Establishing Christianity

I was looking at the Codex Theodosianus today, and was struck by a noticeable missing feature.  While Constantine legalized Christianity, causing a cessation of the persecutions most recently instituted by Diocletian, it wasn’t until the Spaniard emperor Theodosius that Christianity finally became the established religion of the Roman Empire.  Theodosius issued a series of edicts that established some new legal boundaries of religion.  Since Constantine the official position was one of toleration, though that suffered mightily under Julian the Apostate.  Under Theodosius this took a final turn into a full blown Christian social arrangement.  Other religions were no longer acceptable.

As I read through some of the edicts of Theodosius it suddenly occurred to me that something was missing.  Here’s the offending statement:

XVI.i.2: We desire that all the people under the rule of our clemency should live by that religion which divine Peter the apostle is said to have given to the Romans, and which it is evident that Pope Damasus and Peter, bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic sanctity, followed; that is that we should believe in the one deity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with equal majesty and in the Holy Trinity according to the apostolic teaching and the authority of the gospel.

Did anything stand out there?  What stood out to me was a noticeable lack of language that one would expect if the bishop of Rome were the defining standard of Christianity.  Were the modern Roman Catholic papal attitudes present at this time, you would expect a very different type of statement.  Theodosius mentions the pope, but only alongside the bishop of Alexandria.  The earlier mention of the Romans is not in reference to the city of Rome or the bishop of Rome, but rather the empire of the Romans, the chief of which is the emperor Theodosius ruling from Constantinople.

The law was that people should live according to the religion that is demonstrated by the bishop of Rome or the bishop of Alexandria, a major western and an eastern patriarch.  I don’t find this pro-papal at all.


About mark

Orthodox convert, writer, podcaster, husband, and father of six.

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