A Brief Church History: The Fourth Century and Onward

The majority opinion is always wrong.

We will complete our four-part series on church history with a look at one of the most enigmatic individuals to ever tread this dirtball: Emperor Constantine. As I mentioned in my last post, the key players in any contest must be identified and we must always keep a sharp eye on them. Very few men in the annals of history have made a more lasting impact than Constantine.

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Mainstream historians report of Constantine in a positive light as the great Christian Emperor who brought Christianity to the heathen. If you have followed my posts, you should know by now that I swim against the current. One of my mottos is, “The majority opinion is always wrong.” That can be backed up by enough Bible verses to keep us busy for a month. So when the majority of historians conclude that Constantine was a Christian and a great man of God, you can safely assume that they are wrong.

The major contribution of Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus (otherwise known as Constantine the Great) was the consolidation of the Roman religion and Roman state into one entity. We have a great debate today over the separation of church and state, and much of it is in reaction to Roman Catholic domination of the world for a thousand years. This domination was enacted by Constantine. He did not bring Christianity to the heathen; he brought an abusive reign of terror through his totalitarian church-state which led to the Dark Ages.

he shifted to his other main tactic with Constantine.

Until very recently, historians still referred to 500-1500 AD by this name, but were (and are) ignorant of the source of the darkness. This is one of the main reasons you can discount their opinions. How can rational, thinking people praise the “glory of Holy Mother Church” while at the exact same time call their prime reign the Dark Ages?

The information on the life of Constantine is voluminous if you care to research him further. You could easily fill a sizeable floor-to-ceiling bookshelf with information on his life. In my book, Church History, I spend a fairly lengthy section on his life on pages 203-218. If you turn to the index at the back of the book, there are more references to Constantine in my book than any other individual character or subject. Second on the list are references to Origen. I make the point rather emphatically that these two men MUST be studied in history more than anyone else.

Constantine expanded his empire by launching a military campaign throughout the “known world”, killing anyone in his path who dared resist. He began his conquest at the end of the period of Imperial persecution of Christianity that we saw in the previous century. The Roaring Lion could not stamp out Christianity by brute force, so he shifted to his other main tactic with Constantine.

As he was marching through Europe, Constantine noted that the Christians were growing in numbers despite their persecution. So, in order to court the evangelical vote, Constantine issued several edicts designed to gain favor with the Christians. This was pure politics and had nothing to do with a genuine conversion to Jesus Christ. The so-called conversion of Constantine is a rather strange event.

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His was a false, political conversion that gained him control of the world.

As he was preparing for battle near Rome, on the evening of October 27, 312 AD, he had a vision. He saw a cross in the sky with the words “In this sign, conquer.” He claimed that Christ appeared to him in this vision. So, he painted the sign of the cross on his helmet and shield and the equipment of his army, went to battle the next day, and came through victorious. He credited the God of the Christians with his victory and adopted Christianity as his main religion. But there is so much nonsense in this report that it is difficult for me to condense it into a simple post like this.

First, which “Christ” appeared to him? In case you did not know, there are two of them in the Bible: Jesus Christ and the Antichrist. Virtually every historian jumps to the conclusion that it was Jesus, but I beg to differ. The Jesus of the Bible would not appear to a brutal pagan and encourage him to continue murdering people so that he could gain the whole world (and thereby lose his own soul; Matthew 16:26).

Additionally, some magic sign is not the means of salvation. The Bible says we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Constantine’s conversion story carries absolutely NO reference to the blood of Jesus Christ or repentance from sin or any other aspect of the gospel preached by Paul and others in the New Testament. His was a false, political conversion that gained him control of the world.

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Satan tries to control the world through the triangulation of religion, politics, and the military.

Once Constantine got control of the world both politically and militarily, he then arranged an opportunity to reign over the religious world. One of my guiding principles in my book is that Satan tries to control the world through the triangulation of religion, politics, and the military. Constantine got all three under his control. The religious aspect found its full measure when he called and presided over the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

Throughout my book, I spend a great deal of time unmasking the moves of the black chess master, Satan. A believer in Christ is cannon fodder if he cannot detect the wiles of the enemy. Satan operates as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:13-15) and a roaring lion (I Peter 5:8). I have chronicled that in this series repeatedly. In addition, there are two passages of scripture that every believer must be fully aware of. Ezekiel 28:11-19 and Isaiah 14:12-23 both describe the fall of Lucifer (Satan). Space does not allow me to place the passages here; besides, you have a Bible, so I encourage you to read those passages now before we continue this post. Go ahead, I can wait.

Satan reached his goal in Constantine as closely as he ever will until the tribulation…

Now that you have those words of God in mind, here is the account of the beginning of the Council of Nicea as reported by Eusebius, who was in attendance.

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“After all the bishops had entered the central building of the royal palace, on the sides of which very many seats were prepared, each took his place with becoming modesty, and silently awaited the arrival of the Emperor. The court officers entered one after another, though only such as professed faith in Christ. The moment the approach of the Emperor was announced by a given signal, they all rose from their seats, and the Emperor appeared like a heavenly messenger of God, covered with gold and gems, a glorious presence, very tall and slender, full of beauty, strength, and majesty. With this external adornment, he united the spiritual ornament of the fear of God, modesty, and humility, which could be seen in his downcast eyes, his blushing face, the motion of his body, and his walk. When he reached the golden throne prepared for him, he stopped, and sat not down till the bishops gave him the sign. And after him, they all returned to their seats.”

