Christianity enjoys a dramatic and chromatic history. Although events in Jerusalem set the stage for the growth and spread of this religion, Rome became the sine qua non for the religion in the western hemisphere and concomitantly in the world. Subsequent to the rise and establishment of Christianity in Rome, which occurred in 325 AD, Roman Catholics enjoyed an exclusive monopoly of the faith in Europe, until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.
History records 16th century Europe as a dynamic period well-known for the “Renaissance” “age of enlightenment” “age of discovery” as well as for the bifurcation Christianity into Catholics and Protestants.
The Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations are the lenses by which the western hemisphere generally experience and understand Christianity, but Christianity in the east offers a parallel developmental process. Orthodox Christianity a/k/a the Eastern Oriental Orthodox Christian Communion is observed in countries of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. This Eastern Orthodox line of the Christian faith predates the Church of Rome by 300 plus years. As such, it was the members of the Eastern Oriental Orthodox Christian Communion who represented the growing Christian community that experienced the cruel and odious machinations of the Roman Empire as they persecuted Christians. It was not until 313 AD, by way of the Treaty of Milan, that Rome’s persecution of Christians came to an end. Subsequently, in 325 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine convened the first ecumenical council, (Council of Nicaea) that resulted in Rome’s 1200 year domination of Christianity. Emperor Constantine established Rome as the headquarters of the Church in the west, while positioning Constantinople as the capital of the Faith in the east.
Emperor Constantine was a self-proclaimed convert to Christianity following his vision of the cross during his successful military campaign to unify Rome. The emperor credited his military victory to this vision of the cross which reportedly inspired him to accept the Faith. Emperor Constantine’s objective for convening the first ecumenical council was to consolidate the growing Christian religion under the domination of Rome. This was achieved following the Council of Nicaea. The Eastern Orthodox bishops that did not submit to the domination of Rome were branded heretical and excluded from remaining council proceedings and all future ecumenical councils. The irony of a new convert to Christianity having the capacity to convene a synod of African, Asian and Middle Eastern bishops and require them to submit to Rome’s political domination and ecclesiastical hegemony is profound. Nevertheless, the Council of Nicaea is etched in the stone of ancient history as the advent of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. By way of military campaign’s Rome conquered Europe and the rest of the known world and proselytized the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church as well as imposing the Greco-Roman historical “master” narrative. Rome enjoyed an exclusive monopoly over the Christian religion until the 16th century when the Faith was bifurcated into Catholics and Protestants.
Prior to the advent of Roman Catholicism, Christianity was eclectic and diverse in representation and expression in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. As the new “fulfillment theology,” it was initially proselytized by the priests of the Magi, the first worshippers of the infant Christ. Following there (Magi) visitation with offerings of Frankincense, Myrrh and gold, each returned to their respective communities and proselytized Faith. Three hundred years hence, when Emperor Constantine appropriated Christianity on behalf of the military expansion of Rome, he consolidated the Faith under one religious creed and absolute earthy authority… According to the proceedings of the first ecumenical council, the bishops that resisted the domination of Rome were excommunicated from further council proceedings and excluded from all future ecumenical councils. In particular, Ethiopian bishops did not agree to Roman domination and they (Ethiopian Bishops) also had irreconcilable ecclesiastical differences from Rome, relative to the nature of Jesus Christ, the Trinitarian doctrine, and the infallibility of the pope, among others.
The various controversies that attended the Council of Nicaea are recorded in history as the “east vs. west schism.” It is the objective of the work to explore parallel and divergent development of Christianity in both the east and west… In addition to this east – west dichotomy, early Christianity played a consequential role in the military conquests and growth of the Roman Empire. Imperial Rome ruled the entire known world under Christendom until the growth of Islam was able to successfully challenge the land holdings of the Holy Roman Empire, during the 8th century in Egypt, Jerusalem and Spain… Nevertheless, imperial Rome and the Holy See continued their efforts to “discover,” conquer and redefine the world, albeit now with a level of competition in some regions.
