The ol' "Constantine changed Christianity" charge


#1

One of my friends invited me to join an online discussion group the other day. The group is an odd mix of Messianic Judaism, Seventh Day Adventism, and at least some of the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are all quite fiercely anti-Catholic, believing the Church has significantly changed the teachings of Christianity. Someone repeated the charge that Emperor Constantine changed Christianity and added a great deal of paganism. Another member of the group posted this:

Constantine’s Impact on Christianity
Constantine’s reign as Roman emperor (A.D. 306-337) dramatically changed the direction of Christianity, though in ways far different from those portrayed in The Da Vinci Code. This grew out of his strategy for unifying his empire by creating a “catholic”-meaning universal -church that would blend elements from many religions into one.

While Constantine supposedly converted to Christianity in 312, he wasn’t baptized until on his deathbed 25 years later. In the intervening years he had his wife and eldest son murdered, and from all appearances he continued as a worshipper of the sun god. Long after his supposed conversion he had coins minted with a portrait of himself on one side and a depiction of his “companion, the unconquered Sol [sun]” on the other.

The “Christianity” Constantine endorsed was already considerably different from that practiced by Jesus Christ and the apostles. The emperor accelerated the change by his own hatred of Jews and religious practices he considered Jewish.

For example, at the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325), church authorities essentially replaced the biblical Passover with Easter, a popular holiday rooted in ancient springtime fertility celebrations. Endorsing this change, Constantine announced: “It appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast [Easter] we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul . . . Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd” (Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3, 18-19, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1979, second series, Vol. 1, pp. 524-525).

Constantine’s affection for sun worship had earlier led him to endorse Sunday, the first day of the week and a day dedicated to honoring the sun, as a weekly day of rest in the Roman empire . This created considerable hardship on those Jews and true Christians who continued to keep the biblical Sabbath on the seventh day of the week. (A century later the Council of Laodicea would essentially outlaw Sabbath-keeping and Christian observance of the biblical Holy Days.)

British historian Paul Johnson summarizes how Constantine’s approach of merging religious practices produced a corrupted Christianity that meshed paganism with biblical elements: "Thus the followers of Isis adored a madonna nursing her holy child; the cult of Attis and Cybele celebrated a day of blood and fasting, followed by the Hilaria resurrection-feast . . . the elitist Mithraics, many of whom were senior army officers, ate a sacred meal …

"Many Christians did not make a clear distinction between this sun-cult [Mithraism] and their own. They . . . held their services on Sunday, knelt towards the East and had their nativity-feast on 25 December, the birthday of the sun at the winter solstice …

“How could the Christian Church, apparently quite willingly, accommodate this weird megalomaniac [Constantine] in its theocratic system? Was there a conscious bargain? Which side benefited most from this unseemly marriage between Church and State? … Did the empire surrender to Christianity, or did Christianity prostitute itself to the empire?” ( A History of Christianity, 1976, pp. 67-69).

When we consider the vast differences between the mainstream Christianity of today and the original Christianity of Jesus Christ and the apostles, we can trace much of that change to Constantine and the religious system he put in power.

Any thoughts? I don’t agree, of course, but I would like to give a decent response, and I thought I would get some input first.


#2

Hi IP! Good to see you again. Seems like it’s been a while.

Anyway, this one falls apart when one reads the ECF through the 4th century and realizes that there was no change in doctrine by Constantine. He was a Roman emperor and not a pope and had no power to change anything and if you read the ECF from say, the Didache, Polycarp, and Ignatius of Antioch on you see that their whole argument is not supported by any historic facts.

Good to see you around again. :thumbsup:

Hey, do you and Mannyfit75 know each other since you’re in the same town? :wink:


#3

Two quick reactions.

First, the Church was fed by the blood of countless martyrs in the period leading up to Constantine. Why would that same Church suddenly start denying the faith she had received? Where are the martyrs who resisted Constantine’s altering of the faith received from the apostles? Did every Christian on the planet suddenly become cowardly and/or stupid? No, the “Constantine wrecked it all” story just doesn’t pass the smell test.

Secondly, if during the reign of Constantine the Church abandoned, in whole or in part, the faith of the apostles, then everything that the Church taught afterwards is suspect. And that includes a great deal of what your friends believe. If they are going to question the Nicene Council then they must question the Nicene Creed as well. They must question the Church teachings on the nature of Christ, on the Trinity, and on the books which make up the New Testament. So by claiming the Church went off the rails starting with Constantine, they have replaced the bedrock of their own faith with shifting sands. They can claim their bedrock is the bible but they can’t even know if the bible is the inspired written word of God, since it was a by-then-corrupted Church which canonized the Old Testament and, especially, the New Testament. In taking aim at the Catholic Church they have actually blown a giant hole in the bottom of their own boat.


