Question on Constantine and Catholicism


So I had always thought that Constantine, in his edict, only legalized Christianity or in other words Christianity would be tolerated. But I have been reading two different books for my history classes and each historian stated that Constantine made it the official religion of his empire, alluding that the Catholic Church started with Constantine.

I know this is a common attack on Catholicism by Protestants, that he founded the Catholic Church, but I obviously don’t believe that and am not wondering that. My question is; did he make it the official religion of his empire or just allow for its tolerance? Or was it both?

Thanks and Gob bless.


What are the titles of the two books? Are there any footnotes or end notes where they list the references?


I was always under the impression that he made it the official state religion. Of course, that is irrelevant to Catholicism’s claims to truth–it has been the official religion of a lot of states and it existed well before Constantine :slight_smile:


Emporer Gelarius issued an edict of toleration in 311 A.D. which created a neutral position (as opposed to Christianity being illegal).

The Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. from Constantine went further to restore lands confiscated from Christians and give some further toleration.

Christianity became the official state religion in 380, by edict of Emporer Theodosius I.

Your history books are inadequate.


Very informative. :thumbsup:


What are the titles of the two books? Are there any footnotes or end notes where they list the references?

David Northrup’s Africa’s Discovery of Europe

And the other one was either

D.G. Williamson’s The Third Reich or Herwig’s Hammer or Anvil

I cannot remember which of these two books it was in since they were books for my Modern Germany class and covered roughly the same topic: Nazi Germany or the events leading up to Nazi Germany. By the way, no footnotes in Northrup’s book and I remember not seeing any for the other book as well.


Thanks. I knew I wasn’t crazy and that I had read some where that Constantine in fact did not make Catholicism the official religion of his empire. I hate it when I run across this kind of thing in history books because it makes me wonder what I can and cannot trust in them. Like for instance *The Third Reich *book talked about the fabled, “Hitler’s Pope” and how the Catholic Church quietly allowed what took place in Germany to take place… Completely ruined that Historian’s credibility for me.

Thanks again God bless


I think there is a lesson here and that is that all of us, even Historians, carry baggage that enters into our interpretation and views on historical events. We carry it along when we read as well as write. One author who wrote a book on interpreting scripture posited the concept of a “resident alien” that exists in each of us who influences how we see and interpret the world around us. Obviously those authors of your German Histories were very prejudiced by their “resident alien” to the point of fabricating history.


It’s so erroneous to claim that Constantine founded the Catholic Church. He didn’t. The Catholic Church was first worded by St. Ignatius of Antioch in 110 AD that is 203 years before Constantine reign. There was an already established Church by the time he came into power.


One of my pet peeves about history books in general is that they just state things as facts with no citations, footnotes, or any kind of reference as to where the statement came from. They are more like reading a novel. Even a freshman research paper has to have citations, but not a history textbook. End of rant.


I have been reading two different books for my history classes and each historian stated that Constantine made it the official religion of his empire, …

?? this alone states the Church/Christianity was already in place by that time.

Do these two come outrite and say he invented the Church? or just made the existing Church official?


He gave it the status of a religio licita - that is, a form of worship which was other than the official state cult, & was officially tolerated; which was already the status enjoyed by the Jews of Rome. In practice, Constantine showed great favour to Christianity; what he did not do, was to make it the religion of the Roman Empire. (One of the unforeseen consequences of his policy, & that of his successors (except for the Emperor Julian) was that things became very difficult for the Church in Persia; because the Persians and the Romans were at war at the time.)

Christianity became the official religion of the Empire, in its catholic form, only in 382 - 45 years after Constantine’s death.

As for the Church in Rome - it began in the first century: if it did not exist in Rome at that time, to whom did St. Paul write the Letter to the Romans ? ##


That make sense.


I may be mistaken, but weren’t Christians persecuted once again after Constantines death by (at least) one of Constantine’s sons?


I believe so but I’ll into it to verify. :smiley:


Yes during the years of Julian I (361-364). Julian was a pagan, also instructed in Arianism. From p 68 of the book Triumph by HW Crocker III, “Julian enjoined popular pagan resentment to end Christianity’s status as the official imperial religion and renewed, though in a comparatively mild way, anti-Christian persecutions.”


That’s like 3 yrs of persecution…


If I could add, Julian I, also called the Apostate, had been influenced by the Pagan Mystery religions since his youth and bred contempt to what he called “the fabrication of the Galileans … composed by wickedness.” He also called the Resurrection “a monstrous tale.”

It is, I think, expedient to set forth to all mankind
the reasons by which I was convinced that
the fabrication of the Galilaeans
is a fiction of men composed by wickedness.
Though it has in it nothing divine,
by making full use of that part of the soul
which loves fable and is childish and foolish,
it has induced men to believe
that the monstrous tale is truth.

He also wrote tracts condemning the Christians, especally the 3-volume work ‘Against the Galileans’ where he ‘refutes’ Christian beliefs by using the Bible itself against them.(

Here’s one example of his abhorrence of the practice of preserving the Relics of the Saints:

“However this evil doctrine (The Divinity of Jesus) did originate with John; but who could detest as they deserve all those doctrines that you have invented as a sequel, while you keep adding many corpses newly dead to the corpse of long ago?
You have filled the whole world with tombs and sepulchres, and yet in your Scriptures it is nowhere said that you must grovel among tombs and pay them honor.

Some other quotes,

But you are so misguided that you have not even remained faithful to the teachings that were handed down to you by the apostles. And these also have been altered., so as to be worse and more impious, by those who came after. At any rate neither Paul nor Matthew nor Luke nor Mark ventured to call Jesus God. But the worthy John, since he perceived that a great number of people in many of the towns of Greece and Italy had already been infected by this disease, and because he heard, I suppose, that even the tombs of Peter and Paul were being worshipped ----secretly, it is true, but still he did hear this,----he, I say, was the first to venture to call Jesus God.

Plus there was this story about the Emperor which happened in Antioch.

There was a church there built near a pagan temple, and a rivalry ensued then between the Christians and Pagans that the oracle of a pagan temple stopped giving oracles.

Julian was dismayed and asked for the reason. The oracle blamed the the nearby Church which contains the body of the martyrs, especially that of St. Babilas, contaminated the area that the gods stopped giving prophecies. Promptly, Julian unceremoniously ordered the relics to be taken out of the Church and carted into the cemetery.
While St. Babilas’ relics was taken out and placed into the wagon, an angry mob of Christians singing the Psalms followed it. Julian had many of them arrested.
A bit later, the temple caught fire (perhaps by accident) and burned to the ground.
Julian blamed it on the Christians and started what promised to be a full-scale persecution. He had the Chapels with the bodies of the martyrs destroyed, and closed the principal Church of Antioch after desecrating the Altar and the Sacred Vessels. Shortly thereafter he went to battle, where he died within six months.


Yes but it was Arian, not pagan persecution that occured during the reigns of Constantine’s sons. Arianism practically had imperial support at the time and bishops who subscribed to the true faith were usually harassed and exiled to distant parts of the empire by the government.


True, though Julian came to the throne after the end of the reign of Constantius II, the last of Constantine the Great’s sons, which had previously engaged in some form of persecution against the Church by their support of the Arian Creed.


Thanks, Patrick457, for the information on Julian I. Do you think Dan Brown (DaVinci Code) used his writings as a resource?

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