Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Constantine

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays

 

The origins of Christianity and the original customs thereof come not from pagans. They come from the Holy Bible and ancient Hebrew thought.

Constantine

Constantine 2

Contrary to the claims of many, Constantine did not “create” Christianity or form the Catholic Church.  Constantine was not the first pope.  Constantine did not make Christianity the state religion of Rome.  There is little evidence that Constantine is the “evil emperor” that corrupted the original faith of Christianity that many wish to portray him as.

Constantine ended Christian persecution with the decree of  the Edict of Milan of 313 and established tolerance for Christianity without placing it above other religions.  It was Theodosius the Great or Theodosius I who issued the decree that named orthodox Nicene Christianity the official state church of the Roman Empire in 380 AD.

The idea that Constantine was a villain who corrupted the church has not been the testimony of Christians in the past.  John Foxe, who wrote a book on the history of persecution of Christians, likened Constantine to Moses.  Foxe also writes that Constantine ordered that even non-Christians should “neither sacrifice,  nor exercise any more divinations and ceremonies of the Gentiles, nor set up any images, nor keep any feasts of the heathen idolaters.”

“Foxe based his accounts of martyrs before the early modern period on previous writers, including Eusebius, Bede, Matthew Paris, and many others.” {John Foxe – Wikipedia.org}

The following excerpts come from John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs written in 1563.

 

“Thus having at large discoursed these horrible persecutions past, and heavy afflictions of Christian martyrs; now, by the grace of God, coming out of this Red Sea of bloody persecution, leaving Pharaoh and his host behind, let us sing gloriously to the worthy name of our God, who, through the blood of the Lamb, after long and tedious afflictions, at length hath visited his people with comfort, hath tied up Satan short, hath sent his meek Moses, (gentle Constantine I mean,) by whom it hath so pleased the Lord to work deliverance to his captive people, to set his servants at liberty, to turn their mourning into joy, to magnify the church of his Son, to destroy the idols of all the world, to grant life and liberty (and would God also not so much riches) unto them which before were the abjects of all the world; and all by the means of godly Constantine, the meek and most Christian emperor, of whose divine victories against so many tyrants and emperors, persecutors of Christ’s people, and, lastly, against Licinius, in the year of our Lord three hundred twenty and four, of whose other noble acts and prowesses, of whose blessed virtues and his happy birth and progeny, part we have comprehended before, part now remaineth (Christ willing) to be declared.

This Constantine was the son of Constantius the emperor, a good and virtuous child of a good and virtuous father, born in Britain, (as saith Eutro pius,) whose mother was named Helena, daughter indeed of King Coilus; although Ambrosius, in his funeral oration of the death of Theodosius, saith she was an inn-holder’s daughter. He was a most bountiful and gracious prince, having a desire to nourish learning and good arts, and did oftentimes use to read, write, and study himself. He had marvellous good success and prosperous achieving of all things he took in hand, which then was (and truly) supposed to proceed of this, for that he was so great a favourer of the Christian faith; which faith, when he had once embraced, he did ever after most devoutly and religiously reverence, and commanded by especial commission and proclamation, that every man should profess the same religion throughout all the Roman monarchy. The worshipping of idols, (whereunto he was addict by the allurement of Fausta his wife, insomuch that he did sacrifice to them,) after the discomfiture of Maxentius in battle, he utterly abjured; but his baptism he deferred even unto his old age, because he had determined a journey into Persia, and thought in Jordan to have been baptized…

He first entered into the empire by the mercifulness of God, minding, after long waves of doleful persecution, to restore unto his church peace and tranquillity, in the year of our Lord three hundred and eleven, as Eusebius accounteth in his chronicle. His reign continued, as Eutropius affirmeth, thirty years, Letus saith thirty and two years, lacking two months. Great peace and tranquillity enjoyed the church under the reign of this good emperor, which took great pain and travail for the preservation thereof…

Such was the goodness of this emperor Constantine, or rather such was the providence of Almighty God toward his church in stirring him up, that all his care and study of mind was set upon nothing else but only how to benefit and enlarge the commodities of the same. Neither was it to him enough to deliver the church and people of God from outward vexation of foreign tyrants and persecutors. No less beneficial was his godly care also in quieting the inward dissensions and disturbance within the church, among the Christian bishops themselves; according as we read of Moses, the deliverer of the Israelites, in agreeing the brethren together when he saw them at variance, Exod. ii. No less also did his vigilant study extend in erecting, restoring, and enriching the churches of God in all cities, and in providing for the ministers of the same…