#4

Somebody really ought to read up on the Roman Empire before brandishing such poppycock.

The entirety of the Roman world was pagan at Christ’s birth but for the small backwater of the East where the Jews retained some form of self-government. By 70 A.D. the Temple was destroyed and an Emperor (Vespasian) on the throne whose primary honor stemmed from crushing the Jews.

Not only was paganism the norm, it was the enforced norm. Most of our early Christian martyrs were slaughtered because the Roman authorities found them to be fanatics, utterly unwilling to contribute to the peace of the Empire by simply minimally acknowledging the importance of gods important to various peoples who made up the polyglot Roman world.

To a Roman Emperor, Christians were dangerous insurrectionists and seditionists. It didn’t help that they worshipped a convicted criminal executed by a Roman official.

So place yourself in Constantine’s shoes. You win a civil war by defeating your brother in fulfillment of a promise you made to this Christian god. Now what do you do?

What you don’t do (if you don’t want your throat cut by your own Praetorian Guard) is make a public display of your new allegiance to an outlawed religion. What you don’t do is force conversions to it. What you don’t do is establish yourself as Pope and willy-nilly proclaim that Romans will henceforth be Christians on penalty of death.

Roman Emperors ruled at the will of the legions. The reason Arianism was so dangerous was because it infected the legions, and thus imperiled the Empire. What the Army believed mattered, and the Army alone had the power to depose an Emperor who was viewed as dangerous to Roman interests.

Moreover, Romans placed enormous emphasis on tradition. That tradition was one of paganism and respect for foreign gods, with the practical benefit that subject peoples bore the Roman yoke more easily when allowed to practice their own religions. Changing that overnight would smack of fanaticism and trigger revolts.

Constantine proved willing to go quite far in his support of Christianity, and at considerable risk to himself. His practice of putting off baptism until the deathbed was not remarkable—many did so, and for similar reasons to his. Augustine summed it up nicely: “Lord make me chaste—but not yet!”

It takes time to transform an Empire, particularly one as large, as powerful, and as old as Rome’s was by 325 A.D. One cannot claim that Constantine was both a fanatic Christian imposing drastic changes on Romans while simultaneously claiming that Constantine was a fanatic pagan who scarred Christianity forever.

Honest inquirers will look for Christian practices pre-Constantine and compare to those post-Constantine. What you won’t find is a pure Christianity replaced by the Whore of Babylon, which is what fundamentalists are required to believe and what they attempt to weave into the evidentiary gaps of history. They do this because there is no evidence for their beliefs in Christianity prior to the 16th century, and it is quite hard to deal with the fact that they were at least 1,500 years too late to the apostolic parade.


#5

From Wikipedia:

Etymology
In most languages, other than English, German and some Slavic languages, the holiday’s name is derived from the Greek name, Pascha which is itself derived from Pesach, the Hebrew festival of Passover.

[edit] English and German
The English name, “Easter”, and the German, “Ostern”, derive from the name of a putative Anglo-Saxon Goddess of the Dawn (thus, of spring, as the dawn of the year) — called Ēaster, Ēastre, and Ēostre in various dialects of Old English and Ostara in German.[4]

In England, the annual festive time in her honor was in the “Month of Easter” or Ēostur-monath, equivalent to April/Aprilis[5]. In his De temporum ratione the The Venerable Bede, an 8th Century English Christian monk wrote in Latin:

"Eostur-monath, qui nunc paschalis mensis interpretatur, quondam a dea illorum quae Eostre vocabatur et cui in illo festa celebrabant nomen habuit."
Translates as:

"Eostur-month, which is now interpreted as the paschal month, was formerly named after the goddess Eostre, and has given its name to the festival."
In recent years some scholars have suggested that a lack of supporting documentation for this goddess might indicate that Bede assumed her existence based on the name of the month.[6] Others note that Bede’s status as “the Father of English History,” having been the author of the first substantial history of England ever written, might make the lack of additional mention for a goddess whose worship had already died out by Bede’s time unsurprising. The debate receives considerable attention because the name ‘Easter’ is derived from Eostur-monath, and thus, according to Bede, from the pagan goddess Eostre, though this etymology is disputed.[7]

Jakob Grimm took up the question of Eostre in his Deutsche Mythologie of 1835, noting that Ostara-manoth was etymologically related to Eostur-monath and writing of various landmarks and customs which he believed to be related to a putative goddess he named Ostara in Germany. Critics suggest that Grimm took Bede’s mention of a goddess Eostre at face value and constructed the parallel goddess Ostara around existing Germanic customs, noting the absence of any direct evidence for a goddess of this name. Amongst other traditions, Grimm attempted to connect the ‘Osterhase’ (Easter Bunny) and Easter Eggs to the putative goddess Ostara/Eostre. He also cites various place names in Germany as being possible evidence of Ostara, but critics observe that the words for ‘east’ and ‘dawn’ are similar in their roots, which could mean that these place names simply referred to either of those two things rather than a goddess.

