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The white crown of works: Cyprian's early pastoral ministry of almsgiving in Carthage (1).

In a letter from Cyprian, bishop of Carthage in the middle of the third century, written while he was in hiding during the Decian persecution to the imprisoned confessors in Carthage, there is mention of two crowns, two colors and two flowers. The letter can be dated to the middle of April 250. (2) Cyprian wanted to console those in prison that they would not be failures if they failed to be martyred. Those who were not martyred could receive equal renown through their confession as those who were martyred. As much as martyrdom was highly prized among African Christians, Cyprian wanted to assure the imprisoned confessors that it was not the only way to please God. In the past (ante), in a time undoubtedly before persecution, one could be clad in white for good works, just as now one could be clad in crimson for martyrdom. (3) For those who were not going to die a martyr's death and win the crimson crown for suffering or the flower of warfare, Cyprian seemed to say that the confession of their faith could now be counted as a good work for which the reward was the white crown or the flower of peace. (4)

As I read this passage, we must conclude that the idea of confession as a good work was novel, for traditionally the white crown was the reward for good works during times of peace. To what activity then do good works refer if confession was a recent inclusion? The evidence is found in other references to a crown for good works. At the end of his treatise de Opere et Eleemosynis written a few years later, (5) Cyprian wrote to wealthy lay Christians in the city and stated that the reward from God for works of charity was a white crown, just as the reward for faithfulness during persecution was a crimson crown. (6) In his letter written during the Valerianic persecution, perhaps at the end of 257, to a group of Numidian Christians, headed by nine bishops, who had been banished to the mines, Cyprian praised them for their "zeal in the service of others." (7) This had included care for the suffering and the needy. Just as they had been crowned for those past good deeds, Cyprian wanted to urge them to endure the torments of persecution in order that they may be crowned with martyrdom and set an example as shepherds for their flock to follow. (8) It is clear from all this evidence that Cyprian considered care for those in need to be the traditional activity of good works for which the reward was the white crown and the lily, to which, during the Decian persecution, he was prepared to include confession of faith among good works. Such almsgiving was incumbent upon both bishops and wealthy lay Christians.

This paper seeks to investigate the pastoral care of the poor and needy in mid-third-century Carthage. My focus in reading Cyprian's writings is not so much on a theology of almsgiving (what Christians--bishops and laity alike--should do) as on its practice (what Christians--bishops and laity alike--did do). Of course, the two are intertwined: what the bishop taught and practiced himself would have had its impact on what other Christians did in either a positive or negative way. Just how influential his statements and his practical example were is one of the objects of this research. Given the large amount of available information, in this paper I shall consider only that which relates to the years between Cyprian's conversion in about 248 and the synod of bishops in spring 251, which was Cyprian's response to the problems brought about by the Decian persecution. Elsewhere I shall consider Cyprian's care for the poor after the time of that persecution, including an examination of de Opere et Eleemosynis, which, I shall argue, should be dated to that time.

What I believe we discover when we examine the theory and practice of Christian almsgiving in Cyprian's church is that the interplay between the scriptural injunctions to care for the needy without expecting return and the Roman system of patron-client relationships, coupled with the threats both to Cyprian's leadership and to the financial security of wealthier Christians brought about by the Decian persecution, resulted in dramatic upheavals in a short period of time. I am going to argue that the wealthy pagan Cyprian, dissatisfied with his experience of the patron-client relationship, found in the scriptural teaching about almsgiving and care for the poor something more fulfilling and enriching. Despite his rejection of patronage, several factors conspired together to force him to return to the practice of patronage within a short space of time. First, Cyprian's social standing made him the ideal candidate to assume the responsibilities of bishop, and the Christians of Carthage secured his election in the expectation that he would respond to their electoral support in the way a good Roman patron would. Second, he soon found that those in the community who were in a position to help the poor were not as generous or enthusiastic as he and that he needed to appeal to a patron-client model to motivate their activity. Third, the Decian persecution saw Cyprian withdraw completely from his altruistic almsgiving as desperately he employed his resources to secure the loyalty of the local church in his struggle with rebellious clergy for ecclesial control. At the same time he centralized charity to focus that loyalty upon himself alone.

My argument is a response to the 1988 doctoral dissertation of Charles Bobertz. (9) His interest was to examine Roman patron-client relationships and to see the extent to which such a social pattern existed in the relationship between Cyprian and his church in the early years of his episcopacy. Although he was in part concerned with Cyprian's care for the poor, he was really interested in how Cyprian sought to maintain control of his church during his time in hiding. Bobertz was not the first who understood the dynamics of Christian social organization in terms of patron-client relationships. A decade earlier, for example, Peter Brown mentioned how Cyprian always was surrounded by the clientela of the urban magnate. (10) However, Bobertz's is the first sustained presentation on this topic. Before I present the evidence to support my argument, let us consider the main thrust of his analysis.

Bobertz's analysis of Cyprian's early treatises and letters reveals him acting as patron of the local Christian community in control of the church's finances for the care of the needy and the payment of the clergy. Cyprian reinforced his control by having wealthy Christians not act themselves as patrons in direct care for the poor but by having them make their offerings to the church, offerings he would then distribute as sole patron of the community. (11) While he was in hiding during the Decian persecution, Cyprian sought to bolster his faltering authority as bishop through his generosity to the needy and the appointment of new clergy of loyalty guaranteed by his financial resources. (12)

Bobertz's argument, as presented in the dissertation, was that Cyprian operated from a patron-client perspective right from the moment of his conversion. The operations of the Roman patron-client relationship are well known. (13) The detailed examination of how a bishop in charge of the resources of the Christian community (not to mention his own) took care of the needs of the less well off in exchange for their support is the enduring contribution of Bobertz to scholarship. (14)

However, I shall argue that, although such sociopolitical motives operated in Cyprian's care for the poor, they did so in a particular circumstance and that in the time before the Decian persecution we need to find another explanation. Bobertz himself argues that a broader reading of Cyprian's care for the poor is needed, and this paper offers such a reading. We are now in a position to put forward the arguments in support of my position that Cyprian began life as a Christian trying to turn his back on patronage as the rationale for his charity.


I think we need to begin our investigation in the time before Cyprian became a bishop in order to highlight that there were changes (in motive as well as practice) brought about by the arrival of persecution in late 249 or early 250. By the criteria set out in Cyprian's writings, which I mentioned earlier, he would have been doubly crowned himself, according to his biographer, Pontius the deacon. (15) He wrote of Cyprian that he was not only a martyr but that, while a catechumen, he learned the lesson of the Scriptures and engaged in generous charity and enjoyed its rewards: "By distributing his means for the relief of the indigence of the poor, by dispensing the purchase-money of entire estates, he at once realized two benefits,--the contempt of this world's ambition, than which nothing is more pernicious, and the observance of that mercy which God has preferred even to His sacrifices." (16) This uita is a difficult piece of evidence because, as one writing what amounts to a piece of epideictic literature promoting the dead bishop's cult, Pont us may well have taken the opportunity to exaggerate Cyprian's virtues." (17) This tendency was a common problem in this genre. Yet, Quintilian had argued more than a century before that a speech of praise must have the semblance of truth, even while offering advice about how to construct panegyric that would result in formulaic commonplaces. (18) No doubt Pontius placed Cyprian's life within a mold, but I accept that his biographer did not invent the basic facts. Even if exaggerated, the story about Cyprian's care for the needy must have been credible.

Countryman points out that it is unclear whether Cyprian conducted this distribution himself or whether he handed the money over to the clergy. He adds that we do not know how complete Cyprian's selling of his possessions was, but given that he remained a person of considerable resources until the end of his life, it is reasonable to conclude that it was not total. (19) His idea that Cyprian handed over his wealth to the church on trust at his conversion and then became his own trustee upon election as bishop (20) is rejected by Bobertz, who sees Countryman's position as pure speculation and who sees the deacon's language here as hyperbole. (21)

Pontius's encomium characterizes Cyprian's life after baptism as a cleric in a similar fashion in relation to his practical charity:
 His house was open to every corner. No widow returned from him
 with an empty lap; no blind man was unguided by him as a companion;
 none faltering in step was unsupported by him for a staff;
 none stripped of help by the hand of the mighty was not protected
 by him as a defender. Such things ought they to do, he was
 accustomed to say, who desire to please God. And thus running
 through the examples of all good men, by always imitating those
 who were better than others he made himself also worthy of
 imitation. (22)

Behind this lies Isaiah 58:7 and Job 29:12-13, 15-16. (23) Once again Pontius made use of commonplaces. The last two sentences of this quotation, though, are not scriptural but are Pontius's assessment of Cyprian's teaching and the way he practiced what he taught.

