State Church Of The Roman Empire

A Summary Chronology
Ben H. Swett
7 May 1998
If the pagans of the first century were amazed by the love which Christians bore one another, those of later centuries could have been equally astonished at the loathing and intolerance the upholders of loving God and their fellowmen displayed towards their associates whose formulae for defining the indefinable differed from their own.

-- David Christie-Murray, A History of Heresy --


For many years, I wondered what happened to Christianity between the Sermon on the Mount and the Spanish Inquisition. How did the teachings of Jesus become so completely reversed in Christian practice? For the first 300 years, Christianity spread without violence, permeating the world like yeast in bread, by preaching a better God and a Master worth following, and by demonstrating a better way to live both here and hereafter. Then, sometime between AD 300 and 400, everything changed. Suddenly, Christians were the persecutors, instead of the persecuted, and remained so until modern times.

I read everything I could find on this period, but my question was not answered. By searching the Internet, I found and bought a book entitled "The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: The Seven Ecumenical Councils" -- and wrestled with ancient theological doctrines until I could hardly see.

Then I remembered that theological doctrines serve political purposes, and went looking to see what the Roman Emperors did. Little by little, the picture of what happened to Christianity became clearer to me, but something was still missing, so I started building my own chronology and inserting into it everything I could find. This paper is the result of that process.

I could not find this material in any one place. I gathered it from many sources, stripped it of biased adjectives, preferential and prejudicial vocabulary, dogmatic propaganda and retroactive re-labeling, and compiled it in chronological order. Wherever I detected a change of policy or practice, I went searching for the cause of that change.

Now my question is answered. However, the picture that emerged from this study bears little resemblance to any conventional history of Christianity.


303 Diocletian and Maximinus.
The Eastern Roman Emperor Diocletian issued four edicts, beginning in March 303, which severely persecuted Christians by ordering churches destroyed, books burned, priests jailed, and even household servants deprived of their liberty if they persisted in professing Christian belief. Christians were forbidden to assemble and were placed outside the law. Those who refused to sacrifice to the gods were imprisoned, tortured, and killed.

Contemporary accounts of this persecution illustrate how emperors' edicts were implemented downward through all levels of the government.
During the second year, the war against us increased greatly. It was commanded that all the people throughout the city should sacrifice and pour out libations to the idols. ... Maximinus issued edicts for the first time, that all the people should offer sacrifice, and the rulers of the city should see to this diligently and zealously. Heralds went through the whole city of Caesaream by the orders of the governor, summoning men, women and children to the temples of the idols, and in addition the chiliarchs were calling upon each one by name from a roll.

The governors and military prefects incited -- by edicts, letters, and public ordinances -- the magistrates and generals, and the city clerks in all the cities, to fulfill the imperial edicts which commanded that the altars of the idols should be rebuilt with all zeal, and that all the men, together with the women and children, even infants at the breast, should offer sacrifice and pour out libations. And these urged them anxiously, carefully, to make sure that the people taste of the sacrifices; and that the viands in the market should be polluted by the libations of the sacrifices, and that watches should be stationed before the baths to defile with the all-abominable sacrifices all those who wash therein. [Medieval Source Book, Diocletian, De Mart]

Apparently this persecution was a large-scale effort. There were probably about six million Christians in the Empire (ten percent of the population), and there are contemporary indications that a significant percentage of them refused to comply with the Emperor's edicts. For example, while visiting Rome, Diocletian ordered that all the jailed Christians be forced to sacrifice to the Roman gods, because the jails were so full there was no room for criminals. [Stark] [Eusebius, viii, 2 - 6]

305 Four-man rule. Diocletian and Maximian divided the empire into four regions called prefectures. The Western Empire was divided between Constantius in Gaul (France, Germany, Britain and Spain) and Maxentius in Italy and North Africa. The Eastern Empire was divided between Flavius Severus in Illyricum (Greece and the Balkan countries) and Galerius in Asia (Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt). Then Maximian and Diocletian resigned in hope that this four-man system of government would work. It didn't. The result was civil war.

306 Constantius died, and his son Constantine was proclaimed Emperor of the West by his troops even though Maxentius was still the Caesar of Italy and Africa.

307 Flavius Severus died, and Licinius became Caesar of Illyricum.

311 Edict of Toleration. Galerius issued an edict shortly before his death in which he explained the persecution and then granted tolerance to the Christian religion. He believed his fatal illness was the vengeance of the Christian God.
Among other arrangements which we are always accustomed to make for the prosperity and welfare of the republic, we had desired formerly to bring all things into harmony with the ancient laws and public order of the Romans, and to provide that even the Christians who had left the religion of their fathers should come back to reason; since, indeed, the Christians themselves, for some reason, had followed such a caprice and had fallen into such a folly that they would not obey the institutes of antiquity, which perchance their own ancestors had first established; but at their own will and pleasure, they would thus make laws unto themselves which they should observe and would collect various peoples in diverse places in congregations.

Finally when our law had been promulgated to the effect that they should conform to the institutes of antiquity, many were subdued by the fear of danger, many even suffered death. And yet since most of them persevered in their determination, and we saw that they neither paid the reverence and awe due to the gods nor worshipped the god of the Christians, in view of our most mild clemency and the constant habit by which we are accustomed to grant indulgence to all, we thought that we ought to grant our most prompt indulgence also to these, so that they may again be Christians and may hold their conventicles, provided they do nothing contrary to good order. [Internet Medieval Source Book]

Galerius was succeeded by Maximin, but Licinius soon added Asia to Illyricum and became Emperor of the East.

312 The Conversion of Constantine. While on his way to Rome with his army to battle Maxentius for control of the western empire, Constantine saw a cross in the sky over the sun, with the message, "In This Conquer." He ordered his soldiers to mark on their shields the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ (chi, rho) and put a cross-bar on their flag staffs to make them resemble Christian crosses. He was victorious in battle at the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber River (28 October) and considered his victory confirmation of his decision to endorse Christianity.

313 The Edict of Milan. In January 313 the emperors Constantine and Licinius met and agreed on a policy of tolerance of religious diversity throughout the empire. Apparently there is no extant copy of the edict itself; the following are extracts from a rescript (implementing instruction) sent to provincial governors.
No one whatsoever should be denied the opportunity to give his heart to the observance of the Christian religion, or that religion which he should think best for himself... for the sake of the peace of our times, that each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases, this regulation is made so that we may not seem to detract from any dignity of any religion.

In the case of the Christians especially, those places where they were previously accustomed to assemble... shall be restored to the Christians without payment or any claim of recompense and without any kind of fraud or deception... those who have purchased and those who have secured them by gift are to appeal to the vicar if they seek any recompense from our bounty, that they may be cared for through our clemency. All this property ought to be delivered at once to the community of the Christians through your intercession, and without delay. And since these Christians are known to have possessed not only those places in which they were accustomed to assemble, but also other property... belonging to them as a corporation and not as individuals, all these things... you will order to be restored, without any hesitation or controversy at all...

In all these circumstances, you ought to tender your most efficacious intervention to the community of the Christians, that our command may be carried into effect as quickly as possible... In order that the statement of this decree of our good will may come to the notice of all, this rescript, published by your decree, shall be announced everywhere and brought to the knowledge of all, so that the decree of this, our benevolence, cannot be concealed. [Internet Medieval Source Book]

Suddenly -- overnight -- Christianity became one of the state-supported religions. The effect of this change on the clergy can hardly be overstated. During the previous ten years, ordination could be a one-way ticket to meet wild animals in the arena; now it was suddenly the door to a safe, secure, lifetime position, paid for by the state, exempt from taxes, military service and all other public duties.

Predictably, so many men entered the Christian priesthood so rapidly that city officials complained to the emperor, saying they couldn't find enough men to fill their required offices. Constantine issued an order prohibiting men from entering the priesthood who were eligible for civic duties, thus barring the equestrian class and leaving the priesthood open to the lower classes of Roman society. However, as later events show, this restriction was often ignored and not enforced.

Although the Edict of Milan made it clear that all religions should be respected, the strongest provisions dramatically upgraded the social status of Christians. Among other effects of this policy, Christians were allowed to designate churches and clergy as beneficiaries in their wills. Thus churches began to accumulate the wealth of one generation after another.

314 Persecution by Licinius. Mutual enmity between Constantine and Licinius reached the point of war. Constantine defeated Licinius, forcing him to surrender all of Roman Europe except Thrace (the part of Turkey in Europe, and eastern Greece south of Bulgaria). Licinius revenged himself on Constantine's Christian supporters by renewing the persecution in Asia. He excluded Christians from his palace, required every soldier to worship the pagan gods, forbade simultaneous attendance of both sexes at Christian worship, and finally prohibited all Christian services within city walls. Disobedient Christians lost their positions, their citizenship, their property, their liberty, and their lives. [Durant, Vol. III]

Arian -- 1. a set of Christian beliefs held by a priest named Arius; 2. those holding these beliefs whether influenced by Arius or not. [Not to be confused with Aryan.]

Aryan -- 1. a hypothetical prehistoric language inferred from the commonalties of many languages in India and Europe; 2. the prehistoric people who supposedly spoke this language; 3. in Adolph Hitler's National Socialist (Nazi) mythology, the "Nordic" super-race supposedly destined to rule the world.


From its origin onward, there have always been various forms of Christianity, each claiming their own beliefs were orthodox and differing beliefs were heresy. Thus, there never has been a truly universal church. However, a few Christians successfully imposed their beliefs on subsequent generations.

Alexander became the Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, in 312. Shortly thereafter, he stood by a window, watching a group of boys playing on the seashore below his house, and saw they were imitating the ritual of Christian baptism. He had the boys brought to him, and discovered that one of them, Athanasius, had acted the part of a bishop and baptized several of his companions. Alexander decided to recognize these make-believe baptisms as genuine, and said that Athanasius and his playfellows should go into training to fit themselves for a clerical career. Not long after this, Alexander invited Athanasius to be his secretary and share his meals. [The Catholic Encyclopedia cites Rufinus, Hist. Eccl., I, xiv.]

Athanasius was brilliant and well educated. Before he was 20 years old, he wrote two treatises: "Against Pagans" and "The Incarnation" in which he argued that Jesus is God: "con-substantial and co-eternal with the Father ... as is the whole, so also is the part." The Catholic Encyclopedia states that his two treatises "were admittedly written about 318 before Arianism as a movement had begun to be felt."

In these two papers, Athanasius promoted Jesus past all the competition. He maintained that Jesus was not merely a man (because of his miracles); nor a prophet no matter how highly inspired. He was not a man who became a god, as Roman emperors were deified by vote of the Senate; nor a god who became a man, as Mithras was said to have done; nor a demigod like Hercules, the hybrid offspring of a god and a human mother; nor one of many gods, like Zeus; nor even the only-begotten, subordinate Son of the only God. None of these was sufficient. Athanasius said that Jesus was the "Artificer" who created all things in heaven and earth, the "re-creator" of human beings, and that while he was operating his human body, he was also operating and sustaining the rest of the universe as the Supreme Being. [Athanasius; Christian Classics Ethereal Library]

Athanasius apparently started with his conclusion, "Jesus is God," and backed in all the arguments he could muster in support of that conclusion. The use of this rhetorical method is called sophistry. He justified his thesis in terms of its effect on believers: "Apart from belief in the Incarnation, we [they] cannot ultimately believe in Christ as Redeemer."

