It is often claimed that Constantine brought in a paganized version of Christianity with Sun worship, and changed the day of worship from Saturday, which was the day of Sabbath for the Jews, to Sunday, the day of the Sun. Constantine did have some coins made with the inscription Sol Invictus on them, and on the arch made to celebrate his victory against Maxentius at the Milvian bridge he had some images of Sol Invictus.

It is no secret that he seemed to have a slow gradual conversion to Christianity rather than a rapid and radical one. But he could not have introduced Sunday worship, or Sun worship as it is claimed, since the Church had been celebrating on Sunday for at least a century before he came along.

Justin Martyr wrote around 70 years after John the last Apostle died. Could it be that in the space of one lifetime the Church had completely and utterly changed from it’s supposed Apostolic ways of Sabbath observance to Sunday? Even if that was so, it makes null and void the claim that Sunday was brought in for the worship of Sun, since it is Constantine’s link with the Sol Invictus that makes this idea stick. There is no evidence anywhere that the early Church before Constantine worshipped Sol Invictus or the sun in anyway. Only the opposite can be found to be true, since writer after writers indicts the pagans around them for worshipping false gods and images, instead of the one true God. While the same may not be said about Constantine, who seems to have given up his pagan deities only slowly, it is impossible, with the written evidence we have, to claim that he brought in Sunday worship in order to paganize Christianity.

Justin Martyr writing from around 160AD says this about Christian worship during the mid 2nd century: “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.” Justin Martyr: Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.186

It is also claimed that he brought in the Christmas celebration, as a Christianized version of the winter solstice. This is almost certainly untrue. The record of Justin Martyr is readily available online and proves that Christians met on Sunday from the earliest times. There are also records from at least 215AD that some Christians (namely Hippolytus, and we can assume he was speaking for others) believed Jesus to have been born on December 25th. That’s 100 years before Constantine.

Hippolytus said: “The First Advent of our Lord in the flesh occurred when He was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th, a Wednesday, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, which is five thousand and five hundred years  from Adam. He suffered in the thirty-third year, March 25th, Friday, the eighteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, while Rufus and Roubellion were Consuls.” Saint Hippolytus of Rome: Commentary on Daniel

There is an interesting website which deals just with that issue. I can’t post the exact address as YouTube will block it but it’s called Dec25th info. Very interesting.

One point that always seems to be brought up, and one that swayed me for the longest time, that is until I simply looked it up, is that it would have been far to cold for shepherds to be out in an during December in Israel. But is that true? Not according to this website:

The average given is 15C during the day and about 6C at night. That’s the average for our autumn. Yes, it is cold, but not Canada cold. My wife is from Brazil. That’s a little colder than it gets there in winter (average is about 8C at night she tells me). And from experience all I needed was a jumper.

Consider another interesting point in this regard as I close on this matter. St. Patrick, who evangelized my country of Ireland, was captured by Irish pirates and enslaved on the mountains of Kerry or somewhere like that. He was out there all day, everyday with no shelter, and without adequate clothing for around 6 years. West Ireland winters are not like Israeli ones. Believe me!

So did Constantine paganize Christianity? Perhaps. But not out of evil intent I am convinced. The Church let down her guard after the Empire converted and there was a rush of conversions to the new favoured religion. Gone were the days of sacrificial living and martyrdom for the Name of Jesus. But it is also true that the Church Christianized the Empire. Yes, we are still suffering the after-effects of a Constantinian Hybrid. A Church-State monster, but let’s not get carried away with reactionary revisionist history, conspiracy theories based on nothing but our own delusions and hate, and our precious little pet doctrines. As followers of Christ, truth must be our goal. And sometimes the truth is uncomfortable.