On the state calling crime a virtue (Cyprian of Carthage)

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
The world is soaked with mutual blood, and when individuals commit homicide, it is a crime; it is called a virtue when it is done in the name of the state. Impunity is acquired for crimes not by reason of innocence but by the magnitude of the cruelty.

Cyprian of Carthage, To Donatus (c. 246), 6 in Saint Cyprian: Treatises, trans. and ed. Roy. J Deferrrari, The Fathers of the Church. A New Translation: Volume 36 (New York: Fathers of the Church, 1958), p. 12.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
Interesting quote. But it seems kind of broad on the face of it. Is he talking about capital punishment, too, do you think?
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I agree. I didn't think he was speaking of capital punishment. I'm just not near as familiar with these early church fathers as I should be.

I wonder if @BayouHuguenot is able to tell us any more about the context of the source? (Immediately after this comment, Cyprian goes on to condemn the gladiatorial games.) I really do need to read (or re-read) more secondary sources on the patristics.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
For what it's worth, I've studied this issue some, and would summarize the norm among the ECF's, when expressed, as pretty uniformly not denying that capital punishment of civil criminals had a rightful place, but only in the most extreme cases. Many also complained that governing authorities too often misused and abused the practice. These statement from letters written by two influential ECF's, one Eastern the other Western, to Christian magistrates within their spheres of influence, are a good representation of what I found:

It is with Christ that you bear your authority and with Christ that you administer your office of governance. From him you have received the sword, not so much that you may use it, as that you may threaten and deter. (Gregory of Nazianzus, Epistles, 78)​
The judgment of God should fill [magistrates] with fear so that they keep in mind that they too need God’s mercy on account of their own sins, and they should not suppose that it counts as a failure in their office if they act mercifully in any way toward those over whom they have the legitimate power of life and death. (Augustine, Epistles, 153)​
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I wonder if @BayouHuguenot is able to tell us any more about the context of the source? (Immediately after this comment, Cyprian goes on to condemn the gladiatorial games.) I really do need to read (or re-read) more secondary sources on the patristics.

Pre-Nicene fathers were generally reticent about capital punishment, given that the state at that time was largely idolatrous.
 
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