Church History Exam, Imperial Church

Describe changes to the church that were the result of the new relationship with the empire under Constantine.

During the 4th century, the church had begun to experience some major changes. With the rise of Constantine, and his takeover as sole emperor, the church found itself in a reversed role. Constantine claimed that the Christian God, whom he believed to be more powerful than those of the pagans, helped him capture victory. With this, he began to enact a series of measures to promote Christianity as a public-supported religion. This all started with the Edict of Milan (313 AD), which ended the persecution of Christians.

The Church now found itself in a new position. By raising it’s position within society to one parallel to paganism, as well as removing the threat of persecution, Roman citizens flooded the Church This produced two circles of Christianity: those of the nominal nature, and those whom were truly believers. With the flooding of individuals came the competition amongst churches to swell member sizes, leading to a loss of the previous concerns of the church.

Whereas the Church had previously worked absent of the civil authorities, the church now worked alongside it. Constantine sought to flood priests with styles of worship that fitted the majesty of the empire, instead of its former humble beginnings. Priests now wore pomp attire, choirs were added, and processionals were introduced. Soon Imperial theology began to seep into the church. Three major additions were made: 1) Whereas the Church had historically seen poverty and meekness as a blessing, the flooding of Roman aristocrats produced a theology that saw riches as a blessing, 2) A new clerical aristocracy developed, 3) As seen in the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea, the idea of which the early church held dear of Jesus’ return and establishment of the kingdom were swept aside, and instead focused on the idea of the church and roman empire ushering forth such a kingdom.

The combination of imperial theology, as well as the additions of nominal Christians, produced various responses by the Christian community. Four in specific: 1) Certain Christians, such as Eusebius, believed this was the climax of history, where the church and empire rose to great heights, 2) Certain Christians had seen the intrusion of the church as a perversion, and ran to the deserts to pursue lives as monks, 3) Certain Christians saw it as a heresy, and progressed to schism in the form of Donatism, and finally 4) Certain individuals recognized the threats of nominal Christianity, and decided to stay and combat them intellectually (the great Doctors of the Church). These four responses, due to Constantine’s newly created relationship, where to have profound influences on the future discussions and directions of the Church.

Describe the meanings and theological uses of ousia, physis, and hypostasis in Nicene theology.

During the first great ecumenical council, Constantine sought to call the various bishops and Christians together to 1) Develop a form of official practice and doctrine, and 2) Contain a sense of unity amongst the Christians that would further produce stability within his empire. Of great concern at this debate, was the description of the trinity. Eusebius of Nicomedia had taken Arius’ argument of Arianism, the idea that Jesus was merely a creature whom has not existed for all eternity, but was rather a creation of God, and proposed it with a sense of authority.

After stunned into the realization that this heresy contained, Alexander of Alexandria spearheaded an attack on Arius and Eusebius of Nicomedia’s Arianism. Central to this attack was the drafting of the theological terms ousia, physis, and hypostasis. We may explore their definitions as follows:

1) Ousia: Is defined as the same essence or substance. In practical terms, we may finitely and imperfectly see it in the example of species. A horse compared to a kangaroo bring about two separate ousia, or essenses. In the form of the trinity, ousia helps us understanding that the same essence of the trinity expresses their divinity. This essence is that the trinity and it’s persons are eternal and infinite. Being of this essence, they exist within one another, and share the same will (Perekarisus).

2) Physis: Is defined as distinguishing characteristics. In practical terms, we may finitely and imperfectly see it as the distinguishing characteristics between a horse and a donkey. Although they may have similar characteristics (four legs, etc), they contain distinguishing ones as well (their size, speed, makeup, usages, etc). The distinguishing characteristics of God (his omnipotence, love, grace, etc), allow us to see it in comparison to us, as well as to the distinguishing characteristics amongst the God-head. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each contain distinguishing characteristics, however are still of the same essence.

3) Hypostasis: Is defined as the expressive persons. Although two horses may both be of the same species, ad contain the same physis, Buttercup and Silver are two persons. They are not one mere horse, but share in the ousia of them being horses. This helps us understanding that although the trinity shares the same essence, it contains within it three unique persons: Father, Son, and Spirit.

Describe the new relationship between the church and empire under Constantine. This includes (but is not limited to) the role the church was intended to play.

Although it is an assumption, it is not wild to believe that Constantine saw the Christian God as a powerful means of solidifying his empire. After all, he had pursued worship of the pagan God’s while claiming his status as a Christian. For this reason, some had argued that Constantine sought the fusion of Church and Empire as a means of furthering stability and control. To Constantine, the church played an important role of bringing about stability within the empire. Where previously empires had sought the favor of the God’s to bring about the glory of the empire, Constantine saw the key as the Christian God. If he could appease this God by favoring his believers, the Christians, then he could strengthen his empire.

