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Traditor, plural: traditores (Latin), 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". It 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 Diocletianic Persecution between AD 303 and 305, many church leaders had gone as far as turning in Christians to the authorities and "handed over" sacred religious texts to authorities to be burned. Philip Schaff says about them: "In this, as in former persecutions, the number of apostates who preferred the earthly life to the heavenly, was very great. To these was now added also the new class of the traditores, who delivered the holy Scriptures to the heathen authorities, to be burned".
While many church members would eventually come to forgive the traditors, the Donatists were less forgiving. They proclaimed that any sacraments celebrated by these priests and bishops were invalid.
The sect had particularly developed and grown in North Africa. Emperor Constantine began to get involved in the dispute and, in 314, he called the Council of Arles, Gaul, now in France. The issue was debated, and the decision went against the Donatists.
Held out as a counterexample to the traditors was the venerated Saint Vincent of Saragossa who preferred to suffer martyrdom rather than agree to consign Scripture to the fire. He is depicted in religious paintings holding the book whose preservation he preferred to his own life.
The word traditor comes from the Latin transditio from trans (across) + dare (to hand, to give), and it is the source of the modern words traitor and treason. The same derivation, with a different context of what is handed to whom, gives the word tradition as well.
- "traditor", Dictionary, Merriam-Webster.
- Lindberg, Carter (Nov 28, 2005), A Brief History of Christianity, John Wiley & Sons, p. 45.
- Schaff, Philip (1910). History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, p. 69. SCHAFF.logos4: Charles Scribner’s Sons. pp. 2:68.
- A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines
- Sharp, James (Aug 20, 2012), The Real Truth About Church History, Author House, p. 108.
- Dolo, Shaka Saye Bambata, The Genesis of the Bible, p. 720.
- Park, Jae-Eun (Aug 2013), "Lacking Love or Conveying Love? The Fundamental Roots of the Donatists and Augustine’s Nuanced Treatment of Them", The Reformed Theological Review, 72 (2): 103–21.