Pontifex Maximus: Pagan High Priest to Roman Catholic Pope Part 2
Copyright 1994 - 2019 Bill's Bible Basics

Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
May 19, 2012

Last Updated :
May 19, 2012

NOTE: This article or series has not been updated recently. As such, it may possibly contain some outdated information, and/or ideas and beliefs which I no longer embrace, or which have changed to some degree.

The Treachery At Jesus's Trial, King Herod And Pontius Pilate Become Friends, Selfishness And A Dog-Eat-Dog World, Serious Compromise By Fourth Century Bishops, Theories Regarding The Antichrist False Prophet And Babylon The Great, 313 AD Edict Of Milan Results In Christianity Becoming Legalized Religion, Pax Romana And A Thousand Gods, Pre-70 AD Israel Status Quo, Constantine's Alleged Conversion To Christianity, Hodgepodge Of Religions, Constantine's Paganism And Sun God Worship, A Double-Minded Man Or A Shrewd Politician, Mystery Handshakes, Constantine's Accomplishments: Church Of The Holy Sepulchre, Old Saint Peter's Basilica, First Council of Nicaea, Nicene Creed Promotes Holy Trinity Doctrine, The Tenets Of Arianism, Arianism Is Declared A Heresy, Divergence Of Doctrinal Paths, Nicene Christianity And Trinitarianism Is Promoted Throughout Roman Empire, Foreshadows Of Roman Catholic Church, Widening Schism Between Christianity And Judaism, Edict Of Thessalonica Makes Christianity A State-Imposed And Only Legal Religion In Roman Empire, Faith Is A Matter of Personal Conscience, First Amendment To U.S. Constitution, God Endowed Us With Free Will And Personal Choice, Salvation Under Pressure Or From One's Heart, Persecution By Roman Catholic Church And Trinitarians, Athanasius' Doctrinal Battles Against Constantine And Arians, The Mysteries Of Mithras And Other Non-Christian Religions Are Oppressed By Nicene Christians And Eventually Disappear, Text Of Edict Of Thessalonica, Roman Catholic Church Is Formally Established And Authorized By Edict Of Thessalonica In 380 AD

I am also reminded of the religious and political treachery which occurred during the time of Jesus' mock trial. As you may recall, King Herod and Pontius Pilate -- who was Rome's procurator in Judea and Samaria at that time -- did not like each other. However, Luke informs us that as a result of the Lord's trial, they became friends, as we see by these verses:

"And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it. Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time. And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves."
Luke 23:1-12, KJV

As I noted in part one, forging both political and religious alliances is something which has been practiced by the rulers of this world for millennia, and it continues to occur in our own time as well. Leaders -- and even common people -- won't hesitate to use and abuse each other, if it results in some form of personal gain; whether it is political gain, monetary gain, strategic gain, corporate gain, material gain, or any kind of advantage. We live in a dog-eat-dog world which is not ruled by the love of Jesus Christ. If one is not willing to play by their rules, he will simply remain on the lowest rungs of the societal ladder. Is it any wonder that on one particular occasion Jesus said the following:

"For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always."
John 12:8, KJV

However, there were certain bishops during the Fourth Century who apparently were willing to play by the rules of the world. They were willing to sacrifice the purity of our faith, if it would result in their personal advancement within the world of pagan Rome. They were willing to make certain compromises, even if it meant deviating from the original blueprint of the First Century Church. These bishops and Church leaders were even willing to take pagan beliefs and traditions, and pagan gods and goddesses, and "Christianize" and transform them, so that they would still be recognizable to the heathen. They would still practice their Christian faith, but they would do it the Roman way; and they have been doing it that way ever since. What a tragedy!

Today, many Christians continue to recognize this church -- which eventually split into the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church during the mid-Eleventh Century -- as a false church. Some of them embrace the view that she may represent Babylon the Great, which we find described in considerable detail in the pages of the Book of Revelation. Other people theorize that the Antichrist or False Prophet may be represented by a pope. Whatever the case may be -- I do not hold a firm opinion regarding these issues at this current time -- through this compromise with the Roman world of that period, the so-called "Holy Mother Church" began to gain control over the minds and spirits of the masses of the Roman Empire.

Exactly how did this marriage between the politics of Rome and the faith of the Church Fathers come about? As you will learn momentarily, a central theme in the story regarding the compromise of our Christian faith, and how the false church was transformed into one of the most powerful religions of our modern day, involves the well-known Latin title "Pontifex Maximus".