Bobertz makes the point that Cyprian went from being a catechumen to bishop almost immediately and that his status as local aristocrat and generous donor must have played a significant part in his election. (24) His relationship as patron with the Christian laity of Carthage is understood as the source of tension between him and those of his clergy who opposed the election and who operated out of a model of corporate authority. (25) I would like to quote Bobertz's conclusion to his chapter on Cyprian's conversion:
 While there are other ways to interpret the portrayal of Cyprian by
 the Vita, its insistence on the wealth and generosity of Cyprian
 clearly pictures him as a patron. The generosity of the social and
 economic aristocracy was expected and would have been understood
 within the social conventions of the time both by Cyprian and
 by the community which was the object of his beneficia. What is
 apparently unique with Cyprian was the exercise of considerable
 financial patronage within the confines of the Christian community
 and the subsequent social and political expectations which were
 raised. His right and privilege of authority must, at least
 partially, be understood within the context of a patron-client
 relationship. (26)

If Pontius did not invent the basic facts about Cyprian's generosity as an almsgiver, what can we say about his reporting of Cyprian's motives? Did Cyprian understand his generosity within the social conventions of patronage, as Bobertz claims? The deacon tells us that Cyprian operated out of contempt for this world's ambition and out of a desire to please God. We would not go far wrong to understand that Pontius was informing his readers that Cyprian rejected what the operation of the patron-client relationship was designed to achieve for him--success. By identifying Cyprian as the embodiment of scriptural injunction, Pontius was also attributing a religious rather than sociopolitical motive to him. We are left with an interesting question: why did Pontius not mention the patron-client relationship as Cyprian's rationale for charitable practices? Why did he attribute it instead to a lack of worldly ambition and to a desire to please God? Was being seen as a patron something of a stigma for a Christian bishop? This is why I disagree with Bobertz's statement that Pontius "clearly pictures" Cyprian as patron. (27) We can accept that patronage was an acceptable facet of Roman life, so I think that we must conclude that Pontius was presenting us with an image of someone who rejected that dimension of life. Even if we were to conclude now that what Pontius has left us is more image than reality, we still are left with the question of why he painted this picture. If Roman patron-client relationships provide a useful model for interpreting some characteristics of early Christianity, then I think that Cyprian provides us with a still unexplained dilemma as to why his biographer was so loath to acknowledge this.

I find Bobertz's position very helpful as an explanation of the motivation of the Carthaginian laity in electing Cyprian as bishop, but does it really explain Cyprian's own motivation in his act of dispossession and care for the poor? Was he seeking to become patron and bishop of this community by this gesture? I believe that we find support for Pontius's attribution of a religious motive to Cyprian's almsgiving in Cyprian himself. Of course, whatever Cyprian's own motives were, and Bobertz has made it clear that he is not suggesting that Cyprian was actually campaigning for election by his actions, may have been of no consequence to the church of Carthage as it came to choose a new bishop. Whether he wanted to be patron or not, this wealthy new convert to Christianity was going to be treated as one by an expectant community. To me, though, the question of Cyprian's own perspective on what he was doing by these acts of generosity still remains important in addressing the dilemma I outlined.

I think we need to look at Cyprian's own account of his conversion in ad Donatum, written not long after his baptism, (28) which offers, I believe, an explanation of motive complementary to that given by Pontius. (29) Indeed, Bobertz himself acknowledges that his own interpretation of the exercise of patronage is only part of the answer, as we saw above. Bobertz's implied answer as to why Pontius disguised Cyprian's motive with more religious ones is to be found in his claim that it is likely that Pontius had been influenced by what he read in ad Donatum. (30) So if we cannot address our question to Pontius, then it still must be asked of Cyprian: if becoming the patron of the Christian community was really Cyprian's motive, why did he go out of his way to deny something that in itself ought not have been that controversial? Cyprian would have us believe that through his conversion came the realization that the life of patronage, as with the life of self-indulgence, extravagance, and prestige, was foreign to the Christian. (31) One of the ills of society from which he recoiled was the fact that the patron-client relationship was open to the possibility of abuse. (32) One becomes a patron by first having debased oneself being the client of someone more powerful. Clients have no regard for their patron as a person but only as source of their own benefit. The vast amount spent by patrons in obtaining the support of clients was wasted because clients were fickle. (33) Furthermore, Cyprian characterized the rich as those who, among other things, drive away the poor. (34) Riches bring an anxiety that could only be alleviated by giving them away, especially to one's clients and the poor. (35) God makes people rich not with possessions but with heavenly food. (36) While we need not doubt that Cyprian's letter to Donatus was greatly influenced by Stoicism and by Minucius Felix's Octavius, we can argue in addition that this text reveals a person motivated by (or who wants to be seen as being motivated by) the experience of religious conversion. (37) I am willing here to take Cyprian at face value. I have the sense of Cyprian struggling to reconcile the radical call to dispossession and the new model of leadership found in the Gospels with his own long years of cultural upbringing in a non-Christian society, a perennial struggle for Christian leaders. I would have no doubt that the Christian ethos, expressed in such statements as "lend without expecting repayment" (Luke 6:35), was responsible for Cyprian turning his back on the patron-client system. At the time of his conversion to Christianity and his election of the episcopacy, Cyprian had adopted an entirely new modus vivendi. I have the sense that Cyprian thought of Christianity as countercultural.

What would have informed Cyprian's realization would have been his catechumenal instruction, which would have been based upon coming to know the Scriptures and learning to make them a practical reality in his life. No doubt biblical passages on wealth and the need for almsgiving and love of neighbor, like the ones we find in the opening sections of book three of ad Quirinum, a work attributed to him, would have been used in that process of formation and practical conversion. (38) I think that the scriptural injunctions, not only in these particular passages but throughout the Scriptures, played a significant part in Cyprian's wish to downplay the kind of patron-client relationship that his wealth must have created in his relationships with other Christians. Indeed, quite a few of the scriptural passages mentioned in this section of ad Quirinum appear in Cyprian's writings, so we know that he was familiar with them. (39) What I think is missing in Bobertz's work is sufficient explanation as to why Cyprian rejected (or, at least, appeared to reject) the patron-client relationship at his conversion, an explanation that I think is to be found in his awareness of the explicit rejection by Jesus of such a social pattern of relationships. What Bobertz's work does demonstrate, though, is that, not very much later, Cyprian could not eradicate this non-Christian social dynamic from his practice of Christian leadership forever and that, despite his initial enthusiasm, the language and practice of the patron-client system soon crept back into his life.

Carole Straw has drawn attention to this religious dimension in Cyprian's conversion when she notes that he refers to God's indiscriminate munificence: (40) "This expansive imagery expresses Cyprian's religious optimism, but it is rooted as well in some harsher realities: in the need to define authority and community; in Cyprian's struggle to concoct the proper chemistry of the bishop's role and discover the formula binding individuals in sympathetic union." (41)

For her, Cyprian was involved in the transformation rather than the abolition of patronage:
 Cyprian's contribution is to re-evaluate patronage from the
 perspective of the poor, and in this light, the patron is
 only selfish, and his activities--games, banquets and
 politics--are obsolete forms of social intercourse which
 actually oppress rather than aid the poor. To put it another
 way, the Christian categories of rich and poor are superimposed
 upon the patron-client relationship, so that the old connections
 carry new charges and expectations. The poor are now the
 rightful clients of the rich patron, and it is his obligation
 to care for their true interests without expecting returns. (42)

The important point, I think, is the last one. The teachings of Jesus called for his followers to care for the poor without expecting return. I do not believe that Cyprian would have understood this as a type of transformed patronage. Patronage did involve mutual and reciprocal, even though disproportionate, benefit. I think Cyprian wanted to stress in ad Donatum (and this was repeated by Pontius) that he saw his conversion in terms of the abolition of patronage not its transformation. (43) 1 am arguing that, while Cyprian's self-dispossession of part of his wealth at this time would have been something that, as a pagan patron, he was used to doing, and while he would later employ almsgiving as helpful in his struggle for episcopal control of his community, at the time of his conversion his explicitly expressed motivation was religious rather than sociopolitical. The need to "define authority and community" was not a need that Cyprian faced immediately. Stefano Cavallotto points out that obedience to the Scriptures was an important part of Cyprian's teaching. (44) As the practical realities of life as a bishop confronted him in the time after his conversion, however, Cyprian's pure religious idealism, if we may use such a term, was confronted by the need to be an effective Christian leader. (45) Only then is it appropriate to speak of Cyprian's transformation of the practice of patronage.


