyprian had to deal with a widespread threat to the Church’s discipline. Confessors (those being punished by the state for not renouncing the faith) and martyrs awaiting execution were usurping the authority of the bishop.

    Under intense persecution by the Roman government, many Christians had lapsed or apostatized, thereby coming under the Church’s ban. After the persecution abated, the lapsed who repented would obtain from the martyrs and confessors certificates requesting the bishop to reduce or cancel the punishment due them. It was the bishop’s responsibility to evaluate the sincerity of the penitents. The bishop also had to decide what effect the confessors’ and martyrs’ certificates should have on the penance of the lapsed.

    (Note this fact. What the Catholic Church teaches today about “indulgences” she was teaching and practicing in Cyprian’s time. The granting of indulgences is made possible by the solidarity of the Mystical Body of Christ. By virtue of that solidarity, the sufferings of some members of the Body have the power to lessen the punishment of other members of the Body. This is precisely what the martyrs’ and confessors’ certificates were intended to do.)

    Imprudent confessors were ignoring the bishop and, on their own authority, freeing the lapsed from the prescribed penance. Cyprian believed, rightly, that this irregular procedure threatened the whole of the Church’s discipline. [strong]He wrote letters to several persons about this problem and sent copies of all the letters to Rome, asking the Roman clergy to consider what he had written.[/strong]

    He addressed the Roman clergy rather than the pope because there had been no incumbent in the see of Peter for a couple of years: After the martyrdom of Pope Fabian (250), active government persecution had prevented the election of his successor. [strong]Yet Cyprian showed deference to the see of Peter even when it was vacant. [i]He would take no final action with regard to reconciling the lapsed and apostates without consulting with Rome.[/i][/strong]

    During the persecution, Cyprian himself had gone into hiding. Some of his people criticized his action and sent their complaint to the Roman clergy. [strong](Why would Carthaginians take this matter to Rome, if the local churches were absolutely independent, as Eastern apologists assert?) [/strong]The Roman clergy wrote to Cyprian and asked for an explanation. [strong]Did Cyprian indignantly reject their request and assert his complete independence as a bishop? No. On the contrary, he sent the Roman clergy a defense of his conduct.[/strong]

    Still another action on the part of the Roman clergy, when the see of Peter was vacant, reflects the primacy of Rome. In a letter to Cyprian’s archdeacon (bypassing Cyprian, bishop of the diocese), the Roman clergy told the Carthaginian clergy how they should deal with the lapsed. [strong]Did Cyprian condemn this action as interference infringing on his autonomous jurisdiction? Not at all. He wrote the Roman clergy that he had read their letter and in practice would uphold their opinion.[/strong]

    Schismatics from Carthage went to Rome to join the schism of Novatian there. Cyprian denounced the wickedness of the Novatians in Rome and spoke scornfully of the Carthaginian schismatics who had gone to Rome, “the chair of Peter and to the [strong]principal [or ruling] church, whence episcopal unity has taken its rise.”[/strong]

    Obviously Cyprian did not regard his own see, Carthage, as “the” or “a” chair of Peter. He said the schismatics who went to Rome were going to “the chair of Peter.”[/indent][/blockquote]

    You said:
    [blockquote]And this indignation comes as Firmillian and Cypiran are, by their actions, outright denying Stephen’s authority to do what he’s done. I don’t think there’s any great puzzle here, or any deep mystery of what they meant when they turned to a man who claimed authority over them and said, “There is no bishop of bishops, no church authority over us save Christ himself,” and then agreed in council to ignore everything he’d said on a matter of faith and morals.[/blockquote]

    The reply:
    [blockquote][indent]”SOVEREIGN RULING”

    [strong]This “chair of Peter,” said Cyprian, is “the principal Church.” Irenaeus had used these same words about Rome. Tertullian had defined the phrase to mean “that which is over anything, as the soul presides over and rules the body.” Cyprian called Tertullian his “master” and read his writings every day. We can assume that he followed his master in using “principal” to mean “sovereign ruling.”[/strong]

    Speaking of the schismatics who had gone to Rome, Cyprian said, in effect, “They are wasting their time!” Not only is Rome the source of the Church’s unity (“whence episcopal unity has taken its rise”), the schismatics are wasting their time because the Romans—the “chair of Peter,” the pope—are “they to whom faithlessness can have no access.” This is an astonishing statement—astonishing, that is, outside the context of papal infallibility. But we must assume that Cyprian meant what he said.[/indent][/blockquote]

    You said;
    [blockquote]No bishop of bishops! No bishop with authority to judge another! No one above a bishop in the government of the church, save Christ himself. That simply does not unify with the First Vatican Council, no matter how one massages the meaning.[/blockquote]

    The reply:
    [indent][blockquote][strong]In practice Cyprian contradicted his own teaching about the independence of each bishop. When Marcion, bishop of Arles, left the Church’s communion and joined the schismatic Novatians, the bishops of the province wrote to the pope asking him to take action. (If they were independent of Rome, why did they not take action themselves?)[/strong] The action required was for the pope to excommunicate Marcion and appoint a replacement. For unknown reasons, the pope delayed his response. Faustinus, bishop of Lyons, wrote to Cyprian about the matter, seeking his advice.

    Cyprian thereupon wrote to the pope, urging him to take action. [strong]His letter implies that the pope was the one—the only one—to set matters straight in Arles. [/strong]He urged the pope to write “letters of plenary authority [literally ‘most full letters’] by means of which, Marcion being excommunicated, another may be substituted in his place.”

    [strong]Regardless of what Cyprian may have written about the independence of each bishop, here he clearly recognized the authority of the pope to remove and install bishops (for good cause) anywhere in the world.[/strong][/blockquote][/indent]

    BAPTISM BY HERETICS

    It was Cyprian’s struggle with Pope Stephen over the subject of baptism by heretics which has most endeared Cyprian to Eastern Orthodox and Anglican apologists. It is also that.aspect of Cyprian’s career that caused the Donatists (fourth-century heretics) to claim him as patron saint of their position. Repeatedly to their chief opponent, Augustine, the Donatists quoted Cyprian. Augustine acknowledged Cyprian’s error, but emphasized Cyprian’s refusal to break with Rome.

    In his conflict with the schismatic Novatians, Cyprian drew the erroneous conclusion that baptism by heretics is invalid, contrary to the Church’s teaching. By the force of his personality and of at least three African councils that he dominated, Cyprian lined up the bishops of Africa behind his position. Rejection of heretical baptism was an innovation that found wide support in the East.

    On this issue, as on others, Cyprian’s thinking was confused. [strong]On the one hand he insisted that each bishop was perfectly free to decide whether to accept or reject baptism by heretics, since the issue was not doctrinal. At the same time, in vehemently expounding his position he invoked weighty dogmatic considerations. Cyprian sent Pope Stephen a report of the African synods, explaining that he and the synods had not laid down any law binding all the African bishops. He sent the report because he believed that the Pope should be consulted, even though this was not a doctrinal issue.[/strong]

    The issue was whether persons outside the Church’s unity could baptize validly. Stephen ruled that they could, if they used the proper form. Persons who were baptized by heretics and who repented and returned to the Church were to be received by the laying-on of hands. Stephen’s answer to Cyprian makes it plain that his ruling is not a definition of faith, yet Stephen forbade rebaptism of those who had received heretical baptism and decreed excommunication for those who performed rebaptisms.

