Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 1261
Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (North Africa), warns the people of Carthage to avoid Felicissimus and five presbyters who created a schism with him. Cyprian, Letter 43, AD 251.
Epistula 43
Cyprianus plebi uniuersae s[alutem].
I,1. Quamquam, fratres carissimi, Virtius fidelissimus atque integerrimus presbyter, item Rogatianus et Numidicus presbyteri confessores et gloria diuinae dignationis inlustres, sed et diaconi boni uiri et ecclesiasticae administrationi per omnia obsequia deuoti, cum ceteris ministeriis plenam uobis praesentiae suae diligentiam praebeant et exhortationibus adsiduis singulos corroborare, sed et lapsorum mentes consiliis salubribus regere et reformare non desinant, tamen ego quantum possum admoneo et quomodo possum uisito uos litteris meis.
2. Litteris, inquam, fratres carissimi. Hoc enim quorundam presbyterorum malignitas et perfidia perfecit, ne ad uos ante diem Paschae uenire licuisset, dum coniurationis suae memores et antiqua illa contra episcopatum meum immo contra suffragium uestrum et dei iudicium, uenena retinentes instaurant ueterem contra nos inpugnationem suam et sacrilegas machinationes insidiis solitis denuo renouant.
3. Et quidem de dei prouidentia nobis hoc nec uolentibus nec optantibus, immo et ignoscentibus et tacentibus poenas quas meruerant pependerunt, ut a nobis non eiecti ultro se eicerent, ipsi in se pro conscientia sua sententiam darent, secundum uestra diuina suffragia coniurati et scelerati de ecclesia sponte se pellerent.
III,1. Sed oro uos, fratres, uigilate contra insidias diaboli et pro uestra salute solliciti contra mortiferam fallaciam diligentius excubate.
Persecutio est haec alia et alia temptatio et quinque isti presbyteri nihil aliud sunt quam quinque primores illi qui edicto nuper magistratibus fuerant copulati, ut fidem nostram subruerent, ut gracilia fratrum corda ad letales laqueos praeuaricatione ueritatis auerterent.
2. Eadem nunc ratio, eadem rursus euersio per quinque presbyteros Felicissimo copulatos ad ruinam salutis inducitur, ut non rogetur dominus nec qui negauit Christum eundem Christum quem negauerat deprecetur, post culpam criminis tollatur et paenitentia, nec per episcopos et sacerdotes domino satisfiat, sed relictis domini sacerdotibus contra euangelicam disciplinam noua traditio sacrilegae institutionis exurgat, cum que semel placuerit tam nobis quam confessoribus et clericis urbicis, item uniuersis episcopis uel in nostra prouincia uel trans mare constitutis ut nihil innouetur circa lapsorum causam, nisi omnes in unum conuenerimus et conlatis consiliis cum disciplina pariter et misericordia temperatam sententiam fixerimus, contra hoc consilium nostrum rebelletur et omnis sacerdotalis auctoritas et potestas factiosis conspirationibus destruatur.
IV,3. [...] Nec aetas uos eorum nec auctoritas fallat, qui ad duorum presbyterorum ueterem nequitiam respondentes, sicut illi Susannam pudicam corrumpere et uiolare conati sunt, sic et hi adulterinis doctrinis ecclesiae pudicitiam corrumpere et ueritatem euangelicam uiolare conantur.
(ed. Diercks 1994: 200-203. 205)
Letter 43
Cyprian to the whole people, greeting.
I,1. Although, dearest brethren, Virtius, a most faithful and upright presbyter, and also Rogatianus and Numidicus, presbyters, confessors, and illustrious by the glory of the divine condescension, and also the deacons, good men and devoted to the ecclesiastical administration in all its duties, with the other ministers, afford you the full attention of their presence, and do not cease to confirm individuals by their assiduous exhortations, and, moreover, to govern and reform the minds of the lapsed by their wholesome counsels, yet, as much as I can, I admonish, and as I can, I visit you with my letters.
2. By my letters I say, dearest brethren; for the malignity and treachery of certain of the presbyters has accomplished this, that I should not be allowed to come to you before Easter day; since mindful of their conspiracy, and retaining that ancient venom against my episcopate, that is, against your suffrage and God’s judgment, they renew their old attack upon me, and once more begin their sacrilegious machinations with their accustomed craft.
3. And, indeed, of God’s providence, neither by our wish nor desire, nay, although we were forgiving and silent, they have suffered the punishment which they had deserved; so that, not cast out by us, they of their own accord have cast themselves out. They themselves, before their own conscience, have passed sentence on themselves in accordance with your suffrages and the divine. These conspirators and evil men of their own accord have driven themselves from the Church.
III,1. Now it has appeared whence came the faction of Felicissimus; on what root and by what strength it stood. These men supplied in former times encouragements and exhortations to certain confessors, not to agree with their bishop, not to maintain the ecclesiastical discipline with faith and quietness according to the Lord’s precepts, not to keep the glory of their confession with an uncorrupt and unspotted conversation. And lest it should be too little to have corrupted the minds of certain confessors, and to have wished to arm a portion of our broken fraternity against God’s priesthood, they have now turned their attention with their envenomed deceitfulness to the ruin of the lapsed, to turn away from the healing of their wound the sick and the wounded, and those who, by the misfortune of their fall, are less fit and less sturdy to take stronger counsel; and invite them, by the falsehood of a fallacious peace, to a fatal rashness, leaving off prayers and supplications, whereby, with long and continual satisfaction, the Lord is to be appeased.
But I pray you, brethren, watch against the snares of the devil, and, taking care for your own salvation, be diligently on your guard against this death-bearing fallacy. This is another persecution and another temptation.
2. Those five presbyters are none other than the five leaders who were lately associated with the magistrates in an edict, that they might overthrow our faith, that they might turn away the feeble hearts of the brethren to their deadly nets by the prevarication of the truth. Now the same scheme, the same overturning, is again brought about by the five presbyters, linked with Felicissimus, to the destruction of salvation, that God should not be besought, and that he who has denied Christ should not appeal for mercy to the same Christ whom he had denied; that after the fault of the crime, repentance also should be taken away; and that the Lord should not be appeased through bishops and priests, but that the Lord’s priests being forsaken, a new tradition of a sacrilegious appointment should arise, contrary to the evangelical discipline. And although it was once arranged as well by us as by the confessors and the city clergy, and moreover by all the bishops appointed either in our province or beyond the sea, that no novelty should be introduced in respect of the case of the lapsed unless we all assembled into one place, and our counsels being compared, should decide upon a moderate sentence, tempered alike with discipline and with mercy;—against this our counsel they have rebelled, and all priestly authority and power is destroyed by factious conspiracies.
IV,1. [...] Let not the age nor the authority deceive you of those who, answering to the ancient wickedness of the two elders; as they attempted to corrupt and violate the chaste Susannah, are thus also attempting, with their adulterous doctrines, to corrupt the chastity of the Church and violate the truth of the Gospel.


