Get Novatianism essential facts below. View Videos or join the Novatianism discussion. Add Novatianism to your topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.

Novatianism was an Early Christian sect devoted to the theologian Novatian (c. 200-258) that held a strict view that refused readmission to communion of lapsi (those baptized Christians who had denied their faith or performed the formalities of a ritual sacrifice to the pagan gods under the pressures of the persecution sanctioned by Emperor Decius in AD 250). The Church of Rome declared the Novatianists heretical following the letters of Saint Cyprian of Carthage.[1] Novatianism survived until the 8th century[2]


After the martyrdom of Pope Fabian during the Decian persecution, a Roman priest, Novatian, opposed the election of Pope Cornelius in 251, on the grounds that Cornelius was too liberal in accepting lapsed Christians. Novatian held that lapsed Christians, who had not maintained their confession of faith under persecution, may not be received again into communion with the church. He was consecrated bishop by three bishops of Italy and declared himself to be the true Pope. He and his followers were excommunicated by a synod held at Rome in October of the same year.[3] Novatian is said to have suffered martyrdom under the Emperor Valerian I (253-60).

Novatian should not be confused with one Novatus, a priest of Carthage, who advocated re-admitting the "lapsi" without an enforced penance.[4] Cyprian of Carthage came to a position opposed to both and advocated a council be held to establish a policy under which former idolaters could be once again admitted to communion with the church.

Lardner argues that Eusebius and the Greeks in general were correct in calling the Roman presbyter Novatus, not Novatianus. He attributes the origin of the latter name to Cyprian, who called the Roman presbyter Novatianus, as being a follower of his own rebellious priest, Novatus of Carthage.[5]


Novatian believed that the Lapsi should not be let back into the church,[2] Novatian believed that the Lapsi might repent and be put to lifelong penance, but the forgiveness must be left to God, and the Lapsi could not be forgiven on this earth.[6]

Novatian in his writings defends the doctrine of the Trinity, argues that the Old Testament prohibitions on meats must be understood spiritually, condemns Christians who attend public games and praises chastity.[7] Novatian's writings defends the Father as the creator of the world, to combat the teachings of the gnostics, Novatian also defends the unity of the godhead and humanity in Jesus, and wrote about a distinction between the Son and the Father to combat Marcionites, modalists and adoptionists.

Novatian believed that the role of the Holy Spirit is solely the source of blessings given during Baptism.[2] Novatian was heavily influenced by the works of Tertullian.[8]

Unlike Cyprian, Novatian believed that being inside the church is not a requirement for salvation, but that the church is a congregation of saints, and if sinners would be let inside the church, it would endager the church.[9]

According to Theodoret, the Novatians did not use confirmation, and according to Eulugius, Novatians did not either venerate martyrs.[1] The Novatians also rejected the Catholic creed.[10]

Some Protestants argue that Novatian taught Sola Fide.[11]

"For Zecharias also tells us, saying: "If ye eat or drink, is it not ye that eat or drink?"--declaring thereby that meat or drink attain not unto God, but unto man: for neither is God fleshly, so as to be pleased with flesh; nor is He careful3 for these pleasures, so as to rejoice in our food. God rejoices in our faith alone, in our innocency alone.

-- Novatian, On the Jewish Meats, Chapter V

After Novatian

Novatian's strict views existed before him and may be found in The Shepherd of Hermas.[5] After his death, the Novatianist sect spread rapidly and could be found in every province and were very numerous in some places.[3] Those who allied themselves with his doctrines were called Novatianists, but they called themselves ? ("katharoi") or "Purists" (not to be confused with the later Cathars)[12] to reflect their desire not to be identified with what they considered the lax practices of a corrupted and what was hitherto a universal Church.

While Novatian had refused absolution to the "lapsi" (those who had renounced their Christianity under persecution but later wanted to return to the church), his followers extended the doctrine to include all "mortal sins" (idolatry, murder, and adultery, or fornication). Most of them forbade second marriage. They always had a successor of Novatian at Rome and were everywhere governed by bishops.

Because Novatianists (including Novatian) did not submit to the bishop of Rome, they were labeled by Rome as schismatics. Additionally, Rome also labeled Novatianists heretics for denying that the Church had the power to grant absolution in certain cases (such as to the lapsi).

In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Donatist sect in Africa Proconsulare maintained a similar belief about Christians who had lapsed under the pressures of persecution; they too were declared heretics.

See also


  1. ^ a b "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Novatian and Novatianism". NEW ADVENT. 1911-02-01. Archived from the original on 2019-04-03. Retrieved .
  2. ^ a b c "Novatian". Retrieved .
  3. ^ a b Chapman, John. "Novatian and Novatianism." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 24 February 2016
  4. ^ Chapman, John. "St. Cyprian of Carthage." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 24 February 2016
  5. ^ a b Stokes, G. T., "Novatianus and Novatianism", A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography, (Henry Wace, ed.), John Murray, London, 1911
  6. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Novatian and Novatianism". Retrieved .
  7. ^ "Novatian | antipope". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved .
  8. ^ "Novatian". Retrieved .
  9. ^ " Novatian and Novatianism (Mid Third Century)". Retrieved .
  10. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Novatian and Novatianism". Retrieved .
  11. ^ Slick, Matt (2020-07-18). "Early Church Fathers on Faith Alone". Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. Retrieved .
  12. ^ "Philip Schaff: ANF05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian, Appendix - Christian Classics Ethereal Library". Retrieved .


  • Vogt, HJ (1968), Coetus Sanctorum. Der Kirchenbegriff des Novatian und die Geschichte seiner Sonderkirche, Bonn.
  • Papandrea, JL (2008), The Trinitarian Theology of Novatian of Rome: A Study in Third-Century Orthodoxy, Lewiston, NJ.

Further reading

  • Papandrea, James L., Rome: A Pilgrim's Guide to the Eternal City (Cascade Books, 2012)
  • Papandrea, James L., Novatian of Rome: On the Trinity, Letters to Cyprian of Carthage, Ethical Treatises, (Translation with Introduction, Turnhout: Brepols, 2015)

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes