Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Constantine and the rise of Christianity

By Haxx in Culture
Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 02:49:53 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

The history of how Christianity became an accepted mainstream religion is an interesting one. If you have never heard the story of the Roman Emperor Constantine and his effect on the world's current religious landscape, read on to learn how one mans actions during his rise to power changed the world forever.


In the year 293 a Roman Emperor named Diocletian decided to split the declining Roman Empire into two segments because of military threats on two fronts. He would rule the eastern segment and his friend General Maximian would rule the western part. At first Maximian's title was Caesar, which denoted him as successor to the emperor. Eventually Diocletian promoted Maximian to the title of Augustus, which meant that the two men were now equals. The Roman Empire now had two Emperors.

Each Emperor chose a Caesar or junior emperor. Maximian chose a man named Constantius. Constantius was at first a Roman Senator then became a politician/general type who was sent by emperors to quell rebellions, and to form treaties with warlords. Constantius also earned a reputation as an able leader over northwestern parts of the empire.

The main focus here is on the western part of the Roman Empire where Maximian was Emperor and Constantius was his Caesar or junior emperor. At this point in time, the Roman Empire was so large that a Caesar also ruled roughly a quarter of the emperor's half of the empire. In 305, western Emperor Maximian was forced to retire by Eastern Emperor Diocletian who also retired, and Constantius succeeded to the position of western Emperor of Rome. However, he died in battle in 306. Constantius' son Constantine was at his father's deathbed, where troops loyal to his father's memory proclaimed him western Emperor. Within a span of less than two years the Emperor of the western part of the empire went from being Emperor Diocletian's favorite general (Maximian) to the Caesars (junior emperor) son, Constantine. Within Months things worsened for the western half of the empire. Retired Emperor Maximian's son Maxentius felt he had been passed over and with support of his followers (armies and constituents), had himself set up as Emperor and took control of Italy and Northern Africa. This left Constantine Emperor of only the North Western parts of the empire. To make matters worse Maximian (Maxentius' father) who had been forced to retire, started his own campaign to regain his position as emperor going as far as battling against his own son. At this point there were at least three notable men vying to be the western Emperor of Rome each having significant armies and lands.

Constantine was well educated and served at the court of eastern Emperor Diocletian after the appointment of his father, Constantius to western Caesar (junior Emperor). Constantine benefited greatly from his fathers popularity with the troops and citizens of the lands he ruled. Constantine was a follower of Apollo the Sun God. Apollo consistently appeared his coinage. Constantine's use of this symbolism served to emphasize the legitimacy of his rule. Apollo was a well-accepted God. Since the Roman Emperors ruled by "divine right" and stayed in power through the support of the legions, it was important for them to be seen to support a strong state religion.

The western part of the empire was in turmoil and wars waged while several men tried to install themselves as Augustus or Emperor of western Rome. In some parts of the empire Christians were accepted, in others they were persecuted. At some point Constantine arguably decided that in order too win these wars he needed the backing of the Christians. In 306 he ordered the end of any Christian persecution in Britain and Gaul (Gaul is now parts of Spain, Germany and France etc.), in hopes that it would grow his army and add something to fight for. This was a risky move because Christianity at the time was widely thought of as a lesser religion compared to the traditional Roman Gods. Constantine and Maxentius were openly hostile toward one another. In the year 312 their armies clashed at Milvian Bridge just outside of Rome. Days before the battle, Constantine told his followers that he had a vision as he looked toward the setting sun. The Greek letter's XP ("Chi-Rho," the first two letters of "Christ") intertwined along with a cross appeared emblazoned on the sun, along with the inscription "In Hoc Signo Vinces," Latin for "Under this sign, you will conquer." Constantine, who worshiped the Apollo, put the Christ symbol on his solders shields. Within days the two armies clashed, and Constantine emerged victorious. Maxentius was among the dead. Constantine entered Rome not long afterwards and was acclaimed as sole western Augustus (Emperor). He credited his victory at Milvian Bridge to the god of the Christians, and ordered the end to any religious persecution within his realm, a step he had already taken in Britain and Gaul. With the emperor as a patron, Christianity exploded in popularity.

In the following year 313 Constantine put his politics to policy with The Edict of Milan, which declared that the Roman Empire would be neutral with regard to religious worship, officially ending all government-sanctioned persecution especially of Christianity. The Edict of Milan went farther. It gave to Christianity a status of legitimacy alongside of traditional Roman Gods, and in effect disestablished Roman Gods as the official religion of the Roman Empire and its armies.

Diocletian's idea of splitting Rome only lasted 31 years. In 324 Constantine defeated the only remaining Eastern Emperor Licinius and become the sole Emperor of Rome. The last of Constantine's restraint disappeared and Constantine ruled over the entire Roman Empire. Apart from building great monuments to Christianity, Constantine now also became openly hostilely towards his former religion's followers. Traditional Roman temples had their treasures confiscated. These treasures were largely given to the Christian churches instead. Some traditional Roman religions which were deemed sexually immoral by Christian standards were forbidden and their temples were destroyed. Laws were introduced to enforce Christian ideas of sexual morality. Constantine was evidently not an emperor who had decided to gradually educate the people of his empire to this new religion. The empire was shocked into a new religious order

With legal protection and support from the Emperor, the Christian church thrived. However, they had a major problem. The church had been divided into two groups each with a separate idea on how Jesus Christ was defined. One side called Arianism said that Jesus once did not exist, that he was created by God as a man and therefore a lesser lord. This infuriated believers of the Athanasius view witch stated that Jesus was both God and man and that the father's begetting of the son, or uttering of the word, was an eternal relationship between them, not an event that took place within time. Therefore both God and Jesus always existed and were not bound by human predefined ideas of father and son. This is a basic interpretation and is still debated today.

In the year 325 Constantine called for a discussion on this division. It was called the Council of Nicaea. Most Christian Bishops and many other high-ranking religious leaders came. The Council decided the definition of the Christian deity as the Holy Trinity, God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit. This definition sided with the Athanasius view. However, the nature of its creation, a council, and the diplomatically sensitive way in defining the formula, too many suggest the creed of the Holy Trinity to be rather a political construct between theologians and politicians rather than anything achieved by divine inspiration. It is hence often sought that the Council of Nicaea represents the Christian church becoming a more worldly institution, moving away from its innocent beginnings in its ascent to power. The Christian church continued to grow and rise in importance under Constantine.

Constantine remained Emperor of the Roman Empire until his death in 337. It is still unclear to historians today, if he truly had believed in Christianity, or not. He wasn't baptized until he lay on his deathbed. At this point in time, weather his part in the rise of Christianity was for self-gain or for true beliefs seem irrelevant. What is relevant is that had it not been for Constantine's embracement of Christianity, it is doubtful that the religion would be as large as it is today.

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Related Links
o Also by Haxx


Display: Sort:
Constantine and the rise of Christianity | 96 comments (76 topical, 20 editorial, 2 hidden)
I like this kind of article (2.90 / 11) (#3)
by jolly st nick on Wed Aug 18, 2004 at 09:55:29 PM EST

But I wonder how it will be received. Not many people I think are that interested in church history.

To me, what is interesting about the events you describe is that they cap a centuries long transition of Christianity from its roots as a Jewish sect to a distinctive world religion. This distinctiveness is so powerful, that most Western people today make many of the same assumptions about religion this form of Christianity makes, whether they agree or disagree with it. In particular, the Nicene council solidified the Christina obsession with orthodoxy (Greek ortho-, ortho- + Greek doxa, meaning righ opinion/belief) and heresy (From the Greek hairesis which means to choose, that is to think for yourself).

