He ordered the execution of his eldest son, his second wife, and his favorite sister's husband. No one seems to be able to explain fully his reasons. While many of his actions cannot be defended, he did bid farewell to the old Roman gods and make the cross an emblem of Victory in the world.
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Issue More on Constantine When Christianity Triumphed. Building a Holy City. How Arianism Almost Won. After the Council of Nicaea, the real fight for the divinity of Christ began. Stay informed. Sign up for our Free newsletter. Give Today. With his death, the project of rebuilding the Temple unceremoniously also died. The next emperor, Theodosius, was again a virulent anti-pagan Christian. He not only set about to undo what Julian had done but to Christianizing the empire more than ever.
He passed a series of decrees that affected the Jewish people. One was that he forbade the meeting of the Sanhedrin. Among the consequences of that was the effective abolition of a Jewish calendar, because, as we have discussed before see the article on The Men of the Great Assembly , it was dependent upon declaration of the dates by members of the Sanhedrin.
Without knowing the dates of the Jewish holidays there is no way for Jews to survive as Jews. When the Communists came to power in Russia in they banned the Jewish calendar even before they banned the prayer-book. They realized that without knowing the precise dates of the Jewish holy days no Jew could possibly maintain his religion. If one Jew thought Yom Kippur was Wednesday and one thought it was Thursday and another thought Friday the structure of Jewish life would collapse. Therefore, they banned the calendar first. More than any other decree, this decree of Theodosius impelled the establishment of the permanent Jewish calendar, as we know it today.
Starting in CE there was serious discussion to officially adopt it. By CE, it was officially adopted by the Jewish people. The permanent Jewish calendar, based on mathematical calculations,  had always been known to and used by the Jew leaders. The Sanhedrin met because, within certain parameters, they had the power to adjust the calendar. For instance, the Sanhedrin had the power to lengthen a year by a month if the farmers needed it or if the date of Passover would not fall in the spring or other possible considerations.
This flexibility was its genius. It allowed human beings to tweak it as needed. Nevertheless, the Sanhedrin always had mathematical calculations to guide them — and it was those calculations that were used in the permanent Jewish calendar. The permanent calendar operates on a nineteen-year cycle. Every nineteen years there are seven leap years years with an additional month.
It is so accurate that even now, after years, the Jewish calendar is only off by a couple of minutes. Compare that to the Julian calendar, used by the Western world, which already centuries ago had to be corrected by more than 11 days. The permanent calendar was made official by the Prince of the people of the time, a man named Hillel, who is not to be confused with the more famous Hillel who lived four centuries earlier.
He saw that Christian persecution was ruining Jewish life, including making it impossible for the Sanhedrin to meet and set the dates of the Jewish calendar. It was he who proposed, at a clandestine meeting of the Sanhedrin, that a permanent calendar be instituted. After successfully doing that, he was then able to get the permanent calendar instituted in all Jewish communities throughout the world no matter how remote.
From then on, there were always Jews who could figure out the calendar no matter the situation. There are stories of Jews who were shipwrecked on islands for example, after they were expelled from Spain in or imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps who were able to use the principles of the Jewish calendar to recreate it accurately for themselves. Some of these calendars are on display in the Israel Museum. There is one Jewish family that was shipwrecked on an island for 11 years! Can you imagine?
There was this Jewish family alone on a desolate island celebrating Passover and Yom Kipper , etc. As would be true throughout history, this is a prime example of how the attempt of the Christian world to break the Jewish people and religion only strengthened it. After 50 years of intense Christian persecution against Jews, the Church leaders came to the conclusion that the Jews were not going to be easy to get rid.
On one hand, the Jews are portrayed as the vilest and evil people, the people who are guilty of deicide, who have no reason to survive and are damned to eternal fire and brimstone. On the other hand, they are here; they exist. For instance, the Pope always has outside of Vatican City a number of Jews who live under papal protection. Today, the doctrine of Witness People may no longer hold the importance for many people that it once had, but it colored all Christian-Jewish relationships until our time.
That is a very important point to remember going forward. The history of Jews and Christians took an irrevocable turn for the worse when Constantine converted himself and then the Roman Empire to Christianity. It was not just a one-time event with short-term repercussions. The pattern of Christian persecution against Jews was institutionalized through beliefs and doctrines that grew directly out of the Church leaders during those formative years.