    [strong]In his reply to Cyprian’s report, Stephen reminded Cyprian that he (Stephen) was successor of Peter, whom Cyprian had extolled in his writing on unity and on whom Jesus Christ had founded his Church. Stephen further reminded Cyprian that he (Stephen) held the chair of Peter, about which Cyprian had written enthusiastically. Finally, Stephen called for Cyprian’s obedience.[/strong]

    Immediately upon receiving Stephen’s reply, Cyprian dispatched legates to Rome to try to persuade the Pope to change his ruling. It was a most inopportune time for Cyprian to do this. The Pope was then contending with schismatic Novatians who were rebaptizing Catholics who joined them. The African legates would probably have been identified in people’s minds with the Novatians. This would have lent the eminent name of Cyprian to a heretical group.

    So, for the good of the Church and of Cyprian, Stephen refused to receive the legates, ordering them not to spend a single night in Rome. When the legates returned to Carthage, Cyprian sent messengers to the East to enlist support for his cause of rebaptism. He wrote to Firmilian, bishop of Cappadocia and partisan of Cyprian’s cause. Firmilian responded to Cyprian’s letter, and Stephen’s ruling, in a letter filled with indignation and bitterness. [strong]Yet Firmilian’s letter itself implicitly recognized the Pope’s authority. Firmilian expressed no indignation over Stephen’s emphasizing his role as Peter’s successor and his claim to what we call universal jurisdiction.

    [i]If Stephen’s claim had not been universally accepted, Firmilian’s ultimate weapon against the despised ruling would have been to deny and reject papal authority. That weapon was not available to him, so all he could do was fulminate in bitterest terms.[/i][/strong]

    There is no evidence that either Cyprian or Firmilian was excommunicated.[strong] Did Cyprian accept Stephen’s decision and stop rebaptizing those who had received baptism from heretical hands? Jerome says the African bishops corrected their decision to rebaptize and “issued a new decree.” Augustine says the Easterners followed the Pope’s directive: “they rescinded their judgment, by which they had decided that it was right to agree with Cyprian and that African council.” In another place he writes that the Easterners “corrected” their judgment about rebaptism.[/strong]

    Anti-papal apologist John Meyendorff asserts that this event was simply a regional reaction against incipient Roman centralization. There was nothing “incipient” about what Meyendorff calls Roman centralization, but which Catholics call papal universal jurisdiction. That jurisdiction had been exercised since the first century, as has been shown. Furthermore, the controversy was not about centralization at all, but about sacramental and ecclesiological issues of the deepest import.

    Eastern and Anglican apologists who rely on Cyprian’s controversy with Pope Stephen to support their case for independent national churches forget or ignore the key fact: [strong]Cyprian never even questioned, much less denied, the Pope’s authority to make his ruling and its penalty for non-observance. He only opposed the content of the ruling.[/strong] Cyprian’s insistence on rebaptism was attractive to many minds. It seemed to safeguard Catholic truth by drawing a sharp line between orthodoxy and heresy. But papal universal jurisdiction and papal teaching authority made all the difference.

    [strong]In this controversy, “it needs only a few lines from the pen of the Pope to overthrow all that scaffolding of texts and syllogisms. The partisans of innovation may resist as they please, write letter after letter, assemble councils; five lines from the sovereign Pontiff will become the rule of conduct for the universal Church. Eastern and African bishops, all those who at first had rallied round the contrary opinion, will retrace their steps, and the whole Catholic world will follow the decision of the Bishop of Rome.”[/strong][/indent][/blockquote]

    Irked, doesn’t it seem strange to you that on the issue of re-baptism, that the African bishops ended up doing what Stephen had told them to do, after all the protestations they made and holding a contrary view than Stephen?

    I have read that both St. Jerome and St. Augustine said that it was [strong][i]only the blood of Cyprian’s martyrdom that washed away the sin of his actions in dealing with Stephen.[/i][/strong]

    1. Duane,

      Thanks for the excellent history. You probably just saved me about 5 hours of writing and study over this issue.

      The whole re-baptism issue needs to be understood in context of everything that was going on at the time in both the Church and the world. It cannot be boiled down to a few words taken out of context. Everything needs to be tied together to understand what was going on, and you provided a very good summary and history of that, above.

      In my opinion, the Protestants should love Pope St. Steven, as he was allowing Christians outside the communion of the Church, such as Protestants are today, to validly baptize…. whereas Cyprian, Firmilian and the rest were against this, and were also extremely rigid in their dealings and doctrines concerning the Christians who renounced their faith under the persecution that flourished at that time. So, it is Pope Steven that should be the person that Protestants it seems would be in agreement with over the re-baptism debate, but it’s the exact opposite. In this Protestants are supporters of the ultra orthodox side of the controversy, and also the side that lost the argument….probably on the pretext of finding an ally, with a very few difficult passages…ie..’bishop of bishops’… as support, regarding their doctrine against papal primacy.

      Again, thanks for the info. above. It provides essential history to shed light and truth on the subject.

      – Al

      1. Al,

        That feels rather as though you’re misrepresenting my arguments. I’m not “looking for an ally” here, nor am I seeking a “pretext,” and I have not remotely expressed an opinion one way or the other on the rebaptism controversy.

        Instead, I’ve made an argument of fact: Cyprian denied the primacy of the bishop of Rome. My supporting evidence has been places where Cyprian and his allies… denied the primacy of the bishop of Rome. I don’t think there’s anything difficult at all about a denial of the authority of the bishop of Rome, made in the context of a council countermanding the bishop of Rome; I think that’s as much of a clear slam-dunk passage as one could hope for.

        Now, maybe Cyprian was wrong about the papacy! I certainly think he was wrong about some things. But it is hardly fair to criticize Protestants, as you did at the beginning of this discussion, for disagreeing with fathers… when those fathers’ teaching would get you kicked out of the Catholic Church.

        1. Then why wasn’t Cyprian, and all the North African Bishops… kicked out of the Church? These bishops were already survivors (any of them) of grievous persecutions. why wold they not resist and evil Pope in that same way as they resisted Roman emperors, if they really thought this was the case, that the Pope was abusing his authority.

          From what I wrote above, you see Firmilian stating that the problem with Steven is that he wasn’t rigid enough with the heretics. And this is why they were angry with him..which is no sin, as bishops have the right to argue their positions…even as happened at the council of Jerusalem. but, I’ve already said enough on the subject for now. Duane article provides a lot of other proofs for the Catholic position. And the history of the Church, and events such as the Council of Nicaea I ratifies many of those positions. So….history is on the side of the Catholics. Yahoo!

          Have a great 4th of July.

          – Al

          1. Then why wasn’t Cyprian, and all the North African Bishops… kicked out of the Church?

            I mean, the obvious answer is, “because the church did not in general accept the primacy of the bishop of Rome at this time, and so these were not heretical statements at the time.”

            There are other possible answers – perhaps it was politically infeasible for Stephen to act in that way, or perhaps he just didn’t think it necessary, or perhaps there was too much else to deal with, or perhaps something we’re not thinking of. But the first suggestion seems pretty consistent with the remarks made by Cyprian, Athanasius, etc.

            From what I wrote above, you see Firmilian stating that the problem with Steven is that he wasn’t rigid enough with the heretics.

            Sure, if we ignore everything he says about Stephen pretending to authority he doesn’t have.

            And the history of the Church, and events such as the Council of Nicaea I ratifies many of those positions. So….history is on the side of the Catholics. Yahoo!