As I explain in articles such as "Revelation's Babylon the Great," "Mary Worship, Christianity and Roman Catholicism", "The Children of God and Politics", "Lies and Deceptions of the Roman Catholic Church", and "Roman Catholicism, Water Baptism and the Trinity", in 313 AD, co-emperors Constantine and Licinius published the Edict of Milan. This declaration made Christianity a "religio licita" -- or "legal religion" -- throughout the Roman Empire. The Edict of Milan offered protection against religious persecution for all persons and not just for Christians only. Everyone was free to worship whichever gods they desired.

You see, the Roman people already worshipped so many gods and goddesses that Rome really didn't care, just as long as peace reigned throughout the empire. "Pax Romana" was what mattered most, and if letting the people worship a thousand different gods achieved that purpose, then so be it. The same applied to pre-70 AD Israel. Rome had no problem with permitting the Jewish religious leaders to run their own affairs. They had their Roman-controlled puppets such as the Herod dynasty, and the Jewish Sanhedrin was comfortable with their relationship with Rome as well. Everyone wanted to keep the status quo and maintain the peace. However, God had other plans. First Jesus and His band of followers stirred up the pot, and then the Zealots and the Sicarii only made the situation worse, which ultimately resulted in the First Jewish-Roman War of 66 AD.

Returning to Constantine and the Edict of Milan, exactly when the emperor converted to the Christian faith is a source of debate amongst historians and theologians. Some suggest that Constantine's conversion occurred during his youth as a result of his mother Helena. Others posit that the emperor had a more gradual conversion during the course of his entire life, while still others suggest that Constantine was not actually water baptized until he lay on his deathbed in Nicomedia in 337 AD at the age of sixty-five. He died shortly thereafter. Please note that I mention water baptism as a matter of historical record and not because I personally believe that it is really a requirement in order to obtain Salvation. Please refer to my article "Roman Catholicism, Water Baptism And The Trinity" for additional information.

During his lifetime, Constantine supported various Christian causes, and he likewise promoted loyal Christian subjects to high office. However, it also becomes evident from studying this man, that if anything, he was really what amounts to a One World Religionist. In other words, as I stated earlier, while the Roman people had their own ancient religion which included a pantheon of gods and goddesses, as well as the Vestal Virgins, the Sibyls, the Mysteries of Mithras, etc., when it came to the Roman Empire as a whole, due to its great size and the area of land which it controlled, it was really a hodgepodge of different religions over which the emperors had to preside. So while it was a Roman world, it was a Roman world that was full of many different and strange religions. However, as you will learn shortly, by the end of the Fourth Century, the situation changed dramatically.

While Constantine was obviously sympathetic to the Christian faith due to his mother Helena, it should also be mentioned that in 315 AD, following his victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD, he built a triumphal arch which is known as the Arch of Constantine. In examining the arch, it becomes evident that at the age of forty-three, the emperor was still beholden to the pagan gods of Rome. While the arch displays no Christian symbolism whatsoever, it is decorated with images of the Roman gods and goddesses Victoria, Apollo, Diana and Hercules. This would have been a few years after the Edict of Milan had been decreed, when Christianity was declared a legal religion.

Among other evidence which suggests that Constantine may not have been a bona fide Christian until later in life -- if he ever truly was one at all -- is the fact that in 321 AD, at the age of forty-nine, he decreed that both Christians and non-Christians should stand united in observing the venerable day of the Sun. When at the age of fifty-eight he dedicated Constantinople -- the new capital of the eastern half of the Roman Empire, which was formerly called Byzantium, and which today is called Istanbul -- in 330 AD, he wore the diadem of the Greek god of light, the Olympian Apollo. At times, Apollo has been identified with the Greek Sun god, Helios. This god finds its Roman equivalent in the Sun god, Sol.

That Constantine continued to honor the Sun god at this late stage of his life is further evidenced by the fact that in the Forum of Constantine in Constantinople, there was a high column on top of which was situated a statue of Constantine. However, the emperor was made to appear as the Sun god Helios, and included a halo of seven rays, similar to the sun-rayed diadem of Apollo. Furthermore, Constantine is looking toward the rising Sun.