First, he commanded all them to be set free whosoever, for the confession of Christ, had been condemned to banishment, or to the mines of metal, or to any public or private labour to them inflicted. Such as were put to any infamy or shame among the multitude, he willed them to be discharged from all such blemish of ignominy. Soldiers, which before were deprived either of their place, or put out of their wages, were put to their liberty, either to serve again in their place, or quietly to live at home. Whatsoever honour, place, or dignity had been taken away from any man should be restored to them again. The goods and possessions of them that had suffered death for Christ, howsoever they were alienated, should return to their heirs or next of kin, or, for lack of them, should be given to the church. He commanded, moreover, that only Christians should bear office; the other he charged and restrained, that neither they should sacrifice, nor exercise any more divinations and ceremonies of the Gentiles, nor set up any images, nor keep any feasts of the heathen idolaters. He corrected, moreover, and abolished all such unlawful manners and dishonest usages in the cities as might be hurtful any ways to the church; as the custom that the Egyptians had in the flowing of Nilus, at what time the people used to run together like brute beasts, both men and women, and with all kind of filthiness and sodomitery to pollute their cities in celebrating the increase of that river. This abomination Constantine extinguished, causing that wicked order called Androgyne to be killed; by reason whereof the river afterward (through the benefit of God) yielded more increase in his flowing, to the greater fertility of the ground, than it did before.

The armour of his soldiers which were newly come from the Gentiles he garnished with the arms of the cross, whereby they might learn the sooner to forget their old superstitious idolatry. Moreover, like a worthy emperor, he prescribed a certain form of prayer, instead of a catechism, for every man to have, and to learn how to pray and to invocate God. The which form of prayer is recited in the fourth book of Eusebius.

“We acknowledge thee only to be our God, we confess thee to be our King, we invocate and call upon thee, our only helper; by thee we obtain our victories, by thee we vanquish and subdue our enemies, to thee we attribute whatsoever present commodities we enjoy, and by thee we hope for good things to come: unto thee we direct all our suits and petitions, most humbly beseeching thee to conserve Constantine our emperor and his noble children in long life to continue, and to give them victory over all their enemies, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

In his own palace he set up a house peculiar for prayer and doctrine, using also to pray and sing with his people. Also in his wars he went not without his tabernacle appointed for the same. The Sunday he commanded to be kept holy of all men, and free from all judiciary causes, from markets, marts, fairs, and all other manual labours, only husbandry excepted; especially charging that no images or monuments of idolatry should be set up.

Men of the clergy and of the ministry in all places he endued with special privileges and immunities; so that if any were brought before the civil magistrate, and listed to appeal to the sentence of his bishop, it should be lawful for him so to do, and that the sentence of the bishop should stand in as great force as if the magistrate or the emperor himself had pronounced it.

But here is to be observed and noted, by the way, that the clerks and ministers, then newly creeping out of persecution, were in those days neither in number so great, nor in order of life of the like disposition to these in our days now living.

No less care and provision the said Constantine also had for the maintenance of schools pertaining to the church, and to the nourishing of good arts and liberal sciences, especially of divinity; not only with stipends and subsidies furnishing them, but also with large privileges and exemptions defending the same, as by the words of his own law is to be seen and read as followeth: “Physicians, grammarians, and other professors of liberal arts, and doctors of the law, with their wives and children, and all other their possessions which they have in cities, we command to be freed from all civil charges and functions, neither to receive foreign strangers in provinces, nor to be burdened with any public administration, nor to be cited up to civil judgment, nor to be drawn out or oppressed with any injury. And if any man shall vex them, he shall incur such punishment as the judge at his discretion shall award him. Their stipends moreover and salaries we command truly to be paid them, whereby they may more freely instruct others in arts and sciences,” &c.

Over and besides this, so far did his godly zeal and princely care and provision extend to the church of Christ, that he commanded and provided books and volumes of the Scripture diligently and plainly to be written and copied out, to remain in public churches to the use of posterity. Whereupon, writing to Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, in a special letter, he willeth him with all diligence to procure fifty volumes of parchment well bound and compacted, wherein he should cause to be written out of the Scripture, in a fair legible hand, such things as he thought necessary and profitable for the instruction of the church, and alloweth him for that business two public ministers: he also writeth concerning the same to the general of his army, to support and further him with such necessaries as thereunto should appertain, &c.

In viewing, perusing, and writing this story, and in considering the Christian zeal of this emperor, I wish that either this our printing and plenty of books had been in his days, or that this so heroical heart toward Christian religion, as was in this so excellent monarch, might something appear in inferior princes reigning in these our printing days, &c.

The liberal hand of this emperor, born to do all men good, was no less also open and ready toward the needy poverty of such which either by loss of parents or other occasions were not able to help themselves; to whom he commanded and provided due supplies both of corn and raiment to be ministered out if his own coffers, to the necessary relief of the poor men, women, children, orphans, and widows.”  {Foxe’s Book of Martyrs – Constantine the Great}

Constantine’s Influence; Exaggerated?