Arius was a parish priest, the pastor of Baucalis Church in Alexandria. He was known locally for making Christianity understandable, especially by witty rhymes set to catchy tunes. Even the dockhands on the wharves in Alexandria could hum these ditties while unloading fish. [Church History Institute]

319 The beginning of the Arian controversy. During an informal discussion with local clergymen, Arius accused Bishop Alexander of Modalism, which had been declared a heresy by a synod in Rome. (Modalism taught that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three "modes" of God in the same way the sun is bright and hot and round.) From the nature of Arius's accusation, it seems obvious that Bishop Alexander invited Athanasius to present his new treatise on the incarnation, and Arius disagreed with it vehemently. Today, his spontaneous reaction to what he heard would be called cognitive dissonance: "This isn't what we were taught!"
Those who heard these doctrines advanced blamed Alexander for not opposing the innovations at variance with doctrine. But this bishop deemed it more advisable to leave each party to the free discussion of doubtful topics, so that by persuasion rather than by force, they might cease from contention; hence he sat down as a judge with some of his clergy, and led both sides into a discussion. But it happened on this occasion, as is generally the case in a strife of words, that each party claimed the victory. Arius defended his assertions, but the others [i.e., Athanasius] contended that the Son is con-substantial and co-eternal with the Father.

The council was convened a second time, and the same points contested, but they came to no agreement among themselves. During the debate, Alexander seemed to incline first to one party and then to the others; finally, however, he declared himself in favor of those who affirmed that the Son was con-substantial and co-eternal with the Father [i.e., Athanasius], and he commanded Arius to receive this doctrine, and to reject his former opinions. Arius, however, would not be persuaded to compliance, and many of the bishops and clergy considered his statement of doctrine to be correct. Alexander, therefore, ejected him and the clergy who concurred with him in sentiment from the church [twelve priests and two bishops]. Many of the people, likewise, sided with them; some, because they imagined their doctrines to be of God; others, as frequently happens in similar cases, because they believed them to have been ill-treated and unjustly excommunicated. [Sozomen I, xv]

This decision by Bishop Alexander in support of his young secretary, Athanasius, is the first authoritative statement that the Son is con-substantial and co-eternal with the Father. By telling his subordinates what they must and must not believe, Alexander simultaneously created a local orthodoxy and a local heresy. Prior to this point there were various opinions on this subject but no dogma. For example, three writers of the previous century had expressed their views of Christ this way:
Tertullian (160?-230?), who has been called the father of Latin theology, coined the terms later used to define the Incarnation and the Trinity. He wrote that God is one substance in three persons -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- but he did not portray them as equal in precedence or power or esteem. Judged theologically, he was almost a Jew. [Lane]

Origen (185-254) has been called the greatest and most influential Christian teacher between Paul and Augustine. He described a three-level divine hierarchy in which the Father is greater than the Son, and the Son is greater than the Holy Spirit. He was not certain whether the Holy Spirit should be considered a person or a principle. At this time, many Christians believed as Origen did. [Lane]

Paul of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch 260-272, emphasized the sovereignty of God and the humanity of Christ. He said Jesus was a sinless man, uniquely united with God in will and purpose. By his perfect obedience despite his temptations, struggles and suffering, Jesus overcame the sin of Adam and grew in intimacy with God. This doctrine of "Low Christology" was condemned by a local synod. However, the same synod also rejected use of the term homo-ousios (of the same substance) in reference to the relationship of God and Christ. [Lane]

319 Alexander convened a synod of bishops who deposed and excommunicated Arius and those who supported him. Athanasius must have taken a leading part in these events, because he was Alexander's trusted secretary and advisor, and because his name appears among those who signed the letter subsequently issued to counter Arius's views.

319 Arius wrote a letter to Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia (a city in northwestern Turkey about 55 miles east of Constantinople):
To the most esteemed lord, a faithful man of God, the orthodox Eusebius; Arius, unjustly accused by Father Alexander for the sake of truth, which overcomes all things, and which you also defend, greeting in the Lord.

My father Ammonius being about to visit Nicomedia, I thought it my duty to salute you by him; and at the same time to make known to you, as being naturally charitable and affectionate in your disposition towards the brethren, for the love of God and of his Christ, that we are vehemently opposed and persecuted, and every engine is set in motion against us by the bishop; so that he has even expelled us from the city as atheists, because we do not assent to such declarations as follow, publicly uttered by him:

"God is always, the Son is always. The Father and the Son are co-existent. The Son, unbegotten, co-exists with the Father, and is always begotten; without being begotten, he is begotten; nor does God precede the Son in thought, nor by a single moment. Always God, always the Son. From God himself the Son exists."

Because Eusebius, your brother, bishop of Caesarea, and Theodotus and Paulinus, Athanasius [of Asia], Gregorius and Aetius, and all the bishops of the East, affirm that God, who is without a beginning, existed before the Son, they have been condemned; with the exception only of Philogonius, Hellanicus and Macarius, heretical men, and uninstructed in the faith, who say: one, that the Son is an effusion; another, that he is a projection; and another, that, like the Father, he is unbegotten. We could not listen, indeed, to such impieties, although the heretics should threaten us with a thousand deaths.

But what we ourselves say and think, we have already declared, and now declare: that the Son is not unbegotten, nor in any manner a part of the unbegotten, or [made] of any matter subject to him; but in will and design he existed before all times and ages, perfect God, the only unbegotten, or created, or determined, or established, for he was not unbegotten.

We are persecuted because we have said that the Son has a beginning but God is without a beginning. On this account we are persecuted, and because we said that he is of things not existing. Thus we have said because he is not a part of God nor of any subjected matter. On this account we are persecuted. You know the rest.

I hope that you are in health in the Lord, and that you remember our troubles, you true disciple of Lucian, and truly pious man, as your name imports. [Boyle translation]

319 Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia started writing letters to other bishops of Asia Minor in support of Arius, and invited Arius to come to Nicomedia until he could be reinstated as a priest.

320 Alexander wrote a "Catholic Epistle" full of roaring rhetoric (such as: "lawless men, enemies of Christ, teaching an apostasy which one may justly suspect and designate as a forerunner of the Antichrist") in which he informed his fellow bishops that Eusebius of Nicomedia was spreading "the Arian heresy" and warned his colleagues not to follow Eusebius, lest they also fall into apostasy.

321 Arius wrote a letter to Alexander with a summary of his views, the essence of which was: God is God; Jesus is not God. About the same time, he also wrote "The Banquet," perhaps in an effort to defend the orthodoxy his views. Only fragments of this work survive, mostly in adversarial quotations by Athanasius.

Summary. The so-called "Arian Controversy" was initially an argument between two men, Athanasius and Arius. Athanasius authored an exalted Christology, and Arius reacted against it. Then two bishops, Alexander in support of his secretary Athanasius, and Eusebius of Nicomedia in defense of the exiled Arius, transformed what might have remained a minor Egyptian theological debate into an ecumenical controversy. The term "Arian heresy" was coined by Alexander at a time when it was neither Arian nor heresy, but a widely-held set of traditional beliefs. Alexander said Arius had started something that was spreading through Christianity, but what was actually spreading was a reaction against what he did to Arius.

324 Constantine became the only Emperor. The Goths lived north of the Danube River (now part of the border between Romania and Bulgaria) and occasionally tried to invade the Roman Empire. In 324 they invaded Thrace. When Licinius did not move against them, Constantine led his army to the rescue. Then, after the Goths were driven back across the Danube, Licinius and Constantine attacked each other. Licinius had 160,000 men. Constantine had only 130,000 men, but he won the war, and thereafter did not appoint a co-emperor. [Durant, Vol. III]

324 Constantine wrote to the eastern bishops (October):
Concerning the churches over which you yourself preside, or know others who preside in such places, whether bishops, priests, or deacons -- remind them to be active in the building of churches, either restoring or enlarging existing buildings or constructing new ones where need requires. You may yourself request, and the rest may request through you, what is needed from governors and the prefect's office. For these have been given instructions that they are to lend their assistance to communications from your holiness with all eagerness. [Barnes, 177]

By this and similar actions, Constantine gave the bishops political power, judicial authority, autonomy, and immunity. Imperial largesse was channeled through metropolitan bishops to local bishops, and through them to widows and orphans, clergy and their families and servants, and anyone the bishop deemed poor and needy. In essence, Constantine expanded the welfare system and turned most of its administration over to the Christian clergy, thus establishing a new type of patron in a society where patronage was the primary basis of political and social power. Christians became more and more militant and aggressive as they eagerly exploited the opportunities Constantine gave them. Each bishop became the center of a web of local patronage in which many people depended on him for their daily bread. This gave him very real political power that sometimes enabled a bishop to defy the emperor. Athanasius was the earliest and most spectacular example of this phenomenon, but as we shall see, his situation was a very special case because he was the metropolitan bishop of Egypt. [Barnes, 177-179]

324 Alexander wrote a letter to the Bishop of Constantinople in which he warned his fellow bishops of the danger of "the Arian threat". This letter may have been what brought the controversy to the emperor's attention.

324 Constantine sent a letter to both Alexander and Arius, telling them to settle their differences peaceably, or at least keep their arguments private. This letter shows his view of the controversy and the political purpose of his religious policy.
I had proposed to lead back to a single form the ideas which all people conceive of the Deity; for I feel strongly that if I could induce men to unite on that subject, the conduct of public affairs would be considerable eased. But alas! I hear that there are more disputes among you than recently in Africa. The cause seems to be quite trifling, and unworthy of such fierce contests. You, Alexander, wished to know what your priests were thinking on a point of view, even on a portion only of a question in itself entirely devoid of importance; and you, Arius, if you had such thoughts, should have kept silence. ... There was no need to make these questions public ... since they are problems that idleness alone raises, and whose only use is to sharpen men's wits. ... These are silly actions worthy of inexperienced children, and not of priests or reasonable men. [Durant, Vol. III]

324 Constantine sent his advisor on religious matters, Bishop Hosius of Cordoba (in Spain), to settle the quarrel in Alexandria. He failed to do so, but from his subsequent actions, Hosius apparently was very well impressed with Athanasius.

325 Bishop Hosius presided over a council in Antioch, early in the year, which condemned Eusebius of Caesarea for defending Arius, and formulated a doctrinal creed that supported Athanasius.

325 Constantine summoned the first empire-wide council of Christian bishops, and paid for their travel. He wanted them to settle the controversy dividing them. Bishop Silvester of Rome sent two delegates, but he did not attend because of his age, and there is no record that he formally confirmed the acts of this council.

[The Papacy was officially established in 444 by the emperor Valentinian III. He gave the Bishop of Rome authority over all other churches in the Western Empire. Prior to that time, it is not appropriate to refer to a Bishop of Rome as The Pope.]

325 Athanasius was ordained a deacon by Bishop Alexander and accompanied him to the Council of Nicea as his secretary and theological adviser.

325 Council of Nicea. In response to Constantine's summons 318 clerics convened at Nicea (a city about 55 miles southeast of Constantinople) to resolve the dispute concerning the deity of Christ. Regardless of their theology, we can be certain of one thing: they wanted to please the emperor who had rescued Christianity from persecution and initiated state support of their churches. Some of them bore scars from twenty-one years of almost continuous persecution by his predecessors. And from the following sequence of events at this council, it looks very much like they dawdled around for two months waiting to see which way he would lean.