How did Cyprian care for the poor within his community in his early years as bishop before the outbreak of the Decian persecution? How did other Christians care for the poor? De Habitu Virginum is dated to 249 by commentators. (46) This pastoral letter is addressed not only to those women who had embraced the life of virginity but to all Christian women, and it concerned the proper use of wealth. (47)

Cyprian urged modesty of dress and adornment on virgins. They ought not to clothe themselves as though they had husbands or sought them. (48) All Christians, but virgins in particular, gloried in things spiritual rather than in things carnal. (49) In his sights were rich women who were attached to their possessions and who invited the lustful attention of men. He writes with all the enthusiasm and perhaps intolerance of a newly initiated zealot, disappointed and indignant at the laxity of Christians of longer standing. The challenging words of 1 John 2:15-17 to renounce the world were addressed to them. (50)

It would seem that wealthy Christian women had been searching for arguments to justify their retention of riches and said that they were gifts from God and that God had chosen them to be rich. This Cyprian was prepared to grant, provided that these rich Christians used their wealth to help the poor. Such use enabled the rich to obtain forgiveness for their sins. (51) Such an idea was to become more prominent in later Christian thinking. (52) This acceptance that wealth was not entirely incompatible with Christianity is common in early Christianity, as is the notion that riches often made slaves of the wealthy and that the way to avoid this was to use the riches to help others. (53) "Use them, certainly, but for the things of salvation; use them, but for good purposes; use them, but for those things which God has commanded, and which the Lord has set forth. Let the poor feel that you are wealthy; let the needy feel you are rich. Lend your estate to God; give food to Christ." (54)

In the very next sentence Cyprian invited the wealthy virgins to care for the poor so that they would have many people to pray to God that they might carry out the glory of their virginity. (55) The idea of mutual benefit is very clear here in this appeal to the lowest common denominator. If wealthy Christians were not going to give alms simply because the Scriptures command it, then Cyprian would find a way of making such a practice appealing to them. Here we find the language of patronage and something of a retreat from a "pure" religious motive for acts of charity. What is interesting is that he attempted to interpret the Matthean injunction to store up incorruptible treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20), one of the passages in ad Quirinum I mentioned earlier, in a way that was compatible with the idea of using the poor as clients to intercede with God. The reluctance of those in the Christian community who were wealthy to be as generous as Cyprian was (and not even his enemies disputed that he was generous) in helping the poor was the first challenge to his understanding of the nature of Christian charity.

Bobertz asserts "that such an appeal from the bishop would result in donations being given to the church." (56) In other words, he assumes that Cyprian was calling for the wealthy virgins to entrust their donations to him so that he could distribute them to the poor (and thus "ensure that the church would be able to maintain a strong position of patronage" (57)). While the evidence from Tertullian demonstrates that the church of Carthage cared for the poor through a central collection, presumably under the control of the clergy, (58) I think it has to be admitted that this idea is not so clear here. Maybe it is just the rhetoric, but the passage from de Habitu quoted above suggests a more direct connection between giver and recipient and makes no mention of any kind of middleman. When we find Cyprian appealing to Acts 4:34-35 in de Vnitate, where the proceeds of the dispossession of property were given to the apostles to distribute to the poor, it must be remembered that this was written in the light of the experience of the persecution. (59) Perhaps the lack of people contributing to a central fund forced Cyprian to adopt a short-lived strategy of encouraging wealthy Christians to give alms directly to individuals.

Yet the main interest in the pamphlet is not the way that riches can be used to help the poor. Instead, the focus is on the incompatibility of riches with following Christ. (60) There is less of a call to almsgiving than there is a call to simple renunciation of attachment to riches. Certainly the two are linked, but the focus is on the benefit for the individual not the benefit for others. Bobertz does not acknowledge this point.

It is well known that the first four letters in the collection of Cyprian's correspondence provide no clues for dating them. (61) Only Epistula 2 contains information relevant to the question of Cyprian's pastoral care for the poor. It is Cyprian's reply to an enquiry from Eucratius, a fellow bishop, about what to do with a Christian who insisted on keeping his profession as a drama teacher. His excuse that he would be destitute without the job was not an excuse according to Cyprian because he could be supported by the local church. (62) Cyprian twice made the point that this assistance was not lavish but rather sufficient. (63) If the local church could not support this individual, Cyprian recommended he come to Carthage where he could be fed and clothed. (64) What we can tell from this letter is that the bishop had the responsibility of deciding who was to be added to the list of those receiving financial assistance from the church and that Cyprian's church could afford to care for some poor from other communities as well as his own. I think we can also conclude that there must have been some centrally organized system of the provision of such pastoral care.


In examining the letters written from and to Cyprian during the time of Decian persecution from 250 to 251, I shall use the chronology established by Graeme Clarke. (65) The basic sequence of events during the persecution as they involved Cyprian is well enough known not to need to be repeated here. (66) Here we find confirmation of the point established by Bobertz, which, according to my interpretation, means that Cyprian discovered that simply appealing to people's better nature or the command of the Scriptures was insufficient and that, when faced with threats to his leadership, he needed to cement the loyalty of his church against rebellious clergy.

Peter Brown has commented recently: "The letters of Cyprian, bishop of Carthage from 248 to 258, are impressive testimony to his use of wealth for the care of the poor in order to reinforce his notion of the Catholic Church as a closed, embattled community grouped around its bishop." (67) He goes on to point out that such care was only for the poor who had "stood firm in times of persecution." (68) Rebecca Weaver has drawn attention to the fact that the persecution saw a change, specifically a hardening, in Cyprian's attitude towards wealth and the wealthy. (69) I agree that we should see the persecution as a time that forced many changes to Cyprian's thinking and practices. This was the moment when the exercise of patronage emerged in Cyprian's pastoral activity as bishop.

The first of Cyprian's letters from very early in 250 (70) is his explanation to the clergy in Carthage as to why he went into hiding. It would seem from the letter that the practical care of widows, the sick, and the poor was the responsibility not only of the bishop but of the presbyters and deacons as well, for it would appear that here Cyprian was admonishing them not to neglect this duty rather than asking them to take on his. (71) Yet, in his next letter back to his clergy, we receive perhaps some clarity on this question. He urged them to fulfill his tasks in his absence as well as their own tasks. (72) He then enumerated what his responsibilities were, which amounted to taking care of those in need, here particularly the imprisoned confessors and others who had not lapsed. (73)

In his earliest letter he asked the clergy to use his own funds (mea propria) to care for the needs of travelers and strangers (refugees from persecution?). These funds were in the keeping of Rogatianus the presbyter. In case they were exhausted already, Cyprian sent more money with Naricus the acolyte. There is a later suggestion that this amounted to 250 sesterces. (74) He wanted this duty to be performed generously and swiftly. (75) Bobertz suggests that hospitality was the particular prerogative of the bishop and that it was an extraordinary step for Cyprian to ask that the clergy undertake this in his name. (76) In the next letter we find that all the collected money (summula omnis quae redacta est) has been distributed among the clergy so that there could be a number of ministers to help those in need. (77) Here again we find evidence of the centralization of charity. Clarke believes that in Cyprian's words "thus putting a number in the position to ease individual cases of hardship and necessity" (ut haberent plures unde ad necessitates et pressures singulorum operari possint), we find evidence that this situation was a novelty and that normally the distribution of charitable funds was in the bishop's direct control. (78) Indeed, when Cyprian wrote that the funds had been entrusted to the clergy "precisely to meet emergencies of this kind" (propter eiusmodi casus), he would seem to have indicated that this arrangement was in place only because of this unusual state of affairs. (79) Could it be though that what had been in the bishop's direct control was the distribution of his own funds and that this letter says nothing about whether wealthy individual lay Christians had been contributing to a bishop-administered fund or distributing alms individually?