“Many have claimed that the 4th century AD Roman emperor Constantine was responsible for the teaching that Sunday should be ‘The new sabbath’ but this simply is not correct. Constantine had no tradition of any kind of ‘sabbath’ – new or old! However, he did encourage Sunday to be looked upon as a rest day in the Roman Empire, but to what degree this was carefully observed none of us can say. Most likely observance of this principle was very patchy – after all, slave labour was the ‘norm’ in that society and can we really see all those affluent and spoiled Romans giving their slaves the Sunday off every single week?? I don’t think so! More likely, Constantine simply got the ball rolling in the right direction and provided a law which Christians who wanted to assemble with other believers on the Lord’s Day could point to.

Through the Edict of Toleration, (313 A.D), Constantine granted to “Christians and to all others full liberty of following that religion which each may freely choose.” This has been described as the ‘first act of Christian ecumenism’ but I think that is more than a little harsh. Constantine was strongly attracted to Christianity but did not finally fully commit himself to it until his deathbed, yet despite this man’s flaws the Lord undoubtedly started working through him to relieve the pressure of the continual persecution of Christians in the 4th century.

So in 321 AD Constantine introduced the first legislation concerning Sunday: “Let all the judges and town people, and the occupation of all trades rest on the venerable day of the sun.” In 325 A.D., Constantine issued a general exhortation to all his subjects to embrace Christianity. He ordered 50 Bibles to be prepared under the direction of Eusebius, on the finest vellum and by skillful artists. So Sunday became a rest day which was there for the early Christians to use. From that point, people who practiced their trade on the First Day probably risked becoming very unpopular yet there is no reason to assume blanket observance of Sunday right across every Roman province and, as we have already suggested, probably few indeed would have allowed their slaves to observe this one day rest. Yet if Christians were determined to assemble on the First Day, the legislation was now in place to allow them to do so, for who would dare contradict Constantine?

In his zeal to institute a universal creed in order to fight Christianic heresies (which very soon arose), he presided over the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. By the way, these early heresies included Arianism (which stated that Jesus was not God but the highest creation of God) and Arianism is still ‘alive and kicking’ in the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Constantine died in 337 after being baptized as a final act. But nothing here suggests that Constantine brought in a new sabbath legalism.

Did the “Catholic Church” Change the Sabbath Day?
There is much needless confusion around on this point. On one website I read the following,

“It is true that the Catholic Church through the authority of Christ replaced the Hebrew Sabbath (Saturday) with the Lord’s Day (Sunday); however, this occurred very early – well before the time of Emperor Constantine in the fourth century..
There is a sense in which that statement is perfectly correct – however, we must understand that the term ‘Catholic Church’ refers there simply to the early Church! This is the organised form of the very Church which Jesus founded! This is not (I repeat NOT) a reference to what we all know now as the ‘Roman Catholic Church’, sometimes known as the ‘Church of Rome’ with headquarters based in that city. Seventh Day people are especially prone to misunderstanding on this point but extremist Protestants (especially those influenced by the writings of Alexander Hislop) also frequently slip into error here. Truth is, the ‘Roman Catholic Church’ did not even exist in the third, fourth or fifth centuries! Writers used the term ‘catholic’ (meaning universal) to separate the early, organized church from heretical groups including the Arianists, Donatists and so on.

The Church Fathers

A very careful study of the ‘church fathers’ will reveal that, almost to a man, they also did not support any sort of legalistic approach to “Sabbath” or Lord’s Day observance.

The Testimony of Ignatius is typical here:

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 8-10 (c. 110 A.D.):
“Do not be deceived by strange doctrines or antiquated myths, since they are worthless. For if we continue to live accordance with Judaism, we admit that we have not received grace. For the most godly prophets lived in accordance with Christ Jesus. This is why they were persecuted, being inspired as they were by His grace in order that those who are disobedient might be fully convinced that there is one God who revealed Himself through Jesus Christ His Son, who is His Word which came forth from silence, who in every respect pleased Him who sent Him. If, then, those who had lived in antiquated practices came to newness of hope, no longer keeping the Sabbath but living in accordance with the Lord’s day,…”

Eusebius Ecclesiastical History, Book 1, Chapter 5 (c. 315 A.D.):
“For as the name Christians is intended to indicate this very idea, that a man, by the knowledge and doctrine of Christ, is distinguished by modesty and justice, by patience and a virtuous fortitude, and by a profession of piety towards the one and only true and supreme God; all this no less studiously cultivated by them than by us. They did not, therefore, regard circumcision, nor observe the Sabbath, neither do we; neither do we abstain from certain foods, nor regard other injunctions, which Moses subsequently delivered to be observed in types and symbols, because such things as these do not belong to Christians.” (13)

In the same work, Eusebius’ criticism of the heretical legalist sect of the Ebionites also shows us that he was commited to the Lord’s Day – but not to the Sabbath and he had no doubt that the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day were two entirely separate matters:

