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Abdul Fattah
04-26-2007, 12:47 AM
Hi everyone
I was looking up some stuff about the change from Roman belief to christian belief whilst posting on another thread and stumbled upon this most interesting text. It's a summary of teh rise of Christianity and some of it's early problems. There's mainly 2 reasons I am posting this here.
First reason I is because it is something that was not mentioned at all in my history lessons in high school, like there was a big gap in history there (I went to a Catholic school for those who were wondering).
Second reason is because I am interested in reading the response of the Christians on this forum. I skipped the first few paragraphs which talks about stuff that most people know already.


Constantine the Great - Christianization of the Empire

The key moment in the establishment if Christianity as the predominant religion of the Roman empire, happened in AD 312 when emperor Constantine on the eve before battle against the rival emperor Maxentius had a vision of the sign of Christ (the so called chi-rho symbol) in a dream.
And Constantine was to have the symbol inscribed on his helmet and ordered all his soldiers (or at least those of his bodyguard) to point it on their shields.
It was after the crushing victory he inflicted on his opponent against overwhelming odds that Constantine declared he owed his victory to the god of the Christians.
However, Constantine's claim to conversion is not without controversy. There are many who see in his conversion rather the political realization of the potential power of Christianity instead of any celestial vision.
Constantine had inherited a very tolerant attitude towards Christians from his father, but for the years of his rule previous to that fateful night in AD 312 there was no definite indication of any gradual conversion towards the Christian faith. Although he did already have Christian bishops in his royal entourage before AD 312.
But however truthful his conversion might have been, it should change the fate of Christianity for good. In meetings with his rival emperor Licinius, Constantine secured religious tolerance towards Christians all over the empire.
Until AD 324 Constantine appeared to on purposely blur the distinction of which god it was he followed, the Christian god or pagan sun god Sol. Perhaps at this time he truly hadn't made up his mind yet.
Perhaps it was just that he felt his power was not yet established enough to confront the pagan majority of the empire with a Christian ruler.
However, substantial gestures were made toward the Christians very soon after the fateful Battle of the Milvian Bridge in AD 312. Already in AD 313 tax exemptions were granted to Christian clergy and money was granted to rebuild the major churches in Rome.
Also in AD 314 Constantine already engaged in a major meeting of bishops at Milan to deal with problems befalling the church in the 'Donatist schism'.
But once Constantine had defeated his last rival emperor Licinius in AD 324, the last of Constantine's restraint disappeared and a Christian emperor (or at least one who championed the Christian cause) ruled over the entire empire.
He built a vast new basilica church on the Vatican hill, where reputedly St Peter had been martyred. Other great churches were built by Constantine, such as the great St John Lateran in Rome or the reconstruction of the great church of Nicomedia which had been destroyed by Diocletian.
Apart from building great monuments to Christianity, Constantine now also became openly hostile toward the pagans. Even pagan sacrifice itself was forbidden. Pagan temples (except those of the previous official Roman state cult) had their treasures confiscated. These treasures were largely given to the Christian churches instead.
Some cults which were deemed sexually immoral by Christian standards were forbidden and their temples were razed.
Gruesomely brutal laws were introduced to enforce Christian sexual morality. Constantine was evidently not an emperor who had decided to gradually educate the people of his empire to this new religion.
Far more the empire was shocked into a new religious order.

But in the same year as Constantine achieved supremacy over the empire (and effectively over the Christian church) the Christian faith itself suffered a grave crisis. Arianism, a heresy which challenged the church's view of God (the father) and Jesus (the son), was creating a serious divide in the church.Constantine called the famous Council of Nicaea which decided the definition of the Christian deity as the Holy Trinity, God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit.
Had Christianity previously been unclear about its message then the Council of Nicaea (together with a later council at Constantinople in 381 AD) created a clearly defined core belief. However, the nature of its creation - a council - and the diplomatically sensitive way in defining the formula, to many suggests 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 wordly institution, moving away from its innocent beginnings in its ascent to power.
The Christian church continued to grow and rise in importance under Constantine. Within his reign the cost of the church already became larger than the cost of the entire imperial civil service.

As for emperor Constantine; he bowed out in the same fashion in which he had lived, leaving it still unclear to historians today, if he truly had completely converted to Christianity, or not.
He was baptized on his deathbed. It was not an unusual practice for Christians of the day to leave their baptism for such a time. However, it still fails to answer completely to what point this was due to conviction and not for political purposes, considering the succession of his sons.

