This Century came as a welcome relief to Western Christians. Over 300 years of persecution ended with
Emperor Constantine's conversion. It officially ended in 313 with the Edict of Milan, which formally
established freedom and toleration for all religions, including Christianity. Later in the Century, Christianity
was made the state religion of the Roman Empire, defended by a series of decrees to "suppress all rival
religions, order the closing of the temples, and impose fines, confiscation, imprisonment or death upon any who
cling to the older Pagan religions." Sounds like Constantine meant business.
Armenia is the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion. Armenian tradition states that Gregory the Illuminator persuaded King T'rdat III, the king of Armenia, to convert to Christianity. By edict the king then made Christianity the only sanctioned religion in Armenia. It would be more than 75 years later before the Roman Empire itself officially adopted Christianity. [Read more ...]
Constantine the Great has a vision of the cross. Emperor Constantine, on his way to fight his co-emperor Maxentius, had a vision of a cross with the words, "In this sign conquer" written under it. He won the battle and attributed his victory to the Christian God. In thanks he rebuilt destroyed church buildings of the early church and restored all possessions confiscated during previous Roman persecutions. [Read more ...]
Eusebius completes his "Ecclesiastical History". Eusebius of Caesarea was a Roman historian, church bishop and prolific writer. He was a well-known Bible scholar and generally regarded as an extremely accomplished Christian. "Ecclesiastical History" was a chronologically-ordered history of the Christian Church based on earlier sources that went as far back as the days of the Apostles. Today it remains a very important source of early church history because Eusebius had access to materials that have long been lost. [Read more ...]
Emperor Constantine defeats his colleague and rival Licinius. Ever since the Roman Empire had been split [See 292], there had been two emperors — at this time it was Licinius in the East and Constantine in the West. An uneasy truce had existed between these two men ever since a failed civil war ten years earlier. Things finally came to a head and Constantine attacked his co-emperor and defeated him soundly. The reunited Roman Empire was now under the rule of one emperor — Constantine. After his defeat, the only thing that kept Licinius from being executed were the pleas of his wife, who was also Constantine's sister. But that only worked temporarily, and a year later Licinius was hanged. [Read more ...]
A Church Council is held at Nicea, a town in modern-day Turkey. Emperor Constantine called for this meeting of bishops to resolve some escalating controversies among the church leadership. The issues included the nature of Jesus Christ, the proper date to celebrate Easter, and other matters. The Emperor saw these quarrels within the church not only as a threat to Christianity, but also a threat to peaceful society. So Constantine "encouraged" the bishops to kiss and make up, or he would intervene. In response to the Emperor's subtle threat, the Council of Nicea affirmed the apostles' teachings — Christ is the one true God and the Second Person of the Trinity. [Read more ...]
Ulfilas translates the Bible from Greek into the Gothic language. After being ordained as bishop by Eusebius, Ulfilas, who was a Goth, returned to his people (in what is now Northern Germany) to work as a missionary. He soon attracted quite a following, and since the need was great, Ulfilas set off to translate the Bible into Gothic, the native tongue of the area. This was no small task, because he also had to devise a Gothic alphabet! Fragments of this translation still survive, the Codex Argenteus being one of them. [Read more ...]
Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria gives his list of New Testament Books. Every year the Bishop issued an Easter Letter. Its main purpose was typically to announce the dates of holy days for the coming year. This time however, his letter also included a list of the books of scripture, which turned out to be the exact New Testament we have today. He did not make a new or difinitive list; he simply used his authority to endorse those books that had been judged worthy by Christians through the years. [Read more ...]
Christianity becomes state religion of the Roman Empire. Who would have believed it? After centuries of ill-treatment and at least seven persecutions, it was no longer against Roman law to be a Christian — in fact, it was not only encouraged, it was required.
Pope Damasus appoints Jerome to be his secretary. In addition to his normal duties, the Pope comissioned Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin. Up to this time, different sections of New Testament books had been translated into a variety of languages from the Greek in which they were originally written. But as Greek ceased to be the dominant language of the Empire, it was obvious to the Pope that if the Bible was to continue shaping Christian faith and life, it needed to be rendered in Latin. Jerome's translation, the Latin Vulgate, sure must have made the Pope happy. It became the only Bible used by the Catholic Church for more than 1,000 years! (Jerome should have asked for royalties.) [Read more ...]
The Council of Hippo recognizes the accepted New Testament canon. To be recognized as canonical, a book had to be Apostolic, fit in with the other scriptures, and have been of fruitful use throughout the church up to that time. The books they listed are the same ones in today's Bible, so it appears their list has held up pretty well.