Why Judaism and the Torah ?
Doug Mason, thanks for your post. I am actually surprised, but I guess deegee told you about our conversation. Having that said, I am not sure whether we understand each other. I will try to make myself clear once and for all.
While Constantine elevated the Paulines, the greater influence came with Theodosius in 381. But if you disagree, that is your right to do so, but when you disagree, please remain agreeable.
Yup... We clearly misunderstand each other. I am not talking about whether the orthodox church became popularized after Constantine's conversion. Before he became Christian, only about 7–10% (probably even less than that) of the Roman population was Christian. By the end of the fourth century, however, it jumped up to around 50%. That's a big difference. So, yes, I do agree with you that Constantine and Theodosius influenced Christianity. Theodosius even made it the state religion. But, again, this is not what I was talking about and disagreeing with in my previous posts.
What I was talking about is why Constantine became Christian. deegee made claims that it was for political reasons—to bring unity and peace to the Roman Empire. I believe that this is total nonsense. This is what I was talking about, and I gave reasons for my stance in one of my previous posts.
I hope we understand each other better now. I am looking forward to reading your study. (Does anybody still use the word "shall"?)
My desire is to show that the Watchtower lies. I am concerned at the human damage they cause through trashing families, risking lives because of their stance on the medical use of blood, and the mental damage they cause by forcing people to believe things they do not give full mental assent to.
I totally agree, by the way.
My understanding is that Rome was a very cosmopolitan society and that the Emperor was concerned at the disharmony within Christianity, including within Pauline Christianity. I suspect that although this sect was "selected", it was not the dominant form.
My position is that Constantine and Theodosius intervened to bring the internal Pauline disharmony to an end, and in the process imposed the positions held by one part of that sect (that's where Trinitarianism rears its head).
Regarding "shall". My first editor, and we are talking about 1971, refused anyone the use of the word "will". He said that something happened or it did not. Secondly, I read that the English and the Scots use "will" and "shall" with opposite meaning. (I think the reference was a book by Fowler. Was it an English Government style book? I wonder whether the Chicago Style Manual discusses "will" versus "shall". There are, of course, differences in the English language between the correct version - Australian - and all other versions.)
Out of all that, I use will to mean "I want to" and I use shall to mean "I am going to". Apologise for the quirks in my old mind.
I get annoyed when I hear someone say that "such-and-such prevented this from happening". In my mind, the word "from" is unnecessary.
I am sure that I will get comments and criticisms on my upcoming Study.
Without Constantine's power and influence , Christianity may never have taken off or would have probably faded away to obscurity.. It probably seemed like a better religious belief system from a structured sociological viewpoint for a civilized nation to under take.
Perhaps the Romans were getting sick and tired of violence and blood letting within their civilization and they were seeking a change ?
A spiritual savior returned showing humanity that it was better to love and live in peace rather that to hate and kill.
Be the way the Hebrews were not unique in the religious belief of a returning Messianic savior.
What I was talking about is whyConstantine became Christian.deegee made claims that it was for political reasons—to bring unity and peace to the Roman Empire. I believe that this is total nonsense. This is what I was talking about, and I gave reasons for my stance in one of my previous posts.
It seems there are 2 things at issue here:1. The reason for Constantine's conversion to Christianity.
2. Why did Constantine back/promote the Paulines out of all the other early forms of Christianity, after his conversion.
Please note that in my previous comments I never stated anything about the reason for Constantine's conversion to Christianity (#1). My comment addressed why Constantine backed/promoted the Paulines out of all the other early forms of Christianity, after his conversion (#2):
Of great importance is the fact that some of Paul's writings pandered to the Roman authorities e.g. Paul's writing in Romans 13 calls for submission to governmental authorities, although passages in 1 Corinthians may be said to contradict this. 2 Thessalonians, a pseudonymous letter, also preaches a politically conservative and accommodative message.
Given Paul's pandering to the Roman authorities, Constantine saw the political value of Pauline Christianity - Pauline Christianity was not just seen as a religion but as a political solution to bring about the unity and harmony and control of the populace which Constantine desired.
With this in mind, one can understand why Constantine and Theodosius promoted the Paulines out of all the other conflicting voices of early Christianity.
- Did Constantine want to bring the internal Pauline disharmony to an end as stated by Doug Mason?
- Was there also the goal to use Christianity to achieve harmony and unity in the wider Roman Empire, not just within Christianity?
- Was Constantine himself involved in this aspect?
- Do we know why Constantine converted to Christianity?
