Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Myth About Constantine and the Church

I've heard it said many times that orthodox Christianity was an invention of Constantine, and that had he not imposed his vision of Christianity upon the Roman Empire, then Christianity as we know it today would not exist, but rather other forms of Christianity would have taken its place.

Reading "The Christian Centuries: Volume One, the First Six Hundred Years" by Jean Danielou and Henri Marrou, I came across some interesting tidbits that blast that idea out of the water.

First, less than three years after the Council of Nicea had defined the Son "homoousios" with the Father and condemned Arius and his supports, Constantine has Arius and some Arian bishops reinstated. So, one can not really say that Constantine imposed his view of Christianity on the Empire since his point of view was not a single point of view, but changed, and his change of heart was hardly toward what emerged as orthodoxy.

Neither can one say that the emperors following Constantine were the ones who settled the issue clearly with the orthodox position. Constans II, who ruled the eastern empire after Constantine's death, was constantly shifting position and always was under the influence of "Arianising theologians."

Under Constantine, Constans, and Constantius who followed him, bishops who supported the doctrine of Nicea (considered the orthodox position) were sent into exile (ex. Athanasius, Lucifer of Cagliari, Hilary of Poitiers, Pope Liberius, and Hosius of Cordova.). Emperor Julian wanted to reinstate paganism. Valentinian, in the West, though a Nicaean, was not interested in theological debates. Valens, in the East, like Constantius his predecessor, adopted a modified Arianism and persecuted those who were not of his line of thought.

It wasn't until Theodosius in 380 that the orthodox Nicaean line was imposed on subjects of the empire.

So, for those who say that the Church is an invention of Constantine, and that its faith was the personal faith of the emperor, take a look at this book for some insight into what really happened.