Constantine and his effect on Christianity
When we look back at Christianity over the years, there are several people who are remembered for their impact on the religion. The first most important figure was Jesus Christ. However, if we travel forward a bit, into the 4th Century we come across Constantine. Historians agree that Constantine served as an important component in the spread of Christianity. Although he spread the religion in a massive way, others wonder if his methods were more harmful then anything. In this paper I will be discussing Constantine in his rise to power and his impact on Christianity. Constantine provided a mean for the word of God to be spread, which is a major benefit. However, He also used violence and hate as a way to convert his people. In addition to his violence there is evidence that Constantine was not a believer himself.
According to A Dictionary of British History, “Constantine was the first Christian emperor known as ‘the Great’.” His reign was from 306-337 A.D. during which he widely spread the religion of Christianity. His main goal was to unify his empire. In order to do this he used a strategy in which he believed would blend the numerous religions existent in his empire already. This idea was looked at as making the empire Catholic. In this instance the word Catholic stands for Universal. Constantine’s vision was for the whole empire to be united in religion. He believed that once the empire was united he would have a greater hold over the people. Therefore, this transition would make him a more powerful leader.
This shift in religious views among the empire had both beneficial and detrimental effect on Christianity. According to the The Journal of Roman Studies, “As all know the climax of Christianity was reached with the conversion of Constantine.” The immediate benefit of Constantine’s strategy was the major spread of Christianity. Many historians argue that without him, Christianity would not be as prominent of a religion that it is today. With his help, Christianity became the most prominent religion in the Roman Empire. In the year 313 Constantine created and enforced the Edict of Milan. This was a basic letter, which was signed by Constantine, which created tolerance to Christianity as a religion throughout the Roman Empire. This doctrine was created after what was called the Diocletianic Persecution. This persecution was the last of many persecutions of Christians in the Roman Empire. This was also the most violent and severe of all the persecutions. It included the legal obligation for all people of the Empire to practice traditional traditions when it came to religion. Because of this Christians were persecuted unless they agreed to follow the Gods of the Empire of the time. Without this doctrine, Christianity would have remained illegal to practice and prosecutions would have continued. Because of this bold move by Constantine, Christians were free to practice their religion free of persecution once again. In The true Face of Constantine The Great, They discuss that “Constantine was clean shaven, as well as handsome and youthful…perceived as the ideal calm.” This made him extremely popular among the Christian people of the Roman Empire. In addition, both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox church regard Constantine as a saint for his tolerance of Christianity. Because of Constantine Christianity was allowed to flourish throughout the Roman Empire, and eventually there religious ideas were accepted and spread throughout the rest of the world as well. For these reasons Constantine’s work in Christianity was a chief stepping stone into the continued spread of the religion. This classifies his ascent into power and his reign successful to the Christian Church.
Although Constantine was a major benefit to the spread of the Christian religion, he also had a detrimental effect on the religion as well. Although Constantine promoted the spread of the...
Cited: Cannon, John Ashton. A Dictionary of British History. New York: Oxford UP, 2009.
* Vol. 81, (1991), pp. 119-131
Vol. 22, Part 1: Papers Dedicated to Sir George Macdonald K.C.B. (1932), pp. 9-23
The True Face of Constantine the Great
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