In the name of Allah ,the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

Coming soon: Our youtube channel and Islamic course

book logo

Oneness Of God, The Ultimate Solution To The Trinitarian Controversy
by:  Mamarinta-Umar P. Mababaya.
Revised by our Site via:  Abdulaziz Addwesh.
Publishing house:  Wisdom Enrichment Foundation, Inc. Mindanao State University, Marawi City, Philippines.
Publishing date:  1988G.

Previous Table of Contents Next

How Constantine, Other Roman Leaders And The Clergymen Influenced the Trinitarian Doctrine

            The Roman political leaders, since the time of Emperor Nero, had played one role or another in the Trinitarian crisis. One obvious case in point was that of Emperor Constantine who ratified the Trinitarian doctrine more than three hundred years after the disappearance Of Jesus (peace be upon him). Constantine's role in the establishment of Trinity as a standard creed among Christians cannot be undermined. Digging into his connection with the Christian clergy will also help unravel the paradox underlying the existence of Rome as the capital of Christendom.

            It is common knowledge that the Romans had for many years embarked on a persecution campaign against anybody who claimed to be a Christian, from the reign of Emperor Nero to that of Constantine. Gibbon says that, "About fourscore years after the death of Christ, his innocent disciples were punished with death, by the sentence of a proconsul of the most amiable and philosophic character, and according to the laws of an emperor, distinguished by the wisdom and justice of his general administration[24]. The cruel punishment meted out to Christians in the tenth year of the reign of Emperor Nero, was described by Gibbon as follows: " They died in torments, and their torments were embittered by insults and derision. Some were nailed on crosses; others sewn up in the skin of wild beasts, and exposed to the fury of wild dogs; others again smeared over the combustible materials, were used as torches to illuminate the darkness of the night. The gardens of Nero were destined for the melancholy spectacle, which was accompanied with a horse race, and honored with the presence of the emperor, who mingled with the populace in the dress and attitude of a charioteer. The guilt of the Christians deserved, indeed, the most exemplary punishments, but the public abhorrence was changed into commiseration, from the opinion that those unhappy wretches were sacrificed, not so much to the public welfare, as to the cruelty of a jealous tyrant. Those who survey, with a curious eye, the revolutions of mankind may observe the gardens and circus of Nero on the Vatican, which were polluted with the blood of the first Christians, have been rendered still more famous by the triumph and by the abuse of the persecuted religion"[25].

            During the reign of Emperor Diocletian, at least four known edicts of persecution against Christians were issued and all their churches were ordered burned. Although the emperor abdicated his throne in 305, "the persecution of the Christians continued for 10 years, and nearly 2,000 of their leaders were executed"[26].

            With all the inhumane treatment by the Romans against the early followers of Jesus, it is ostensibly paradoxical that Rome became the center of Christendom. The Romans themselves were the worst enemies of Jesus Christ, and they were the ones who allegedly crucified him. Indeed the Romans, particularly Emperor Constantine, had played a vital role in the founding of Rome as the center of Christendom. This was a clear political move by the Romans to maintain and expand their own empire, with a vast base of subservient subjects that would include the Christians.

            For the first time, in 308 A.D., the Roman world was divided in the hands of six emperors: in the West, Constantine and Maxentius affected to reverence their father Emperor Maximian; in the East, Licinus and Maximin honored with more real consideration their benefactor Galerius[27]. During the reign of Emperor Constantine, therefore, the Roman world was plagued by internal civil strife, so he considered the quest for reunification of utmost importance. Moreover, his reign witnessed the disarray of the Christian world with respect to various conflicting dogmas. History shows that Constantine himself was a very controversial figure. The Christians considered him the deliverer of the church, hence a hero. Others compared "Constantine to the most abhorred of those tyrants, who, by their vice and weakness, dishonored the Imperial purple"[28]. It is worth noting that Emperor Constantine himself fled from Rome, not because he was a champion of the Christian cause, but because he feared that his life and empire were in danger. Why? He was at first reported to be jealous of his eldest son, Crispus, who was the direct heir to the throne. Crispus, who was invested with the title of Caesar at the age of seventeen, became so popular by virtue of his military prowess and leadership that he engaged the affections of the court, the army, and the people. This dangerous popularity of Crispus soon excited the attention of Constantine, who was impatient of a strong rival. Instead of securing the allegiance of his son, the emperor resorted to a satanic move. Crispus was subsequently put to death, either by the hand of the executioner or by the more gentle operation of poison[29].

            Clearly, therefore, Constantine's lust for power led him to the extreme of committing a grievous crime by murdering his son. Prior to this, it was reportedly known that Crispus' stepmother, the Empress Fausta, had wanted one of her very own sons (namely: Constantine, Constantius and Constans) to succeed the emperor. These three, however, were not the direct heirs to the throne, so Empress Fausta had a motive to kill Crispus, "whom she considered with reason as the most formidable rival of her own children"[30]. Obviously cognizant of this motive, Emperor Constantine reportedly manifested his repentance "only in acts of blood and revenge; and that he atoned for the murder of an innocent son, by the execution, perhaps, of a guilty wife"[31]. One testimony, in this connection, states simply that "Constantine put to death his son and wife." Another testimony says that "Crispus was poisoned, Fausta suffocated by a hot bath"[32].

