Novatian nōvāˈshən [key], fl. 250, Roman priest, antipope (from 251), and theologian. He opposed the election of St. Cornelius as pope and set himself up instead. He gained followers throughout the empire because of his espousal of the idea that those fallen from grace by compromising their Christianity during the Decian persecution (250) were barred from the church forever. At the instigation of St. Cyprian of Carthage, who was himself quite strict on readmission to the church, virtually the whole church recognized Cornelius and repudiated Novatian and his followers, who maintained their own hierarchy for two or three centuries. After 325 the sect was merged with that of Donatism. Novatian's chief work, On the Trinity, which was written as a refutation of the Gnostics, the Theodotians, and the Sabellians, was later regarded as an orthodox expression of ante-Nicene doctrine, except for the last chapter, which anticipated Arianism.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches: General Biographies