Specifically, Spain would be ruled for 700 years by the Moors until Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand returned the country to Catholic authority in 1492. The Spanish royalty with the authority pope financed the exploits of Christopher Columbus, and subsequent discovery of the “New World.”
Jerusalem was briefly reclaimed by the Knights Templar under the auspices of the papacy, for less than a century. Egypt on the other hand was lost to Islam and absorbed by ethnic Arabs in the name of Islam.
The Papacy in conjunction with various European kings and queens continued their concerted efforts to “discover” and conquer lands occupied by so-called “heathens” and bring them under the rule of Christendom, or to reclaim the territories (such as the Holy Land and Spain) that had been lost to them. Muslim’s conquered Jerusalem during the 8th century and retained control until the 11th century when it was briefly recaptured during the Crusades under the auspices of the pope. In 1492 Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, again in conjunction with the papacy, recaptured Spain from the Moors who had ruled it for seven centuries. Only months after Christopher Columbus returned to Europe from his initial voyage to the “New World,” the Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI gave Spain and Portugal a head-start in their quest for domination over these newly discovered regions. The Pope decreed that all lands discovered west of a meridian 100 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands would belong to Spain while new lands discovered east of that line would belong to Portugal. This papal instruction also specified that all lands already under the control of a “Christian prince” would remain under that same control.
This established line made Portugal angry. King John II (the nephew of Prince Henry the Navigator) negotiated with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to move the line further to the west. King John’s rationale to Ferdinand and Isabella was that the Pope’s line extends all around the globe, thus limiting Spanish influence in Asia. On June 7, 1494 Spain and Portugal met at Tordesillas, Spain and signed a treaty that moved the line 270 leagues west, to 370 leagues west of Cape Verde. This new line gave Portugal, more claim to South America, yet also provided Portugal with automatic control over most of the Indian Ocean. While it would be several hundred years before the line of the Treaty of Tordesillas could be accurately determined (due to problems determining longitude), Portugal and Spain kept to their sides of the line quite well. Portugal ended up colonizing places like Brazil in South America and India and Macau in Asia. Brazil’s (Portuguese-speaking population is a result of the Treaty of Tordesillas). Portugal and Spain ignored the instruction from the Pope in enacting the treaty, but all was reconciled when Pope Julius II agreed to the change in 1506. Hence, the Papacy divided the “New World” between Spain and Portugal, as the first Colonial “masters” of the world.
Other European powers of the day such as Briton, France, Germany, Denmark, and the Dutch, had no land holdings in the “New World” and so conspired with “pirates” to raid the territories and cargoes of Portugal and Spain. Ultimately by way of the Protestant Reformation the dissident European powers rejected the authority of the papacy. In the wake of the unfolding Protestant Reformation during the 16th century in England, the bifurcated European Christian powers rivaled each other as they scrambled for “New World” territories to derive wealth and power from the free labor of enslaved Africans. Going forward, the dynamic between Catholics and Protestants became the backdrop and design of the post 16th century world, particularly in the context of the expansion into the western hemisphere. In the spirit of the original Christian teachings Catholics and Protestants have essentially promoted “religious tolerance” among themselves apart from a few fascinating and violent exceptions. In the secular framework, among the competing European powers have over the centuries collaborated and cooperated, despite their colorful internal rivalries and wars. Ultimately, the competing European secular powers united around their shared objectives to conquer and control the “New World” and the continent of Africa.
The respective European colonialists respected each others holdings and economic interests in the “New World” during the trans-Atlantic trade of enslaved Africans, and treated there “human” property similarly. Following the end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, these European powers cooperated and conspired as they undertook what is known in contemporary history as the “Scramble for Africa” (1876 – 1912). Subsequent to the Scramble, the Berlin Conference (1884) divided the territorial spoils of Africa, by petitioning, creating random boundaries and assigning various countries to the European “New World” colonial masters. The Monroe Doctrine (20th century) ensures that the former colonial masters in the countries of the “New World” would remain in place, while promoting the virtues of self-determination for indigenous populations.