Judaism is at its roots a tribal religion, with emphasis on keeping the law. It's focus was (and perhaps is) less on orthdoxy (right opinion) than on orthopraxy (right practice). A Jew's behavior is generally more important to his righteousness than his opinions. It is likely that early Christianity may have shared this trait. For example in the Gospel of Mark, which is the oldest Gospel:

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

If you believet the Gospel to be the infallible and unalterable Word of God, as many people claim to do, then this tells you that the way to eternal life is to lead a good life and not to be attached to your status (being child like) or your possessions. It says nothing about believing in anything.

Virtually everything we know about Christianity is filtered through Greek thought. All our sources for the Gospel are Greek, not Aramaic (and certainly not Hebrew). I believe that the obsession with orthodoxy reflects a peculiar Greek obsession with philosophy that was overlaid on the early Christian faith. The council of Nicea simply concludes the philosophication of Christianity. It was all about the differences between the doctrine of homoousios and homoiousios: whether Jesus was of same (homo) or like (homoi) "substance" to God the Father. This is purely extra-scriptural speculation. None of the scriptural sources mandate having precisely nuanced positions on such topics.

Today, people often say things like "I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual and believe in trying to be a good person." To some, this is a wishy washy position, but I see this as a longing for a more primitive kind of religion that balances orthodoxy and orthopraxy better than their sole model for what a "religion" is.

Hmm. (2.80 / 5) (#15)
by gzt on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 12:48:45 AM EST

I don't think "receiving the kingdom of God as a child" is the same as not being attached to your status and "taking up your cross" is not obviously the same as "living a good life". This is a call to an Abrahamic leap of faith, not a formula for salvation by works. I agree that one is not required to assent to a list of propositions in the Bible, but how is one supposed to "follow [Christ]" if one does not know who he is?

The point of Athanasian orthodoxy in its Hellenistic elaboration was the maxim that "God became man so that man might become God". That is what salvation, entering the Kingdom of God, participation in the uncreated light of the Transfiguration is. Which is, incidentally, an inheritance from Judaic mysticism, not neoplatonism.

[ Parent ]

Well (3.00 / 3) (#33)
by jolly st nick on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 11:49:53 AM EST

I think "receiving the kingdom of God as a child" is precisely about status. In the first century, they didn't have romantic ideas about childhood. Children were as small, defective persons who could be made to labor etc. but had no legal status. It's the same first will be last thing. It's the anawim who will inherit the kingdom, not the scribes.

With respect ot "taking up your cross", it is about behavior. The standards are just very high.

but how is one supposed to "follow [Christ]" if one does not know who he is?

This is an excellent question. However, it is not a question that the first generation of Christians would have had to ask. It is for later generations wondering what it means for the Son of Man to come again in glory. You can see this with the progression of the Gospels. In Mark (the oldest Gospel) while there is certainly quite a bit of theology, we see Jesus depicted with unaffected naturalness. In the later synoptic Gospels (Matthew and Luke) we see greater concern with politics, theology and prophecy. Finally in the latest Gospel (John), Jesus is transcendant, almost mythological. He is the Word Made Flesh.

I'm not saying an interest in the person of Christ is a bad thing. It's just that taken too far it can be idolatrous -- the idol being first the concepts, then eventually the words we used for the concepts.

We aren't going to have a flame war about justification, are we? ;-)

[ Parent ]

I'll try to avoid it. (3.00 / 4) (#37)
by gzt on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 01:38:47 PM EST

I am, after all, not a Protestant.

I agree that there is a great danger in systematic theology to create idols, but that does not justify the complete abandonment of dogma. The tradition of mystical theology in Christianity relies on the dogmatic pronouncements of the Church while also realizing that God is completely transcendant, for while God is love, He is also not love in any way that we can know [etc]. Anyways, I don't deny that a man can attain the Kingdom of God without assenting to the formula presented at Nicea, neither do I deny that a man may attain the Kingdom without even knowing who Christ is. However, it certainly is helpful to be a visible member of the Church partaking of the sacraments, I view the creeds and dogmas of the Church as purely practical pronouncements for the guidance of those seeking God. And these really are practical points in the practice of mystical theology!

As for the Gospels, you must keep in mind that Mark  begins with miraculous healings and the casting of demons, includes the Transfiguration, and ends with the Resurrection. Certainly, those are depicted with an unassuming naturalness, but to me that has always underscored the radical nature of it all.

BTW, orthodoxy is also often construed as right worship and in the early church the need for right praxis was taken for granted. The Jews at the time certainly did have some emphasis on right belief - the shema is a creedal statement and there were controversies about the right interpretation of the Torah and whether there would be a resurrection. It's too complicated to say which is more important, both belief and practice did matter to the Second Temple Era Jews.

[ Parent ]

holy shiite (1.00 / 2) (#40)
by flippy on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 03:34:11 PM EST

what the hell are you 2 talking about?

flippy


[ Parent ]

go back to your registers and html tags, (none / 1) (#50)
by Battle Troll on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 08:02:33 PM EST

Computer janitor.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
I don't mean to overstate my case. (3.00 / 2) (#59)
by jolly st nick on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 07:56:20 PM EST

BTW, orthodoxy is also often construed as right worship and in the early church the need for right praxis was taken for granted. The Jews at the time certainly did have some emphasis on right belief - the shema is a creedal statement and there were controversies about the right interpretation of the Torah and whether there would be a resurrection. It's too complicated to say which is more important, both belief and practice did matter to the Second Temple Era Jews.

I essentially agree with most of the points you are making here, it's really a matter of shading or emphasis. It's hard to make a point with clarity and yet acknowledge the full complexity of the truth. You can't completely sever belief from religion, and so this must imply some sort of creed, however rudimentary.

[ Parent ]

Oh, and re: status. (3.00 / 2) (#43)
by gzt on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 04:58:18 PM EST

Ah, that's what you meant by not being attached to your status. Fair enough, I pretty much agree. One has to be humble and willing to be humbled.

Taking up one's cross is being submissive even to death, and calling that merely action seems a bit inadequate to me, but I see where you're coming from.

[ Parent ]

As Paul Harvey would say..... (none / 1) (#90)
by Sgt York on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 06:36:47 PM EST

This passage is about the benefit of works, legalism, and self attained righteousness only if you take it out of context. Firstly, if someone believes that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, then no one part is more reliable than another. So "older" doesn't mean "better". Secondly, you only gave the first half of the story.

The man thought he was good by following the commandments; note that Jesus never told the man that he was good. He never told the man it was enough. In fact, he implied that following the commandments was not enough, that he would have to do more, something that the man could not do. Here's the rest:

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
In other words, Man cannot be righteous by himself. This is in agreement with the rest of the writings in the New Testament; that by himself, Man is incapable of good. It is also an allegory; that you cannot be attached to the world and be a Christian. In order to be a Christian, you must be willing to give up all ties to secular things. This passage works as a warning against precisely what Constantine did: He tried to mix Christianity and politics (the world).

The portion about the children also becomes apparant when you look at it incontext. At the time, children were expected to do what their parents said, period. They did not question or ask for reasons, they simply did as they were told. The trusted and "had faith".

Orthodoxy in Christianity has its roots in the secularism of Christianity. It is a bastardization of the basic tenets, and was warned against. If you read the New Testament with no presumptions, it is clear that orthodoxy and ritual are looked down upon. In fact, there are only two Biblically sanctioned rituals for Christians.

I liked the article, I am not terribly familiar with that portion of history, and it was a good read. Sorry for the ramblings, I'm no theologan, philosopher, or historian.


