The book of The Shepherd by Hermas (written in Rome in the mid-second century) mentioned baptism as the unique way for the remission of sins. But for Christians who committed a great sin after baptism, there is the metanoia or penance. Tertullian in the beginning of the third century published the first treatise On Penance, by adding theological depth. The Didascalia of the Apostles, written in Syria in the beginning of the third century, exhorts the bishop to receive all penitents, whether rich or poor.
Clement and Origen are the first witnesses for the institution of penance in the Eastern Church. The Eastern tradition, following Clement and Origen’s lead, emphasized the Church’s ministers as healers and the importance of spiritual direction. Dionysius, Patriarch of Alexandria, was a leading figure in combating the Novatianists (who refused the rehabilitation of the Lapsi). During the persecution, the Church faced the problem of receiving the Lapsi after some bishops refused their penance, such as Melitius of Lycopolis (Egypt).