European secular governments, in the context of the “Western World,” have a compatible geo-political vision. Although the European governments separate religion from state, they all espouse the Judeo-Christian ethic, in terms of Catholic and Protestant renditions of Christianity. The religious leaders of the western world, vis-à-vis, the pope, archbishop of Canterbury, and the respective bishops that lead the faithful in denominational Christianity generally share a coherent world view. Both the religious leadership and the secular leadership in the western world have demonstrated a symbiosis throughout the history of the Roman Catholic and Protestant global narrative. There is intriguing irony, though with respect to the colonization of the African continent by secular European powers, and the role of Ethiopia in the context of the ancient east – west schism. Specifically, Ethiopia is the only country on the continent of Africa that was never under colonial rule. Although, ancient Ethiopia has a well documented Judeo-Christian heritage and tradition that predated the advent of the Church of Rome by more than three centuries, pre-Roman Christianity was branded heretical.
Catholics and Protestants currently share the world Christian demographic which numbers just above two billion, and about 15 to 20 percent of the world’s Christian populations are observers of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The accommodation between Catholics and Protestants is organic as they both observe similar holidays and Holy days, and they both use the Gregorian calendar. On the other hand, Orthodox Christians use the Julian calendar which observes Christmas Day, for example, on January 6, of the year.
Over the centuries there has been much speculation “what if” Ethiopia’s biblical canon, and Judeo-Christian narrative was not excluded from the popular western canon of scripture… Due to Rome’s domination of the growing Christian religion, the Greek translation of the original Hebrew scripture was translated into Latin. This translation became the book that converted European countries to Roman Catholicism, under the authority of the papacy. Following the Protestant Reformation, it was translated into English and made accessible to the common person, thus breaking Roman monopoly of the Christian word. From King Henry VIII, to the King James verson, the English translation proliferated throughout Europe and the known world. What if the fathers of the Roman Church had retained all the books in the original Hebrew Bible, as opposed to removing 15 books from the 81 books? In both instances (secular and religious) it can be persuasively argued that Ethiopia was indomitable and unique…
At the point of the first ecumenical council (325 AD), the Ethiopian Orthodox Church had already established 81 books of Judeo-Christian scripture. It is not hard to imagine that the Roman Catholic Church decided to include 66 Books in the Latin translation because that choice offered an introductory narrative for establishing Roman Catholic dominance of Christianity. It is possible that if Ethiopia’s lineage had not been unequivocally disconnected from the Roman Christian dispensation, the economic, social and cultural subjugation of African people (imposing the master narrative) may have been impossible to achieve… Instead, the Roman Catholic Church formulated a revisionist Greco-Roman narrative that embodied, and established Rome’s religious and secular origins and world view…This may have made the economic, social and cultural conquests, subjugation of African people, and imposing the master narrative difficult, if not impossible to achieve… The Roman Catholic Church fathers and historians formulated a revisionist Greco-Roman historical narrative that embodied, promoted and established Rome’s religious as well as secular origins and world view…
The Greek poet and historian Homer, in his classic book The Iliad, was unequivocal as to whom he revered and received great learning from. Homer credited the Egyptians for much of his education, and referred to Ethiopia, and Ethiopians with divine attributes, vis-à-vis, the land of Punt (Land of God)… Some suggest that if the Ethiopian component was included in the Latin Canon of Scripture it would have made it difficult, if not impossible to impose a multi-race narrative and social construct contrived to position Africans, and black people as less than human. The advent of the “Negro” as an inferior race of humans, the trans-Atlantic trade of enslaved Africans would likely not have been industrialized and institutionalized to the extent that it was.
Instead the ancient east – west schism and race based dichotomy was established and institutionalized. Hence, the religious world and the secular world continue their precarious interface…