A little later, when the problem of Christians lapsing in the face of the imperial demand was becoming evident but before the imprisoned confessors were subject to torture, Cyprian wrote to those in prison, which now included Rogatianus, and to the clergy in Carthage. Once again he urged his clergy to act in his place. (80) In particular, the steadfast poor were to have their poverty alleviated to the extent that it was possible. The confessors were to be given clothing, food, and whatever else was necessary, provided that they too were faithful to the discipline of the Church. (81) In addition to these bequests, Cyprian sent the confessors directly another 250 sesterces from himself and 175 sesterces from Victor the deacon. (82) In late summer of 250 this feature of Cyprian's pastoral ministry, continued even while he was in hiding, was to receive praise from the Roman clergy. (83) One has the sense that Cyprian was embarrassed by the paltry amount, for he emphasized how little he had with him. As well, he was pleased that others in the community were competing with each other to make contributions. (84) Whether this was done directly or was to the fund divided among the clergy, we do not know.

The same ideas are repeated in a later letter to the clergy in Carthage. Cyprian was quite explicit that it was his responsibility to care for those in need and that his clergy were assuming his responsibilities for him. (85) Again, the confessors and the steadfast poor were mentioned as those to receive this assistance. (86) It is around this time that Cyprian wrote to the confessors in Carthage about the two crowns, which I mentioned at the beginning of this paper. (87) It is to be noted that the good works he encouraged the confessors to perform were not specified. The point to be made here is that Cyprian did not have reason to doubt the personal loyalty of his church to him as bishop. His concern for the poor was motivated most, we may assume, by the importance of the Christian imperatives.

Up to this point, before the problem of the confessors granting reconciliation to some of the lapsi and the rebellion of dissident clergy emerged, Cyprian did not seem overly concerned by the fact that the daily control of this charitable activity was out of his hands. Once those problems emerged, however, his attitude sharpened. Bobertz is certainly right to draw attention to the social reality that whoever ritualized the celebration of reconciliation in the community established patterns of loyalty within that community. (88) Indeed, it is in this period of time that his claims about Cyprian's use of patronage as a political tool are most obviously relevant. Peter Brown writes: "Already in the third century Cyprian of Carthage had distributed funds for the poor in such a way as to reward only those who remained loyal to him." (89) We must remember, though, that this applies to a particular period of Cyprian's time as bishop.

However, here I must raise a small question about Bobertz's argument. With regard to Epistula 14, for example, he writes that "it is clear that what is meant here by 'administratio religiosa' is the continued provision for the stantes and the confessors from the resources of the community.... The stantes are to be supported as a means by which their loyalty might be held for the Christian cause." (90) I wonder whether he defines the recipients of this patronage too widely. Cyprian specifically mentioned, in addition to the confessors (those imprisoned), the faithful poor, not the faithful in general. Is it right to assume that the stantes only included the poor? (91) Had all those who were not poor lapsed? How many wealthy Christians fled rather than lapsed, as Cyprian himself did, thereby preserving their standing within the community and so were in a position to continue giving alms? (92) If we accept what Cyprian himself wrote at the start of the letter, that the vast majority of Christians had lapsed, (93) then perhaps his notion seems quite plausible. It would be a theme that Cyprian would repeat in de Lapsis, as we shall see. In Epistula 15, where Cyprian criticized those confessors who were making money out of the granting of certificates for reconciliation to the lapsi, (94) the implication certainly is that those who had lapsed had money. This would mean that the church faced a demand (indeed, an increased demand) for its charitable assistance with a vastly diminished income (if we presume that those who lapsed ceased making contributions to the Christian community). (95) Were there any nonpoor stantes left? If there were, the interesting point is that they would not have needed Cyprian's almsgiving patronage to survive, and so we would need to ask how Cyprian went about trying to secure their support. If the generalization that wealthier Christians lapsed while poorer Christians remained faithful has a degree of truth to it, then we must understand the laxist position on the readmission of the lapsi not only in theological terms but in socioeconomic terms as well. The laxists must have been highly concerned to readmit the wealthy lapsi to communion because without them the church would face a real crisis in its ability to care for the needs of the faithful poor.

In the three letters sent to the confessors, the clergy, and laity (Epistulae 15-17) in May 250, in which he began to address the problems raised by this alternative reconciliation practice that threatened completely his episcopal authority, we find no direct mention of the church's care of those in need. The behavior of some confessors was now the immediate problem that needed to be addressed, and this became Cyprian's central if not sole concern. From now on when Cyprian writes of the welfare and needs of the community, (96) he seems to be referring less and less to physical needs and more to spiritual needs about sorting out who belongs and who has authority. At the same time, Cyprian did not want to assist his rebellious clergy by providing them with the resources to construct a competing patronage network in Carthage. When the Roman clergy wrote to the Carthaginian clergy, they reminded their colleagues of the importance of care for the widows, the imprisoned, and the homeless in the midst of their comments about reconciliation to the lapsed and the baptism of catechumens who fall ill. (97)

Yet, as we know, at least for Rome, not all widows were poor and in need of the assistance of the Christian community. Some widows, and orphans too, entrusted money to the church, some of which had been embezzled by Nicostratus and Novatus, Roman presbyters. (98) What are we to understand by the verbs deposita and denegatae? Did the church simply hold on to these deposits, or did it make some use of them? If the latter, which seems the most likely, how did the church repay this money if it had only been received on loan? Was this a more permanent handing over of resources to the Roman church? Unfortunately, Cyprian does not provide us with answers to these questions. What we can say is that this money must have provided a centralized resource for the pastoral care for the poor, a resource that must have been put under increasing strain because of persecution and embezzlement.

What we do find is the first hint that for lapsed Christians themselves, the true path to reconciliation sanctioned by the bishop involved making amends through prayer and good works. (99) Such good works would naturally have involved almsgiving. This is the first time in such an explicit way in Cyprian that we find that almsgiving benefits not just the recipient but the giver directly as well. (100) Almsgiving was to become an important feature of Cyprian's pastoral care of lapsed Christians in Carthage as a form of penance, as well as the means of caring for the financially needy. This idea that almsgiving could atone for the sins of the donor would become important for later Christianity. (101) Earlier, in Epistula 10, when he had referred to the white crown of good works, Cyprian had not mentioned them as a means to reconciliation. From now on, when he referred to good works, Cyprian linked them with this idea of atonement. (102) Celerinus's letter from Rome to Lucianus, the imprisoned confessor in Carthage, on behalf of two lapsae mentions the fact that they had been atoning for their faults through penance and good works, which involved care for Carthaginian refugees in Rome. (103) The two women had sixty-five people under their care. (104) This is an important letter for this paper in that it makes explicit what good works involved. Other lapsi in Carthage obviously heeded Cyprian's call, for he drew attention to them as being involved in charity (with the implication that their appeals for reconciliation would be heard favorably) in a letter to others who had not. (105) What is worth noting here is that there is no hint that their charitable activity had been channeled through the clergy (on behalf of the absent bishop). If their activity had been direct, then we should not overemphasize the centralization of charity.

The other important point to make is that if Cyprian now encouraged wealthy lapsi to engage in almsgiving as an act of penance, then the poor themselves would be taken care of better as resources were directed towards them more abundantly. In a sense, the poor would now be less concerned with the question of how quickly the lapsi were readmitted to communion because they were receiving alms regardless. At a stroke Cyprian had removed the reason for the faithful poor to support the rebellious clergy and had drawn them back to himself.

We do not hear any more about the pastoral care of the poor until a letter from Cyprian to Caldonius and Herculanus, bishops he had sent to Carthage to oversee the tasks he had entrusted to his clergy, written a little before Easter 251. It is at this point that there was open rebellion against Cyprian's authority as bishop from Felicissimus. (106) For some time Cyprian had been appointing as new clergy men who were loyal to him and dependent upon his patronage, and the resentment this created among the other clergy of Carthage reached boiling point. (107) Felicissimus had been frustrating the efforts of the bishops Cyprian had sent to Carthage and of the clergy still loyal to him who had been given the task of aiding those Christians who could no longer earn a sufficient living through the practice of their trade and of finding suitable candidates among the laity to advance to clerical office. (108) "Both actions naturally were intended to enhance Cyprian's authority as patron before his actual return." (109) It is here that we read of Cyprian's only effort at securing the loyalty of those in Carthage who, under normal circumstances, would not normally be classified as poor or not normally receive alms. What Bobertz has highlighted insufficiently at this point is the fact that, as I see it, Cyprian was, for the first time, extending his patronage beyond those who normally would have received it, to include now those who had been made poor (in relative if not absolute terms) as a result of persecution. It seems likely that those artisans who acknowledged their Christianity in response to the Decian edict either could not now practice their trade because they had been imprisoned or had lost business as their customers discovered their religious affiliation. They had become the new poor. That more people were to be the recipients of the bishop's pastoral and practical outreach must have placed a greater drain on his financial resources than ever before. This is an important point to make because it then suggests clearly that the rivalry between Cyprian and his rebellious clergy was reaching its climax.