The council met in the large hall of an imperial palace. Bishop Hosius presided. Constantine opened the proceedings by telling the bishops that they had to come to some agreement on the questions dividing them. He said, "Division in the church is worse than war." He obviously intended to govern Christianity the same way Roman Emperors had traditionally governed the pagan religions, as the Pontifex Maximus (highest priest). "He listened patiently to the debates, moderated the violence of contending parties, and himself joined in the argument." [Eusebius]

Arius reconfirmed his view that Christ was a created being, not equal to the Father, and "divine only by participation." Clever questioners forced him to admit that if Christ was a creature, and had a beginning, he could change; and that if he could change he might pass from virtue to vice. The answers were logical, honest, and suicidal. [Durant, Vol. III]

The most learned bishop present, Eusebius of Caesarea, presented the doctrinal statement he had inherited from his predecessors:
Creed of Caesarea

We believe in only one God, Father Almighty, Creator of things visible and invisible; and in the Lord Jesus Christ, for he is the Word of God, God of God, Light of Light, life of life, his only son, the first-born of all creatures, begotten of the Father before all time, by whom also everything was created, who became flesh for our redemption, who lived and suffered among men, rose again the third day, returned to the Father, and will come again one day in his glory to judge the quick and the dead. We believe also in the Holy Ghost.

After meeting for two months (July - August), many of the bishops were ready to compromise, but the new deacon from Alexandria was not. With the support of Alexander and Hosius, Athanasius continued to insist on a creed that stated the full Deity of Jesus Christ. He justified his thesis in political terms well-calculated to stimulate the primary fear of these bishops: "If the people do not believe Jesus is God, paganism will triumph."

Eusebius of Nicomedia sent a letter to the council in which he said he would never agree that Christ was of the same substance as God. Thus he handed Alexander and Hosius a convenient way to get rid of him. The suggestion to insert the word homo-ousios (of one substance) into the Creed probably came from Hosius. Athanasius accepted it as expressive of the sense in which he held Jesus to be God Incarnate. Eusebius of Caesarea and other bishops suggested using the word homo-i-ousios (of similar substance). Thus they presented the traditional view that Jesus is like God, but not the same as God. (In theology: divine, but not deity.)

Probably because Hosius had great influence with Constantine, the imperial nod went to his side of the table, whereupon Hosius wrote the Creed of Nicea and the anathemas attached to it:
Creed of Nicea

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made, both in heaven and on earth; who for us men and for our salvation came down and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost.

And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence, or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion -- all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.

All but a few of the bishops accepted this modified creed. Eusebius of Caesarea finally agreed that the Son is of the same substance as the Father, and signed the creed, but he but did not agree that the Son is part of the Father. [Eusebius]

Constantine exiled Arius and those who supported him, including Eusebius of Nicomedia. He decreed that all writings by Arius should be burned, and that anyone who did not surrender such writings immediately upon discovery would be put to death.

The Council of Nicea was a pivotal event in the history of Christianity. The sudden adoption of a quasi-philosophic term to define the historic Jesus as equal to God was a major departure from scripture and tradition. Further, the use of this term in a Creed meant that, from 325 on, Nicenes could and did proclaim other dogmas that have no basis in Scripture.

Constantine established the precedent that the emperor was Pontifex Maximus (highest priest) of Christians, but he did not abuse his authority. He denied himself the right to try bishops, referred all such cases to a council of bishops, and did not dictate or reverse church council decisions. What was new was the almost automatic secular enforcement of church council decisions. [Barnes, 172]

327 Arius wrote a letter to Constantine that included a petition to be restored to the church and a creed that attempted to show the orthodoxy of his position.

327 Council of Nicomedia (December). Constantine convened a council of bishops who investigated Arius, pronounced his views orthodox, and readmitted him and his supporters to communion, whereupon Constantine reversed his endorsement of the Council of Nicea by recalling Arius and his supporters from exile. [Barnes, 17]

328 Bishop Alexander of Alexandria died (17 April) after expressing his desire that Athanasius succeed him. Before a decision could be reached by the 54 bishops deliberating over a replacement for Alexander, a small group of his friends (six or seven bishops) went to the Church of Dionysius and consecrated Athanasius as Bishop of Alexandria, despite the fact that he was not yet 30 years old as required by church law (8 June). Athanasius wrote a letter to Constantine announcing his election, which he represented as the unanimous choice of the people of Alexandria. He quoted a decree of the city council as proof. The shocked opposition proceed to elect a bishop of their own. [Barnes, 18-20]

328 Constantine wrote a letter to Athanasius, urging him to re-admit Arius to communion. Athanasius refused to obey the emperor, saying there could be no fellowship with anyone who denied the Deity of Christ. Constantine wrote again: "Since you know my will, grant free admission to all those who wish to enter the church. For if I hear that you have hindered anyone from becoming a member, or have debarred anyone from entrance, I shall immediately send someone to have you deposed at my behest and have you sent into exile."

328 Eusebius of Nicomedia brought charges against Athanasius, the most serious of which was that he had not reached the required age of 30 at the time of his consecration.

Summary. Why did Constantine change his mind? Church historians say that his sister, Constantia, pleaded for Arius on her deathbed, and that may be true, but Constantine convened and acted on the decision of another church council. And he also changed his mind about Athanasius. Constantine wanted harmony in the church as a basis for governance. When Athanasius refused to obey him, he probably re-evaluated the entire controversy and identified Athanasius as the trouble-maker. In any event, Constantine did change his mind. He restored all the clerics who were condemned at the Council of Nicea and allowed Eusebius of Nicomedia to bring charges against Athanasius.

330 The churches of Alexandria sent a delegation of bishops to Constantine, to protest the use of coercive measures against them by Athanasius, and to request imperial permission to meet peaceably. Eusebius of Nicomedia befriended them at court, and obtained an audience for them with the emperor. [Barnes, 21]

330 Constantinople. Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire from the city of Rome to Byzantium, a city in Asia (now Istanbul, in northwestern Turkey) which he renamed "New Rome" but the people called Constantinople. In the same year, his mother, Helene, sponsored building the Church of the Nativity on the site in Bethlehem traditionally claimed to be the place where Jesus was born.

332 Athanasius stone-walled the investigation by church authorities for four years by simply ignoring their letters and requests. Finally, Constantine summoned him to meet with a council of bishops and answer the charges against him.

335 Synod of Tyre. After protracted delays for another thirty months, Athanasius finally consented to appear before a synod of bishops at Tyre (a city in Lebanon). He brought with him a gang of ruffians who disrupted the business of the synod while he abused his fellow bishops. When he realized the decision would probably go against him, he refused to be tried by the synod. He suddenly fled from Tyre in a boat with some of his friends and went to see the emperor. The synod deposed him as an overbearing prelate who systematically employed violence in the affairs of the church, and again pronounced Arius theologically orthodox. [Barnes, 22-23]

Constantine was returning from a hunt when Athanasius stepped into the road in front of him and demanded a hearing. The astonished emperor could hardly believe his eyes, and needed the assurance of one of his attendants to convince him that this was indeed the Bishop of Alexandria. Athanasius said, "Give me a just tribunal or allow me to meet my accusers face to face in your presence." His request was granted. Constantine sent a letter to the bishops at Tyre requesting them to meet in his presence to discuss the matter.

On 6 November 335 the charges against Athanasius were reviewed by the bishops in the presence of the emperor, who found him innocent of several of the charges, including murder. But Athanasius was also accused of threatening to prevent the flow of grain from Egypt to Constantinople. (As the metropolitan bishop of Egypt, he had legitimate access to the Egyptian grain supply for charitable purposes, but because Egypt was one of the main sources of supply for Constantinople, he could divert grain that was needed to prevent riots in the imperial city.) Upon hearing this charge, Athanasius lost his temper and told Constantine that God would ultimately judge between them. Constantine sent him into exile at Trier (a city on the Moselle River in western Germany near the border with Luxembourg). In letters to the church at Alexandria, Constantine justified his refusal to reinstate Athanasius by describing him as a trouble-maker whose condemnation by a council of bishops he could not simply set aside at his own whim. Athanasius probably began his journey in February 336 and arrived in late autumn of that year. His exile lasted nearly two and a half years. [Barnes, 24, 179]

336 The death of Arius. Constantine ordered Bishop Alexander of Constantinople to give Arius communion in his own church. Arius openly triumphed; but as he went about the city on the evening before a formal ceremony was to restore him to his rank as a priest, he suddenly experienced such violent diarrhea that "his bowels came out" and he died in a public toilet, "which Catholics could not help regarding as a judgment of heaven, due to the bishop's prayers." [The Catholic Encyclopedia] More likely, Arius was poisoned.

In summary of his life, all Arius really did was stand up to his bishop, when his bishop endorsed a recognized heresy. For this Arius was deposed from the priesthood, excommunicated from the church, and sent into exile. He wrote a few letters defending the orthodoxy of his views and begging to be restored to the church. That's all. He did not introduce anything new, or go about preaching and teaching, or sway any church councils to his way of thinking. Upon investigation, his theological views were declared orthodox by two church councils prior to his death, and by more church councils thereafter.

Every book I read on this subject, including encyclopedias, dictionaries, secular histories, and even the History of Heresy, flatly states that Arius preached heresy and Athanasius defended the ancient orthodoxy. But the chronological sequence of events clearly shows that what actually happened was the precise opposite: Athanasius was the innovator, not Arius, and his innovations were in fact departures from scripture and apostolic tradition. Therefore, I now believe all the books I read are preserving an inversion of history.

337 Death of Constantine (22 May). One of his last acts was to outlaw crucifixion throughout the empire in respect for Christ. He was baptized on his deathbed by Eusebius of Nicomedia, and his eulogy was delivered by Eusebius of Caesarea, both of whom were "Arians". In summary: Constantine stopped the persecution of Christians, made Christianity legal and strongly supported it, but he did not impose it on the empire. He convened the Council of Nicea and initially endorsed the results, but he soon changed his mind about Athanasius and Arius. The Empire was divided between his three sons: Constantius ruled in Gaul, Constans in Italy, and Constantine II became the Emperor of the East.

337 Constantius released Athanasius from exile in Trier and told him to return to Alexandria (17 June). Athanasius traveled in a leisurely manner, spreading his doctrines as he went. He was in Constantinople that summer, where he had an audience with Constantius. By the end of November, he was again the Bishop of Alexandria, even though he had ignored the decision of a duly authorized synod and returned without the summons of any church authority. [Barnes, 30, 213]

337 Bishop Alexander of Constantinople died. (He was 98 years old.) Shortly thereafter, while Constantius was absent from the city, a Nicene named Paul was made bishop of Constantinople by a group of his friends, without the ratification of neighboring bishops. When he returned, Constantius summoned a council of bishops. They deposed Paul and installed Eusebius of Nicomedia as the Bishop of Constantinople. [Barnes, 231]

339 Council of Antioch. Convened in the presence of Constantius, this council deposed Athanasius for having resumed his office without even seeking approval of any church authority, and elected Gregory of Cappadocia to replace him. On 16 March soldiers tried to arrest Athanasius, but he hid from them. On 22 March Gregory entered Alexandria as the new bishop. On 16 April Athanasius left Egypt and wrote an encyclical letter to a large number of bishops complaining that he was unjustly treated. [Barnes, 45-46] He went to Rome and presented his case to Bishop Julius, who took up his cause. Julius summoned a synod of bishops who declared Athanasius innocent of the charges against him, but he did not return to Alexandria for seven years. While he was in Rome, he probably wrote the list of New Testament books called the "Codex Vaticanus", because the 27 books and the unusual order in which they are listed are identical to the list he published later.

