Cyprian’s Compendium of Religion

S-ANF-Set Among his many epistles and treatises, Cyprian (d. 258 AD) wrote a series of precepts or doctrinal points on various aspects of the Christian faith.  They are one sentence summaries of some basic biblical truths along with proof texts for each truth.  In one of these “books,” Cyprian gives a succinct “summary of heavenly precepts” so one of his students, Quirinus, would have a “wholesome and large compendium for nourishing” his memory.  Here is a sample of some of these precepts, along with several of Cyprian’s proof texts (I’ve kept the original numbering).

3) That charity and brotherly love must be religiously and steadfastly practiced (Mal. 2:10, John 14:27, Matt. 5:9, 1 Cor. 3:1-3, etc.)

4) That we boast in nothing, since nothing is our own (John 3:27, 1 Cor. 4:7, 1 Sam. 2:3, 4, etc.).

5) That humility and quietness are to be maintained in all things (Is. 66:1-2, Matt. 5:5, Luke 4:48, etc).

10) That we must trust in God only, and in Him we must glory (Jer. 9:23-24, Ps. 56:11, Ps. 118:6, etc.).

14) That we must never murmur, but bless God concerning all things that happen (Job 2:9-10, 1:8, Ps 34.1, etc.).

19) That we are not to obey our own will, but the will of God (John 6:38, Matt. 26:39, Matt 6:10, etc.)

24) That it is impossible to attain to the Father but by His Son Jesus Christ (John 14:6, John 10:9).

54) That no one is without filth and without sin (Job 14:4-5, Ps. 51:5, 1 John 1:8).

117) That there is a strong conflict to be waged against the devil, and that therefore we ought to stand bravely, that we may be able to conquer (Eph. 6:12-17).

120) That we are to be urgent in prayers (Col. 4:2).

There are, as you can see, quite a few more that I didn’t list (for a total of 120).  This is a fascinating treatise by Cyprian, since it shows that Christians from early on summarized the main truths of the faith, gave Scripture references (proof-texts are not a product of the Enlightenment or modernity!), and shared or published these documents for teaching purposes (in the above writing, Cyprian was instructing one of his catechumens).  It’s important to know that the Reformers weren’t at all the first ones to write doctrinal summaries of the faith and creeds/confessions to teach God’s people the main truths of the Christian religion.

The above “precepts” of Cyprian (along with others) are found in volume 5 of Ante Nicene Fathers, p. 528-557.

shane lems

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