However, the giving of eggs at spring festivals was not restricted to Germanic peoples and could be found among the Persians, Romans, Jews and the Armenians. They were a widespread symbol of rebirth and resurrection and thus might have been adopted from any number of sources.

Continued…

Some suggest an etymological relationship between Eostre and the Babylonian goddess Ishtar (variant spelling: Eshtar) and the possibility that aspects of an ancient festival accompanied the name, claiming that the worship of Bel and Astarte was anciently introduced into Britain, and that the hot cross buns of Good Friday and dyed eggs of Easter Sunday figured in the Chaldean rites just as they allegedly do now. [22] These claims fail to account for a complete lack of any evidence of transmission from Mesopotamia through the rest of Europe to Britain. Instead, they posit a sudden appearance in the British Isles without any effects or records anywhere in the intervening continent. Such claims are more likely to be an example of a false etymology.[citation needed]


#6

It has been a while. I don’t get on the Internet quite as much these days. I also spend some of my time on another forum where some of the former “residents” of the old Eastern Christianity forum have found a new home. Still, it’s always good to post over here. :slight_smile:

Hey, do you and Mannyfit75know each other since you’re in the same town? :wink:

We may have walked past each other and not even known it. :smiley:

I can’t speak for all of them, as I only know one of them personally, but they don’t seem the type to have much use for creeds.

They must question the Church teachings on the nature of Christ, on the Trinity,

There does seem to be some strong non-Trinitarian sentiment in the group. Most of them seem to believe Jesus was God, yet do not believe in the Trinity. I’m not quite sure how that works…:confused:

and on the books which make up the New Testament.

That’s something they probably haven’t thought about…

My friend, in particular (who I haven’t actually seen since high school–eight years ago–but who I met again on Myspace, of all places), has some rather unique beliefs I haven’t often seen. He believes using the name “Jesus” rather than “Yeshua” or “Yahshua” is a sin, he believes having church on Sunday is a sin, he believes celebrating holidays not specifically commanded by God in the Old Testament to be a sin, and he blames the Catholic Church for all of this. He’s not your typical anti-Catholic fundamentalist, at any rate, though he seems to read a lot of the same material…:rolleyes:


#7

No, almost certainly not. So focus on that. Make them prove to you that the New Testament does not contain any uninspired books, and that no inspired books were left out of it. They cannot rely on the judgement of the Church in this matter since they say the Church was already in serious error by then. So make them produce their evidence.

BTW, they may make some vague claim such as “all Christians recognized those books as inspired”. That’s just nonsense. The very fact that three separate Councils had to produce a listing of the canon in the century after Constantine is clear proof that there was not a universal recognition of the canon. Councils do not waste time telling Christians what they all, without exception, already know. :slight_smile:

My friend, in particular (who I haven’t actually seen since high school–eight years ago–but who I met again on Myspace, of all places), has some rather unique beliefs I haven’t often seen. He believes using the name “Jesus” rather than “Yeshua” or “Yahshua” is a sin, he believes having church on Sunday is a sin, he believes celebrating holidays not specifically commanded by God in the Old Testament to be a sin, and he blames the Catholic Church for all of this. He’s not your typical anti-Catholic fundamentalist, at any rate, though he seems to read a lot of the same material…:rolleyes:

The inevitable result of the Protestant Reformation is that over the years they have abandoned more and more of the residual Catholic (that is, true) theology they originally left with. Thus you see an increasing return to heresies that the Church first dealt with in her infancy. Just as the secular world is returning more and more to the ancient errors of paganism, so the Protestant world is returning more and more to the ancient errors of the early heresies.


#8

Your friend sounds like he belongs to a particular sect that I once came across on the internet. I think it was particularly present in New York, but I can no longer provide much more detail from memory. The did make a big deal out of “properly” naming Jesus and meeting on Saturday, “The Sabbath.”


#9

[quote=Church Militant]Hey, do you and Mannyfit75know each other since you’re in the same town?
[/quote]

[quote=The Iambic Pen]We may have walked past each other and not even known it.
[/quote]

I wonder that too.


