It is well known that St Cyprian had a few run-ins with the Bishop of Rome in his day. Yet it is even more remarkable that this saintly martyr should never-the-less have asserted that
he who abandons the Chair of Peter, upon which the Church is founded, lives in the illusion that he still belongs to the Church (“The Unity of the Catholic Church,” 4)
there is no salvation outside the Church (Epistle 4,4 and 73,21)
he who doesn’t have the Church as his mother can’t have God as his Father (“The Unity of the Catholic Church,” 4).
Pope Benedict points to all this in his recent audience on the topic of St Cyprian. Now you would think that such clear statements would be enough to convince even the most hardened Protestant, no? Well, now we enter the curious little world of the “Protestant Edition” of the Church Fathers.
Years ago I bought an excellent resource called the Logos Bible. This is a software bible with all the original languages and latin and Greek septuagint and lots of neat things. But it also came with an electronic edition of the church fathers in English–albeit entitled “Protestant Edition”. What on earth can that mean? I wondered. According to a web search, it means:
Simply put, the difference is that the Protestant edition contains additional front matter written at a later date. There is no difference in the actual ECF text.
Is that so? Well, you can see for yourself by comparing the text that Pope Benedict is quoting to the text as it appears in the “protestant edition” of St Cyprians “On the Unity of the Church” at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.iv.v.i.html.
Here you find the following text of paragraph 4 with the following footnotes (in italics):
4. If any one consider and examine these things, there is no need for lengthened discussion and arguments. There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter [On the falsifying of the text by Romish editors, see Elucidation II.] saying, “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. xvi. 18, 19.) And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, “Feed my sheep.” (John xxi. 15). [Here is interpolated: “Upon him, being one, He builds His Church, and commits His sheep to be fed.”]And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins ye retain, they shall be retained;” (John xx. 21.) yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity.[Here is interpolated: “And the primacy is given to Peter, that there might be shown one Church of Christ and one See; and they are all shepherds, and the Rock is one, which is fed by all the apostles with unanimous consent.” This passage, as well as the one a few lines before, is beyond all question spurious.]Which one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs designated in the person of our Lord, and says, “My dove, my spotless one, is but one. She is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her.” (Cant. vi. 9.) Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church [Here is interpolated: “Who deserts the chair of Peter, upon whom the Church is founded.” This passage also is undoubtedly spurious.] trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, “There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God?” (Eph. iv. 4.)
Ah yes. “Beyond all question”. “Spurious”. “Interpolated”. Of course. Because if it wasn’t, that would be rather awkward, wouldn’t it?
For those of you who can bother, here is the Protestant Edition’s “Elucidation II” on the falsification of the text:
Cyprian is often innocently quoted by Romanist controvertists against the very principles of Cyprian himself, of his life and his writings. This is due to the fact that they have in their hands vitiated and interpolated copies. Thus, take a famous passage as follows:—
Loquitur Dominus ad Petrum, Ego tibi dico Tu es Petrus, etc.(a)
Super unum(b) ædificat ecclesiam.
Hoc erant utique et cæteri apostoli quot fuit Petrus, qui consortio præediti et honois et potestatis, sed exordium ab unitate proficisitur,(c) ut(d) Christi ecclesia(e) una monstretur.(f)
Qui Ecclesiæ resistitur et resistit,(g) in ecclesia se esse confidit?
(a) Et iterum eidem, post ressurectionem suam dicit, Pasce oves meas.
(b) Super ilium unum … et illi pascendas mandat oves suas.
(c) Et primatus Petro datur.
(e) Et cathedra.
(f) Et pastores sunt omnes et grex unus ostenditur, qui ab apostolis omnibus, unanimi consensione pascatur, etc.
(g) Qui cathedram Petri, super quem fundata est ecclesia deserit, etc.
This is but a specimen of the way in which Cyprian has been “doctored,” in order to bring him into a shape capable of being misinterpreted. But you will say where is the proof of such interpolations? The greatly celebrated Benedictine edition reads as the interpolated column does, and who would not credit Baluzius? Now note, Baluzius rejected these interpolations and others; but, dying (a.d. 1718) with his work unfinished, the completion of the task was assigned to a nameless monk, who confesses that he corrupted the work of Baluzius, or rather glories in the exploit. “Nay, further,” he says, “it was necessary to alter not a few things in the notes of Baluzius; and more would have been altered if it could have been done conveniently.” Yet the edition came forth, and passes as the genuine work of the erudite Baluzius himself.
An edition of this treatise, with valuable annotations, appeared (a.d. 1852) from the press of Burlington, N.J., under the very creditable editorship of Professor Hyde, who was soon after called to depart this life. It exhibits the interpolations, and gives a useful catalogue of codices and of editions. Though its typographical execution is imperfect, I know not where so much condensed information on the subject is to be had at so little cost. I am grateful for the real advantage I derived from it on its first appearance.
Well, thank God for Professor Hyde of New Jersey to point out the obvious “interpolations”. I wonder if he had an assistant called “Dr Jeckell”? To me this all sounds a little like the claim by my Muslim brothers and sisters that the Gospel has been corrupted or falsified because it says that Prophet Jesus died on a cross, and of course we all know that can’t have possibly happened. In just the same way, we can’t have St Cyprian spouting forth papist nonsense–so of course some mad monk must have falsified the text…