After Novatian’s break with the Church over the treatment of Christians who had lapsed in the persecution of Decius (AD 250–52), Church authorities were reluctant to recognize officially his contributions to Christian theology. Because his writings were too valuable to ignore, a number of them were attributed to less controversial authors. On the basis of stylistic and other internal evidence, scholars have been able to retrieve Novatian’s work from obscurity and to give him recognition as a pioneer of Roman Latin theology.
This volume presents translations of all Novatian’s surviving writings, which appear together in English for the first time under their author’s name. The collection opens with the work that most clearly defines him as a theologian of central importance: The Trinity. This treatise refuted current heresies concerning Christ’s dual nature and God’s total spirituality.
The collection also contains a trilogy of pastoral letters: In Praise of Purity, The Spectacles, and Jewish Foods. Novatian, absent from his community, writes to his adherents about current problems in Christian morality and encourages them to remain faithful to the Gospel. In the three letters, written to Cyprian Bishop Carthage after the martyrdom of Pope Fabian, Novatian speaks for the Church at Rome. They are an important source for the study of Penance as practiced by the early Church. Novatian insisted that those who had denied Christ during the persecution should be most strictly dealt with. There is little in him of Cyprian’s conciliatory tone. Novatian’s Letters illumine a third-century controversy that offers new perspectives for modern re-examination of the sacrament.
For The Fathers of the Church series in its entirety, see Fathers of the Church Series (127 vols.).
“His providence has run and at present runs its course not only among individual men but also through whole cities and states, whose overthrow He predicted by the words of the prophets. In fact, His providence runs its course even through the whole world itself. He has described as consequences of its unbelief the world’s punishment, its plagues, losses, and final fate.” (Page 39)
“He is subject to the Father and herald of the Father’s will, he is proclaimed ‘Angel of Great Counsel” (Page 69)
“The man who has admiration for anything other than God loses some of his dignity.” (Page 132)
“what He is, He always is; who He is He always is; such as He is, He always is” (Page 31)
“To be overly concerned about one’s beauty is in itself a flaw and indicative of an imperfect spirit. (4) One should not tamper with the nature of one’s body nor violate the handiwork of God. That woman will always be miserable who is not content to be what she really is. Why is the hair dyed? Why is shadow applied to the extremities of the eyes? Why is the face artfully moulded into a different shape? Finally, why does she make use of a mirror? Isn’t it because she is afraid to be herself?” (Pages 174–175)
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