Paper Title

[3.3] Donatists and Circumcellions: Where is The Connection?

Location

IB 1014

Start Date

January 2020

End Date

January 2020

Disciplines

African History | Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity | History | History of Christianity | Philosophy | Political Science

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

The Donatists were called heretics by the Roman North African Church from 310 CE to 411 CE. Their two major offenses against the church were their interpretation of scripture and belief in rebaptism; earning them the title heretical schismatics. A second group, the Circumcellions, were present in the same regions of North Africa. Their two major offenses were violent acts against the church and declaring their deaths to be martyrdom in the name of Christ. They are infamous for hurling themselves from cliffs and threatening travelers with death unless the travelers killed them; affirming their devotion to Christ. Throughout centuries of academic literature, these two groups have traditionally been amalgamated; including the more detailed works by WHC Frend. However, St. Augustine and St. Optatus, two relevant figures of the church during this period who wrote extensively on the schism, provide no evidence that reveals the correlation to link the Donatists and Circumcellions as one and the same. Despite this, they are constantly referred to as “the Donatist Circumcellions” when scholars refer to violent actions or conflict against the North African Church at this period in history. This paper argues that the Donatists and Circumcellions should not be represented as a singular entity as presented in past research, and the general acceptance that they are needs to be brought into question. This false linkage leads to misunderstanding about who these people were, and what each of these groups represented in the early history of the church.

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Jan 17th, 1:00 PM Jan 17th, 2:15 PM

[3.3] Donatists and Circumcellions: Where is The Connection?

IB 1014

The Donatists were called heretics by the Roman North African Church from 310 CE to 411 CE. Their two major offenses against the church were their interpretation of scripture and belief in rebaptism; earning them the title heretical schismatics. A second group, the Circumcellions, were present in the same regions of North Africa. Their two major offenses were violent acts against the church and declaring their deaths to be martyrdom in the name of Christ. They are infamous for hurling themselves from cliffs and threatening travelers with death unless the travelers killed them; affirming their devotion to Christ. Throughout centuries of academic literature, these two groups have traditionally been amalgamated; including the more detailed works by WHC Frend. However, St. Augustine and St. Optatus, two relevant figures of the church during this period who wrote extensively on the schism, provide no evidence that reveals the correlation to link the Donatists and Circumcellions as one and the same. Despite this, they are constantly referred to as “the Donatist Circumcellions” when scholars refer to violent actions or conflict against the North African Church at this period in history. This paper argues that the Donatists and Circumcellions should not be represented as a singular entity as presented in past research, and the general acceptance that they are needs to be brought into question. This false linkage leads to misunderstanding about who these people were, and what each of these groups represented in the early history of the church.