In exchange for the Romans practicing the required religious rituals, the gods would ensure prosperity, health, and military success. Like the Romans, almost all the conquered peoples were polytheistic. They worshiped their own gods, who they thought protected them.
Constantine | Western Civilization
Since they believed other peoples had their own gods, they found it relatively easy to take part in festivals celebrating Roman gods. It was simply a matter of paying respect to the Romans. In return, the Romans built temples and made animal sacrifices for the conquered peoples' gods.
In fact, at various times other peoples' gods became wildly popular among Romans. The Romans actually identified the Greek gods with their own. Jupiter and Zeus, for example, were viewed as the same god. When Greco-Roman gods didn't meet their needs, many Romans joined mystery cults from the east. The cult of Isis, an Egyptian goddess, swept the empire at the beginning of the first century.
The cult of Mithras, the Persian sun god, proved particularly popular to soldiers and useful to the empire because it idealized courage. The Romans generally tolerated these cults, but there were exceptions. Crowds celebrating Dionysus, a Greek god associated with wine and drunkenness, grew so frenzied that Rome suppressed the cult for a while. But within a few years, Rome relented and allowed it as long as no more than five worshiped at any one time. When a priest from the cult of Isis seduced an innocent Roman woman, Roman Emperor Tiberius ordered the temple destroyed and its priests executed.
But the next emperor once again permitted the cult. The religions that Rome had the most problems with were monotheistic—Judaism and Christianity. Because these religions believed there was just one god, they prohibited worshiping other gods.
- The Early Christian Church at Rome.
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Their members refused to make offerings to Roman gods or take part in Roman religious festivals, which Rome considered a matter of showing loyalty. These religions tested Roman tolerance. In 63 B. Rome immediately recognized it had a problem because the Jews refused to pay homage to Roman gods. Rome gave in and exempted Jews from this requirement. Rome did this in part because the Jews had helped Roman general Julius Caesar win an important battle several years earlier.
Soon Rome recognized Judaism as a legal religion, allowing Jews to worship freely. But Rome viewed the Jews with suspicion and persecuted them on several occasions. One of the most serious conflicts between Rome and the Jews began in Judea in A. The Roman governor of Judea unwisely decided to confiscate a large sum of money from the treasury of the Great Temple in Jerusalem.
He claimed he was collecting taxes owed the emperor. Rioting broke out, which Roman soldiers ruthlessly suppressed. This, in turn, enraged a nationalistic group of Jewish revolutionaries, called Zealots, who massacred the Romans in Jerusalem and attacked Roman troops elsewhere in the Roman province. Nero sent three legions to put down the rebellion. By summer of the year 68, Rome had restored its control over most of the province.
Two years later, the Romans retook Jerusalem and destroyed the Great Temple, the center of the Jewish religion. Fighting continued for a few more years until the Zealot fortress at Masada fell. Following this revolt, Rome tried to prevent further uprisings by expelling Jews to different parts of the empire. But Jews rose in two more unsuccessful rebellions. The first took place in — in several Mideast cities. The second took place in Jerusalem in when Emperor Hadrian announced he would build a shrine to Jupiter on the site of the destroyed Great Temple. After crushing these challenges to their authority, the Romans dispersed Jews throughout the empire.
But Judaism remained a legal religion and Jews continued to enjoy religious privileges. Rome had good reasons to tolerate the Jewish religion. First, it was a well-established religion with a long history. Most important, Rome wanted to keep the people of Judea from revolting. Neither of these reasons applied to Christianity.
Rome and Christianity
This new offshoot of the Jewish religion had little support at first among the people of Judea. In fact, many Jews would have been pleased if Rome had suppressed it. Yet when Rome first became aware of Christianity around A. Thinking this sect might weaken the always bothersome Jewish religion, Emperor Tiberius asked the Senate to legalize the Christian faith and declare Christ a Roman god.
But the Senate refused. Instead, it pronounced Christianity to be an "illegal superstition," a crime under Roman law. Although Christianity was now officially illegal, Tiberius still hoped this new religious sect would further his goal of pacifying the empire. As a result, he ordered Roman officials not to interfere with the new religion, a policy that lasted about 30 years until the time of Nero.
On the night of July 18, A. The fire spread quickly and for six days consumed much of the city, including Emperor Nero's palace.