This is the first up-to-date, accessible study on the rule of Cyprian as the Bishop of Carthage in the 250s AD. It controversially shows that Cyprian radically enforced the primary emphasis on the unity of the church, interpreting loyalty in the community as fidelity to Christ.
It uses cultural anthropology to examine the impact of Cyprian's policy during the Decian persecution. Cyprian attempted to steer the middle ground between compromise and traditionalism and succeeded by defining the boundary between the empire and the church.
J. Patout Burns Jr. concentrates on social structures to reveal the logic of Cyprian's plan, the basis for its success in his time, and why it later failed. This book will be of great interest to classicists, ancient historians and sociologists as well as theologians.
'The book is well-written and refreshingly candid about Cyprian's views, without ever seeking to belittle them. It will probably be the standard introduction to his thought for some time to come, and will help to shape the next generation's perception of the important legacy of the North African church.' -Churchman