- 313 Constantine unites the Roman Empire and authorizes Christianity
- 325 Constantine convenes Council of Nicaea
- 410 Rome sacked by Visigoths
- 622 Rise of Islam
- 1054 Schism between western, Latin-speaking Christians centered in Rome and eastern, Greek-speaking Christians centered in Constantinople.
- 1095 First Crusade by Western Christians to reclaim Christian rule in Jerusalem from Islamic rulers
Constantine was a Roman general and emperor who converted to Christianity and initiated the Christianization of the Roman Empire. Scholars debate whether his conversion was rooted in a deep spiritual experience, a political calculation to capitalize on the strength of the growing Christian movement, or some of both. He commissioned the copying of the Bible, which for the first time forced the question of exactly what books in what versions are part of the Bible. He called the bishops of the Empire to come together at Nicaea to arrive at some agreement about the nature of Jesus in relationship to God the Father (next section). He also moved his capital to Byzantium, later named after him as Constantinople. This effectively divided the Roman Empire into east (with a capital in Constantinople, speaking Greek) and west (capital in Rome, speaking Latin). Christendom largely followed this divide, and in 1054 the Great Schism irreparably divided Eastern Orthodox Christianity from Roman Catholic Christianity.
If this course were being taught in Greece we would focus on different major figures after Constantine. As it is, we are taking as a point of departure Christianity as it developed in western Europe and spread to San Antonio. Within western Christianity, the most influential thinker is Augustine of Hippo . Augustine was born in 354 and converted to Christianity in 387. He wrote many works which strongly influenced all western Christians, both Catholic and later Protestant. The study of concepts such as original sin, grace, free will, just war theory, and many more center on Augustine. His 22-book series called The City of God responded to the fall of Rome by defining Christendom as fundamentally a spiritual “city” that transcended Rome or any other human city. Augustine died in 430, leaving a cathedral and library in Hippo, the city where he served as bishop (see map below).
If I can pick only one more name for you to recognize from Christian history from Constantine to the Protestant Reformation, it would have to be Thomas Aquinas . Thomas was born in the Italian town of Aquino in 1225, and died in 1274. In this period https://rksloans.com/title-loans-ms/ Christianity was confronted with masters of logic and philosophy from the Islamic world, which was pressing into Europe through Spain and Turkey. These Islamic thinkers also spread the ideas of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers. It was no longer acceptable to argue “We’re right because God said so.” Thomas used logical argument to prove that Christian faith was rational and consistent with the fundamental insights of non-Christian rational observers of the natural world, such as Aristotle.
One could say that Augustine and Aquinas were ahead of their times. One could also say that they created through their own influence the major trends that developed over the subsequent centuries. In the fifteenth century some of the Protestant Reformers thought of themselves as working out what Augustine had already anticipated. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the clash of faith and reason would be addressed in terms laid out by Aquinas. We will return to these issues later in the course.
Christianity is defined by belief in Christ, namely that Jesus of Nazareth is Christ. What was not uniformly defined as of the time of Constantine was exactly what was to be believed about Christ. Christology is discourse about the nature of Christ. As we have already seen, the early Jesus movement called Jesus “Lord” among other titles that could connote divine nature. But what exactly was the relationship between Jesus and God? Is Jesus God or human? How literally can we take the images of Father and Son? The following positions were all discussed around the time of the council of Nicaea.