Novatianus - Encyclopedia

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NOVATIANUS, Roman presbyter, and one of the earliest antipopes, founder of the sect of the Novatiani or Novatians, was born about the beginning of the 3rd century. On the authority of Philostorgius (H.E. viii. 15) he has been called a native of Phrygia, but perhaps the historian merely intended to indicate the persistence of Novatianism in Phrygia at the time when he wrote. Little is known of his life, and that only from his opponents. His conversion is said to have taken place after an intense mental struggle; he was baptized by sprinkling, and without episcopal confirmation, when in hourly expectation of death; and on his recovery his Christianity retained all the gloomy character of its earliest stages. He was ordained at Rome by Fabian, or perhaps by an earlier bishop; and during the Decian persecution he maintained the view which excluded from ecclesiastical communion all those (lapsi) who after baptism had sacrificed to idols - a view which had frequently found expression, and had caused the schism of Hippolytus. Bishop Fabian suffered martyrdom in January 250, and, when Cornelius was elected his successor in March or April 251, Novatian objected on account of his known laxity on the above-mentioned point of discipline, and allowed himself to be consecrated bishop by the minority who shared his views. He and his followers were excommunicated by the synod held at Rome in October of the same year. He is said by Socrates (H. E. iv. 28) to have suffered martyrdom under Valerian. After his death the Novatians spread rapidly over the empire; they called themselves Ka6apoi, or Puritans, and rebaptized their converts from the Catholic view. The eighth canon of the council of Nice provides in a liberal spirit for the readmission of the clergy of the Ka() apoi to the Catholic Church, and the sect finally disappeared some two centuries after its origin. Novatian has sometimes been confounded with his contemporary Novatus, a Carthaginian presbyter, who held similar views.

Novatian was the first Roman Christian who wrote to any considerable extent in Latin. Of his numerous writings three are extant: (I) a letter written in the name of the Roman clergy to Cyprian in 250; (2) a treatise in thirty-one chapters, De trinitate; (3) a letter written at the request of the Roman laity, De cibis j udaicis. They are well-arranged compositions, written in an elegant and vigorous style. The best editions are by Welchman (Oxford, 1724) and by Jackson (London, 1728); they are translated in vol. ii. of Cyprian's works in the Ante-Nicene Theol. Libr. (Edinburgh, 1869). The Novatian controversy can be advantageously studied in the Epistles of Cyprian.

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