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

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  160 ratings  ·  29 reviews
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 about the nature of the Godhead; all other interpretations were now declared heretical. M ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 4th 2008 by Pimlico (first published February 5th 2008)
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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
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
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
Al Bità
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
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

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
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
Robb Casey
Charles Freeman presents some very interesting information about early Christianity. I think the content of information is excellent but it seems to overreach into too many tangents to be clear and concise. The shear volume of historic documentation seems to trip the author up. It is beneficial as a thesis but difficult to slog through as a book. The structure is chaotic and lacks discipline. I am quite torn because I really appreciate the effort put into this book but it is in need of revision. ...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
"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.
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
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
Doug Piero
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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
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
Brilliant exposition of Christian history. Highly readable. Freeman is so lucid, he makes complex characters and events easy to remember.
Jim Sumwalt
Excellent history of how Christianity was invented and why. Hint -- it was political. The Nicene Creed will never be the same.
Craig J.
AD 381 by Charles Freeman (2009)
Too much church, not enough heretic.
An interesting book.
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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
More about Charles Freeman...
The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean The Greek Achievement: The Foundation of the Western World A New History of Early Christianity Holy Bones, Holy Dust: How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe

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