Christian Heresy

One of the primary problems of early Christianity was that of heresy.
Heresy as generally defined as a departure from the traditional Christian beliefs; the creation of new ideas, rituals and forms of worship within the Christian church. This was especially dangerous to a faith in which for a long time the rules as to what was the proper Christian belief remained very vague and open to interpretation.
The result of the definition of heresy was often bloody slaughter. Religious suppression against heretics became to any account just as brutal as some of the excesses of Roman emperors in suppressing the Christians.

Julian the Apostate

If Constantine's conversion of the empire had been harsh, it was irreversible.
when in AD 361 Julian ascended to the throne and officially renounced Christianity, he could do little to change the religious make-up of an empire in which Christianity by then dominated.
Had under Constantine and his sons being a Christian almost been a pre-requisite for receiving any official position, then the entire working of the empire by now had been turned over to Christians.
It is unclear to what point the population had converted to Christianity (though the numbers will have been rising quickly), but it is clear that the institutions of empire must by the time Julian came to power have been dominated by Christians.
Hence a reverse was impossible, unless a pagan emperor of the drive and ruthlessness of Constantine would have emerged. Julian the Apostate was no such man. Far more does history paint him as a gentle intellectual, who simply tolerated Christianity in spite of his disagreement with it.
Christian teachers lost their jobs, as Julian argued that it made little sense for them to teach pagan texts of which they did not approve. Also some of the financial privileges which the church had enjoyed were now refused. But by no means could this have been seen as a renewal of Christian persecution.
In fact in the east of the empire Christian mobs ran riot and vandalized the pagan temples which Julian had re-instated.
Was Julian not a violent man of the likes of Constantine, then his response to these Christian outrages were never felt, as he already died in AD 363.
If his reign had a been a brief setback for Christianity, it had only provided further proof that Christianity was here to stay.

The Power of the Church

With the death of Julian the Apostate matters quickly returned to normal for the Christian church as it resumed its role as the religion of the power.
In AD 380 emperor Theodosius took the final step and made Christianity the official religion of state.
Severe punishments were introduced for people who disagreed with the official version of Christianity.
Furthermore, becoming a member of the clergy became a possible career for the educated classes, for the bishops were gaining ever more influence.
At the great council of Constantinople a further decision was reached which placed the bishopric of Rome above that of Constantinople.
This in effect confirmed the church's more political outlook, as until the prestige of the bishoprics had been ranked according to the church's apostolic history. And for that particular time preference for the bishop of Rome evidently appeared to be greater than for the bishop of Constantinople.

In AD 390 alas a massacre in Thessalonica revealed the new order to the world. After a massacre of some seven thousand people the emperor Theodosius was excommunicated and required to do penance for this crime. This did not mean that now the church was the highest authority in the empire, but it proved that now the church felt sufficiently confident to challenge the emperor himself on matters of moral authority.


source: http://www.roman-empire.net/religion/religion.html
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Keltoi
04-26-2007, 04:55 PM
Pretty similar to most everything I've read on the subject. I'm not sure what exactly you want Christians to comment on. Perhaps if you elaborated on the point of interest for you I could respond to the point you intended to raise.
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Grace Seeker
04-26-2007, 05:09 PM
Not sure what type of response you are looking for.

1) I too am not sure, and don't think anyone ever will be, whether or not Constantine's conversion was personal or for politcal reasons. In terms of the history of Christianity it probably really is academic, and doesn't change how we would view those times. The impact on the Church and the general population was the same either way.

2) I had not paid attention to how much Constatine was responsible for the physical construction of the institutions of Christendom. That came out more in what you provided than I had taken the time to reflect on myself.

3) Regarding the issues of heresy, to me it is clear that the early Church (before Constatine) had dealt with many heresies that had arisen either from within or outside that were threats to the new faith. The most common response appears to have been to expounge those who taught contrary to the accepted faith, and thus the chuch maintained its core and central tenants. Reading the Patristic Church Fathers tells this story very well. Their influence was very much as individuals whose understandings and interpretations of the Christian faith had to compete in the marketplace of ideas for acceptance. That Constantine sought to coalesce this influence by the creation of councils fits well with the concept of someone who wanted to bring unity to his empire.