Eusebius Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, Chapter 27 (c. 315 A.D.):
“The Ebionites cherished low and mean opinions of Christ. For they considered Him a plain and common man, and justified only by His advances in virtue, and that He was born of the Virgin Mary, by natural generation. With them the observance of the law was altogether necessary, as if they could not be saved, only by faith in Christ and a corresponding life. These, indeed, thought on the one hand that all of the epistles of the apostles ought to be rejected, calling him an apostate from the law, but on the other, only using the gospel according to the Hebrews, they esteem the others as of little value. They also observe the Sabbath and other disciplines of the Jews, just like them, but on the other hand, they also celebrate the Lord’s days very much like us, in commemoration of His resurrection.” (14)

Philip Schaff writes in the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge 1891 Ed., vol.4 article on Sunday,

“Sunday… was adopted by the early Christians as a day of worship.. . Sunday was emphatically the weekly feast of the resurrection of Christ, as the Jewish Sabbath was the feast of creation. It was called the Lord’s day, and upon it the primitive church assembled to break bread. No regulations for its observance are laid down in the New Testament nor, indeed, is its observance even enjoined. Yet Christian feeling led to the universal adoption of the day, in imitation of the apostolic precedence. In the second century its observance was universal…”

One may search the ‘church fathers’ and note how widespread is this view that legalism should be kept away from the observance of the Lord’s Day.”  {Constantine’s Influence; Exaggerated?}

“Thus, there is no evidence that the “pagan” Constantine was somehow responsible for combining the celebration of Christ’s birth with paganism by moving it to Dec. 25. If anything, the evidence shows a Constantine who became so committed to the Christian faith that he was steadily moving toward disallowing all paganism.

It is also an anachronism that during the time of Constantine, that the “Church became the Roman Catholic Church,” or that “Catholicism was made the state religion by Constantine in the 4th Century.” Actually it was Theodosius I who decreed that Christianity was the official religion of the empire in 379. There was no “Roman Catholic Church” in the Fourth Century. That name only came into existence after the Sixteenth Century Reformation. It is true that Theodosius made “Catholicism” the state religion, if by “Catholicism” one means true Christians over against heretics. The see of Rome was highly honored, but held no special position of superiority at that time.

Thirdly, while it is true that Christmas (the birth of Christ) was not listed as one of the chief Christian festivals in the first two centuries of the Church’s existence, it is not exactly true that the first Christians never observed the birth of Christ until the time of Constantine. Actually there is evidence of the feast being celebrated in Egypt prior to 200 A.D. The Church father Clement of Alexandria tells us that certain theologians had claimed to have determined not only the year of the Lord’s birth but also the day; that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus and on the 25th day of Pachon (May 20) (Stromata, I, 21). He also added that others said that he was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi (April 19 or 20). Another piece of evidence is De Paschae Computus of 243, which states that Christ was born on March 28, because, it says, this was the day that the sun was created. Clement also tells us that other Christians were in the custom of celebrating the Baptism of Christ (his Epiphany) on the 15th day of Tubi and others on the 11th of the same month (Jan. 10 or 6). This is significant because it became customary in many places for Christians to celebrate both Christ’s epiphany and his birth at the same – a practice of the Armenian Church to this day.”  {Christmas is Not Pagan – Part III}

“You may have heard the story of how Constantine changed the Sabbath to Sunday. According to the story, the early churches kept the Sabbath until Constantine, who was the high priest of paganism and who honored the sun god, changed the Sabbath, the 7th day, to the day of the sun, the 1st day.

The story isn’t true. (How do we know?)
If you came to this page from my Sabbath page, then you know that the churches prior to Constantine didn’t keep the Jewish Sabbath. They did not refrain from work on the seventh day of the week (or on the 1st day, either), so there was no Sabbath-keeping for Constantine to put an end to.

There was an issue that Constantine and the Council of Nicea did have to address that concerned Sunday. That issue had been debated for at least two centuries prior to Constantine’s day …

The Quartodeciman Controversy

The early churches observed passover each year, which they called pascha in Greek, a word meaning suffering and referring to Christ’s suffering before and upon the cross.

There was a question as to whether it was best to observe Passover on Nisan 14, the day the Jews celebrated it, no matter which day of the week it fell on, or whether to observe it on the Sunday nearest Nisan 14. The early church made a special day of Sunday, but not because it was a day consecrated to the sun god, as is often suggested by Sabbath-keepers. Instead, they consecrated Sunday as the Lord’s Day, the day on which Jesus rose from the dead.

The Lord’s day was not a day of rest but a day of rejoicing. It was a tradition with the early churches not to kneel on Sunday because it was the day on which Jesus rose from the dead. Thus, it was to be a day of celebration, and they did not kneel or fast (De Corona 3).

It was very difficult to settle the Passover question.

The early churches had two ways of settling controversies. One was to resort to the Scriptures. The other was to consult the tradition the apostles had given to the churches.

