An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


(200-Sept. 14, 258). Martyr and theologian of church unity. Also known as Thascius Caecilianus Cyprianus, he was converted to Christianity in 245 or 246. He was ordained a presbyter and in 248 was consecrated Bishop of Carthage. During the Decian persecution of 249, he was forced to flee from Carthage and did not return until 251. During the persecution many Christians lapsed from their faith. When Cyprian returned to Carthage he insisted that they be reconciled to the church only after appropriate penance. In a heated controversy with Pope Stephen, Cyprian insisted that schismatics had to be rebaptized on the ground that no one outside of the church could administer the sacraments. Cyprian's major writing was De ecclesiae catholicae unitate (“On the Unity of the Catholic Church”), written in 251, in which he argued that the unity of the church is based on the unity of equal bishops. He insisted that extra ecclesiam nulla salus, “outside of the Church there is no salvation.” He is known as “the apostle of unity,” and as the classical representative of the episcopal form of church government. There is a hymn about Cyprian in Lift Every Voice and Sing II: An African American Hymnal (1993). He was martyred at Carthage during the persecution of Emperor Valerian. His life is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Sept. 13.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.