Many of you are now wondering who the thirteenth disciple is because we only know of twelve. Well you know correctly, but as you read this article on Emperor Constantine (ca. 285 – 337) you will understand the title of this. If you have done church history then you probably know who Constantine is but if not then you probably think it’s the Constantine from the movie which is hugely wrong. So really who is this Constantine? Why the sudden interest in him?
Constantine as I have mentioned above was an emperor of Rome once, and is often lauded in the Christian circles as the one who granted them the freedom of worship, and also expanding their privileges. Yet his story fills a dark page in the history of Christianity which is very astonishing as you are about to find out.
By the time Constantine emerged into the scene, the atmosphere was ripe for Christians to escape their despised, minority status. How? Let’s look at the book of Revelation 2:8 – 11 where Christ addresses the church of Smyrna. This church represents the period in Church History from A.D 100 to A.D 312. In Smyrna, as in other places, Jews would sometimes take the heat of persecution off themselves by inciting the Romans against the Christians (Those of the way).
The Jews would present the communion in a wrong light by accusing believers of drinking blood and eating broken bodies. Thus in God’s sight they were no more His people in reality than were the Christians who, in the name of Christ, slaughtered Jews by hundreds during the crusades.
The pastor of the Church at Smyrna was a man named Polycarp, the last man personally discipled by John. At 86 years of age amidst one of the numerous waves of persecution, Polycarp was ordered to burn incense at the altar of Caesar. “How can I deny Him who has been faithful to me all these 86 years?” he asked. Consequently he was sentenced to burn at the stake. When the fire failed to come near him, a frustrated guard pierced Polycarp on the shoulder with his sword hence drawing his blood which put out the flame.
Lets move on to the Book of revelation 2:12 – 17 where now the Church of Pergamos was being addressed. The Greek prefix per, seen in words like “Pervert” means opposition. The suffix “gamos” seen in words like “Monogamy” or “Bigamy” means “Marriage”.- which describes the next phase of Church history where Constantine comes in.
In A.D 312, the last of the ten Roman emperors who had persecuted the church was dead, ushering in a power play for the reins of the empire. Constantine, a young hopeful prepared to engage in a huge battle and according to legend, he saw a cross in the heavens and heard a voice saying, “In this sign conquer.” As a result young Constantine fell down to his knees and became a born again believer.
According to History however what really happened was Constantine was substantially outnumbered and noticed that the Christians were not enlisting in anyone’s army. Realizing this, he converted into Christianity, he then had access to potential infusion of new troops and the Christians responded by siding with him.
As a result of Constantine’s Edict of toleration, which forbade persecution of Christians, Christianity became the official religion of Rome. In fact soon all Roman Babies would be legally required to be baptized into the Christian faith. The Christians were in power but understanding the political expediency of concession, Constantine compromised with the pagan priests and traditions that permeated Rome.
So a marriage took place that was clearly illustrated by the church and state working together as a political power, Christian symbols would be stamped on one side of the coin and pagan symbols on the other. He also ordered the construction of church buildings to promote the popularity and acceptance of Christianity. He thought that if the Christians had their own sacred buildings as did the Jews and the pagans, their faith would be regarded as legitimate.
Constantine’s thinking was dominated by superstition and pagan magic. Even after he became emperor, he allowed the old pagan institutions to remain the way they were – this included the temples, priestly offices, college of pontiffs, vestal virgins, and the title(reserved for himself) Pontifex Maximus – Chief of the pagan priests.
Following his conversion, Constantine never abandoned sun worship and kept the sun on his coins. He set up a statue of the sun god that bore his own image in the forum of Constantinople (his new capital). He also built a statue of the mother-goddess Cybele (though he presented her in a posture of Christian prayer).
In A.D 321, Constantine decreed that Sunday would be a day of rest – a legal holiday. It appears that Constantine’s intention in doing this was to honor the god Mithras, the unconquered sun. He seems to have thought that the Unconquered sun (a pagan god) and Christ were somehow compatible. Further demonstrating his affinity to with sun worship, excavations of St. Peter’s in Rome uncovered a mosaic of Christ as the unconquered sun.
All historical evidence indicates that Constantine was an egomaniac. When he built the Church of the apostles in Constantinople, he included monuments to the twelve apostles. The twelve monuments surrounded a single tomb, which lay at the center. That tomb was reserved for Constantine himself – thus making himself the THIRTEENTH and CHIEF APOSTLE.Almost to his dying day, Constantine “still functioned as Pontifex Maximus. In the fifteenth century this same title became the horrific title for the Roman Catholic pope. Truly a pagan magical mind was at work in Emperor Constantine – the self proclaimed THIRTEENTH CHIEF APOSTLE.
Compiled by: Jonathan Siaga