The following is a quote from Professor Dale B. Martin who teaches the Yale University open course INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT HISTORY AND LITERATURE:
"Constantine also wanted to stop all this feuding about what was orthodox Christianity. So he uses the power of the emperor's throne to force bishops to come together in several different councils.
The most famous of which, in 325, is the council of Nicaea, and of course this is where we get the term the Nicene Creed, which if you're Roman Catholic or Episcopalian or several other kinds of Christianity, you may recite the Nicene Creed on certain holy days or in church. This is the longer creed, which talks about Jesus being fully man, fully human. It brings in the Trinity, so you have Trinitarian theology becoming a bit more solidified at the council of Nicaea. It didn't win the day because throughout the fourth century you still had fights among different bishops, some people not accepting the Nicene Creed. Years later you had another creed pronounced at Chalcedon, so that's called the Chalcedonian Creed.
And all of these were attempts though promoted by the emperors. The emperors wanted to use Christianity to solidify a one empire again and to keep it from being split. You couldn't do that if you had different groups claiming to represent the right Christianity and claiming that everybody represents the wrong Christianity. That was the real push for what counts as orthodox Christianity and the bringing of more unity to Christianity.
What we have not seen in this semester is what you would call correct Trinitarian doctrine in the New Testament, it's just not there. You've got all kinds of views about Jesus that would later be declared heretical. They're still there in the New Testament, and what Christians do is that we just read kind of carefully and interpret it a little bit slickly so that it makes it look more orthodox than it actually is. That's because there was no orthodoxy that could claim to rule different Christians who called themselves Christians throughout the empire. This is what starts changing in the fourth century. Like I said, they don't succeed.
So you have debates about orthodoxy for centuries, but it's with Constantine in the beginning of the fourth century, and he had a long dynasty. His progeny, his sons, and then their sons, and their sons retained the throne for years after that. So you had this Constantinian dynasty that was able to bring a good bit of solidity to the Roman Empire in the fourth century that it hadn't enjoyed in the third century. And therefore, they used this to sort of bring about orthodox Christianity as the single form of Christianity. That's the most important change, therefore, for the fourth century.
Do we know why Constantine converted?
He says it's because he saw a vision right before the battle. Scholars debate that. Some scholars say he converted because he looked around and he saw that this was, although it was a minority movement, there was no way that this was a majority, it was a vibrant movement that was going on in Rome, in the Roman Empire, and maybe he said, that's something I can use. He was already an admirer of the sun god, and he was moving toward a certain form of monotheism where the sun was the only god. Some people say it wasn't that big of a jump for him to switch that to Jesus, and so some people say, he had this political idea that it would be a smart thing to do and that he made up the vision later.
There are different reasons. We don't really know truly his psychological motivations for conversion.
Obviously with Constantine you get the emperor promoting this religion now."
deegee - Please note that in my previous comments I never stated anything about the reason for Constantine's conversion to Christianity
This is how I understood it. I thought you were saying that Constantine converted to Christianity for political reasons. I've heard people claim it before, so I thought this was what you were implying. I think the whole thing about "the political value" of Christianity is total nonsense, so I objected to it.
Now I see that you might have actually been talking about why Constantine sought to resolve the disputes within Christianity, which is an altogether different matter.
So I have been studying early Christianity a bit and noticed that before Christianity really took off after 325 CE, there were a lot of religions. Gnostics teachings , belief in all sorts of different gods from Egypt to Greece . The practice of emperor worship etc. when Christianity took off it was a melding of a lot of these different beliefs , but I'm curious as to why they choose the Jews Torah and its writings as seemingly the foundation of thier beliefs. I mean when you think about it the Jews were a nothing group so again why the Torah? Ideas ? crazyguy
crazyguy - great question and one I have also thought about long and hard.
The jews had lost their temple and were often under seige by the Romans. At the time mostly portable and versatile forms of worship - word of mouth, papyrus based kinds - could travel the distances that those who survived and those who were banished to the periphery could carry with them. I guess this is also true of other groups that were persecuted from time to time - the followers of dionysus/bacchus for example.
Christianity seems to be a blend of Jewish, Greek and Roman forms of religion and probably others too, so Christianity could encompass hugely popular ways of being religious. But I would emphasize portability with David Chidester as being enormously influential too.
a cross shape is pretty generic and the pattern is very prominent in nature too and as others have said it can appear in the sky naturally. At the time the cross was being used for crucifixion. Constantine did away with this practice and this single move would have had favourable social/political and religious consequences.