71AD ART: "Triumph of Titus, AD71" by Sir Lawrence Alda-Tadema
Since the 30-70AD age is likened to the 40-year Exodus,
the 70-1070AD Millennium is likened to the age of Possessing the Promised Land during Joshua, Judges & Kings.
Beginning with the Lord's Return around 70AD:
John 6:39-40, John 6:44, John 6:53-54 ~preached around 29AD by Jesus Christ
39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the Last Day.
40 And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the Last Day.
44 No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the Last Day.
53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the Last Day.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 ~penned around 51AD by Christ's Apostle Paul to the Christians at Thessalonica
For the Lord himself shall [future, after 51AD] descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the Dead in Christ shall [future, after 51AD] RISE FIRST:
And I foresaw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they LIVED and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (But THE REST OF THE DEAD lived not again until the thousand years were finished). This is the FIRST RESURRECTION. 6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the FIRST RESURRECTION: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
2 Peter 3:8
8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that ONE DAY IS WITH THE LORD AS A THOUSAND YEARS, and a thousand years as one day.
The Dead in Christ = the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands.
The Rest of the Dead = the souls of everyone else who had died.
Christ raised up first HIS MARTYRS from the Nero-Beast Tribulation (the Dead in Christ) at the start of the Last Day.
And THE REST OF THE DEAD were raised up at the end of the Last Day to their sentence of Judgment.
(Excerpts from Schaff's History of the Church, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved. Notable portions highlighted in yellow, comments by ProphecyHistory.com in italics with light blue highlighting). (MILLENNIUM : Latin MILLE, thousand + Latin ANNUS, year)
"Another important division of historical interpreters is into Post-Millennarians and Pre-Millennarians, according as the millennium predicted in Revelation 20 is regarded as part or future. Augustin committed the radical error of dating the millennium from the time of the Apocalypse or the beginning of the Christian era (although the seer mentioned it near the end of his book), and his view had great influence; hence the wide expectation of the end of the world at the close of the first millennium of the Christian church. Other post-millennarian interpreters date the millennium from the triumph of Christianity over paganism in Rome at the accession of Constantine the Great (311);"
(Excerpted from Schaff's History of the Church, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
["Radical error" or not is open to debate. (Philip Schaff went on to embrace historical Preterism, noting his own change of doctrinal position in later editions of this work.) But without argument, St. Augustin dated Rev 20:1-10’s “1000 Years” from the time of the writing of Revelation ("The Apocalypse" in Latin) or the beginning of the Christian era to the end of the first millennium of the Christian church. This view was so widely held during the Middle Age that there was wide expectation of the end of the world at 1000AD, the close of the first millennium of the Christian church. I agree with St. Augustin, (354-430AD), that he was living during the 1000-year Millennium of Rev 20:1-10.~jwr
The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm, or millennarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment. 227 It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius; while Caius, Origen, Dionysius the Great, Eusebius (as afterwards Jerome and Augustin) opposed it.
[They opposed it because, by the time they came along, the time for expecting it had passed and they preached that it had already come, being presently enjoyed in their own times]~jwr
We now turn to the anti-Chiliasts. The opposition began during the Montanist movement in Asia Minor. Caius of Rome attacked both Chiliasm and Montanism, and traced the former to the hated heretic Cerinthus. 245 The Roman church seems never to have sympathized with either, and prepared itself for a comfortable settlement and normal development in this world. In Alexandria, Origen opposed chiliasm as a Jewish dream, and spiritualized the symbolical language of the prophets. 246 His distinguished pupil, Dionysius the Great (d. about 264), checked the chiliastic movement when it was revived by Nepos in Egypt, and wrote an elaborate work against it, which is lost. He denied the Apocalypse to the apostle John, and ascribed it to a presbyter of that name. Eusebius inclined to the same view.
