So you call yourself a ‘Christian’ do you?
Here we go… I knew it wouldn’t be long before I spoke on religion in some way, shape or form. Since my blog on ‘Eostre’ – I have had many personal messages asking me to expand on this topic. Now although making people uncomfortable with my writing is not my aim; – I still have a mandate to speak on things that are on my chest. That said, this subject area is a rabbit hole that sucks you in and spits you out in the middle of a vast religious, cultural minefield. The only escape from such a place is to close your eyes as hard as you can, hoping to wake from it; – or by clicking your heels together thrice while saying, ‘There’s no place like home’, over & over, lol
Nah, all jokes aside – I really would need more than the mere 1300 words I try to limit these articles to… Even if I wrote a thesis on the subject, I may not come to a definitive conclusion on such a monster of a topic. SO – I’ll try to keep it brief.
(that’s approx 190 words gone!)
Let’s start by defining the two – then we can tackle them both individually.
BEING A CHRISTIAN/CHRISTIAN LIVING…
Assuming we are all reading from the King James Version of the Bible; ‘Jesus, the Christ’ travelled around the land teaching people how to live according to the Commandments that Moses received from YEHOVAH (the ‘LORD GOD’ of the Bible) and passed on to the Israelites. He untwisted the fallacies that had befallen His people via the erroneous teachings of the Pharisees – Israel’s ruling class at the time. His real Hebrew name was Yehoshua or Yeshua. He was of Israelite descent, from the tribe of Judah. We get the word ‘Jew’ from this. According to the Bible, Jews are descended from the Israelite tribe named JUDAH. ‘Jew’ is a shorthand word for the people descended from this tribe.
Yeshua (aka Jesus in Latin) performed miracles, healed people’s bodies and minds, and even cast out evil spirits (exorcisms). Following His crucifixion and resurrection, his remaining 11 apostles (plus Paul and a few others) travelled the land, teaching the people as Yeshua did – continuing His work and ‘spreading the Gospel’.
Yeshua was a Jew. His apostles including Paul were Jews. But they were also Christians. They were ‘Christians’ because they were followers and advocates of the Christ’s (Yeshua’s) teachings. By definition, they were Jews by blood and Christian by faith. It was not Yeshua’s intention to make a new religion. It is believed that His coming was prophesied to the Jews long ago. He is believed to be the prophesied Messiah who came to set right, the way His people were living; because they were way off from the original plan and Covenant they had made with their God; Yehovah – many years before.
‘Christianity’ is a term derived from two root words, ‘Christ’ and ‘Christian’. Believe it or not, the word Christian only appears in the Bible 3 times. It was used by two apostles: Luke (Acts 11:26 & 26:28) and Peter (1 Peter 4:16).
(long story but stay with me…)
Constantine was the son of a Roman military officer named Constantius. Constantius rose to become emperor of a quadrant of Rome. Upon his death in 306AD, his troops proclaimed his son Constantine as emperor in his stead. However, there was another claim for this position by the emperor of another, larger quadrant of Rome; his name was Maxentius.
For 6 years, the dispute between Constantine and Maxentius remained unresolved. Finally in 312AD, Constantine marched on Rome and met Maxentius’ army at the Milvian Bridge. According to Roman historian Zosimus, Constantine’s army was considerably smaller than Maxentius’ army (approximately half the number of troops).
Constantine was a pagan. The state-wide Roman religion was Paganism which is an amalgamation of the religious beliefs and practices of the people who Rome conquered. This made it polytheistic in nature. As Rome conquered the world, the enveloped nations all added their flavour to Roman life; – this composite culture was a mosaic comprised of different foods, music, philosophies and of course, religions. It is worth noting at this point that Jews and Judaeo-Christians both already co-existed at this time. The Christians were seen as a small but growing sect of people whose numbers started off being comprised of mainly Jews.
According to Eusebius of Caesarea and other sources, Constantine had a vision before going into battle with Maxentius in 312AD. He saw a vision of a cross made of light, with words above it. The words were: ‘in hoc sign vinces’ – ‘in this sign, you will conquer’. So, like any good pagan Roman would, Constantine took heed to this omen and ordered his troops to put a Christian symbol known as the Chi-Rho on their shields before going into battle. Against the odds, Constantine won the battle – taking over Maxentius’ territories. He later went on to become the first emperor of all the territories of Rome. He attributed this victory to the God of the Christians, IGNORING the usual celebratory sacrifices and traditions that came with victory in battle for Romans. Instead, he went straight into the imperial palace – with his thoughts alone. What follows is the steady process of how Christian living was replaced with ‘Christianity’…
The next year, in 313AD Constantine and the emperor of the other half of the Roman Empire – Licinius issued an edict called the Edict of Milan. This law gave all the people of the Roman empire the freedom to worship whoever they pleased. Christians and Jews had been persecuted severely prior to this, so this neutrality of the State was felt the most by these groups. Freedom to worship Yehovah and thank Yeshua for His sacrifice included the usual prayers, singing and observing the Sabbath. (Bear in mind ‘Christianity’ didn’t officially exist at this time but there was a growing number of people that called themselves Christians) The property and monies confiscated from the Christians was returned to them by order of this edict. This allowed the Christian message to spread unhindered amongst the people.