            Unless Nicaea somehow causes Cyprian’s comments to stop existing, I don’t think it in any way matters to my argument. I’ve dealt with you in facts, and you’ve provided exactly no specific counter-evidence; I’d ask that you either address the specific facts I’ve brought up, or concede the point.

            Have a great 4th of July.

            Thanks, you too!

          2. Hi Irked,

            It is you who won’t accept evidence from history on the subject of the authority inherent in the ‘chair of St. Peter”. I amply demonstrated how Firmilian gave context to the relationship between the African Bishops and Rome, wherein the Africans were dismayed at the weakness of Steven, to allow heretics to gain the upper hand with him and allow them to keep baptizing their flocks of heretics. But you don’t want to consider this. They are not against his authority, they are against his WEAKNESS, that they perceive will damage the Church forever. So, it is YOU who will not understand Letter 74 in it’s proper context, when Firmilian writes:

            ” in this respect I am justly indignant at this so open and manifest folly of Stephen, that he who so boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church were laid, SHOULD INTRODUCE [through his Papal powers] many other rocks [other Churches build on heresy] and establish new buildings of many churches [Question: WHAT OTHER BISHOP COULD DO THIS BUT THE ONE IN ROME?…the ability to introduce “many other rocks?” Who has such authority to do this?…only the ‘chair of St. Peter’ in Rome has such ecclesiastical power….which is why Firmilian is complaining of his potential abuse.]; maintaining that there is baptism in them by his authority [WHO ELSE BUT THE POPE COULD GUARANTEE THE VALIDITY OF THEIR BAPTISM? THE BISHOP OF ALEXANDRIA…OR JERUSALEM… OR CAESAREA? NO, ONLY ROME]. For they who are baptized, doubtless, fill up the number of the Church. But he WHO APPROVES [ AS POPE, ALL THE HERETICS ARE ASKING FOR HIS APPROVAL, and NOT the approval of other Bishops of the Church…only the Bishop of Rome.] their baptism maintains, of those baptized, that the Church is also with them [THE POPE WILL VALIDATE THEIR BAPTISMS BY HIS AUTHORITY]. Nor does he understand that the truth of the Christian Rock is overshadowed [HE COMPLAINS THAT THE POPE, THE ROCK, WILL LOSE HIS AUTHORITY BY ALLOWING THESE HERETICAL BAPTISMS. FERMILION IS TRYING TO DEFEND THE AUTHORITY OF THE PAPACY, NOT DESTROY IT. HE UNDERSTANDS THAT STEVEN IS ONLY ONE POPE OF MANY TO COME, AND CAN DAMAGE THE CHURCH SEVERELY IF HE MAKES A BAD DECISION.], and in some measure abolished, by him when he thus betrays and deserts unity. [BY ALLOWING HERETICS TO BUILD HERETICAL CHURCHES WHEREIN HERETICAL DOCTRINES MIGHT BE TAUGHT] The apostle acknowledges that the Jews, although blinded by ignorance, and bound by the grossest wickedness, have yet a zeal for God. Stephen, who announces that he holds by succession the throne of Peter [WHICH HE INDEED HAD], is stirred with no zeal against heretics” [STIRRED WITH NO ZEAL AGAINST HERETICS….CAN’T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT FIRMILIAN IS ZEALOUS FOR THE POWER OF THE PAPACY, AND COMPLAINING THE STEVEN IS NOT USING HIS POWER STRONGLY ENOUGH?]

            So, Irked, it is YOU who will not understand the mind of Firmilian when he writes this short passage above. I understand his mind clearly. Firmilian and Cyprian were zealots and leaders of zealots. They governed a Church filled with confessors and heroic Martyrs that Eusebius amply writes about in book VIII of his Church History.

            If you cannot understand this one passage in it’s right context…as I highlighted in brackets and with CAPs, also…how can you understand anything else Cyprian or Firmilian wrote? I said already many times: the words of Cyprian and Firmilian need context…context such as I highlight above. Moreover, the other articles that Duane and Margo provide give even further context…but you don’t want to consider them. Both the writings of Firmilian and the quotes provided by Duane and Margo provide the wisdom necessary to understand the entire situation regarding apple authority and baptizing heretics.

            I guess it’s just that Catholics understand the context…. and Protestants don’t? It’s pretty basic… just read my CAPS above. The Catholic zeal and heart of Firmilian is clearly exposed by his own words above?

          3. Duane provided quote above assesses the baptism/papal authority issues of that time CORRECTLY. Everything makes sense with this short summation:

            “If Stephen’s claim had not been universally accepted, Firmilian’s ultimate weapon against the despised ruling would have been to deny and reject papal authority. That weapon was not available to him, so all he could do was fulminate in bitterest terms.[/i][/strong]

            There is no evidence that either Cyprian or Firmilian was excommunicated.[strong] Did Cyprian accept Stephen’s decision and stop rebaptizing those who had received baptism from heretical hands? Jerome says the African bishops corrected their decision to rebaptize and “issued a new decree.” Augustine says the Easterners followed the Pope’s directive: “they rescinded their judgment, by which they had decided that it was right to agree with Cyprian and that African council.” In another place he writes that the Easterners “corrected” their judgment about rebaptism.[/strong]

            Anti-papal apologist John Meyendorff asserts that this event was simply a regional reaction against incipient Roman centralization. There was nothing “incipient” about what Meyendorff calls Roman centralization, but which Catholics call papal universal jurisdiction. That jurisdiction had been exercised since the first century, as has been shown. Furthermore, the controversy was not about centralization at all, but about sacramental and ecclesiological issues of the deepest import.

            Eastern and Anglican apologists who rely on Cyprian’s controversy with Pope Stephen to support their case for independent national churches forget or ignore the key fact: [strong]Cyprian never even questioned, much less denied, the Pope’s authority to make his ruling and its penalty for non-observance. He only opposed the content of the ruling.[/strong] Cyprian’s insistence on rebaptism was attractive to many minds. It seemed to safeguard Catholic truth by drawing a sharp line between orthodoxy and heresy. But papal universal jurisdiction and papal teaching authority made all the difference.

            [strong]In this controversy, “it needs only a few lines from the pen of the Pope to overthrow all that scaffolding of texts and syllogisms. The partisans of innovation may resist as they please, write letter after letter, assemble councils; five lines from the sovereign Pontiff will become the rule of conduct for the universal Church. Eastern and African bishops, all those who at first had rallied round the contrary opinion, will retrace their steps, and the whole Catholic world will follow the decision of the Bishop of Rome.”[/strong][/indent][/blockquote]

          4. Al,

            In a lot of internet parlance, capitalization parses as yelling. I’m not sure whether that’s your intent, but either way, I’d appreciate it if we took the tone of our conversation down a notch.

            It is you who won’t accept evidence from history on the subject of the authority inherent in the ‘chair of St. Peter”. I amply demonstrated how Firmilian gave context to the relationship between the African Bishops and Rome, wherein the Africans were dismayed at the weakness of Steven, to allow heretics to gain the upper hand with him and allow them to keep baptizing their flocks of heretics.

            But no one questions whether or not the African bishops thought Stephen erred re: the rebaptizers. We aren’t debating that at all. We’re debating whether, in addition to that, they criticized him for claiming authority he did not have.

            But you skip cleanly over the relevant phrase at the beginning: “he who… contends that he holds the succession from Peter.” Or, even more clearly: that those in Rome “vainly pretend the authority of the apostles.”