Felicissimus had hindered that operation and had threatened those who received Cyprian's aid with the threat of excommunication from the church in Carthage. An actual schism was emerging. Cyprian responded by excommunicating Felicissimus. This was his nearly final letter during the period of his hiding before he returned to Carthage in 251 and convened a synod of African bishops to discuss the issues that had arisen because of the Decian persecution and the troubles with the episcopal elections in Rome.

In de Lapsis, which he was composing around the time he was planning to return to Carthage just after Easter 251 and which was probably delivered as a homily to the people of Carthage and as an address to those assembled at the 251 synod, (112) Cyprian concluded with an appeal to the lapsi to embrace a life of penance that they might experience God's mercy, even though they would not be reconciled completely with the church until near death. That life of penance was to include prayer, weeping, fasting, and, above all, almsgiving. Such charity was to atone for the sins of the lapsi, to benefit the recipient, to remove the love of possessions, the desire to retain, which had led the lapsi into denying their Christianity in the first place, and to imitate the practice of the apostles.
 [A]pply yourself to good deeds which can wash away your sins, be
 constant and generous in giving alms, whereby souls are freed from
 death. What the Adversary was trying to make his own, let it become
 Christ's. A man should not keep and love that patrimony which
 ensnared him and caused his downfall. Such property must be
 shunned like an enemy, fled from like a highwayman; those who
 own it must fear it as they would fear poison or the sword. Let what
 remains of it serve only to make reparation for the guilt of sin.
 Let your largess be without delay, without stint, let all your wealth
 be expended on the healing of your wound; let us use our goods and
 our riches to make Our Lord beholden to us, for He is one day to be
 our Judge. Such was the rich fruit of faith in the Apostles' time,
 this was how the first assembly of believers observed Christ's
 commands: they gave at once, and generously. They gave their all
 to be distributed by the Apostles--yet they had no such crimes to
 repair. (113)

This treatise affirms the notion that the more possessions one had the more likely one was to lapse. They were not free who lapsed but were chained by their property and wealth. Cyprian pointed to the Scriptures to remind such people how they could have avoided such a dilemma when the Decian edict for sacrifice came. If they had given away their possessions (Matthew 19:21) and if they had stored up treasure for themselves in heaven (Matthew 6:20-21), then they would have been free. (114) These two passages occur in ad Quirinum, which we mentioned earlier in this paper.

Cyprian's de Vnitate was written in 251, whether in response to the Novatianist crisis in Rome or the establishment of rival bishops in Carthage is still disputed by scholars. (115) While almsgiving was not the issue at stake here, Cyprian argued that a lack of charity (in direct contradiction to Jesus' command to sell [Matthew 19:21, an ad Quirinum passage mentioned earlier]), unlike that found practiced in the apostolic church (and Cyprian applied Matthew 6:20, another ad Quirinun, passage, to this), weakened the unity of the community, (116)

How effective was Cyprian's appeal to the wealthy lapsi to be generous almsgivers? I think we can conclude that they were effective. The ultimate failure of the laxist community in Carthage occurred because those who had been supporting the rebellious clergy, unlike those clergy themselves, did not want to see the establishment of a rival community; they wanted to be reconciled to the community to which they had belonged. Once Cyprian had reasserted his control, only he could turn that desire into a reality. If conspicuous almsgiving was to be the condition for that reconciliation, then I believe Cyprian had found an effective way of addressing this social need.


From these early writings of Cyprian we come to know the importance of almsgiving in the life of Christians as well as the importance of the administration of almsgiving in the pastoral ministry of a bishop. In the middle of the third century we witness the organized way in which the Christian community of Carthage cared for its less well-off members. My argument here is that evidence points to the fact that Cyprian's earliest involvement with almsgiving was motivated by his religious experience of conversion and his adoption of the Scriptures as a motive for action. The idea of love of neighbor and giving without expecting return appealed to him. He attempted to disassociate himself from the familiar practice of patronage. Although he never appears to have lost this motivation, events soon forced him to take up patronage once more as part of his relationship with the church in which he was now bishop. Those who elected him wanted to experience the benefits of patronage. As he discovered that wealthier members of his Christian community were less inclined than he was to be as generous with almsgiving, Cyprian had to find ways of motivating them. While he could appeal to the teaching of the Scriptures, he also had to appeal to more self-centered motives, such as the reward the almsgiver would receive from its recipients' willingness to pray for the salvation of their benefactors. Here Cyprian was back in the familiar world of patron-client relationships.

The Decian persecution forced an even more dramatic change to the normal pattern of care. Cyprian in hiding was unable to administer directly and personally the funds of the Church used for charitable assistance to those in need, which now included the imprisoned confessors and refugees in addition to the usual poor and widows. Due to the growing dissatisfaction with Cyprian as bishop from among his clergy, Cyprian needed to find loyal agents to administer those funds in his name in order to secure loyal supporters. Almsgiving was used to turn the faithful poor into Cyprian's own clients. What is interesting is that this motive was something that neither Cyprian nor his biographer wished to acknowledge because I think Cyprian always struggled with reconciling the operation of the patron-client system with the Christian imperative to give without expecting return. In addition, even though the pastoral care of the poor seems to have been centralized in Carthage, it seems that some people still maintained a more direct almsgiving to the poor.

At the same time, because of the persecution, Cyprian held out the hope of reconciliation with the Church to those lapsed Christians who submitted to his demands that they perform prayer and penance. This penance involved good works like almsgiving and direct care for the poor and homeless. While good works would gain the lapsed the reconciliation they desired, for those who had remained faithful, good works would win for them the white crown of salvation. No matter how much Cyprian used almsgiving and care for the poor as a sociopolitical tool to secure his authority as bishop, it must be remembered that it was always in the broader religious context of the demands of the Gospel and the promise of eternal life.

The idea of giving alms to the poor because this was what the Scriptures commanded and because it could lead to the forgiveness of sin is characteristic of early Christianity for centuries to come. (117) What we find in Cyprian was a bishop who not only shared in that mindset but who faced particular challenges brought about by persecution. These would cease in another half century. While what Cyprian taught would be repeated by later writers, the context in which it was written was unique. We see in Cyprian's earliest years as bishop the tension between the scriptural command to give without counting the cost and the reality that many Christians needed something else to motivate them to give. Even Cyprian himself, who would have us believe that he was wholeheartedly motivated by Scripture, found that in the realities of persecution, there could be other uses for Christian care for the poor.

(1.) I am grateful for the funding from the Australian Research Council that made this research possible. An earlier version of this paper was presented to the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Patristics Study in Toronto in May 2002.

(2.) G. W. Clarke, The Letters of St. Cyprian of Carthage, vol. 1, Letters 1 27, Ancient Christian Writers 43 (New York: Newman, 1984), 226.

(3.) Cyprian, Ep. 10.5.2 (Corpus Christianorum, series Latina [hereafter CCL] 3B.55): "Erat ante in operibus fratrum candida, nunc facta est in martyrum cruore purpurea." It is here that Cyprian referred to the Church's two blooms: the lily and the rose. Cyprian used purpura to indicate the color of blood, and so Clarke's choice of "crimson" as a translation is more reflective of Cyprian than "purple."

(4.) Ibid. "Accipiant coronas uel de opere candidas uel de passione purpureas. In caelestibus castris et pax et acies habent flores suos quibus miles Christi ob gloriam coronetur." It is interesting to note, by way of contrast, that Tertullian, de Cot. 1.3 (CCL 2.1040), wrote of those waiting in prison, "ut de martyrii candida laurea melius coronandus."

Geoffrey D. Dunn is Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Early Christian Studies, Australian Catholic University.

(5.) See Geoffrey D. Dunn, "Cyprian's Care for the Poor: The Evidence of the de Opere et Eleemosynis," Studia Patristica, papers presented to the Fourteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies, Oxford 2003 (forthcoming).

(6.) Cyprian, de Oper. 26 (CCL 3A.72): "nusquam Dominus meritis nostris ad praemium deerit, in pace unincentibus coronam candidam pro operibus dabit, in persecutione purpuream pro passione geminabit."

(7.) Cyprian, Ep. 76.1.3 (CCL 3C.607): "diligentiam in administratione." (Eng. trans. G. W. Clarke, The Letters of St. Cyprian of Carthage, vol. 4, Letters 67-82, Ancient Christian Writers 47 [New York: Newman, 1989]. On the date of the letter, see 277-78.)