There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

-1 too ordinary (2.16 / 6) (#4)
by jongleur on Wed Aug 18, 2004 at 10:24:21 PM EST

Sure this is an important part of history but, it's pretty well known and standard. If this makes it, what's to stop us all from rushing to our textbooks and encylopedias and pasting stuff up here? That's why I've voted against it. Any article on a known subject had better have some new angle and get to it fast.
--
"If you can't imagine a better way let silence bury you" - Midnight Oil
I think of this kind of article as an MLP in drag. (3.00 / 2) (#8)
by jolly st nick on Wed Aug 18, 2004 at 10:45:22 PM EST

Yes, we could rush to our encyclopedia or even to google and come up with these facts. But it would be a rather solitary activity, wouldn't it?

On the plus side thie article is cogent and well organized; on the minus it is rather dry. I do agree with you that the article would be stronger if it had more of a distinctive point of view.

In my opinion, what makes a worthy article is less the qualities of the article itself, as to the kind of responses it is likely to create. As such, I am biased towards unusual topics. It's not blah blah copyright this or blah blah Iraq that. Thus the first article on chewing tobacco is a shoe in, the second on had better be pretty damned good.

The events being described are so pivotal in the development of Western Civilizations, how could this not be a jumping off point for many interesting discussions? For example, do you like living in a secular society with freedom of religion and conscience? I can draw a direct, if ironic line from the establishment of Christianity as the state religion of Rome to the idea of separation of church and state.

[ Parent ]

I'm atheist and love history of Christianity (1.25 / 4) (#9)
by xutopia on Wed Aug 18, 2004 at 11:39:01 PM EST

there is nothing more interesting than the inquisition years to really understand the power that religion has over people.

The more I know about religions the more I admire them. Admiteddly I also admired Hitler's military instincts. :)

The inquisition? (none / 0) (#10)
by jolly st nick on Wed Aug 18, 2004 at 11:53:12 PM EST

Well, I'm interested to hear exactly what you have to say about the inquisition, if you find them so interesting. Most people don't really have a good handle on what it was about.

[ Parent ]
pick up a book on the subject (none / 0) (#28)
by xutopia on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 10:41:00 AM EST

cause I'm no history professor. :)

[ Parent ]
actually (none / 0) (#29)
by xutopia on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 10:47:36 AM EST

Wikipedia.org has plenty of excellent material on the subject.

[ Parent ]
You misunderstand me. (none / 1) (#30)
by jolly st nick on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 10:56:24 AM EST

I don't need a lesson on the inquistion. You implied that you had an interesting point about the inquisition. I was just wondering what it was.

[ Parent ]
Actually, (2.66 / 3) (#19)
by trhurler on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 03:10:11 AM EST

Hitler's military instincts were horrendous. Had he been even just a good military strategist, tactician, or maybe even procurement visionary for that matter, we'd all be speaking German. The history of the European theater in WWII is the history of the biggest advantage any would be world conqueror ever had over his foes being squandered by a raving lunatic who happened to be charismatic enough to get himself installed as the leader of his nation.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Hmm... (none / 0) (#20)
by epepke on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 03:18:26 AM EST

If Hitler wasn't good as a military strategist, then I wonder what the probability is that in a population of 350 million or thereabouts, there might be someone better?

Food for thought in these days of Bush's wanting to get rid of American involvement in Europe which can be justified on the grounds of, like, Europeans are magically civilized and all, or at least incompetent.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
No worries (2.20 / 5) (#21)
by trhurler on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 03:55:01 AM EST

First of all, Europe would have to quit its nanny state pretensions to be able to afford the kind of military anyone is afraid of. That will never happen.

Second, another world war is not possible without nukes. Nukes are a guarantee that there is no winner - no conquerer will ever march into his opponent's capital after a nuclear war. The days of mad scheming to take over the world as a serious endeavor are basically in the past because of nuclear weapons.

Third, Europe is so terrified of anything even resembling Nazis these days that nobody right of what would normally be called "the radical left" in most of the world has any chance of winning anything that requires a vote. What Germans call "the conservatives" are more like the US Democratic left wing. And face it: leftists are just not good at real wars. Guerilla actions, yes, but not real wars. Guerilla actions do not result in conquering the world.

Fourth, even if such a leader unified all of Europe, refocused it on military conquest somehow and forced the scrapping of tax funded dogooderism in Europe, built a world class military, and all that, and even if they then started invading people, they couldn't go after Russia(has nukes,) the US(has nukes,) Japan(would have nukes in a matter of months,) Israel(has nukes,) China(same,) India(same,) Pakistan(same,) and so on. It just wouldn't be practical. So MAYBE if hell froze over and nobody with any real military made any attempt to stop them, Europe could become lord of all the backwards economically distressed shitholes of the globe, but somehow I doubt they'd want them.

Up until 1945, deaths from war increased exponentially year to year, like clockwork, almost exactly fitting a simple mathematical pattern, climaxing in tens of millions a year. At that point, there is a discontinuity in the function. From 1946 on, the mathematical function is much simpler: f=1,000,000, give or take a bit of slop each year. As a certain metal artist said a long time ago, thank God for the bomb. It is quite likely that we still HAVE civilization mainly because of it.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Incorrect scoping. (none / 1) (#62)
by aphrael on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 08:04:17 PM EST

nobody right of what would normally be called "the radical left" in most of the world

Here, perhaps; in most of the third world, the views of the European center and center-right parties would not be considered left of center.

[ Parent ]

Well, (none / 0) (#66)
by trhurler on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 04:01:18 AM EST

Actually, I think the third world is a lot more varied than people give credit for(for instance, Muslim dominated countries are definitely right wing dominated, and have a couple billion people,) but aside from that, given the general level of ignorance in the third world, who really cares? By "most of the world" I meant most of the world in which reading is a normal skill to possess, and in which one's occupation is not typically "subsistance farmer."

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
uh ... (none / 0) (#73)
by aphrael on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 07:41:30 PM EST

i'm confused; what part of the world are you alleging is, on average, so conservative that the conservative European parties are to the left of the average in those countries?

In the industrialized world, the only country which seems to meet that criteria is the US; the other former British colonies do not, nor do South Korea and Japan. Arguably Singapore does, but Singapore does not practice anything recognizable as democracy.

In the industrializing world, any countries which actually practice something resembling democracy - which would leave out most of the Arab world - have parties which are significantly to the left of the European mainstream and parties which are significantly to the right of the European mainstream.

Basically, I think your assertion that right-wing European political parties are more left-wing than average in the rest of the world is a broad sweep which supports your political views but which have no basis in fact; would you care to provide some? :)

[ Parent ]

That will happen automatically (none / 0) (#63)
by epepke on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 09:00:28 PM EST

First of all, Europe would have to quit its nanny state pretensions to be able to afford the kind of military anyone is afraid of. That will never happen.

I disagree. The nanny state pretensions have been made possible by American military involvement. Without that, Europe would either have to pay for armies or do without. If they pay for armies, they aren't going to be able to afford the nanny state. Then, all of a sudden, all of the centuries-old hatreds are going to become just as important as they were in 1910. If they don't, well, I'm sure that there are one or two Eastern Mafiosi who know an opportunity when they see it.

Second, another world war is not possible without nukes. Nukes are a guarantee that there is no winner - no conquerer will ever march into his opponent's capital after a nuclear war.

This assumes that Europeans have functioning brains, which I doubt these days.

Third, Europe is so terrified of anything even resembling Nazis these days that nobody right of what would normally be called "the radical left" in most of the world has any chance of winning anything that requires a vote.

No. They're terrified of the form, not the substance. Germans, for instance, prohibit the promulgation of Mein Kampf, not being bright enough to figure out that it is just the sort of action that would make Goebbels cream his jeans. They also love gun control, another favorite.

