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A.D. 381: Heretics, Pagans, and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State Paperback – 26 Jan 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Press; Reprint edition (26 Jan. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590202872
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590202876
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,457,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 12 Mar. 2016
Format: Paperback
The thesis of this book, broadly, is that with the edict of Theodosius I in AD 381 that all the Empire's subjects were required to subscribe to an accepted belief in the Trinity, the long history of free thought and debate without fear of recrimination throughout Europe, but especially in the East, came to an end. The author builds up wonderfully to this critical point in AD 381 with a very clear and enlightening analysis of political and religious thought, and how Theodosius' aims as Emperor came to dictate his impositions on religion. Following a very thorough analysis of the Trinity, the Nicene Creed and all related matters, the author then shows how in the hundred years and more following Theodosius' edict and the Council of Constantinople, free thought became more muted. Also, how the impact of the Nicene Creed went to inculcate a State involvement in the Church, and how it was no longer acceptable to disagree with what may be considered `accepted' belief; to deviate was to be a heretic, and to be a heretic was to be punished. But the problem often was, as many found out to the ultimate cost, that it was possible to be orthodox at one time, and then to be considered heretical soon after. Political, religious, cultural and philosophical debate became narrower and more sharply defined, and the costs of being on the wrong side became more state-imposed through the blending of state and religious roles and authorities.Read more ›
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By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 12 Mar. 2016
Format: Paperback
The thesis of this book, broadly, is that with the edict of Theodosius I in AD 381 that all the Empire's subjects were required to subscribe to an accepted belief in the Trinity, the long history of free thought and debate without fear of recrimination throughout Europe, but especially in the East, came to an end. The author builds up wonderfully to this critical point in AD 381 with a very clear and enlightening analysis of political and religious thought, and how Theodosius' aims as Emperor came to dictate his impositions on religion. Following a very thorough analysis of the Trinity, the Nicene Creed and all related matters, the author then shows how in the hundred years and more following Theodosius' edict and the Council of Constantinople, free thought became more muted. Also, how the impact of the Nicene Creed went to inculcate a State involvement in the Church, and how it was no longer acceptable to disagree with what may be considered `accepted' belief; to deviate was to be a heretic, and to be a heretic was to be punished. But the problem often was, as many found out to the ultimate cost, that it was possible to be orthodox at one time, and then to be considered heretical soon after. Political, religious, cultural and philosophical debate became narrower and more sharply defined, and the costs of being on the wrong side became more state-imposed through the blending of state and religious roles and authorities.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars 52 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended. Clearly shows the corruption of the self-serving Christian ... 16 April 2017
By Greg Castro - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Outstanding book. Highly recommended. Clearly shows the corruption of the self-serving (So-called) Christian leadership of the fourth century and how they waged philosophical (And economic) war against one another. By 381 A.D. all thoughts of a loving savior had been kicked to the curb and now it was simply a pursuit of power and money, all in the name of orthodoxy. It mattered little if lives were destroyed, there was money, prestige and power to be made. I only wish that more modern "Christians" would read about their own history and stop attacking Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. Their own ecclesiastical past eclipses ANY perceived wrong they believe these other churches produced.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Christianity Goes Mainstream 1 Dec. 2012
By Anne Mills - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This is an interesting and well written book about Christianity in its early years as a dominant religion. I learned a lot from it, and found many of its arguments convincing, though there are some points on which the author may overstate his case. All in all, well worth reading.

The book argues a) that the Emperor Theodosius imposed a single version of Christianity at the Council of Constantinople in 381, and that b) this imposition was a critical turning away from freedom of thought, and from a reliance on reasoned argument.

The author's argument about Theodosius' key role make sense: Christianity had vaulted very suddenly to its place as Rome's dominant religion, and it is not surprising that the emperor tried to shape its direction. It was just 68 years earlier, in 313, that Constantine issued an edict of toleration for the faith: before then Christianity was a persecuted religion, existing in many separate congregations, and developing many different approaches to key problems of the faith. Once the faith came out into the open -- and, indeed, came to a central role -- fissures and divisions became vividly clear. These contributed to civil disorder, and Theodosius did not like disorder.

The argument that this specific decision shut down a free-wheeling culture of debate is perhaps too narrow. I haven't read the author's "Closing of the Western Mind", but I intend to. My impression from reviews is that "Closing" focusses on Constantine's support of the Church, which moved it from outsider status towards a role as state religion. This process was intensified under Thodosius, and the logic of an imperial autocracy pushed the Church towards a single, codified set of beliefs. It seems to me that the process, the politicization of the Church and the sacralization of politics, was well underway before Theodosius. I will be better able to comment after reading Freeman's earlier book.

Be that as it may, this is a very valuable book. First, it clarifies key issues in the development of Christianity. Secondly, it underlines the interaction between political forces and systems of faith -- something that not begin in 381, and hasn't ended today. Finally, it's a good read. I read it right after "Jesus Wars", which is a more nitty-gritty discussion of a slightly later phase in the intra-Christian conflicts that were addressed, but not resolved, in 381.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight of history 16 Feb. 2017
By J. Gordon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this in 2011, and have reread many times. As a former Catholic convert, and diaconate student that studied every piece of the pre-Nicene literature, plus much of the connected literature of that history and beyond he nails it. I left all religious beliefs behind from my studies due to the discovery of the very facts presented in this book. Only blind faith can get you around the devastating characters and behavior of the founders of orthodox Christianity. If truth matters you'll love this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why did Catholic Orthodoxy Become Roman Law? What ended the tradition of Greek Philosophy? How did the Dark Ages begin? 19 Nov. 2015
By Daniel G. Helton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having recently written a novel about the 4th Century and Rome's marriage to the Christian Church, the subject matter was right up my alley. Professor Freeman has written a thoughtful analysis of how orthodoxy became Roman law and the effects that marriage had on the 900 year old tradition of Greco-Roman philosophy. Important knowledge for anyone who wants to know who we (Western Civilization) got to where we are.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read This! 18 April 2014
By Mark Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The first few chapters are an explanation and description of the issues of doctrine and orthodoxy for early Christian religion in the Roman Empire. For me, this was kind of slow going, but necessary for the rest of the book. Once the author begins to cover the history of Christianity as the recognized religion of the Roman Empire, and how the church then gained power and enforced orthodoxy across the empire, it becomes engrossing. The fall of the Roman Empire, the end of reasoned debate, and the descent of Europe into the Dark Ages is all right here.
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