Constantine Shifts Gears

Constantine the Great was the Emperor of Rome from 306 to 337 AD. He was the first Christian emperor and was credited with legalizing Christianity in Rome. He also instituted it as the religion of state.

During his reign the First Council of Nicaea took place (325 AD). They decided which books would and would not be included in the Roman Bible. The rest of them were systematically destroyed. Researchers have discovered through ancient writings and archeology references to and partial copies of many others. Excavations in Israel (Dead Sea Scrolls) and Egypt (Library at Alexandria) have contributed to this research.

The Council also developed the concept of Jesus as God. Part of The Nicene Creed states “He is said to be “of one being with the Father,” proclaiming that although Jesus Christ is “true God” and God the Father is also “true God,” they are “of one being.” This is based on John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.” Which I guess they felt couldn’t have meant anything else, or at least didn’t want anyone to think could mean Jesus had someone else climbing in his head.

Constantine killed his son Crispus and his second wife Fausta. There are a few versions of the story. One is that Constantine killed Crispus in rage after being led to believe he had tried to rape his stepmom. After finding out she had lied to put her own sons in line to accede to the throne he had her killed. Another is that she had Crispus killed for the same purpose and then Constantine had her killed. A third is that he had his son poisoned and then her killed at a bath house. No one really knows because he invoked Damnatio Memoriae. having all public record of them erased as if they had never existed. But hey, when you’re the king……

There is also debate about Constantine’s true religious convictions. He was raised a pagan and was a worshiper of Sol Invictus, the sun god of the late part of the Roman Empire. The images appeared on Roman coins well past the reign of Constantine I. Do guys like Constantine really have a religious conviction at all?

Romans had set about building their empire by forcing the conquered to worship the emperor as a god. Those who failed to convert where killed. Christianity was one of several illegal cults in Rome. Christians were persecuted locally and officially; often times murdered in public displays by gladiators dressed as Roman gods. Such is the psychological impression the Roman royalty liked to make.

By the 3rd century these persecutions had mostly ceased as the Christian population in Rome had grown to impressive numbers. Sooner or later Christians were going to delete the Roman royalty if the oppression continued.

By the 4th century the Christians outnumbered those still worshiping the old gods. The answer the rulers found was to make it out to be their idea in the first place. Constantine simply filled a role, legalized the religion and then had a council define it. In that way it became the new way for the same gods to control the population. It was necessary for him to go through the steps of conversion, including the adoption of the religion before a decisive battle, to give a narrative to the change. Without the story and the act, the facade would have been translucent.