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4.0 out of 5 stars 4th Century Conflicts that Created Modern Culture., July 10, 2004
This review is from: When Jesus Became God: The Epic Fight over Christ's Divinity in the Last Days of Rome (Hardcover)
When the Forth Century dawned on the Roman Empire, the Emperors Diocletian and Galerius sought to unify the Empire by actively discouraging Christianity, whose insulting attitudes towards pagan gods and lifestyles smacked of fanaticism and created division. By the end of that century, the Emperor Theodosius had not only outlawed all religions except Christianity, but outlawed all Christian theologies except one and violently persecuted transgressors, also in the cause of unity. "When Jesus Became God" is the story of those intervening years, when religious politics became the principle instrument of power in the Roman Empire, Christianity rose and fell from fashion repeatedly and emerged a changed faith, and a once-great Empire became two. The story is dominated by the conflict between Arian and Athanasian Christianity, both named for their most vocal 4th Century proponents, two religious men with a mission from Alexandria. Arius was a priest with strong support in the Eastern Empire, whose eloquent advocacy of the idea that Jesus was a prophetic human being who became divine through his own virtue, a true Son of Man, sent to Earth to teach by example, earned him many followers in the West. Athanasius was a Bishop of Alexandria, who thought that any theology that denied that Jesus was God, himself, was anathema, as only the suffering of God himself could redeem humanity from its sins. It was these two opposing forces which the first Christian Emperor, Constantine, essentially an Athanasian, tried unsuccessfully to reconcile at the Council of Nicaea. His son, the Emperor Constantius II, was an Arian. Constantius' nephew, the Emperor Julian, was pagan. And so it went on, Christianity in one decade and out the next, Arians and "orthodox" Christians at each other's throats all the while, until the Emperor Theodosius came to power in 379 and decided to use more force than his predecessors to impose one theology on Rome's citizens: that of the Cappadocian doctrine. The Holy Trinity entered the Christian faith.

"When Jesus Became God" is an enlightening exposition of the theological conflicts and chaos that dominated the late Roman Empire, made Christianity the cultural standard that it has been ever since, and forged -or at least galvanized- the ideological and religious division between Latin and Eastern Christians. We see these events through the perspective of the Arian and Athanasian rivalry. This isn't a comprehensive look at religious politics in 4th century Rome, but it revolves around two of that century's most influential men, who represented one of Christianity's most significant theological struggles. The author gives Cappadocian doctrine short shrift, summarizing the doctrine's place in history without providing much detail. But,as far as it goes, "When Jesus Became God" provides an essential piece of cultural and religious history in a concise, readable form.
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mirasreviews
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