(8.) Ibid., 76.1.4 (CCL 3C.607-8).

(9.) Charles Arnold Bobertz, "Cyprian of Carthage as Patron: A Social Historical Study of the Role of Bishop in the Ancient Christian Community of North Africa," (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1988).

(10.) Peter Brown, The Making of Late Antiquity (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978), 79.

(11.) Bobertz, "Cyprian of Carthage as Patron," 65, 70.

(12.) Ibid., 130-252.

(13.) See Richard Saller, Personal Patronage under the Early Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

(14.) See also Wolfgang Wischmeyer, "Der Bishof im Prozess. Cyprian als episcopus, patronus, advocatus und martyr vor dem Prokonsul," in Fructus centesimus. Melanges offerts a Gerard J. M. Bartelink a l'occasion de son soixante-cinquieme anniversaire, ed. A. A. R. Bastiaesen and others, Instrumenta Patristica 19 (Steenbrugge: Sint-Pietersabdij, and Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1989), 363-71.

(15.) On this first Christian biography, including the question of Pontius's authorship of this work, see Michael M. Sage, Cyprian, Patristic Monograph Series 1 (Cambridge, Mass.: Philadelphia Patristic Foundation, 1975), 385-94; Jaakko Aronen, "Indebtedness to Passio Perpetuae in Pontius' Vita Cypriani," Vigiliae Christianae 38 (1984): 67-76; Charles Bobertz, "An Analysis of Vita Cypriani 3.6-10 and the Attribution of ad Quirinum to Cyprian of Carthage," Vigiliae Christianae 46 (1992): 112-28; Hugo Montgomery, "Pontius' Vita S. Cypriani and the Making of a Saint," Symbolae Osloenses 71 (1996): 195-215.

(16.) Pontius, Vita 2 (Corpus Christianorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum [hereafter CSEL] 3.3.xcii): "distractis rebus suis ad indigentium multorum pacem sustinendam tota prope pretia dispensans duo bona simul iunxit, ut et ambitionem saeculi sperneret qua perniciosius nihil est et misericordiam quam Deus etiam sacrificiis suis praetulit." That Cyprian was a catechumen is stated explicitly at Vita 6 (CSEL 3.3.xcvi). (Eng. trans. Ernest Wallis from A. Roberts and J. Donaldson, eds. [rev. A. C. Coxe], The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5, Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian, Appendix (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1886).

(17.) J. Patout Burns, Cyprian the Bishop, Routledge Early Church Monographs (London: Routledge, 2002), 207, n. 2.

(18.) Quintilian, Inst. 3.7.4, 10 25.

(19.) L. Wm. Countryman, The Rich Christian in the Church of the Early Empire: Contradictions and Accommodations, Texts and Studies in Religion 7 (New York: Edwin Mellen, 1980), 185.

(20.) Ibid., 187.

(21.) Bobertz, "Cyprian of Carthage as Patron," 95, n. 44; 127, 71.87.

(22.) Pontius, Vita 3 (CSEL 3.3.xciv.): "domus eius patuit cuicumque uenienti: nulla uidua reuocata sinu uacuo, nullus indigens lumine non illo comite directus est, nullus debilis gressu non illo baiulo uectus est, nullus nudus auxilio de potentioris manu non illo tutore protectus est. haec debent facere, dicebat, qui Deo placere desiderant, et sic [per] bonorum omnium documenta decurrens, dum meliores semper imitatus, etiam ipse se fecit imitandum."

(23.) Bobertz, "An Analysis of Vita Cypriani 3.6-10," 116-17, argues that this combination and the omission of Job 29:13a and 14, which is found also in ad Quir. 3.1 (CCL 3.81), is proof that Pontius depended upon ad Quirinum.

(24.) Bobertz, "Cyprian of Carthage as Patron," 119: "Cyprian's generous gift to the Christian community might not have been intended to bring him the bishop's seat in exchange, but it certainly must have established a sense of obligation as well as expectation on the part of the community."

(25.) Ibid., 121-23.

(26.) Ibid., 128-29.

(27.) At the same time, I have no problem with what I find on page 121: "Taken as a whole, the description of Cyprian's episcopal election in the Vita shows every indication that the selection of Cyprian can be analyzed in terms of a patron-client relationship." The distinction I am making is between what we today may understand and what Pontius was trying to portray.

(28.) See Sage, Cyprian, 380. If Bobertz is right, and I think he is, then the date for the baptism is likely to be much closer to Cyprian's election as bishop than to 246.

(29.) Bobertz examines ad Dona. in his dissertation (80-87), but mainly in terms of what it reveals about Cyprian's social standing at the time of his conversion, not in terms of any conflict between his understanding of Christianity and his experiences of patronclient relationships.

(30.) Ibid., 95, n. 44.

(31.) Cyprian, ad Dona. 3 (CCL 3A.4): "'Hic stipatus clientium cuneis, frequentiore comitatu officiosi agminis honestatus, poenam putat esse, cure solus est." Again, the important question is why Cyprian wanted his reader to believe this.

(32.) Ibid., 10 (CCL 3A.9): "Quis inter haec uero subueniat? Patronus? Sed praeuaricatur et decipit."

(33.) Ibid., 11 (CCL 3A.10): "quot tumentium contumeliosa uestigia stipatus in clientium cuneos ante praecessit, ut ipsum etiam salutatum comes postmodum pompa praecederet, obnoxia non homini sed potestati! Neque enim coli moribus recruit ille sed fascibus. Horum denique uideas exitus turpes. Cure auceps temporum palpator abscessit, cure priuati latus nudum desertor adsecla foedauit: tunc laceratae donuts plagae conscientiam feriunt, tunc rei familiaris exhaustae damna noscuntur, quibus redemptus fauor uulgi et caducis adque inanibus uotis popularis aura quaesita est."

(34.) Ibid., 12 (CCL 3A.10): "et de confinio pauperibus exclusis."

(35.) Ibid., 12 (CCL 3A.11): "Nulla in clientes inde largitio est, cure indigentibus nulla partitioest." The fact that Cyprian even uses the term "clients" while disavowing the patronclient relationship is, I think, an indication of the importance of that relationship to one who was trying to reject it.

(36.)Ibid., 15 (CCL 3A.12).

(37.) On some of those influences on Cyprian, see Victor Saxer, "Reflets de la culture des eveques africains dans l'oeuvre de Saint Cyprien," Revue Benedictine 94 (1984): 259-61. Countryman, The Rich Christian, 186, suggests that Cyprian may also have been motivated by philosophical traditions that were not Christian.

(38.) Cyprian, ad Quir. 3.1 (CCL 3.80-88). If Bobertz, "An Analysis of Vita Cypriani," 112-28, is correct and Cyprian did not write ad Quir., then it could well have been the very kind of text that was used for the catechetical instruction of Cyprian himself. The scriptural passages are: Isa. 58:1-9; Job 29:12-13, 15-16; Tob. 2:2; 4:5-11; Prov. 19:17; 28:27; 15:27a; 25:21-22; Sir. 3:29; Prov. 3:28; 21:13; 20:7; Sir. 14:11-12; 29:12; Ps. 36(37):25-26; 40(41):2; 111(112):9; Hos. 6:6; Matt. 5:6 7; 6:20 21; 13:45-46; 10:42; 5:42; 19:17-21; 25:31-46; Luke 12:33; 11:40-41; 19:8-9; 2 Cor. 8:14 15; 9:6-7, 9-12; 1 John 3:17; Luke 14:12-14.