The relationship was thus fused. The Church took up imperial characteristics. As a result, the church was to play the role of shared stability. Instead of dealing with the divisions brought from past conflicts, Constantine sought to use the potential of the church to empower his reign. In the eyes of such thinkers as Eusebius of Caesarea, the role of the church was to ride the vehicle of the empire to the heights of Christianity. The empire empowered the Church to reach levels and numbers unseen previously. Capital and numbers were established to pursue bigger churches, and wider measures. However, this brought with it several confrontations.

((BELOW IS A COPY OF THE ANSWER TO QUESTION 1, AS IT RELATES TO AND ANSWERS THE ABOVE QUESTION AND MATERIAL))

During the 4th century, the church had begun to experience some major changes. With the rise of Constantine, and his takeover as sole emperor, the church found itself in a reversed role. Constantine claimed that the Christian God, whom he believed to be more powerful than those of the pagans, helped him capture victory. With this, he began to enact a series of measures to promote Christianity as a public-supported religion. This all started with the Edict of Milan (313 AD), which ended the persecution of Christians.

The Church now found itself in a new position. By raising it’s position within society to one parallel to paganism, as well as removing the threat of persecution, Roman citizens flooded the Church This produced two circles of Christianity: those of the nominal nature, and those whom were truly believers. With the flooding of individuals came the competition amongst churches to swell member sizes, leading to a loss of the previous concerns of the church.

Whereas the Church had previously worked absent of the civil authorities, the church now worked alongside it. Constantine sought to flood priests with styles of worship that fitted the majesty of the empire, instead of its former humble beginnings. Priests now wore pomp attire, choirs were added, and processionals were introduced. Soon Imperial theology began to seep into the church. Three major additions were made: 1) Whereas the Church had historically seen poverty and meekness as a blessing, the flooding of Roman aristocrats produced a theology that saw riches as a blessing, 2) A new clerical aristocracy developed, 3) As seen in the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea, the idea of which the early church held dear of Jesus’ return and establishment of the kingdom were swept aside, and instead focused on the idea of the church and roman empire ushering forth such a kingdom.

The combination of imperial theology, as well as the additions of nominal Christians, produced various responses by the Christian community. Four in specific: 1) Certain Christians, such as Eusebius, believed this was the climax of history, where the church and empire rose to great heights, 2) Certain Christians had seen the intrusion of the church as a perversion, and ran to the deserts to pursue lives as monks, 3) Certain Christians saw it as a heresy, and progressed to schism in the form of Donatism, and finally 4) Certain individuals recognized the threats of nominal Christianity, and decided to stay and combat them intellectually (the great Doctors of the Church). These four responses, due to Constantine’s newly created relationship, where to have profound influences on the future discussions and directions of the Church.

((AN ADDITION TO THE INFORMATION COPIED ABOVE))

As a result, the actions of Constantine were to greatly affect the role the church would play in the future. With the moving of the capitol to Constantinople (former Byzantium), Constantine set in order the future of the western church. The West and Rome had been sucked of its power. Only time would be needed until it was fully sacked and taken over in 410 AD. A power vacuum remained, which the Latin Western Church quickly filled. With the coming of the barbarians, and the examples of such great leaders as John Chrysostom and Ambrose, the church naturally filled the role allowed by the barbarians to facilitate order. This then grew to the latin-centered Western tradition, which found its later fruition into the modern Catholic church and the resulting Protestant reformation.

It had all started between the relationship of the Imperial Church and the Empire. If it was not for Constantine’s desire to fuse the two and strengthen his hold, history would perhaps tell a very different story.

Explain the theological and ecclesiological events leading up to the Council of Nicaea

Within the city of Alexandria during the 4th century, a theological conflict grew. The famous and well-followed presbyter, Arius, began to adhere to a doctrine that taught that the Word was not of the same essence of the Father. Instead, Arius taught that the Son was merely a creature, begotten of God, and created by him before the creation of our physical world. Alexander of Alexandria saw the heresy behind this: to deny the divinity of the Son was to deny the validity of the incarnation, which in turn meant God did not suffer for our punishment on the cross, but merely some creature. God’s wrath could not fully be revealed upon the Christ, and instead poses major problems for Christianity: If a simple creature could live sinless, why not man? Why the need of a cross to begin with, if God’s creature could merely achieve righteousness. The issue of grace is thus muddled.

