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The Song of Songs and the Fashioning of Identity in Early Latin Christianity$
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Karl Shuve

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198766445

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198766445.001.0001

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“A Garden Enclosed, a Fountain Sealed”

“A Garden Enclosed, a Fountain Sealed”

The Church as Closed Community in Cyprian and the Donatists

(p.23) 1 “A Garden Enclosed, a Fountain Sealed”
The Song of Songs and the Fashioning of Identity in Early Latin Christianity

Karl Shuve

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues for Cyprian’s importance in the history of the Song’s interpretation. It is shown that Song 4:12 and 6:8 were crucial texts in his defense of the practice of rebaptism, and that he presumed his opponents would accept his theological reading of the poem. A development in his interpretation can be mapped from a focus on episcopal authority to theological unity. The Donatists explicitly picked up on Cyprian’s interpretive logic in their theologies of baptism, which can be reconstructed from the writings of Optatus of Milevis and Augustine of Hippo. The ecclesiological mode of interpretation was central for North African writers, who express no qualms about the poem’s sexuality but do not give an individual interpretation of the Song, either.

Keywords:   Cyprian of Carthage, Donatists, baptism, ecclesiology, persecution, schism, episcopal authority, North Africa

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