How can anyone not see the spirit of Antichrist in those words? How can the historians report this man as the heavenly messenger of God in light of the truth of the word of God? Constantine was full of self-centered beauty, as Lucifer was in Ezekiel 28:12. Constantine was covered with gold and gems. Satan has every precious stone as his covering. A golden throne was prepared for the Emperor at the council. Satan said, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God” in Isaiah 14:13. When the anti-Christ Emperor Constantine sat down after the sign, the unclean spirit in him “sat upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north” to reign over the church of Jesus Christ. Satan reached his goal in Constantine as closely as he ever will until the tribulation when he will walk into the Temple of God showing himself that he is God to demand worship (II Thessalonians 2:4).

manuscripts which are used to undermine the authority of the true word of God.

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One more major contribution of Constantine is necessary to examine. After the Council of Nicea, he sent a request to his friend Eusebius for 50 Bibles to be produced at his expense for the glory of the king and his kingdom. The letter from Constantine to Eusebius is preserved to this day in the British Museum of Antiquity in London. We do not know if the full order was filled, but we can be absolutely certain that at least two of those “Bibles” still exist today. They are the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts which are used to undermine the authority of the true word of God.

Here is where you have to think and ask questions. The year was 325 AD. Did Eusebius own a printing press to churn out Bibles for his friend the Emperor? No. Did he have a supply on hand in his warehouse to ship out by Fed-Ex? No. So you can conclude that when Eusebius got the request for 50 Bibles, he would essentially be starting from scratch.

Receiving an order like that from the Emperor of the world, what type of materials might Eusebius use? Obviously, no expense would be spared, and rather than getting cheap paper (papyri), he would have produced these Bibles on tanned leather (vellum) scrolls. Nothing could be too good for the king! Also, since these Bibles were for the king and only the best would suffice, the common street language of the time (Koiné Greek) would not do. So the common Bibles circulating at the time from the Antioch line on cheap papyri in the common tongue would not be used. Eusebius being a devoted student of Origen and having studied his writings, where do you suppose he would have gone to get the texts to produce his Bibles for the Emperor? Score yourself ten points if you said Origen’s perverse library.

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Hold fast the faithful word…Then hold forth the word of life

Now all of these questions and details are important as I draw this to a conclusion. We have no idea if the full order for 50 Bibles was filled. We do know for a fact that the order was placed. It is quite safe to imply that at least some of it was produced. So on February 4, 1859, Dr. Constantine Tischendorf (interesting first name) stumbled across an ancient manuscript that we call Sinaiticus. It was written on tanned leather vellum scrolls. It was written in classical Greek, the language of the learned, not the street language of the common man. Scientific testing proves the document was written about 300-350 AD. It is in pristine condition for being 1500 years old. At about the same time, a similar document was found in the Vatican library in Rome. It was also tested and dated to the same time, written on tanned leather, in classical Greek, and likewise in pristine condition. Both documents contain not just Bible texts, but Apocryphal books and other documents from the time. These two documents disagree with each other in over 3,000 places in the four gospels alone!

I cannot prove this for sure, but I am 99.99% certain that these two manuscripts are surviving copies of Constantine’s Bibles. Every single detail lines up perfectly. They come from the exact time. The language, materials, and sources all match what would have been produced. Question: Who else was producing Bibles at that time? Remember, the church had just come out of the time of the Smyrna persecutions. Anyone caught with a Bible would have been executed on the spot. No one was producing fine vellum Bibles for use in the churches. Genuine Christians were copying over the sacred texts on paper and hiding them from the authorities. The copies that were not confiscated were being read daily and thumbed through and pored over by hundreds of people. Constantine’s Bibles sat on a shelf. He never read them. They were for show and not for use. That is why they are in such good shape to this day.

More time for questions. We have manuscripts. Great! Who scripted them? Eusebius and his army of scribes. Next question. Why did these men script these documents? To fill the order for an Emperor who had no intention of actually reading the documents. What was the source of the scripting? The library of Origen.

With these answers, why in the name of Jesus do we have pastors, educators, and believers today who cannot see this? Why would anyone who has examined these facts of history draw any other conclusion than to stay away from Bibles that draw from these manuscripts?

Much more could be said about the impact of Emperor Constantine on the world from his day to the present. Totalitarian church-state societies and false bibles have plagued Christianity from his time onward. So, if we are going to learn from history, we must examine this man’s life and what he brought to the world. Watch out for universal church-state religions. Hold fast the faithful word (Titus 1:9), which is found today in our language in the King James Bible, and stay away from the phonies. Then hold forth the word of life (Philippians 2:16) to a lost and dying world that needs Jesus.


Greg Axe is the pastor of Crest Bible Church in Merriam, KS. He has taught the Church History course for Living Faith Bible Institute, and he recently published a book on the matter as well. Pastor Axe takes a faith- and scripture-based approach to history.

For a full treatment of the principles of history, get Greg’s book on Church History. It is available on Amazon or by contacting Greg at revaxe@juno.com. Please include your full name and mailing address.