(39.) We find Matt. 5:6 in Ep. 63.8.4 (CCL 3C.399); Matt. 6:20-21 in de Laps. 11 (CCL 3.226); de Mort. 26 (CCL 3A.31); de Oper. 7 (CCL 3A.60), 22 (CCL 3A.69); de Orat. 20 (CCL 3A.103); de Habi. 11 (CSEL 3.1.195); de Vnit. 26 (CCL 3.267); Matt. 13:45-46 in de Oper. 7 (CCL 3A.60); Matt. 5:42 in de Bono 16 (CCL 3A.127); Matt. 19:21 in de Laps. 21 (CCL 3.226); de Mort. 26 (CCL 3A.31); de Oper. 7 (CCL 3A.59), 22 (CCL 3A.69); de Orat. 20 (CCL 3A.102); de Vnit. 26 (CCL 3.267); de Zelo 16 (CCL 3A.84); Matt. 25:31-46 in de Oper. 16 (CCL 3A.65), 22 (CCL 3A.68), 23 (CCL 3A.69); de Orat. 13 (CCL 3A.97), 33 (CCL 3A.111); de zelo 15 (CCL 3A.84); ad Deme. 24 (CCL 3A.49); Ep. 30.7.2 (CCL 3B.149); Luke 12:33 in de Oper. 7 (CCL 3A.59); Luke 11:40-41 in de Oper. 2 (CCL 3A.56); Luke 19:8-9 in de Oper. 8 (CCL 3A.60); Ep. 63.4.2 (CCL 3C.394); 2 Cor. 9:9-12 in de Oper. 9 (CCL 3A.61); 1 John 3:17 in de Oper. 16 (CCL 3A.65), to mention only the New Testament passages. See Michael A. Fahey, Cyprian and the Bible: A Study in Third-Century Exegesis (Tubingen: Eberhard-Karls-Universitat, 1971), passim.

(40.) Carole E. Straw, "Cyprian and Mt 5:45: The Evolution of Christian Patronage," in Studia Patristica 18/3, ed. Elizabeth A. Livingstone, papers presented at the 1983 Oxford Patristics Conference (Leuven: Peeters, 1989), 330: "This ideal of munificence is an ideal of reform and so appears on many levels of Cyprian's thought. It expresses God's relation to humanity, and is the image of equity one must imitate to be perfect."

(41.) Ibid.

(42.) Ibid., 332.

(43.) If anything, perhaps Cyprian might have seen himself as client to God. In return for Cyprian's care of God's poor, he would be rewarded by God with salvation.

(44.) Stefano Cavallotto, "Il Magistero Episcopale di Cipriano di Cartagine: Aspetti metodologici," Divus Thomas 91 (1989): 381-93.

(45.) Hugo Montgomery, "Saint Cyprian's Secular Heritage," in Studies in Ancient History and Numismatics Presented to Rudi Thomsen (Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 1988), 218-19, while recognizing that secular patronage was influential in Cyprian's actions as bishop, sees something else at work in Cyprian's divestment of property at the time of his conversion (218): "Without doubt Cyprian had been a resourceful person before becoming a Christian. Nevertheless he could gain new prestige in the Church, where other sets of values were valid than in the pagan world."

(46.) Paul Monceaux, Histoire litteraire de l'Afrique chretienne depuis les origins jusqu a l'invasion arabe, vol. 2, St. Cyprien et son temps (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1902), 251; E. W. Watson, "The De Habitu Virginum of St. Cyprian," Journal of Theological Studies 22 (1920-21): 361-63; Angela Elizabeth Keenan, Thasci Caecili Cypriani--De Habitu Virginum: A Commentary with an Introduction and Translation, Catholic University of America Patristic Studies 34 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1932), 4; Sage, Cyprian, 381.

(47.) Geoffrey D. Dunn, "Infected Sheep and Diseased Cattle or the Pure and Holy Flock: Cyprian's Pastoral Care of Virgins," Journal of Early Christian Studies 11 (2003): 5-12.

(48.) Cyprian, de Habi. 5 (CSEL 3.1.191).

(49.) Ibid., 6 (CSEL 3.1.191).

(50.) Ibid., 7 (CSEL 3.1.192).

(51.) Ibid., 11 (CSEL 3.1.195): "ut patrimonium suo unusquisque locupletior magis redimere debeat quam augere delicta." This idea receives only the briefest of mentions in this text.

(52.) Gerard J. Budde, "Christian Charity: Now and Always," The Ecclesiastical Review 85 (1931): 571-73.

(53.) Ibid., 562-64.

(54.) Cyprian, de Habi. 11 (CSEL 3.1.195): "utere sed ad res salutares et bonas artes: utere ad illa quae Deus praecepit, quae Dominus ostendit, diuitem te sentiant pauperes, locupletem te sentiant indigentes, patrimonio tuo Deum faenera, Christum ciba."

(55.) Ibid.: "ut uirginitatis perferre gloriam liceat, ut ad Domini praemia uenire contingat, multorum precibus exora." On the idea of almsgiving as atonement for sin, and the reference at the end of chapter 6 to virgins glorying in their flesh only when they confess the name under torture, as not indicating a date of composition during the Decian persecution, see Dunn "Infected Sheep and Diseased Cattle," 5, n. 17. The hundredfold rewards of martyrdom in chapter 21 is again too general a reference to be used for dating purposes. Indeed, the fact that Cyprian spends so much of that chapter concerned about feasts and marriage banquets would suggest that this pastoral letter was not written during a time of persecution.

(56.) Bobertz, "Cyprian of Carthage as Patron," 56-57.

(57.) Ibid., 57.

(58.) Tertullian, Apol. 39.5-6 (CCL 1.150-51).

(59.) Cyprian, de Vnit. 26 (CCL 3.267).

(60.) Cyprian, de Habi. 8-10, 12-24 (CSEL 3.1.193-95, 195-205).

(61.) See G. W. Clarke, "Praecedit Dissertatio Biographica/Chronologica de Cypriani Vita ac Scriptis, quam Composuit," in Sancti Cypriani Episcopi Opera, Pars III, 3, Prolegomena, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 3D (Turnhout: Brepols, 1999), 691-92.

(62.) Cyprian, Ep. 2.2.2 (CCL 3B.7).

(63.) Ibid., 2.2.2; 2.2.3 (CCL 3B.7-8).

(64.) Ibid., 2.2.3 (CCL 3B.8).

(65.) Clarke, "Praecedit Dissertatio," 692-98.

(66.) See G. W. Clarke, "Some Observations on the Persecution of Decius," Antichthon 3 (1969): 63-76; Sage, Cyprian, 165-265; Maurice Bevenot, "Cyprian and His Recognition of Cornelius," Journal of Theological Studies, n.s. 28 (1977): 346-59; Joseph A. Fischer, "Die Konzilien zu Karthago und Rom im Jahr 251," Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum 11 (1979): 263-86; Clarke, Letters, 1:21-39; Pio Grattarola, "Il Problema dei Lapsi fra Roma e Cartagine," Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia 38 (1984): 1-26; Grattarola, "Gli Scismi di Felicissimo e di Novaziano," Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia 38 (1984): 367-90; J. B. Rives, "The Decree of Decius and the Religion of Empire," Journal of Roman Studies 89 (1999): 135-54; Yvette Duval, "Le debut de la persecution de Dece a Rome (Cyprien, Ep. 37)," Revue des Etudes Augustiniennes 46 (2000): 157-72; Duval, "Celerinus et les siens d'apres la correspondance de Cyprien (Ep. 21-23, 37, 39)," Revue des Etudes Augustiniennes 47 (2001): 33-62; Geoffrey D. Dunn, "The Carthaginian Synod of 251: Cyprian's Model of Pastoral Ministry," in I concili della cristianita occidentale secoli III V, Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 78, xxx Incontro di studiosi dell' antichith cristiania, Roma 3-5 maggio 2001 (Rome: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 2002), 235-57.

(67.) Peter Brown, Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire, Menahem Stern Jerusalem Lectures (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 2002), 24.

(68.) Ibid.

(69.) Rebecca H. Weaver, "Wealth and Poverty in the Early Church," Interpretation 41 (1987): 372.

(70.) Clarke, "Praecedit Dissertatio," 692.

(71.) Cyprian, Ep. 7.2 (CCL 3B.39): "Viduarum et infirmorum et omnium pauperum curare peto diligenter habeatis."

(72.) Ibid., 5.1.1 (CCL 3B.27). Bobertz, "Cyprian of Carthage as Patron," 132, states that Cyprian wanted the clergy to act as his clients in Carthage. 1 would argue instead that the clergy were here more agents than clients of Cyprian. Lectors, acolytes, deacons, presbyters, and bishops were all offices in an emerging clerical cursus honorum. At issue is the question of whether one who held a salaried position was the client of the one paying or was in some other relationship.

(73.) Cyprian, Ep. 5.1.2 (CCL 3B.27). Clarke, Letters, 1:185, n. 8, notes that there have been restrictions placed on the extent of the Church's care for those in need. Now, only the steadfast and meritorious poor were to be helped. One could contrast this with the attitude to be found in Augustine 140 years later that alms were to be given to sinners as well (Augustine, Serm. 164A [see C. Lambot, "Sermon sur l'aumone a restituer a saint Augustin," Revue Benedictine 66 (1956): 156-58 = Lambot 28]).