340 Constantine II declared war against his brother, Caesar Constans of Italy, and was killed by his own generals. Constantius succeeded him as Emperor of the East, leaving Constans as Emperor of the West.

341 Constantius prohibited public sacrifices to the pagan gods.

341 Wulfila (Ulfilas) was ordained Bishop of the Goths by Eusebius of Nicomedia, the Bishop of Constantinople. Wulfila was born in 311 among the Goths north of the Danube River, the son of a Christian who was taken there as a captive from Cappadocia. Wulfila was not an "Arian". According to his disciple, Auxentius, he maintained that both sides of the Arian controversy were heretical. "His devoted and virtuous life generated such confidence in his wisdom and integrity that many of the Goths accepted Christianity." [Auxentius on Wulfila]

The Goths had no written language. Wulfila created the Gothic alphabet, based on the Greek alphabet, and taught them to read and write. He patiently translated, from Greek into Gothic, all of the Bible except the two Books of Kings, which he omitted as dangerously warlike. Wulfila's Bible, which he completed in 343, was the first literary work in any Teutonic (German) language.


341 Synod of Antioch.
The precise date of this synod is known, because it was held at the time of the dedication of the great church in Antioch known as the "Golden" which was begun by Constantine and finished by his son Constantius. All 97 of the bishops present were from the Eastern Empire, and most of them were hostile to Athanasius. Modern church historians have difficulty explaining this council:
... there is no council that presents a greater amount of difficulty to the historian as well as to the theologian. No one can deny that St. Hilary of Poitiers, who was a contemporary, styled it a Synod of Saints (Synodus Sanctorum); that two of its canons were read at Chalcedon as the "canons of the Holy Fathers"; and that Popes John II, Zacharias, and Leo IV all approved these canons, and attributed them to "Holy Fathers." And yet this synod set forth creeds to rival that of Nicea, and, it is said, some of the canons were adopted to condemn Athanasius. Various attempts have been made to escape from these difficulties. It has been suggested that there really were two Synods at Antioch, the one orthodox, which adopted the canons, the other heretical. And yet, St. Hilary says that these creeds proceeded from a "Synod of Saints." [The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Vol. XIV]

Very interesting. The canons produced by this council are included in church law and history, but the creeds are not. Why not? Further research finds the first through fourth "Arian Confessions" were written by this council. However, the first paragraph of the first "Arian Confession" states that this "Synod of Saints" was not Arian. Therefore, I believe "Arian" is retroactive re-labeling. Subsequent events show that this council was the beginning of a long-term effort to produce a truly consensus statement of the Christian faith.
The First Consensus Creed ("Arian Confession")

We have not been followers of Arius -- how could Bishops, such as we, follow a Presbyter [priest]? -- nor did we receive any other faith besides that which has been handed down from the beginning. But, after taking on ourselves to examine and to verify his faith, we admitted him rather than followed him; as you will understand from our present avowals.

For we have been taught from the first, to believe in one God, the God of the Universe, the Framer and Preserver of all things both intellectual and sensible. And in one Son of God, only-begotten, who existed before all ages, and was with the Father who had begotten Him, by whom all things were made, both visible and invisible, who in the last days according to the good pleasure of the Father came down; and has taken flesh of the Virgin, and jointly fulfilled all his Father's will, and suffered and risen again, and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father, and comes again to judge the quick and the dead, and remains King and God unto all ages. And we believe also in the Holy Ghost; and if it be necessary to add, we believe concerning the resurrection of the flesh, and the life everlasting. [The Ecole Initiative]

341 Eusebius of Nicomedia, the Bishop of Constantinople, died late in the year. The Nicenes brought back Paul, who had been deposed as a usurper in 337. The "Arians" elected Macedonius. Rioting ensued. Constantius was in Antioch. When he heard what was happening, he sent one of his generals, Hermogenes, but Paul's partisans resisted with force. When Hermogenes persisted in sending solders to expel Paul, a mob burned the house where Hermogenes was staying and murdered him. Constantius himself then came with an army, expelled Paul, fined the city by reducing the daily distribution of free bread (by 50 percent), and returned to Antioch, leaving Macedonius as Bishop of Constantinople. Paul went to the western court at Trier, where he soon persuaded the emperor Constans to champion his cause -- and that of Athanasius. [Barnes, 213-214]

342 Constans invited Athanasius to his court, and laid before him a plan which Constantius had formed for a reunion of the churches. Athanasius went to consult with Bishop Hosius. They traveled together to the Council of Sardica.

343 Council of Sardica. Hosius presided over this council, which was summoned by the emperor Constans at the request of Bishop Julius of Rome in an attempt to unify the churches. The 94 Western bishops were not receptive to unification. The 76 Eastern bishops demanded Athanasius be deposed, but the Western majority of the council said he was innocent.

344 Council of Philippopolis. This council of Eastern bishops who left the Council of Sardica condemned Hosius, Athanasius, Julius, and four other bishops. Their letter stated several specific cases in which Athanasius had employed violence and intimidation against those who opposed him. Constantius decreed that, if Athanasius tried to return to Alexandria, he would be put to death. Athanasius left Sardica and went to Milan by invitation of Constans. [Barnes, 2, 72]

344 Council of Antioch. This Council wrote the Fifth Consensus Creed ("Arian Confession"), which is notably longer than those written at Antioch in 341.

345 The western emperor Constans intervened in the religious affairs of the east. On 7 April 345 he wrote to his brother, the eastern emperor Constantius:
Athanasius and Paul are here with me. From questioning them I have discovered that they are being persecuted for the sake of piety. Accordingly, if you undertake to restore them to their episcopal thrones, expelling those who are vainly clinging to them, I shall send the men to you. But if you were to refuse to take this action, be assured that I will come in person and restore them to the thrones which are theirs, even against your will. [Barnes, 89. Sozomen specifically reports two letters from Constans, the first requesting Constantius to restore Athanasius and Paul, the second telling him "either to receive the men or prepare for war."]

345 Bishop Gregory of Alexandria died, probably of violence (26 June), whereupon Constantius yielded. He probably realized that any election in Alexandria would lead to violence which the supporters of Athanasius would win, and that he could not risk a civil war in which the Bishop of Alexandria supported the other side. He wrote to Constans and Athanasius, inviting Athanasius to come to his court. But Athanasius stayed with Constans for another full year. Constantius wrote twice more. Finally, Athanasius went to meet with Constantius in Antioch. He was accorded a gracious interview, and was sent back to Alexandria in triumph. He entered the city on 21 October 346. There he began his ten years' reign, which lasted until his third exile in 356. [Barnes, 90, 167, 225]

346 Constantius also allowed Bishop Paul to return to Constantinople.

348 Under persecution by Athanaric, the pagan Gothic chieftain, Bishop Wulfila obtained permission from the emperor Constantius to bring his community of Gothic Christians across the Danube into the Empire. They settled in Thrace.

349 Council of Antioch. This council condemned and deposed Athanasius, and elected George of Cappadocia as the Bishop of Alexandria, but Constantius did not enforce this part of their decision. They also condemned and deposed Bishop Paul. Constantius had him arrested and sent to prison. [Barnes, 19]

350 Death of Constans. Constans was not popular or widely respected. Writing in 361, Aurelius Victor charged him with rabid pederasty, headlong avarice, and the employment of corrupt ministers. He alienated his high civilian officials and his military officers. On 18 January 350 his most successful general, Magnentius, was proclaimed Emperor. Constans fled, but he was caught and killed. [Barnes, 101]

350 Magnentius apparently wrote to Athanasius and Paul, and perhaps other bishops, trying to enlist their support against Constantius. Athanasius later denied this correspondence. Letters between Magnentius and Paul were probably intercepted, because at this time Paul was strangled in prison. [Barnes, 214-217]

351 Council of Sirmium. This council condemned and deposed Athanasius on charges of high treason for having fomented enmity between Constans and Constantius. But Constantius did not enforce this decision, either, because he was at war with Magnentius and could not risk having the Bishop of Alexandria against him. The Sixth Consensus Creed ("Arian Confession") was written here. It seems to be an expanded revision of the Fourth Consensus Creed written in 341. By this time there were probably about 34 million Christians in the Empire (56 percent of the population), which was a five-fold increase in fifty years, almost all of it in the last twenty-five years. [Barnes, 63, 103, 109, 167] [Stark]

352 Bishop Julius of Rome died (12 April), and Liberius succeeded him. For two years Liberius was favorable to the cause of Athanasius, but then he signed a formula from which the Nicene word, homo-ousios, was omitted.

353 Constantius became the only emperor. Over a two-year period, Constantius drove Magnentius out of the Balkans and Italy. Magnentius retreated to Gaul, but in the summer of 353 Constantius sent his forces across the Alps. They won the major battle at Mons Seleucus, and Magnentius committed suicide (10 August). Thereafter, Constantius did not appoint a co-emperor. [Barnes, 106]

353 Council of Arles (autumn). Supported Arius and condemned Athanasius. Imperial orders were sent to the prefect of Egypt that "the grain be taken away from Athanasius and given to those who hold the views of Arius." [Barnes, 179]

354 Constantius ordered the closing of some pagan temples and prescribed death for those who sacrificed in public. However, many pagan temples and rites were permitted to survive.

355 Council of Milan. Athanasius was condemned and deposed. This time there were four charges against him (all of which he denied in his later writings): that he fostered enmity between Constans and Constantius before 350, corresponded with Magnentius in 350, used the Great Church begun by Gregory before it had been dedicated, and disobeyed an imperial summons to come to court in 353. Only a handful of Western bishops spoke in his behalf. The council confirmed George of Cappadocia as the Bishop of Alexandria. And again, imperial orders were sent to the prefect of Egypt that "the grain be taken away from Athanasius." [Barnes, 118, 179, 196]

356 Constantius enforced the decision of the Council of Milan. Soldiers were sent to arrest Athanasius, but he fled (8 February). After remaining some days in the neighborhood of Alexandria, he was thought to have gone into the desert of upper Egypt. Force was used in Alexandria and throughout Egypt to secure compliance with the deposition of Athanasius: of the 90 bishops who supported him, 16 were exiled, some fled, and others conformed. But resistance proved tenacious, especially in Alexandria. His supporters retained the city churches until June, when the new prefect expelled them and handed the churches over to supporters of Bishop George, who arrived in Alexandria on 24 February 357. However, his hold on the diocese was never secure and did not last long. [Barnes, 119]

357 Council of Sirmium. This council wrote the Seventh Consensus Creed ("Arian Confession"). The words ousios, homo-ousios and homo-i-ousios were rejected as not biblical, and it was agreed that God the Father is greater than his subordinate Son. Bishop Hosius, by now a centenarian, was forced to attend this council and sign this formula against his will.