            After the tragic murder of Empress Fausta, however, the situation, turned to chaos, apparently beyond the expectation of Emperor Constantine. With his empire already on the brink of collapse because of civil war and external threats, Constantine fled to Byzantium (later named Constantinople), where he met with unexpected success from the Pauline church[33].

            At Byzantium, Constantine was offered by the Pauline church to undertake penance, so he did[34]. Such privilege offered to a tyrant only manifested the looseness of Christian theological norms. If such norms tolerate anyone to be absolved from murder simply by making confession (which should be the case if clergymen do not resort to discrimination), then anyone could kill anybody else without being punished; and, subsequently, the society would be in chaos. In other words, the community adhering to those norms would appear as a big penal colony, composed of former convicts and other criminals, who by the grace of clergy, carry the Christian identity. The churchmen, however, would certainly not welcome this view. But if Constantine escaped the penalty of his crimes, simply by accepting the clergymen's offer for public penance, why could not this hold true to others? The truth is that Constantine's penance was a special case and had, in fact, served a mutually dual purpose. On one hand, it apparently served the ulterior motive of the Pauline church in terms of imperial protection and peace with the Romans. On the other hand, as Emperor Constantine was worried not only about the repercussion of the crime he committed back home, but also about the problems devastating the Roman Empire (civil wars and the like), he collaborated with the Pauline clergymen, hoping that he would be able to win the loyalty of the Christians, which he needed most to unite his empire. Constantine was, in fact, so successful that the priests went further by carrying out very successful underground work for him, and they were indeed behind his success in reuniting the Roman Empire. Constantine, thus, exploited the golden opportunity whereby the prelate of Constantinople (overshadowed by the imperial courts and protected by the imperial armies) "tended to accept the claims of the emperors to control the church and to decide any dispute that arose in the ecclesiastical sphere"[35]. After all, those clergymen in the new city, the Constantinople, felt no better choice, because "the emperors of fourth century were men of autocratic disposition, and they expected everyone, including the leaders of the church, to obey them"[36]. Those emperors were concerned with maintaining "the unity of the public cult as the basis and guarantee of the unity of the empire"[37]. By virtue of political consideration as well as his good control over the clergymen, Constantine, therefore, took advantage of having a united church which would be loyal to him and whose center would be based in Rome (not in Jerusalem!). This means that the whole of Christendom had to be under the realm of the Roman Bishop, who in turn was subservient to the emperor. Naturally, therefore, Christians' obedience to the Roman bishop meant allegiance or loyalty to the emperor. As such, the followers of the Apostolic church, particularly the Berber communities of North Africa under the leadership of Donatus, strongly suspected this move as a political strategy by a foreign ruler to subjugate them. They firmly believed that Jesus never said anything about Rome to be the center of his teaching. So, the Christian Berbers of North Africa remained under the leadership of Bishop Donatus who stood firm against the Bishop of Rome for forty years. They maintained for years their fundamental tenets, notably that of the belief in the Divine Unity of God, and Jesus as His prophet[38].

            Constantine's leverage on Christianity does not suffice to prove that he himself was a devoted Christian. Historian R. Richter agrees with E. Gibbon that Constantine's Christianity was due entirely to political considerations. Another historian, Burckhardt, developed the view that Constantine was constitutionally indifferent to religion; and that "in his later years he exhibited personal inclinations rather towards paganism than towards Christianity"[39]. In fact, many of his subjects still believed in Roman gods (like Jupiter); and in order to please them, Constantine in his later years (and in collaboration with the clergymen) made some decisions in their favor, which quite proved that he also worshiped the Roman gods. One such decision, for instance, was the declaration of the Roman Sunday as the Christian Sabbath; another was the adoption of the Roman Sun-god's birthday (the twenty fifth of December) as the birthday of Jesus. These were just some of the decisions made during the Nicene Council, which was ratified by Emperor Constantine himself. In fact, it was when the old controversy between Arius and Bishop Alexander re-emerged that Emperor Constantine convened the Nicene Council.

            So, the Pauline Church won in the end! The Nicene creed was ratified by Emperor Constantine, whose religion was still a subject of doubt, and whose mind had not been enlightened either by study or by inspiration[40]. This Council ultimately agreed to call Christ "the Son of God, only begotten of the Father... of the substance of the Father... very God of very God"[41]. It also officially declared the Trinitarian concept as the official doctrine of the Pauline Church; and ratified the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the only four canonical gospels.

            The Nicene Council also decided to destroy all gospels written in Hebrew, resulting in the burning of nearly three hundred other accounts (many of them eye-witness accounts). The Pauline Church authorities went further by declaring possession of an unauthorized gospel a capital offense. This was part of Athanasius' all out strategy to unify Christendom, which resulted in the killing of over a million Christians in the years that followed the Nicene Council. The Gospel of St. Barnabas, however, reportedly survived until now as the only eye-witness account of the life and mission of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him). It was accepted as a canonical scripture by the Christians of Alexandria till 325 A.D.[42]. This Gospel foretold the coming of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)[43].

