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Reasons why Constantine favored Christianity Essay

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Updated: Dec 10th, 2019

Introduction

There are numerous reasons why Constantine decided to favor Christianity. These incorporate political and military aspects as will be discussed later in this paper. Other reasons were principally personal since they were not politically motivated. First, it is important to the political grounds, which Constantine enjoyed while he was still in power.

Since people from the East had divided themselves from the West, the empire needed to handle the situation as soon as possible. Solving the problem would ensure smooth operation of the empire1. Some divisions existed in the armed forces since most of the soldiers were actively involved in politics. Constantine was believed to be emotionally and spiritually attached to the Christians after he won the political and military war.

Major Arguments

It is vital to recognize the difficult political grounds that Constantine was getting into. Soldiers decided to take control of the empire after his father had died. On the other hand, he had taken control of Britain, Gaul and Spain. Maxentius decided to go for Italy and most parts of Africa. Besides, numerous people with senior positions in the empire were also implicated in the political fight.2

To clearly explain the reasons why Constantine supported Christianity, this paper is majorly going to put more focus on the rivalry between Constantine and Maxentius (Gregory 53). He was the ruler of the western side while Maxentius was controlling the people on the eastern side.

After a couple of years of political chaos, he was forced to make an important decision. He decided to ratify some accord with co-empire, Licinius, after which he moved to Italy with his thirty thousand troops to fight Maxentius. After a lengthy fight, he managed to win the battle and took control of Rome.3

Consequently, Constantine was crowned the royal leader of both east and West Empires. Even after taking control of the empire, he was still in trouble since he needed the support of the local people to protect his position. He could successfully achieve this by working closely with the already existing organizations that were able to obtain strong support from the civil population (Hinson 242).

The only available organizations that could successfully obtain support from the local population were military and religion. He achieved his mission through taking control of the soldiers and suppressing some units faithful to Maxentius.4 Thus religion was the only alternative for him to gain support of his people. Consequently, this is how Christian community started dominating the entire empire. Besides, this is how the above discussed battle is relevant to the topic.

It is believed that before he went to the battlefield, he had an encounter with Christ in his dream. Additionally, it is alleged that Christ ordered him to put some mark on the army shields. At some point, before they went to fight, Constantine and his soldiers were surprised when they saw a symbol of a cross above the sky with some writings indicating that he was a conqueror.

Actually, this happened at the time when he and the soldiers were holding some prayers to their god. The same night they were holding their prayers; Christ came to him and ordered him to paint the weapons they were using with a symbol of a cross. According to Christian Forum, the symbol was portrayed as the Labarum. This name (Labarum) had a well recognized significance in the early church. It is alleged that this name Labarum was derived from the word Christ by the ancient people.

Additionally, other people believed that the name and nature of the symbol looked like a repeat of double-axe. This (double-axe) was a representation of a prehistoric cult called Zeus. Even though there were some controversies about the meaning of that symbol, it was later accepted universally by Christians.

This is obviously evident when Julian decided to do away with it. Consequently, it is possible to connect Constantine’s triumph with his vision of connecting Christ with an image that was universally accepted by the Christian community.5 According to the discovery, it is possible to conclude that Constantine characterized his triumph to Christ.

Military and political aspects in this paper have been connected to religious convictions by studying Constantine’s vision, which links Christ and Labarum. Although he was well conversant with the principles of the Christian community, he started observing Christians in a different way.

Besides, a number of theologians were not certain when they used to regard him as a Christian. According to Christian Forum, Constantine was aware that the Christian God was more powerful than other gods thus he started thinking of how to come close to God. Consequently, he believed that God would give him protection and support.

Through the support from God, he would successfully rule the empire. Constantine mistakenly believed that Sol Invictus was the god being worshiped by the Christian community. After some period of time in this confusion, he was able to grasp and understand some characteristics of Christian doctrine. This could be realized through some of his actions and what he used to say about Christians.

The changes discussed above seemed to have happened immediately after his victory in the fight against Maxentius. Conversely, some changes took time before they were felt. They were only realized at the time when his rule of the empire could not be confronted by the enemies.