On March 7th 321AD – Constantine issued the first ‘Sunday Law’. This effectively outlawed Sabbath-keeping as Christians and Jews knew it. Constantine called himself a Christian, so this ‘rest from work’ was actually a dark replacement for the true Sabbath which was instituted by Yehovah at Creation. This rest from work was in line with the Roman Julian calendar and their 7-day, perpetually cycling week. The Jews and the Christians were fully aware of the implications of this law and most of them refused to replace their practices with this Roman-instilled dark replica of the Sabbath; unless under threat of death; – and die, some of them well did. It replaced the one obvious marker that the Hebrew people were known by – the Sabbath. As Sun-day worship and Sun-day rest became more popular; the Julian calendar gained strength as the ancient Hebrew calendar lost observance and support.
In 324AD, Licinius and Constantine battled and Constantine became the sole emperor of the entire Roman Empire. He called himself a Christian and throughout the years, Constantine’s Christian attitude and ideas were reflected by the laws made, favours granted and general support given to the Christians. This included tax rebates, special allowances, the design and construction of Church buildings and favour when granting governmental and official advisory positions to Christians.
But ‘Christianity’ still hadn’t had its official birth; – not the one that would see it to where it is today…
Constantine died in the year 337AD. Despite his profession to be of Christian faith and the numerous steps he had taken to legitimise and enlarge his beliefs; – much of the Roman Empire was not Christian. This included not only government officials, but the general population also. The Edict of Milan was in place and it meant that anyone could freely worship who/whatever they chose without fear of persecution. Traditional Sabbath observance was made illegal and this effectively meant that the original Christians could not worship Yehovah the way they believed they should. At this point, you were not breaking the law if you were not a Christian – unless you kept the true Sabbath. Christian, Jew or otherwise; – if you observed the traditional Sabbath and ignored the Empire-wide law to rest on the ‘venerable day of the Sun’ – you were committing an illegal offence.
Some people continued to hold on to their beliefs, some more-so than others. The nationally recognised festivals, sacrifices, customs and traditions were held fast to a large portion of the people throughout the Empire. Romans – including some converts to ‘Christianity’ still kept up with the major festivals such as Saturnalia, Lupercalia and Eostre etc. At this point in time, to be a non-Christian was not a crime. Even Constantine himself, was not considered a devout Christian by today’s standards. His personal theology seemed to evolve during his time as Emperor. He raised his children in ‘Christianity’ and had Christian clergy as personal advisors; however he held on to the title, Pontifex Maximus until his death. Another example of his ‘duality’ would be the appearance of the Christian cross on Roman coins, while having the Roman god; ‘Mars Conservator‘ on there simultaneously.
One of the things Constantine did to spread his faith among the people, was to give certain favours once they professed to being a Christian in Christianity. One such favour was tax relief. If you were not a convert to Christianity, you were taxed heavier than if you were; this paid for the building of Constantinople – the city that he built in his name in place of its predecessor, Byzantium. Constantine, ‘the first Christian Emperor’ also actively encouraged, advocated and taught the people to despise their old beliefs, their many gods, their temples and the idols & images they held. This led to a slowing of funds and thus, maintenance of the pagan temples and other religious buildings declined. Devout pagan and other religious communities died off; – instead Roman Catholic ‘Christian’ churches began to grow in number and with it – so did Church funds. Slowly, the old temples were not up-kept and gradually died off until Constantine began tearing them down – building Churches in their place.
It was not until 380AD when the 3 emperors of Rome, Theodosius I, Gratian and Valentinian I gave the monumental Edict of Thessalonica.
CHRISTIANITY would now not only have legitimacy (which it already had from the Edict of Milan), but much heavier weight on the world stage by virtue of the sheer size and extent of Rome’s territories. This Edict made ‘Christianity’ the official, national Roman religion across the Empire. Anything else was heresy.
So you see – social norms, a thoroughly mixed plethora of people and an absorbed, assimilated and Hellenised culture are all elements that have influenced the religion of ‘Christianity’ we see today. Now one may argue that they are Christian and that ‘Christianity’ doesn’t mean that to them. Here’s a question – does your opinion change the meaning of a word? If I use the word ‘NI**ER’ – does it change its meaning if I am Nigerian, English or Chinese? The origin of the religion first named (and currently known) as ‘CHRISTIANITY’ has not changed.
‘Christianity’ had a pagan birth and has lived a pagan life. It has evolved over centuries but its roots will never change. I believe that Yehovah is sovereign and is drawing those that love Him away from organised religion and closer to Himself.
‘CHRISTIANITY’ is a far-cry from what Yeshua, Paul and the Apostles originally taught; – as described in the Bible.
Here’s some rhetoric for you… Are you a Christian, or is Christianity your religion??
END OF PART 1.
ONLY. ONE. MIIKZ.