            Yes, of course Firmilian is appalled at the things Stephen is choosing to do. We aren’t disputing that; to any of the parts you cite and capitalize, I will nod and say, yes, yes, he thinks this is bad. But he also makes fun of the idea that Stephen has the standing to do these things. So by all means, tell me: what does it mean that Stephen pretends to apostolic authority? Can a man who actually does have such authority pretend to it?

            And so when you say things like:

            [Question: WHAT OTHER BISHOP COULD DO THIS BUT THE ONE IN ROME?…the ability to introduce “many other rocks?” Who has such authority to do this?…only the ‘chair of St. Peter’ in Rome has such ecclesiastical power

            … we have to understand Firmilian’s complaint here in the context of his declaration that Stephen pretends to this authority, and does not truly have it. If I say, “You pretend to all kinds of authority, which is how you justify eating my lunch at work,” there are two things happening: I’m mad at you for eating my lunch, and I’m mad at you for putting on airs. But what we cannot do is use your eating my lunch – the very thing I hold up as an example of usurpation of authority – as proof that you truly possess it.

            So it is with Firmilian and Stephen.

            You have to deal with the passages I’ve cited where Firmilian and Cyprian explicitly deny the authority of the bishop of Rome; it is simply not sufficient to say, “Look, and here’s the specific thing he’s done that they’re mad about.”

            Here are the questions you need to answer, as I see them:

            1) What does it mean that Stephen pretends to authority?

            2) What does it mean when Cyprian says there is no one save Christ above the level of a bishop?

            THE POPE WILL VALIDATE THEIR BAPTISMS BY HIS AUTHORITY

            Yes, and note that Cyprian and the African bishops maintain that despite this, the baptisms are not valid. That’s exactly the result of the Councils of Carthage they hold. If one man claims the authority to validate baptisms, and another group says “Nuh-uh, you can’t,” then how do we say the latter recognizes the primacy of the former?

            [HE COMPLAINS THAT THE POPE, THE ROCK,

            See, here’s the thing: you assert that when he says “the Rock” he means “the pope.” But he’s already told us who the Rock is: it’s Peter, on whom (he says) the unity of the church is founded. His statement is that the truth of the Rock – that the church is unified and harmonious – is “overshadowed, and to some extent abolished” because this unity founded on Peter is being destroyed by Stephen’s actions against his fellow bishops.

            You assert, and Stephen asserted, that the bishop of Rome inherited this… Rock-ness. Firmilian doesn’t say anything of the sort; indeed, he makes fun of the idea in passages I’ve already cited.

            and in some measure abolished, by him when he thus betrays and deserts unity. [BY ALLOWING HERETICS TO BUILD HERETICAL CHURCHES WHEREIN HERETICAL DOCTRINES MIGHT BE TAUGHT]

            But again, Firmilian tells us how Cyprian has damaged unity, and this is not primarily what he says. What he says is “And yet on this account there is no departure at all from the peace and unity of the Catholic Church, such as Stephen has now dared to make; breaking the peace against you, which his predecessors have always kept with you in mutual love and honour.”

            Stephen has now dared to violate unity. How? By breaking peace with Carthage – because Carthage and Rome are peers.

            Duane provided quote above assesses the baptism/papal authority issues of that time CORRECTLY. Everything makes sense with this short summation:

            Al, do you really think it’s helpful to repost verbatim things I’ve already replied to upthread?

          5. Irked, if you want to change a word ‘contends’ to ‘pretends’…you can do it, even as Luther added a word ‘alone’ to the famous Bible passage. ‘Pretends’ has a completely different meaning from contends, but I’m not even going to argue over the definition or meaning of ‘contends’. We have the entire context that Firmilian provides to understand that he is basically an ultra conservative zealot who is enraged that a Pope could make such a mistake, in his eyes, as to allow heretics to flourish in the world…with papal approval. This is his fear, and a justified fear. So, this is the thrust of the passage…as is clearly seen in every other word Firmilian writes, it is full of emotion and religious zeal.

            But, I think all of the quotes that I’ve provided today are sufficient for my argument. It appears to be a waste of time going over it again, and the sources I provided from the very pen of Cyprian himself…speak for themselves.

            It might be noted that the ecclesiastical model of modern Protestantism can be found NO WHERE in the world of Cyprian. Even the heretics back then celebrated the Eucharist in the way the Catholic Church does today, as they did also with ordinations and other sacraments. The Church is also still a Church based on territorial jurisdiction via dioceses and canon law which regulates the limits of ecclesiastical control. So, the Catholic model remains and continues to grow in the same way as it always has. Protestantism, on the other hand, has no real unity either in doctrine or in unified or codified canonical norms, wherein all can follow so as to have some sort of theological and doctrinal unity. And this is exactly what Cyprian feared for the Catholic Church when he was warning Steven (to the very extent of his power and ability). But, in the end, Steven was right, and Cyprian and company complied with the pope. That is, he and the African bishops did not become schismatics, and had prominent roles in the future Church…ie..The career of Augustine is only one example. And the Church and even Protestantism has benefited by Pope Steven’s decision ever since. So, in this case the power of the Papacy has proved very beneficial for all Christianity.

            Protestants can try to chip away at the Rock of Peter to the best of their ability, but the ‘Rock’ remains and continues to flourish. And the chips that might be produced from the source rock, which is now a ‘monolith’ are only that….mere chips from the monolith established by Christ.

            I think that this conversation on Cyprian has deviated too far from the original theme: ‘Learning to pray from Jesus’, and we’ve spent an overly amount of time discussing this topic (interesting as it is). I tried to steer the conversation many comments ago back to the prayer theme…by providing St. Francis’ paraphrase of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ for consideration. But I guess everyone wanted to discuss Cyprian and the papacy…so I also continued on this alternate theme.

            So, do you, or any one else still following, have any further reflections on…”Learning to pray from Jesus”? I’ve had my say on Cyprian.

          6. Irked, if you want to change a word ‘contends’ to ‘pretends’…you can do it

            “But that they who are at Rome do not observe those things in all cases which are handed down from the beginning, and vainly pretend the authority of the apostles.” Cyprian’s epistle 74, from Firmilian, regarding Stephen, emphasis mine.

            You are mistaken on a matter of fact, and you’ve accused me of something I did not do. Please stop. I ask again:

            “So by all means, tell me: what does it mean that Stephen pretends to apostolic authority? Can a man who actually does have such authority pretend to it?”

            But, I think all of the quotes that I’ve provided today are sufficient for my argument.

            There is no argument here, because you will not even acknowledge the existence of quotes that run against your thesis. Yes, Firmilian was upset by Stephen’s actions and concerned for the integrity of the church! Is that all he says?

            It might be noted that the ecclesiastical model of modern Protestantism can be found NO WHERE in the world of Cyprian.

            That’s a subject change. Please answer my questions on our actual topic.

            This is a recurrent pattern in our conversations, Al. When there’s a passage you don’t want to answer, or a quote you don’t want to explain, or a question you don’t want to address, you change the topic: to a different verse, to the sins of Martin Luther, to eighth-century conflicts with Islam, to something, anything, but the thing we’re actually discussing. I’ve asked a couple of point-blank questions, and I might as well not have, because you won’t even acknowledge they exist. That’s frustrating!

            But I guess everyone wanted to discuss Cyprian and the papacy…so I also continued on this alternate theme.

