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Theodosius attempts to stamp out the remnants of the Arian movement from his realm, but not before it spreads to Rome’s fiercest enemies. Paganism, on the other hand, is outlawed, and eradicated from the realm, leading to the further rise of the Christian movement. Bishop Ambrose of Milan exercises his new authority while building the church into a political and legal institution, adding to its ecclesiastical strength.
Constantine defeats his rival Maxentius for control of Italy, leaving him with one final rival blocking the way to complete control of the Roman Empire. The battle of Chrysopolis decides the fate of the realm, establishing Constantine as sole ruler. Constantine thereafter cements his place in history by effectively shaping the course of Christianity through edicts, sanctions, and other policies, and by favoring the movement with many gifts.
A succession of intolerant emperors inflicts severe punishment on obstinate Christians who refuse to serve the Roman deities, culminating in the harshest of all persecutions of the first four centuries—that under Diocletian. The empire itself, meanwhile, faces near collapse under the weight of economic crises, internal political conflicts, civil war, and invasion from confederate barbarians pouring in from beyond the Rhine and the Danube.
The Church Fathers
None were more instrumental to the development of Christian theology and doctrine than the church fathers; men who, in the early centuries of the movement, rose to prominence via their written expositions of the Christian faith. Modern Christianity exists on the foundation that the church fathers built. And while they gave the Christian movement its doctrinal legs, those doctrines pushed Christianity farther from both Torah and Yeshua’s message.
Heresy and Orthodoxy
While the ancient catholic church tries to achieve universal appeal, the rival Gnostics challenge its authority. This conflict presses the church to complete its establishment of orthodoxy, which it struggles to maintain in the form of creeds, Scripture cannon, and apostolic succession. This allows the church to cement its hold on the Christian message, and denounce as heretics all challengers to its “apostolic” authority.
Persecution and Martyrdom
Emperor Nero rises to power, and, needing someone to blame for the suffering caused by his excesses, persecution of Christians begins under his reign. This leads to Christian apologetics and martyrdom, as well as a new policy dictating how and when Christians should be punished for their obstinacy. Thus, the martyr becomes a hero and model of Christian perfection, and someone to be venerated as a saint.
Laying the Foundation
The prophesied rise of the Romans comes on the heels of a vanquished Greek Empire and forces the overthrow of the Hasmonean Dynasty, which ruled Judea for a hundred years. With the arrival of the promised Messiah, the nation of Judah receives, and largely rejects, the Messianic message, leading to a shift in the movement and the creation of the leavened Christian religion.