Paul assigns great importance to such tradition, telling both the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:2) and the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 2:15) to hold fast to his traditions. He specifically told the Thessalonians that they were to do so whether the traditions were written or verbal.

In this case, however, the Scriptures had nothing to say, and the traditions handed down to the various churches differed:

Anicetus [bishop of Rome] could not persuade Polycarp [bishop of Smyrna, an eastern church] to forego the observance [of Nisan 14], since these things had always been observed by John the disciple of the Lord and by the other apostles with whom [Polycarp] had been conversant. On the other hand, Polycarp couldn’t persuade Anicetus to keep [Nisan 14] either. For [Anicetus] maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the elders who preceded him. In this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other. (“Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus” from The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I)

When the Council of Nicea met in A.D. 325, the controversy had never been settled. The west still held to one practice, and the east another.
The Council of Nicea Chooses Sunday

The Council of Nicea—a council attended and somewhat led by Constantine—did make a decision for Sunday, but not to change the Sabbath to Sunday. Instead, they ruled only on the question of the celebration of Passover. The church had been meeting on Sunday for centuries.

A.D. 110:

If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things [i.e., the Jews] have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death … (Ignatius, Letter to the Magnesians 9)

It should be obvious that the Lord’s Day is the first day of the week, but people have argued and written books to the effect that the Lord’s day is the Sabbath. These are the same people who have produced the myths about Constantine changing the Sabbath to Sunday and the fabricated history about the early Church keeping the Sabbath.

As you can see, Ignatius contrasts the Lord’s day with the Sabbath, and he tells us that it is the day “on which also our life has sprung up again by him.” He is referring to the first day of the week, which we now call Sunday.

A.D. 150:

Justin doesn’t bother referring to the Lord’s day or the first day of the week. A Roman living in Rome and writing to a Roman emperor, he is content to refer to the day in Roman terminology: the day of the sun, or Sunday.

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. … [then a description of communion given as well] (Justin Martyr, First Apology 67)

As you can see, Christians had been meeting on Sunday since the first century.

So here is what the Council of Nicea did decree. This is from the synodal letter sent out after the council:
Did the Council of Nicea call Passover Easter?

Since the synodal letter of the Council of Nicea was originally written in Greek, it would have used the Greek term Pascha, meaning Passover not Easter. The same is true of Acts 12:4, which should be rendered Passover, but the King James Version gives as Easter.

The word Easter is only used in German and English, which derived from German. Spanish, for example, still uses Pascua, corresponding to the Greek Pascha, the word for Passover.

Easter comes from the German calendar month Eostur, named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre. Eostur-monath corresponded to our April, and the Germanic tribes of the first millennium after Christ named their festivals after the month. When Christianity replaced the German festivals with Passover, they left the term Eostur intact. (Ref: Wikipedia, which cites the eighth-century history of the Venerable Bede.)

We further proclaim to you the good news of the agreement concerning the holy Easter, that this particular also has through your prayers been rightly settled; so that all our brethren in the East who formerly followed the custom of the Jews are henceforth to celebrate the said most sacred feast of Easter at the same time with the Romans and yourselves and all those who have observed Easter from the beginning. (“The Synodal Letter” from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, series 2, vol. XIV)

Conclusion

As you can see, The only decision the Council of Nicea made about Sunday was that Passover would be celebrated on the Sunday nearest Nisan 14, rather than on Nisan 14 itself. The idea that Constantine and the Council of Nicea changed the Sabbath to Sunday from Saturday is simply a myth.

It is important to point out that Constantine did make an edict, in 324, the year before the Council of Nicea, mandating worship of the Supreme God on Sunday (Gonzalez, Justo, The Story of Christianity, p. 123). This could be seen as honoring Christians, for whom Sunday was the Lord’s day, but it could also be seen as honoring the sun god as well.

Either way, the idea that Constantine or the Council of Nicea changed the Sabbath to Sunday from Saturday is simply false. The Christian Sabbath was never Saturday or any other day of the week, so there was nothing for Constantine to change.”  {Sabbath to Sunday: What Really Happened Under Constantine?}

“It amazes me how many Nicea myths exist on the internet today.

What and How We know About the Council of Nicea

There is a lot of primary material (see sidebar below) left from the Council of Nicea:

A letter from Eusebius back to his church at Caesarea, preserved in The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus and in Athanasius’ Defense of the Nicene Definition.
A description of the proceedings by Eusebius (who was there) in his Life of Constantine
Letters from Constantine and from the council passing on its decisions to the churches.

The 20 “canons” [this just means “rules”] passed by the council.
Some references to the council by Athanasius, who attended as a deacon before he was bishop; however, his only description of the council is a copy of Eusebius’ letter to Caesarea.

Primary Materials

Almost everyone learns about events from “secondary,” “tertiary,” or even further removed sources.

Those terms mean that you’re hearing about something second or thirdhand rather than from an eyewitness. “Primary material” means something written by an eyewitness.