But the crushing blow [to Chiliasm] came from the great change in the social condition and prospects of the church in the Nicene age. After Christianity, contrary to all expectation, triumphed in the Roman empire, and was embraced by the Caesars themselves, the millennial reign, instead of being anxiously waited and prayed for, began to be dated either from the first appearance of Christ, or from the conversion of Constantine and the downfall of paganism, and to be regarded as realized in the glory of the dominant imperial state-church. Augustin, who himself had formerly entertained chiliastic hopes, framed the new theory which reflected the social change, and was generally accepted. The apocalyptic millennium he understood to be the present reign of Christ in the Catholic church, and the first resurrection, the translation of the martyrs and saints to heaven, where they participate in Christ's reign. 248 It was consistent with this theory that towards the close of the first millennium of the Christian era there was a wide-spread expectation in Western Europe that the final judgment was at hand.
From the time of Constantine and Augustin chiliasm took its place among the heresies and was rejected subsequently even by the Protestant reformers as a Jewish dream. But it was revived from time to time as an article of faith and hope by pious individuals and whole sects, often in connection with historic pessimism, with distrust in mission work, as carried on by human agencies, with literal interpretations of prophecy, and with peculiar notions about Antichrist, the conversion and restoration of the Jews, their return to the Holy Land, and also with abortive attempts to calculate "the times and seasons" of the Second Advent, which "the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7), and did not choose to reveal to his own Son in the days of his flesh. ...
["From the time of Constantine and Augustin chiliasm took its place among the heresies..." Chiliasm was the expectation that the 1000 Year Millennium was still future rather than a present reality. And that expectation suddenly died when the reality of Constantine's victory took there breath away, compelling them to wake up to the fact that they were already living in the 1000 Year Millennium. And the continued expectation of a future millennium, chiliasm, "took its place among the heresies." Hallelujah!]
Constantine the.. Preterist!
"This remarkable event (the Edict of Milan) was regarded by Christians of that time, and by Constantine himself, as the fulfillment of the very prophecy before us. (Revelation 20:2)"
Eusebius Pamphilius: Oration in Praise of Constantine "I am filled with wonder at the intellectual greatness of the emperor, who as if by divine inspiration thus expressed what the prophets had foretold concerning this monster"
First Christian ruler of the Roman Empire
Constantine I came to the throne when his father, Constantius, died in 306. After defeating his rivals, Constantine became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire in 324, and is credited with social and economic reforms that significantly influenced medieval society. In 313 his Edict of Milan legally ended pagan persecution of Christians, and in 325 he used imperial power to bring unity to the church at the Council of Nicea. He also moved the capital of his empire to Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople in 330. Constantine's embrace of Christianity eventually led him to be baptized in 337.
"Chapter III.--Of his Picture surmounted by a Cross and having beneath it a Dragon.
And besides this, he caused to be painted on a lofty tablet, and set up in the front of the portico of his palace, so as to be visible to all, a representation of the salutary sign placed above his head, and below it that hateful and savage adversary of mankind, who by means of the tyranny of the ungodly had wasted the Church of God, falling headlong, under the form of a dragon, to the abyss of destruction. For the sacred oracles in the books of God's prophets have described him as a dragon and a crooked serpent; [Especially the book of Revelation, and Isaiah] and for this reason the emperor thus publicly displayed a painted resemblance of the dragon beneath his own and his children's feet, stricken through with a dart, and cast headlong into the depths of the sea.
In this manner he intended to represent the secret adversary of the human race, and to indicate that he was consigned to the gulf of perdition by virtue of the salutary trophy placed above his head. This allegory, then, was thus conveyed by means of the colors of a picture: and I am filled with wonder at the intellectual greatness of the emperor, who as if by divine inspiration thus expressed what the prophets had foretold concerning this monster, saying that "God would bring his great and strong and terrible sword against the dragon, the flying serpent; and would destroy the dragon that was in the sea." [Isa. xxvii.] This it was of which the emperor gave a true and faithful representation in the picture above described." (Oration in Praise of Constantine)
"In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea."
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. 5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. 7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. 13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. 14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. 16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. 4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?
