Edwina Murphy on Cyprian’s Reception of Paul

Euangelion | 5/25/2019 | Staff
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Here is my interview with Dr. Edwina Murphy about her book The Bishop and the Apostle: Cyprian’s Pastoral Exegesis of Paul (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2018).

Who was Cyprian and why should we care?

Cyprian - Bishop - Carthage - North - Africa

Cyprian was bishop of Carthage in North Africa in the middle of the third century. North Africa was very influential in the development of western theology – before Cyprian was Tertullian, who gave us the language for the Trinity, and after him was Augustine, perhaps the most influential thinker in the West. Cyprian is best known for saying, “Outside the church there is no salvation,” and most scholarship has focused on his view of the church and what he thought about the bishop of Rome. The unity of the church was certainly important to Cyprian, but there’s a lot more to him than that. He’s especially interesting on what it means to follow Christ in a hostile world.

I saw the movie Agora and Cyprian was really a religious fanatic who led a mob of Christians to murder the secular saint Hypatia and to burn down the library of Alexandria. Is that true?

Cyril - Alexandria - Peter - Lector - Cyril

Well, that was Cyril of Alexandria, although it was Peter the lector, not Cyril, who was personally involved. That incident has been used polemically since the Enlightenment to purportedly show that Christianity is opposed to science and reason, which is not the case. (After all, a future bishop studied under Hypatia.) But Cyprian, who lived while the church was still being persecuted by the state, was all about non-violence, so I don’t think he would have approved, even if there were extenuating circumstances.

How did you get the idea for your thesis?

Master - Thesis - Cyprian - Lot - Work

I’d already written my master’s thesis on Cyprian, so I was keen to explore him further. Not a lot of work had been done on Cyprian’s exegesis,...
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