In the middle of the third century in North Africa, a middle-aged rhetorician named Cyprian was converted to Christianity. Classically educated and wealthy, Cyprian was baptized circa AD 245, donated a substantial portion of his wealth to the poor, and rose quickly up the clerical ranks. In AD 249, he was made bishop of Carthage, and led the Church in Carthage through several periods of intense Roman persecution. Cyprian himself was martyred in AD 249. The Life and Works of Cyprian of Carthage collection provides an invaluable tool in discovering the character of this early church leader. John Alfred Faulkner and George Ayliffe Poole’s classic biographies detail the tumultuous life and context of Cyprian, and key pastoral epistles and treatises—including Cyprian’s famous On the Unity of the Church—provide a window into he handled the pressing issues that defined his episcopacy.
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Cyprian of Carthage (AD 200–258) was an important early Christian writer. He was born in North Africa, received a classical education, and became a leading member of the legal fraternity in Carthage. He converted to Christianity as a middle-aged man and was baptized circa AD 245. Upon his baptism he gave a large portion of his wealth to the poor, among whom he was always popular. He became bishop of Carthage in AD 249. Under his leadership the Church in Carthage endured multiple periods of persecution. Cyprian consolidated his popularity with moderate, yet firm policies on reconciling recanters to the Church. In AD 256, a particularly severe wave of persecution called for the execution of all Christian clergy, culminating in Cyprian’s martyrdom in AD 258. A number of his pastoral epistles and treatises survive, including his most important work, On the Unity of the Church, in which he famously states “He can no longer have God for his father who has not the Church for his mother.”