This battle resumed until brought to the presence of the Roman clergy. Upon seeing this heresy, Constantine called forth the first great ecumenical counsel in 325 AD. The issue, besides solving some unified practices, was to bring about a solution to this problem: to bring about the proper and official Christianity. Eusebius of Nicomedia, a bishop who represented Arius and the Arians, defended the position in hopes that the argument, once explained, would be universally accept. The opposite occurred, and the heresy was combated. The groups unified to establish it as heresy, developing a creed (Nicene Creed), that expressed this. In addition, Constantine banished the Arian priests and bishops from their cities, further strengthening the unity of his empire and the Christian church.

Identify Arius

Arius was a famous and well-followed presbyter of Alexandria. With such a popular following established, Arius’ ideas began to grow. One which is central to Early Church conflicts, was that of his view on the nature of God. In wishing to adhere to the monotheism of Judaic tradition, Arius taught that the Word of God, the Son Jesus, was merely a creation. He taught that the Son was a created being, made before the physical creation established in Genesis. In short, the Son was not one with the father: not of the same essence. He was a separate person, a figure much like a Demi-God (Hercules). Arius had taught these teaching, and quickly found opposition from such Orthodox Christians as Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria. With the help of his secretary Athanasius, Alexandria combated this heresy, bringing it to the Roman clergy, and finally to the Christian world before the Council of Nicea. Arius, since he was not a bishop, could not argue before the Council, and instead had to rely on Eusebius of Nicomedia to further his arguments. Upon being exposed to the Christian Church, Arius and his idea of Arianism was quickly rejected. He was labeled as a heretic, condemned by the Council, and banished from his city.

Identify Athanasius

Athanasius is popularly known as the ‘black dwarf’, due to his small height and his darkened skin. However this term is quite deceptive, as Athanasius was a theological giant. A 4th century Doctor of the church, his past is rather obscure, and boasts of humble beginnings. It is believed that he was raised somewhere along the Nile in Northern Africa. Having spoken Coptic, and with his darkened skin, it is believed he came from the lower class of the Copts. Athanasius had experienced further humbling after pursuing the life of a reclusive monk. Jerome even writes about his possible contacts with Anthony. He had firmly established a relationship and popularity with the monks, which worked to his advantage as conflict found him later in life.

After experiencing the monastic lifestyle, Athanasius was accepted as the secretary under Alexander of Alexandria. It was at this time where he was heavily exposed to the heresy of Arianism, which would thus effect his theological contributions. Besides experiencing a series of four exiles and returns, boasting of such events as requesting an audience with the empire by grasping unto his horse’s reigns, Athanasius was tremendously popular with the people. We could say that two distinguishing characteristics were his disciplines monastic lifestyle, and his fiery support amongst the populace. For these reasons, it is understandable that such individuals as Eusebius of Nicomedia and the pro-arian emperor Constantius would find him as one of their most formidable enemies. These individuals would pursue his elimination, only to find him whisked away to the secrecy of the desert monks protections.

During these fiery exchanges and battles with Arianism, Athanasius wrote two important texts: Against the Gentiles, and On the Incarnation of the Word. Within these works, we find the meat of Athanasius’ contribution to the Church and theology: the incarnation.

To Athanasius, the central fact of Christianity and human history is that of the incarnation: the coming of God to walk with man. Athanasius argued that it was this very act that allowed us to have true communion with God. To deny Jesus as the incarnate God, as the Arians had done, was to lead to the conclusion that true communion was no longer possible. For this reason, a denial of the central fact of human history and Christianity, Athanasius’ fiery opposition is understandable. Using his disciplined lifestyle, and his popularity with the people, Athanasius is best known for advancing and protecting Nicene Orthodoxy via his powerful example and compelling incarnation-focused arguments.
Identify homoousios

During the great debate of Arianism vs. Trinitarians, such individuals as Athanasius found one term central: homoousios. It is defined as having the ‘same essence’. The result of this term is central to understanding the nature of the trinity. Working upon the Trinitarian hints found within scripture (baptism, etc.), homoousios expresses that the trinity shares in the same essence/substance: eternal and infinite. It is do to their same essence that allows the trinity to not merely be three separate Gods (polytheism), but a single monotheistic God that shares the same essence, yet is found in three persons. To be eternal and infinite is to reside within the same ‘space’, and as such the will of the trinity is one. This single will shows the difference between the trinity and a polytheistic concept, as polytheism contains numerous God’s containing separate wills.