Fourth, even if such a leader unified all of Europe, refocused it on military conquest somehow and forced the scrapping of tax funded dogooderism in Europe, built a world class military, and all that, and even if they then started invading people, they couldn't go after Russia(has nukes,) the US(has nukes,) Japan(would have nukes in a matter of months,) Israel(has nukes,) China(same,) India(same,) Pakistan(same,) and so on.

A leader doesn't need to "unify" Europe, just kick the shit out of them, which is not so difficult. As far as the rest, they don't need to in order to start a world war. Just subjecting Europe would be enough to have world-wide reprecussions. Besides, there's always Africa (have we forgotten Rommel) and, with modern technology, South America to go invade.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Um (none / 1) (#65)
by trhurler on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 03:59:36 AM EST

Why would they want to take over Africa again, and South America? Talk about economic suicide...

In any case, conquering Europe would be hard, because the US wouldn't let you. You'd have to do it by political means(EU, for instance.)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
The presumption of intelligence (none / 0) (#69)
by epepke on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 08:23:35 AM EST

Why would they want to take over Africa again, and South America? Talk about economic suicide...

Hah! Are you now in the position of arguing that European economic policies are fundamentally sound and sustainable? I can die happy.

I've summered in Europe for most of the past 20 years. I've talked to a lot of Europeans. My basic impression is that, once one European remembers that a fifth cousin umpteen times removed was shot with a crossbow by an eighth cousin umpteen times removed several centuries ago, everything else goes out the window.

In any case, conquering Europe would be hard, because the US wouldn't let you. You'd have to do it by political means(EU, for instance.)

Sure the US would. We did it with respect to World War I for a long time. We did it with respect to World War II for a long time. We did it with respect to Kosovo for a long time. We took decades to settle Hungary, 1956, and when we did, we used indirect means.

Yes, the US would eventually get involved, and the US would win. Because that's what we do. Germany didn't understand it at all when they attacked the Lusitania. Japan didn't understand it at all when they attacked Pearl Harbor. There is no evidence whatsoever that anybody since then has magically grown brains.

But that still leaves plenty of time for Europe to play the same old games and wind up costing us a lot of money in the long run. Which I suppose a lot of Euro5hins insist could not possibly happen, and maybe you agree.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Nah (none / 0) (#77)
by trhurler on Sun Aug 22, 2004 at 04:01:33 PM EST

I really think the US would get involved faster, because we know it only gets costlier the longer you wait. Besides, the means to conquer Europe doesn't really exist in Europe right now; European militaries are pretty much a joke. So, I think you'd have to do it by other means.

As for European economic policy, of course it is fucked - but still, I don't think they'll quite yet have forgotten just how expensive their little empires became when the technological gap between imperial seat and imperial territories started to grow.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
yikes. (none / 0) (#45)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 05:10:46 PM EST

Hitler was a brutal tactician. What you should admire is the fact that his generals where able to do what they did in spite of him.

Hilter's strengths were his presentation skills, nothing more.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Ugh. (2.66 / 9) (#12)
by gzt on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 12:26:14 AM EST

The church had been divided into two groups each with a separate idea on how Jesus Christ was defined. One side called Arianism said that Jesus once did not exist, that he was created by God as a man and therefore a lesser lord. This infuriated believers of the Athanasius view witch stated that Jesus was both God and man and that the father's begetting of the son, or uttering of the word, was an eternal relationship between them, not an event that took place within time. Therefore both God and Jesus always existed and were not bound by human predefined ideas of father and son. This is a basic interpretation and is still debated today.

Author does not understand or do justice to the controversy, which is not still debated today. I refuse to do the author's dirty work by correcting him, except to state part of the dogmatic resolution of the orthodox Athanasian party: "[I believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten1 Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of one essence [homoousios] with the Father, by whom all things were made, who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and was made man...".

Every one of those statements was contested by Arians.

[1]Possibly should only be 'only' or 'unique'.

The controversy (none / 0) (#14)
by jolly st nick on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 12:45:04 AM EST

Author does not understand or do justice to the controversy, which is not still debated today.

Unless you are talking about Unitarians.

Nice summary though.

[ Parent ]

Yes, still debated (none / 0) (#54)
by Haxx on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 04:43:34 PM EST

I agree that it is not debated officialy within the Roman Catholic Church. It is widely debated among christians. When I was in the military, I witnessed many people debate this very topic. Most of them had very no education about the council or thier local sect's official explanation. But each of them was confused about how the father and the son could be equals, So they debated it. There you have it.

[ Parent ]
It is not debated officially... (none / 0) (#64)
by gzt on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 11:19:08 PM EST

...by Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, Wesleyans, and most types of Baptists. Now, I will admit that this sort of thing is still debated officially by some very radical Baptists, and perhaps some people in the Restorationist movement, but they can safely be ignored. But anything else is informal hashing out among laymen that would occur even between Catholics etc. I'm sure after Nicea there was still this sort of hashing out among laymen even if they formally accepted it. When I see "still debated among Christians" in the context of the history of doctrine [ie, this article], I [and most readers] tend to think on the official level, not about coffee-table discussion.

[ Parent ]
Zero comment (2.84 / 13) (#16)
by jubal3 on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 01:05:51 AM EST

You zeroed someone for asking you to run spell check?

"Please use your "0" rating with care! It is only for use on comments that are wholly content-free, or which are offensive, script-generated, or intended solely to annoy and/or abuse other readers. If you think the poster is clueless, or an idiot, or you just don't agree with them, that is *not* grounds for a 0 rating." -From Trusted user guidelines


Being new is no crime, but I hate people who abuse the Zero. -1


***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
Well, I would've +1 SP'd it... again... (2.60 / 5) (#18)
by Herding Cats on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 02:53:54 AM EST

But then I saw this set. Sorry, but you lost a vote by zeroing a comment regarding a perfectly legitimate request.

Run spell check.

And if I see the same typos when you repost this article yet again, it'll be -1 next time.

Just thought I'd be nice and warn you.

I hate facts. I always say the chief end of man is to form general propositions -- adding that no general proposition is worth a damn.

---Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
[ Parent ]

For I shall zero (1.33 / 3) (#57)
by Haxx on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 05:44:17 PM EST

I guess it would seem bizzare to zero that, here is why. I observed the correction wrote it down so I could have K5 correct it. After that there is no need for it, hence the zero. Thank you for the correction.

[ Parent ]
Poor form. (3.00 / 3) (#60)
by aphrael on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 08:01:38 PM EST

Editorial comments which were valid when made should not be rated down because they are no longer valid.

[ Parent ]
I always zero bigotry (none / 0) (#85)
by HighOrbit on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 10:27:50 AM EST

I will mod up a comment that I disagree with, if it has reasoned arguments and contributes to the discussion. But simple mindless bigotry (including but not limited to anit-christian, anti-american, or anti-muslim, or anti-anybody bigotry) that uses no reason other than uninformed hate will be modded down.

Lots of people are anti-religious because they think religion itself equates to intolerance. But they themselves are falling to just another form of intolerance. Reasoned disagreement with someone's religion or beliefs does not make you a bigot, but hating (or dismissing) them because they believe or have a faith different from you own does make you a bigot.

[ Parent ]
Eh... (2.37 / 8) (#17)
by Rot 26 on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 01:53:55 AM EST

I'm not the type to care too much about social studies, but I distinctly remember learning all of this in my 9th grade World Civilization class. If you're not introducing any more insight on the topic than I remember from a class I took years ago, skipped often, didn't care about and got a C in, then I don't really think it's worth posting.

