Constantine’s Conversion to Christianity

Although Constantine is acclaimed as the first emperor to embrace Christianity, he was not technically the first to legalize it. Introduction Constantine I (Flavius Valerius Constantinus) was Roman emperor from 306-337 CE and is known to history as Constantine the Great for his conversion to Christianity in 312 CE and his subsequent Christianization of the Roman Empire. His conversion was motivated in part[…]

Betrayed with a Kiss: Biblical Stories and Historicity of Judas Iscariot

We can find no earlier evidence than Mark of a story of betrayal or this individual. Introduction Judas Iscariot was one of the original disciples of Jesus of Nazareth (d. c. 30 CE), one of the twelve apostles. For handing Jesus over to the authorities, as described in the gospels, he has become the epitome of the act of betrayal in[…]

666: Christianity, Revelation, and Gematria in Ancient Rome

Why the biblical reference in Revelation should be considered in its first-century context. By Dr. Eric M. Vanden EykelAssociate Professor of ReligionFerrum College Introduction The mark of the beast – a cryptic mark in Revelation which indicates allegiance to Satan – has been invoked by fringe Christian figures throughout the pandemic in reference to what[…]

The Role of Magic in the Development of Early Christianity

Although many modern people tend to see ‘magic’ and ‘religion’ as separate, magic was actually integral to the development of Christianity. By Dr. Shaily Shashikant PatelAssistant Professor of Early ChristianityVirginia Tech Introduction Americans are fascinated by magic. TV shows like “WandaVision” and “The Witcher,” books like the Harry Potter series, plus comics, movies and games about[…]

“Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”: Harry Emerson Fosdick Defending Liberal Protestantism in 1922

He saw the history of Christianity as one of development, progress, and gradual change as a modernist in the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. Introduction Harry Emerson Fosdick (May 24, 1878 – October 5, 1969) was an American pastor. Fosdick became a central figure in the Fundamentalist–Modernist controversy within American Protestantism in the 1920s and 1930s and was one of the[…]

A History of Liberal Christianity since the 19th Century and Its Impact in the United States

In the context of theology, the word liberal does not refer to political liberalism, and it should be distinguished from progressive Christianity. Introduction Liberal Christianity, also known as liberal theology, is a movement that interprets and reforms Christian teaching by taking into consideration modern knowledge, science and ethics. It emphasizes the importance of reason and experience over doctrinal[…]

Ancient and Medieval Dance, It’s Death during the Christian Reformation, and It’s Revival

Despite opposition from the early church, dance was an integral part of Christian devotion for many centuries before falling out of favor. By Dr. Kathryn DickasonVisiting Scholar, School of ReligionDornsife College of Letters, Arts and SciencesUniversity of Southern California Introduction In the PBS documentary series “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our[…]

A History of the Christian Gospels

The gospels were produced from c.70 CE to perhaps 100 CE. Introduction The New Testament contains four gospels attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The four gospels are not biographies of Jesus, nor are they history as we define it. What each gospel attempted to do was write a theological explanation for the events[…]

Christianity as the State Church of the Late Roman Empire

The legacy of the idea of a universal church carries on, directly or indirectly, in today’s Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as in others. Introduction The state church of the Roman Empire refers to the Nicene church associated with Roman emperors after the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 by Theodosius I which recognized Nicene Christianity as the Roman Empire’s state religion.[1][2] Most historians refer to[…]

Theodosius I: Founder of Christianity as the Official State Religion in Ancient Rome

Theodosius is best known for making Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. Introduction Theodosius I (11 January 347 – 17 January 395), also called Theodosius the Great, was Roman emperor from 379 to 395. He is best known for making Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire and great architecture projects in Constantinople. After a military career and[…]

Ancient Christianity’s Effect on Society and Gender Roles

All ancient communities had law codes or rules that dictated both public and private behavior. Introduction Christianity began as a sect of Judaism in Judea in the 1st century CE and spread to the cities of the Eastern Roman Empire and beyond. In these cities, non-Jews, Gentiles, wanted to join the movement, and these Gentile-Christians[…]

The Early Medieval Hiberno-Scottish Missions

Since the 8th and 9th centuries, these early missions were called ‘Celtic Christianity’. Introduction The Hiberno-Scottish mission was a series of missions and expeditions initiated by various Irish clerics and cleric-scholars who, for the most part, are not known to have acted in concert.[1] There was no overall coordinated mission, but there were nevertheless sporadic[…]

The First Christian Missionaries in the Ancient World

It was initially a Jewish message and so the followers of Jesus took his teachings to the synagogues first. Introduction According to Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, the last thing Jesus did before he bodily ascended to heaven was to commission the disciples to ‘witness’ to his teachings. ‘Disciple’ meant ‘student’ and was derived from the various schools[…]

The Legend of Arius’ Death: Imagination, Space and Filth in Ancient Historiography

The significance of Constantinople as the place of the imagined event of the death of Arius. Introduction In the last forty years, research in the history of early Christianity has broadened considerably in scope. Whereas an earlier generation of historians focused its attention on those figures deemed foundational, even ‘orthodox’, by later Christian tradition, in[…]