Because of the aforementioned points -- and there are others which I have not mentioned -- personally, I tend to question the Christian image which certain theologians and historians have given to this emperor. It seems to me that Constantine had one foot firmly placed in the paganism of Rome, while his other foot was set in the world of Christianity, as if he was not able to make up his mind regarding his personal beliefs. I am reminded of the following verses:

"A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."
James 1:8, KJV

"Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils."
1 Corinthians 10:21, KJV

"And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
Joshua 24:15, KJV

"And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word."
1 Kings 18:21, KJV

Thus, my inclination is to believe that Constantine may have simply been a very shrewd leader -- as well as a One World Religionist -- who was smart enough to realize that in order to maintain peace throughout the Roman Empire, he had to give a nod to all of the religions and appear to support them all in a type of hybrid religion which embraced all faiths. Was his approach really much different from what a lot of modern politicians do today? How many political candidates court the naive Christians in America, only to reveal their true colors once they have been elected to office? Furthermore, the cozy marriage of convenience which occurred between the Christian bishops and the politicians of Rome is similar to the bond that exists today between the Republican party in the United States and the Christian Right.

In the Mysteries of Mithras religion -- which was practiced in underground caves that were referred to as "Mithraeum" -- practitioners had a special handshake which was made after initiates -- who were called "syndexioi" -- completed the seven grades of initiation, and were admitted to the sect. It would seem that these wayward Fourth Century bishops also engaged in a special handshake with the politicians of Rome, beginning with Emperor Constantine I.

Within Christian circles, Constantine is known for the fact that he was responsible for the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, which some Christians believe to be the place where Jesus was crucified, buried and then rose from the dead. In order to construct the church, Constantine ordered the demolition of the temple of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, or her Roman equivalent, Venus. Constantine was also responsible for the construction of Old Saint Peter's Basilica; that is the original basilica which once stood on the site that had formerly been occupied by the Circus of Nero, where many Christians had been martyred. Old Saint Peter's Basilica was not completed until more than two decades after Constantine's demise.

Constantine is also believed to have been the very first Roman emperor to have direct and strong influence over the fledgling Roman Catholic Church. If you are wondering why I specifically refer to it as the Roman Catholic Church, this point will be made clear in a moment.

Also notable amongst Constantine's actions is the fact that in 325 AD he convened the First Council of Nicaea. A number of theologians view this as the first Ecumenical Council. One important result of the Council of Nicaea was the declaration of the Nicene Creed, which strongly promotes the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. You will find my personal views concerning the Holy Trinity doctrine discussed in considerable detail in such articles as "Roman Catholicism, Water Baptism and the Trinity". A key motivation behind the Fourth Century Church Fathers' promotion of the Nicene Creed and the Holy Trinity doctrine, was their desire to delegitimize Arianism, which they viewed as a heresy.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the doctrine, Arianism receives its name from a priest from Alexandria, Egypt by the name of Arius. Like other Christians before him, Arius maintained that similar to the other sons of God who are mentioned in the Book of Job, Jesus was a created being. As such, He could not be coeternal with God the Father, or consubstantial with the Father. This latter term means to be of the same substance as the Father. Furthermore, being as He is viewed as a being who was created by the Father, Arianism holds that Jesus Christ is not as great as God the Father, and is in fact subordinate to God the Father. One of the key verses which is used to support this doctrine is this one:

"Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I."
John 14:28, KJV

For those of you who may be interested in this subject, I discuss my personal views regarding Arianism in the article entitled "Jesus: The Beginning of the Creation of God". At any rate, the reason why Constantine convened the 325 AD Council of Nicaea was because he wanted to promote a common orthodoxy amongst the Christians of the empire, and at that time, the empire was clearly divided between the Arians in the eastern leg of the empire, and the Trinitarians in the western leg of the empire. Despite his personal doubts, the emperor sided with the Trinitarians, and Arius was branded a heretic, and Arianism a heresy.

The 325 AD Council of Nicaea -- and the Nicene Creed which resulted from it -- was an important moment in the history of our Christian faith; the reason being that it marked a clear divergence in doctrinal paths, just as the Sadducees and the Pharisees were divided by doctrine centuries earlier. In this case, because of the tepid support they received from Emperor Constantine, the Trinitarians gained the upper hand, and from that point forward, a very specific kind of Christianity was promoted throughout the Roman Empire. It has been variously referred to as "Nicene Christianity", "Nicene Trinitarianism" and "Catholic Christianity".

As you may know, the word "catholic" means "universal". Thus, the term "Catholic Christianity" implied that from that point forward, Nicene Christianity, or Nicene Trinitarianism, would be promoted throughout the Roman Empire, as opposed to Arian Christianity or any other kind of Christianity. However, as you will come to understand momentarily, the Edict of Milan, the Council of Nicaea and the adoption of the Nicene Creed during that council, were simply the first steps which would lead to -- and which also foreshadowed -- the full revelation and implementation of what today we call the Roman Catholic Church, during the late Fourth Century.

