Friday, October 1, 2010

Pagans We Were

As discussed in an earlier blog, Christianity probably entered Britain as a result of direct persecution. At the time of its arrival, [estimated to be between 249 AD - 305 AD], it was considered an "outlaw religion". You would want to keep things fairly secret since your life might depend on it. However, the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire made it evident to the Roman rulers that those following Christianity had become too numerous and influential to be eliminated. An "Edict of Toleration" was pronounced in 311 AD, and Christianity was recognized as a legitimate religion. This edict declared: "We grant to the Christians and to all others full liberty of following that religion which each may choose."

Constantine the Great and his fellow emperor Licinius recognized Christianity as their "first and principal concern" at Milan in March 313 AD. This struggle [to recognize Christianity] has been recorded in great detail by Eusebius who lived between 263 AD and 339AD. His "The History of the Church", believed to have been written around 324 AD and describes the lives of 146 martyrs, and the teaching of 47 heretics. Eucebius was a personal friend and admirer of Constantine, and credits him as being the primary force to the declaration that Christianity would become the religion of the State. However, Constantine continued as the supreme pontiff of the religious affairs of the "State", calling himself the "bishop of bishops".

Constantine called the first general council of the Church, held at Nicea in Asia Minor. To this council bishops came from all parts of the Empire. [They traveled by the imperial post and at government expense.] It was by this time that the church in Britain seemed to be organized for they sent bishops from the dioceses of London, York, and Colchester. Thus by 325 AD, Christianity in Britain had been organized along standard church structure. Archaeological evidence shows that the early Christan church in Roman Britain was concentrated in the southeast, surrounding population centers such as London and Lincoln. To the north, this evidence is found around the city of York. There has been no evidence found that Christian burials, symbols, and churches were present in and around my Jones family land. Just imagine, before 325 AD, we were "pagans".

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