I read Kuro5hin for articles that provide an interesting perspective or explore an unfamiliar issue, not for regurgitations of high school history books.
1: OPERATION: HAMMERTIME!
2: A website affiliate program that doesn't suck!
Watch more Next Generation (none / 0) (#56)
by Haxx on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 05:25:21 PM EST

-from a class I took years ago, skipped often, didn't care about and got a C in

-Those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. Capt. Picard U.S.S Enterprise




Don't ever quote the real quoter, quote the starship capt who requoted it!

[ Parent ]
The beginning of a long decline (2.72 / 11) (#25)
by IHCOYC on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 07:48:39 AM EST

In the year 325 Constantine called for a discussion on this division. It was called the Council of Nicaea. Most Christian Bishops and many other high-ranking religious leaders came. The Council decided the definition of the Christian deity as the Holy Trinity, God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit. This definition sided with the Athanasius view.
This began a long series of Imperial interventions in the Christian church, which in the long run did more damage than pagan persecutions. The Roman Emperors did more than legalise Christianity; they subsidised it, and they were not going to subsidise something they could not control.

They therefore imposed a top-down, hierarchical command structure on what had hitherto been autonomous congregations. By controlling a few key figures, they could control the entire movement this way. There had never been such a council before, presuming to legislate for the entire Christian movement.

They contrived to alter the teachings as well. Seeing that Christianity enjoyed the Emperor's favour and was a good way to get ahead, the church acquired a large number of pagan converts whose religious ideas were essentially materialistic and who did not understand abstract monotheism. This altered the teachings of the church at well. The church came to be administered under a franchise model. The concept of the sacraments was altered; they now became the conduits of God's grace, which was thought of as the Church's "intellectual property" rather than God's free gift. Validity of the sacraments was literally a franchise model; the doctrine of "apostolic succession" arose, under which the validity of the clergy's sacraments was contingent on their being licensed by another group of bishops.

All of these changes had the effect of rendering the Church docile and subject to government control, the sort of institution that could be subsidized without fear by the Roman state. Eventually the church became wealthy and powerful while losing its figurative innocence. The New Testament envisions a church surrounded by a semi-hostile pagan society, and contains nothing that suggests that the Church would ever become a focus of political power this side of the Second Coming. Whenever Christian institutions become politically powerful, their track record is not good.
--
Ecce torpet probitas, virtus sepelitur;
Fit iam parca largitas, parcitas largitur;
Verum dicit falsitas; veritas mentitur.

Reformation? (2.71 / 7) (#31)
by anaesthetica on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 11:16:14 AM EST

It's interesting to me that you feel Christianity has been in decline since this period.  Could you explain more closely in what sense you mean 'decline?'

Is the Reformation included in your estimation of Christianity's decline?  How about subsequent revivals?—many of todays evangelical revivals compared to the Protestant establishments can be analogized to the early Protestants compared to the old Catholic establishment.

You certainly can't mean decline in the extent of worshippers, practicing believers, and cultural inheritors of some form of Christianity.  Taken together, the various churches of Christianity (Catholic, Coptic, Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical, etc) are the most widely practiced religion in the world.

I assume that in a large part you're talking about a sort of counter-revolution.  Christianity, which had been anti-authoritarian (Jesus' discontent with the Pharisees and Sadducees), was eventually taken up by the elites for their own cynical purposes and 'standardized' into something with a very different flavor from the original teachings.  Is this what you mean?

—I'm the little engine that didn't.
k5: our trolls go to eleven
[A]S FAR AS A PERSON'S ACTIONS ARE CONCERNED, IT IS NOT TRUE THAT NOTHING BUT GOOD COMES FROM GOOD AND NOTHING BUT EVIL COMES FROM EVIL, BUT RATHER QUITE FREQUENTLY THE OPPOSITE IS THE CASE. ANYONE WHO DOES NOT REALIZE THIS IS IN FACT A MERE CHILD IN POLITICAL MATTERS. max weber, politics as a vocation


[ Parent ]
The long decline (2.75 / 4) (#32)
by IHCOYC on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 11:24:15 AM EST

It's interesting to me that you feel Christianity has been in decline since this period. Could you explain more closely in what sense you mean 'decline?'
I would not say that the decline has been continuous since Constantine, only that Constantine launched what proved to be the start of a long period of decline in the church.

The Reformation tried to fix a lot of this stuff. They still were stuck for a long time in the state-church modality, but they did reject the franchise model of mechanical sacramentalism and re-emphasized God's independent sovereignty. True freedom of religion only came about when the Englightenment made it seem not quite so important anymore; but in the atmosphere of religious competition, individual denominations have become somewhat revitalized.

Perhaps the biggest problem the church has ever faced was the concept of "Christendom," Christianity imagined as a sort of civil society saturated by Christian virtues. In Christendom, people become Christians by birth, baptism, and citizenship in a Christian realm. They then assume that their souls' salvation is taken care of because of who they are and where they were born; and leave the praying to the pious.
--
Ecce torpet probitas, virtus sepelitur;
Fit iam parca largitas, parcitas largitur;
Verum dicit falsitas; veritas mentitur.

[ Parent ]

Pish. (2.00 / 3) (#38)
by gzt on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 01:52:22 PM EST

Revisionist.

Apostolic succession predates Constantine, see Irenaeus. It was a standard claim before 300AD. The monarchical episcopacy was also standard fare by the end of the third century. Your comment about the sacraments seems quite a bit off, but I can't comment more without elaboration.

I can't deny there was corruption, but how much do you know about doctrinal history between 400 and 1000 AD?

[ Parent ]

Apostolic succession and other innovations (none / 1) (#46)
by IHCOYC on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 05:31:20 PM EST

For the actual apostles, all Christians are equally priests. (1 Pet. 2:9) "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28) The franchising model of apostolic succession, setting up a spiritual aristocracy among Christians, and making certain of Christ's ordinances performable only by anointed clergy, must have been imposed at some time between New Testament times and the times of Constantine.

Of course, different areas may have needed different organizational structures, and something of an administrative hierarchy may well have been established in some areas. So long as it is an ad-hoc thing, and no pretenses of special priestly holiness or power are made by the overseers, elders, and deacons, there is nothing specifically contrary to the New Testament in that. Still, when conflict arises between human theologies and the revelation upon which the authority of any church depends, I'd stick with the revelation.
--
Ecce torpet probitas, virtus sepelitur;
Fit iam parca largitas, parcitas largitur;
Verum dicit falsitas; veritas mentitur.

[ Parent ]

For the Jews, all Jews were priests. (2.25 / 4) (#47)
by gzt on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 05:52:34 PM EST

By that logic. It's a quote from the Torah, skippy.

Or Christ is the only priest. By the way, what word are you using for priest? In these sentences, I don't think they're saying presbyter - which is the word we use for the office in the Church.

Nice hermeneutic.

Anyways, by 100AD in the letters of St. Clement of Rome and 115AD in the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the episkopos and presbyteros were different people and only they could perform the Eucharistic offering. It's an early occurrence and both men knew at least one of the apostles. They took it for granted that a new episkopos or a new presbyteros must be appointed by an episkopos to be ordained. This is the apostolic tradition, this is the apostolic revelation, this is the truth. Read them and you will see the practice of the early church by men who knew the apostles. There is no conflict between revelation, reason, and the practice of the Orthodox Church in this matter.

[ Parent ]

A hypothetical (3.00 / 2) (#52)
by IHCOYC on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 03:59:32 PM EST

Shipwrecked sailors, none of whom have been to college, much less ordained as priests or ministers, wind up on a remote island. They manage to salvage a Bible from the wreckage. They marry native girls, and leave descendants.