#10

Those who attended Nicea had the marks of christ in their bodies, they would have rather given up their very lives than let Christian doctrine become corrupt.


#11

Actually Emperor Constantine was interested in a united Christian Church, not a divided one. When the heresy of Arianism came about, he feared that this may cause instability of the Empire.

So he convoked the first Ecumenical Council in the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, where the bishops from all over the empire came and discuss the issue.

The council first resulted in the uniformed Christian doctrine under the call of Nicene Creed.

The reason of the Council was address the issue of the relationship of Jesus to the Father. They had to decide whether or not the Son was the same substance as the Father. St. Alexander of Alexandria and St. Anathasius (my favorite Eastern Saint) took the position first. The popular priest, or presbyter, Arius took second, from whom the Arianism heresy came about. The Council voted overwhelming against Arian controversy, an estimated 250-318 attendees all but 2 voted against Arius.

I could get into more details about the Council as other issues such as deciding in favor of celebrating the resurrection on the first Sunday from the first full moon following the vernal equinox.

The majority of the body of bishops came from the Eastern Churches. Constantine invited 1800 bishops,1000 in the East, and 800 in the West.

The charge that Constantine change Christianity completely is untrue. He did not even speak on theological issues concerning the relationship of the Son and the Father. We see the Council Fathers do that.

Constantine himself was not verse in theology of the nature of God to even debate the issue. Rather, it was the bishops who had years of experience of study in Scripture and philosphy had a say.

Feel free to copy and paste my posts. I took some of this directly from wikipedia. It’s not a Catholic source so they can’t presume this to be Catholic propaganda.


#12

Any thoughts? I don’t agree, of course, but I would like to give a decent response, and I thought I would get some input first.

((continued from the previous thread I wrote))

Well, I did a deep thorough study concerning the First Council of Nicea in 325 AD. There was little influence of paganism in it. Nor was there any reference refered by the Early Church Fathers in the Council of any pagan deity. I do think that your Non-Catholic friends who had very little study in Church history or Christian history for that matter have been expose to Anti-Catholic propaganda.

Many Non-Trinitarians have been exposed to heretical doctrines of Arianism, Nestorianism, Ebionites, Modalism, Docetism, Sabellianism, and others. They dig this up to support their case against the Trinity without realizing the mere fact that the Church declared the Trinity to be revealed Truth.

They miss the main point from Scripture concerning disputes amongst the brothers. Let me quote it for you it’s in Matthew 18:16-20:

[quote=Matthew 18:16-20
]16 And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand
[/quote]

. 17 And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican. 18 Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven. 20 For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Let us break this passage down and use the Council of Nicea as an example.

The disagreement was between the priest Arius, Athanasia, and Alexander concerning the nature of Son and the Father. They could not settle the issue. This was spread out through the community of believers and when Emperor heard of this, he convoke the Council. The Council was form to settle the issue. Verse 17 made this very clear. If the person does not listen to the Church, he is execommunicated, in this cause the Council declare anyone who deny that Jesus is God “let him be an anthema” or banished from the community…" That is why Jesus said, “let him be to thee heathen and a publican.” Of course the first model of a Council was invoke in the Council of Jerusalem recorded in the Book of Acts. Either way, the Church in 325 AD declare it to be so. The Church as spoken the issue is settled. Of course it wasn’t. There would be another Council in Nicea, but that is another topic.


#13

Manny, maybe you and IP ought to set up a time to meet for some fellowship and a coke. :thumbsup:


#14

I had talk with him before, and his FOB differs from mine. I would really like to meet other Catholics deployed overseas (especially if they are in Iraq) , and discuss Apologetic Discussion.

The mere fact that in the Military Protestant Chaplains out number Catholic Chaplains. There is a likely chance that Catholics who has not practice their faith, may be lured away from their faith by “Bible Christians” who proselytizing them to leave the Catholic Church. They will use the common terms, “I was Catholic, but I read the Bible and now I am Christian” or like “I was raised Catholic, but now I am a Born-Again Christian.”

I do like to note that Protestant chaplains or any chaplain are not allowed to publicly convert anyone. However, the Protestant services members have taken an active role in luring Catholics away because they have apparently develop a relationship with them.

A familiar saying from former Catholics. As, much as I like to discuss this, I might derail the topic. We can if you like open a new thread about Protestant influence in the Military and their attempts to proselytizing Catholics.


#15

Very true. And, as they hold a *sola scriptura *viewpoint, telling them their views were condemned by an Ecumenical Council probably isn’t going to do much good.

Thanks to everyone for the information!

God bless!


#16

No, so I really think your best line of discussion is to focus on why (on what authority) they accept the bible as the inerrant written word of God.


#17

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