Friday, 1 May 2015

Christopher Bounds: The Doctrine of Christian Perfection in Tertullian and Cyprian

The Greek Christian literature of the Ante-Nicene period is replete with explicit references and discussions of a type of human perfectibility possible in the present life, especially in the second and third centuries. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Origen place Christian perfection at the heart of their soteriologies. In contrast the emerging Latin fathers of the third century use the language of human perfection in this world sparingly. However, when they do, they retain many of the ideas found in earlier and contemporary Greek patristic literature.
The purpose of my paper is to examine the use of various forms of perfectio, perficio and perfectus in relationship to humanity in the two leading Latin fathers of the third century: Tertullian and Cyprian. Through a close reading of passages where they use the language of perfection in relationship to humanity, I will show that their teaching centers on three concurrent themes: renewal in the image/likeness of God, fulfillment of Christ's two greatest commandments, and freedom from the power of sin. After exploring their understanding of these ideas, I will note similarities and differences with their Greek counterparts.

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