Constantine - Hero or Villain?

Discussion in 'Church History' started by Botolph, Oct 26, 2018.

Tags:
  1. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    865
    Likes Received:
    1,036
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    I find Constantine a fascinating study. There is little in evidence to suggest that he was close to Sylvester I (the Pope at the time), though he did provide for the building of St Peter's in Rome, which was replaced during the reformation period with the building that now stands there. Moving the seat of Empire to Byzantium clearly did little to advance the cause to Rome, save that perhaps it removed from Rome a number of the secularly ambitious who followed power to Nova Romanum and allowed the Church to consume the power vacuum in the city.

    Those who berate Constantine I believe fail to see that he did a great deal for the Christian faith, and no doubt we owe a great debt of thanks to his mother who seems to have had a great deal to do with his early spiritual formation.

    Two things of note:
    1. The Edict of Milan, which ended the persecution of the church, and provided for a religious pluralism for the republic, and religious freedom for its citizens, a principle we now see enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights, thanks in part to Eleanor Roosevelt, and thanks in part to the Edict of Milan.

    2. The Council of Nicaea which provided the mechanism by which the Church in a wider context could gather and establish that which is essential to the faith, including the Nicene Creed and the Christological Definition of Chalcedon.
    Constantine was not perfect, far from it, and the boiling of his second wife and the decapitation of his dead brother in law seems almost incomprehensible yet they were different times.

    Whilst I rejoice that the Anglican position is both reformed and catholic, I would not exempt the reformed churches from having enough of their own problems, and I find it as hard to wax lyrical about them as I do to wax lyrical about the Church of the time they left, which of course is very different to the Church of the post Vatican II era.

    In many ways I see much of the problem comes about from ideas about the Kingdom of God, often gilded in our imagination of the great and the powerful of this world, rather than to power of the new kingdom we see expressed in the manger and the cross. Hearts and minds, not principalities and princes.
     
  2. JoeLaughon

    JoeLaughon Active Member Anglican

    Posts:
    224
    Likes Received:
    148
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Reformed High Anglican

    1. Re: Subjection

    You are conflating what I mean. The Word clearly shows we are subject to the early authorities as authority is ordained by God (unless Constantine also used his now famous time machine again to edit the Scriptures). This does not mean we can sin if ordered to, nor does it mean we cannot rebuke ordained authority for sinning (ex. Nathan and David, Ambrose and Theodosius). Nathan rebuked David yet he did not proclaim a revolution or rebellion against him. Paul wrote those words while under the rule of Nero, a truly insane man. Even the most enthusiastic advocate of Christian resistance theory (a la Beza & Co) would never say we are not under the submission of early authority.

    2. Constantine.

    My friend you have said exactly that a number of times on this forum. To whit:

    In response to my argument that Constantine did not institute any changes in the Church, you replied;

    And my personal favorite;

    Yet when asked to produce any evidence of these alleged corruptions, naturally it suddenly seems the evidence for, and confidence of, these claims seems to be in short supply.
     
    Stalwart likes this.
  3. Fidei Defensor

    Fidei Defensor Active Member

    Posts:
    220
    Likes Received:
    37
    Country:
    Kingdom of Heaven
    Religion:
    Christian
    I feel mixed emotions about Constantine too. I use to totally feel negative about him. Now I admire some of what he did and dislike the other things He did.

    Here is an example of my paradoixical feelings:

    I am glad he convened the Council of Nicea which gave us the Nicene Creed. But I am not pleased he re-erecting the curtain Christ tore down (Matthew 27:50-51, Hebrews 10:19-20), and ressurecting the old temple system with trillis and castes:

    “But I will say this: after completed the great building I have described, he finished it with thrones high up, to accord with dignity of the prelates (bishops, priests), and also with benches arranged conveniently throughout. In addition to all this, he placed in the middle the Holy of Holies -the altar- excluding, the general public from this part too by surrounding it with wooden trellis..," (The History of the Church, Eusebius, Penguin Classics, pg 315) There is no caste system, all Christians are priests and prelates, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10) and “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the First-born from the dead, the highest of earthly kings. He loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a Kingdom of Priests to serve his God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5-6); and we can all enter the holy of holies by Christ’s blood, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,” (Hebrews 10:19)

    Is that part of your mixed emotions too? That He did well to call the Council of Nicea, but errored in his reorganization of the Church?
     
  4. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    865
    Likes Received:
    1,036
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    https://blackswantheology.wordpress.com/2019/04/05/constantine/

    https://blackswantheology.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/constantine.pdf

    I am not sure I am in complete agreement, as the links above will show, but Constantine is a clear reminder that each of us is a curious mix of good and ill.

