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Was Constantine a Christian?
(updated January 21, 2002)

    I wanted to dedicate this page to one of the subjects that fascinated me from the very beginning.  I know that I'm touching on a controversial subject, but I think it is worth to have the public available from this point of view.  Before getting into this subject fully I want to expose some facts.

    First, with respect to Constantine's religious beliefs, presently there is a division among scholars.  There are some scholars that support the idea that Constantine converted to Christianity just before the battle against Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge, in 312 AD.  Another group of scholars believe that he converted a bit later, close to 325 AD.  Others believe that he remained pagan most of his life, and at the very end, when he baptized, he became a Christian (Secco and Baridon 209-211).  Finally, there are those who believe that he didn't become a Christian at all (Kee).  This page is going to support the latter position, and in here I will present a good evidence for it.  I don't pretend to give a final word on this, just to show how Constantine behaved, and infer from that what he truly believed ("By their fruits you shall know them").

    Whatever the positions, the vast majority of scholars do agree that at one moment of his life or another, he did become a Christian.  This is due mainly to the sole authority of Eusebius of Cesarea, plus some remarks made by other historians and theologians, like Lactantius.  However, we know for a fact that Eusebius is not a very reliable historian, though, as we shall see, it would be also inaccurate to present him as a compulsive liar and the first fraudulent historian like Burckhardt states:

And Eusebius, though all historians have followed him, has been proven guilty of so many distortions, and inventions that he has forfeited all claim to figure as a decisive source (Burckhardt 293).

However, Eusebius writings and words can be used against his case, which is what we will do in this page, due to his reliability in many parts of his work.

    The purpose of this page is to show that there can only be two positions concerning Constantine as a Christian.  The first one is that he did convert to Christianity, and the other one is that he did not.  If one assumes the former, then it would be quite hard to explain many his apparently non-Christian behavior and legislation. If one assumes that he was not a Christian, then everything seems to make sense, even his favor for Christians.

    We will not rely exclusively on Eusebius for our case.  We will go to authentic Constantinian documents, such as the Theodosian Code which contains the vast majority of Constantine's legislation.  Though there are many who hold that these documents are not authentic on the grounds that Constantine was a Christian, there is no reason to believe so.  In fact, it is plenty consistent with Constantine's policies that has been verified through archeological evidence and also other historical documents.  It also doesn't make any sense that the emperor Theodosius, who was a Christian himself and made Christianity the official religion of the empire, falsify his own documents against his own religion.  As the reader might expect, the Theodosian Code presents a strong evidence against the notion of Constantine's devotion to Christianity, specially against Eusebius' claims.

    I wish to be grateful to all of those people who have taken the time to read my previous article on Constantine, and have taken their criticisms into consideration.  It is due to them that I expanded this information about Constantine.  First of all, the way I explained things, I didn't show clearly the favor of Constantine to Christians, except for the fact that it was a monotheistic religion.  In here I will show that there is more that Christianity shared with Constantine, the Neo-Platonic doctrine of the time.  Many people forget the strong Neo-Platonism characterized by Christianity in its beginnings.

    Also I expanded more on the subject of the labarum more in detail.  During the criticisms I received, I have corrected some minor details, but that has reinforced my position.  I included too a brief explanation on the subject of the Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) on the solar cults, since there have been many people who have asked me to elaborate this subject, because not many people know about solar cults. I've elaborated the subject of the Oration in Praise of Constantine, which has been a controversial issue.

    I hope that this new article proves to be interesting and informative to many people.  I don't say I have the final word, I'm not a historian, but I think the evidence suggests this to be very convincing.  I will leave it to the reader to decide.  It is highly recommend it that this article is read in the sequence presented.

    Finally, to those who are ready to condemn me because of my position, please, READ the article BEFORE condemning it.  Thank you.  Here is my forum if you want to write there your comments and/or objections.