358 Council of Ancyra. A council of dissenting bishops at Ancyra refused to accept the creed of the Council of Sirmium.

358 A mob of the supporters of Athanasius attacked Bishop George in the Church of Dionysius and almost lynched him (29 August). Just over a month later, he left Alexandria, and they seized all the churches in the city a few days later. The civil authorities ejected them and restored the churches to the supporters of George (24 December). Why did these people fight so hard for an exiled bishop? It wasn't his theology: it was his patronage. Through his entrenched network of subordinate bishops, Athanasius still controlled the distribution of patronage in Egypt, and especially the distribution of grain. Loyalty was bought and paid for with daily bread. Nicene people fought because the imperial government tried to take their welfare benefits away from them, and Nicene bishops fought because their own power depended on their distribution of those benefits. [Barnes, 119, 177-179]

359 Council of Sirmium. (May) This council wrote the Eighth Consensus Creed ("Arian Confession").

359 Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia. Constantius summoned two councils to finish developing a consensus creed for Christianity. The Council of Ariminum in the West was attended by more than 400 bishops (May). The Council of Seleucia in the East was attended by about 160 bishops (September). After a series of stormy arguments, they wrote the Ninth Consensus Creed ("Arian Confession") which affirmed that Jesus is divine "like the Father" and anathematized those who said he is not like the Father. In the end, both councils subscribed to this traditional ("Semi-Arian") statement of the Christian Faith. [Barnes, 144-148]

360 Council of Constantinople. A council of 72 bishops, including Bishop Wulfila of the Goths, convened in Constantinople (January) to review the conclusions of Ariminum and Seleucia the year before. They abolished the use of unscriptural terms in reference to God, and condemned as heresy all formulas contrary to this one:
The Tenth Consensus Creed ("Arian Confession")

We believe in One God, Father Almighty, from whom are all things;

And in the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from God before all ages and before every beginning, by whom all things were made, visible and invisible, and begotten as only-begotten, only from the Father, only God from God, like to the Father that begat Him according to the Scriptures; whose origin no one knows, except the Father alone who begat Him. He, as we acknowledge, the only-begotten Son of God, the Father sending Him, came hither from the heavens, as it is written, for the undoing of sin and death, and was born of the Holy Ghost, of Mary the Virgin, according to the flesh, as it is written, and convened with the disciples, and having fulfilled the whole stewardship according to the Father's will, was crucified and dead and buried and descended to the parts below the earth; at whom Hades itself shuddered: who also rose from the dead on the third day, and abode with the disciples, and, forty days being fulfilled, was taken up into the heavens, and sits at the right hand of the Father, to come in the last day of the resurrection in the Father's glory, that He may render to every man according to his works.

And in the Holy Ghost, whom the only-begotten Son of God himself, Christ, our Lord and God, promised to send to the race of man, as Paraclete, as it is written, 'the Spirit of truth' (John 16:13), which He sent unto them when He had ascended into the heavens.

But the name of 'Essence,' which was set down by the Fathers in simplicity, and, being unknown by the people, caused offense, because the Scriptures contain it not, it has seemed good to abolish, and for the future to make no mention of it at all; since the divine Scriptures have made no mention of the Essence of Father and Son. For neither ought 'Substance' to be named concerning Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But we say that the Son is Like the Father, as the divine Scriptures say and teach; and all the heresies, both those which have been afore condemned already, and whatever are of modern date, being contrary to this published statement, be they anathema. [From: The Ecole Initiative]


360 Declaration of Establishment.
Constantius declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. This was an orthodox Christianity. Neither Nicene nor "Arian", it was a consensus worked out by a dozen councils of bishops, in the East and the West, over the previous nineteen years. However, this monumental event is not even mentioned in most history books. I found it in "A History of Heresy" [Christie-Murray] and alluded to, but not stated clearly, in an ancient Ecclesiastical History written about 430 AD. [Sozomen, IV, xxiii].

360 Constantius' armies in the East were facing difficulties and meeting defeat. His cousin Julian, whom he appointed Caesar of Gaul in 355, defeated a German invasion and was declared Emperor by his army. Then Julian suddenly changed his religion. Although he had previously confessed Christianity, he declared himself the Pontifex Maximus of pagans, frequented pagan temples, offered sacrifices, and invited his subjects to adopt that form of worship.

361 Synod of Antioch. This was a meeting of bishops who disagreed with the newly established orthodoxy. Led by Acacius, who had succeeded Eusebius as the Bishop of Caesarea, they wrote a creed in which they asserted that Christ is dissimilar from God in all respects -- substance and will -- and had no existence prior to his birth. However, their view was refuted by "Semi-Arians" and Nicenes, and not adopted by anyone. [Sozomen IV, xxix]

361 Death of Constantius. While Constantius was in Syria leading his army to face an expected invasion by the Persians, Julian led his army into Illyricum under the pretext that he intended to apologize to Constantius for receiving the symbols of imperial authority without his approval. When Constantius heard that Julian was marching toward him with an army, he abandoned his expedition against the Persians and started back toward Constantinople, but he died on the way (4 November). He was 45 years old. In summary: Constantius attended councils which discussed credal matters, and he fostered attempts to define an acceptable orthodoxy, but he consistently observed and explicitly asserted the principle that a bishop could be condemned and deposed only by a council of his peers, whatever the charge. [Barnes 132]

361 Julian the Apostate. A little while after Constantius died, Julian entered Constantinople and was proclaimed emperor.

361 The death of Constantius was soon followed by an attack against the "Arian" Christians in Alexandria. Bishop George entered the city on 26 November. Four days later came news of the death of Constantius. George was imprisoned and tortured. On 24 December a mob dragged him out of prison and murdered him. On receiving this news, Julian jumped to the conclusion that George had been murdered by pagans. He wrote the city a letter of mild rebuke for killing George "the enemy of the gods" rather than leaving him to be tried and suitably punished. But more likely George was murdered by supporters of Athanasius. [Barnes, 155]

362 Julian canceled all the privileges granted to Christians by Constantine and his sons, and set about restoring paganism (4 February).
He commanded that all the pagan temples should be reopened throughout the East; that those which had been neglected should be repaired; that those which had fallen into ruins should be rebuilt, and that the altars should be restored. He assigned considerable money for this purpose; he restored the customs of antiquity and the ancestral ceremonies in the cities, and the practice of offering sacrifice. He himself offered libations openly and publicly sacrificed; bestowed honors on those who were zealous in the performance of these ceremonies; restored the initiators and the priests, the hierophants and the servants of the images, to their old privileges; and confirmed the legislation of former emperors in their behalf; he conceded exemption from duties and from other burdens as was their previous right; he restored the provisions, which had been abolished, to the temple guardians, and commanded them to be pure from meats, and to abstain from whatever according to pagan saying was befitting him who had announced his purpose of leading a pure life. [Sozomen V, v]

362 Act of Clemency (8 February). Julian believed that paganism would be advanced more successfully by patience and mildness towards Christians.
He recalled from exile all Christians who had been banished on account of their religious sentiments, and restored to them their property that had been confiscated by law. He charged the people not to commit any act of injustice against the Christians, not to insult them, and not to force them to offer sacrifice unwillingly. He commanded that if they should of their own accord desire to draw near the altars, they were first to appease the wrath of the demons, whom the pagans regard as capable of averting evil, and to purify themselves by the customary course of expiations. He deprived the clergy, however, of the immunities, honors, and provisions which Constantine had conferred; repealed the laws which had been enacted in their favor, and reinforced their statute liabilities. He even compelled the virgins and widows, who, on account of their poverty, were reckoned among the clergy, to refund the provision which had been assigned them from public sources. For when Constantine adjusted the temporal concerns of the Church, he devoted a sufficient portion of the taxes raised upon every city to the support of the clergy everywhere. [Sozomen V, v]

362 Trinity and Creed. Athanasius appeared by night in the church at Alexandria (22 February). His sudden appearance caused great astonishment, for although he was thought to be somewhere in Upper Egypt, he had concealed himself in the house of a holy virgin in Alexandria. He promptly convened and led a small Synod of bishops who disagreed with the recently established orthodoxy. They approved the Athanasian Creed, in which God is defined as one substance (substantia) in three persons (persona, an actor's face mask) -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This was when and how the Holy Spirit was made into a person and promoted to the Godhead: "They confessed that the Holy Ghost is of the same substance as the Father and the Son, and they made use of the term 'Trinity.'" [Sozomen, V, xii]

Church historians still maintain that Arius tried to strip the mystery out of the Holy Trinity, but Arius died before Athanasius defined the Trinity. I believe that Athanasius made Christian theology mysterious by the paradoxical assertion: "Three equals One." I still don't know why he made the Holy Spirit a person equal to God, but he previously said, "Unless the people believe Jesus is God, paganism will triumph," so I think he probably defined the Trinity for a political purpose.

362 Julian deposed Athanasius (23 October) on grounds that the act of clemency did not restore bishops to office, but only to their native lands, and Athanasius had resumed his office without Julian's permission. But Athanasius did not leave, so Julian expelled him from Egypt. Athanasius dismissed this order of the emperor as "a small cloud which will soon pass," went up the Nile, and once again avoided capture by the soldiers sent to arrest him. [Sozomen, V, xv] [Barnes, 158-159]

362 Julian's instructions to pagans. Here are some indications of the reputation that ordinary Christians held among pagans, and thus why Christianity spread.
To Arsacius, High-Priest of Galatia. Paganism has not yet reached the degree of prosperity that might be desired, owing to the conduct of its votaries. The worship of the gods, however, is conducted on the grandest and most magnificent scale, so far exceeding our very prayer and hope... for no one could have dared to look for so extensive and so surprising a change as that which we have witnessed within a very short space of time. But are we to rest satisfied with what has been already effected? Ought we not rather to consider that the progress of Atheism has been principally owing to the humanity evinced by Christians towards strangers, to the reverence they have manifested towards the dead, and to the delusive gravity which they have assumed in their life?

It is requisite that each of us should be diligent in the discharge of duty: I do not refer to you alone, as that would not suffice, but to all the priests of Galatia. You must either put them to shame, or try the power of persuasion, or else deprive them of their sacerdotal offices, if they do not, with their wives, their children, and their servants, join in the service of the gods, or if they support the servants, sons, or wives of the Galileans in treating the gods impiously and in preferring Atheism to piety. Then exhort the priests not to frequent theaters, not to drink at taverns, and not to engage in any trade, or practice any nefarious art. Honor those who yield to your remonstrances, and expel those who disregard them.

Establish hostelries in every city, so that strangers from neighboring and foreign countries may reap the benefit of our philanthropy, according to their respective need. ... For, while there are no persons in need among the Jews, and while even the impious Galileans provide not only for those of their own party who are in want, but also for those who hold with us, it would indeed be disgraceful if we were to allow our own people to suffer from poverty.

Teach the pagans to co-operate in this work of benevolence, and let the first-fruits of the pagan towns be offered to the gods. Habituate the pagans to the exercise of this liberality, by showing them how such conduct is sanctioned by the practice of remote antiquity... Let us not permit others to excel us in good deeds; let us not dishonor ourselves by violence, but rather let us be foremost in piety towards the gods. [Sozomen V, xvi]

363 Death of Julian (26 June). Julian invaded Persia, but he let his army plunder and destroy as they went, not thinking that he might have to return by the same route. After becoming confused as to which route he should travel to find more provisions, he was approached by an old man who offered to guide him, but then deceived him into marching three days into an uncultivated region. The old man was put to torture. He confessed that he had exposed himself voluntarily to death for the sake of his country, and was therefore prepared to endure any sufferings that could be inflicted on him.
The Roman troops were now worn out by the length of the journey and the scarcity of provisions, and the Persians chose this moment to attack them. In the heat of the conflict which ensued, a violent wind arose; and the sky and the sun were totally concealed by the clouds, while the air was at the same time mixed with dust. During the darkness which was thus produced, a horseman, riding at full gallop, directed his lance against the emperor, and wounded him mortally. After throwing Julian from his horse, the unknown assailant secretly went away. Some conjectured that he was a Persian; others, that he was a Saracen. There are those who insist that he who struck the blow was a Roman soldier, who was indignant at the imprudence and temerity which the emperor had manifested in exposing his army to such peril. [Sozomen, VI, i]

It is said that, when Julian was wounded, he took a handful of blood that flowed from the wound, and threw it up into the air. Some thought he saw Jesus Christ approaching, and threw it at him. Others thought he was angry with the sun-god because it favored the Persians. [Sozomen, VI, ii] However, I think this gesture may have been his last libation to all the gods he served.

