33- The Baptismal Controversy
Cyprian of Carthage became engulfed in a controversy with Stephen of Rome, over the validity of heretical baptism, which nearly tore the Christian Church in half…
Notes Update – 9/14/2016
How do we know that chapter 4 of Cyprian’s On the Unity of the Catholic Church was changed by Cyprian himself from the Primacy Text (PT) to the Received Text (RT). The main reasons hinge on two factors. First, the existence and authenticity of two different versions of chapter 4, and second, the historical context in which these versions were composed. The manuscripts of On Unity, witness to both the RT and PT, and many manuscripts conflate the two. This is important because it demonstrates that the conflated texts are, well, conflated, rather than the RT with interpolations. The Primacy Text is a separate textual tradition, not a group of interpolations. Also, both the PT and RT are characteristically Cyprian in terms of their style, syntax, vocabulary, use of scripture, etc. Therefore, both versions originated from Cyprian’s own hand. So now the question is, how do we know which one came first? The main answer is the different clues and references in each respective text. Remember, Cyprian wrote On Unity in 251 as an anti-Novatian work. But the RT version seems to be from a later time, 256, when Stephen and Cyprian were at odds over heretical baptism. For instance, Cyprian quotes Ephesians 4:5 which speaks of one baptism, and goes to great lengths to emphasizes the equality of all bishops. Thus, Cyprian writing both versions, with the PT being the original, and the RT being a rewriting during the baptismal controversy, explains all the historical evidence in a coherent way without forcing it to fit. If you want more information, checkout the “Books and Articles” page on the blog site and scroll down to secondary sources section entitled “Carthage and Africa” where I have listed the books I used for my study of Cyprian. There is also a translation of On Unity in the Ancient Christian writers series which has a good introduction and lots of notes on the text.