            With respect, you asked me to explain this topic. You brought up Cyprian; you asked how Protestants could possibly trust him; you asked me to explain his remarks. Please don’t fault me for doing what you requested.

  7. Further excellent quotes from Cyprian’s mind/pen… proclaiming the essential role of the Bishop of Rome, provided by Margo’s link above:

    “[After quoting Matthew 16:18f; John 21:15ff]…On him [Peter] He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigned a like power to all the Apostles, yet he founded a single Chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one Chair. So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the Apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (Cyprian, The Unity of the Catholic Church [first edition] 4, c. AD 251)

    “Our Lord, whose commands we ought to fear and observe, says in the Gospel, by way of assigning the episcopal dignity and settling the plan of His Church…[quotes Matthew 16:18f]…From that time the ordination of bishops and the plan of the Church flows on through the changes of times and successions; for the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers. Since this has indeed been established by divine law, I marvel at the rash boldness of certain persons who have desired to write to me as if they were writing their letters in the name of the Church, ‘since the Church is established upon the bishop and upon the clergy and upon all who stand firm in the faith.'” (Cyprian, Letter 33 (27), 1 to the Lapsed, c. AD 250)

    “They who have not peace themselves now offer peace to others. They who have withdrawn from the Church promise to lead back and to recall the lapsed to the Church. There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one Chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever has gathered elsewehre is scattering.” (Cyprian, Letter 43 (40), 5, c. AD 251)

    “With a false bishop appointed for themselves by heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from schismatics and blasphemers to the chair of Peter and to the principal Church [at Rome], in which sacerdotal unity has its source; nor did they take thought that these are Romans, whose faith was praised by the preaching Apostle, and among whom it is not possible for perfidy to have entrance.” (Cyprian, Letter 59 (55), 14 to Cornelius of Rome, c. AD 252)

    “There speaks Peter, upon whom the Church would be built, teaching in the name of the Church and showing that even if a stubborn and proud multitude withdraws because it does not wish to obey, yet the Church does not withdraw from Christ. The people joined to the priest and the flock clinging to their shepherd are the Church. You ought to know, then, that the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishop, and if someone is not with the bishop, he is not in the Church. They vainly flatter themselves who creep up, not having peace with the priests of God, believing that they are secretly in communion with certain individuals. For the Church, which is One and Catholic, is not split nor divided, but is indeed united and joined by the cement of priests who adhere one to another.” (Cyprian, Letter 66 (69), 8 to Florentius Pupianus, c. AD 254)

    1. There are a great many places where Cyprian speaks highly of Peter as the foundation of the unity of the church. There are other where he speaks highly of bishops.

      Where does he say that the current bishop of Rome possesses Peter’s authority? Because lacking that, none of this establishes your point – particularly when he explicitly denies any such thing, in a passage you’ve yet to explain.

      So, a question regarding “The Unity of the Catholic Church”: did Cyprian ever revise it? If so, did anything interesting happen to the passage you cite?

      (He did, and when he did, he made it clear that Peter’s authority was unique to him, and that now “The episcopate is one, of which each bishop holds his part within the undivided structure” – with no bishop as head over the rest.)

      1. The very history of the Church after Pope St. Steven and St. Cyprian testify to the authority and role of the Pope in the Christian Church. You will note the conversion of countless barbarian tribes and nations, such as the Anglo Saxons, Scots, Poles, Germans, etc…all through the leadership centered in Rome. But, I guess the expansion of the Church in the first millennium isn’t a big deal to Protestants…wherein countless of these pagan souls entered into the Mystical Body of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven. And, through the leadership of the Roman Pontiff, the entire edifice of Western Civilization was built after the fall of the Roman Empire. What place did Protestants play in this? Where were they to be found? Maybe you can provide at least a handful of names?

        But with Roman Catholics we find not only the growth of Christianity throughout the world, but also the defense of Christianity against the Moslems, as far back as 750 AD. Where were the Protestants then? Any names to speak of? Catholics defended all of Europe…via the Popes leadership, and in conjunction with civil powers…ie..Charles Martel, Charlemagne, etc…wherein if the Catholics did not rebel the Islamic forces back then, the entire Western World would most probably be praying to Allah right now.

        So, the whole history of the Western World owes thanks to Christ’s Church here on Earth; and particularly to Christ’s ordained institution of the Papacy which led it through those difficult early centuries also known as the ‘dark ages’. But again, I think Protestants have no concern for this glorious Christian history, and without which history probably none on this blog site would even have been born.

        1. Dear Awlms,

          That sums it all up and puts a ribbon and bow on top.

          There is a book (Did you expect anything different than a recommendation for a reading list?) called, “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.” Simple, straightforward, undeniable.

          God bless us all.

        2. The very history of the Church after Pope St. Steven and St. Cyprian testify to the authority and role of the Pope in the Christian Church.

          Nope. That is not our conversation. We’re talking about what Cyprian believed; answer that question or don’t, but “The very history of the church!” is a subject change.

          1. The ‘very history of the Church’ is a conclusion to a conversation that should have ended a long time ago. It would be best to wait for Joe to do a post on ‘papal authority’ to go any deeper into Cyprianology and Firmilianology. Maybe we can continue then. Until then there are plenty of excellent quotes that have been provided for people to make up their own decision regarding the interpretation of Cyprian’s and Firmilian’s scant words on the rather insignificant subject, which was really something that pertained to the 3rd century…than the 21st century. And, the resources provided above, via links, are from people who have actually studied on the subject intensively. So, everybody go read them, they give the Catholic explanation as to what happened back then. Then go and read the Catholic encyclopedia on the same subject. Therein you will get the details from competent sources.

            Best to all. Now let’s talk about ‘how Jesus teaches us to pray’.

          2. On that at least we agree; Cyprian’s words in council, and the context for those words, are absolutely crystal clear.

  8. So, Joe, why “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive our trespassers.”? That does not seem to be a correct translation from the Latin. In fact, wouldn’t the correct translation be “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” My research indicates that William Tyndale came up with “trespass” which he placed in his bible that eventually became the King James version. From there, everyone started using trespass/trespassers, even Catholics. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

    1. My own opinion is that debts would be more suitable, but maybe Protestants favored trespasses so as not to have any association with the idea that we still have debts to pay back to God…. because of their doctrine of ‘once saved always saved’? That is, if all their debts were paid by faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, then why would they need to pray to God to…”forgive us our debts”? Forgive us our trespasses is a much softer version, because it doesn’t necessarily indicate something actually needs to be ‘paid back’ to God. Jesus already did the paying. I think they wouldn’t want the Lord Himself to be contradicting this pet doctrine of theirs?

      On the other hand, I never really considered this much, and Joe might have some more substantial comments on the subject. But, at least you are steering the conversation back to the original topic regarding ‘Learning to pray from Jesus’. So, thanks for that.

      1. By the way….

        Here are two ancient English translations from before the Reformation:

        (From a 13th century MS in the library of Caius college, Cambridge)

        Fader oure that art in heve, i-halgeed be thi nome, i-cume thi kinereiche, y-worthe thi wylle also is in hevene so be an erthe, oure iche-dayes-bred 3if us today, and for3if us our gultes, also we for3ifet oure gultare, and ne led ows nowth into fondingge, auth ales ows of harme. So be it.