363 The Emperor Jovian. When Julian was killed, the army chose Jovian as their leader. He was the captain of the imperial guard. As they were about to proclaim him emperor, he announced that he was a Christian, and refused to accept the symbols of imperial authority. However, when the soldiers heard why he refused, they loudly proclaimed that they themselves were Christians. [Sozomen, VI, iii]

363 Jovian made peace with Persia by surrendering four of the five satrapies that Diocletian had seized seventy years earlier. He did not persecute anyone, but he promptly transferred state support from the pagan temples to the churches -- at one-third of the level they enjoyed under Constantine. [Barnes, 177]

363 Athanasius secretly returned to Alexandria. His first act was to convene another synod to reaffirm the Athanasian Creed of 362. On 6 September he set out for Antioch, bearing a letter containing the pronouncements of this council. At Antioch he met with Jovian, who received him graciously and even asked him to prepare an exposition of the Nicene faith. Lucius, who had been elected successor to George as Bishop of Alexandria, arrived in Antioch bearing complaints against Athanasius, but Jovian would not listen to them. [Barnes, 159-160]

364 Jovian ruled for about eight months, and suddenly died while enroute from Antioch to Constantinople (16 February). "Some say that his death was occasioned by eating too plentiful a supper; others attribute it to the dampness of the chamber in which he slept; for it had been recently plastered with unslaked lime, and quantities of coals had been burnt in it during the winter for a preventive; the walls had become damp and were exceedingly moist." [Sozomen VI, vi]

364 The Emperors Valentinian in the West and Valens in the East. When Jovian died, the army proclaimed Valentinian emperor. After he was invested with the symbols of imperial authority, the soldiers cried out that it was necessary to elect someone to share the burden of government. To this he replied: "It depended on you alone, O soldiers, to proclaim me emperor; but now that you have elected me, it depends not upon you, but upon me, to perform what you demand. Remain quiet, as subjects ought to do, and leave me to act as an emperor in attending to the public affairs." Not long after this, he went to Constantinople and proclaimed his brother Valens Emperor of the East, retaining for himself the Empire of the West. [Sozomen VI, vi]

364 A group of Nicene bishops sent a delegation to the emperors requesting permission to meet "for the correction of doctrines." Valentinian replied that as a layman he had no right to an opinion on such matters, and they might gather as they wished. They met at Lampsacus, declared the Council of Constantinople invalid, and wrote a letter to all of the eastern churches. When Valens learned of their decisions, he invited them to be reconciled with those they condemned, and when they refused, he exiled them. [Barnes, 161]

364 Valens reconfirmed the Consensus Creed of 360 as the official religion of the Eastern empire. He banished all the bishops who were deposed by Constantius but allowed to return by Jovian. Upon receiving this news, Athanasius fled from Alexandria to a house outside the city (5 October). It was during this period that he is said to have spent four months hiding in his father's tomb.

366 Valens restored Athanasius as the Bishop of Alexandria. Many historians find it difficult to explain why he did this, because he certainly did not agree with Athanasius on religion. But he did have a political reason. On 28 September 365 Julian's relative Procopius was proclaimed Emperor, so Valens had to face what appeared to be a serious challenge to his rule. Like Constantius in 351, he could not afford the risk that Egypt might side with the usurper. On 1 February 366 he invited Athanasius to return to Alexandria and resume his office as Bishop. The rebellion was not suppressed until the spring of the following year. [Barnes, 163]

366 Bishop Liberius of Rome died, and dissent in the Roman church broke out in a violently contested election. Damasus was elected bishop of Rome, but fighting between his partisans and those of his rival left 137 dead bodies in the Basilica of Sicininus in a single day. [Barnes, 118]

367 The New Testament. Athanasius wrote to the churches in his diocese an Easter letter which is now regarded as the first authoritative statement of the canon of the New Testament. He included several disputed works such as Second Peter and the Book of Revelation, but he excluded The Didache, The Epistle of Barnabas, First Clement, and The Shepherd of Hermas, which had long been regarded as equal to the apostolic letters. He wrote: "In these [27 books] alone the teaching of godliness is proclaimed. No one may add to them, and nothing may be taken away from them." But his pronouncement was not universally accepted even in Alexandria. Twenty years later, the Alexandrian scholar Didymus the Blind still regarded as authoritative the books that Athanasius excluded, and there were many such examples all over the Empire, both in the East and the West, but by 395 all such dissent had been silenced by the emperor. [Church History Institute]

367 On 24 September, Lucius, who was elected bishop after George was murdered in 361, entered Alexandria. Two days later he was escorted out of the city by a large force of armed soldiers, through a continuous shower of threats and insults, to prevent the partisans of Athanasius from murdering him. [Barnes, 163]

368 On 8 June, Athanasius celebrated the fortieth anniversary of his consecration as bishop of Alexandria by commissioning a documentary history of the church of Alexandria from the beginning of the Fourth Century in order to ensure that his version of events would henceforth be accepted -- an enterprise in which he was singularly successful. Thereafter he declined to involve himself in ecclesiastical affairs outside of Egypt. [Barnes, 164]

370-371 Three bishops, Basil of Caesarea, his brother Gregory of Nyssa, and their friend Gregory of Nazianzus, have been credited with developing the doctrine of the Trinity, but they wrote later than the Synod of Alexandria led by Athanasius in 362 at which his Creed and his doctrine of the Trinity were approved.

373 Athanasius died (2 May). He was about 75 years old. He had promoted the deification of Jesus for 55 years, and deification of the Holy Spirit for more than 10 years, in defiance of both imperial and ecclesiastical authority. His innovations theoretically collapsed the divine hierarchy upward by elevating first Jesus and then the Holy Spirit to equality with God. The main difficulty with this theological maneuver was that it required a paradoxical assertion of unity (three equals one) in order to retain the political power of monotheism: "Our God is the only God; everyone else worships idols or demons." Although Athanasius is still called "The Great Defender of Orthodoxy," such titles are misleading. His innovations were officially condemned as heresy during his life, and were still heresy at the time of his death. From 325 onward, he continued to preach, "Let what was confessed by the Fathers at Nicea prevail," but it had not prevailed; it had been replaced by the consensus creed of the orthodox church established in 360.

373 Peter, whom Athanasius appointed to succeed him as bishop of Alexandria, was deposed by a delegation of bishops from the emperor Valens, and replaced by Lucius. Peter escaped from prison and went to Rome where he was sheltered by the Nicene Bishop Damasus. At the same time, Valens authorized Lucius to eject Nicene bishops from Alexandria and the rest of Egypt. [Sozomen VI, xix]

374 Ambrose, a lawyer and governor of the province, was made Bishop of Milan by public acclamation and approval of the Western Emperor Valentinian. Ambrose was baptized, made deacon, priest, and bishop -- in eight days. This was a stark violation of the Council of Nicea (Canon 2) which strictly forbade the ordination of a novice as priest, much less bishop. He began studying diligently to make up for his lack of theological training.

375 Valentinian died and was succeeded by Gratian. A tribe of barbarians invaded the western empire and then sent ambassadors to solicit peace. When they were brought before him, Valentinian expressed his displeasure, for a long time, in a very high-pitched voice, burst a blood-vessel, and died shortly thereafter. He was about 54 years old. The army proclaimed his four year old son, Valentinian II, Emperor of the West. The Eastern Emperor Valens acknowledged him with the provision that Valentinian's sixteen year old son Gratian serve in that capacity until Valentinian II was somewhat older. Gratian was raised as a Christian. During the ceremony in which he was given the symbols of imperial authority, he refused to accept the pagan title, Pontifex Maximus. However, he only "lived up to his father for a year or two, then abandoned himself to amusements and the chase, and left the government to corrupt officials who put every office and judgment up for sale." [Sozomen VI, xxxvi] [Durant, Vol. IV]

376 The Huns had conquered the Ostrogoths north of the Black Sea and pressed on westward to attack the Visigoths in Dacia (now part of Romania and Hungary). Some Visigoths fled with Athanaric into the mountains of Transylvania, but the majority petitioned the emperor Valens to be taken into the Roman Empire. About 200,000 Visigoths crossed the Danube and settled in the province of Pannonia, but oppression by Imperial officials soon caused them to revolt. They traversed the country plundering as they went.

376 Bishop Peter returned to Alexandria from Rome with a letter from Damasus, confirming the tenets of Nicea and his own ordination. He was installed in place of Lucius, who sailed away to Constantinople after his eviction. "The Emperor Valens very naturally was so distracted by other affairs, that he had no leisure to attend to these transactions." [Sozomen VI, xxxix]

377 Bishop Ambrose became Gratian's chief adviser. He wrote a treatise entitled "The Faith" whereby he instructed the young Emperor in Nicene Christianity.

377 Edict of tolerance. Gratian disapproved of persecution, and recalled all those who had been banished on account of their religion. He enacted a law by which every individual should be freely permitted the exercise of his own religion, and should be allowed to hold assemblies, with the exception of the Manichaeans and the followers of Photinus and Eunomius. [Sozomen VI, xxxix]

378 Death of Valens. The Visigoths marched on Constantinople, but when Valens came out with his army, they retreated. He pursued them across Thrace to Adrianople (about 130 miles northwest of Constantinople), where he found them encamped in a secure position. He ordered his army to attack without waiting to arrange them in proper order. His cavalry was dispersed, his infantry was forced to retreat; and, pursued by the enemy, he dismounted from his horse, and with a few attendants entered into a small tower, where he hid himself. The Visigoths went on by, not suspecting he was there, but as the last detachment was passing the tower, his attendants shot a volley of arrows at them. They shouted to the units ahead of them. The other Visigoths returned and surrounded the tower. Then they collected vast quantities of wood from the country around, piled it against the tower, and set fire to it. The emperor and his attendants were utterly destroyed. Valens was 50 years old. [Sozomen VI, xl]


379 The Emperor Theodosius.
Gratian appointed a Spanish general named Theodosius to replace Valens as Emperor of the East (19 January). His parents were Nicenes, which is not surprising since Bishop Hosius had great influence in Spain. Theodosius led a successful campaign against the Visigoths, forced them to sue for peace, and proceeded to Thessalonica (a city in northeastern Greece) at the end of the year. There he became seriously ill, and believing he was about to die, he was baptized by the Nicene Bishop Ascholius. While he was recuperating from his illness, he was told that all the churches farther to the East, with the exception of Jerusalem, were in the hands of "Arians". Upon hearing this, "Theodosius enacted a law at Thessalonica [27 February 380], which he caused to be published at Constantinople, well knowing that it would speedily become public to all the other cities, if issued from that city, which is as a citadel of the whole empire." [Sozomen VII, ii & iv]
Edict of 380

It is our desire that all the various nation which are subject to our clemency and moderation should continue to the profession of that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one deity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of divine condemnation, and second, the punishment that our authority, in accordance with the will of heaven, shall decide to inflict. [Theodosian Code XVI.1.2; and Sozomen, VII, iv]

As soon as I saw this edict, I realized it was one of the largest missing pieces, the first authoritative definition of Catholicism. Thus 27 February 380 is the birth date of the Catholic Church; despite all claims to the contrary, it did not exist prior to that time. Like the edict itself, church historians claim longevity for the Church retroactively, by pointing back to the Council of Nicea and the Apostle Peter.