4) Beginning with Constantine and until the fall of the Roman Empire (and a little beyond) Councils become the primary means of providing governance in the Church. I see this as being the path which leads ultimately to establishing the concept of a Pope. (All subsequent understandings of the position being read back into the position by the Church itself.) So, in establishing councils, erecting church buildings, and (as you also mentioned) putting Christians in key goverment positions Constatine was in many ways the architect of the next several hundred years of Church history where state and church were virtually one.
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Philosopher
04-26-2007, 05:16 PM
Constantine is the MAIN reason why Christianity is the largest religion today.
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Keltoi
04-26-2007, 06:56 PM
Originally Posted by Philosopher
Constantine is the MAIN reason why Christianity is the largest religion today.
Christianity was growing in power regardless of Constantine's conversion. It is true his conversion quickened and strengthened the spread of Christianity, but Constantine also saw the writing on the wall, which was that Christianity was growing in numbers and influence within his empire.
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Pygoscelis
04-27-2007, 12:22 AM
Christianity was extremely fractured and varied prior to Constantine, even moreso than it is today. The differences in belief between protestants and catholics pale in comparison to those of the old Christian sects.
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Keltoi
04-27-2007, 02:15 AM
Originally Posted by Pygoscelis
Christianity was extremely fractured and varied prior to Constantine, even moreso than it is today. The differences in belief between protestants and catholics pale in comparison to those of the old Christian sects.
I suppose you could say it was "fractured"" in terms of not having one spiritual leader and being spread across various regions.
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Philosopher
04-27-2007, 03:10 AM
Originally Posted by Keltoi
Christianity was growing in power regardless of Constantine's conversion. It is true his conversion quickened and strengthened the spread of Christianity, but Constantine also saw the writing on the wall, which was that Christianity was growing in numbers and influence within his empire.
If it wasnt for Constantine, Christianity would be as small as Judaism, perhaps even smaller.

If you didnt know, "Christian" was meant to be an offensive term back in the days. Back then, Christianity was considered an heretical sect of Judaism, and the only reason it spread was because of Constantine when he converted.

Christianity was to Judaism what Bahai is to Islam.
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Eric H
04-27-2007, 04:01 AM
Greetings and peace be with you Philosopher;
If it wasnt for Constantine, Christianity would be as small as Judaism, perhaps even smaller.
Are you saying that Constantine was more influential than Christ?

Did God create Constantine for any purpose?

In the spirit of searching

Eric
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Keltoi
04-27-2007, 05:22 AM
Originally Posted by Philosopher
If it wasnt for Constantine, Christianity would be as small as Judaism, perhaps even smaller.

If you didnt know, "Christian" was meant to be an offensive term back in the days. Back then, Christianity was considered an heretical sect of Judaism, and the only reason it spread was because of Constantine when he converted.

