Saint Constantine the Great, Emperor, Confessor and Equal to the Apostles
That is according to Wikipedia – but who made him equal to the Apostles?
Never, mind – that’s a rhetorical question.
So, who was Constantine?
Most of us – or maybe these days, only some of us… have heard the story of how Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity.
‘Legend’ has it that before a great battle, he saw the sign of the cross in the sky and was told “with this sign, you shall win” – there are some variations in the story.
The same article that proclaimed him equal to the Apostles says…
Although he lived most of his life as a pagan, he joined the Christian faith on his deathbed, being baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia.
Clearly, his ‘baptism’ was ‘sprinkling.’ He could not have had full immersion baptism such as John the Baptist performed, and the Apostles did, because Constantine was on his deathbed. Because of this ‘deathbed conversion’ some modern scholars, however, debate his beliefs and even his comprehension of the Christian faith itself.
So, what about the vision of the cross? Did he see it or not? If he did, why was his conversion recorded as a ‘deathbed conversion?’
A discussion thread in a forum predominantly cited the fact that ‘baptism is one time only’. For this reason, and because Constantine knew he would continue to sin, left his baptism until his deathbed so he would be ‘clean’ when he died.
Sounds rather duplicitous to me. (And if I can recognise it, you can be sure, God would.)
Did Constantine have a vision of the cross or not?
First, see the ‘featured’ image at the start of this post. That is claimed to be a modern version of the cross on the sun.
Be that or be it not… according to chroniclers such as Eusebius of Caesarea and Lactantius, the battle of the Milvian Bridge marked the beginning of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. Eusebius of Caesarea recounts that Constantine and his soldiers had a vision sent by the Christian God. This was interpreted as a promise of victory if the sign of the Chi-Rho, the first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek, was painted on the soldiers’ shields.
I guess I am cynical, but that sounds like ‘superstition’ to me. (I grew up bound by superstition, we Scots are good at it, but I gave them up.)
Doing a quick search, I could not find any example of God (or Jesus) requiring a symbol for the clothing or shields of people ‘fighting in His Name.’
Conversely there are a lot of scriptures promising that He will fight for them.
The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:14)
“Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” (2 Chronicles 32:7)
When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. Deuteronomy 20: 1
After reading, and researching on the subject of Constantine, I find it tempting to believe that, for his own purpose, Emperor Constantine added his branch of ‘Christianity’ to the arsenal of gods he already worshipped.
See these pictures of the Roman temples in Constantine’s time. Consider if he was trying to balance the beliefs of the population, then the report I read might be true that he did offer pagan sacrifices up until he was too ill to go to the temples anymore.
Photos taken from Rome in 312 – Emperor Constantine the Great.
Panorama in the Gasometer in Pforzheim/Germany, by Yadegar Asisi and posted in the Roman History group by Karen Gronbach Grüneberg
Perhaps most ‘telling’ is Constantine’s Arch.
According to the YouTube video linked below – there is not one Christian symbol on the Arch – but there are pagan dieties.
Starting at 11.34 the Arch of Constantine is explored. (The whole video is approx. 44 minutes long.)
This information is part of the many, often contradictory, sources I sifted through while writing the Apostle John Series.
What you believe is your choice, I am simply sharing some interesting information I came across.