    Constantine did convene the 1st Council Nicene, and he did so at the behest of the Church from a council in Iberia. As a Pragmatist, Constantine saw in Christianity a religion which like the Empire was not constrained to a single region. At the time of the Edict of Milan Christians may well have comprised 8% of the Empire, so Constantine saw great advantage in getting them onside, however in the wake of the Arian controversy, Christianity looked to be tearing itself apart, and the possibility was that the stability he had achieved might then be lost. There is no strong evidence that Constantine was invested our tried to influence the outcome of the Council. In his last days he was baptised by Eusebius who had been a supporter of Arius, and Constantine applied pressure on the Patriarch of Alexandria to restore Arius to the Church.

    The Church did well under Constantine, firstly and most enduringly with the Edict of Milan, and as you have pointed out the Nicene Council which laid the foundation for the Nicene Creed established at the 1st Council of Constantinople, numbers of great Church Buildings, St Peter's Rome, Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Hagia Irene and the Church the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, and for his new capital he ordered 50 copies of the Bible to be transcribed, which probably include Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus which are two of the great early manuscripts that scholars rely on to this day.

    There is however no huge evidence to suggest that Constantine had much to do with the running of the Church. We know little of his relationship with Sylvester (Bishop of Rome). For the early part of his reign Constantine was Pontifex Maximus - in terms of the pagan cults of Ancient Rome, and so not seemingly not even Christian. Constantine liked edifices, The Arch of Constantine, and the City of Constantinople bear witness to that and the Christians did well under Constantine.

    He fished his dead brother in law, Maxentius, from the Tiber and beheaded him before taking him on display through the streets of Rome. He executed another brother in law, Licinius, on suspicion of treason. He executed his favorite Son, Crispus, on the word of his wife, and then boiled his wife , Flavia, as it transpired that she had mislead him.


    The period of Constantine is the passing of the old order and the beginning of a new order. The old gods were leaving and Christianity arrived centre stage. A New Capital and a New Empire.

    The spirit of the Edict of Milan survived the reformation and the enlightenment, and is born out in constitutions of nations today, and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    ChiRhoInCircle.png
     
  5. Rexlion

    Rexlion Active Member

    Posts:
    123
    Likes Received:
    43
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Christian
    I rather doubt that anyone should find Codex Sinaiticus a "great early manuscript."

    Some odd things about Sinaiticus:
    1. Tischendorf had an audience with the Pope, and thereafter he seemed to make a beeline for St. Catherine's monastery.
    2. He claimed to have found the folios (that he brought back on his initial trip) in a 'burn basket' for use in lighting fires. But it was written on parchment (animal skins). Parchment does not burn well and it stinks when burned. Moreover, parchment was too valuable to be destroyed; normal practice would have been to erase unwanted writing and re-use the parchment for another document.
    3. Tischendorf made a second trip to retrieve the remainder of Sinaiticus, after which he spent 2 months in Cairo before bringing the codex to Europe. When he brought it, the codex was yellowed (presumably with age) but the yellowing was (and is) rather uneven and streaky (some might wonder if an aging agent like lemon juice had been applied in Cairo).
    4. Tischendorf never had a chance to get his hands back on the first portion (Friderico Augustanus), which to this day is white and shows no sign of yellowing. No one could readily make this comparison until recently, but both portions have been photographed (using color bars to calibrate the photos) and posted at www.codexsinaiticus.org where anyone may see this difference between the two portions.
    5. If viewing these photographic copies, one may observe that the document contains extensive erasures, write-overs, corrections, errors, margin additions, and so on.
    6. Moreover, Sinaiticus is woefully incomplete. It is missing all but 4 chapters of Genesis, all of Exodus, all but 3 chapters of Leviticus, all but 12 chapters of Numbers, all but 5 chapters of Deuteronomy, most of Joshua and Judges, all of Ruth & 1 Samuel & 2 Samuel & 1st & 2nd Kings... but it does have parts of 1 Chronicles twice. In one particular spot of Sinaiticus, the copying of 1 Chronicles actually leaves off at Chapter 19, verse 17... and the very next words on the parchment are from Ezra 9:9 (in the middle of a sentence!) and it continues in Ezra as if everything is normal! (Oh, but it does include the Apocrypha.) All signs point to the codes having been a very sloppy job of copying, not something that one would wish to give great credence or rely upon.
    7. For some reason, the parchment and ink of this codex have never been tested to determine its age. Testing was planned in 2015, then suddenly canceled.

    The discovery of Sinaiticus and allegations about its antiquity helped bolster the perceived reliability of Vaticanus. The two of them tend to agree with one another textually. This was very useful to the Roman church in the 1800s. And the discovery influenced the work of Westcott and Hort, which in turn led to a huge boom in new Bible editions ever since.
     
  6. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    865
    Likes Received:
    1,036
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    I accept that, and it was certainly not my purpose to argue for its greatness, but rather for the significance it has had, and as you rightly point out is now also challenged. The point I was making was 50 copies of the Christian Scriptures commission by Constantine were important in there day, and retain some of that importance to this day.
     
  7. Rexlion

    Rexlion Active Member

    Posts:
    123
    Likes Received:
    43
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Christian
    Yes, I realize my post was off-topic and I should apologize for side-tracking the thread. Sorry.
     

Share This Page