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CONSTANTINE AND THE CROSS
AND THE CROSS
AN OUTSTANDING FACTOR THAT
contributed to the adoration of the cross image within the Romish
church was the famous "vision of the cross" and Constantine's
subsequent, though questionable, "conversion."
As Constantine and his soldiers
approached Rome, they were about to face what is known as the
Battle of Milvian Bridge.
According to the custom of the time, the haruspices (those who
employed divination by such means as reading the entrails of
sacrificial animals) were called to give advice. (The Bible
records how the king of Babylon had followed the same practice:
"For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the
head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows
bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver"--Ezekiel
21:21). In the case of Constantine, he was told that the gods
would not come to his aid, that he would suffer defeat in the
battle. But then in a vision or dream, as he related later, there
appeared a cross to him and the words, "In this sign conquer." The
next day--October28, 312--he advanced behind a standard portraying
a cross. He was victorious in that battle, defeated his
rival, and professed conversion.
It is admitted
on all sides, however, that Constantine's vision of the cross may
not be historically true. The only authority from whom the
story has been gathered by historians is Eusebius. But if
Constantine did have such a vision, are we to suppose its author
was Jesus Christ? Would the Prince of Peace instruct a sun worshipemperor to make a
military banner embodying the cross and to conquer and kill in
Constantine And The Cross
The Roman Empire (of which Constantine became the head) has been
described in the Scriptures as a "beast." Daniel saw four
great beasts which represented four world empires--Babylon (a
lion), Medo--Persia (a bear), Greece (a leopard), and Rome. The
fourth beast, the Roman Empire, was so horrible that it was
symbolized by a beast unlike any other (Daniel 7:1-8). We see no
reason to suppose that Christ would tell Constantine to conquer
with the sign of the cross to further the beast system of Rome,
But if the
vision was not of God, how can we explain the conversion of
Constantine? Actually, his conversion is questionable.
Even though he had much to do with the establishment of certain
church practices of the time, the facts plainly show that he was
not truly converted--not in the Biblical sense of the word.
Historians admit that his conversion was "nominal, even by
most obvious indication that he was not truly converted may be
seen from the fact that after his conversion, he committed several
murders-including the murder of his own wife and son!
According to the Bible "no murderer hath eternal life abiding in
him" (1 John 3:15).
first marriage was to Minervina, by whom he had a son named
Crispus. His second wife, Fausta, bore him three daughters and
three sons. Crispus became an outstanding soldier and help
to his father. Yet, in 326--very shortly after directing the
Nicene Council-he had hls son put to death. The story is
that Crispus had made love to Fausta. At least this was the
accusation of Fausta. But this may have been her method of
getting him out of the way, so one of her sons might have claim to
the throne! Constantine's mother, however, persuaded him that his
wife "had yielded to his son" Constantine had Fausta suffocated to
death in an overheated bath. About this same time he had his
sister's son flogged to death and her husband strangled --even
though he had promised he would spare his life.
things are summed up in the following words from The Catholic
Encyclopedia "Even after his conversion he caused the execution of
his brother--in--law Licinius, and of the latter's son, as well as
of Crispus his own son by his first marriage, and of his wife
Fausta....After reading these cruelties it is hard to believe that
the same emperor could at times have mild and tender impulses; but
human nature is full of contradictions."
Constantine did show numerous favors toward the
Christians, abolished death by crucifixion, and the persecutions
which had become so cruel at Rome ceased. But did he make
these decisions purely from Christian convictions or did he have
political motives? Quoting again from The Catholic Encyclopedia:
Some bishops, blinded by the splendor of the court, even
went so far as to laud the emperor as an angel of God, as a sacred
being, and to prophesy that he would, like the Son of God, reign
in heaven. It has consequently been asserted that
Constantine favored Christianitymerely
from political motives, and he has been regarded as an
enlightened despot who made use
of religion only to advance his policy."
Such was the
conclusion of the noted historian Durant regarding Constantine.
"Was his conversion sincere--was it an act of religious belief, or
a consummate stroke of political wisdom? Probably the
latter....He seldom conformed to the ceremonial requirements of
Christian worship. His letters to Christian bishops make it
clear that he cared little for the theological differences that
agitated Christendom--though he was willing to suppress dissent in
the interests of imperial unity.
Throughout his reign he treated the bishops as his political
aides: he summoned them, presided over their councils, and agreed
to enforce whatever opinion their majority should formulate.