The only way to separate false histories from true ones—and Nicea myths from fact—is to look at primary sources. One secondhand source does not negate another secondhand source.

This page gives you access to firsthand sources on the Council of Nicea. You can read all of them for free at for free at ccel.org. They will let you download .pdf’s for a small contribution. The cheapest way to purchase the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series is the link I just gave you, and that will support my site, too.

In other words, we know exactly what the council addressed.

They did not address the following Nicea Myths.
Nicea Myths #1: Did Constantine and the Council of Nicea change the Bible?

The Council of Nicea never addressed the books of the Bible (and thus could not have changed them).

It’s just not there.

Proving something negative is always tricky. I can’t show you a quote where someone from the 4th century said, “Oh, by the way, we didn’t talk about the books of the Bible.” You’ll have to take my word—and the word of every reputable historian in history—that it’s never mentioned.

Or you can go through all the sources listed above, as I did. That they threw out or even talked about the canon is one of many Nicea myths.

Of course, they really didn’t have a “Bible” yet, anyway. Their Scriptures were a collection of books, and which books were accepted varied from church to church, though only over a few books, none of them gnostic (like the Gospel of Thomas or the Pistis Sophia).
The Real History of the Bible

We can tell what books were used as Scripture by the early churches.

We have letters and books dating all the way back to A.D. 96, just 60 years after Jesus died and over two centuries before the Council if Nicea. Those letters quote certain books as Scripture.
There are lists of the books constituting Scripture dating back to around A.D. 160 (the Muratorian Fragment, for example, but there are several before Nicea).

What you find from these sources is that the Bible has always been basically what it is today.

If your concern is a particular book or version (did the 2nd century Bible match the King James Version?), then the differences are significant. Up to four books of the Maccabees, the Book of Wisdom, the Shepherd of Hermas, and others are sometimes included in the 2nd century canon. Books like James and 2 Peter are often left out. Hebrews is questioned on into the 4th century.

However, if your concern is whether gnostic books like the Gospel of Thomas are included, they weren’t.

Never mentioned. Gnostic gospels didn’t disappear in the 4th century; they disappeared from the day they were written. They were never used by the church.

Nicea Myths #2: Did Constantine
or the Council of Nicea
Change the Sabbath to Sunday?

This fable stems from the fact that there was a controversy over the celebration of Passover in the early church.

The early church celebrated the Jewish Passover, which occurred on Nisan 14 by their calendar. Nisan 14 could fall on any day of the week, so some churches liked to celebrate Passover on the Sunday nearest Nisan 14.

That “Quartodeciman Controversy,” as it was called, hit some high points in the 2nd century. Around A.D. 150, when Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna, was quite old, he went to Rome to discuss this issue with Anicetus. They decided that each church would continue to celebrate Passover according to their own traditions, as each had received different traditions from their respective apostles (from a letter from Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, to Victor, bishop of Rome, preserved in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History V:24, A.D. 323).

A generation later, Victor, the bishop of Rome, decided to excommunicate any church that did not celebrate Passover on Sunday. Irenaeus and another bishop, Polycrates, wrote Victor to help him recover from this insanity. Once again, the issue was settled with each church continuing their respective tradition.
The Quartodeciman Controversy
and
the Council of Nicea

The practice of each church doing its own thing—as long as it adhered to the rule of faith—could (unfortunately) not last.

At the Council of Nicea it was finally decided that Passover would be celebrated on the Sunday nearest Nisan 14, not on Nisan 14 itself.

This is the only way in which the council addressed the issue of Sunday, the 1st day of the week.

Thus, anything found outside the creed and the canons of Nicea, both available on this site (links in the last paragraph), is just another of the many Nicea myths.
Constantine and the Venerable Day of the Sun

One thing among Nicea myths is that Constantine remained the high priest of the pagan religion until his deathbed (Re: Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church). At that time, he retired from being emperor, renounced his position as leader of the pagan religion, and was baptized as a Christian.

So it is true that Constantine had reason to honor the 1st day of the week as the day of the sun.

However, Christians had already been celebrating the first day of the week as the Lord’s day since apostolic times:

In A.D. 110, Ignatius wrote a letter to the church in Magnesia mentioning that even the Jews who had become Christians no longer observed the Sabbath but were living in observance of the Lord’s day (ch. 9).
In A.D. 130 or earlier, the Letter of Barnabas explains that Christians observe the eighth day, the day of new beginnings, and the day on which the Lord rose.
In A.D. 150, Justin Martyr says that on “the day called that of the sun,” Christians come together out of the cities and countryside to study the Scriptures and have communion.
In A.D. 200 (or so), Tertullian says that the practice of not kneeling or fasting on the first day of the week is a long standing practice with Christians, possibly going back to the apostles (De Corona 3).

So you see it is apparent that Constantine did not need to change the Sabbath to Sunday. In fact, Christians had a quite different view of the role of the Sabbath in the Christian life.

