Heresy and Hissy Fits

Now that their religion is outlawed, Christian Jews put a lot of effort into distancing themselves from regular Jews, because at this point everybody just hates those for no real reason.

In order to survive as a religion, they are gonna need organization, loyalty, and flexibility

Organization: leaders to keep in touch so beliefs stay consistent (like what is orthodox and what is just STRAIGHT HERESY)
– the gospels weren’t really a written thing yet so this was necessary

Since the Roman Empire is still pretty bitchin at this point, the Christian church decides to adopt their system of organization
– break up into provinces, or dioceses, which were each headed by a bishop

To be a bishop you need to be ordained by like three other bishops
– they transferred their religious power to you through like magic I guess?
– also if you needed three bishops to make a bishop where did you get the first three from…

Bishops are just ridiculous.

This all works out pretty well and Christianity develops into the only centrally organized, empire-wide mystery cult.

Anyway, because bishops are sort of like Roman imperial officers, eventually one of them is gonna become like the emperor!

The pope is just awesome, all the time, forever.

But really for the most part the Romans just really don’t give a shit about Christianity
– even though the religion was outlawed, rome is like way too busy kicking ass right now and doesn’t feel like putting in the effort to prosecute followers
– waaay easier to just ignore them

Rome is too busy being an empire to deal with you right now.

For example, in an exchange of letters between Emperor Trajan and governor Pliny the Younger, Pliny is like man what do I do about all these Christians up in my province’s grill
– The Emperor like dude relax. You don’t have to hunt them down, but if someone brings a Christian to you and they fess up, you gotta punish them
▪ anonymous accusations are ignored and if you are a Christian you get the opportunity to nevermind the whole thing and recant, so overall it’s actually pretty fair!
▪ unless you live on the frontier. I guess there they just chop your fuckin head off.
▪ bummer.

So, I guess Christianity does pretty okay for the next hundred years or so

But then in 250 Decius becomes Emperor! He was a pagan who was just utterly intolerant of other pagans.
– also guess what other religion he wasn’t very tolerant of?
– uh oh.

Same goes for the next Emperor, Diocletian (the dude who ends up splitting the empire in half)

They both issue and strictly enforce several proclamations against Christians

Romans are very succinct.

Of course, by now the empire is just a real shit show all around. It’s being fought over by two generals, Maxentius and Constantine.
– Maxentius had the city of Rome and Constantine was the imperial governor of Britain

They get into a tussle over it called the Battle of the Milvian Bridge
– Constantine obviously wins because I mean who the fuck has ever heard of Maxentius?
– he drowned in the Tiber river, btw
▪ mad embarrassing.

Maxentius it's like unreal how awful you are

But okay, apparently right before the battle Constantine and his guys all had a vision where if they put these Christian symbols on their shields and stuff, they would win the battle.
– so they totally paint the symbols on and they totally win!!

So Constantine is like alright I guess Christianity is tolerable
– he issues the Edict of Milan, which legalizes the religion despite him not being a Christian himself
▪ at this point about 10-15% of the people in the empire were Christian citizens

Constantine rules from like 312-330
– but even after him, all but one of the emperors are Christians
– basically, being embraced by the government makes the religion MAD popular

But here’s the big question, why DOES Constantine legalize Christianity when he wasn’t a Christian at the time?

But whatever cos now the Christian church is like super sweet.

Constantine gives them money and property and bishops are given government positions
– he basically treats the church as a department of state, like imperial servants
– the emperors after him do it too, so this plan basically sticks

This relationship between church and state helps the church deal with the problem of HERESY


314 – The Council of Arles
If the church is havin an issue, the emperor calls a council of bishops, and the issue in this case was a heresy called Donatism
– it was named after a priest named Donatus who was havin some hissy fit because he thought he was cheated out of being a bishop in North Africa
▪ just get over it, donatus

Anyway, Donatus lost to Caecilian, who previously renounced Christianity when Emperor Diocletian was getting his executions on
-then, when it became legal to be a Christian, Caecilian was like jk

So Donatus is like okay no that is bullshit, you can’t be a priest if you’ve committed a sin.
– a sin such as… renouncing the church.
▪ seriously bro, you can’t do that.

But the council of bishops is like nahhh
– apparently a priest’s personal sins don’t factor into his ability to dispense sacraments and just doing general priestly stuff

So Donatus loses but that isn’t really the point here! The point is Emperor Constantine had absolutely no say in this decision, but he still enforces it for them.

This is a big deal compared to, say, a hundred years ago, when being a Christian would get you axemurdered.
– now we’re approaching a time when NOT being a Christian gets you axemurdered
▪ history is straight crazy.

These notes are from a class named “Europe to 1715”. To read more notes from this class, just click one of the links below!

Day One – Germanic Barbarians Are Fucking Crazy
Day Two – Are You Tired of Barbarians Yet? Me Neither.
Day Three – King Clovis Has No Time For Your Bullshit
Day Four – King Clovis Thinks Christianity is Silly
Day Five – In Which Jesus Scolds Some Rowdy Teen Zealots
Day Six – Heresy and Hissy Fits

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  1. koKO

    These jsut keep getting better tbh

    Comment — January 29, 2016 @ 10:17 am

  2. kharsus

    I want a god damn bishop hat.

    Comment — February 28, 2016 @ 4:38 am

  3. devious kitten

    lol aw, poor maxentius. you’re right i’d never heard of him :(

    Comment — March 14, 2016 @ 5:03 pm

  4. Fimmy

    This is so ridiculous and I can’t even be mad about it because it’s historically accurate

    Comment — April 5, 2016 @ 7:54 am

  5. WarTaco


    Comment — April 6, 2016 @ 3:18 am

  6. spooky

    can you publish these as textbooks please??

    Comment — November 13, 2016 @ 3:30 am

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