A real believer would have been a Christian first and a statesman
afterward: with Constantine it was the reverse. Christianity was to him a means, not
an end." "The
end justifies the means." This maxim is generally
attributed to the Jesuits, and while it might not be found in just
that many words in their authorized books, yet the identical
sentiment is found over and over again in their Latin works, and
the Jesuits used this to this day!!
Persecutions had not
destroyed the Christian faith. Constantine knew this.
Instead of the empire constantly being divided--with sun worshipers in conflict
with Christians--why not take such steps as might be necessary to
mix elements of both religions together, he reasoned, and thereby
bring a united force to the empire? There were similarities
between the two religious systems. Even the cross symbol was
not a divisive factor, for by this time it was in use by
Christians, and "to the worshiper of Mithra in Constantin's
forces, the cross could give no offense, for they had long fought
under a standard bearing a Mithraic cross of light." Like so many gods, Mithra was the light and power behind the sun.
Christianity of Constantine was a mixture. Though he had his
statue removed from sun worship
temples and renounced the offering of sacrifices to himself, yet
people continued to speak of the divinity of the
emperor. As pontifex maximus he continued to watch
over the heathen worship and protect its rights. In
dedicating Constantinople in 330 a ceremonial that was half sun worship and half Christian
was used. The chariot of the sun god was set in the marketplace and over it the
cross. Coins made by Constantine featured the cross, but also
representations of Mars or
Apollo. While professing to be a Christian, he
continued to believe in sun worship magic formulas
for the protection of crops and the healing of disease. All of
these things are pointed out in The Catholic Encyclopedia. Yet,
the practice of Constantine--the concept of mixture--was clearly
the method whereby the Catholic church developed and became rich
and increased with goods.
mother, Helena, when nearly eighty years of age, made a pilgrimage
to Jerusalem, Legend has it that she found three crosses buried
there--one the cross of Christ and the other two the ones upon
which the thieves were crucified. The cross of Christ was
identified because it worked miracles of healing at the suggestion
of Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem, while the other two did not.
article in The Catholic Encyclopedia, "A portion of the True Cross
remained at Jerusalem enclosed in a sliver reliquary; the
remainder, with the nails, must have been sent to
Constantine....One of the nails was fastened to the emperor's
helmet, and one to his horse's bridle, bringing to pass, according
to many of the Fathers, what had been written by Zacharias the
Prophet: "In that day that which is upon the bridle of the horse
shall be holy to the Lord (Zach. 14:20)"! This same article,
while attempting to hold to the general teachings of the church
regarding the cross, admits that the stories about the discovery
of the cross vary and the tradition (which actually developed
years later) may be largely based on legend.
did visit Jerusalem in 326 appears to be historically correct. But
the story of her discovery of the cross did not appear until
440--about 114 years later! The idea that the original cross would
still be at Jerusalem almost 300 years after the crucifixion seems
very doubtful. Besides, laws among the Jews required crosses
to be burned after being used for crucifixion.
someone were to find the actual cross. This would be of
great interest, of course; but would there be any virtue in that
piece of wood? No, for the cross has already served its
purpose. We recall that "Moses made a serpent of brass, and
put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had
bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived"
(Num. 21:9). This was a type of the way Christ was lifted up in
death (John 3: 15). But after the brass serpent had served
its intended purpose, the Israelites kept it around and made an
idol out of it! Thus, centuries later, Hezekiah did
"right"-- that which was right...he brake the images and cut down
the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had
made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense
to it" (2 Kings 18: 1-4). Hezekiah did "right"--not only by
destroying heathen idols--but even that which God had ordained,
for now it had come to be used in a superstitious and idolatrous way. On this same basis, if the
original cross was still in existence, there would be no reason to
set it up as an object of worship. And if there would be no power
in the original cross, how much less is there any power in a mere
piece of wood in its shape?
Even as the sun worship Egyptians had set
up obelisks, not only as a symbol of their god, but in some cases
the image itself was believed to possess supernatural powers, even
so did some come to regard the cross. Had it not helped
Constantine in the Battle of Milvian Bridge? Had not the cross
worked miracles for Helena? It came to be regarded as an
image that could scare away evil spirits. It was worn as a
charm. It was placed at the top of church steeples to
frighten away lightning--yet because of its high position, was the very thing that attracted
lightning! The use of the cross in private homes
was supposed to ward off trouble and disease. Many pieces of
wood-supposedly pieces of the "original" cross-were sold and
exchanged as protectors and charms.
“Signs and symbols rule the Sun Worship world, not
words nor laws.”