Christianity was to Judaism what Bahai is to Islam.
Not quite accurate. I'm sure those who practiced Judaism during the time in question did consider Christianity to be a "heretical sect of Judaism", but the numbers of people converting to Christianity was growing at an alarming pace to the Roman Emperors. Constantine was already faced with Christianity before his conversion, it wasn't like woke up one morning and decided he wanted to be one of those small insignificant Christians that nobody had heard of. Christianity was a growing force in the world with or without Constantine.
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Pygoscelis
04-27-2007, 06:59 AM
Originally Posted by Keltoi
I suppose you could say it was "fractured"" in terms of not having one spiritual leader and being spread across various regions.
No, I mean it was fractured as in the beliefs varied wildly. There was no one accepted doctrine. Different regions had different beliefs and they varied much much more than todays christian sects do, even considering the mormons and jehovas witnesses as christian sects of today.
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Pygoscelis
04-27-2007, 07:02 AM
I think it is quite debatable whether Christianity would exist today if not for Constantine. It may. It may not. I think the odds were about even.
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Keltoi
04-27-2007, 02:30 PM
Originally Posted by Pygoscelis
No, I mean it was fractured as in the beliefs varied wildly. There was no one accepted doctrine. Different regions had different beliefs and they varied much much more than todays christian sects do, even considering the mormons and jehovas witnesses as christian sects of today.
Considers what beliefs you are referring to. The primary doctrine of Christianity is that Jesus Christ was the Messiah who brought the path of salvation to mankind. That is what a Christian is. Of course when a religion isn't centralized and when no orthodoxy has been established, there will be offshoot sects. That was the primary reason the Council of Nicaea. Mostly to do with Arianism and other sects deemed by the majority of Bishops to be heretical.
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Keltoi
04-27-2007, 02:31 PM
Originally Posted by Pygoscelis
I think it is quite debatable whether Christianity would exist today if not for Constantine. It may. It may not. I think the odds were about even.
Christianity was already a major religion in the region when Constantine legalized the faith. Constantine's mother was a Christian.
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Grace Seeker
04-27-2007, 05:11 PM
Originally Posted by Pygoscelis
No, I mean it was fractured as in the beliefs varied wildly. There was no one accepted doctrine. Different regions had different beliefs and they varied much much more than todays christian sects do, even considering the mormons and jehovas witnesses as christian sects of today.
I'm not sure that is true either. Yes, there were sects and divisions, but not all of these were heresies. And some of the reasons for heresies were because Christianity was making inroads in pagan communities, and the first generation of this formerly pagan Christians often had views wherein they tried to understand and interpret Christian faith in the language and traditions of their former belief systems. Thus the early church was continuously promoting the true Gospel so as to preserve the integrity of the faith. This is why the creedal statements of the church were so important. Beyond Arius, I am not even aware of other attempts by others to write what would be considered heretical creeds. So, I don't think the existence varied beliefs was as wide and certainly not as entrenched as you appear to believe.
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Grace Seeker
04-27-2007, 05:13 PM
Originally Posted by Pygoscelis
I think it is quite debatable whether Christianity would exist today if not for Constantine. It may. It may not. I think the odds were about even.
When the first European missionaries arrived in India, they found that there were already small Christian sects in existence there. Constantine had nothing to do with that.
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snakelegs
04-27-2007, 09:13 PM
an episcolpalian priest who is a friend of a family member just read constantines's sword: the church and the jews.
he said he was really amazed at the depth and continuity of hatred for jews -he knew about it of course, but had no idea just how big it was (is?).
he is going to mail it to me. i'm certainly familiar with the subject but am curious to see if this book affects me the same way as it did him.
it's by james carrol - anyone read it?
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Keltoi
04-27-2007, 09:51 PM
Originally Posted by snakelegs
an episcolpalian priest who is a friend of a family member just read constantines's sword: the church and the jews.
he said he was really amazed at the depth and continuity of hatred for jews -he knew about it of course, but had no idea just how big it was (is?).
he is going to mail it to me. i'm certainly familiar with the subject but am curious to see if this book affects me the same way as it did him.
it's by james carrol - anyone read it?
I'm not familiar with this book, is it about Constantine's hatred of Jews or what exactly?
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snakelegs
04-27-2007, 09:58 PM
keltoi,
i am not sure. from what he told me, i think it is broader than constantine - like maybe it is a chronicle of christian anti-semitism from constantine onward. it should be a pretty fat book.
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Keltoi
04-27-2007, 10:02 PM
Originally Posted by snakelegs
keltoi,
i am not sure. from what he told me, i think it is broader than constantine - like maybe it is a chronicle of christian anti-semitism from constantine onward. it should be a pretty fat book.
Europe, and the world in general, has always had a cancer of anti-semitism with it. There is no sugar coating that part of the past. In a large degree we are still dealing with it, by "we" I mean Western society in general.
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Grace Seeker
04-28-2007, 04:18 AM
Originally Posted by Keltoi
Europe, and the world in general, has always had a cancer of anti-semitism with it. There is no sugar coating that part of the past. In a large degree we are still dealing with it, by "we" I mean Western society in general.
Ain't that the truth. I recently did some searching on key events on history for the month of April. In that one month alone, it is amazing how many different countries have passed laws outlawing things connected with Jews. It's outrageous.
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Philosopher
04-28-2007, 06:35 AM
Originally Posted by EricH
Are you saying that Constantine was more influential than Christ?

Did God create Constantine for any purpose?

In the spirit of searching

Eric
YES. Do you think any heretic of an established religion is taken seriously? (Jesus was assumed an heretic by the Jews).