        (From a 14th century MS, No. 142 in St. John’s college library, Cambridge)

        Fader oure that art in heuene, halewed be thi name: come thi kyngdom: fulfild be thi wil in heuene as in erthe: oure ech day bred 3ef vs to day, and for3eue vs oure dettes as we for3eueth to oure detoures: and ne led vs nou3 in temptacion, bote deliuere vs of euel. So be it.

        [Archaic English versions from: from Monumenta Ritualia Ecclesiae Anglicanae, William Maskell, M. A., Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1882]

        1. And, here is a modern Spanish translation of the ‘trespasses’ text:

          “y perdona nuestras deudas

          como nosotros perdonamos nuestros deudores”

          Spanish to English translation…..DEUDA = DEBT DEUDORES = debtors

          So, it seems that Debt and Debtors seems to be the more accurate translation.

          ….Now, what’s the Chinese translation? That will solve it for sure! 🙂

          1. There doesn’t seem to be an issue that the original wording of the Our Father translates to debt/debtor. Even St. Jerome’s Vulgate translates it debt/debtor. It appears that the “trespass/trespasser” begins in the 16th Century thanks to Tyndale. I can’t find an explanation why Catholics started using it when it is not a correct translation AND the incorrect translation was from a protestant reformer.

  9. Woody, I have no idea why the English was changed to ‘trespasses’…but I like your question regarding it. It’s something worthy of study. Moreover, I like the original translation far better, the more I look into it. Here is a good analysis ‘trespasses’ passage…Matt.6: 1-2 from the original Greek, for any who are interested:

    “How it has been translated into English

    The Greek word is a form of ὀφείλημα (3783), which according to Strong’s has been translated

    1) that which is owed 1a) that which is justly or legally due, a debt 2) metaph. offence, sin
    The word comes from ὀφείλω (3784):

    1) to owe 1a) to owe money, be in debt for 1a1) that which is due, the debt 2) metaph. the goodwill due
    Lexical sources

    According to BDAG (and Moulton & Milligan), the primary meaning of ὀφείλημα is

    that which is owed in a financial sense, debt, one’s due.1
    It can also refer to an “obligation in a moral sense, debt” (and is used in a similar way to the Aramaic חוֹבָא in rabbinical literature).2

    Analysis of usage in biblical literature

    The other appearances of ὀφείλημα in biblical literature support the primary meaning of this noun according to BDAG.

    Deuteronomy 24:10
    Ἐὰν ὀφείλημα ἦ ἐν τῷ πλησίον σου, ὀφείλημα ὁτιοῦν, οὐκ εἰσελεύσῃ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν αὐτοῦ ἐνεχυράσαι τὸ ἐνέχυρον (LXX, emphasis mine).3

    If there is a debt with your neighbor, whatever kind of debt, and you shall enter into his house to take in pledge his pledge.4
    1 Esdras 3:20
    καὶ πᾶσαν διάνοιαν μεταστρέφει εἰς εὐωχίαν καὶ εὐφροσύνην καὶ οὐ μέμνηται πᾶσαν λύπην καὶ πᾶν ὀφείλημα (LXX, emphasis mine).5

    It turns every thought to feasting and mirth, and forgets all sorrow and debt.6
    1 Maccabees 15:8
    καὶ πᾶν ὀφείλημα βασιλικὸν καὶ τὰ ἐσόμενα βασιλικὰ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν καὶ εἰς τὸν ἅπαντα χρόνον ἀφιέσθω σοι (LXX, emphasis mine).7

    Every debt you owe to the royal treasury and any such future [debts] shall be canceled for you from henceforth and for all time.8
    Romans 4:4
    τῷ δὲ ἐργαζομένῳ ὁ μισθὸς οὐ λογίζεται κατὰ χάριν ἀλλὰ κατὰ ὀφείλημα… (NA27, emphasis mine).9

    Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due.10
    This last use by Paul of Tarsus in his letter to the Romans makes it clear that in the first century (the same approximate historical time frame in which the Gospel commonly attributed to Matthew was likely written), the meaning of ὀφείλημα was in contradistinction to a gift (χάριν).

    Analysis of usage in extrabiblical literature

    The distinction between χάριν and ὀφείλημα brought out by Paul of Tarsus is elucidated several hundred years earlier by Thucydides (4th-5th century BCE), when he writes

    οὐκ ἐς χάριν, ἀλλʼ ἐς ὀφείλημα

    not as a favor but as payment of an obligation.11
    The primary meaning as given by BDAG is supported by numerous other extrabiblical writings as well.12

    Conclusion

    Both Matthew Black and Bauer, Danker, & Arndt suggest that ὀφειλήματα means ‘sins’ in Matthew 6:12.2 The parallel reading in Luke 11:4 has “τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν” (‘our sins’) which lends support to this reading. In addition, analysis of the verb form of this noun (ὀφείλω)13 and its relationship to חוֹבָא and corresponding חַיָּב in rabbinical literature also lend support to this reading (particularly if the prayer was originally composed in Aramaic).

    The strongest support, however, comes from the immediate context of the prayer, recorded in vv. 14-15:

    Ἐὰν γὰρ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν, ἀφήσει καὶ ὑμῖν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος· ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.14
    This context makes a clear comparison between ὀφειλήματα and παραπτώματα, the latter meaning “a violation of moral standards, offense, wrongdoing, sin” (clearly not solely restricted to financial debt).15

    For these reasons (but particularly the contextual support), it is likely that ‘sins’ are the intended ‘debts’ in this context, but the actual reading is that word generally used for financial ‘debts’, i.e. ‘that which is owed.’

    (Derived from Bible Hermeneutics site at:
    https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/87/forgive-us-our-debts-sins-trespasses-which-is-the-most-accurate-transla

  10. Woody, I’m getting closer to an answer.

    This might help clear things up a bit. It’s a summary of a Dave Armstrong discussion on the subject:

    **********************************************

    There are two forms of the Lord’s Prayer found in the Bible: one in Matthew and another in Luke.

    In Matthew 6:9–13, the Lord’s Prayer is rendered as (emphasis mine):

    9“This is how you are to pray:

    Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name,
    10your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
    on earth as in heaven.
    11Give us today our daily bread;
    12and forgive us our debts,
    as we forgive our debtors;
    13and do not subject us to the final test,
    but deliver us from the evil one.
    But in Luke 11:2–4, it’s rendered as (emphasis mine):

    2He said to them, “When you pray, say:

    Father, hallowed be your name,
    your kingdom come.
    3Give us each day our daily bread
    4and forgive us our sins
    for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
    and do not subject us to the final test.”
    Given it’s more fleshed out, most Christians favor Matthew’s version. In the original Greek, the word used in Matthew 6:12 is ὀφειλήματα, which means “debts”. The word used in Luke 11:4 is ἁμαρτίας, which means “sins”.

    So, to be in line with the original manuscript, “debts” is the correct word, and indeed, most Christians (including all non-English Catholics) use “debts”.

    In English, however, “debts” and “debtors” usually refer to a loan: a monetary debt to a bank, for example. But later on in Matthew, it says:

    14If you forgive others their transgressions1, your heavenly Father will forgive you
    15But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions1.
    So while the actual word is “debts”, it’s clear the point of the Lord’s Prayer is to say that one ought to forgive those who wrong us, just as God forgives us our sins and transgressions, not that we ought to forgive loans made upon us (i.e., God doesn’t “loan” us sins).

