Chapter Three explores the historical events and developments that took place during the time of Bishop Eusebius, approximately 1,700 years ago. Despite Eusebius’s acknowledged poor writing skills and lack of modern conveniences, he undertook the monumental task of documenting the history of the Church. His dedication to collecting valuable information and recognizing the significance of his time proved invaluable for future generations. Recognizing the need to document later events beyond those recorded in the New Testament, Eusebius embarked on the task of traveling, interviewing people, and collecting records to compile a comprehensive history of the Church.
The book that Eusebius wrote, although seen as boring by some, is considered priceless because of its content. It contains valuable information that would have been lost to history if not for his efforts. One such piece of information explains the difference between the Gospel of John and the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Eusebius reveals that John, having read the first three Gospels, felt the need to fill in the gaps and provide details about Jesus’ early work before John the Baptist’s imprisonment. This insight helps shed light on the distinctiveness of John’s Gospel and its purpose.
Eusebius recognized the significance of his time and observed two contrasting situations: the severe persecution inflicted upon Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian and the subsequent end of persecution when Constantine became the first Christian emperor. Through his keen observation and recording of events, Eusebius captured the remarkable transformation of Christianity from a persecuted sect to the recognized and legal religion of the entire Roman Empire.
The persecution under Diocletian was a time of horror for Christians. Churches were destroyed, Christian scriptures were burned, and believers were subjected to various forms of cruelty and punishment. However, Diocletian’s perspective shifted when he experienced a debilitating illness, leading him to order the end of the persecutions and even seek prayers from Christians.
Upon Diocletian’s death, Constantine assumed power and became the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire. Constantine’s conversion brought about significant changes for the Church. He declared Christianity a recognized and free religion throughout the Roman Empire and implemented laws that supported its growth. The chapter recounts a supposed miraculous event that prompted Constantine’s acceptance of Christianity, symbolized by a vision in the sky and the words “By this sign, conquer.”
One of Constantine’s notable actions was convening the First Ecumenical Council, an important gathering of church leaders, known as the Nicene Convention. The Nicene Convention is a council meeting called by Constantine to address disputes and reach agreements among Christian leaders. The Nicene Convention, held in 325 AD, addressed key issues within the Church. At the Nicene Convention, two significant decisions were made, which were establishing Easter as a joyful celebration on Sundays and formulating the Nicene Creed, a statement of belief that emphasized the divinity of Christ. Furthermore, they sought unity in the expression of beliefs and eventually adopted the Nicene Creed, which became a unifying statement of faith for the Christian Church. Those who adopted the Nicene Creed were considered orthodox, while those who rejected it were labeled as heretics.
The chapter also explores the relationship between the church and the state during this period. While Constantine’s actions brought temporary unity, differences and disputes eventually arose, leading to schisms within the Church. His involvement in church affairs blurred the line between church and state, leading to subsequent instances of government interference and church leaders’ attempts to exert control. Despite the initial unity achieved at the Nicene Convention, disagreements and different expressions of faith persisted, leading to the popularity of the Apostles’ Creed as an alternative to the Nicene Creed.
Additionally, Constantine’s decision to move the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople (formerly Byzantium) had significant implications for the Church. The eastern and western halves of the empire became distinct, with different languages, cultures, and historical backgrounds. This division eventually led to differences in customs and practices within the Church, as the bishop of Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople held similar positions but presided over different regions.
In summary, this chapter was written by Mark Boone to shed light on the pivotal events in early Christian history, including the contributions of Eusebius and Constantine. Despite challenges such as poor writing skills and limited resources, Eusebius’s commitment to preserving the history of the Church proved invaluable. Constantine’s conversion and subsequent actions, including the Nicene Council and the establishment of Constantinople, brought about significant changes that shaped the course of Christianity.