Golden Chains Gladly Accepted

In 312, after his victory in the battle of the Milvian Bridge, Emperor Constantine I (ruled 312 – 337) declared himself a Christian; in the following year he proclaimed the Edict of Milan, which guaranteed religious freedom. Since the emperor pronounced the Christian god as his god, this god was elevated, eo ipso, to the god of the empire. With Emperor Theodosius I (ruled 379-395), the process of the Christianization of the Roman state, begun with Emperor Constantine, led to a nationalization of the Church when, in 381, he forbade the conversion from Christianity to another religion and then, ten years later, put an end to all pagan worship within the empire and had the pagan temples destroyed or turned into churches. However, Constantine’s successors had already banned pagan sacrifices in 341, and in 346 had decreed the closing of pagan temples, although in 361 Emperor Julian the Apostate (ruled 361 – 363) undertook the last, unsuccessful, attempt to create a Christian-pagan synthesis and had the closed temples reopened.

It is hardly surprising that the Christian Church first expressed thanks for its sudden recognition as the state religion with a certain submissiveness and gladly accepted ‘golden chains’ in the form of financial support from the state.

Baumer, The Church of the East, p. 38

Notice how after only a few short decades of religious freedom, the Church in the Roman empire found itself no longer in the frying pan of persecution, but now in the fire of being the official religion of state power – and financially-dependent on that state.

Photo by Chris Czermak on Unsplash

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