Janus' Home

14

In 337, shortly before his death, Constantine was baptized. The fact that he put off his baptism until he was near death is not especially significant; at the time, many Christians delayed baptism, remaining catechumens for long periods of time, or even most of their lives.47 A.H.M. Jones agrees that his baptism proves that Constantine saw himself as a Christian.48 Barnes also identifies this as no small moment in Constantine's life as a Christian, as he writes, "now he was truly happy [and he was] illuminated with divine light Constantine desired to go to God without delay."49 This may be quite an overstatement, but Barnes' statement demonstrates his confidence in the thesis that Constantine was a believer in Christ.

In order to establish fully the idea that Constantine actually converted to Christianity, one must also demonstrate that he did not simply nominally choose Christianity for political reasons. Louis Duchesne believes that there is no basis for such an argument, as he states that Constantine had "no political interest in declaring himself a Christian,"50 although this view is opposed by both Grant and Burkhardt.51 One must remember that the Christians were a small minority in the Empire, and that they were still recovering from the persecutions of Diocletian and Galerius.52 In addition, the Roman aristocracy, especially the Senate, was pagan, and it would not look favorably upon an open conversion to Christianity.53 These points also serve to attack Grant's and Burkhardt's arguments that Constantine believed Christianity could unite the Empire, for Christians were still a small minority whose belief system was in opposition to that of the established aristocracy. Thus Constantine could gain no direct or immediate political advantages by converting to Christianity.


47. Jones, 196.
48. Ibid., 196.
49. Barnes, 260.
50. Louis Duchesne, Early History of the Christian Church, Vol. II (New York, 1912), 47.
51. Grant argues that Constantine converted to Christianity but that he also used the religion to further his political goal of uniting the Roman Empire. Burkhardt argues that Constantine did not personally convert; he describes Constantine as a cold and calculating political ruler. See the preceding section on Review of Literature for more information on the works by these two authors.
52. Burkhardt, 272.
53. Alfoldi, 61.
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18