Cyprian’s Christian Precepts

Volume 5 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers contains the works of [Thascius/Caecilius] Cyprian (3rd century AD).  These are a joy and pleasure to read.  In fact, if you’ve wanted to do some reading in the patristics, I’d recommend getting this volume (decently priced on Amazon) and slowly working through Cyprian’s epistles and treatises.   Or, if this is too much (c. 300 large pages of small font!), start with The Apostolic Fathers edited by Michael Holmes (which I’ve mentioned here before).

Back to Cyprian.  One great treatise of his is treatise XII (p. 507ff).  This is sort of like an early systematic theology complete with written out “proof texts” (Side Note: proof texting in a decent, catechetical way; this shows proof-texting isn’t a modern thing to be chucked at the onslaught of postmodernity.  It is not as if systematic presentations of the faith and catechisms/confessions are simply a product of the modern rationalistic mind!).  Here are a few that I appreciate – though I’m not writing out all the verses that follow each statement. 

“We must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own.”

“We must trust in God only, and in Him we must glory.”

“What we suffer in this world is of less account than is the reward which is promised.”

“It is impossible to attain to the Father but by Christ.”

“No one should be made sad by death, since in living is labor and peril, in dying peace and the certainty of resurrection.”

“Hope is of future things, and therefore that faith concerning those things which are promised ought to be patient.”

“The kingdom of God is not in the wisdom of the world, nor in eloquence, but in the faith of the cross and in virtue of conversation (i.e. Christian conduct).”

“The secrets of God cannot be seen through, and therefore…our faith ought to be simple.”

Though some of the statements in this lengthy treatise I might quibble with, it is an edifying and educational treatise worth reading.   Reading church history/historical theology is very much worth the effort!

shane lems

sunnyside wa