Some people, like Eusebius, saw the empire’s recognition of Christianity as an act of God’s providence. ... Constantines Conversion to Christianity. Doctrinal controversy threatened the unity of the church and with it Constantine’s goal of harmony in the empire. But according to Christian sources, the vision that mattered wasn’t in 306, but in 312. For Instructors and School Administrators. Constantine had two visions. . He suffered from fits of anger brought about from a highly suspicious and jealous mind, occasionally resorting to murder. On the anniversary of Constantine’s conversion, we should consider why the West seems to be converting back to paganism. Enhance your school’s traditional and online education programs by easily integrating online courses developed from the scholars and textbooks you trust. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. 4 (Winter, 1987), pp. Most people consider Constantine a Christian from the Milvian Bridge in 312, but he wasn't baptized until a quarter century later. And I will explain how the conversion affected the Christian mission. The problems of Arianism and Donatism both arose during Constantine’s reign. The relationship of Constantine to the Church is essential if we are to understand if he had a genuine conversion experience in 312 AD. Even better, you can take advantage of an introductory discount for a limited time. The first is by Lactantius, a tutor to Constantine's son and a good authority. Christianity made state religion of Roman Empire. The Nature of the Supposed Conversion To see if Constantine’s conversion was valid we must first describe and understand it. Constantine had two visions. The problems of Arianism and Donatism both arose during Constantine’s reign. Emperor Constantine, in 312, decided to convert to Christianity. They raised fundamental questions about the definition of the church; Constantine called the Council of Nicaea to help resolve these questions. His rule in Constantinople laid the basis for the orthodox Christian empire known as the Byzantine Empire, which would last more than 1,100 years. 1 (Jan. 1975), pp. The competence of the state in church affairs. CNS/Paul Haring. He had become uncomfortable with the pagan associations of the city. 420-438.] Was Constantine a Christian? (2020, August 26). Constantine is one of the most powerful men in Rome, he became the emperor in 306. Ever since the historian Jacob Burckhardt first suggested it in the 1850s, many have considered that the emperor’s conversion might have been motivated by cynical opportunism and ambition for total power, rather than by genuine spiritual belief. You may unsubscribe from these email communications at any time. Whether or not his conversion was "genuine," Constantine's reign was extremely important to the Christian church. He gave bishops the privilege of adjudicating disputes, and their decisions had the same status as decisions by civil judges. New posts Search forums. Gill, N.S. Mission Statement The Founders Contact Us. Others took a more sober line, and stressed the responsibilities now placed upon the authorities charged with Rome’s welfare. Constantinople: Capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Why Nat Turner's Rebellion Made White Southerners Fearful, M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota. Born in 273 during the Crisis of the Third Century, he was thirty at the time of the Great Persecution, saw his father become Augustus of the West and then shortly die, spent his life in the military warring with much of his extended family, and converted to Christianity sometime around 40 years of … A sculpture of the head of Roman Emperor Constantine. But the result was the end of persecution of Christians and the beginning of Christendom. Monks sought to work out the true Christian life with the same intensity that had characterized the times of persecution. They may have helped Constantine to see in his experience the monogram of Christ as the Christian interpretation of what he saw. Instead, he began to favor the wealth, commerce, and culture of the eastern empire. Others say he had a genuine religious conversion. And, if he dreamed something or saw something, what was it? . Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. Though his troops revered Constantine, all Christian symbols, particularly the cross, were distasteful to them. Some say he supported Christianity as part of a cynical strategy to promote his rule. Menu. One feature that will appear regularly this year will be a monthly series entitled Reading Notes. (8) Constantine's main impact on history was his conversion to Christianity, becoming the first Christian Roman emperor. Constantine—also known as Emperor Constantine I or Constantine the Great—decreed tolerance for Christians in the Edict of Milan, convened an ecumenical council to discuss Christian dogma and heresy, and constructed Christian edifices in his new capital city (Byzantium/Constantinople, now Istanbul). With Constantine’s conversion, the church found itself in a new position: the emperor became the most powerful proponent of Christianity. At the same time, although he was permissive of Christian practice in the empire, he was also lenient toward pagan religious practices. conversion comes from the debate over his legitimacy as a convert to Christianity. Constantine did not choose his new religion to chase after changing demographics in the Empire; Christianity was a lower-class religion disfavored by the pagans who overwhelmingly made up the Roman army and cavalry—the exact people that an emperor really needed to … He may have been Christian since 312 when he won the Battle at the Milvian Bridge, although the accompanying medallion showing him with the Sol Invictus deity a year later raises questions. The ancients say it was genuine. What's new. Strangely, Constantine wasn’t baptized until near his death. Was the whole incident