Knowing that they come from a Christian land, and they remember that Jesus is their saviour and that they should worship Him, they decide to conduct worship as well as they are able. They read the Bible to one another, and believe it as best as they understand it. They practice the Lord's Supper with a homemade liturgy because the book says they should. They baptize one another. Since no wheaten flour or grapes grow there, they make do with local grains or fruits for the elements of their communion table.

Does almighty God disdain their worship? Is their religion lacking something essential that they need to go to Heaven?
--
Ecce torpet probitas, virtus sepelitur;
Fit iam parca largitas, parcitas largitur;
Verum dicit falsitas; veritas mentitur.

[ Parent ]

Suppose they don't find a Bible. (2.50 / 2) (#53)
by gzt on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 04:25:25 PM EST

But seek to worship the true God in spirit and in truth, but not knowing who Jesus is. What then? God is not constrained to the visible Church and the sacraments, but we are. The question is not what is necessary, the only conditio sine qua non is God's grace. Who am I to say you aren't a saint? But all men are better served in the sacramental life of the Church which Christ established.

[ Parent ]
suppose they find a Bible (none / 1) (#71)
by Battle Troll on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 12:42:46 PM EST

And ignorant of the living traditions of the Church, set themselves up with cicumcision, a Levite priesthood, temple sacrifice, slavery, and widespread capital punishment. And then break into factions over whether and how this conflicts with the New Testament, kill each other in civil wars, pave the way for heresies and blood cults of the most revolting sorts, revolt against religion because it inevitably leads to oppression and superstition, and then wind up a bunch of liberalists because they have nothing left to believe in.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Harsh but fair (nt) (none / 0) (#78)
by gravenimage on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 07:24:41 AM EST



[ Parent ]
no offense, but hah! (none / 1) (#72)
by Battle Troll on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 12:48:57 PM EST

Still, when conflict arises between human theologies and the revelation upon which the authority of any church depends, I'd stick with the revelation.

Without the Church, there'd be no Bible per se, just a bunch of random books running the gamut from the soi-disant Gospel of Thomas, to the orthodox books, to the Book of Mormon and Watchtower Society tracts.

The revelation upon which the authority of any church must depend is the ministry of Jesus and the action of the Holy Spirit, not any single written account of it or collection. Why should the living tradition of the Apostles be discarded in favour what your personal hermeneutic finds in a book that is itself a product of the Church? Or, to put it another way, why does a written tradition trump a tradition of praxis?

Your username suggests that you might be aware of Plato's injuction not to accept a man's book as an adequate substitute for an experience of his character. So...?
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

Und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind (none / 1) (#27)
by berlin on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 10:20:32 AM EST

dann schlagen sie sich noch heute die Köpfe ums Jota ein.

Gross oversimplification (3.00 / 4) (#41)
by aphrael on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 03:52:29 PM EST

In the year 293 a Roman Emperor named Diocletian decided to split the declining Roman Empire into two segments because of military threats on two fronts.

No, he did not.

Juridically the Empire remained undivided. In law it remained a single entity, with a single source of sovereignty. It had two Augusti and two Caesers, it is true; but ancient Rome had had two Consuls, without any implied differentiation.

His scheme broke down in practice, and the Empire functioned as multiple different states whenever there were multiple emperors, but it was never his intent to do that, and he certainly never decided to do that. It was a byproduct of the fact that difficulties in long-distance communication made the legal status of the Empire a fiction, and that there was no effective check on the autonomy of the emperors in the territories which they controlled.

Partially true (none / 1) (#55)
by Haxx on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 05:18:21 PM EST

I was considering these facts when writing the piece. I was going to add the premise of your post to the part where I said that Diocletian forced max to retire along with him. I hope one can assume that if Diocletian could force the other Augustus to retire than he still had absolute power. The reason I didn't go that route was because I had intended to get to Constantine as soon as possible. I didn't want to loose people by an exhaustive political explanation of the two emperors. The quick reference that the empires split still holds true. It just defends on how you define the word "split"

[ Parent ]
Practical vs. theoretical (3.00 / 2) (#58)
by aphrael on Fri Aug 20, 2004 at 07:51:12 PM EST

The question of whether or not Diocletian had absolute power is a question of practice; i'm talking about the legal theory of the time. All four emperors would issue edicts in the name of the empire - an indivisible legal entity which spanned most of the known world. There was no conception that the Augusti were ruling over seperate entities; they were sharing authority over a single thing.

The fact that they would often fight amongst themselves to determine whose authority over the empire would be paramount pretty much proves this case. :)

In any event - the division of the empire was never recognized as a matter of law. Even as late as the sixth century, Byzantine emperors would launch futile attempts to regain the western territories; and most of the Kingdoms established on Roman soil in the west, at least for the first century or so of their existence, claimed their authorization and right to exist as having been granted to them by the Emperor in Constantinople.

[ Parent ]

Bill Gates is... (1.50 / 6) (#48)
by mcgrew on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 06:28:15 PM EST

The Greek letter's XP ("Chi-Rho," the first two letters of "Christ")

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

+1FP I am Fascinated by early Church History (none / 0) (#51)
by RandomLiegh on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 08:23:48 PM EST



---
Thought of the week: There is no thought this week.
---
Constantine continued to build shrines to Apollo (none / 1) (#67)
by Berkana on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 05:06:27 AM EST

Constantine remained Emperor of the Roman Empire until his death in 337. It is still unclear to historians today, if he truly had believed in Christianity, or not. He wasn't baptized until he lay on his deathbed.
He also continued to build shrines to Apollo after his alleged conversion; IMHO, that's a pretty sure sign that he was not a convert.

the doctrine of trinity was inferred, not defined (2.50 / 8) (#68)
by Berkana on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 07:29:35 AM EST

The Council decided the definition of the Christian deity as the Holy Trinity, God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit. . . However, the nature of its creation, a council, and the diplomatically sensitive way in defining the formula, too many suggest the creed of the Holy Trinity to be rather a political construct between theologians and politicians rather than anything achieved by divine inspiration.

The doctrine of the Trinity was not merely defined at the Council of Nicea; it is and was considered to be divinely inspired by Christians, not because the Council of Nicea had divinely inspired conclusions but because the doctrine of the Trinity was inferred from the Bible, which the bishops believed to be inspired. Even though the term for "trinity" is nowhere found in the Bible, the term merely summarizes an idea that Christians had inferred from various passages. Before I begin, let me summarize some of the issues on which the doctrine of the Trinity was depends on.

  • The divinity of the Messiah
  • The personhood of the Holy Spirit
  • Their union in the Godhead
The doctrine of the trinity is not that there are three gods in one; it is that there is one god, but that this one god has three persons in the godhead. (The key idea is that persongod.) The Old and New Testaments are both in agreement that there is only one god, but both the Old and New Testaments imply that there are multiple divine persons in this god. Infact, one of the names of God in the Old Testament is Elohim, which is a plural form.

The Divinity of the Messiah
(For the sake of clarity, I'll start by arguing for duality rather than trinity by considering the issue of whether the Messiah (a.k.a. the Christ) was the son of God according to the Bible, and whether this makes the Messiah a second person in the godhead. Later, I'll address the issue of the Holy Spirit.)

The question of whether the Messiah was divine is pretty clearly settled if the New Testament is your prooftext. In the all four of the gospels, Jesus makes claims to divinity (both implied and explicit), and his divinity is expounded on all over the epistles as well as in various verses in the gospel according to John. Since this is not much in question, I'll spare you the detailed explanation from the New Testament about the Messiah's divinity and his union with God the Father; instead, I'll focus on the Old Testament prooftext for the divinity of the Messiah.

The following yet-unfulfilled prophetic Psalm is clear that the Messiah (the anointed one) is the son of God.