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Brief Biography of Constantine before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge

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Solar Cults and the Sol Invictus

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Platonism, Solar Cults and Christianity

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Labarum, The Battle Against Maxentius and The Arch of Constantine

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Eusebius of Nicomaedia and the Oration in Praise of Constantine

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Eusebius of Cesarea and his Life of Constantine

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Constantine's Oration to the "Assembly of the Saints"

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Edict of Milan

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The Theodosian Code

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Constantine's Preference of the "Catholic Church" over the Heretic Churches and his Participation in Christian Councils

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The Donation of Constantine

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Constantine's True Religion

  Up

Works Cited

Aristotle. Metaphysics.  1952.  Trans. Richard Hope. US:  University of Michigan Press, 1960.

Burckhardt, Jakob.  The Age of Constantine the Great.  1949.  Berkeley and Los Angeles:  University of California Press, 1983.  [Trans:  Die Zeit Knostantins des Grossen.  Leipzig, 1924.]

Chadwick, H., The Early Church.  Hammondsworth, 1978.

Cross, F. L. (ed.). The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford University Press, 1957.

Crystal, Ellie. Mithraism. 2001. November 6, 2001.  <http://www.crystalinks.com/mithra.html>. 

David, Rosalie.  Ancient Egyptian Religion, Beliefs and Practices.  London:  Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982.

Donatio Constantini.  Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies:  Internet Medieval SourceBook, January 8, 2000. October 9, 2001. <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/donatconst.html>.

Drake, H. A.  In Praise of Constantine:  a Historical Study and New Translation of Eusebius' Tricennial Orations. Los Angeles:  University of California Press, 1975.

Edict of Milan.  September 15, 2001.  <http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/bible/milan.stm>. 

Eusebius of Cesarea. The History of the Church.  1965.  Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, 1967.

- - -.  Life of Constantine. Paul Halsall (ed.).  Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies:  Internet Medieval SourceBook, January 8, 2000. August 18, 2001 <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/vita-constantine.html>.

Eusebius of Nicomadea.  The Oration in Praise of the Emperor Constantine.  Calvin College, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, May 27 1999.  August 27, 2001. <http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-01/Npnf2-01-32.htm#TopOfPage>.

Farvardyn. Mithraism. 2001.  January 21,2002. <http://www.farvardyn.com/mithras.htm>.

Frend, W. H. C. The Donatist Church.  Clarendon Press, 1952.

Gibbon, Edward.  Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 7 vols.  London: 1909.

Halbsberghe, Gaston H.  The Cult of Sol Invictus.  Leiden:  E. J. Brill, 1972.

Hamilton, Edith.  Mythology:  Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. 1942. NY:  Warner Books, 1999.

Hart, George.  A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses.  London:  Routledge & Kegan Paul,1988.

Imperatoris Theodosiani Codex. George Mason University. September 15, 2001. <http://www.gmu.edu/departments/fld/CLASSICS/theod.html>.

Goodenough, E. R. Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period. vol. XII.  NY:  1953.

Kee, Alistair.  Constantino contra Cristo:  El origen de la alianza entre la Iglesia y el poder político.  Barcelona:  Ediciones Martínez Roca, 1990. [Trans. of Constantine vs. Christ. London:  SCM Press, 1982).

Lactantius.  Lucii Caelcilii Liber ad Donatum Confessorem de Mortibus Persecutorum. George Mason University. August 18, 2001. <http://www.gmu.edu/departments/fld/CLASSICS/lactantius.html>.

Martín-Lunas, Teodoro H. (ed.)  Obras completas del Pseudo-Dionisio Areopagita.  Madrid:  Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1995.

Mithraism. May 15, 1998. December 3, 2001. <http://www.mithraism.erudition.net>.

Oration of the Emperor Constantine to the "Assembly of the Saints".  Calvin College, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, May 27, 1999.  September 10, 2001. <http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-01/Npnf2-01-31.htm#TopOfPage>.

Plato.  Dialogues. 2 vols. NY:  Random House, 1937.

Secco Ellauri, Oscar and Pedro Daniel Baridon. 1941. Historia universal - Roma.  Buenos Aires:  Kapelusz, 1991.1

Sellers, Jane B.  The Death of Gods Ancient Egypt. London:  Penguin Books, 1992.

Tollinchi, Estéban.  La metamorfosis de Roma:  espacios, figuras y símbolos.  Río Piedras:  Editorial Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1998.