(74.) Cyprian, Ep. 13.7 (CCL 3B.78).

(75.) Ibid., 7.2 (CCL 3B.39).

(76.) Bobertz, "Cyprian of Carthage as Patron," 132-36.

(77.) Cyprian, Ep. 5.1.2 (CCL 3B.27).

(78.) Clarke, Letters, 1:186, n. 10.

(79.) Eiusmodi would refer then not to the Decian persecution itself but to the various emergency situations, like the imprisonment of confessors, that occurred during the persecution.

(80.) Cyprian, Ep. 14.2.1 (CCL 3B.80).

(81.) Ibid., 14.2.1-2 (CCL 3B.80-81).

(82.) Ibid., 13.7 (CCL 3B.78). R. P. Duncan-Jones, "Wealth and Munificence in Roman Africa," Papers of the British School at Rome 31 (1963): 171, points out that 200 sesterces would provide a subsistence income for one person for one year

(83.) [Cyprian], Ep. 31.6.1 (CCL 3B.157).

(84.) Cyprian, Ep. 13.7 (CCL 3B.78): "Gaudeo autem quando cognosco plurimos fraters nostros pro sua dilectione certatim concurrere et necessitates uestras suis conlationibus adiuuare."

(85.) Ibid., 12.1.1 (CCL 3B.67-68).

(86.) Ibid., 12.2.2 (CCL 3B.70). Brown, Poverty and Leadership, 119, n. 75, cites this passage on defining who were the eligible poor in the context of his argument about the centralization of wealth for charitable purposes in the hands of the bishop. This is not actually evident in this letter.

(87.) On the dating of Epp. 10-12, see Clarke, Letters, 1:248.

(88.) Bobertz, "Cyprian of Carthage as Patron," 141-43.

(89.) Peter Brown, Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Towards a Christian Empire (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), 90.

(90.) Bobertz, "Cyprian of Carthage as Patron," 147.

(91.) Ibid., 162, where Bobertz again identifies all the stantes mentioned in Ep. 12.2.2 with the poor.

(92.) Wealthy Christians who lapsed were ineligible to contribute to the care for poor Christians. This was accepted by everyone. This is why the laxist argument was so prevalent in Carthage--the church needed the wealthy lapsi to be readmitted to communion quickly so that they could start making financial contributions to the care of the poor again.

(93.) Cyprian, Ep. 14.1.1 (CCL 3B.79).

(94.) Ibid., 15.3.2 (CCL 3B.88).

(95.) Even this is a difficult thing to assert with absolute certainty. In Ep. 55.13.2 (CCL 3B.271), where he made distinctions between those who sacrificed willingly and those who were more reluctant, Cyprian was able to point to those who, while they themselves sacrificed, were able to spare their tenants and farmers and who welcomed into their estates refugees, to whom they provided direct pastoral care themselves, even while cut off from the church. Of course, it is not difficult to imagine Cyprian's concern with this arrangement. These generous lapsi would have had supporters in their claim for easy readmission to the church. The fact, though, that Cyprian wrote favorably about this type of lapsus should indicate that, by the time of the 251 synod, this was less of a problem for him.

(96.) Cyprian, Ep. 18.1.1 (CCL 3B.100).

(97.) ]Cyprian], Ep. 8.3.1 (CCL 3B.42).

(98.) [Cyprian], Ep. 50.1.2 (CCL 3B.238-39); Cyprian, Ep. 52.1.2 (CCL 3B.244); 52.2.5 (CCL 3B.247). See Geoffrey D. Dunn, "Widows and Other Women in the Pastoral Ministry of Cyprian of Carthage," Augustinianum (forthcoming).

(99.) Cyprian, Ep. 16.2.3 (CCL 3B.92): "precibus et operibus suis satisfacere."

(100.) Weaver, "Wealth and Poverty in the Early Church," on page 374, states that "Cyprian's teachings on the redemptive value of almsgiving and the hazards inherent in riches clearly had antecedents in Clement [of Alexandria]." The idea in Clement, as she points out on page 371, is that by helping poor Christians the rich would have someone to pray for them in heaven. Such an idea might be found in Cyprian's de Habi., but what we begin to find from Ep. 16 onwards is something different.

(101.) See Boniface Ramsay, "Almsgiving in the Latin Church: The Late Fourth and Early Fifth Centuries," Theological Studies 43 (1982): 241-47.

(102.) Cyprian, Ep. 19.1.1 (CCL 3B.103).

(103.) [Cyprian], Ep. 21.2.2 (CCL 3B 112-13). On these two women, see Geoffrey D. Dunn, "Cyprian and Women in a Time of Persecution," Journal of Ecclesiastical History (forthcoming).

(104.) Ibid., 21.4.1 (CCL 3B.114).

(105.) Ibid., 33.2.1 (CCL 3B.165).

(106.) See G. W. Clarke, The Letters of St. Cyprian of Carthage, vol. 2, Letters 28-54, Ancient Christian Writers 44 (New York: Newman, 1984), 204, n. 4, for whether Felicissimus was a deacon at this point or was only appointed as such by the presbyter Novatus sometime later (Cyprian, Ep. 52.2.3 [CCL 3B.246]). Bobertz, "Cyprian of Carthage as Patron," 214-15, accepts that he was already a deacon.

(107.) See Charles A. Bobertz, "Patronage Networks and the Study of Ancient Christianity," in Studia Patristica 24, ed. Elizabeth A. Livingstone, papers presented at the Eleventh International Conference on Patristic Studies, Oxford 1991 (Leuven: Peeters, 1993), 20-27.

(108.) Cyprian, Ep. 41.1.2 (CCL 3B.196-97).

(109.) Bobertz, "Cyprian of Carthage as Patron," 209.

(110.) Cyprian, Ep. 41.1.2 (CCL 3B.197).

(111.) Ibid., 41.2.1 (CCL 3B.198).

(112.) Dunn, "The Carthaginian Synod of 251," 243; Sage, Cyprian, 231-32. Clarke, Letters, 2:301-2, considers that, although de Laps. may have been read to the synod, it was not a "programmatic statement for that Council's agenda."

(113.) Cyprian, de Laps. 35 (CCL 3.240-41): "'iustis operibus incumbere quibus peccata purgantur, elemosynis frequenter insistere quibus a morte auimae liberantur. Quod aduersarius auferebat Christus accipiat, nec teneri Jam nec amari patrimonium debet quo quis et deceptus et uictus est. Pro hoste uitanda res, pro latrone fugienda, pro gladio metuenda possidentibus et ueneno. Ad hoc tantum profuerit quod remansit ut inde crimen et culpa redimatur; incunctanter et largiter fiat operatio, census onmis in medellam uulneris erogetur: opibus et facultatibus nostris qui de nobis iudicaturus est Dominus faeneretur. Sic sub apostolis tides uiguit, sic primus credentium populus Christi mandata seruauit. Prompti errant, largi errant, distribuendum per apostolos totum dabant, et non talia delicta redimebant."

(114.) Ibid., 11 (CCL 3.226).

(115.) See Monceaux, Histoire litteaire, 2:298 303; Maurice B6venot, St. Cyprian's De Unitate, Chap. 4 in the Light of the Manuscripts, Analecta Gregoriana 11 (Rome: Gregorian University, 1937), 66-77; Bevenot, "Hi qui sacrificaverunt: A Significant Variant in Saint Cyprian's De Unitate," Journal of Theological Studies, n.s. 5 (1954): 68-72; Bevenot, St. Cyprian: The Lapsed, The Unity of the Catholic Church, Ancient Christian Writers 25 (New York: Paulist, 1956), 5-8; Sage, Cyprian, 241-48; Clarke, Letters, 2:301-2; Charles A. Bobertz, "The Historical Context of Cyprian's De Unitate," Journal of Theological Studies, n.s. 41 (1990): 107-11; Burns, Cyprian the Bishop, 60; Geoffrey D. Dunn, "Heresy and Schism According to Cyprian of Carthage," Journal of Theological Studies, n.s. 55 (2004): 551-74. I am inclined to the view that Cyprian wrote the treatise with his own situation in mind but sent it to Rome (Ep. 54.4 [CCL 3B.255]) because it was relevant to the crisis that had developed there.

(116.) Cyprian, de Vnit. 26 (CCL 3.267).

(117.) See Boniface Ramsey, "Almsgiving in the Latin Church: The Late Fourth and Early Fifth Centuries," Theological Studies 43 (1982): 226-59.
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