    To make clear the point of the prayer,”debts” was replaced with “trespasses”. This translation became popular in 16th century England, even making it into the Book of Common Prayer. The Roman Catholic version of the Lord’s Prayer is almost identical to the Book of Common Prayer’s version at the time, and has not been changed since then.

    Interestingly, the English version of the Missal recently underwent a fairly dramatic change as things were retranslated to better correspond to the original meaning of words, but the Lord’s Prayer was skipped. I could not find any explicit justification for the omission, which suggests to me that the Vatican still considers the use of “trespasses” to accurately convey the intent of the prayer.

    ********************************

    1. Wow, great research. I am aware of “transgression” in the later chapter of Matthew and there is some argument I once read that indicated that you can pull “trespass” out of “transgression.” But, the current definition that we place with trespass was not around during the time of Christ. (Two words, I think: “over” and “land.”) I believe it did not mean the unlawful entering on another’s property until the 14th Century. I just don’t understand why the Church would place an obviously wrong word in the mouth of our Lord when we know the correct word He used in the prayer. If debt/debtor is what Jesus said, that’s what we should be saying. In any case, thank you for your time and effort in researching this question for me. I very much appreciate it.

      1. No problem. It’s an intriguing question. I’m interested in understanding how the OSAS doctrine relates to the petition that we should be praying daily: “forgive us our debts”. OSAS seems contradictory. And then also, how this petition relates to purgatory. That is, what happens if God does NOT forgive all of our venial sins? It seems that this petition implies that we will ‘pay the last penny’ in purgatory if this is the case’. Which, of course, is the Catholic teaching. 🙂

        Best to you.

        1. Thank you for that link, it was interesting. I am away from home at this time and I don’t have my notes on this “question” that has bothered me so I am trying to remember what I have written on my research. So much good information you and awlms have provided me. The word “sin” as we use it today was not used in the same context as used during the life of Jesus. I think during Christ’s time it was used as an archery term meaning “off the mark.” Even then it may have been obsolete. I wonder if somewhere deep inside the Vatican archives there is something there that would explain why the Church accepted the use of “trespass” as correct for the Our Father. It is such a mystery when you consider that my Latin/English missal has the Latin version on one page indicating “debt/debtor” but on the adjacent English page it incorrectly translates it “trespass/trespasser”! The answer has to be written and preserved somewhere. I’ll just have to keep looking.

          1. Hey Woody,

            From another forum: “I’ve had debts and trespasses. Trespasses are worse.”

  11. Hi Irked,

    I confess it’s becoming vexing to be told, “You disagree, so you must not be reading it correctly.” We can both say that.

    Actually I never said that. I am saying that you cannot show me where Firmilian says that there can be no successor to Peter in Rome.

    So I stared at this for a while, and it finally clicked where our division is coming in. You’re reading a baseline of “Well, so everyone knew the bishop of Rome was Peter’s successor, and so Firmilian is only denying that Stephen specifically was part of this chain of descent.” I’m reading it as “Can you believe this guy claims to be the successor of Peter’s authority? Have you ever heard such a nutty thing in your life, particularly coming from a guy like that?” – without the underlying “but of course in general the successors of Peter have this authority.”

    If your argument is true, wouldn’t just about anyone in Firmilian’s position play the most obvious trump card that should be played, and that could quiet Stephen and all RC’s who believe in universal jurisdiction in the early Church up? Why wouldn’t Firmilian and Cyprian say, no other Bishop of Rome has claimed the authority that you are claiming, it is an innovation? That would be the best argument. But they can’t. Because not only Clement, but Victor some fifty years earlier had also threatened to use universal jurisdiction. As did Zephyrinus some forty years earlier. As did Callistus some thirty years earlier.

    We agree, it sounds like, that Firmilian denies that Stephen has this authority. On what do we ground the argument that he thought any of the other bishops of Rome had it?

    Wrong. Firmilian says Stephen is not a true successor of Peter because of the decision that Stephen has made. Never once does Firmilian say that Stephen does not have the authority. Wouldn’t that be the most obvious play? For Firmilian to say: “You don’t have the authority?” But he never does, and that hurts your argument tremendously.

    Follow-up: is it appropriate behavior for a bishop who disagrees with the official teaching of the bishop of Rome to reply, “Well, I disagree, and I don’t like your character, and so you aren’t really the pope?” Is that consistent with modern Catholic doctrine?

    Not appropriate. Shocking? Not at all. Athanasius punched a fellow bishop at Nicaea.

    That’s an explanation that fits the facts, sure. There are others; an obvious one is that Stephen didn’t dare excommunicate Cyprian (as he did Firmilian), because of the political reality that it would have split the church – that too many people would not have acknowledged his claimed authority over Carthage. Another is that he did so, and we simply aren’t aware of it – to my knowledge, we only know about Firmilian’s excommunication through some fragments of Dionysius, so we have far from a complete record here. Another is that he simply died while still making up his mind on this point – his murder is less than a year after the third Council.

    But any of these is speculation; Cyprian’s words in council are not.

    Except we have at least two major problems with what happened after that third council, which can not be rectified under your answer.

    1.) We know the Africans ended up doing what Stephen had told them to do. Why? After all, a bishop, and a council disagreed with him. If he did in fact not have the authority he claimed, why did the Africans capitulate?

    2.) A council had said that those baptized by heretics had to be re-baptized. Only another council of the same region, or a greater council can undo what those councils decided. This did not happen. Only, if they recognized that Rome had the authority, to overturn what they had decided in council, could they stop re-baptizing without holding another council.

    So there seem like a couple of possibilities here. One is that Cyprian felt, as Nicaea would later state, that each bishop of a major city controls a “sphere” of influence, and that Arles fell within Cyprian’s more than any other extant church. Another is that the move was effectively political: “Look, you excommunicate him, and those jokers in Gaul will have to fall in line.” No one denies that Rome was a very prominent and politically influential church, wielding enormous influence; it’s only her primacy that’s challenged.

    Except he is asking them to do what you have stated that he believes they cannot do. So he must have believed at some point in universal jurisdiction.

    Another, and one seemingly close to that held by the Catholic scholar that Margo linked, is that Cyprian was simply inconsistent over time: he thought Rome could slap down lesser bishops, until Rome tried to slap down him and he had to rethink the whole idea of “lesser bishops.”

    This does not change the fact that at one point he must have believed in something that you deny that people in the early Church believed in.

    But he is not the only one who believes such a thing at this time, as is evident in the case of Basildes. Basildes had been deposed by other bishops of Spain. He appealed to Rome, and Stephen reinstated him to his office. Cyprian comments that Stephen was deceived by Basildes. Three things become evident right away:

    1.) Basildes believes that Stephen has the power to reinstate him.

    2.) Stephen believes he has the power to reinstate someone in another see.

    3.) Cyprian concedes that Stephen has the power to reinstate Basildes, if the evidence that Stephen was given were true.

    Now I’d appreciate an answer to my question.

    Could you repeat the question?

    I’d appreciate a concrete citation of Clement and/or the unnamed Protestant historian on this point before pursuing this further.

    Sure. I will find the Protestant quote at a later point, as I read it some years ago. Taken from Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, Ch. 59:

    If, however, any shall disobey the words spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and serious danger; but we shall be innocent of this sin,

    How is it a sin to disobey someone who has no authority over you? And how can you command obedience of someone, unless you believe you have authority over that someone?

    Sure. But that doesn’t tell us that Cyprian shared this belief, which is our topic of conversation; if anything, it tells us that he didn’t.

