CONSTANTINE THE GREAT AND THE BIRTH OF CHRISTENDOM
WE NOW ENTER THE AGES WHEN THE THEOLOGY OF ROME BEGAN TO CONQUER THE WESTERN WORLD - Keith Hunt
At the dawn of the fourth century a.d., the Christians of the Roman world still practiced a faith that was officially proscribed, but they were sufficiently numerous and well established to consider themselves safe from legal molestation. There were still sporadic outbreaks of violence, but no systematic imperial effort had been made to eradicate the faith since the Decian persecution of 250 and its sequel, the persecution instituted by the emperor Valerian (d.260) in 257, both of which had claimed the lives of some prominent bishops; and both of these purges had proved futile and had ended fairly quickly. By the year 303, Christians had every reason to feel secure in their position.
(Constantine's foundation of a new capital of the empire in the East on the Bosporus saw the settlement of Nova Roma (Constantinople) develop rapidly into a magnificent city of grand architecture and opulent art)
In that year, however, the last and most terrible imperial persecution of the Church began, when the emperor Diocletian (245-316), the Augustus (or chief emperor) of the eastern half of the empire, issued an edict requiring all Christians to make sacrifices to the old gods. Supposedly, Diocletian was inspired to renew the anti-Christian measures of an earlier generation because, on a visit to the prophet of Apollo in Didyma to obtain a divine oracle, he was told that the presence of Christians in the empire had rendered the god silent. He therefore resolved to wipe out this foreign impiety once and for all and win back the favour of heaven. The campaign against the Christians was prosecuted with a special enthusiasm by Diocletian's ferocious lieutenant, Galerius (d.311), whose loathing of the Christians was boundless (his mother allegedly was a priestess in one of the old cults).
This 'Great Persecution' was truly a time of terror. Believers were imprisoned, tortured and killed; martyrs' tombs were desecrated, churches destroyed and Christian texts burned. When Diocletian abdicated for reasons of health in 305, Galerius became Augustus of the East and appointed his equally brutal nephew Maximinus (d.313) as Caesar (deputy emperor). Together they waged war on the Church for another six years. In 311, however, Galerius contracted an agonizing disease (possibly bowel cancer), which he suspected was retribution sent by the Christian God. And so, before his death, he issued an edict absolving Christians of the obligation to worship Roman gods. In the winter of 312, the persecution largely ceased.
Nevertheless, the Christians of the empire had been savagely reminded that they were a minority with no legal rights. They could scarcely have imagined that just two years after Galerius' death, a Christian would be emperor.
(THIS PERSECUTION WAS SO SEVERE IT IS ALWAYS RECORED IN VARIOUS HISTORIES BY VARIOUS MEN. IT WAS A 10 YEAR PERSECUTION AND IS MENTIONED IN PROPHETIC UTTERANCE IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION - 2:10. MAKING THOSE CHAPTERS OF "THE CHURCHES" PROPHETIC IN TIME AS WELL AS LESSONS FOR ALL TRUE CHRISTIANS IN ALL AGES - Keith Hunt)
The Emblem of Christ Appearing to Constantine by Peter Paul Rubens (1622). The Christian historian Eusebius (c.275-339) wrote of this incident: 'The Christ of God appeared to Constantine with the sign which had appeared to him in the sky, and urged him to make himself a copy of the sign ... and to use this as protection against the attacks of the enemy.'
A Sign in the Heavens
Constantine the Great (c.280—337) was the son of Constantius Chlorus, who became Caesar of the West in 293 and Augustus in 305. When Constantius died in 306, while on campaign in Britain with his son, the latter was acclaimed emperor by his troops. Six years of civil war ensued, culminating in Constantine's defeat of his brother-in-law Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge near Rome in 312.
Before this decisive engagement, however, Constantine experienced a religious conversion that prompted him to go into battle with a Christian symbol -probably a combination of the Greek letters X (chi) and P (rho), the first two letters in 'Christos' — painted on the shields of his soldiers. According to one version of the story, he had been instructed in a dream to adopt the symbol; according to another (and, apparently, to Constantine himself) he and his troops had seen a great cross in the heavens at some point before the battle.
