Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sacerdos in Cyprian

Having recently read in Gonzalez's Story of Christianity (p. 143) that the Constantinian age was when Christian ministers began being called "priests" (i.e. sacerdos or ἱερεὺς), I was suprised to open up the Office of Readings on Wednesday, the Feast of Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian, to find Cyprian writing the following to Cornelius:
Nam cum nobis et Ecclesia una sit et mens iuncta et individua concordia, quis non sacerdos in consacerdotis sui laudibus tamquam in suis propriis gratuletur?

For as we have one Church, a mind united, and a concord undivided, what priest does not rejoice in the praises of his fellow-priest as if on his own? (Wallace's translation [with slight modification] in ANF 5, p. 350)

Perhaps Gonzalez means that it was only after Constantine that the term came into more general usage for bishops and presbyters, which may be the case, but a quick perusal of Cyprian's letters shows him using the term liberally and apparently without any sense that it was controversial. It was not a complete novelty after Constantine.

I found a good summary of the development of this usage in Toward a Christology of Christ the High Priest by Michael Keenan Jones, available in preview on Google Books here.

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