73

Why? Because there was no point. First, according to more modern astronomical measurements, the current length of the year is closer to about 365.2422 days, so they would've been relatively less accurate had they used a more precise value of 365.2425463 days per year. Which leads to a very important point about math: you need to be very mindful about how ...


69

The First Council of Nicaea was held in 325, five years before Constantinople would be founded. At the time, the capital of the Eastern Empire was Nicomedia, which Constantine conquered in 324. The Emperor resided there until he refounded Byzantium as his namesake. Nicaea was a nearby resort town, and hosted an imperial palace - a suitable convention venue. ...


51

This is incredibly complicated and almost always misleading. For example, in many countries the Catholic Church is called strictly the Roman-Catholic church. The higher up members of that community that acknowledges the papal supremacy call their own organisation most often just "the church". In that they are sharing this endonym with most other ...


47

In principle, they were not supposed to leave their order because they took a vow for life. In practice, some did leave, and some were subsequently readmitted. However, the time period covered here is very long, and different orders - and individuals within orders - were probably sometimes more, sometimes less inclined to allow people to leave. Consequently, ...


37

Thomas Pornin's answer is very good answer to the question of "Can we know anything about Jesus?" But since your question was technically "What do we know about Jesus?", I thought I'd add a few facts about Jesus that the majority of secular and religious historians alike agree upon. Jesus existed Virtually no serious historian believes that Jesus never ...


34

Religion is a great cultural differentiator. People have been killing each other for many millenia, with a preference for targeting other people who belong to a distinct "culture", a rather loose term. From the outside, the god(s) people worship are quite easy to work out; if they are not the same as yours, then these people are "foreigners". Historically, ...


31

Going beyond E.B. or Wikipedia: The official website of the Hagia Sophia Museum (at its former domain, link now dead) stated The first church [at the H.S. site] was constructed by Emperor Konstantios [i.e. Constantine's son] (337-361) in 360. The first church was covered with a wooden roof and expanded vertically (basilica) yet was burned down after the ...


30

First of all, @LangLangC's answer is excellent. I intend only to expand on it. The unified Eastern (Greek-speaking) and Western (Latin-speak) churches called themselves "orthodox" as opposed to the many heresies (like Arianism). They also called themselves "catholic" -- universal. They were united in religion, but administratively united only in theory, as ...


26

Historians quite widely agree that there very probably was a historical person called Jesus. They do agree that this person provided the blueprint or projection space for the belief that centered on and around him. A belief that was a Jewish sect during his lifetime and later slowly forming into what we know today as Christianity. I wrote "widely" as there ...


25

This question suffers under a couple of misapprehensions I think. The first one is that there's a single unitary "The Bible" out there somewhere. What we have is translations drawn from copies of older sources. These older source copies themselves, being hand copies, all have differences with each other. Which ones are "right"? Take your ...


24

It seems that the term "penal colony" would be evoking quite modern, if not 'Australian', imagery. When we look at Roman sources, not that much springs to mind. True: They frequently sent people into exile, often to islands. That sounds more like Napoleon on Elba or St. Helena, compared to what a "penal colony" would describe now. And ...


23

The short answer is that Constantine didn't create the Chi-Rho Christogram. There is evidence that it was already being used before Constantine, but he certainly raised the symbol's prominence after the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312AD. Most of the early Christian texts were written in Greek, and Greek actually continued as the language of the eastern ...


22

There is no credible evidence that the apostle James ever visited Ireland. According to Acts 12:1-22, James was beheaded in Jerusalem by Herod Agrippa, with no indication that he had traveled. Acts does include passages about other apostles' travels--most notably Paul, but also Philip in Samaria and Peter in Caesarea. The fourth century church historian ...


20

Celibacy was part of the Church's identity, as well as a strategy for keeping wealth within the Church. The American historian and Vanderbilt Professor Katherine Crawford writes that: Celibacy set the clergy apart, and instantiated patristic suspicions about sexuality as weakness and distraction from God within the moral architecture of the Church. The ...


19

The Gregorian Calendar was introduced (to the Catholic World) in 1582, the result of preparation over the preceding five or so years. However the popularization of decimal fractions would wait another three years until the publication of La Thiende [The Tenth] in 1585 by the Flemish mathematician Simon Stevin. Though not the inventor of a decimal ...


