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Chapter 2 : The Church Fathers and Heresies. The Founding of Christendom (Christ + Kingdom). Post-Edict of Milan. Constantine favors Christianity : builds the early great basilica churches, tax-exempt status, privileges for the clergy, etc. Fashionable to convert to Christianity.

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post edict of milan
Post-Edict of Milan
  • Constantine favors Christianity: builds the early great basilica churches, tax-exempt status, privileges for the clergy, etc.
  • Fashionable to convert to Christianity.
  • Mixture of authentic believers and opportunists wanting to gain favor with the Emperor and his court.

Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus (272-337)

new rome
New Rome
  • Moved the capital of the Empire to Byzantium in 324.
  • Renamed it: Constantinople
  • Left an “administrative emperor” in the West.
  • Two lines of emperors.
  • Executed his son Crispus, his long-time companion-in-arms.
  • Had his wife Fausta boiled alive in her bath.

Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”)

growth of the church
Growth of the Church

The Edict of Milan in 313 makes it possible for Christianity to spread much more rapidly in the Empire than before.

During the Roman persecutions, the Church had to deal with an external enemy.

During peaceful times, the Church must deal with an internal enemy:



Definition: a corruption in the doctrines that have been divinely revealed by God (the Deposit of Faith)

A heretic is a person who is guilty of heresy.

It is a sin against the virtue of Faith.

Heresies have tried to destroy the work of Christ accomplished for our salvation.

Catholics have a serious obligation to always believe what has been revealed to us by God in its entirety.

We are not free to pick and choose those teachings we like or don’t like.


Two competing schools of theological study:

Alexandria (Egypt)

Antioch (northern Palestine)

Theology: the science of the truths of the Faith concerning God and His works.

Alexandria: emphasis on the allegorical sense (symbolic meanings) of Scripture and the divinity of Christ (Christ is God).

Antioch: emphasis on literal (historical) sense of Scripture and Christ’s humanity.


Arius (250-336) was a priest in Alexandria who studied in Antioch.

Extremely charismatic figure who attracted hundred to hear him preach.

Using neo-platonic philosophy and the scriptures, Arius taught that Jesus Christ is neither God nor equal to the Father.

Christ is a perfect being, but not God.

This heresy did not take into account that Christ is both God and Man, divine and human.

reactions to arius teachings
Reactions to Arius’ Teachings

The Bishop of Alexandria, along with 100 North African bishops, asked for a detailed explanation.

320: Synod of African Bishops condemned Arianism.

They urged Arius to recant his teachings, but he refused.

Arius left Egypt and went to Caesarea.

His ideas continued to spread throughout the East and were leading thousands of Catholics astray.

anti arian

Arianism mushroomed out of control in the East, parts of the West, and among the Germanic tribes.

Arius died in 336 in the streets of Constantinople just as he was named the city’s new Patriarch (Archbishop).

St. Athanasius (296-373) was the great champion of orthodoxy (right doctrine) against the Arian heresy.

Sent into exile 5 times, he never tired of teaching the true doctrine of Christ concerning his divinity.

He was the fearless champion necessary to defeat so great an evil.

emperor constantine the great
Emperor Constantine the Great

Constantine did not wish to see a division of Christianity between TraditionalCatholic and Arian (Heretical).

Pushed for a General Council at Nicea in 325.

A Council is a meeting of bishops under the approval and supervision of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope, and successor of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles).

Constantine even paid for the traveling expenses of some of the Western bishops

council of nicea 325
Council of Nicea - 325

At Nicea, Constantine opened the first session (meeting) and played peacemaker between the Traditional Catholics and the Arian Heretics.

About 300 Bishops were in attendance (later, 318).

Many bishops still had the scars of Diocletian’s persecution!

Pope St. Sylvester I was too sick to attend, so he sent his legatus instead: Bishop Ossius of Cordova, Spain.

Deliberations took place in Greek.

Pope St. Sylvester I (314-335)


The Nicene Fathers championed the traditional teaching concerning Christ: that He is “true God and true Man.”

St. Athanasius proposed using the philosophical term homoousios (Latin consubstantialis), which translates “of the same substance.”

Christ possess two natures: Divine (He is the 2nd Person of the Blessed Trinity) and Human (He was born of the Virgin Mary from the line of David)

The Nicene Creed was promulgated which teaches the orthodox (right teaching) understanding.

The Council didnotinvent a new teaching about Christ, but simply reminded everyone what the teaching had always been.

orthodoxy suffers persecution
Orthodoxy Suffers Persecution

Only 2 Bishops refused to sign the Nicene Creed, and Constantine had them exiled immediately.

The Arian camp included Eusebius of Nicomedia (Bishop), who was favored by Constantine’s sister Constantia.

328: In a surprise reversal, Constantine allowed Eusebius and Arius to return from exile!

Leaders of the orthodox Nicene teachings were forced into exile.

St. Athanasius was one of them.

Arius died suddenly in the streets of Constantinople just as he was about to become bishop of the city. Literally dropped dead.

St. Athanasius (Greek “Immortal”)

arianism triumphs
Arianism Triumphs???

337: Constantine dies and was baptized on his deathbed by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia.

Of Constantine’s 3 sons, 1 was Arian (Constantius II), the other 2 were orthodox Catholics.

Constantius controlled the East and later on the West when his brother Constans I was murdered in 350.

He favored the Arians and persecuted the orthodox Catholics for defending the Nicene Creed.

At one point, the great majority of bishops and priests in the Church had become heretics!!!

it s not the world against athanasius it s athanasius against the world
“It’s not the world against Athanasius…it’s Athanasius against the world!”

athanatos: “immortal”

296 - 373

christ triumphs
Christ Triumphs!!!

361: Emperor Constantius dies.

In the West, the council at Paris immediately reaffirms the Nicene Faith.

Semi-Arians (Christ was of “similar” substance to the Father), distrusting the Arians, returned to the orthodox Catholic Church.

St. Athanasius returned from exile and continued to preach against the Arians.

Soon, without imperial help, Arianism dies out.

Santa Croce - Rome

no mind or will
No mind or will

Apollinaris (310-390) was a friend of St. Athanasius and staunch defender of orthodoxy.

He was a zealous anti-Arian.

Became a Bishop in 360.

However, he fell into heresy.

He denied that Christ had a human mind and will.

If he didn’t, then Christ did not have a true human nature.

“True God and True Man”

This heresy was officially condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 381.

Apollinaris the Heretic