Psalm 2
Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against YHWH
and against his Anointed One.
"Let us break their chains," they say,
"and throw off their fetters."

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
Then he rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
"I have installed my King
on Zion, my holy hill."

I will proclaim the decree of YHWH:

He said to me, "You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.

Ask of me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will rule them with an iron scepter;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery."

Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve YHWH with fear
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The following verses are Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament. The Highlighted verses imply that the Messiah is divine.

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father of eternity, Prince of Peace.
(Digression: Christians take this last title to mean peace between God and man; persecution and painful conflict with loved ones over faith convictions is promised to followers of Jesus.
Micah 5:2
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from days of eternity
"

The Personhood of the Holy Spirit
The divine Holy Spirit is not a notion that was come up with in New Testament Times; throughout the Old Testament, even from the very first book, the Spirit is mentioned:

Genesis 1:1-2
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Psalm 51:10-12
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
nor take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Isaiah 63:7-10, 13-14
I will tell of the kindnesses of YHWH,
the deeds for which he is to be praised,
according to all YHWH has done for us-
yes, the many good things he has done
for the house of Israel,
according to his compassion and many kindnesses.
He said, "Surely they are my people,
sons who will not be false to me";
and so he became their Savior.
In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old.
Yet they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit.

So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.

. . . Like a horse in open country,
they did not stumble;
like cattle that go down to the plain,
they were given rest by the Spirit of YHWH.
This is how you guided your people
to make for yourself a glorious name.

The notion that the "Spirit of YHWH" was something divine is pretty clear, but the thing that establishes the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is a personal being is that the Holy Spirit can be grieved; grief, or any emotion, is considered a trait signifying personality. Here are some more verses that support the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 4:30
. . . And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Acts 5:29-39
. . . Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, *whom* God has given to those who obey him." [personhood is implied]
     When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

Acts 21:11
Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.' " [personhood is implied in the highlighted text.]
Once personhood can be established from prooftext, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is a third person in the trinity is established.

This response has become longer than I intended. Anyhow, I just wanted to point out, the doctrine of the trinity of the Godhead was not defined at Nicea as a "political construct between theologians and politicians"; it was recognized by Christians before then because it was inferred from the Bible, which was believed to be divinely inspired. I'll conclude with the verse that has all three persons of the godhead present in some manifestation:

Mark 1:9-11
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."



This is just plain silly (1.66 / 3) (#81)
by the on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 09:02:27 PM EST

God is clearly a quintet because he also appeared to Moses as Fire (Ex 3:2-3) and also because he has an big ass (Ex 33:23) which Moses was allowed to see. This is a typical Christian attitude - pick and choose the quotes that fit your theory and ignore everythig else.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
On the contrary (none / 0) (#82)
by Berkana on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 03:03:58 AM EST

God is clearly a quintet because he also appeared to Moses as Fire (Ex 3:2-3) and also because he has an big ass (Ex 33:23) which Moses was allowed to see.
Not so; the manifestation of God as a burning bush was never shown to be a part of the Godhead, merely a manifestation of God, but the Messiah and the Holy Spirit are refered to recurringly throughout Scripture.
This is a typical Christian attitude - pick and choose the quotes that fit your theory and ignore everythig else.
If you know of any verses that challenge the divinity of the Messiah or which reverse the understanding of the verses I cited supporting the personhood of the Holy Spirit, quote them and I will gladly take these into account. Nothing has been ignored.

[ Parent ]
At the risk of feeding the trolls (none / 1) (#83)
by jolly st nick on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 09:29:58 AM EST

One of the biggest faults of many Christians have with respect to the Bible is combing through Bible for materials to support their particular theories. They sometimes treat the Bible the way medieval peasants treated the Roman ruins -- as a source of building materials. This way of creating "Bible based" theology can of course prove anything.

While assembled this way, the verses look like a convincing argument, each of the verses have an alternative reading (as learned Jews will no doubt inform you).

For example: Isaiah 9:6


For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father of
eternity, Prince of Peace.

Christians read this as a clearcut assertion that the Messiah will be God. A Jew, on the other hand, while he assents that the first lines refer to a Messiah, will consider the last lines as referring to YHWH.

The point is that faith enters into the picture here. It's what you choose to believe that decides on your interpretation. It's not necessarily a bad thing so long as you understand it's your faith leading you to interpret Biblical passages this way. Where things get dicey is where you lose site of the process of interpretation and so stand the Bible on its head, for example taking the parable of the talents literally to condone a life built around acquiring money.

[ Parent ]

retro-vision (none / 1) (#86)
by generaltao on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 01:49:14 PM EST

That was a very thoughtful and well documented post.  I'd like to raise a few issues I had with it.  I'm not claiming to know better than you, but these are the counter-thoughts your post evoked.

You references this quote as an 'explicit' declaration of divinity by Jesus:

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

Now, I am certain that you can show me how this verse can be interpreted to be a declaration of divinity, but it is a far cry from explicit.  God declares His divinity rather more explicitly in the Old Testament where He says: "I AM GOD"

You quote:
"He said to me, "You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will rule them with an iron scepter;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery."

How does this indicate Jesus' divinity?  For one thing, "you are my son" or "sons of God" or "Israel was my first born" are also used in the Old Testament.  This would tend to show that the expression "son of God" means something like "true believer" or something like that.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, does the rest of the verse apply to the Jesus we know in the New Testament?  Did Jesus inherit the nations?   Did he posess the ends of the earth?  Did he rule with an iron scepter?  Did he dash them (the nations?) to pieces like pottery?  Doesn't sound like the carpenter I know.

" And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father of eternity, Prince of Peace. "

This is a wonderful prophecy except that Jesus was never called any of these things.

As for all the quotes you supplied about the Holy Spirit, I can't find a single one that establishes the Holy Spirit as a PERSON.  It could just as easily be seen as "inspiration" or "influence" or "protection".

Mind you, none of what I have said directly contradicts your assertion that the divine trinity is INFERRED in the Bible.  But I think that the inference is definitely in the eyes of the inferee.

Peace  

[ Parent ]

Further questions (none / 1) (#70)
by karjala on Sat Aug 21, 2004 at 11:19:42 AM EST

This article is interesting, and the history seems qutie different from what I remember to have been tought in primary school.

A further question arises:

When did the roman empire really split into two (Byzantine and Roman) and why?

With Respect to the Byzantine Empire (none / 1) (#75)
by lordbrain on Sun Aug 22, 2004 at 02:55:15 AM EST

The Byzantine Empire is a more modern term to refer to the Eastern Roman empire from 476 AD, when the Western Roman empire falls, to 1453 AD, when Constantinople falls to the Ottomans.

So although today we refer to this time and place as the Byzantine Empire, at the time, it was considered to be the Roman empire, and the people who lived there would have said that they were Romans.

Thank you. Thank you. Please no applause; just throw money
[ Parent ]
Indeed. (none / 1) (#89)
by aphrael on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 06:11:31 PM EST

The greek-speaking populations of anatolia and the balkans continued to refer to themselves as Romans right up until the 19th century, and one of the major Turkish states that preceded the Ottomans referred to itself as the Sultanate of Rum (eg, of Rome).

At what point the 'Eastern Roman Empire' becomes the 'Byzantine Empire' in historical annals is unclear; most historical works i've seen place the date in the 7th century. Justinian was still a Roman. This is quite clear from the art of the time; classical Byzantine artwork is highly Christian, but (for example) the processional walkway mosaic ascribed to Justinian has a mostly classical greek animal theme.

