Posted by: ken98 | January 6, 2010

Emperor’s Dreams and Magical Symbols

Day 117 – Ken here (W)(1-6-2010)
(DEF v.2, ch.20, pp.730-740)

It’s late again – almost midnight, and I’m reading and writing like mad to get to bed at a decent hour tonight. We have almost 100 pages left of the conversion of the empire to Christianity, then an extended essay into Heresy – not the most fascinating topics – but we’ll grind through them.

We continue chapter 20 with discussion of why Constantine converted to Christianity, and why the empire chose Christianity. These are the pages of the famous Labarum, the Dream (In This Sign You Will Conquer), and the Sign in the Heavens that made the conversion miraculous and somewhat arbitrary – it was fated to happen by God himself.

We end with a brief description of the Golden Age that was supposed to result from a government becoming Christian – how society, time, history, and humankind were supposed to have been forever changed once Christianity was allowed to govern politically.

 
The Story
 
Constantine’s Conversion to Christianity – Why?

  • The promose of a new Golden Age, with all the Roman world as Christian.
  • Example: Lactantius’ sermon to Constantine predicting the innocence, justice, and peace that would naturally occur should the empire become Christian (or should any state declare itself Christian) – ah, the naivete of not knowing what Christian citizens or Christian states or Christian Churches were capable of
  • Christians could assert in their favor (“Convert the empire to Christianity!”) that Christians have always been passive and obedient to the powers in charge of the temporal state – ie Christians are subjects, not likely to rock the boat politically, ready to follow the lead of the established political authority. What’s not to like in a Christian imperial citizen?
  • Christians have a biblical history which naturally leads them to give kings Divine Rights (ex. David, the prophets). Christians have a ready-made political agenda to support the current imperial administration – whatever it may be
  • Gibbon notes that in return for supporting Christians, Constantine received fanatical support from the entire Christian hierarchy, right from the outset – a fanatical minority passionately devoted to his cause alone
  •  
    The Empire’s Conversion to Christianity, Why?

  • Christian’s expected miracles, and the un-believing, and curious half-expected miracles to occur as the empire turned towards the new Christian God and legalizing Christianity
  • The idea was a new first century era of miracles would result from Constantine’s conversion. Constantine (and the preachers of his court – Lactantius, Eusebius, et al) looked and found evidence of divine miraculous intervention in the Roman empire on Constantine’s behalf – or at least documented supportive evidence well and retold the stories of intervention in a miraculous tone
  • There were 3 miracles coagulated into “one brittle mass” (in the words of Gibbon): 1) the Labarum (the Magical Symbol), 2) the Dream, 3) the Sign in the Sky
  • MIracles of Constantine – the Labarum (the Magical Symbol) – the symbol itself (the Chi Rho – a modified cross) AND the battle standard in the shape of the Chi Rho carried before the imperial armies of Constantine and leading him to victory (like the ark of the convenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark)
  • Miracles of Constantine – the Dream – Constantine dreamed (before the victory at the Mylvan Bridge where Constantine defeated his rival emperors, won the civil war, and took sole control of the Roman Empire) that if he put the Chi Rho sign on all his soldiers and fought under that sign he would win – IN HOC SIGNO VINCES (Latin) (by this sign shall you win)
  •  
    On Political Christianity and the Golden Age
    It’s hard to realize (really hard) how much hope and zeal were expended (and lost) once the empire became Christian. At the beginning of the 4th century (early 300’s) it seemed the impossible was about to take place – the totalitarian pagan machine that was Late Roman Government was embracing the gentle, pacifist, faith of the Son of God (or at least it seemed that way to the Christians at the time). Talk about millenialism, it seemed to be the end of the old, tired, pagan world, and the beginning of a new world order of love and justice.

    But of course it wasn’t. Christians of the early 300’s had only to think on how they treated their own “erring” brothers (Donatists in North Africa, Gnostics, the constant problems in the Egyptian/Antioch Church, etc) and realize that Christians in power were, if anything, more vicious than the worst of the tyrant emperors. Each Christian sect felt that God had to be on their side and their righteous justice knew no earthly mercy. Christians in power were shameless.

    The hope was that the primitive age of innocence, the myth of the previous Golden Age would return – in the form of a Christian Republic/Empire. Constantine reaped the benefit of all those hopes and aspirations through the zeal of the Christian party.

    Simple Labarum - or Chi Rho sign

    Simple Labarum - or Chi Rho sign

    Coin of Constantine - note on the obverse, the Labarum - the standard with the banner, at the top of the standard is the ChiRho sign - this is the magical standard that went before Constantine's troops and ensured his victories - the soldiers - and Constantine - took it very seriously as a direct sign of divine favor - AND IT WORKED

    Coin of Constantine - note on the obverse, the Labarum - the standard with the banner, at the top of the standard is the ChiRho sign - this is the magical standard that went before Constantine's troops and ensured his victories - the soldiers - and Constantine - took it very seriously as a direct sign of divine favor - AND IT WORKED

     
    MIracles – The Labarum
    The Labarum is a symbol and the standard carried into battle before the troops of Constantine.

     
    Miracles – The Dream
    In the Dream (and dreams were taken very seriously by pagans and Christians alike) God told Constantine – In This Sign You Will Conquer (the ChiRho sign). So, Constantine used it. And it worked.

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