Below are some responses I gave to the facebook page “Shameless Orthodoxy” – I here keep it for my records, but feel free to read.
Thank you for your response. During day time hours (EST) I won’t be as available. But I have a shot now, so I will take it. I will divide my post into points which correspond to yours. This way you know what I am seeking to engage. But a preliminary remark – At the end of the podcast, you will hear me say that my treatment of Cyprian is not over. In fact, and any of my readers could tell you this, Cyprian was not a Papal supremacist. And I don’t recall I said that. That said, his stated theology matches the logic of the Catholic model, as it was known then, as well as progressively throughout the centuries up unto our day.
(2) Certainly what princeps/principalem/principalis means in Cyprian is a matter of interpretation. Though I would argue that it can mean even for him one above his peers. For example, in his 12th Treatise, chapter 12, he uses the word to describe Jesus as the “princeps” to translate the Micah passage where Israel is promised the “Prince” or “Messiah”, which is a reference to the coming King of David, but then also uses “principio” to translate “his goings forth from the beginning [principo] from the days of old”, which indicate an reference of origin, or beginning. The fact of the matter is simple – depending on the context, principalem can mean “first in historical date” or “originating norm”. We know for sure that Cyprian does not mean to say that the Roman church was the first *historical* church, for that we have holy Jerusalem, the mother of all churches, as well as Antioch and plenty more which were planted during the mission of the Palestinians. He also certainly does not mean the Roman church is the first church planted from which Carthage was born. We have no idea where and when Carthage was planted as a church. Rather, when Cyprian distinguishes the ecclesia romana with principalem, we must look to the context for what defines the unique characterization. In fact, we are told “from whence the unity of the priesthood to its rise”. Well, the sounds a whole like what Cyprian has described of the Apostle Peter. In fact, it sounds a whole lot like what Cyprian understood of the office of Bishop. And that goes for *whichever* copy of De Unitate you wish you utilize as authentically Cyprianic. I think the German scholar, Ludwig Hertling, got it right when he comments: “He [Cyprian] cannot have meant this historically, since Rome was not the first missionary center. Historically, the Church began from Jerusalem. Cyprian’s exorta est must therefore be a present perfect, referring to the once-for-all and ever renewed origin from Rome of the communio linking the bishops. Rome is thus the focal point of the communio, not as the geographical center but as the center of its power and legitimacy” (Church and Papacy, page 69). I will add another Cyprianist, Dr. Allen Brent, Fellow @ Cambridge (professor of early Church history), whose profile can be seen at the following link ( http://www.allenbrent.co.uk/ ) – “Another meaning for exordium is, according to the editors of the Oxford Latin Dictionary, ‘the warp set up on a loom before the web is started’, and, by extension, the ‘weaving’ of fate. Cyprian’s view of the Church is of a network of bishops bound together by the bonds of mutual recognition and inter-communion….but the logic of such a network is that it has, like the weaving of a piece of cloth, a starting point in the process. This theological sense, derived from his theological model of the undivided ‘robe’ of Christ, is what for him necessitates Rome as the centre of the web as it were, holding its unity together. Thus, I believe that Cyprian, in his confrontation with Stephen, was wrestling with a problem of his own (and not, as Dunn believes, of Stephen’s own) making. How is the episcopal college to react when the exordium behaves differently from how the model predicted that it would and ought to behave?” (Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Pg 521).
(3) I cannot accept the idea that Cyprian is speaking purely in historical terms which leave Peter as exordium or Rome as the place of it as something isolated in the past. This is to divorce Cyprian’s theology of the Church authority, which is not only founded historically in the person of Peter, but which continues on in the “successions” (Ep 26). It is not as if the order of Bishop begins with Peter as the first in a series of persons. Not every bishop in the universal church is descendant of Peter, for one. Secondly, Cyprian understands the *current* order of bishops to be the “place of Peter” (Ep 51.8). Peter has an ongoing character in the life of the Church’s magisterium. Not personal, of course, but official (officium or Cathedra) . But if that were not enough, the very version of De Unitate that an Orthodox or Anglican would want to use already shows how Cyprian’s theology does not permit at all a break away from the constant vitality of the “source”. Consider this portion – “The Church also is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light; and many branches of a tree, but one strength based in its tenacious root; and since from one spring flow many streams, although the multiplicity seems diffused in the liberality of an overflowing abundance, yet the unity is still preserved in the source. Separate a ray of the sun from its body of light, its unity does not allow a division of light; break a branch from a tree—when broken, it will not be able to bud; cut off the stream from its fountain, and that which is cut off dries up.” So you see here that the source is not some historical point which we can all forget and merely refer to in moral terms. No, it has an ever-renewed (as Hertling stated above) vitality and even essential function in the ongoing unity of the organism. Cut it off from here, and you have death. This is why Cyprian can say “he who deserts the chair of Peter is already a schismatic”. Mind you, this was also the logic of St. Optatus, St. Jerome, and St Augustine. The latter, in fact, was famous for making the following melody meant to be repeatedly sung by those aggravated by the Donatist schismatics – “Number the bishops from the See of Peter itself. And in that order of fathers see who succeeds whom; That is the rock against which the gates of hell do not prevail” (Ps. c. Partes Don. str. 18). Lastly, you had quoted Cyprian where he said “decreed made by all of us” to say that Cyprian was expressing Orthodox ecclesiology. However true that is, that very epistle (Ep 54) shows that Fortunatus and Felicissimus understood the Roman see to be possessed of a higher authority than the African concilium , and that is one of the reasons why Cyprian was complaining.