[ Parent ]

It didn't (none / 1) (#88)
by aphrael on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 06:02:19 PM EST

It really never considered itself to have split in two. After Constantine, it often functioned as two different entities, but that was never an intentional thing; it was a side-effect of lack of communication combined with the fact that each Augustus realized the other one could not in effect control their actions.

The general overview of the story is this:

  • For most of the 3d century AD, the empire was ungovernable, as new emperors came and went at an average rate of one a year, and often the army in different parts of the empire would be loyal to different emperors. Some of these would get put down, but new ones would arise elsewhere, wherever the Emperor and his army were not currently.
  • Diocletion revised the tax and administrative structure of the empire and created a government of multiple co-equal emperors, who would each control a different region.
  • This system broke down as the collegiality decreased and the emperors became effectively autonomous. By the end of the fourth century, while all emperors paid lip service to a unified empire, the west was effectively a seperate state than the east.
  • The western part of the empire collapsed due to complicated reasons which are still not fully understood, and was replaced by a series of barbarian kingdoms.
  • The Emperors in Constantinople retained a view of the Empire as being unitary and attempted to restore control of the Empire and displace the barbarian Kingdoms, throughout the fifth and sixth centuries. The most successful of these was Justinian, who reconquered most of Italy, all of Africa, and part of Spain.
  • At the start of the seventh century, the Empire fought a terrible war with Persia, which almost destroyed it, and then came close to being overwhelmed by the Arabs. It lost Egypt, Syria, and Africa, but held on to Anatolia - and was then no longer in a position economically to retain control of its western territories.


[ Parent ]
These events lead to church/state separation (3.00 / 2) (#84)
by jolly st nick on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 10:13:44 AM EST

OK, I promised while this was in voting that if it made it out, I'd do a post on this topic.

You can draw a direct, if ironic line between the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire and the rise of the concept of separation of church and state.

Christianity has a number of peculiar features that make it particularly ill suited to a role as state relgion.

First of all, there is pacifism. While Germanic barbarians in the north and west of Europe (many of doubtful orthodoxy) had no qualms about drawing the sword in the name of the Prince of Peace, the fact is that pacifism is clearly an important value in the Gospels. In fact Byzantine soldiers had to refrain from the sacrament while on campaign because their duty required them to commit the sin of violence. Jesus, the King of Kings, did not in the event lead a political or military revolt, but a movement of internal and interior reform in preparation for a new kingdom.

Second, there is an anti-authority bias in the Gospel. The Christian viewpoint in the Gospels towards the Romans was neither active collaboration (as in the Jewish elites) nor active opposition (as in the Zealots), which would naturally require that an alternative political order be envisioned. It took more of an arms length stance, recognizing that Roman rule was a practical reality but focusing on its own peculiar message of spiritual reform.

Third, the early experience of the Church with state power was one of coercion, starting with the execution of its founder, and continuing on through many years of persecution. Granted, these persecutions were never undertaken with anything like the normal Roman program of ruthless efficiency. However, the experience was traumatic and formed a last impression on the church through the character of the martyr, who suffers and dies rather than let the state coerce him to change his principles.

Fourth, I would argue that Christianity has almost an unique obsession with niceties of theology. A follower of Apollo is unlikely to be concerned with a divergence of opinion with a fellow follower, nor have I heard of Shaivists getting into fights with other Shaivists over fine points of theology. This obsession is a fertile source of disagreement, which in turn ensures that as soon as Christians get their hands on the machinery of state they are virtually certain to turn it on their fellow Christians, renewing the experience of persecution an martyrdom for a new generation Christians.

While the idea of separation of church and state may have been most popular among anti-clerical philosophes, and not to underestimate Christian opposition to this idea, I think that Christianity's characteristics and history peculiarly suit it to accomodate itself to a system in which church and state have separate and distinct roles. Christians can certainly find Biblical authority for the practice of "rendering unto Caesar."

Islam, by way of counterexample, finds its roots in an attempt to create a perfect society by uniting religious, political and military authority in the person of one man, Mohammed. Separation of church and state is a much harder sell to a muslim. However, it is not hopeless. I think in particular, the minority Shiite branch of Islam is particularly ripe for this idea, since it too has a history of experiencing state power as hostile and coercive, starting with the deposal of the imam Ali (the prophet's son in law) as caliph and the murder of Ali's son Hussein, along with his wives and children near Karbela. It is probably not coincidental that the strongest native tendencies towards democracy in the Muslim world were in Iraq and Iran.

Huh? (3.00 / 3) (#87)
by aphrael on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 05:41:06 PM EST

The seperation of church and state evolved in the area where the Empire collapsed and was replaced by germanic kingdoms, while the church remained (more or less) intact. In the area where the empire didn't collapse, the church and the state remained intimately fused until the empire was destroyed by the Turks.

The fact that the church existed as an independant power broker in medieval Europe can be tied more to its independance of the secular authority in the west than to its status as the state religion; and the modern seperation of church and state is largely a byproduct of a struggle between the medieval Kings and the church hierarchy.

[ Parent ]

Uh (none / 0) (#91)
by jolly st nick on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 06:45:39 PM EST

I'm not talking about the indepence of the church as an institution, but the separation of the religious and governmental spheres (once strong central authorities reemerged). The first instinct of the developers of modern nation states was to use religion for their political purposes (e.g. Ferdinand and Isabella).



[ Parent ]

yeah (none / 1) (#92)
by aphrael on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 07:21:02 PM EST

but my point is that in the areas where the power of the roman state was never destroyed, the seperation of the religious and governmental spheres never happened. That suggests fairly strongly that the causal agent for the seperation of the spheres was the decline of the Roman state, not the union of the Roman state with the Church.

[ Parent ]
Hmm (none / 0) (#93)
by jolly st nick on Tue Aug 24, 2004 at 07:35:08 PM EST

Are you arguing that collapse of the Roman Empire was necessary or sufficient?

[ Parent ]
Some counterpoints (none / 1) (#96)
by Filip on Mon Aug 30, 2004 at 10:15:33 AM EST

I have some issues with some of your statements, though I certainly think that from a Christian standpoint - the union of the church and the state is a bad idea.

In your first point, you claim that Jesus did not lead a political or military revolt. I disagree. I think it was a political but distinctly nonmilitary revolt. The early church was a state within the state, and took care of many of the things we today expect the government to take care of (social stuff). This rendered the church a lot of goodwill, also among non-believers - and that is why the union of the religious-political state and the geographical-political state made perfect sense to the geographical-political state (though not to the church - in the long run).

Your fourth point, that the Christianity has a unique obsession with the niceties of theology: This is something that the church inherited from Greek philosophy, and many of the theological schisms of the old church go back to different schools of Greek and Roman philosophy (eg Plato was a strong influence for Augustine, while Tertullian got his ideas largely from Roman law).

I would also urge you to count fractions in Islam, Buddhism, Greek pagan worship (or do you considers worshipers of different Greek gods as followers of different religions?), Hindu worship, etc. It seems that when any religion is getting large enough, it starts to split up.

/Filip
-- I'm just a figment of your imagination.
[ Parent ]

+1 for the choice of subject matter (none / 0) (#94)
by forgotten on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 04:11:29 AM EST

but i wouldnt have voted this up if i had logged on when this was in the queue. some is misleading and some is wrong and all is poorly phrased - but dont take my word for it, check with the master himself, edward gibbon, rise and fall of the roman empire (vol 2 covers this part).

i wonder if the author has read that.

--

or AA Vasiliev (none / 0) (#95)
by aphrael on Wed Aug 25, 2004 at 05:27:56 PM EST

author of one of the definitive tomes on the byzantine reich.

[ Parent ]
Constantine and the rise of Christianity | 96 comments (76 topical, 20 editorial, 2 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!