Another significant development which resulted from the 325 Council of Nicaea is that it widened the schism between the Christian faith and its Judaic roots. This was accomplished by prohibiting the Lord's Supper from being celebrated on the day before the Jewish Passover, or 14 Nisan. Furthermore, the Council of Nicaea declared that from that point in time and forward, the Roman solar calendar -- or Julian Calendar -- was to be given precedence over the Hebrew Calendar, which is a lunar-based calendar. That schism continued to grow in the many centuries which followed, and it has only been in recent decades that the Roman Catholic Church has made efforts to mend the breach with the Jews to some degree.

While the Edict of Milan brought closure to the many years of heavy persecution against Christians, and also restored some of their rights -- such as the ability to own property -- and while the First Council of Nicaea handed the Nicene Christians -- the Trinitarians -- a government-supported victory over the Arian Christians, the compromise between Roman political power and Christian religious power was not fully solidified until not quite seventy years later in 380 AD, when Emperor Theodosius and his co-emperors Gratian and Valentinian II -- who were half-brothers -- published the Edict of Thessalonica.

Exactly what was the Edict of Thessalonica? This Roman edict formally declared that from henceforth, the Christian faith was to be the only state-recognized and legitimate religion in the empire. Just over a year later, Emperor Theodosius I also convened the First Council of Constantinople, which is recognized by Roman Catholics and other Trinitarians as the Second Ecumenical Council. This council was highlighted by the fact that it confirmed the Nicene Creed of 325 AD, and also further dealt with the issue of Arianism. Stated more directly, with the Edict of Thessalonica, Christianity became a state-imposed religion, and any other religion -- including Arianism -- would simply be dealt with. But exactly what kind of Christianity was being pushed on the people of the Roman Empire?

While Roman Catholics and other Christians of the Trinitarian persuasion no doubt view the 380 AD Edict of Thessalonica as a very positive development because it seems to signify the victory of Christianity over the entire pagan Roman Empire, I have a number of problems with it. My first issue should be rather obvious to you. That is the fact that faith and belief are matters of personal conscience, and cannot be dictated or mandated by any government, past or present. Even the authors of the U.S. Constitution recognized this universal truth when they wrote the First Amendment to the Constitution. It begins with the famous phrase "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

If God Himself provides humanity with free will and personal choice so that we can decide for ourselves whether or not we want to believe in Him and in the Sacrifice of His Son, what right does any man or human government have to take away this right, by preferring one particular religion, and by forcing that particular religion upon people without their consent or approval?

While I strongly believe in my Christian faith, and while I fervently desire that all men embrace Jesus Christ, I also realize that any such decision must be the direct result of God's Spirit working in a person's heart; because if it is a coerced decision that is made under pressure of any kind, it may very well be an insincere, superficial decision that will not endure for very long. Salvation under pressure just does not work, and I seriously question if persons who are saved in this fashion are really saved at all. If a person does not come to Jesus Christ because they honestly recognize their sinful condition in their heart, and their need for a Savior, then any kind of a conversion or Salvation prayer is utterly useless, in my view.

As we saw in part one, once the nascent Roman Catholic Church acquired sufficient power and influence, it actually began to persecute, torture and kill anyone who rejected its misguided doctrines such as Trinitarianism. The relentless wrath of the so-called "Holy Mother Church" is clearly evidenced by such tragic historical events as the Inquisitions, the "Christian" Crusades, the Marian Persecutions, etc. However, it needs to be understood that such ungodly behavior by this false church did not begin with the Crusades. It actually began hundreds of years earlier.

Following the First Council of Nicaea when the Trinitarians gained advantage over the Arians due to the misguided help of Emperor Constantine I, they too began to use their new-found power and influence to persecute the Arian Christians. It was basically a doctrinal religious war between the eastern and western legs of the empire. With the declaration of the Edict of Thessalonica, which was followed by the First Council of Constantinople, the Trinitarians, or Nicene Christians if you prefer, acquired even more influence and power which they did not hesitate to use. Just as in later centuries the "Mother Church" would rely upon persecution, fear and pain to defeat and oppress her enemies, the Trinitarians of the 4th Century did the very same thing.