Nicea Myths: Conclusion

I hope that whenever someone tells you something about what happened at Nicea that you will look at the creed and canons of the Council of Nicea and set them straight. Together we can spread the truth and end the fables.”  {Nicea Myths: Common Fables About the Council of Nicea and Constantine}

 

The following comes from J.P. Holding’s Book “Easter is Pagan and other Fables”.

“If you’ve been around people like the anti-Easter bunch for any period of time, you can count on Constantine being brought up. I’ve dealt with this claim before in, Jesus Was a Mushroom and Other Lies You Won’t Believe, so first I’ll reprint what I wrote there for you who are reading this e-book, followed by some additional comments.
Ever heard of Emperor Palpatine? He’s the biggest, worst bad guy in the Star Wars movies. He was Darth Vader’s boss, and his unofficial title was “the evil emperor.”
Christianity has someone who sometimes goes by that name, too. His name is Constantine, and he lived in the early 300s AD. Everyone agrees that while he was once on a military campaign, he said he saw a sign in the sky which convinced him to become a Christian. After that, thanks to him, persecution against Christians ceased and the church was able to live in peace. Conspiracy theorists, though, think that there’s something wrong with that picture. They think Constantine was actually a really nasty guy who deceived the church and started us down the road to false Babylonian worship. (Actually, Constantine is often the scapegoat when some group wants to claim the church fouled up. But let’s stick to what the conspiracy theorists say, for now.) So what charges are raised against Constantine as an “evil emperor?”
The first reason given by conspiracy theorists is that they think Constantine was still involved in pagan worship of the sun as a supposed Christian. They point out that coins with his image continued to portray him as “Soli Invicto Comit” which means “Colleague of the Invincible Sun.” Well, that’s true, but, there’s more to the story, and some varied ideas about why these coins were the way they were. None of those reasons, though, have to do with Constantine still being a sun worshipper.
As the historian Gary Forsythe reports in his book, Time in Roman Religion, Sol Invictus was displayed on Constantine’s coins for 8 years after his conversion in 312 AD. But please note that he was emperor until 337 AD. That means that for his last 17 years, Sol Invictus was not on his coins; so, why would there be a delay of so many years?
Well, the coins with that motto actually started being used two years before Constantine’s conversion. First, we could say that even after his conversion, around 312 AD, Constantine was a pretty busy guy. He still had some military issues to deal with, and revamping the coins of the realm was probably the last thing on his mind. For another, you don’t just revamp a coin minting process overnight. There were about a dozen mints in business at Constantine’s time, and he’d have to order each of those to do some modifications – which couldn’t just happen at the snap of a finger, because all the coins were made by hand.
That’s one possibility, with another put forth more recently by historian Jonathan Bardill, in his book, Constantine, Divine Emperor of the Christian Golden Age. Bardill’s idea, as the book describes it, is that “Constantine’s propagandists exploited the traditional themes and imagery of ruler ship to portray him as having been elected by the supreme solar God to save his people and inaugurate a brilliant golden age.” Bardill further argues that this was done “to reconcile the long-standing tradition of imperial divinity with [Constantine’s] monotheistic faith by assimilating himself to Christ.”
In other words, things like the coins were a way, we might say, of gently breaking the news to a mostly pagan population that Constantine was a Christian. But we might also add another point by Bardill that imperial coins “may carry design elements that had not been given imperial sanction but were created on the initiative of mint officials.” Since those mint officials would still be pagans, it’s quite possible that they reflect what they believed about Constantine’s victories – not what Constantine himself believed about them.
On the other hand, Bardill also points out that Constantine could have seen solar imagery as compatible with his new faith. After all, the book of Malachi speaks of the “sun of righteousness” rising, in a prophecy that is taken to refer to Jesus. And of course, Jesus refers to himself as the “light of the world.” Bardill also shows that church writers compared Jesus to the sun. Eusebius, for example, said that Jesus, “like a sun of intelligent and rational souls, spread abroad the beams of his own light….”
We might find it a little uncomfortable to suppose that Constantine adopted what we think of as pagan imagery, but the early church was known for taking over, revamping and claiming for their own, various pagan depictions – as a sort of “in your face” way of letting the pagans know who was really in charge. Bardill believes that, in the same way, Constantine felt justified in exploiting solar imagery, used at the time, to stand for the God he now served. And that’s a good point, because the pagan gods don’t own the sun – God does. Bardill acknowledges that such imagery disappeared from Constantine’s coins by 324 AD, which means he had more years without that motto than with it.
More important than the coins, though, is the fact that in all his military victories, Constantine never gave credit to the pagan gods after his conversion, as his subjects would have expected. The historian Peter Brown puts it this way in his book, The Rise of Western Christendom:
…he did all this without attributing his success in any way to correct religio toward the ancient gods. It was in this pointed absence of piety towards the gods, as the traditional guardians of the empire, that his subjects came to realize that their emperor was a Christian.
