Studies in Historical Theology

Part five considers the Catholic imperial state church.

By N.J. Waldorf

Simultaneously with the aforemen­tioned steps, another one was taken when the church and state were united under the reign of Constantine, who issued the first Sunday law. Following this law, several more were decreed by the state. A brief quotation will be given here:

"Thus we have two laws prohibiting exaction of debt on that day, one under Valentinian and Valens (A. D. 368) pro­tecting Christians against being forced into litigation on that day, the dies solis (qui dedum Faustus habetur : " Codex Theodosius," viii, tit. viii, 2) ; the other under Gratian Valentinian and Theodosius (A. D. 386), extending this immunity to all, calling the day plainly the ' dies solis quem Domini­cum rite dixere majores,' and brand­ing any infringer of the law as ' non mod° notabilis, v erupt etiam sacri­legus ' (" Codex Theod.," viii, tit. viii, 2). The progress marked by the con­trast of these two laws is significant. The former, recognizing the Christians as a sect, is of exactly the same nature as a law of Honorius and Theodosius in 409, protecting the Jews from being forced to work or litigation on the Sabbath or other of their sacred days (" Codex. Theod.," II, tit. viii, 3). The latter accepts Christianity as the re­ligion of the empire, and enforces on all by law the sacredness of its chief festival." — " Christian Antiquities," by Smith and Cheethant, Vol. II, p. 10117.

Not only were there laws enacted re­lating to Sunday keeping, but also against paganism. Gradually pagan­ism was being eradicated from the em­pire, and its rites and customs grafted upon a fast-disappearing Christianity, so far as Biblical faith and practice were concerned. Yet an outward war­fare raged against paganism by the Roman emperors representing the state. The emperor Gratian (367-383) in the year 382 ordered that the statue of Victory, " custos imperii virago," should be removed from the Curia. He also forbade the offering of the "hostice constatatorim," and refused for himself the title of Pontifex Maximus (" Codex Theod.," xvix, 7).

When in A. D. 410 Rome was sacked by the Visigoths under Alaric, the pagans gave the cause of the disaster, to be the overthrowing of the ancient worship, and as a result of the fall of the city, there was a great revival of later paganism in the form of Mith­raism. Says the historian:

"At the commencement of the reign of Honorius, 395-423, temples to Ju­piter, Mercury, Saturn, the Mater Deum, Apollo, Diana, Minerva, Spes and Fortuna, and Concord, were still standing in Rome, and many of the old religious ceremonies and festivals continued to be observed. An edict of the year 399, promulgated at Ravenna, while forbidding the pagan wor­ship, prohibited the destruction of the temples. It was the imperial pleasure, it stated, that edifices which gave so much adornment to the public thor­oughfares should be preserved,= pub­lic:or/cm operum ornamento servari ' ("Cod. Theod.," xvi, x, 15)."

"An edict of Theodosius II of the year 423, assumes that paganism is vir­tually extinct = pagans qui super­sunt, quamquam jam wallas esse cre­dancus promulgaturum legum junudu­dum praescripta compescant ' (" Cod. Theod.," xvi, x, 22) ; but the appear­ance of subsequent enactments, e. g., one of the year 425 (Append. to " Cod. Theod.," p. 17), forbidding that pagans should practice at the bar, exercise military functions, or own Christian slaves, proves that the exceptions were still numerous."—" Christian Antiqui­ties," Vol. II, pp. 1538, 1539; and " Ro­man Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire," by Samuel Dill, revised edition, pp. 1-148.

Here is another law:

" Oninia loco, qua/ sacris error ye­terim deputaoit, nostrae rei iubemus sociari," etc. hn pp. Honorius et Theo­dosius A A. polulo Cartaginiensi, Dat. iii Kal september Ravennae.—" Cod.," Lib. 1, tit. xi, De Paganis, sacrificiis, Et Pemplis.

Translated it reads:

" All places, which have been con­secrated to the old error, we order to be joined to our possessions."— Given three days from the Kalends of Sep­tember to the people of Carthaginia. (Signed by Honorius X and Theodosius VI at Ravenna, A. D. 415.)

Space will not permit me to quote the Latin, but the translation only in this one:

"No one may open, for the purpose of adoring and worshiping these tem­ples which have been closed at one time or another; honor is not to be given to impious or accursed images; the doorposts of the temples are not to be wreathed with flowers; profane fires are not to be lighted on the altars; incense is not to be burned before them; victims are not to be sacrificed; libations of wine are not to be drunk; and sacrilege is not to exist in place of religion. Moreover, whoever may attempt to offer sacrifices against this prohibition of our Serenity and against the interdicts of our old and most holy constitution having been lawfully ac­cused and convicted by a public trial of so great a crime, he shall endure the greatest of punishment and the proscription of all his property."—Given by emperors Valentinus and Martian, the Kalends of November, 451 A. D. (Book one, part ii, 7, "Code of Justinian.")

Even as late as in the time of the Ostrogothic king Theodoric, paganism flourished right in the city of Rome, as can be seen from the law which he published in that city and which reads as follows:

" If any one offers up sacrifice ac­cording to the pagan rite, having been arrested by a just sentence, they were to be beheaded. Soothsayers also and schemers were to be put away secretly. Those conscious of the black arts, that is evil-doers, having been despoiled of all their property, were to be con­demned to perpetual exile, while the lower classes among these were also to be beheaded."—"Edict of Theodo­sius," A. D. 500. (Lindenbrog, " Code of Ancient Laws," Frankfurt, 1713, p. 255.

Summary of Points:

1. The apostolic Christian —ancient catholic (universal)— church estab­lished by Christ and His apostles con­tinued to the time of Constantine, about 321 A. D.

2. The ancient catholic church was persecuted by the pagan government, but never resorted to state aid in its religious work, Its only means of converting people was by preaching and persuading people to accept Christ as their Saviour.

3. Just as soon as this church joined herself to the state, she persecuted the pagans and exchanged force for per­suasion in her religious work, and she became the Roman Catholic Imperial State Church.

The next study is on the Episcopacy and the Prelacy.

Orlando, Fla.


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By N.J. Waldorf

December 1928

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