Early Church Fathers
Introductory Notice1 To an Anonymous Treatise Against the Heretic Novatian.
The writer of the following treatise was undoubtedly a contemporary of Cyprian, and wrote in the early part of the reign of Valerian (254-256), during an interval of peace to the Church. This much may be collected from the fact that he names one, and only one, persecution after that of Decius-namely, that of Gallus and Volusianus-and speaks of those who had lapsed under the former, as having been stedfast and victorious in the latter.2 He is generally believed to have been an Africa, and Tillemont is only withheld from attributing the work to Cyprian himself by what he judges to be a difference of style. But although from the exordium it may be concluded that the writer was a bishop, yet, from his manifest uncertainty as to the fitting way to treat those who had lapsed, it is evident that Cyprian cannot have been the author; for that prelate, when the persecution of Gallus and Volusianus was just threatening, had already decided upon receiving to communion the penitents who had yielded to temptation under Decius.3
Ceillier4 says that this treatise was written about the year 255, while Novatian was still alive,5 and when the schism of Felicissimus was all but extinct.
Erasmus first published it among the known works of Cyprian in the year 1520.
The American editor subjoins as follows: Cyprian, and Cornelius afterward, had decided, with their councils, that the lapsed should be classed, and dealt with accordingly, as (1) Libellatici, those who had compounded with the heathen, and bought off from offering sacrifice; and (2) Sacrificati, those who had actually offered sacrifice to idols. Different degrees of discipline were awarded, but all were admitted to pardon finally.