He was highly esteemed by Cyprian, bishop of Carthage; Novatian refers to his nobilissimae memoriae, and he corresponded with Origen.
Next come the great Alexandrians, Clement, Origen, Dionysius; the Carthaginians, Tertullian and Cyprian; the Romans, Minucius Felix and Novatian; the last four laid the foundations of a Latin Christian literature.
He set himself in opposition to Novatian, a presbyter of Rome, who advocated their permanent exclusion from the church; and it was his influence which guided the tolerant measures of the Carthaginian synods on the subject.
251 by the schism at Carthage, but particularly by the Novatian schism at Rome.
Difference of opinion as to the absolutely "irremissible" character of mortal sins led to the important controversy associated with the names of Zephyrinus, Tertullian, Calistus, Hippolytus, Cyprian and Novatian, in which the stricter and more montanistic party held that for those who had been guilty of such sins as theft, fraud, denial of the faith, there should be no restoration to church fellowship even in the hour of death.
All writers earlier than the 5th century are valuable, but particularly important are the following groups: (1) Greek writers in the West, especially Justin Martyr, Tatian, Marcion, Irenaeus and Hippolytus; (2) Latin writers in Italy, especially Novatian, the author of the de Rebaptismate and Ambrosiaster; (3) Latin writers in Africa, especially Tertullian and Cyprian; (4) Greek writers in Alexandria, especially Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Athanasius and Cyril; (5) Greek writers in the East, especially Methodius of Lycia and Eusebius of Caesarea; (6) Syriac writers, especially Aphraates and Ephraem; it is doubtful whether the Diatessaron of Tatian ought to be reckoned in this group or in (1).
Both groups had their scientific theologians who sought to vindicate their characteristic doctrines, the Adoptianist divines holding by the Aristotelian philosophy, and the Modalists by that of the Stoics; while the Trinitarians (Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Novatian), on the other hand, appealed to Plato.
In the year 250, when the Roman presbyter Novatian wrote his book De Trinitate, the doctrine of Hippolytus, once discredited as ditheism, had already become official there.
He is greatly indebted to oral tradition and to the testimony of eye-witnesses, especially of members of the Novatian community in Constantinople; some things also he has set down from personal knowledge.
In May 251 a synod, assembled under the presidency of Cyprian to consider the treatment of the lapsi (those who had fallen away from the faith during persecution), excommunicated Felicissimus and five other Novatian bishops (Rigorists), and declared that the lapsi should be dealt with, not with indiscriminate severity, but according to the degree of individual guilt.
Hippolytus and Novatian repeat the protest less vehemently; Donatism shows it blended with later hierarchical ideas.
Bishop Fabian suffered martyrdom in January 250, and, when Cornelius was elected his successor in March or April 251, Novatian objected on account of his known laxity on the above-mentioned point of discipline, and allowed himself to be consecrated bishop by the minority who shared his views.
Novatian has sometimes been confounded with his contemporary Novatus, a Carthaginian presbyter, who held similar views.
The practice gave rise to complicated problems of ecclesiastical discipline, which are reflected in the correspondence of Cyprian and especially in the Novatian controversy.
Novatian was the first Roman Christian who wrote to any considerable extent in Latin.
The Novatian controversy can be advantageously studied in the Epistles of Cyprian.