*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 11th of January 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
On this show, I have talked a good bit about the emperor Constantine, his “legalizing” of Christianity in the 300s, and his calling of the first ecumenical council at Nicea in 325. From this, we get the Nicene Creed and one of the earliest definitions of Christian orthodoxy. We cannot conceive of the modern church in the west without considering the “Constantinian Revolution.”
However, without another emperor called “the Great” and an updated version of the Nicene Creed, the significance of Constantine and Nicea may have been considerably less.
On the 11th of January in 347, the man is known as Theodosius the Great was born. His imperial and theological reforms would reverberate throughout the empire and down through history.
Theodoisus was born to General Flavius Theodosius. With his father, the young Theodosius fought in Britain, Gaul, and the Balkans. But perhaps father and son were becoming a little too powerful, and Flavius was murdered. Theodosius fled to Spain (where he was born) and retired.
A new Emperor ascended and recalled Theodosius based on his military acumen and sent him back to the East. On being named co-Emperor in 379, he fortified the Balkans by allowing Teutons to join the Roman army and signed treaties with the Visigoths. Theodosius realized the empire could no longer expand by stomping but needed politicking.
Regarding the Christian faith, his name belongs next to Constantine for significance. Constantine called the council that created the Nicene Creed, but it was rarely enforced, and the church failed to coalesce around it. And Constantine’s faith can be questioned.
Theodosius was baptized, and his faith seems sincere- there is a story about his approving revenge killing and Bishop Ambrose denying him communion until he repented. A lot is going on in this story but an Emperor submitting to a call for repentance from a bishop deserves noting.
In 381, Theodosius called the Council of Constantinople to revisit unanswered questions after the original creed was composed. The result of this council was the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, which is a terrible name. And also, it’s almost certainly the creed you say in church when you say the Nicene Creed.
The original creed ended after the confession of Jesus’ coming in glory to judge the living and the dead. That’s it. Very similar to the Apostles Creed and does not discuss other doctrines. In the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, we get “I believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father.”
(Note that it is after this that the Western church added “and the son”- the greek for this is “Filioque” and that word would split the East and West in 1054)
The amended creed added the belief in the Prophets who spoke the word of God, the one catholic and apostolic church, baptism for the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection and the life of the world to come. This “Second Ecumenical Council” was accepted by most global Christian bodies.
Upon the death of Theodosius, the empire was divided between his sons, and ironically, the unity of the Empire- something he sought so vigorously would be doomed.
There is a reason he is named “the Great” and is the only Emperor of this kind to be called such after Constantine- and this for his role unifying the Empire (for a time) and the church (also just for a time, but still). Theodosius the Great died in 395, born in 347, 48 years old.
The last word for today comes from 1 Peter:
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, 11 inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, regarding the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!
The Christian History Almanac for the 11th of January 2022 was brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by Christopher-Constantinopolitan Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who loves Constantinopolitan ice cream- with the strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla! I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.