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AD 381: Heretics, Pagans and the Christian State
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AD 381: Heretics, Pagans and the Christian State

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  206 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
A provoking and timely examination of one of the most important times in Church history. In AD 381, Theodosius, emperor of the eastern Roman empire, issued a decree in which all his subjects were required to subscribe to a belief in the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This edict defined Christian orthodoxy and brought to an end a lively and wide-ranging debate ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published February 5th 2009 by The Overlook Press (first published February 5th 2008)
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Susan
Aug 04, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (which I admit I haven't finished), I was struck by the fact that before Christianity, the Romans were completely tolerant of different religions. Every area (city) had its own religion and no one tried to "convert" anyone. And no one claimed that their god ( but there were usually gods—plural) was the one and only and that you'd go to hell if you didn't believe. Freeman shows how Christian leaders in the early centuries fought over doc ...more
Dave
May 17, 2014 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Freeman has, in A.D. 381, shown where the birth of modern Christianity coincided with the ending of tolerance & diversity of intellectual freedom, with not only matters spiritual, but also those akin to humanity's early attempts to understand its place within the sciences & philosophy.
Where previously in both Greek & Roman society religious or spiritual tolerance was deeply ingrained, the state sanctioning of Christianity in A.D.381 and more particularly the adoption of the Nicene s
...more
Dave
Jul 14, 2009 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Yes, it's non-fiction. No, there's not a plot per se. Yes there are a lot of really bizarre names in there.

I should note that I am first of all a Christian and maybe that made it more interesting to me. A non-Christian or someone unsure of their beliefs might come away from this book a little more cynical and unsure. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe that following the period in which Christ's original apostles spread the gospel
...more
Frank Terry
You know, when I first started this book I thought it sucked. It was really, really dry even for Church History standards but it really picked up wonderfully as it gets into itself.

I read a book by Charles Freeman last year on the history of Ancient Mesopotamia that was really in the long run pretty good and really informative and this book ended up being the same.

This is a really solid in depth study, of overall, the history of particular church councils, the development of the theology of the
...more
Cliff Davis
Apr 29, 2015 Cliff Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me so long to finish this book that I'm not sure I can provide a coherent review. That was my fault, not the writer's. Freeman does a pretty good job of showing how Roman emperors in the 4th century A.D. involved themselves in the controversies of the early Christian Church, thus aiding and abetting the tragic trend towards persecution not only of pagans and Jews, but also of those deemed heretics by the faction of Christianity that won official sanction.

In the process, the great and anc
...more
Al Bità
Oct 11, 2009 Al Bità rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent examination of a critical year in Western history, when Roman Emperor Theodosius I decreed all his subjects were required to believe in the Roman Catholic dogma of the Trinity. Freeman used this political/religious act as a closing of the earlier more open-minded, free-ranging exploration of ideas, a practice inherited from the Greeks. Thus politics was used to impose religious orthodoxy, and the subsequent attacks on 'paganism' and all other heterodox ways of thinking is se ...more
Carol
Jan 31, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Freeman analyzes the history of the Nicene Creed and its effects on the History of Christianity, the Church, and all of Europe, and I might add, American thought. He places the year 381 as a gateway in Western civilization, as Theodosius, Roman Emperor , litigated the acceptance of the Nicene Creed and the Trinity as the orthodoxy of the Church. He then argues that this act, instituted by the State, became lost in the history of the Church. Creed and the Trinity became the absolute truth of both ...more
David Chivers
Jul 28, 2011 David Chivers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


In A.D. 381 Charles Freeman posits that the year 381 was a sort of fulcrum in the history of Christianity, being the year the Roman Emperor Theodosius decreed that all Roman subjects had to accept the Nicene Creed of 325. Before this time, Freeman argues, Christian belief was fluid and subject to debate and interpretation. after this time it became rigid and close-minded.

Freeman knows his facts and argues well. His organization of the book can be a bit frustrating, however. He tends to wander
...more
Arthur Small
AD 381: Heretics, Pagans and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State is well-written. Freeman does an excellent job of making accessible the abstruse theological issues over which emperors and bishops fought. More importantly, he makes clear what were the stakes of these battles for the future of science and free inquiry in Europe.

The work only gets three stars because I found it covered much of the same ground that Freeman has already covered in his earlier magisterial and superior work, The Closing
...more
Psykeactiv1
Jun 28, 2016 Psykeactiv1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book back in 2013, what made me come and add it was a recent discussion I had with someone online. Many people, are blindsided by the composite of Jesus from the synoptic Gospels, Epistles of Paul, the Apocrypha, and the Mystical book of John(as I once was). What this book does is not only highlight how much bloodshed it took for these books to come together, but how what we consider the Christian Faith is actually a mask for European Supremacy and/or Imperialism. Now, let me add tha ...more
Lauren Albert
Freeman has an interesting argument and he marshals a mass of evidence. But he does both a disservice by the sometimes overblown rhetoric and his repeated hammering away at his points. His bias is clear--his argument, I think, still stands but it might be tainted to some by these two things. He comes across as angry and that might lead some to question his objectivity. His argument is summed up by a passage from Jaroslav Pelikan:

‘It is striking to note’, writes the scholar Jaroslav Pelikan, ‘tha
...more
Frances
Aug 25, 2015 Frances rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fine book and I really enjoyed it. I am going to read The Closing of the Western Mind which covers the same councils. I really like the clearness of his prose.
Dutch
Nov 21, 2010 Dutch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"In AD 381, Theodosius, emperor of the eastern Roman empire, issued a decree in which all his subjects were required to subscribe to a belief in the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This edict brought to an end a lively and wide-ranging debate about the nature of God, and basically defined Christianity in the strict way that we all know it today. It was the first time in a thousand years of Greco-Roman civilization free thought was unambiguously suppressed."