And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
"This revolution was the greatest revolution and change in the face of things that ever came to pass in the world since the flood. Satan, the prince of darkness, that king and god of the heathen world, was cast out. The roaring lion was conquered by the Lamb of God in the strongest dominion that ever he had, even the Roman Empire." (Work of Redemption, Period 3, Section 2)
William S. Urmy in "Christ Came Again"
Israel P. Warren in "The Parousia"
Numismatic Chronicle - Constantine (1877 PDF)
"The type of these pieces and the inscription indicate how the "public hope" was centered in the triumph of the Christian religion over the adversary of mankind -- "the great dragon, that old serpent called the Devil and Satan" (Rev. xii. 9 ; xx. 2), and Eusebius tells us how Constantine I had a picture painted of the dragon -- the flying serpent -- beneath his own and his children's feet, pierced through the middle with a dart, and cast into the depths of the sea."
Old coins and their contribution. Considerable disparity exists among historians about the time of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity and about the details of his momentous vision. There is also debate as to whether history can be deduced from the study of old coins or numismatics in general. It appears that in all three cases, the ultimate judgment must rest with each student, depending upon the degree of penetration and the quality of study applied. Verifiable facts -- the external evidence -- do not always explain the meaning of historical events or their internal significance. The interpretation of history is often a subjective involvement, as historians tend to provide their own understanding and interpretations.
An exemplary case of historical interpretation based on ancient coinage and existing literature is the following essay by the distinguished Constantinian Knight Commander, Craig Peter Barclay, M.A., M.Litt. The author has served as Keeper of Numismatics at the Yorkshire Museum in York, U.K. and has previously held curatorial positions at the Royal Mint and University of Aberdeen.
Hoc Signo Victor Eris: By
In a world without newspapers and television, the circulating coinage provided a potent means for ruling authorities to disseminate political and religious propaganda. Few such authorities have been more conscious of the potential value of this medium than the Roman emperors, and it can be argued that none of those made more effective use of it than Constantine the Great.
As the first emperor to embrace the Christian faith, we might expect that Constantine’s religious convictions would figure prominently on the coinage of his reign. The degree to which this was actually the case has provoked great deal of scholarly argument and, in so doing, has provided a number of fascinating insights into the development of religious symbolism in the fledgling Christian Empire.
As Andrew Alfoldi has rightly observed (p. 41), ‘The coin types of the period are, in every case, mere feeble copies of those great works of art that have not come down to us.’ Nevertheless, he would contend, they have also provided us with ‘absolute proof that the Emperor embraced the Christian cause with a suddenness that surprised all but his most intimate colleagues.’ (Alfoldi, pp. 1-2)
(Fig. 1) Constantine the Great; bronze follis; AD 337-40
A more recent scholar, Andrew Burnett, however argues that representations of pagan gods only disappear from Constantine’s coinage after AD 318 and, even then, the designs that replaced them were primarily religiously neutral in content. ‘The only explicitly Christian coin designs were the representations of the emperor in an attitude of prayer, and a very rare design used by the mint of Constantinople in about 327, showing a banner with a chi-rho monogram spearing a serpent, representing his enemy Licinius.’ (Burnett, p. 145)
Clearly the nature and significance of the designs used by Constantine on his coinage are open to more than one interpretation. We must accordingly address the complex question: ‘Can we see the Christian faith of Constantine the Great reflected in his coinage?’
Flavius Valerius Constantinus was born in about AD 285 at Naissus in Serbia, the son of the Tetrarch Constantius I and his wife, the Empress Helena. After spending his early years as an effective hostage at the courts of Diocletian and his successor Galerius, Constantine escaped to the west, joining his father in York shortly before the latter’s death on 25 July AD 306. Proclaimed emperor by the army at York, Constantine spent the next eighteen years disposing of his rivals for control of the empire through an elaborate series of shifting political alliances and military campaigns.
During the early part of his reign representations of first Mars and then, from AD 310, Apollo-Sol dominated Constantine’s coinage. Mars had been intimately associated with the Tetrarchy, and Constantine’s use of this symbolism served to emphasise the legitimacy of his rule. After his breach with his father’s old colleague Maximian in AD 309-10, Constantine began to claim legitimate descent from the third-century emperor Claudius Gothicus. Gothicus had claimed the divine protection of the Apollo-Sol . As Burnett notes (pp. 143-44), in AD 310 Constantine experienced a vision in which Apollo-Sol appeared to him with omens of success. ‘Thereafter his coinage was dominated for several years by "his companion the unconquered Sol", SOLI INVICTO COMITI.’