Originally Posted by Keltoi
Not quite accurate. I'm sure those who practiced Judaism during the time in question did consider Christianity to be a "heretical sect of Judaism", but the numbers of people converting to Christianity was growing at an alarming pace to the Roman Emperors. Constantine was already faced with Christianity before his conversion, it wasn't like woke up one morning and decided he wanted to be one of those small insignificant Christians that nobody had heard of. Christianity was a growing force in the world with or without Constantine.
Jews indeed consider Christians as heretics, this is a fact. Constantine facilitated the rapid spread of Christianity in Europe. Like you said in another thread, when a Roman emperor says "jump," we say "how high." Paganism was the major religion in the empire for centuries, so I dont think the Romans alone would open their arms to Christianity that easilly, especially since the Roman emperors were known to be more tolerable to the Jews than this "heretical sect." What Jesus presented was something radical, and it was Constantine who shoved it down the throat of his people. Constantine attributed his absolute power via the doctrine of "divine rights," and made Christianity the OFFICIAL religion of the empire. His legislated laws that forbid conversion to Judaism (despite the fact that Jesus was a Jew himself), outlaws Jewish congregation, and other anti-Semitic policies. Constantine personally used the state's money for the establishment of churches and Christian places of worship. Eminent Yale historian Ramsay MacMullen also argues that Constantine's son banned pagan practices in 341 and shut temples in 356. When Theodosius came to power, he imprisoned,tortured, and executed pagans, who were following a religion that was practiced for generations.

If you disagree with me, I invite you to make necessary corrections.
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Philosopher
04-28-2007, 06:37 AM
Originally Posted by Keltoi
Europe, and the world in general, has always had a cancer of anti-semitism with it. There is no sugar coating that part of the past. In a large degree we are still dealing with it, by "we" I mean Western society in general.
I agree. Looks like Christianity followed their oppressor's footsteps in terms o f their treatment of Jews. Funny thing is that the Bible comprises of the Old Testament and also the fact that Jesus was himself a Jew.
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Philosopher
04-28-2007, 06:38 AM
Originally Posted by snakelegs
keltoi,
i am not sure. from what he told me, i think it is broader than constantine - like maybe it is a chronicle of christian anti-semitism from constantine onward. it should be a pretty fat book.
The difference is that Constantine justified it from a religious perspective.
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E'jaazi
04-28-2007, 06:55 AM
It should also be noted that the founder of Christianity was Paul, who deviated from the teachings of Isa (Jesus). Isa and the Apostles were all Jewish and monotheistic in their beliefs. I used the term Jewish for the sake of our Christian readers so as not to confuse them.
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Pygoscelis
04-28-2007, 11:10 AM
Paul was not the founder of Christianity. He was but one of many who reformed it.
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Grace Seeker
04-28-2007, 03:21 PM
Originally Posted by E'jaazi
It should also be noted that the founder of Christianity was Paul, who deviated from the teachings of Isa (Jesus). Isa and the Apostles were all Jewish and monotheistic in their beliefs. I used the term Jewish for the sake of our Christian readers so as not to confuse them.

Please. This nonsense is getting old. Yes, Paul was the author of half of what we have in the New Testament, but that doesn't mean that he created Christianty as if he invented it from his own mind.


If one reads 2 Peter, one finds that Paul was approved by other New Testament authors: "Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:15-16)


The book of Acts is a history of the Acts of the apostles and of the beginnings of the early church. In it we find that the earliest ministries of the church were led by Peter and James. Paul was submissive to the council of the church in Jerusalem. When questions arose about what Paul was teaching, he returned to meet with the apostles to discuss it with them and they affirmed what Paul was doing.

Acts 15
1Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." 2This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

6The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

[And they put the following decision in a letter to all Gentiles:]
28It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.
As you can see the rest of what Paul preached was not challenged.

Ideas like the resurrection and Jesus as divine don't begin with Paul. In fact, when we first meet Paul is is persecuting the Church specifically because the Church was already proclaiming these things:
Acts 7
55Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56"Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
57At this they [Jewish priests] covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Acts 8:1 And Saul [also known as Paul] was there, giving approval to his death.

The first sermon of the church was given not by Paul, but by Peter, one of Jesus closest followers. So close was Peter to Jesus you might as well consider it a hadith:
Acts 2
22"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

36"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

38Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."