Additionally, the changes were evident when he started to ignore the usual ceremonies that were being held by the pagans. Consequently, he started attending Christian prayers and celebrations. He also participated in the prayers which were being held to his father’s God. He also promised to protect the Christian community living in both eastern and western sides of his empire.

Constantine welcomed the idea brought up by Christians that he could praise their God. According to Christians, he was to be the servant of God. Moreover, he was to stop the frequent harassments, and change the empire to be a better place. According to Hanna, his spirituality also revealed that he was called by God to come and free and bring back the empire to its normal state.6

He understood the Christian principle since he was able to realize that the only way to achieve your goals is to praise and believe in one true God. Conversely, the belief that his achievements were as a result of being friends with God seemed to be real. His decision to change to Christianity could now be universally acknowledged.

Constantine started making life significantly more complicated for those people who were not Christians. Additionally, he openly started supporting Christianity and the Christian community. He used his power to criticize the beliefs and practices of non Christians and encouraged the entire empire to follow Christian beliefs and practices.

He became generous to the Christian churches by providing them with gifts. He also actively contributed in the construction of Christian churches. For instance, he financed the construction of the St. Johns Lateran church. Besides, the priests were given legal freedom of speech and movement.

Before taking control of the empire, Christian’s leaders were being targeted with their property and civil rights taken way. At this point, it is apparent that he was supporting the Christian community and all the suppressions they had been experiencing were coming to an end.

He also wanted every man in his empire to adore the true God. Constantine was able to stop various sacrifices, which were earlier made at the temples. This brought a massive change to the empire.7 Before Constantine took control of the empire, pagans and Christians were given equal treatment.

Things later changed after he was crowned the ruler of the empire. Moreover, Christianity dominated the entire empire. At this time, paganism came to an end and Christianity was the main attractive option. Most people opted to be Christians because they could live a better life compared to those who were pagans. Unlike other religions, Christianity was open to everyone thus a lot of people started changing their opinions and beliefs to match that of Christianity.

According to Neusner, Constantine supported Christianity because he wanted a religion with more powers, hopes and a religion that would provide the empire with the required security.8 Consequently, Christianity was the only religion that could meet all these requirements. Besides, it was the only available religion that could easily be accepted by most people. Though, this decision was not politically motivated, it was majorly based on personal account.

At the end, Christians had constructed their own government that brought together the priests and believers in the empire. The other cults were suppressed and could not organize themselves in the same manner. Conclusively, Constantine favored Christianity and the Christian community because of his individual faith in God.9 This took place following the military and political take over.

Conclusion

Evidently, there are various reasons why Constantine decided to favor Christianity. For instance, political and military aspects are some of the major reasons. Other reasons were mainly personal. His decisions to support Christianity and the Christian community were not politically motivated.

Conclusively, Constantine welcomed the idea brought up by Christians to praise their God. In regard to Christians, he was to be the servant of God. Concurrently, he was to stop the frequent harassments and change the empire to be a better place as argued earlier.

Bibliography

Christian Forum. Why did Constantine favor Christianity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Gregory, Timothy. A History of Byzantium. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

Hanna Harvey. Why did Constantine favor the Christian Church? 2011. London: Routledge, 2012.

Hinson, E. The Church Triumphant: A History of Christianity Up to 1300. Macon, GA Mercer Univ. Press, 1995.

Neusner, Jacob. Judaism and Christianity in the Age of Constantine: History, Messiah, Israel, and the Initial Confrontation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Robert, Dana. Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

Footnotes

1 Hinson, Gregory. The Church Triumphant: A History of Christianity Up to 1300 (Macon, GA: Mercer Univ. Press, 1995), 53.

2 Hinson, Gregory. The Church Triumphant: A History of Christianity Up to 1300 (Macon, GA: Mercer Univ. Press, 1995), 53.

3 Dana Robert. Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2011), 248.

4 Dana Robert. Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2011).

5 Forum, Christian Why did Constantine favor Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 56.

6 Harvey, Hanna. Why did Constantine favor the Christian Church? 2011 (London: Routledge, 2012), 67.

7 Timothy, Gregory. A History of Byzantium (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2011), 98.

8 Jacob, Neusner. Judaism and Christianity in the Age of Constantine: History, Messiah, Israel, and the Initial Confrontation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 35.

9 Forum, Christian Why did Constantine favor Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).

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