(Fig. 2) Constantine the Great; bronze follis; AD 316-17
According to Lactantius, just prior to the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in AD 312, Constantine experienced a dream-vision urging him to trust the fate of his army to the Christian God, and to place the symbol of the monogrammatic cross on the shields of his army. In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius’s account of Constantine’s vision differs slightly, claiming that Constantine experienced a vision at the beginning of his military campaign wherein the symbol of the cross appeared on the face of the sun, accompanied by the Greek words, ‘In this sign conquer’. Subsequently, Eusebius tells us, Constantine experienced a second vision, in which he was urged to use the Christian sign to protect himself from his foes. In response to this latter vision, Constantine had a labarum or standard produced, bearing the name of Christ in the form of a monogram of the Greek letters X and P (the Chi-Rho).
Whatever the detail, Constantine duly placed his trust in the Cross and duly defeated his imperial rival, Maxentius, on the outskirts of Rome itself. Nevertheless, in the wake of this great victory, no immediate change took place in the basic design of the coinage, with issues celebrating Sol Invictus continuing to form the bulk of the circulating medium. Indeed, as Vermeule (p. 180) explains, even in AD 313, on the very eve of the Edict of Toleration, Constantine was still portrayed on huge gold medallions in the company of Sol Invictus and bearing a shield decorated with a representation he sun-god’s chariot.
Nevertheless, after the final defeat of Licinius, the pagan gods disappeared from the coinage of Constantine, their place being taken by religiously neutral images. The question might be asked as to why Constantine did at last begin to make extensive use of specifically Christian images at this time but, as Runciman (p. 17) bluntly reminds us, ‘The earliest Christians took little interest in art.’
Accordingly, during the early 4th century AD, there were few artistic motifs available that could be relied upon to convey a specifically Christian message. Even the Chi-Rho, which is today universally recognised as a Christian sign, could be misinterpreted, Bruun (p. 61) reminding us that, ‘The sign, at the moment of its creation, was ambiguous. In essence it was a monogram composed of the Greek letters X and P, and, while the monogrammatic combination of these two letters was by no means unusual in pre-Constantinian times, the occurrence of X P with a clearly Christian significance is exceedingly rare.’ The potential significance of the sign would initially have been lost on the non Greek-speaking population of the empire, who might more readily have interpreted the sign as being linked to Solar or Mithraic worship.
Such initial ambiguities notwithstanding, there can be no doubt that Constantine saw his victorious sign as being an explicitly Christian symbol nor that, in the wake of the writings of Eusebius and Lactantius, its religious meaning came rapidly to be universally recognised. Constantine made only sparing use of the Chi-Rho on his coins, confining its use to a few scarce issues only. Following his death however, this most powerful symbol came to be used increasingly frequently, both as a means of celebrating the religious convictions of the succeeding emperors, and as a means of affirming the legitimacy of their succession from Constantine.
(Fig. 3) Eudoxia; gold solidus; AD 397-402
Although also adopted by Constantine’s sons, the most prominent early use of the Chi-Rho occurred during the reign of the usurper Magnentius (AD 350-53), who struck large bronze double centenionales decorated with a large Christogram flanked by the Greek letters alpha and omega. Thereafter the symbol appeared time after time on the coinages of both the western and eastern empires, its position as the primary symbol of the new state religion only gradually being superseded by the plain, unadorned Cross.
As the image of the emperor most commonly seen by the public, the portrait of the emperor reproduced on the imperial coinage was considered to be of the utmost importance. Constantine’s coinage portraits break away from the traditions of the previous two centuries, calling upon both earlier Imperial and Greek precedents for inspiration. The Imperial beard, which had been sported by almost all emperors since the beginning of the second century, was abandoned and replaced by a clean shaven image. Likewise, the laurel wreath or solar crown which had dominated the coinages of the second and third centuries were dropped in favour of an eastern diadem, or, less frequently, a military helmet.