(YES CONSTANTINE HAD BEEN WON OVER TO THE CHRISTIANITY OF ROME, WHILE FIGHTING TO BECOME EMPEROR OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE - Keith Hunt)
In any event, as the new Augustus of the West, Constantine — along with Licinius (d.325), the Eastern Augustus — promulgated the Edict of Milan, which granted Christians complete toleration for their faith and full legal rights. After 324, with his defeat of Licinius, Constantine was emperor of both East and West, and during his long reign he demonstrated his loyalty to his new faith by shifting state patronage and property away from the old cults to the Church, by making somewhat sporadic attempts to discourage pagan idolatry, and by building a great many churches. In 325, he convened the first 'ecumenical' (or 'universal') council of the Church to resolve differences of doctrine within the Church. In 330, he moved the seat of government to Asia Minor, to the ancient city of Byzantium. Now renamed Constantinople, this 'New Rome' was dedicated - unlike the old Rome - exclusively to Christ.
Even during his lifetime, Constantine was celebrated as a kind of Apostle, and his struggles to consolidate the empire as a kind of global evangelism. He was, if nothing else, an observant practitioner of his faith. That said, he was hardly a model of Christian charity and clemency. There was a touch of officious military brutality in the way in which he enforced several of his decrees. What is more, he may have been responsible for the murders of his wife Fausta and son Crispus in 326. On the other hand, he did attempt in significant ways to bring imperial policy into closer conformity with Christian teachings. He endowed the Church with the power and resources to provide for the poor and the sick, and to care for widows and orphans, on a massive scale. He abolished certain of the more barbaric criminal penalties, including crucifixion. And he made it easier for householders to free their slaves, in part by giving the Church legal authority to certify emancipation.
The 'labarum' or 'chi-rho' symbol: it was either this or a simple cross that Constantine claimed he had seen in the sky and had been instructed in a dream to paint upon his soldiers' shields before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.
Constantine delayed his own baptism until the end of his life, since the responsibilities of his office obliged him to do things incompatible with full membership in the body of Christ. When, therefore, he fell fatally ill in 337, and was forced to retire to his deathbed, he exchanged his robes of imperial purple for the white baptismal garments of a catechumen and was baptized. Shortly thereafter he died.
(CONSTANTINE GAVE OFFICIAL BIRTH TO THE THEOLOGY OF ROME. HE WAS THE EMPEROR WHO GAVE OFFICIAL SANCTITY TO SUNDAY, PASSING CERTAIN LAWS THAT GAVE MORE NATIONAL OBSERVANCE OF SUNDAY - Keith Hunt)
The Last Pagan Emperor
The new course upon which Constantine had set the empire during his long reign was irreversible. His son, Constantius II (317—61), retained his father's creed, not so much out of conviction as out of political prudence.
There was, however, one last great attempt to revive the fading pagan order. Constantine's nephew Julian (332—63), whose father and brother had been murdered under Constantius II as possible rivals for the imperial throne, secretly converted to paganism in 351 (hence he was known to posterity as 'Julian the Apostate'). Quite by chance, Constantius II found it expedient to make Julian his Caesar in 355, and then to send him into Gaul to make war on the barbarian Franks and Alamanni. Julian proved to be an unexpectedly brilliant, courageous
MAGIC AND RELIGION
Julian the Apostate attempted to revive the traditional Roman pagan cults, but failed to match Christianity's appeal.
Though Julian the Apostate decried the 'irrationality' of Christianity, the 'higher' paganism to which he himself subscribed abounded in what the Church regarded as the grossest kinds of superstition. These included secret rites of initiation, blood sacrifice, astrology, divination, 'theurgy' (that is, magical invocations of the gods, sometimes into children, or into statuary), and a childlike faith in the 'divine revelations' contained in mystical texts such as the Chaldean Oracles (a fascinating farrago of Hellenistic and Asiatic hermeticism).
Much third-and-fourth-century paganism was marked by a special fascination with everything exotic and outlandish: Eastern devotions and philosophies, alchemy, Egyptian and Chaldean magic, occultism, necromancy and demonology. Nor was this true only of vulgar popular religion. At every level of society, among the educated and uneducated alike, there was a longing for salvation from the conditions of earthly life, and for any spiritual techniques or recondite wisdoms that might aid the soul in its flight A great many mystery religions promised to free their adherents from the material world's endless cycles of birth and death, but so did many schools of philosophy. The later Platonists, for example, especially from the time of lamblichus (c 250-C.330) to that of Proclus (c.410-85), used magical rituals to communicate with gods and benign demons, to secure divine assistance, and to thwart the malevolent demons on high who might seek to impede the soul in its ascent to God.
