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Constantine the Great

Roman Emperor (r. 306- 337); claimed he became a Christian in 310, before the Battle at Milvian Bridge in Rome. In 313, he issued the Edict of Milan, recognizing Christianity as a legal (equally privileged) religion in the empire. The Da Vinci Code (see 125, 232) makes several claims about Constantine germane to Christian history:

  • Dan Brown's Robert Langdon claims that "Constantine and his male successors successfully converted the world from matriarchal paganism to patriarchal Christianity" (DVC, 124). Actually, Constantine gave Christianity equal legal status with pagan religions; paganism persisted in the empire long after his reign. In fact, in the mid-fourth century, Julian, a pagan emperor, restored many pagan temples. Also, Roman paganism was not matriarchal—the chief deity was the male Jupiter (Zeus).

  • Another character says that "the Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan emperor Constantine the Great" (DVC, 231). In truth, Constantine had nothing to do with the selection or collation of the New Testament's twenty-seven books; by the late first and second centuries, Christians throughout the world had accepted twenty, 1 including the four gospels, as authoritative guidelines for life. Debates about the other seven did persist into the fourth century; however, the final canon emerged from a consensus of church leaders, not from imperial decree. After the Council of Nicaea (325), Constantine authorized the copying and distribution of fifty Bibles, but the editions copied before these fifty do not differ significantly from the editions copied after.

  • The Da Vinci Code also alleges that Constantine "was a lifelong pagan who was baptized on his deathbed, too weak to protest" (232). In this, Brown may be partially correct. Throughout his life, Constantine appears to have identified Jesus Christ with the pagan deity Sol Invictus ("Invincible Sun"). Nevertheless, his baptism did not occur against his will; fourth-century baptisms were frequently slated for the time of physical death. (Constantine chose to be baptized by a bishop named Eusebius of Nicomedia.)

  • Brown's Leigh Teabing charges that Constantine changed the day of Christian worship from Saturday to Sunday "to coincide with the pagan's veneration day of the sun" (DVC, 233). While Constantine did officially recognize Sunday as a day of rest, Christians had gathered on Sunday since the first century (see Acts 20:7). See also Athanasius of Alexandria; Bible; canon; Codex Sinaiticus; Council of Nicaea; Edict of Milan; goddess worship; paganism; Sabbath; Sol Invictus.
c. 280 — born
306 — became co-emperor
310 — claimed conversion to Christianity
312 — defeated Maxentius at Milvian Bridge
313 — issued Edict of Milan
314 — intervened in the Donatist controversy
323 — finally defeated (and executed) co-emperor Licinius
324 — chose Byzantium (renamed Constantinopolis) as empire's new capital; outlawed pagan sacrifice, banned gladiatorial contests, passed legislation against immorality, strengthened legislation against divorce
325 — convened the Council of Nicaea, which condemned Arianism
326 — executed his son Crispus
337 — baptized by Eusebius, died of illness, interred at Church of the Holy Apostles

Printed with permission from Bethany House Publishers, South Bloomington, Minnesota from the book "The Da Vinci Codebreaker : an easy-to-use fact checker for truth seekers" by James L. Garlow.

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  based on Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code