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Bible Dictionaries

A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Novatus, Presbyter of Carthage

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Novatus (1) , presbyter of Carthage, seems to have been an original opponent of Cyprian's election, but is first mentioned by him in Ep. xiv. § 5, with three other presbyters—Donatus, Fortunatus, and Gordius—as having written about some question to Cyprian then in retirement. This was, doubtless, touching the request of the confessors, to have peace granted to certain of the lapsed which, in Ephesians 1 ., Cyprian refuses until he has consulted the presbyters and faithful laity. Cyprian reproves certain presbyters, evidently Novatus and his companions, who, "considering neither the fear of God nor the honour of the bishop," had already granted peace to the lapsed. In Ep. xliii, writing to the church of Carthage, he compares Novatus and his associates to the five chief commissioners entrusted with the conduct of the persecution, and, as it seems, intimates that they threatened to raise a riot upon his appearance from his place of retirement. In Ep. lii. 3 Cyprian, writing to Cornelius, gives a very bad character of Novatus. Cyprian's feelings may have here coloured his judgment, as such a bishop as he was could scarcely have tolerated such a bad man in the presbyterate. Cyprian describes Novatus as having made his follower Felicissimus a deacon, and then "at Rome committing greater and more grievous crimes. He who at Carthage made a deacon against the church, there made a bishop," i.e. that he brought about the ordination of both the deacon and bishop. Ep. xliii. 2 proves that Cyprian's wrath was, however, specially stirred by some anti-episcopal innovations of Novatus and his party. After the consecration of Novatian, Novatus was sent by him to organize his party in Africa (Cyp. Ephesians 1 .). After this he disappears from sight. Cf. Dr. Pusey's note upon him, appended to Cyprian, Ep. lii. in Oxf. Lib. of Fathers. Milman, Lat. Christ. t. i. pp. 60–62 (ed. Lond. 1867).


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Novatus, Presbyter of Carthage'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
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