            At this point, it is worth noting that three years after the Council of Nicea, Constantine's lack of objectivity in settling the dispute (being ignorant of the theological roots of the Trinitarian controversy) had surfaced. Constantine, influenced by his sister's pro-Arian inclination, soon protected Arius by repeatedly signifying his will that the latter be restored to the Catholic communion. Athanasius - a man who engineered the Athanasian creed - objected strongly to this idea. Constantine was, however, determined to solemnly admit Arius to the communion in the cathedral of Constantinople, but on the same day fixed for his triumph in 336 A.D., the latter died.

            Athanasius was found to be responsible for the death of Arius. So, Constantine persecuted the former, and exiled him to the remote province of Gaul for about twenty-eight months. The Emperor was so greatly moved by the tragic death of Arius, and with the strong influence of his pro-Arian sister Constantina, he became a Christian. Just a year after his reported conversion, Emperor Constantine died in 337 A.D. as an Arian Christian. Ironically, the Emperor died in the faith of those he had persecuted and killed - the members and leaders of the Apostolic Church who affirmed the Divine Unity of God, with Jesus as His apostle[44].

            After the death of Constantine, Athanasius had a not-too-long respite, when again he was subjected to persecution by the then Emperor Constantius, who was also pro-Arian. Athanasius, in fact, passed three years in the Vatican for his second exile from Alexandria around 339 A.D. Again, in 356 A.D he was expelled from Alexandria for the third time. His life was in most imminent danger as the conspiracy by those prelates who opposed his creed won the heart of Emperor Constantius, resulting in more terrible edicts against him. For instance, liberal rewards were promised, by Imperial edict, to the man who should produce Athanasius dead or alive; and the severe penalties were denounced against those who should dare protect the public enemy. So, Athanasius attempted to escape by embarking on several adventures, one of which led to an illicit, adulterous affair between him and a young lady, who was celebrated in the whole city for her exquisite beauty. During the six years of his exile and persecution, he continued to pay her visits[45]. This disclosure of an immoral affair involving the founder of the Athanasian creed is not very surprising since many of the Christian clergymen have been involved in adultery and other major crimes. Considering the historical background pertaining to Athanasius' immoral conduct and pervasive personality, it is a pity that Christians nowadays still adhere to the Athanasian creed (the belief in Trinity!).

            By the same token, although Emperor Constantine ratified the Trinitarian doctrine, the fact that he died in the faith of those who opposed it (the Christians who believe in One God the Almighty) proves that he did not adhere to it. This confirmed the validity of the proposition that his mediating role in the Trinitarian controversy was politically motivated and not spiritually inspired. Unfortunately, the foundation and growth of Christianity have been largely influenced by politics and self-interests, rather than by the practical life and the authentic teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him). The influence of Paul on today's Christianity is another obvious case in point. This is thoroughly covered in the following section.

Previous Table of Contents Next

[24] Edward Gibbon, Vol. II. op. cit., p.77.
[25] Ibid., pp.91-92.
[26] Martin A. Larson and C. Stanley Lowell, The Religious Empire: The Growth and Danger of Tax-Exempt Property in the United States (Washington: Robert B. Luce Co., 1976), p.12.
[27] Edward Gibbon, Vol. I, op. cit., p.440.
[28] Edward Gibbon, Vol. II, op. cit., p.214.
[29] Ibid, p.219-222.
[30] Ibid, p.223.
[31] Ibid.
[32] See Appendix Note No.13, Edward Gibbon, Vol.II p.587.
[33] Muhammad Ata ur-Rahim, op. cit., p.78.
[34] One source stated that, after Constantine murdered his son, and subsequently his wife, he repented; the Christian clergymen (apparently the priests of the Pauline Church) reportedly offered him forgiveness and he became a Christian. See Appendix Note No. 13, Edward Gibbon, Vol. II op. cit., p.587.
[35] Brian Tierney, The Crisis of Church & State 1050-1300 (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1964), p.9.
[36] Ibid., p.8.
[37] Arend Th. Va Leeuwen, Christianity in World History: The Meeting of the Faiths of East and West, trans. By H. H. Hoskins (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1964), p.275.
[38] Muhammad Ata ur-Rahim, op. cit., p.81.
[39] See Appendix Note No. 18, Edward Gibbon, Vol. II op. cit., p.593.
[40] Edward Gibbon, Vol. II. op. cit., pp.376-377.
[41] A. M. Renwick, op. cit., p.54.
[42] Lonsdale and Laura Ragg, Ed. and Trans., The Gospel of Barnabas (Karachi: Begum Aaisha Bawany Waqf, 1986) p.274.
[43] Ibid, pp.122-123.
[44] Muhammad Ata ur-Rahim, op. cit., p.104.
[44] Muhammad Ata ur-Rahim, op. cit., p.104.
[45] See Edward Gibbon, Vol.II., op. cit., p.402.