The Christianity of Constantine the Great

The Christianity of Constantine the Great

The Christianity of Constantine the Great

The Christianity of Constantine the Great

Synopsis

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Excerpt

This book had its origins in my sudden realization some years ago that Eusebius' story of Constantine's conversion was a fiction or a mistake, based upon the emperor's own story of how God told him to make the labarum, the standard carried before his army. This confirmed my opinion that Constantine's Christianity was of more normal and earlier origins than the "miracle" of 312 A.D. Further study of my subject made me very skeptical about several aspects of studies of Constantine -- his alleged dependence on the bishop Ossius, his lust for power as demonstrated by his civil wars, his efforts to obtain unity in the Church so that it might better subserve the needs of the empire, his reversal of policy with regard to the Arians, and all his reversals of policy with regard to Athanasius. In recent years I have become quite cautious about Athanasius: is it really necessary to believe that the eastern bishops, especially Eusebius of Nicomedia, were as heretical, or pusillanimous, as his writings assert?

It is on these religious questions, on which I believe that I have something useful to say, that this book is focused, although I have not tried to stay away from Constantine's career in general. My view of the origins of Constantine's religion has led me to think that his belief and policy on religious matters were more consistent than earlier writers suggest, and I have been surprised by the appearance of the Constantinian documents when read in this light. My main concern has been to present the argument arising from such a reading as well as I can. Knowledgeable readers will understand that the complexity of the ancient evidence makes the straightforward presentation of the argument impossible, but I have tried to preserve a chronological order in dealing with Constantine's religion.

I have intended to contribute to the scholarly discussion of the subject, but the book is also written for the student and the educated general reader. It is much dependent upon the Constantinian documents, which appear in translation in a fairly large number. It will be easier for most readers to use the translations provided here than to consult them in a library, and I

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