Yesterday we watched a PBS program on Constantine. I have long been fascinated by him and how he changed the course of history in general and Christianity in particular.
Before Constantine decided that it would unite his empire to have one religion as the approved religion, Christianity was a varied, small and scattered sect. Paul had taken it beyond the original Jewish renewal movement to what were called Gentiles, or the non-Jews.There were many writings circulating and used by the followers of Jesus. Some of them were not widely used and some were. The followers were persecuted, executed and scorned by most. It was dangerous to be a follower of Jesus,
Helena, Constantine's mother, became a Christian, and it is thought by most people that it was her influence that led Constantine to choose Christianity as his uniting religion. He was baptized many years later on his death bed, some say just in case it really was true. And he was the first emperor to have a Christian style burial.
Anyway, in 325 c.e. he called together some of the leaders of the baby Christian movement to have the now famous Council of Nicaea. He called together less than half of the bishops, I think it was more like a third, but you can check on that. There is much speculation as to why some were chosen to come and some were not. Anyway, they decided which documents would get the seal of approval and which would be burned. The writings that were burned were some odd ones plus some of the most popular and widely read. These were now heretical to read or to own. The Council then set up what we call the New Testament, and from that point onward contained the only approved writings for Christianity. (Some of the burned, "heretical" documents keep being found and are fascinating, such as the Coptic find, Dead Sea Scrolls and others.) The Council did quite a few things, including writing the Nicene Creed, which said what was written in this creed is what we believe, period, no other, this is it. The Nicene Creed is recited in many churches regularly to this day with only minor changes that were made a few years after written.
Historians may cringe at the abbreviated history lesson above, but it does give the gist of the matter. Anyway, this and other things led me on a quest to try to discover what the original teaching was before the good old boys started the manipulations and controls. That explains why I read Origen and other 1st and 2nd century Christian thinkers. It made me wonder what made Paul run all over the place? What was life like in the first century? What did they eat? How did they live? What was the context of the times? What was the Jesus movement like in the beginning? etc
So I researched over a long period of time, and then wrote a class on it and taught it a few years back. I have uploaded the handouts to my website - www.spiritualthoughts.net - under classes, First Century. If it interests you, I hope you will go there.
I have a thing in me that has to know the Truth as best as it can be discovered by human minds and hearts. I know God exists as much as I know I live and breath. The details of various religions, including mine, have been made up over time and may or may not bear any relation to the original. I have to know what really happened and what was really taught. I know that it takes courage to go on a quest to find the Truth. I can do no other.