So much was the early church known for this teaching that "The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day." (Acts 4:1-3)


Jesus' closest disciple, John, is the one who wrote a whole Gospel sharing the good news of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. John is the one who begins his Gospel with a declaration that "In the beginning was the Word [whom he later identifies as Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1) In my opinion it could not be any clearer. I guess you see it otherwise. That's OK. We can debate what the intepretation of some of these passages mean. But to say that Paul was the founder of Christianity. that just isn't true. Look at the whole reason John wrote his Gospel, not to please Paul. Not to corroberate what Paul was preaching. But for one simple reason, a reason he stated right in the Gospel itself: "these [the signs and stories about Jesus that he tells in his Gospel account] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31) And when is this statement of purpose given, immediately after John reports on the climatic confession of Thomas as to who Jesus is. On meeting the resurrected Jesus, Thomas greets Jesus: "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28).

Indeed, it wasn't Paul who first called Jesus God, it was Thomas, one of those who had spent three years walking, talking and learning from Jesus. And the Church, the whole of the Church, not just Paul, has been calling Jesus that ever since. So, let's have none of this nonesense that Paul invented Christianity; it just isn't true.
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Keltoi
04-28-2007, 05:06 PM
Originally Posted by Philosopher
YES. Do you think any heretic of an established religion is taken seriously? (Jesus was assumed an heretic by the Jews).



Jews indeed consider Christians as heretics, this is a fact. Constantine facilitated the rapid spread of Christianity in Europe. Like you said in another thread, when a Roman emperor says "jump," we say "how high." Paganism was the major religion in the empire for centuries, so I dont think the Romans alone would open their arms to Christianity that easilly, especially since the Roman emperors were known to be more tolerable to the Jews than this "heretical sect." What Jesus presented was something radical, and it was Constantine who shoved it down the throat of his people. Constantine attributed his absolute power via the doctrine of "divine rights," and made Christianity the OFFICIAL religion of the empire. His legislated laws that forbid conversion to Judaism (despite the fact that Jesus was a Jew himself), outlaws Jewish congregation, and other anti-Semitic policies. Constantine personally used the state's money for the establishment of churches and Christian places of worship. Eminent Yale historian Ramsay MacMullen also argues that Constantine's son banned pagan practices in 341 and shut temples in 356. When Theodosius came to power, he imprisoned,tortured, and executed pagans, who were following a religion that was practiced for generations.

If you disagree with me, I invite you to make necessary corrections.
In 311 A.D., Emperor Galerius and his co-emperors, Constantine and Licinius, signed the Edict of Toleration, which granted the freedom of worship to all religions, including Christianity. The Edict of Toleration led to the Edict of Milan in 313, which specifically described Christianity as a legal and lawful religion.

I must correct you on one point, Constantine did not make Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. That happened in 380 under Emperor Theodosius. It would also be incorrect to assume that Christianity was some small unheard of sect. The Roman Empire had been dealing with the growing numbers of Christians for many years. Intitially they tried to persecute them out of existence, but that only seemed to increase the number of Christians. Constantine's mother, St. Helen, was a Christian when Constantine was born. The majority of the empire were still sun worshipers of Apollo or Mithra, etc, but Christianity was already a fairly large minority within the empire.
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Pygoscelis
04-28-2007, 07:31 PM
Originally Posted by Philosopher
I agree. Looks like Christianity followed their oppressor's footsteps in terms o f their treatment of Jews. Funny thing is that the Bible comprises of the Old Testament and also the fact that Jesus was himself a Jew.
That the bible contains the Old Testament and that Christians then did what they did to Jews, is actually kind of ironic.

The Old Testament tells many stories of the Jews as "gods chosen people" whiping out neighbouring tribes. It even has a story of genocide of the entire human race done by God, leaving his chosen few to live (pre jew though).

Perhaps it is the old testament bible stories that gave the anti-semites their ideas, only they reversed it?
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snakelegs
04-29-2007, 09:44 PM
some more about the book i mentioned earlier:
"constantine's sword: the church and the jews" by james carroll.
it came yesterday and i have just started it (as you would expect from the title, it is fat).
it looks to be very good. it is not a dry history at all. it is a history but it seems also to be a soul searching and a philosophical enquiry. the authour is a believing catholic. i don't think it is going to be just a tale of guilt etc., but that it goes much deeper and he raises many questions.
more than 3 decades ago i read a book called "after aushwitz" by richard rubenstein, which also raised many philosophical and theological questions. this looks to be a sort of a christian version of that book, but much more than that.
anyway, it looks promising and some might want to check it out.
the holocaust has always interested me in terms of what does it mean? does it mean anything? what can we learn? what is the nature of evil? what potentials lie in all of us?etc. etc. (i am a person who is very fond of questions - much more so than answers).
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