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AD 381 1st Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Charles Freeman has done an excellent job of describing the confusing theological climate which prevailed in the centuries after Jesus' death and the beginning of Christianity. Christians agreed on little or nothing, it seemed, until their religion gained legal acceptance and then official status. Then political leaders, aided and abetted by sometimes unscrupulous bishops and priests, sought to make sense out of the confusion and come up with a single theology which all Christians were bound to accept. Freeman recreates the personalities of politicians like Constantine, Theodosius, and the many other Emperors, as well as those of Church leaders like Ambrose and Augustine, and helps us understand how they contributed to what became established Christian dogma on the Trinity. I found particularly interesting his final chapters, in which he traces the official Christian teachings through the European Middle Ages. I was intrigued, as well, by his chapters in which he traced connections between Christianity and Plato and Aristotle.Read more ›
That there were wildly differing interpretations of Christianity in the late Roman Empire is hardly news to any historian worth their salt. What Freeman does is explain cogently what many of these interpretations (and their related sects) were, why they were considered "heretical" ("heresis" in Greek was not a pejorative, but rather simply meant "choice" - as in choice of philosophical school to which one subscribed), and how they were evenually snuffed out. At the root of the challenge presented to those who wished to impose orthodoxy was a legacy of 1500 years of independent, critical thought in the Mediterranean world, and a culture of lively theological discussion on matters relating to Christianity as a result. Central to these debates was the question of the trinity and, by extension, the nature of Jesus and the relationship among the trinty relative to the Godhead. (The Nicene Creed, for example, holds that God the Father and Jesus are of the same substance, yet there is no scriptural support for this. Matters are complicated further when one tries to consdier that "substance" raises the question of how can God the Father be material, and whether or not Jesus had always existed alongside God, or whether Jesus was a separate creation - and therefore a later and lesser incarnation.Read more ›
"A.D. 381" is quite excellent in looking at the players and events that often remain obscure in most histories of the late Roman Empire, namely, how Christianity went from a tolerated religion under Constantine to the only lawful religion within a century. Most people with a basic familiarity of the subject can identify Constantine, the Council of Nicea and 325, but probably don't know that Council of Nicea under Constantine was only the beginning of Christian influence over the Roman Empire. But it was not until the last decades of the Fourth Century that both paganism and heretical - i.e., non-Nicene Christianity - were outlawed and one form of Christianity, which defined the persons of the Trinity as being "consubstantial," emerged as the only legal religion in the Empire. Hence, the date 381 marks the date of the Council of Constantinople which was called by the Emperor Theodosius to confirm the Nicene Creed and put an end to the dispute between followers of the Nicene Creed and those Christians who viewed Jesus Christ as a lesser, created, divinity, including the Arians and other "subordinationists."
Freeman's valid thesis - which he establishes in detail - is that theological developments can not be removed from the brute social facts in which the theology developed.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I thoroughly enjoy reading the historic narrative and research by Charles Freeman, having read most of his outstanding works. Read morePublished 1 month ago by K. MCBRIDE
Having recently written a novel about the 4th Century and Rome's marriage to the Christian Church, the subject matter was right up my alley. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Daniel G. Helton
Mao's so-called "Cultural Revolution" was not the first, but hopefully the last. Lest we forget the lessons of history, we become doomed to repeat its mistakes...Published 7 months ago by Howard G. Fass
Historian Charles Freeman here details the story behind the players of credal Christianity and how it evolved. Read morePublished 8 months ago by S. Edwin Rufener
Excellent history, fact-obsessed to the point of minutia-obsession.
Yes, that pretty well sums up the book. Read more
A very detailed account of the political background of the invention and institution of Nicene Christianity as the orthodox theology of both Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Hexagram of the Heavens
excellent reference book for those interested in the development of Christianity.Published 20 months ago by waynehuff
This book opened my eyes to what happened during the Fourth Century and the part the government played in stopping the dialogue between the various different groups involved in... Read morePublished on April 22, 2014 by Alonzo Rumfelt