So the coins don’t mean a whole lot in terms of whether Constantine’s conversion was genuine, and while there can be different ideas about why the coins were the way they were, these historians all agree on this much:  Constantine’s conversion was a genuine one.
Another reason given to doubt the sincerity of Constantine’s conversion is cruelty to Constantine by his family. Conspiracy theorists may point out that Constantine executed his own son and boiled his wife alive. This is factually true, but there is far more to the story. His wife was executed for treason, and the son was executed because the wife caused it to happen. As one academic historical source puts it:
At the same time Constantine created as Caesars CRISPUS (317-324), his son by his first wife Minervina, and CONSTANTINE II (317–337), his three year old son by his second wife Fausta. Fausta was so jealous of her step-son Crispus that she fabricated a plot in the name of the unsuspecting Caesar who was arrested and executed. When the guilt of Fausta was soon afterwards unveiled, the furious Constantine had his wife executed by being thrown into boiling water.
So it would be a little disingenuous to blame Constantine for being cruel to his family. In one case he was misled, and in both cases, he had to punish a capital crime.
Another reason we are told Constantine didn’t genuinely convert is because he kept the pagan religious title of Supreme Pontiff, which belonged to the pagan Roman emperors. This is true, and the title was kept by the Roman Emperors up through the time of Gratian, in 376 AD; however, although Constantine kept the title, the fact is, as Brown’s comment indicates, that he never used it to serve the pagan gods.
Why would he keep the title, though? Well, to give the title away would be the same as acknowledging that Christianity wasn’t true. As Supreme Pontiff he was supposed to lead the way in religious matters – and what would be thought if he abdicated his leadership after he converted?
In the end, accusing Constantine of having a false conversion is cynical and presumptive – and it would be easy to come up with all sorts of arguments for why anyone else’s conversion is false, too, which would be equally cynical and speculative. The point is that none of these arguments serve the purpose of proving that Constantine’s conversion was false. I’m content to say what the evidence does indicate; namely, that he was sincere, but he was sometimes rather naïve where his new faith was concerned.
So there you go. That pretty much takes care of the anti-Easter crowd’s objections – all except one. It’s also claimed that on March 7, 321 AD, Constantine decreed that “Sunday” was the Sabbath.
Well, no, not exactly. But that’s such a deep issue that it deserves another section of its own.
Constantine was too a sun worshipper! On March 7, 321, Constantine decreed the day of the sun, “Sunday”, to be the Roman day of rest!
The first thing we should note is that this wasn’t a case of Constantine “replacing the Sabbath” as some like to say. The Sabbath was part of the Old Testament covenant. Christians did not sign that covenant. So there’s no requirement that they observe any day as a Sabbath – though you can if you want to. This was an all new observance, from the perspective of governing authorities.
The second thing is that his decree doesn’t mention anything about worshipping a sun god. If Constantine was trying to get people to worship a sun god on this day, he sure didn’t do anything to make it clear.
The third thing is that while Constantine did issue a decree like this, all he was doing was recognizing a practice that the church had been observing for centuries before he even existed. Whether the anti-Easter crowd likes it or not, Jesus rose on the day that we call Sunday. If they object to the pagan origins of the word “Sunday,” then like I said before, they need to stop driving Saturn automobiles, stop eating Athena goat cheese, and stop using Midas mufflers. So far I haven’t seen any of them doing that!
The fact is that the church was observing Sunday as the day of Jesus’ rising from the dead, long before Constantine. It became known as “the Lord’s day,” as in Revelation 1:10, though of course, in a decree addressed to what was still mostly a pagan citizenry, that’s not the way Constantine would refer to it. Here’s the evidence, though, that Sunday was being observed long before Constantine.
Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch (110 AD), wrote: “If, then, those who walk in the ancient practices attain to newness of hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but fashioning their lives after the Lord’s Day on which our life also arose through Him, that we may be found disciples of Jesus Christ, our only teacher.”
Justin Martyr (150 AD) describes Sunday as the day when Christians gather to read the scriptures and hold their assembly because it is both the initial day of creation and the day of the resurrection.
The Epistle of Barnabas (120-150) cites Isaiah 1:13 and indicates that the “eighth day” is a new beginning via the resurrection, and is the day to be kept.
The Didache (70-75) instructs believers: “On the Lord’s own day, gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks.”
So, the anti-Easter naysayers can’t blame Constantine for this one. He was just making official what the church had already been doing for hundreds of years.”  {Easter is Pagan And Other Fables – J.P. Holding: Tekton Apologetics Ministries}

 

 

pagan-christianity

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays part 1

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays part 2

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Examine Yourself

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Pagan Christianity?

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Alexander Hislop

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Ralph Woodrow

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Pagan Parallels

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Church Fathers & Paganism

 

 

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