By this edict, Theodosius reversed the policy of his predecessors, from tolerance to intolerance of religious diversity. The last sentence was a declaration of war that pre-justified religious persecution as the will of God. Here, then, is the original charter of the inquisitions, the crusades, and the burning of heretics all over Europe. The next time we see tolerance of religious diversity proclaimed as official state policy is 1300 years later, in Pennsylvania.

The Trinitarian formula imposed by the Edict of 380 is not the Nicene Creed of 325; it is the Athanasian Creed of 362. Thus, overnight, Theodosius made Athanasian heresy orthodox and the current orthodox faith "Arian" heresy.

Four dogmas of subsequent Catholic orthodoxy were authored by Athanasius and imposed by Theodosius: the Incarnation, Trinity, Creed, and Canon of the New Testament. Thus, from 380 onward, and in all retroactive re-labeling, "Nicene" means "Athanasian" and "Arian" means "not Athanasian."

Although the Edict of 380 is usually omitted or barely mentioned or glossed over, it was one of the most significant pronouncements in Western history, politically and religiously, because it was (and is) so thoroughly enforced. From this point on, Churchmen wrote biased histories and inversions of history, developed and perpetuated preferential and prejudicial vocabulary and definitions of terms, and suppressed or destroyed contradictory documents, in order to legitimize the origin of the Church and disguise what actually happened.


380 Theodosius repressed the Vandals and Huns, and made peace with the Goths. On 24 November he held his triumph at Constantinople. As soon as he came into the city, he began expelling "Arian" Christians. In January 381, he closed all the "Arian" churches, expelled their clergy, and turned the buildings over to Nicenes. Writing less than fifty years later, Sozomen describes how this was done:
The Arians, under the guidance of Demophilus, still retained possession of the churches. The emperor sent to command Demophilus to conform to the doctrines of Nicea, and to lead the people to embrace the same sentiments or else to vacate the churches. Demophilus assembled the people, acquainted them with the imperial edict, and informed them that it was his intention to hold a church the next day without the walls of the city, in accordance, he said, with the Divine law, which commands us when we are persecuted in one city to "flee unto another."

When Demophilus and his followers had quitted the church, the emperor entered therein and engaged in prayer; and from that period those who maintained the con-substantiality of the Holy Trinity held possession of the houses of prayer. These events occurred in the fifth year of the consulate of Gratian, and in the first of that of Theodosius, and after the churches had been during forty years in the hands of the Arians. [Sozomen VII, v]

381 Council of Constantinople. Theodosius convened a council of 150 Nicene bishops (May-June) which was later called the Second Ecumenical Council. He also summoned 36 bishops of the Macedonian sect, but they refused to say, "The Son is of the same substance as the Father," and withdrew from the meeting. At first, Bishop Meletius of Antioch presided, but he died. He was replaced by Bishop Gregory of Nazianzen, whom Theodosius had made Bishop of Constantinople the year before, but he resigned and retired to a monastery.
The emperor and the priests therefore proceeded to the election of another bishop, which they regarded as the most important affair then requiring attention; and the emperor was urgent that diligent investigations might be instituted, so that the most excellent and best individual might be intrusted with the high-priesthood of the great and royal city. The council, however, was divided in sentiment; for each of the members desired to see one of his own friends ordained over the church.

A certain man of Tarsus in Cilicia, of the illustrious order of senator, was at this period residing at Constantinople. Being about to return to his own country, he called upon Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus, to inquire whether he had any letters to send by him. Diodorus was fully intent upon the ordination, which was the subject then engrossing universal attention of men. He had no sooner seen Nectarius than he considered him worthy of the bishopric, and straightway determined this in his own mind as he reflected on the venerable age of the man, his form so befitting a priest, and the suavity of his manners. He conducted him, as if upon some other business, to the bishop of Antioch, and requested him to use his influence to procure this election. The bishop of Antioch derided this request, for the names of the most eminent men had already been proposed for consideration. He, however, called Nectarius to him, and desired him to remain for a short time with him.

Some time after, the emperor commanded the priests to draw up a list of the names of those whom they thought worthy of the ordination, reserving to himself the right of choosing any one of those whose names were thus submitted to him. All the bishops complied with this mandate; and, among the others, the bishop of Antioch wrote down the names of those whom he proposed as candidates for the bishopric, and, at the end of his list, from consideration for Diodorus, he inserted the name of Nectarius.

The emperor read the list of those inscribed and stopped at the name of Nectarius at the end of the document, on which he placed his finger, and seemed for some time lost in reflection; ran it up to the beginning, and again went through the whole, and chose Nectarius. This nomination excited great astonishment and all the people were anxious to ascertain who Nectarius was, his manner of life, and birthplace. When they heard that he had not been initiated [baptized] their amazement was increased at the decision of the emperor. ... For when the emperor was informed that Nectarius had not been initiated, he remained of the same opinion, although opposed by many priests. When at last consent had been given to the imperial mandate, Nectarius was initiated, and while yet clad in his initiatory robes, was proclaimed bishop of Constantinople by the unanimous voice of the Synod. [Sozomen VII, vii]

In the period between Constantine and Theodosius, neither the emperor nor any of his officials dictated the results of a church council [Barnes, 169]. But needless to say, the bishops at this council continued to do what Theodosius told them. They ignored all the councils that disagreed with Athanasius, endorsed his full deification of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and condemned all other forms of Christianity including the current orthodoxy that was established throughout the Empire twenty-one years earlier.

381 Bishop Wulfila was summoned to the Council of Constantinople, but when he saw what was happening there, he became ill and died. He was 70 years old. The "Arian" Christianity he had planted among the Goths continued to spread, and other peoples received their Christianity from the Goths. Within two generations, the barbarian Goths and Vandals and Lombards were Christians, and the new kingdoms they established in the Balkans, Gaul, Spain, Italy, and Africa were officially Christian nations. (Prior to this study, I didn't know that any barbarians were Christians.) What these nations believed may be seen from the testamentary creed that Wulfila left with his followers just before he died:
Creed of Wulfila

I, Wulfila, Bishop and Confessor, have always believed thus and in this sole and true faith I make my journey to my Lord. I believe that there is only one God the Father, alone unbegotten and invisible, and in His only-begotten Son, our Lord and God, creator and maker of all things, not having any like unto Him. Therefore there is one God of all, who is also God of our God. And I believe in one Holy Spirit, an enlightening and sanctifying power. As Christ says after the resurrection to his Apostles: "Behold I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24.49) And again: "And ye shall receive power coming upon you by the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1.8) Neither God nor Lord, but the faithful minister of Christ; not equal, but subject and obedient in all things to the Son. And I believe the Son to be subject and obedient in all things to God the Father. [From: Auxentius on Wulfila]

This independent creed shows that precedence and substance were diversionary issues, debaters' tactics, and the real issue was whether Jesus is subordinate and obedient to God. The "Arian Controversy" was over the final step in the deification of Jesus. The "Arians" believed it was blasphemy to make a man equal to God. The "Nicenes" believed it was impious to say the Son is inferior to the Father.

381 Council of Aquileia. Gratian summoned a council of bishops (September). Not surprisingly, almost all the 25 bishops who attended were Nicenes. The meeting was conducted as a trial in which Bishop Ambrose led the condemnation of two "Arian" bishops, both of whom were apparently disciples or associates of Wulfila.

382 Synod of Constantinople. Two years after the Edict of 380 all the churches in Constantinople were held by the Catholics, but other sects still existed in various parts of the empire.
Theodosius, therefore, again summoned together the presidents of the sects which were flourishing, in order that they might either bring others to their own state of conviction on disputed topics, or be convinced themselves; for he imagined that all would be brought to oneness of opinion, if a free discussion were entered into, concerning ambiguous points of doctrine. The council, therefore, was convened.

[Theodosius] commanded each party to draw up a written exposition of its own creed. On the day appointed for the presentation of these documents, Nectarius and Agelius appeared at the palace as representatives of those who maintain the con-substantiality of the Holy Trinity; Demophilus, the Arian president, came forward as the deputy of the Arians; Eunomius represented the Eunomians; and Eleusius, bishop of Cyzicus, appeared for the sectarians denominated Macedonians.

The emperor, after receiving their formularies, expressed himself in favor of that one alone in which con-substantiality of the Trinity was recognized, and destroyed the others. [Sozomen VII, xii]

This is how we got the "Nicene Creed" that is still recited by Christians all over the world. It was not voted by a church council; it was arbitrarily selected by one man, Theodosius, wielding his authority as the Pontifex Maximus (highest priest).
Creed of Theodosius ("The Nicene Creed")

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead. Whose kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver-of-Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And in one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen. [Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. XIV]

The Catholic Encyclopedia says that Theodosius "made severe punishments by his laws, but did not carry them out, for he did not wish to punish, but only to frighten his subjects, that they might think as he did about Divine things." This seems to be true. He apparently did not torture or kill many people. Instead, he used the legal powers of government against law-abiding people, without damaging them enough to make martyrs of them or provoke them to violent rebellion. Although his overall strategy for unifying the Empire was not politically expedient because it alienated so many people, his tactics were expedient because they minimized his expenditure of coercive resources. The essence of his tactics was to destroy existing organizations, prevent reorganization, and thereby stop the transmission of doctrines differing from his own.
The emperor enacted a law, prohibiting heretics from holding churches, from giving public instructions in the faith, and from conferring ordination on bishops or others. Some of the heterodox were expelled from the cities and villages, while others were disgraced and deprived of the privileges enjoyed by other subjects of the empire. [Sozomen VII, xii]

382 Jerome became secretary to Bishop Damasus of Rome, obtained the Bishop's approval, and began translating the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin. Completed 23 years later (405), Jerome's translation, known as the Vulgate (from the Latin word vulgus, meaning "common" language), soon became the only Bible in the Western Church. Scholars worked from the Vulgate instead of translating directly from the original languages for more than 1000 years.

382 Gratian reversed his own policy of tolerance and went along with Theodosius. He canceled state support of all non-Christian religions, terminated payments by imperial or municipal treasuries for their ceremonies, vestal virgins or priests, and confiscated lands belonging to temples. He removed from the Roman Senate "that statue of the goddess Victory which Augustus had placed there in 29 BC and before which twelve generations of senators had taken their vows of allegiance to the emperor." [Durant, Vol. IV]

383 Gratian took measures to suppress every form of Christianity except the new orthodoxy. He made apostasy (defined as conversion from Nicene Christianity to any other faith) a crime punishable by the government.