I really enjoyed this book.
...more
Overlook
Feb 04, 2009 Overlook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In AD 381, Theodosius, emperor of the eastern Roman empire, issued a decree in which all his subjects were required to subscribe to a belief in the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This edict brought to an end a lively and wide-ranging debate about the nature of God, and basically defined Christianity in the strict way that we all know it today. It was the first time in a thousand years of Greco-Roman civilization free thought was unambiguously suppressed.

Yet for some reason, most hi
...more
Vanessa
May 20, 2013 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even if you already know a fair amount about the Nicene Creed, this book will further your insight into the details of the struggle for political power through the church in the 4th century. More than that, it's a fairly unbiased look at the falling away from the traditional Greek philosophy of free thought, evolving through the church's spiritual condemnation of reason and logic, and the spiritual crisis in the mid to late 1600s that brought a return to appreciation of reason and logic, albeit ...more
Paul Hammer
Jun 29, 2015 Paul Hammer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book and a clear justification for the complete separation of Church and State.
Erika
Sep 24, 2015 Erika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Understanding the end of the ROman Emoire ...
Doug Piero
Jun 24, 2010 Doug Piero rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In AD 381, Byzantine emperor Theodosius the Great issued the edict making the Catholic/Orthodox Church the ONLY church. It was a blank check for hordes of monks throughout the known world to ransack and pillage every pagan temple. Also, many different Christian churches, like the Free Love Christianity of the day, were transformed into heresies and destroyed. You think politics today is dirty, the Empire/Church politics of the 300s is filthy.

It's a little dry in spots. I'd like to try some of Fr
...more
Alonzo
This book opened my eyes to what happened during the Fourth Century and the part the government played in stopping the dialogue between the various different groups involved in trying to decide what would be orthodox and what would be heterodox.

Freeman calls this the closing of the Western Mind and even wrote a book on that, which I plan to read soon!
Rickster623
I'm a big fan of books that explore the intersection of early empires (Western and Eastern Roman) and the development of church doctrine. This book explores Theodosius' edict to Roman empire regarding the Trinity, a term a Catholic learns in Kindergarten but for which the historical and evolution of the concept is never mentioned.
Sheila Hooker
Started out well, but dried out after awhile.
Gayle Buxton
Whew! HEAVY! The gist was that the Nicene Trinity or Creed was forced on the Church by an emperor, not decided by a harmonious church council, effectively bringing an end to diversity of religious beliefs throughout the Roman Empire. Interesting insights for Mormon belief in the Great Apostasy.
Jane Walker
Oct 11, 2012 Jane Walker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Freeman tells a story which has been overlooked or deliberately ignored by theologians. The year AD 381 was pivotal in the history of Christianity and the power of the Church. An Emperor, Theodosius, imposed the Nicene definition of the Trinity and set in train the stifling of thought.
Robert
Nov 03, 2012 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fairly painless introduction to the "dawn of Christianity" questions and debates. Many of us might have been drawn into this by the PBS T.V. Series From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians.
Blake Spears
Dec 16, 2010 Blake Spears is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
So far I've gotten through the first two chapters, which at times are a little thick, but I'm enjoying the read thus far. Will get back to you when finished.
Bob Boissy
This was a fine addition to the works I read concerning early Christianity. Nothing about this period is easy, but Freeman does a nice job synthesizing.
Kathy
May 11, 2013 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, nonfiction
Very interesting subject matter that makes me look at my religious upbringing differently. Very scholarly treatment, so I ended up getting bored with "school"
Heather Smith
Apr 20, 2009 Heather Smith rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
He wanders way to much. It would be on topic and then all of a sudden you had no idea how you got where you were. I was really disappointed.
William Poe
Oct 27, 2012 William Poe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant exposition of Christian history. Highly readable. Freeman is so lucid, he makes complex characters and events easy to remember.
Jim Sumwalt
Aug 10, 2013 Jim Sumwalt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent history of how Christianity was invented and why. Hint -- it was political. The Nicene Creed will never be the same.
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Charles Freeman is a freelance academic historian with wide interests in the history of European culture and thought. He is the author of the highly acclaimed Egypt, Greece and Rome, Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean. He has followed this up with The Greek Achievement (Penguin 1999), The Legacy of Ancient Egypt (Facts on File, 1997) and The Closing of the Western Mind, a study of the rela ...more
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