(Fig. 4) Constantine the Great; gold solidus; AD 326
One particular version of the new imperial image has attracted particular attention. Eusebius (4.15) was quite explicit in his statement that Constantine was portrayed on his coinage in an attitude of prayer: ‘He directed his likeness to be stamped on a gold coin with his eyes uplifted in the posture of prayer to God … this coin was current through the Roman world and was a sign of the power of divine faith.’ Burnett recognises this passage as important evidence implying ‘that important members of the higher social classes noticed coin designs’, adding that ‘There can hardly be any doubt that Eusebius had seen the coins in question’.
(Fig. 5) Constantine the Great; gold solidus; AD 326-27
Not all authors have accepted these coins as representing the emperor’s devotion to the Christian faith and, as L’Orange has pointed out (1947, p.34), the ‘heaven-gazing’ coin portraits of Constantine have been the subject of numerous interpretations, including an argument that it should be interpreted as a representation of the Sol-emperor Constantine fixing his gaze upon the goddess Luna. L’Orange (1947, p.94) would consequently argue that, ‘Constantine as Christian orant is, therefore, an arbitrary interpretation of his heavenward-looking portrait. This does not however alter the fact that the type became for Christians, perhaps owing to the very weight of Eusebius’ authority, an expression of Constantine’s inspired relation to their own God, a representation of the Christ-emperor.’
This argument has in part been fuelled by the undoubted fact that the so-called Constantinus orans portrait type is ultimately derived from pagan prototypes first seen during the reign of the Hellenic monarch Alexander the Great (Toynbee, p. 148). Bruun (p. 33), who does not accept that the coin type bears any specific Christian significance, nevertheless concedes that the heavenward-gazing portraits of Constantine recall ‘portraits of the Hellenistic ruler, whose heavenward look expresses the inner contact between the emperor and the heavenly powers.’
Most however have been more than content to recognise the Christian spirituality of these most beautiful images. The heavenward-gazing portrait is not peculiar to the coinage and Alfoldi (p. 34) recalls that ‘Apart from the monogram of salvation, the statues, paintings, and coin-types displayed, throughout the Empire, the gaze of the "most religious Majesty", directed heavenward’. The same point has been effectively argued by L’Orange (1965, pp. 123-24), who noted in writing of a colossal head of Constantine from the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome that ‘The eyes, being supernaturally large and wide-open and framed by the accentuated concentric curves of the deepcut lids and brows, express more clearly than ever the transcendence of the ruler’s personality. In this gaze he travels far beyond his physical surroundings and attains his goal in a higher sphere, in contact and identity with the governing powers. Providence in person, the irresistible controller of fate, fatorum arbiter, rises before us, with all the future on his knees.’
Yet another distinguished scholar likewise observes that, ‘Long before his formal conversion to Christianity Constantine had associated himself with purely Christian policy, and his finer portrait show the upward-tilted head of the man with his mind on the heavens, or the facing head, dazzling within its halo, of the world’s half-Christian master.’ (Sutherland, p. 103). Irrespective of the pagan origins of the orant portrait it had, through its adoption by Constantine, come to express a wholly new significance. ‘The outward forms of expression remain very much as before … But the inner meaning has completely changed. The pagan Emperor was never clearly distinguished in nature from the deity whose vice-regent he was: hence the divine attributes and all his pomp and state. The maiestas of the Christian Emperor, the "vicarius Dei", is wholly derivative: between him and his God there is a fixed and impassable gulf, that between the creature and his Creator, which God-given Grace alone can bridge.’ (Toynbee, p. 149)
It is significant that the orant portrait was used not only on coins of Constantine himself, but also on coins struck during his reign in the names of is appointed successors (L’Orange 1947, p. 91). After his death in AD 337 however, Constantine’s sons made only very limited use of the highly distinctive portrait, perhaps regarding it as being a reflection of their father’s personal relationship with his God.
