Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 630
If one could go back in time to any period of history, one of the most fascinating times and places to travel might be the Roman Empire in the age of the early Church. In an astonishing coup, Christianity, the religion of love and peace, had become, under the Emperor Constantine, the official state religion of a military empire.
This newly exalted status was a boon but also presented difficulties. As the state religion of a powerful empire, Christianity had to have its theology straight, and yet it was a tangled mess of competing regional ideas.
Constantine, ever the pragmatist, saw arcane debates over the nature of Jesus's divinity threatening the stability of Egypt, one of his most important territories, as it was the breadbasket of the empire. He therefore called a council—which evolved into repeated councils—bringing together the greatest theological minds in the empire with orders to work it all out and come up with an official creed.
It would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall as these great minds—black, brown, and white—all came together from different corners of the empire under the auspices of a great emperor. These were highly, highly intelligent people who had had all the benefits a huge, advanced, and intellectually sophisticated empire could offer. There has probably never been in the history of Christianity another such cavalcade of the best minds the world has to offer.
Athanasius was in the middle of the controversy about the nature of Jesus' divinity. If Jesus was divine, then weren't there two gods—God and Jesus—making the religion polytheistic? Yet it was based itself on the claim of monotheism, one God. And what of the Holy Spirit? Was that yet another god? Or were there three gods?
Nobody contested that Jesus had presented himself as a human being on earth, but was he really human or did he just put on the shell of a human form so as not frighten people? Did he really suffer on the cross?
If the above were a heresy, as was widely accepted, then how could a being of human flesh be a god? Wasn't he a creature, created by God like the humans and animals, the earth, moon and sun? But if he were a creature, didn't that make him lower than God? If he were a creature and lower than God, how could also be a god? Didn't his creaturely status make him more a messenger of...
(The entire section contains 630 words.)
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