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Sculpture of Constantine I in York, England.

Traditor, pl.traditores (lat), is a term meaning the one(s) who had handed over and defined by Merriam-Webster as "one of the Christians giving up to the officers of the law the Scriptures, the sacred vessels, or the names of their brethren during the Roman persecutions".[1] This refers to bishops and other Christians who turned over sacred scriptures or betrayed their fellow Christians to the Roman authorities under threat of persecution. During the persecution of Diocletian between AD 303–305, many church leaders had gone as far as turning in Christians to the authorities and "handed over"[2] sacred religious texts to authorities to be burned. Later, some traditors would be returned to positions of authority under Constantine, sparking a split with the Donatist movement.

While many church members would eventually come to forgive the traditors, the Donatists were much less forgiving. They proclaimed that any sacraments celebrated by these priests and bishops were invalid. They "refused to accept"[3] the sacraments and spiritual authority of the priests and bishops who had fallen away from the faith during the persecution. As a result, many towns were divided between Donatist and non-Donatist congregations.

The sect had particularly developed and grown in North Africa. Constantine, as emperor, began to get involved in the dispute, and, in AD 314, he called a council at Arles in Gaul, modern France; the issue was debated and the decision went against the Donatists.[4] The Donatists refused to accept the decision of the council. Their "distaste for bishops who had collaborated"[5] with Rome came out of their broader view of the Roman empire.

The word traditor comes from the Latin transditio from trans (across) + dare (to hand, to give), and is the source of the modern words traitor and treason. The same derivation, though with different context of what is handed to whom, gives us the word tradition.

See also


  1. ^ [1] Merriam-Webster - traditor
  2. ^ [2] A Brief History of Christianity By Carter Lindberg - John Wiley & Sons, Nov 28, 2005 - page 45
  3. ^ [3] Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness: The Truth About the Vatican and the Birth of Islam - Gary Dale Cearley -, Jul 30, 2006 - page 65
  4. ^ [4] The Real Truth About Church History By James Sharp - AuthorHouse, Aug 20, 2012 - page page 108
  5. ^ [5] The Genesis of the Bible - Shaka Saye Bambata Dolo - page 720