If the orant portrait did not long survive the death of Constantine, other stylistic elements of his coin portraits did. From this point onwards the imperial image reproduced on the coinage ceased to attempt accurately to reproduce the actual features of the living monarch. Instead the portraits became mere ciphers, representing a stylised rather than personal image of imperial majesty. All of these images nevertheless borrowed heavily from Constantinian prototypes adopting, for example, the eastern diadem and clean-shaven features of the first Christian emperor. Indeed, the clean shaven portrait came so closely to be associated with the new faith that when the pagan emperor Julian the Apostate (AD 360-63) briefly gained the throne, he swiftly adopted a bearded portrait in order to disassociate himself from his Christian predecessors. With Julian’s death, shaven portraits once again became the norm, remaining so until long after the fall of Rome.
Alfoldi (p. 27), in arguing that Constantine’s religious policy was not based on ‘conscious ambiguity’, states that the appearance of the Chi-Rho on Constantine’s helmet ‘on issues of coins from all quarters, soon after the defeat of Maxentius, loudly and unmistakably claimed where Constantine stood.’ He further asserts that, ‘We can prove beyond a doubt, by the evidence of coin types appearing soon after, that Constantine caused the monogram of Christ to be inscribed on his helmet before the decisive battle with Maxentius’. (Alfoldi, p. 17)
Alfoldi (pp. 39-40) further states, in defence of the significance of the Chi-Rho that, ‘Eusebius knows that Constantine not only bore the Christian symbol on his helmet in the fight against Maxentius, but continued to wear it in his golden, bejewelled helmet of state. When … the representation of this helmet, that was new in its pattern, soon appears on the coins, we cannot possibly regard it as a mere sign of zeal on the part of Christian subordinates. The tiniest detail of the imperial dress was the subject of a symbolism that defined rank, that was hallowed by tradition and regulated by precise rules. Anyone who irresponsibly tampered with it would have incurred the severest penalties. Especially would this have been the case if anyone, without imperial authority, had provided the head-gear of the Emperor with a sign of such serious political importance as that attached to the monogram of Christ’.
A very similar position has been adopted by Voght (p. 90), who explains that, ‘we have other witnesses to the piety of the new ruler of Rome and from these we learn that Constantine gave public expression to his gratitude to his divine patron. The magnificent silver medallion, whose obverse and reverse depict the conquest and liberation of the city, was probably struck at the mint of Ticinum (near modern Milan) as early as 313: and on the obverse the monogram appears, on the crested plume of Constantine’s helmet. In a prestige issue of this type, the incorporation of the Christ-monogram into the portrait of the emperor could only have been done on the highest authority.’
Burnett (p. 146) similarly draws attention to the same silver medallion (actually struck at Rome or Aquileia in AD 315) and a series of small bronze coins struck at Siscia in c. AD 320. On all of these, the emperor is clearly portrayed with the Chi-Rho symbol prominently displayed on his helmet. ‘It is indeed hard to disassociate them from Eusebius’s explicit statement that Constantine placed the Chi-Rho on his helmet, but the very occasional nature of its appearance on coins should make us cautious about making too much of this. On coins issued in about 322 at Trier, for instance, the chi-rho appears as the decoration on the shield held by Constantine’s son Crispus; but it happened on only one die and must represent the personal choice of a die engraver, as the other shields for the same group of coins have different sorts of decoration on the shields.’
Even Bruun (p. 63), who is dismissive of the appearance of the Christogram on some Victoriae laetae princ perp coins of Siscia (describing them as ‘engraver’s slips’), accepts the symbolic significance of the use of the same symbol on the silver medallions of AD 315, writing that, ‘The silver multiples with their facing portraits represent an altogether different case. The Chi-Rho is here set in a badge just below the root of the crest. The official character of the badge has recently been demonstrated in a convincing manner. No doubt, therefore, persists about the meaning of the new emblem: the emperor has adopted his own victorious sign as a symbol of power.’
The mint of Constantinople was in operation by AD 327, some three years before the formal dedication of the city. A series of bronze coins of that year celebrate the defeat of Licinius. The reverse of this issue bears the legend Spes Publica, and portrays a serpent being pierced by a Chi-Rho topped labarum.
