The Coronation of Constantinian Christianity, Part 1

Rome has invariably impacted the Christian faith since even the earliest days in one form or another…

The rule of Constantine the Great was initially was a great blessing to believers. Not only did he enforce toleration toward them, he also oversaw a series of acts which benefited the church directly, including the dismissal of taxes from church lands along with a directed effort to build more churches across the empire. Even so, he ultimately brought many notable changes to the faith; changes that ultimately would draw a bloody line between the true teachings of Scripture and a state-sponsored imposter of the Church.

At some point, Constantine realized that the most effect route towards peace and stability across the empire was to convince the diverse masses to embrace the faith of Christianity in some form or fashion. Far from just promoting the authentic teachings of the Scriptures, the Emperor took the liberty to augment its teachings in number of critical ways. Among other things, the empire was divided into a Western half and an Eastern half. In doing so, Constantine effectively changed the hub of Christianity from Jerusalem to the cities of Rome – in the Western half of the empire – and Byzantium, in the Eastern half of the Empire. Ever the modest ruler, Constantine saw fit to rename the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire from Byzantium to Constantinople around the year 330 AD. Jerusalem, which had for some three centuries prior seen Christian pilgrimages from across the known world, was thus degraded to a backwater as the two other cities flourished as the new axises of the faith.

026 - 3rd Century Empire with Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem.png
Ancient Roman Map with Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem

Furthermore, Constantine allegedly began corrupting the early faith through  the incorporation of a number of his own pagan beliefs – rituals and customs which he himself refused to abandon from his own past. These, under scrutiny, shine quite brightly, including baptism by sprinkling (as opposed to the Scriptural immersion of adult believers). Some have suggested that he instituted another change which is well established today: Christian worship on Sunday. It is said that this practice was derived from a popular sun-worshipping cult cult of the day; a cult to which the Emperor held a prior – and perhaps enduring – allegiance.  To that end, it was declared in 321 AD that “On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.”¹ 

This position – as a means of distancing Christians from traditional practices of Judaism – was further solidified by the Council of Laodicea in 364 AD, which stated “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honour, and, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ” ²

References:

  1. Codex Justinianus 3.12.3, trans. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 5th ed., New York, 1902, 3:380, note 1
  2. Strand, op. cit., citing Charles J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, 2, Edinburgh, 1876, pg 316.

 

“The Coronation…” continues next time…


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