383 Death of Gratian. Maximus, a Roman general, led a rebellion in Britain that spread into Gaul. Gratian fled from Paris to Lyons. One of the rebel commanders "obtained possession of the imperial chariot, and sent word to the emperor that his wife was traveling towards his camp. Gratian, who was but recently married and passionately attached to his wife, hastened incautiously across the river, and in his anxiety to meet her, fell without forethought into the hands of his enemies." He was seized and shortly thereafter murdered. (25 August) He was 24 years old. Maximus proclaimed himself Emperor of the West. Theodosius acknowledged him on condition that he allow Gratian's twelve year old brother, Valentinian II, to rule in Italy. [Sozomen VII, xiii]

383 The Roman Senate sent a delegation to Valentinian II to plead for restoration of the statue of Victory. The young emperor was moved by their petitions, and even Christians in his imperial council advised him to restore the statue, but Bishop Ambrose overruled the council with an imperious letter to the emperor. He said, "All men serve the emperor, and he serves God, but he who would be loyal to the true God must have no indulgence for the gods that are demons. Idols must be burned and profane ceremonies abolished. To restore the Altar of Victory would be a persecution of Christianity, and the emperor would thereby become apostate." In effect, he threatened to excommunicate the emperor if the statue of Victory was restored. Valentinian II denied the Senate's appeal. [Boyd, 27]

384 Augustine came to Milan to accept a position as teacher of rhetoric. He was converted from paganism to Nicene Christianity by Bishop Ambrose. Eleven years later, Augustine was the Bishop of Hippo, in North Africa. He is still recognized as one of the most influential teachers in the entire history of Christianity.

385 A Spanish bishop, Priscillian, was accused of heresy by two other bishops, tried before the Western Emperor Maximus, condemned, and despite the protests of Bishop Ambrose and Bishop Martin of Gaul, he and several of his companions were burned to death. This was the first recorded instance in which Christians burned Christians for heresy -- the last was in France, in 1756.

385 The "Arian" Empress Justina, the mother of Valentinian II, requested Bishop Ambrose to open a church in Milan where she and her friends could celebrate the Easter of 385, but he refused. He organized a "sit-in" of his followers to keep the church continuously occupied. Valentinian sent a party of soldiers: "They forced their way into the interior, arrested Ambrose, and were about to lead him into exile at that very moment, when the people assembled in crowds at the church, and evinced a resolution to die rather than submit to the banishment of their priest." [Sozomen VII, xiii]

386 Valentinian II enacted a law making persecution of "Arian" Christians a crime. "By this law, all who conformed to the doctrines set forth at Ariminum and ratified at Constantinople were exhorted to convene boldly; and it was enacted that death should be the punishment of those who should hinder or be running counter to this law of the emperor." [Sozomen VII, xiii] Bishop Ambrose ignored this law, and apparently no one enforced it.

387 Maximus expelled Valentinian II, who fled with his mother to Thessalonica, whereupon Theodosius brought Valentinian II back to Italy with an army, defeated Maximus, and executed him. Justina died, and Valentinian II, by the advice of Theodosius, placed himself under the guidance of Bishop Ambrose.

388 Theodosius sent his agents through Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor, with orders to destroy pagan temples and break up their membership associations. Here again, he implemented his policies by destroying organizations and eliminating the ability to transmit doctrines. This tactic was successful. It destroyed the 4000 year old Egyptian religion so thoroughly the language was lost. No one could read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics for 1400 years, until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone (1799) and the difficult re-translation work of Jean-Francios Champollion.

390 Theodosius closed the Oracle of Delphi. This ancient Greek shrine, sacred to Apollo, had been operating continuously for 1500 years. It has not been reopened.

390 Theodosius ordered the slaughter of about 7000 people at Thessalonica, to punish the city for an uprising. Bishop Ambrose wrote a letter chastising him severely, refused to hold worship services in his presence, and stood in his way when he tried to enter the church -- whereupon Theodosius did public penance. This episode established the threat of excommunication which popes and bishops used to control emperors and kings for more than 1100 years, until King Henry VIII declined to be coerced. In 1534 he had Parliament pass the Act of Supremacy which made the King, not the Pope, the head of the Church of England.

391 Theodosius refused to restore the statue of Victory in the Roman Senate. He issued laws making pagan sacrifices, omens, and witchcraft punishable offenses.

391 Destruction of the Library of Alexandria. Bishop Theophilus of Alexandria, having obtained the emperor's approval, confiscated the Temple of Dionysius and started to convert it into a church. The statues were removed and the innermost shrines were opened. Then, to cast shame on the pagan mysteries, he ordered his followers to carry sacred objects out of the temple in a public procession. Thus he made a spectacle of the phalli (large models of male sex organs) and other objects that really were or seemed to be ridiculous. [Sozomen VII, xv]

The pagans, enraged by this unexpected humiliation, attacked the Christians, killed many and wounded others, and then seized the Serapion (the Temple of the god Serapis) and used it as a fortress. They continued to drag Christians into the Serapion, torture them, and compel them to sacrifice to the pagan gods. Those who refused had both legs broken. If they still refused they were crucified or killed in some other ingenious manner. [Sozomen VII, xv]

When the local officials found they were unable to suppress this rebellion, they appealed to the emperor. He declared that the Christians who had been killed were blessed, because they were martyrs who suffered for the faith. He offered free pardon to those who had killed them, hoping by this act of clemency to induce pagans to convert to Christianity. The pagans who had barricaded themselves in the Serapion abandoned it. [Sozomen VII, xv]

A mob of Christians entered the Serapion, destroyed the colossal statue of the god Serapis, looted the temple, and burned the library. The Serapion was one of the wonders of the ancient world, and possibly the largest place of worship in the world at that time -- a city within a city, an enormous complex of buildings, some of which held the Library of Alexandria. This library had the largest and most famous collection of ancient scrolls. It was started by Ptolemy I about 300 BC. He and other rulers added to it until it contained over 700,000 scrolls. Part of the library was destroyed by fire during the siege of Alexandria by Julius Caesar in 47 BC; the remainder, plus all the documents accumulated during 438 years, was burned by Nicene Christians.

392 Eugenius the Apostate. Valentinian II died in Gaul, just as Bishop Ambrose was crossing the Alps to baptize him. He was found strangled in his bedchamber. Some people said he was murdered; others said he committed suicide. He was 21 years old. Arbogast, his pagan tutor, proclaimed a rhetorician named Eugenius the ruler of Italy (May). Theodosius refused to recognize him. Eugenius, although nominally a Christian, tried to unite the western pagans in his defense. He set up pagan altars and restored the statue of Victory in Rome. His soldiers marched under the standard of Hercules. [Sozomen VII, xxii]

392 Theodosius directed that the entrances of every pagan temple throughout the empire be closed to the public.

393 Theodosius stopped the Olympic Games, which had been held every four years since 776 BC. They were not held again for 1500 years (1896). But he did not stop the gladiatorial games, which were supposed to harden the citizens to the sight of human bloodshed so they could endure war.

393 Theodosius declared his younger son Honorius successor co-emperor, and leaving him at Constantinople with his older son Arcadius who had previously been appointed co-emperor, he departed for Italy at the head of his troops. His army consisted not only of Roman soldiers, but of bands of "barbarian" Visigoths. Even though the Visigoths were not part of the Roman Empire, and most of them were "Arian" Christians by this time, he hired them to help him fight the pagans.

394 Theodosius defeated Eugenius near Aquileia (6 September). This was the final blow to the old Roman religion, now outlawed and persecuted as Christianity had been prior to the Edict of Milan, 81 years earlier. Theodosius entered Rome as the sole master of his newly created Nicene Empire. He enacted laws that enforced keeping Sunday as the Sabbath and added to the penalties imposed on pagans, Jews, and heretics, but his personal triumph only lasted four months.

395 Death of Theodosius. After his triumph in Rome, Theodosius went to Milan. There he became seriously ill. He sent for his son Honorius from Constantinople. When Honorius arrived, he seemed to feel better, so he went to see the horse-races and other events in the hippodrome. After dinner, however, he suddenly grew worse, and asked Honorius to preside at the spectacle. He died the following night (17 January). Bishop Ambrose preached his funeral oration. [Sozomen VII, xxix]

The Catholic Encyclopedia says: "Theodosius stands out as the destroyer of heresy and paganism, as the last sovereign of the undivided empire." But he weakened the empire by alienating vast segments of the populace, and his will divided the empire between his sons, thus splitting it permanently. His eleven year old son Honorius became Emperor of the West, and his eighteen year old son Arcadius became Emperor of the East. They both held the same religious views as their father and continued to enforce his policies -- and so did their children after them.


Theodosius institutionalized religious persecution by Christians. He initiated and waged a culture war to make his own sect the State Church of the Roman Empire. Any objective view of Western civilization before and after his reign clearly shows that it marks the end of antiquity and the beginning of the dark ages. And now I know that his Edict of 380 was the dividing line, the watershed, between what Christianity was and what it became.



Auxentius on Wulfila (The surviving part of a letter written by Bishop Auxentius of Durostorum in Bulgaria, a disciple of Wulfila, shortly after Wulfila died in 381; discovered in 1840; translation by Jim Marchand; Internet Medieval Source Book)

Barnes, Timothy D., Athanasius and Constantius: Theology and Politics In The Constantinian Empire (Harvard University Press, 1993)

Beavers, Anthony F., Chronology of the Arian Controversy (The Ecole Initiative)

Boyd, William K., The Ecclesiastical Edicts of the Theodosian Code (Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University Press, 1905; AMS reprint, 1969; no indication of copyright)

Boyle, Rev. Isaac, A Historical View of the Council of Nice, with a translation of documents; appended to Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History (Baker Book House, 1992)

Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Server at Wheaton College; made available to the Internet by Paul Halsall <>)

Christian History Institute, The 100 Most Important Events In Church History (a special edition of Christian History magazine, 1990)

Christie-Murray, David, A History of Heresy (Oxford University Press, 1990)

Durant, Will, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III, Caesar and Christ (Simon and Schuster, 1944)

Durant, Will, The Story of Civilization, Vol. IV, The Age of Faith (Simon and Schuster, 1950)

Eusebius Pamphilus, Ecclesiastical History (written in 324 AD., translated in the University of Pennsylvania Department of History, 1897?-1907?; Internet Medieval Source Book)

Internet Medieval Source Book: a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history. <>

Lane, Tony, The Lion Concise Book of Christian Thought (Lion, Oxford, England, 1992 edition)

Reader's Digest Books, After Jesus: The Triumph of Christianity (Pleasantville, New York, 1992)

Riley, Gregory J., One Jesus, Many Christs (Harper, 1997)

Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History (written about 430 for the emperor Theodosius II, grandson of Theodosius the Great; Internet Medieval Source Book).

Stark, Rodney, The Rise of Christianity (Princeton University Press, 1996)

The Catholic Encyclopedia (on-line): Ambrose, Arianism, Arius, Athanasius, Constantine, Gratian, Theodosius, Valens, Valentinian

The Ecole Initiative (on-line): Arian Confessions (from: Athanasius, De Synodis)

The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. XIV, The Seven Ecumenical Councils (Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1899; Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint, 1991)

The World Book Encyclopedia: Alexandrian Library, Ambrose, Arianism, Arius, Augustine, Byzantine, Constantine, Delphi, Egypt, Gladiator, Hieroglyphics, Olympic Games, Roman Empire, Rosetta Stone, Theodosius, Valentinian

Theodosian Code XVI. 1. 2 (Henry Bettenson, ed., Documents of the Christian Church; London, Oxford University Press, 1943), p. 31. Short extract used under fair-use provisions.

Thompson, E. A., The Visigoths in the Time of Ulfila (Clarendon, Oxford, 1966)

Home | Testimony