For Alfoldi (p. 39), ‘The spectacle of the Christian monogram on works of art and coin-types, the blaze of the initials of Christ on the labarum, the new imperial banner, were all propaganda in the modern sense’. Even Bruun (p. 64), whilst generally dismissive of the existence of Christian symbols on the coinage of Constantine, is forced to concede that ‘The problem of the labarum piercing the dragon on the Constantinopolitan Spes publica bronzes remains.’
Whilst rarely used during Constantine’s reign, the Christian labarum becomes a frequent and recurrent feature of the coinage following his death, normally being closely associated with a representation of a victorious emperor. One particular issue, struck at Siscia in AD 350, makes specific reference to Constantine’s vision, bearing the labarum accompanied by the legend Hoc Signo Victor Eris - ‘In this sign shalt thou conquer’.
(Fig. 6) Constantius II; bronze coin of Siscia; AD 350
During the Roman period coins were struck at a large number of mints situated throughout the empire. As a quality-control mechanism, the coins struck by each of these mints were required to bear distinctive mintmarks, identifying their place of manufacture. The decision to use the Chi-Rho or other apparently Christian symbols as mintmarks on some of Constantine’s coins is dismissed by Bruun (p. 62) as being the responsibility of procurators or, in one case, the rationalis summarum. Approval to use these symbols was given ‘very far from the emperor and court and comes sacrarum largitionum.’
Burnett (pp. 145-46) likewise acknowledges that the Chi-Rho appears on a number of issues of coins ‘as one of the stock symbols used for mint-marks’, but - like Bruun - argues that its use is more likely to reflect the rise of Christian administrators to positions of authority in Constantine’s regime rather than an official policy decision. Even if not centrally authorised, the first use of Christian mintmarks can accordingly be seen to be of the greatest significance, illustrating as it does the shift in the status of Christians within the machinery of the Roman state. Not surprisingly, in the years that followed, the choice of both the Chi-Rho and the plain Cross came increasingly to form a key element of the privy marks adopted by the empire’s numerous mints.
On 17 May AD 330 Constantine dedicated his new eastern capital of Constantinople. Alfoldi (p. 110) draws attention to ‘the small bronze coins and medallions, issued in mass, on which the sceptre of the "Tyche", the goddess who personifies the city, is shown the globe of Christ - which means to say that the new capital is the ideal centre of the Christian world-empire.’ As Alfoldi (p. 116) explains, ‘On the shoulder of the personification of the New Rome is shown the globe of the world, set on the cross of Christ, symbolising the new capital of Christendom.’
Bruun (p. 63) is dismissive of Alfoldi’s interpretation of the supposed ‘cross-sceptre’ carried by the personification of Constantinopolis. On the basis of an examination of related issues, he argues convincingly that the ‘globe’ is no more than the globular end of a reversed spear, and that the cross-bar seen on many coins is in fact merely a two-dimensional representation of what was, in reality, a three-dimensional disc. Bruun accordingly contends that these issues convey no intended Christian significance.
(Fig. 7) Valentinian III; gold solidus; AD 455
Nevertheless, the supposed cross-sceptre was subsequently perceived by many to have possessed a Christian significance and, its original neutral status notwithstanding, it came to serve as a symbol of the Church in its own right. On the coinage, this survival is well demonstrated by an issue of large bronzes struck in the name of Valentinian II at Rome in AD 378-83. On these rare coins the emperor is portrayed bearing a cross sceptre tipped with a globular Chi-Rho, whilst on other later issues, the cross-sceptre is shown in a greatly simplified form.
After his death in AD 337, Constantine was deified by the Senate, his sons issuing commemorative coins in his name in the traditional style. Eusebius (4.37) records that, "A coin … (had) on one side a figure of our blessed prince, with head closely veiled; the reverse showed him sitting as a charioteer drawn by four horses, with a hand stretched downward from above to receive him up to heaven".