Athanasius battled for this term, which we see advanced within the creed. Later, perhaps a result of his old age and a desire to see unity amongst the Church, Athanasius accepts a slight change. Certain individuals, perhaps of fear for the heresy of patrepassinism (idea that God the father came down as Jesus, not the Son), wished to use the term homoiousios (of similar essence/substance). The latter term, which Athanasius would have previously deemed heretical, seemed a fitting sacrifice for the During the great debate of Arianism vs. Trinitarians, such individuals as Athanasius found one term central: homoousios. It is defined as having the ‘same essence’. The result of this term is central to understanding the nature of the trinity. Working upon the Trinitarian hints found within scripture (baptism, etc.), homoousios expresses that the trinity shares in the same essence/substance: eternal and infinite. It is do to their same essence that allows the trinity to not merely be three separate Gods (polytheism), but a single monotheistic God that shares the same essence, yet is found in three persons. To be eternal and infinite is to reside within the same ‘space’, and as such the will of the trinity is one. This single will shows the difference between the trinity and a polytheistic concept, as polytheism contains numerous God’s containing separate wills.

Athanasius battled for this term, which we see advanced within the creed. Later, perhaps a result of his old age and a desire to see unity amongst the Church, Athanasius accepts a slight change. Certain individuals, perhaps of fear for the heresy of patrepassinism (idea that God the father came down as Jesus, not the Son), wished to use the term homoiousios (of similar essence/substance). The latter term, which Athanasius would have previously deemed heretical, seemed a fitting sacrifice for the unity of the Christian Church.

Identify Jerome

There are perhaps no other figure as comical, interesting, and profoundly influential as Jerome. It is said that Jerome was born old, hinting at the later crabbiness and grumpiness that defined his character. Not to say he was a terrible human being, but his approach was simply different.
A Church Doctor of the 4th century, Jerome was a student of Classical Latin literature. It was this literature that planted the thorn of sex addiction within his mind. Having always admired the beauty, the pornographic images contained within the latin classics was burned into his mind. As a result, Jerome sought to purge himself from it. His solution? Severe asceticism. Going as far as rejecting to bath, Jerome came to the conclusion that he needed to reject any amount of pagan literature and study from his life. To fill this void, he began an intensive study of the scriptures. This helped, and as such he believed that a study of the Hebrew, with the idea it was holy, would help even more. Finding it barbaric, Jerome continued to pursue this field. This even led to a pilgrimage that took him to Jerusalem. It was here he wished to study the ancient Hebrew in the ancient city, and it was here his dear friends Paula and her daughter followed. Paula, a rich widow, had invested heavily in monastic, and the two led twin monastic orders sharing their gender. With continuous discussions regarding scripture with Paula, he advanced his studies, until he was encouraged by a bishop and his passions to produce a version in Latin.

Having been helped by his study, and removed of his perversions, Jerome is best known for translating the bible directly from the original languages into Latin. It is a hallmark of church history: a result of Constantine’s shifting of power from the West to the East produced a cultural vacuum in the West which Latin law and philosophy filled. Latin became the lingua franca, and Jerome sought to provide a version Westerners could read. The results were profound. The Catholic Church, once developed into its Holy Roman version, even deemed Jerome’s version to be the source of authority. Translations such as the Kings James Version and others were translations from Jerome’s vulgate. The existence of the apocrypha works (Tobit, etc.), as found in the Catholic’s 77-book canon, are the result of his placement between the Old and New Testament (even though he stated they were not authoritative). Simply put, Jerome’s translation effective all of the resulting theology. The ideas of penance and purgatory possibly stemmed from Apocropha and his versions of translating, leading to specific practices in the modern Catholic church.

In addition, he served as an example to translating the bible into the vulgar language of the day. With this in mind, it is clear to see how immensely influential Jerome’s work had become.
In addition, Jerome’s work points to another specific area of interest: the rise of Latin culture, and the result it had on theological thinking. It verified the importance of the Latin, and how this tradition began deviating from the Greek. Once Rome fell in 410 AD, it is no surprise this Latin Christianity fills the power vacuum.

Identify John Chrysostom

John Chrysostom, known as the ‘Golden tongued’ or ‘Golden mouthed’, was another profoundly influential character of the 4th century church. An absolutely gifted speaker, John produced immensely dedicated followers through the merely gift of his preaching. So powerful had he become, that his mere works could spark revolutions.

