if any come to you from any heresy whatsoever, let there be no innovation beyond what is traditional, that a hand be laid on them for penance, since the heretics themselves for their part do not mutually baptise those who come to them, but simply share communion.'67 Cyprian repudiates the label 'innovator', and denies that Stephen's tradition is evangelical or apostolic. Most of his arguments are predictable, and clearly angry. But, unless he is responding to other things in Stephen's letter, he partly mistakes what Stephen writes. He argues as if Stephen lays on hands to impart the Holy Spirit, which is Cyprian's own interpretation of the rite of episcopal handlaying.68 Stephen's words, however, are in paenitentiam. In other words, he would treat the converted heretic as a penitent being reconciled. His action has precedent in the actions of his predecessor Callistus before 220, who increased his congregation by accepting those coming in from other Christian groups, according to his critic Hippolytus.69 Stephen's appeal to heretical practice is astonishing, and he is taunted with it by Cyprian.70 But it makes sense in the Roman context, since the original multiplicity of house churches there,71 where many differences of doctrine and practice could easily arise, meant that unity could only be achieved if the principle of 'one baptism' was adhered to in Stephen's sense. Stephen appears to have acted high-handedly towards the African churches, and towards those of Asia Minor who took the same line. He had gone so far as even to deny Cyprian's representatives bed and board in Rome, and he excommunicated the oriental bishops.72 Such actions were incompatible with the principles, so dear to Cyprian, of the unity of the church based upon a unanimous episcopate. We have fragmentary information about Cyprian's unsuccessful attempt to negotiate in Rome, and a council was held in Carthage in 256, whose conclusions survive as Sententiae episcoporum ('The sentences of the bishops'). The bishops agree with Cyprian, but there were absentees who presumably dissented.73 The most important decision, which applied both to Rome and to African dissidents, was Cyprian's declaration that none set himself up as 'bishop of bishops', but allowed each bishop to decide, and to answer
67 Cypr. Ep. 74.1. On the problems of translation, see Clarke, Letters, vol. iv, 237-8. My version takes proprie as 'for their part'.
68 Cypr. Ep. 74.5; that this is Cyprian's regular view is apparent from Ep. 69.11.3.
72 Firmilian's sarcastic acount in Cypr. Ep. 75.25, and Dionysius of Alexandria in Euseb. HE 7.5.4; Clarke, Letters, vol. iv, 243.
73 Sage, Cyprian, 324-7.
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