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Constantine's Epistle to the Bishops at the Council of Arles: A Defense of Imperial Authorship
The Journal of Religious History (1993)
  • Charles M. Odahl
"After his conversion to Christianity in the autumn of 312, Constantine the Great began a programme of imperial patronage for the Christian Church in the Western provinces of the Roman Empire. In the course of establishing legal privileges, distributing monetary grants and building churches for his newly favoured cult, the emperor discovered that a schism had developed in the hierarchy of the North African Church. The legitimacy of the election of the Catholic bishop of Carthage was being contested by a schismatic group soon to be known as the Donatists. The latter claimed to be the true Church, and appealed through governmental channels that they, rather than the Catholics, should receive the emperors benefactions. In order to settle the schism, Constantine submitted the dispute to the bishop of Rome and some representative bishops from Gaul and Italy. The Roman Synod sided with the Catholic factions; but the Donatist claimed the decision was unfair. Constantine then called a council of the whole western Church to meet at Arles in August of 314 to deal with the issue. The Council of Arles upheld the decision of the Roman Synod, and again sided with the Catholics of North Africa. Yet the Donatist faction appealed over the heads of the episcopal council to the emperor himself. After judicial inquiries over the next couple of years had proven the false hood of the Donatist claims, Constantine decided in favour of the Catholics in November of 316, and for the future confined his imperial patronage to them alone.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Charles M. Odahl. "Constantine's Epistle to the Bishops at the Council of Arles: A Defense of Imperial Authorship" The Journal of Religious History Vol. 17 Iss. 3 (1993) p. 274 - 289
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