Naturally, this was an opportune time for conjurers, charlatans and confidence tricksters. Many temples were specially designed to 'assist' the faithful in seeing or hearing the god in whom they had placed their trust. Mechanical devices, optical tricks and combustible chemicals were used to simulate miracles and divine visitations. To give the impression that an idol had been inhabited by a divine spirit and brought to life, a clockwork automaton would be used; a hidden speaking trumpet would produce the voice of an unseen god; light reflected from a hidden pan of water onto a temple ceiling suggested a numinous presence; a skull cunningly fashioned from wax would deliver an oracle and then 'miraculously' melt away; a darkened temple vault could suddenly be transformed into the starry firmament by light reflected from fish scales embedded in the masonry; and so on. Needless to say, the effect of such devices was considerably enhanced by the votary's ardent desire to be convinced in the first place.
(THE PAGANS HAD THEIR "MYSTERY RELIGION" BUT OVER TIME SO DID THE CHURCH OF ROME, WITH HER MANY INNOVATIONS THAT SHE ADOPTED AND DEVELOPED OVER THE COMING CENTURIES. ALL FULLY DISCLOSED ON THIS WEBSITE - Keith Hunt)
and successful general, and in 360, in reaction to an imperial attempt to remove him from command, his troops proclaimed him Augustus. Civil war would inevitably have followed, but Constantius conveniently died before it became necessary. On ascending to the purple, Julian publicly declared his reversion to the ancient faith, and then spent much of his extremely brief reign (November, 361 to June, 363) attempting to wrest control of Roman society away from the 'Galilaeans'.
Julian was an intelligent and formidable man, energetic, often remarkably generous, and blessed with a considerable literary gift and an enthusiasm (though not much capacity) for philosophy; he was also mildly vindictive and deeply superstitious, and suffered from an insatiable appetite for magic, esoterica and animal sacrifice. He was, simply stated, a religious fanatic. Unofficially, he countenanced any degree of violence against the Christians; officially, he enacted various discriminatory policies against them, such as a law forbidding them to teach classical texts. He did not, however, attempt to suppress the Church; rather, he granted equal toleration to all Christian sects, in order to foment greater discord among them.
('JULIAN knew that toleration of the Christian would intensify their divisionAMIANTUSs.... experience had taught him that no wild beasts are such dangerous enemies to man as Christians are to one another.'
THE Roman HISTORY 390-91.)
In the end, Julian's great cause was a failure, in part because he died after only 20 months in power, but ultimately because there was no real popular passion for his pagan revivalism; even many pagans regarded him as a credulous extremist. He had hoped to make the old faith attractive to those who had forsaken it, not only by giving it a doctrinal and institutional coherence like that of the Church, but by imbuing it with a moral dimension comparable to Christianity's. This was an impossible project. As he was forced to lament in a letter that he wrote to a pagan priest, 'It is a disgrace that these impious Galilaeans care not only for their own poor, but for ours as well.'
Julian died from a spear wound sustained as he retreated up the River Tigris, during a catastrophic campaign against the Persians. Legend says that, in his final moments, he cried out, 'You have conquered, O Galilaean!' He never actually uttered those words, in all likelihood; but they were true nonetheless.
SO BEGAN THE PATH TO MIGHT AND POWER OF THE ROMAN CHURCH. THAT WOULD OVER THE NEXT FEW CENTURIES CONQUER EUROPE, THEN INVADE BRITAIN, WHERE OVER A PERIOD OF ABOUT 400 YEARS, CONQUER THE ORIGINAL APOSTOLIC CHRISTIANITY OF BRITAIN, WHICH ROME DEEMED "HERETICAL" AND "JEWISH." AS PROPHESIED IN REVELATION 17 THIS WOMAN WHORE WOULD BE CALLED "MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS [she would indeed produce children who came out of her in protest over some issues] AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH" (verse 5). SHE WOULD ALSO COMMIT SPIRITUAL FORNICATION WITH KINGS OF THE EARTH, AND MAKE THE INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH DRUNK WITH THE WINE OF HER FORNICATIONS (verse 2).
THERE IS JUST ABOUT NO NATION ON EARTH TODAY THAT HAS NOT COME UNDER HER TEACHINGS IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER [Example: the celebration of January 1st as new year day; just about every nation on earth today observes this event].