One individual who played a very influential role during the proceedings of the First Council of Nicaea was a deacon by the name of Athanasius. While at the time he was the personal secretary to Alexander, who served as the nineteenth Bishop of Alexandria, within a few years time, he would be promoted to the role of archbishop of Alexandria; that is, the 20th bishop of Alexandria. Athanasius devoted almost fifty years of his life to defeating Arianism, and is regarded as the primary defender of Trinitarianism. He fought against Arius, Emperor Constantine I, Constantine's son Constantius II, as well as against Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia and other very powerful Arians. Athanasius is respected as one of the four "Great Doctors of the Church" in the Roman Catholic Church, and also as one of the "Great Doctors of the Church" in the Eastern Orthodox Church as well.

In a word, two very powerful and influential doctrinal forces came to the fore in Alexandria. On the one hand was Arius who dared to question the precise status of Jesus Christ, and on the other was Athanasius, who was largely responsible for the propagation of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. It required the power of several different emperors to finally settle the doctrinal dispute and hand a victory to the Trinitarians. Or perhaps it would be more correct to say that the dispute was not really settled; the Arian Christians were simply branded heretics and suppressed. For his part, Emperor Constantine I later realized that he had made a terrible mistake by siding with the Trinitarians. In fact, according to tradition, as Constantine lay on his deathbed in 337 AD, he was baptized by an Arian bishop -- Eusebius of Nicomedia -- and not by a Trinitarian bishop.

Earlier I mentioned the secret religion that was known as the Mysteries of Mithras. While there is some debate concerning where this particular religion originated -- some say that it was an offshoot of Zoroastrianism in Persia, while others say that it was a home-grown religion of Rome itself which was primarily embraced by the Roman military -- it is interesting to note that while it flourished throughout the Roman Empire for about four centuries, by the end of the Fourth Century, it had for the most part disappeared. To some historians, its fate remains a mystery. However, the answer seems obvious to me.

Other religions, including Rome's own ancient pagan religion, were also looked down upon and suppressed, as a direct result of the extensive power that was acquired by the Trinitarians during the Fourth Century. The Nicene Christians -- that is, the Trinitarians -- were by no means passive Christians. They were very militant Christians, and they continued to be very militant Christians for many centuries to come, as we have already seen.

A moment ago I asked exactly what kind of Christianity was declared and imposed upon the people of the Roman Empire by the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 AD. The answer, as some of you will already realize, is that Nicene Christianity -- or Trinitarianism -- became the only legally-recognized faith in the empire. Every other religion -- including Rome's ancient religion, Arian Christianity, Mithraism, etc., were outlawed. But exactly what was this Nicene Christianity? While you may already understand that it centered around acceptance of the Holy Trinity doctrine, the answer becomes even more apparent when we examine the actual text of the Edict of Thessalonica which states the following. I have included both the original Latin, as well as its English translation:

----- Begin Quote -----



Cunctos populos, quos clementiae nostrae regit temperamentum, in tali volumus religione versari, quam divinum Petrum apostolum tradidisse Romanis religio usque ad nunc ab ipso insinuata declarat quamque pontificem Damasum sequi claret et Petrum Aleksandriae episcopum virum apostolicae sanctitatis, hoc est, ut secundum apostolicam disciplinam evangelicamque doctrinam patris et filii et spiritus sancti unam deitatem sub pari maiestate et sub pia trinitate credamus. Hanc legem sequentes Christianorum catholicorum nomen iubemus amplecti, reliquos vero dementes vesanosque iudicantes haeretici dogmatis infamiam sustinere ‘nec conciliabula eorum ecclesiarum nomen accipere’, divina primum vindicta, post etiam motus nostri, quem ex caelesti arbitro sumpserimus, ultione plectendos.




It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation, should continue to profess that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition, and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since, in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation and in the second the punishment of our authority which in accordance with the will of Heaven we shall decide to inflict.


----- End Quote -----

As you can very plainly see for yourself by the above text, in addition to confirming the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which had first been widely promoted during the First Council of Nicaea fifty-five years earlier, the edict also declared that the followers of the Nicene Creed should be referred to as "Catholic Christians". In other words, what the Edict of Thessalonica really did was to formally establish the Roman Catholic Church in the year 380 AD. The three aforementioned emperors -- that is, Theodosius I, Gratian and Valentinian II -- legally recognized and authorized the Trinitarians to take the name "Catholic Christians". It was now the law that only Trinitarians could use this title of "Catholic Christians". No other kind of Christian could use it, and much less those people who embraced other pagan religions. The RCC was born! Roman Catholicism was a state-imposed religion. It was not a religion which could be chosen by Roman citizens through free will and personal choice, because there were no other choices.

Please go to part three for the conclusion of this series.

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