With a background as a lawyer, and above all a monk, John Chrysostom was a devote and disciplined believer. The popularity of his preaching in North Africa lead to him being snuck out (of course, to prevent a riot), and sent to fill a vacancy within the bishop see of Constantinople. It was here he was to provide the contribution of his reforms. Perhaps having saturated the negativity of the imperial theological additions, the churches of Constantinople were in a decline. Clergy and bishops were often caught in the midst of affairs with ‘spiritual sisters’, as well as serious mismanagement and usage of church funds for their own luxury. John combated this with a series of reforms: 1) He demanded that bishops and clergy no longer live with ‘spiritual sisters’, 2) He called upon strict austerity amongst the clergy, 3) He oversaw a strained and closely-watched management of church funds, 4) He heavily preached that the laity remove themselves from their nominal Christian practices, and move from knowing sport’s icons to knowing their bible (he exhorted them to live righteous and holy lives).

Also a defender of Nicene Orthodoxy, he was quick to draw conflicts. The current chamberlain Eutropis had the illusion that bringing John to the city would produce some goodies. He was sorely mistaken. As a result, several clashes occurred. One, which was specifically revealing, was Eutropis’ pursuit of individuals seeking asylum from his wrath. These individuals ran to Saint Sophia, where John accepted and protected them. When Eutropis came knocking, John was quick to remind him that no bloodshed would be spilt there. The result was, that by the merely popularity and weight of his words, John’s actions led to the downfall of the wicked chamberlain. John had drew the emperor’s side, which funny enough led to Eutropis loosing power and running from those he formly persecuted to St. Sophia. As he had done earlier, John offered protection, and prevented the public from murdering him. After Eutropis believed St. Sophia couldn’t protect him, he foolishly ran away to be killed.

These conflicts continued with later with other royal officials. They ended the same: with John coming up successful against the throne. It is this contribution that we find invaluable to the early and latin church. Along with Ambrose, John Chrysostom successfully repelled efforts of the empire. His popularity, and ability to provide provision, hinted at the future of the Latin West after the barbarian invasions and the need for order (which the latin church then fills). After several struggles, John was banished to Cucusus. Here he turned to the pen, and drafted numerous worked that further angered the Arians and Throne. He was then pushed even further to a hamlet by the black sea. On his way there, he had been pushed to the limits, and neared death. He asked the soldiers to take him to a small church near the road. Here he took communion and gave perhaps his greatest and most beautiful sermon: In all things, Glory to God. He then died.

Identify Pachomius

During the 3rd century, several potential beginnings to the monastic movement are seen. In response to the persecutions of that time, individuals sought the desert for solace. The Hermit Paul and the monk Anthony are such examples. They had sought solitute in abandoned cemeteries and warehouses, seeking to further their relationship with god through simple solitude and meditation. These individuals had attracted serious respect amongst the laity and clergy, and their efforts were known well enough to provoke individuals to seek discipleship. One such example, Martin of Tours, shows the potency of such value. The topic of an extremely popular book at the time, Martin of Tours was a monk known famous for tearing his cloak in half, which he gave to a beggar and later received a vision of Jesus clothed in the cloak (‘do this to the least of these, and you do it for me’). The ragged Martin would later be appointed the bishop of tours, much to the objection of the surrounding aristocratic clergy.

It was during the 4th century that we see a new addition to monasticism: communal monasticism. Stemming in the reaction to Constantine’s merging of Christianity and empire, individuals fled for the pureness of the deserts. One such individual, Pachomius, sought to accomplish such a lifestyle. Pursuing the monastic principles, Pachomius decided to create a communal order that would focus on shared living and contemplation. His first such effort failed, which he responded by kicking individuals out and creeping stricter rules. This produced success, and the self-sufficient monastic communities grew. Soon Pachomius found himself overseeing 9 different communities with 100+ monks per group.

An additional contribution Pachomius gave to the monastic lifestyle was that of hierarchy. He had positioned a strict hierarchy within the monastic commune, consisting of himself as the overseeing Abbot. However even in this, Pachomius was a servant to the others, and so described the hierarchy. Individuals would petition to join the order outside their establishments, where they would be tested to endure, and then accepted and implanted.

Pachomius, as well as the monastic movements in general, had a tremendous effect on the Early Church. The monastic ideal was actively sought after. We see this in the monastic experiences of Athanasius, Jerome, John Chrysostom, Augustine and others. The disciplined lifestyle was a sobering reminder and model within the nominal Christian masses that now swelled the imperial churches. The above names, whom all influenced the church tremendously, are clearly products of such an influence, and it is here that we see the value and effect of Pachomius and others.

As the 5th century approached, these monastic communities adapted in the West to serve more a function of charity amongst the poor and needy.

3 thoughts on “Church History Exam, Imperial Church

  1. Hah. By it’s modern definition, no. Strong arguments from the early church itself that argues against the modern version of papal catholicism that developed after the imperial church, the fall of rome, and the power vacancy filled by strong roman bishops.

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