Sunday, 10 February 2019
Christopher Bounds: The Doctrine of Christian Perfection in Cyprian
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 sparingly the language of human perfection in this world. When they do, however, 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, perfectusand other “perfection” language in relationship to humanity in Cyprian of Carthage. Through a close reading of these passages, I will show that his teaching continues themes of perfection found in the first major Latin theologian, Tertullian, and earlier Greek fathers: renewal in the likeness of God, fulfillment of Christ's two greatest commandments, and freedom from the power of sin. After exploring Cyprian’s understanding of these ideas, I will note differences with Tertullian and his Greek contemporaries of the third century, setting a foundation for a Latin tradition of Christian perfection.