An Historical Overview of Catholic Saints and Veneration

Many saints are venerated for specific reasons, professions, or even nations. Introduction On Oct. 10, 2020, Carlo Acutis, a computer enthusiast, was beatified and given the title of “Blessed,” in the town of Assisi in Italy. Already, Catholics are calling this 15-year-old video gamer and computer programmer the “patron saint of the internet.” Acutis, a[…]

Historical Problems in the Trial(s) and Crucifixion in the Gospels

Reading the gospels as history without the criteria we apply to the reading of all ancient history remains problematic. Introduction The story of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ is reenacted every year by Christians all over the world in the Easter liturgy. The story has become an essential article of faith and is rarely questioned by New Testament scholars[…]

A History of Heresy in Ancient and Medieval Christianity

The study of heresy requires an understanding of the development of orthodoxy and the role of creeds in the definition of orthodox beliefs. Introduction, Etymology, Definition Heresy in Christianity denotes the formal denial or doubt of a core doctrine of the Christian faith[1] as defined by one or more of the Christian churches.[2] In Western[…]

Saints in Medieval Christian Art

The powers of saints were believed to extend to their images. By Dr. Wendy A. SteinResearch AssociateDepartment of Medieval Art and The CloistersMetropolitan Museum of Art Since early Christian times, hundreds of men and women have been revered in the Church and identified as saints. Their lives were held up as models of exemplary behavior,[…]

Exploring ‘End Times’ Armageddon Mythology across Faiths

The term is often used in a generic sense to refer to any end of the world scenario. Introduction According to the Book of Revelation in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, Armageddon (from Ancient Greek: Ἁρμαγεδών Harmagedōn,[1][2] Late Latin: Armagedōn,[3] from Hebrew: הר מגידו‎ Har Megiddo) is the prophesied location of a gathering[…]

Medieval Christian Saints and Magical Charms as Protection from Animals

Saints were sometimes associated with protecting animals, particularly in magical texts or ‘charms’. St Francis of Assisi (1181/82–1225) is traditionally known as the patron saint of animals and the natural environment. During the Middle Ages, however, other saints were sometimes associated with protecting animals, particularly in magical texts or ‘charms’. One such charm is found[…]

Sex with Demons: A Belief That Runs Deep in Christian and Jewish Traditions

The earliest account of demon sex in Jewish and Christian traditions comes from the Book of Genesis. Introduction Houston physician and pastor Stella Immanuel – described as “spectacular” by Donald Trump for her promotion of unsubstantiated claims about anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a “cure” for COVID-19 – has some other, very unconventional views. As well[…]

Religion in Medieval England

The Church had a close relationship with the English state throughout the Middle Ages. Introduction Medieval Religion Unlike religion in the modern world, medieval religion had deep significance and central importance in the lives of most individuals and nations. There was hardly any concept of a secular nation where religion did not play any role[…]

‘Positives Christentum’: Christianity in Nazi Germany

Hitler identified himself as Christian and said “the [Nazi] Party represents the standpoint of Positive Christianity”. Introduction Positive Christianity (German: Positives Christentum) was a movement within Nazi Germany which mixed the belief that the racial purity of the German people should be maintained by mixing Nazi ideology with elements of Christianity. Adolf Hitler used the[…]

Exploring Abrahamic Mythology since the Ancient World

In its broadest academic sense, the word “myth” simply means a traditional story. However, many restrict the term to sacred stories. Introduction Abrahamic mythology is the body of myths associated with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The term encompasses a broad variety of legends and stories, especially those considered sacred narratives. Mythological themes and elements occur[…]

African American Spirituals: From Cotton Fields to Concert Halls

After the Civil War, touring groups of black college singers popularized slavery-era songs, giving rise to a new musical genre. “Swing low, sweet chariot….” These words are familiar to many Americans, who might sing them in worship, in Sunday school, around campfires, in school, and in community choruses. But the black singers responsible for introducing[…]

Christianity Used as a Justification for Slavery in 19th-Century America

White Christian slaveholders argued that slavery was a necessary evil because it would control the sinful, less humane, black race. Slave owners had many justifications for why holding people in bondage was acceptable. From the idea that African Americans were a lesser race who needed taking care of by white patriarchs to the economic justification,[…]

The Spread and Impact of the Reformation in 16th-Century Europe

The many divisions among Christians led to a series of wars and persecutions. Introduction As Protestantism spread, it branched out in several directions. By the start of the 1600s, there were already many different Christian churches in Europe. Each Protestant denomination had its own beliefs and practices. But all Protestants had much in common. They[…]

The Cult of the Holy Name in the Long Fifteenth Century

The meaning and significance of devotion to the Holy Name remained open, malleable, and unstable. Introduction The article discusses the Europe-wide late medieval phenomenon of the cult of the Holy Name, using it as a case study to discuss the relationship of micro-and macro-historical transformations by scrutinizing the enormous success of a religious innovation which[…]