fabricated? sign up for a brand new online course taught by Everett Ferguson, Church History 1, Who the most important figures in church history are, What the key controversies in the church were, and how they still shape the church today, Which ideas defined and shaped the church during its first 1,200 years, The significant turning points in church history, including the Roman emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, the Great Schism between churches of the East and West, the Crusades, and numerous others, The dynamic relationship between broader world history and church history. It prompted the church to respond to new challenges—both doctrinal and cultural. The short answer is, "Yes, Constantine was Christian," or seems to have said he was, but it belies the complexity of the issue. Throughout his lifetime, Constantine favored Christians and the role of Christianity in the empire. Constantine may have been Christian since before he became emperor. It was centered around X and P, the first two letters in the Greek word for Christ. How do most Christians view Constantine today? For some time, I’ve been fascinated by the idea that it was Constantine, Emperor of Rome (306 CE-337), who transformed Christianity from a persecuted religious sect into a world religion. Ancient Historians on the Conversion of Constantine. During the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (AD 306–337), Christianity began to transition to the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. A labarum was a Roman standard carried into battle, but here a Christian monogram replaced the traditional pagan symbols. The fake Conversion and skilful manipulation of the Roman Emperor Constantine is the key. Whether Constantine's conversion was sincere or politically motivated (or a combination of the two), historians can only speculate. By submitting your email address, you understand that you will receive email communications from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (501 Nelson Place, Nashville, TN 37214 USA) providing information about products and services of HCCP and its affiliates. There are two accounts of Constantine's conversion to Christianity. Eusebius interpreted the event in grand biblical terms, comparing the defeat of Maxentius’s army to the destruction of the Egyptians under Pharaoh in the Red Sea. This caused three major problems: 1. Constantine's legitimate interest in Christianity is not inconceivable considering that his … And the legislation making Sunday a legal holiday gave leisure to Christians for their church assemblies, but was worded as an honor to the sun. Today it’s the modern city of Istanbul. Constantine had a vision right before Milvian Bridge battle. In these posts, editor... Get expert commentary on biblical languages, fresh explorations in theology, hand-picked book excerpts, author videos, and info on limited-time sales. Why Did Constantine Wait Until He Was Dying to Be Baptized? Since these structures provided the model for church building during the first centuries after Constantine’s conversion, such churches came to be known as basilicas. Today, depending on which branch and denomination of Christianity you're following, Constantine might not count as a Christian without the baptism, but it's not an event that clear in the first few centuries of Christianity when Christian dogma had yet to be fixed. Doctrinal controversy threatened the unity of the church and with it Constantine’s goal of harmony in the empire. Some say he supported Christianity as part of a cynical strategy to promote his rule. Was Constantine the Great a Christian? A sidenote from the blog’s author: Chapter 3. Historians have marvelled at this idea. Others treat him as a politician, who only used Christianity for political purposes. In 313 AD he reached an agreement with the Emperor in the Licinius, that ended the persecution in the eastern half of the … And it wasn’t at the temple of Apollo, it was at the battle of Milvian Bridge. There are numerous misunderstandings about Constantine’s role in Christianity. Notes & Resources. This set a precedent for others in the fourth century who delayed their baptism until their old age or their death bed so as to obtain the maximum benefit of the forgiveness of sins. https://www.thoughtco.com/was-constantine-a-christian-117848 (accessed January 22, 2021). The short answer is, "Yes, Constantine was Christian," or seems to have said he was, but it belies the complexity of the issue. Pursue a deeper knowledge of God through self-paced college- and seminary-level online courses in Old and New Testament studies, theology, biblical Greek, and more. But was Constantine genuinely a committed Christian, or was he using religion for his own ends? In a number of ways, Constantine’s conversion to Christianity had powerful effects on Christian belief patterns, worship patterns and position within the empire. A contemporary of Constantine and a Christian, who became bishop of Caesarea in 314, Eusebius describes the series of events: The fifth-century historian Zosimus writes about the pragmatic reasons for Constantine seeming to embrace the newish faith: Constantine may not have been a Christian until his deathbed baptism. [For this theory, read "Constantine's Conversion: Do We Really Need It?" This shows that, five years after Constantine’s conversion according to Eusebius and Lactantius, Constantine still worshipped, or praised, an ancient Roman pagan god. Underneath was written, \"In this sign, conquer.\" But the Bishop Eusebius of Antioch, who would later write a favorable biography of Constantine, tells that he and his army experienced this vision just before the battle outside o… Books and articles that equip you for deeply biblical thinking and ministry. Many of his actions were designed not to offend pagans or were subject to ambiguous interpretation. As a next step, sign up for a brand new online course taught by Everett Ferguson, Church History 1. Home. By the Vision of the Cross, and by the Appearance of Christ, Constantine is led to embrace Christianity.