See also Letter 41 [1259]. The letter seems to give us information about all the presbyters present at Carthage in AD 251: three of them faithful to Cyprian (one of them only recently accepted from another diocese, see [1258]), and five rebellious.

Place of event:

  • Latin North Africa
  • Carthage

About the source:

Author: Cyprian
Title: Letters, Epistulae, Epistolae
Origin: Carthage (Latin North Africa)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Cyprian was born probably about AD 200. He converted to Christianity in about 245 and in 248 was elected Bishop of Carthage. Soon after, the Decian persecution began (in 249/250) and Cyprian went into hiding. In 251 he returned to the city. Under Valerian, he was exiled in 257 and executed in 258. The epistolary of Cyprian consists of 81 letters (16 of them by his correspondents, and 6 synodal or collective), the majority of them are from the period of 250-251, when they were the means of Cyprian`s communication with his clergy. They offer us a wide view on the organization of the Church in Carthage in the middle of the third century, her relation with the Church of Rome, on the development of the persecutions, and on the conflicts that they caused inside the Church.
Different numerations of Cyprian's letters exist, I follow the edition of Diercks in Corpus Christianorum.
G.F. Diercks ed., Sancti Cypriani Episcopi Epistularium. Epistulae 1-57, Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina 3B, Turnhout 1994.
J. Patout Burns Jr, Cyprian the Bishop, London & New York 2002.


Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Specific number of presbyters from the same church
      Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
        Relation with - Heretic/Schismatic
          Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER1261,