    Except, nowhere in Cyprian’s writings does he say Stephen does not have the authority to do what he is commanding them to do. He hems and haws, but at the end of the day, North Africa did what Stephen commanded. You cannot get around that simple fact.

    p.s. If you look up Victor some sixty years earlier, you will see that he threatened to use universal jurisdiction also. What he proposed to do, others in the Church begged him not to do. Yet not one person said he did not have the power to do what he proposed.

    1. Hi Duane!

      If your argument is true, wouldn’t just about anyone in Firmilian’s position play the most obvious trump card that should be played, and that could quiet Stephen and all RC’s who believe in universal jurisdiction in the early Church up? Why wouldn’t Firmilian and Cyprian say, no other Bishop of Rome has claimed the authority that you are claiming, it is an innovation? That would be the best argument. But they can’t. Because not only Clement, but Victor some fifty years earlier had also threatened to use universal jurisdiction. As did Zephyrinus some forty years earlier. As did Callistus some thirty years earlier.

      As usual, I’d appreciate some specific citations here.

      But set that aside; there’s a third route here, which is that previous bishops of Rome have claimed authority exceeding their station, but were also out of line when they did it. If previous bishops have occasionally claimed authority beyond their station, Firmilian can’t deny that no one has ever made such claims – but he can say, “These claims are ridiculous,” as indeed he does.

      Wrong. Firmilian says Stephen is not a true successor of Peter because of the decision that Stephen has made.

      I certainly see that Firmilian offers Stephen’s behavior as evidence that he has not inherited the authority of Peter. It is much less clear that he’s holding Stephen’s behavior up as the cause of him not inheriting, instead of the proof of him not inheriting. On what do you ground that claim?

      Never once does Firmilian say that Stephen does not have the authority. Wouldn’t that be the most obvious play? For Firmilian to say: “You don’t have the authority?” But he never does, and that hurts your argument tremendously.

      But he literally does say this; he says that they in Rome “pretend to the authority of apostles.” You cannot pretend to authority you actually do have.

      And by contrast, I think the fact that he does say this is something of a problem for your interpretation!

      Not appropriate. Shocking? Not at all. Athanasius punched a fellow bishop at Nicaea.

      Athanasius was hard core, yo.

      But that’s my point, isn’t it? My core argument has been that the teaching of Cyprian (and I guess, by extension, Firmilian) is inconsistent with essential modern Catholic doctrine. Even if we quibble over exactly what that was, it seems like the root inconsistency remains.

      Except we have at least two major problems with what happened after that third council, which can not be rectified under your answer.

      1.) We know the Africans ended up doing what Stephen had told them to do. Why? After all, a bishop, and a council disagreed with him. If he did in fact not have the authority he claimed, why did the Africans capitulate?

      We do not know. I can offer various speculations , but the end of the whole affair is that we don’t know the process that led to that point. I mean, heck, as far as I’m aware, the only clear reference we have here is about two sentences in a letter of Dionysius that vaguely mention that everybody is peaceful again now – there is just not enough evidence here to confidently describe what happened. I may just be ignorant on this point, but that’s a little thin!

      (Cyprian, as I recall, is not even mentioned in that letter, so it’s particularly unclear how he fits into whatever resolution there was.)

      I think this is basically also my answer to #2; there are too many holes to assert a single definite answer.

      Except he is asking them to do what you have stated that he believes they cannot do. So he must have believed at some point in universal jurisdiction.

      Or he believed in regional jurisdiction, as Nicaea would later teach. Or he believed in using political pressure from an Apostolic See to persuade stubborn bishops. Or he believed that sure, big bishops could order around little bishops, and it didn’t really click for him that Rome counted him as a little bishop until he started being ordered around himself.

      But whatever he may have believed at some point in his life, he plainly rejects primacy at another. It seems like he at least views this as an important clarification of his theology, given his rewrite of On Unity – important enough that he didn’t even want the possibility of someone misunderstanding him.

      I don’t think it’s impossible that this is a change rather than a clarification – but I think there’s evidence that it’s the latter. Look at, say, his 26th epistle – where, after having spoken of Peter as the Rock, he says:

      “Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers. Since this, then, is founded on the divine law, I marvel that some, with daring temerity, have chosen to write to me as if they wrote in the name of the Church; when the Church is established in the bishop and the clergy, and all who stand fast in the faith.”

      Again, this is not vague stuff: the church is founded upon, and ruled by, the bishops, who collectively inherit the authority of Peter; no one person can write claiming to speak for the church.

      I can’t definitively answer all of your questions – not because no answer is possible, but simply because there are too many possibilities to pretend that any one of them must be true. But I think Cyprian’s teaching regarding the structure of the church is fairly consistent, and whatever interpretation of those events we create has to either fit into his teaching – or at most, be acknowledged as a theology he later abandoned as errant.

      This does not change the fact that at one point he must have believed in something that you deny that people in the early Church believed in.

      No, not at all. “Primacy over ‘little’ bishops” is not the same as “primacy.”

      Moreover, I did not say that no one in the early church held to the primacy of the Roman bishop; Stephen himself would be a disproof of that. I said that it was not a generally accepted claim, and that Cyprian teaches counter to it. Roman bishops were, as you note, inclined to assert all sorts of things about their own authority.

      Could you repeat the question?

      Heh. Rereading, I see I owe you an apology – while I phrased it as a question to Al several times, I don’t see that I did so to you.

      Let me correct that: what do you understand Stephen to say, when he (echoing Tertullian’s mockery of the bishop of Rome) declares that “Neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops, nor by tyrannical terror does any compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience; since every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another. But let us all wait for the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only one that has the power both of preferring us in the government of His Church, and of judging us in our conduct there”?

      Is this a teaching consistent with Vatican I, or, as is my thesis, is this something that the RCC calls anathema today?

      Sure. I will find the Protestant quote at a later point, as I read it some years ago. Taken from Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, Ch. 59:

      If, however, any shall disobey the words spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and serious danger; but we shall be innocent of this sin,

      Two notes, then. First, name aside, we don’t actually know that this letter comes from Clement specifically; it attributes itself only to the church in Rome as the grounding of its authority. Whether that church as a whole was considered at the time of its writing to have special authority is a separate question.

      Second, note that this follows a long portion of Clement proving his point by citing Scripture. Suppose I say to Bob, “You need to stop killing people, because the Bible says such-and-such. If you are disobedient to the words God spoke through me, your sin is on your own head.” Am I therefore claiming the authority of jurisdiction over them, or am I simply noting that God has previously spoken on this subject, and that I’ve pointed out what he said to you?

      Indeed, I don’t think it’s a particularly remarkable statement; it’s one I could see many pastors making today: “I’ve told you what God has to say on this subject, and if you don’t listen to that, you’re in sin.” There’s no indication here that the remark is weighty because Clement said it; the comment is weighty because it reflects the clear teaching of God in Scripture. The epistle’s contention, after all, is that this is not a new teaching, but the consistent practice of the church; that the instruction should be heeded because of its author, and not its source, has to be read into it.

      Except, nowhere in Cyprian’s writings does he say Stephen does not have the authority to do what he is commanding them to do.

      … Yes, he does? Explicitly? Emphatically?

      1. Rassin frassin.

        what do you understand Stephen to say

        To make up for my substituting “Cyprian” for “Stephen” before, I have here inverted the error. My apologies.

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