— He receives Religious Instruction from our Brethren. [For this theory, read "Constantine's Conversion: Do We Really Need It?" 381. Some Christians consider Constantine a saint. The conversion of Constantine is an event that elevated Christianity to political prominence and power. There is much more to learn about Constantine. "Was Constantine the Great a Christian?" This would indicate, as Christians are allowed to believe only in the one God, that Constantine did not convert to Christianity straight after the battle of the Milvian Bridge. See: "Religion and Politics at the Council at Nicaea," by Robert M. Grant. In this vision, he was given 30 wreaths, symbolizing the 30 years he would reign as emperor. The Da Vinci Code claims that Constantine's conversion was not authentic but that he remained a life long pagan who continued to worship the Unconquered Sun and who was baptised against his will on his death bed. This agreement, the “Edict of Milan,” granted the free exercise of religion to “Christians and all others.”. The story goes that Constantine had a vision of the words "in hoc signo vinces" upon the symbol of Christianity, a cross, that led him to promise to follow the Christian religion if victory were granted. What do the sources say about Constantine’s conversion? He completely abandoned paganism and put his full force of favor towards advancing the cause of the Church of Christ. He began immediately to favor the Christians after his victory over Maxentius. But according to Christian sources, the vision that mattered wasn’t in 306, but in 312. "Was Constantine the Great a Christian?" Due to its pivotal historical significance to the Christian faith, many of my resources point directly to the conversion of Constantine at the Milvian Bridge. The first and most straightforward explanation for his conversion is that he genuinely believed the dogma of Christianity and therefore decided to abandon paganism. In the history of Christianity, Constantine is most remembered for bringing state-sanctioned persecution to an end. I approach Constantine by way of The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World About Us. After his vision, he immediately declared Christianity legal in the Edict of Milan. Not at all. Constantine had many Christian influences throughout his life. In this vision, he was given 30 wreaths, symbolizing the 30 years he would reign as emperor. Constantine's Christian mother, St. Helena, may have converted him or he may have converted her. If you have any questions, please review our. Please check errors and resubmit. 55, No. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/was-constantine-a-christian-117848. TheConversion of Constantinewas a pivotal event in Roman and world history which occurred on 28 October312 AD when the Roman emperor Constantine the Great converted to Christianity. He founded a new capital on the site of the old Greek city of Byzantium and named it Constantinople. The first, according to pagan sources, was a vision of Apollo in the year 306. 1-12. If Constantine did have a conversion experience before the Milvian Bridge then he would have championed the Church in the years after it. The first, according to pagan sources, was a vision of Apollo in the year 306. Constantine may have been Christian since before he became emperor. Constantine dies. A major turning point in western history occurred when the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 CE. A personal decision marked the Empire permanently. The Roman emperor Constantine, a sun-worshiper, professed his conversion to Christianity [took place in 312 AD], although his subsequent actions suggest that the “conversion” was more of a political move than a genuine change of heart. Constantine’s smaller army won the battle of Milvian Bridge, and he secured control of Rome. The hijack of Christianity by Church 1700 years ago is its most significant event since the Crucifixion. Oct. 28 is the 1,700th anniversary of a truly pivotal moment in the story of Western civilization and in the story of Christ’s Church — an event so decisive, in fact, that it led to the convergence of these two previously colliding cultures. N.S. At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle. His reign began in 306, and after a series of internal struggles, he consolidated his rule over the entire Roman Empire in 324. They raised fundamental questions about the definition of the church and of the deity it worshiped. Your form could not be submitted. Because he wanted to be popular he was easily deceived and taken advantage of. Was the deathbed conversion of Constantine the act of a moral pragmatist? Gill, N.S. He did not, for example, make Christianity the “official” religion of the empire. The most important event in this shift happened the next year, in 313, when Constantine entered into an agreement with Licinius at Milan. But to Constantine himself and to spiritual advisors close to him, there appears to have been no doubt. One of the major turning points in the history of the church was Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. Please add your opinion to the forum thread. I will explore the question of whether Constantine’s conversion was authentic or not. The definition of doctrinal orthodoxy was brought to the forefront by the Trinitarian controversy, sparked by the teachings of Arius. ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/was-constantine-a-christian-117848. One of the supposed watersheds in history is the ‘conversion’ of the emperor Constantine to Christianity in, or about, 312 AD. The sources say about Constantine ’ s smaller army won the battle of Milvian Bridge from these communications... 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