Stephen I, pope from A.D. 253 to 257, was a native Roman, and is noteworthy because of his connection with the controversy respecting the administration of baptism by heretics. In Africa and the East such baptism was generally rejected, while at Rome reclaimed heretics who had been baptized were received simply with laying on of hands. The Eastern Church, and especially Cyprian of Carthage (q.v.), decided emphatically against the practice of Rome, and asserted that baptism, as a valid rite, cannot exist beyond the pale of the Church; to which Stephen replied that every baptism performed in the name of Jesus carries with it regenerating and sanctifying influence. The synods of Carthage, in 255 and 256, sanctioned the Eastern opinion, and forwarded notice of their decision to Rome. A dispute between Stephen and Cyprian was thereby inaugurated, which ended with Stephen's renouncing all connection with the African Church. Stephen found earnest opponents, also in bishops Dionysius of Alexandria and Firmilian of Caesarea, the latter of whom emphatically resisted the claim of the Romish see to supremacy, which Stephen steadily advanced during the quarrel. The division between the churches continued down to Stephen's death, in 257. Tradition relates that he died a martyr under Valerian, condemned because he refused to sacrifice to idols. He is commemorated Aug. 2.
⇒Bible concordance for STEPHEN.