(Fig. 8) Constantine the Great; posthumous bronze coin; AD 337-40
Burnett (p. 146) observes that the iconography of his metamorphosis, as represented on the coins struck to commemorate it, was Christianised: ‘Previous emperors had ridden up to heaven in a chariot; Constantine was received by the manus dei. The "hand of God" was, with the Chi-Rho monogram, one of the most important Christian symbols to appear on the coinage of the late empire.’ By way of illustration, a very similar image to that appearing on the coins of the deified Constantine may be observed on one of the panels of the early 5th century door of the Church of S. Sabina in Rome. There the Ascension of Elijah is portrayed, the prophet being conveyed heavenwards in a chariot with the divine assistance of an angel. The manus dei also appears on many coins, frequently crowning the emperor or his consort with a diadem or laurel wreath.
(Fig. 9) Galla Palacidia; gold solidus; AD 426-30
Whilst there can be little dispute that the Coinage of Constantine the Great did indeed express his religious convictions, it is equally true that it was not exceptionally rich in Christian symbolism. As Bruun (p. 64) reminds us however, ‘There was no independently Christian artistic tradition. The Christian ideas now about to conquer the State had to employ old means to express new conceptions.’
(Fig. 10) Honorius; gold solidus; AD 422
Constantine was nevertheless recognised by his contemporaries and near-contemporaries as the first Christian emperor, and through the writings of Eusebius, certain elements of his coinage came inextricably to be associated with the triumphant faith. As Bruun correctly records, ‘The victor is the official interpreter of history, and Christianity was the true victor of the Milvian Bridge and Chrysopolis. Thus Constantine’s victorious sign, his helmet, his seeming cross-sceptre and the aura around his head were adopted by posterity as Christian symbols, Christian signs of power.’ The Cross truly had triumphed.
(Fig. 11) Valentinian III; gold tremissis; AD 425-55
Alfoldi, A. (1948) The Conversion of Constantine and Pagan Rome, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bowder, D. (ed.) (1980) Who Was Who in the Roman World, Oxford: Phaidon.
Bruun, P. (1966) The Roman Imperial Coinage Vol. VII: Constantine and Licinius AD 313-337, London: Spink
Burnett, A. (1987) Coinage in the Roman World, London: Seaby.
Carson, R.A.G. (1981) Principal Coins of the Romans Vol. III: The Dominate, AD 294-498, London: British Museum Press.
L’Orange, H.P. (1947) Apotheosis in Ancient Portraiture, Oslo: Aschehoug.
L’Orange, H.P. (1965) Art Forms and Public Life in the late Roman Empire, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Parker, H.M.D. & Warmington, B.H. (1958) A History of the Roman World AD 138 to 337 (2nd ed.), London: Methuen.
Runciman, S. (1975) Byzantium: Style and Civilisation, London: Penguin.
Sutherland, C.H.V. (1955) Art in Coinage: The Aesthetics of Money from Greece to the Present Day, London: Batsford.
Toynbee, J.M.C. (1947) ‘Ruler Apotheosis in Ancient Rome’, Numismatic Chronicle.
Vermeule, C. (1978) ‘The Imperial Shield as a Mirror of Roman Art on Medallions and Coins’ in Carson, C. & Kraay, C.M. (eds.) Scripta Nummaria Romana: Essays Presented to Humphrey Sutherland, London: Spink.
Voght, J. (1965) The Decline of Rome: The Metamorphosis of Ancient Civilisation, London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson.
Christian Symbolism on the Coinage of Constantine the Great
By Duncan McKenzie, Ph.D. (Duncan@peoplepc.com)
Anybody who has been around preterism for any length of time may be thinking “Oh great just what we need another brand of preterism!” In this article I will not be offering another brand or form of preterism but highlighting an existing form that isn’t discussed much. The form of preterism I will be discussing is James Stuart Russell’s premillennial preterism. Simply stated Russell’s position was that the one and only Second Coming (the Parousia) happened in AD 70. Russell saw the Second Coming as beginning the millennium in AD 70 (not ending it at that time as full preterists teach); this made him a premillennialist.
Russell’s position on the book of Revelation was that all of it was fulfilled around AD 70 except for Revelation 20:5-10. Russell saw Revelation 20:5-10 as forming a parenthesis of future things. Below is Revelation 20:4-11, I have highlighted Russell’s proposed parenthesis of verses 5-10.