18

Gospels are a source, like any other. If we were to exclude sources simply because they were written down four decades after the facts, then most of History would disappear. For instance, most of what we know on Genghis Kahn is from The Secret History of the Mongols, a document which was written several decades after his death. Fact is that known sources on ...


17

A major underlying factor to keep in mind is that Christianity is monotheistic. Christianity flatly admits no god besides its own; Pagans were accustomed to a great multitude of (often local) deities coexisting. Christians were thus commanded to shun pagan deities as false; pagans had no ideological compunction to not be at least keep their minds open to the ...


16

Translation of Qu'ran was always problematic question in Islamic theology. In Islamic world there is doctrine called I'jaz that holds that Qu'ran is miraculous, both in content and in form and that no human speech can match. According to I'jaz Muslims oppose to text from Qu'ran be reproduced in another language or speech. Also there are some words which have ...


16

Greco-Roman polytheism in Rome survived the 455 CE sacking but it is unclear at what point traditional roman paganism transformed into hybrid Christian heresies versus any retention of religious purity. Secret cults by virtue of being secret are both hard to track and likely to mutate in isolation over time. In so far as Roman beliefs fed back into the ...


16

The best and most accessible recent historical account I know of for the historical Pilate is Reza Aslan's Zealot*. Here's a portion of what he wrote near the beginning of Chapter 5 of Pilate's story after the Crucifixion of Jesus: Three years after that, in 36 C.E., a messiah known only as "the Samaritan" gathered a group of followers atop Mount ...


16

No, nobody did. Despite the fact that literacy was relatively high amongst the Jews at that time. And we have several historians living there or in the area in those days. Jesus was mentioned outside the gospels a few times, but those lines are generally seen as either pious forgeries or out of context. Josephus mentions Jesus, but it doesn't fit in the text ...


15

The Jewish calendar is in year 5774 (between September of 2013 and October of 2014, it's a leap year), so the "Jewish civilization" is not in 2014. The state of Israel, which is really the only official body to recognize the Jewish calendar, determines all of its holidays and memorial days on the basis of the Jewsih calendar. However, all of the civil dates ...


15

The top picture is quite obviously a coin with a crude depiction of a seventh century "byzantine" emperor holding a globe with a cross on top. The early Muslim coins issued in former Roman territories were obviously based on Roman coins which the subject people were more familiar with, or else made with reused and modified Roman coin dies. In 636 the ...


15

There wasn't anything for it to spread south to. OK, there is one exception that Mr. de Bernardy pointed out in the comments. Somalia is south of Ethiopia (when it wasn't part of its empire), and there were conversions there. Many people living there were Jewish and Christian, and some of the Jewish converts may have reached as far south as modern Tanzania. ...


15

Well, if we can change venue to Alexandria, which was a Roman city in Egypt with roughly similar standing to Antioch (they both housed a Christian Patriarch), and roll the date forward by only 5 years, then the fate of Hypatia might be a pretty good guide. The short version is that she was a pagan philosopher, who was well-liked in the pagan community, and ...


14

The square and spear are emblems of St. Thomas, the Apostle, aka Doubting Thomas. He was well known as a builder in his lifetime, though I have my doubts that he participated in all the constructions listed on the site linked to above. This explains the builder's square in the emblem. St. Thomas was stabbed to death by the spear represented in the emblem, ...


14

The subdivisions of heaven and the theme of a vision of an ascent to heaven originate from Jewish mysticism. Different parts of the Talmud come from different times, but this idea is very old. During the 5th century BCE, when the works of the Tanakh were edited and canonised and the secret knowledge encrypted within the various writings and scrolls ("...


14

The Wikipedia article on Egyptian Temples has a rough estimate as to when the last temple of the Old Egyptian Religion, The Temple of Isis at Philae, was closed - as early as 456 if one goes by inscriptions found at the site, or as late as 535, if one believes Procopious. They source the claim from the 2011 edition of The Archaeology of Late Antique Paganism,...


14

He was himself an escaped slave, so at the very least we know he was in favor of abolition of slavery in that one case. We actually only have two writings from St. Patrick himself. Most of our material about him comes from other sources. So limiting yourself to just those two writings, while indeed much more historically sound, is a rather drastic ...


14

"Decide to leave" was always an option to consider. And one could do that, of course. Just do that. But it seems the question is more about the obstacles and costs that may be associated with that? As, obviously, also when in prison anyone might decide to leave. Can't she? It is an incredibly large timeframe to analyze and no clear geographical ...


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