The Little Horn of Daniel 7 grows into the Beast of Revelation.

PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE

Antichristus, a woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder of the pope using the temporal power to grant authority to a generously contributing ruler

The 11th horn of Daniel 7 comes out of the Roman Empire. It was “little” when it came up (Dan 7:8) but it grew and became “larger in appearance than its associates” (Dan 7:20). That means that it will dominate the other horns that came up from the Roman Empire. Daniel 8 also indicates that the little horn started “small” but “grew exceedingly great” (Dan 8:9). That little horn becomes the Antichrist (Dan 7:25). It will become so important that a court will sit in heaven to judge between it and God’s people (Dan 7:22, 26). This horn is the Beast of the Book of Revelation:

The whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; …  they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’” (Rev 13:3-4)

To identify the Beast of Revelation, we must identify the little horn of Daniel 7. The current article is one of a series on the history of the Church. Another article identifies the 11th little horn as the formal Christian Church as it existed during the Middle Ages. The specific purpose of the current article is to explain how and when the Church became “larger in appearance” than the other 10 horns. Other articles address the other identifying marks of this little horn, as found in Daniel 7. 

SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE

OVERVIEW

There always was a power struggle between the Church and the kings over ultimate authority, for the Church and the State demand the loyalty of the same people.

After Christianity was legalized in 313, the Roman emperors believed that they had the right and duty of regulating by law the worship and doctrines of the Church. After the Islamic conquests weakened the remainder of the Roman Empire, the Church was subordinate to the rulers of the Carolingian Franks (in the 9th century) and the Ottonian dynasty (in the 10th century).  

In the eleventh century, for the first time in its existence, the church was able to resist the dominance of the kings. In this and subsequent centuries, known as the High Middle Ages, the popes not only claimed independence from the state but also authority over the state. During these centuries, the Church rose to become the dominant power in the West. This was when the church became “larger in appearance than its associates.”

HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE

During the period known as the Byzantine Papacy, the Papacy was subject to the demands of the Eastern Roman Emperor. In the 8th century, due to Muslim conquests, much of the Christian world suddenly was under Muslim rule. Consequently, Byzantine authority all but vanished in Italy, making an end to the Byzantine Papacy. 

This drove the Papacy to find a new protector.  After a period of volatility, the popes linked their fate to the Carolingian dynasty.  This was a large Frankish-dominated empire in western and central Europe during the Early Middle Ages (800–888), also called the Holy Roman Empire. This was the first time, after the fall of Rome, that most of western Europe were ruled by a single monarch. The Carolingians followed in the footsteps of their Roman predecessors by asserting “immense authority over the Western church” (Britannica).

In the 10th century, the Ottonian dynasty in Germany established a new imperial line and became the preeminent power in Latin Europe. The Ottos, similar to the previous empires, appointed bishops on royal nomination and forbidden appeals to Rome. (Britannica)

WHAT ALLOWED THE CHURCH TO BECOME ‘LARGER’

After the fall of Rome, the church in Rome actually grew stronger:

    • While there was no single government that united all people, the Church had a strong, centralized organization.
    • Secular governments came and went through chaos and warfare, but the Papacy remained. 
    • The Church gave people a sense of communal identity. 

Other factors that, in later years, allowed the Church to become “larger” than the kings of Europe include the following:

Ordinary people had to ‘tithe’ 10 percent of their earnings to the Church. This allowed the Church to amass great wealth.

The Church taught that escape from eternal hell was only possible through the sacraments of the church.  If a king disobeyed the pope, the pope could refuse to perform certain sacraments in the king’s lands, scaring the king’s subject and causing civil unrest.

Christian monasteries became storehouses of knowledge, education, crafts, artistic skills, and agriculture. 

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Catholic Church authorized military expeditions called Crusades to expel Muslim “infidels” from the Holy Land and to return it to Christian control. The crusades greatly enhanced papal prestige.  They gave the people a common purpose, and they inspired waves of religious enthusiasm among people.

THE CHURCH’S STRUGGLE FOR POWER 

The Cluniac reform, which began in the year 910, placed monasteries under the direct control of the pope rather than under the secular control of feudal lords.

The College of Cardinals, organized in 1059, vested with the right to name new popes in this institute and restricted interference from political rulers. 

The Church attempted to control most marriages among the great by prohibited marriages involving blood kin and kin by marriage to the seventh degree of relationship. Under these rules, almost all great marriages required a dispensation.

The European monarchs traditionally controlled appointments to the higher church offices within their lands. These are called lay investitures. Beginning in the mid-11th century, the popes challenged this authority. This is known as the Investiture Controversy. Church and State reached a compromise in 1122 in the Concordat of Worms.

AUTHORITY OVER THE STATE

The Church was not satisfied to have authority over itself.  It reasoned that the pope has full power over the whole church and that that makes it the ultimate ruler of the kingdoms within Christendom. From a catholic perspective, emperors and kings, to reign lawfully, had to be in communion with the Pope. Otherwise, the Pope could declare the ruler unfit to reign. 

One famous incident during the Investiture Controversy illustrates how powerful the pope has become. Henry IV, the mightiest king in Europe at the time, had to wait for three days, stripped of his royal robes and clad as a penitent, barefoot in ice and snow, before pope Gregory was willing to withdraw his ex-communication of the king.

WEAR DOWN THE SAINTS OF THE HIGHEST ONE (Den. 7:25)

The authority of the Pope also resulted in the massacre of Christians:

Innocent III (1198–1216) called the Albigensian Crusade, which resulted in the massacre of Christians.

The Inquisition is infamous for the severity of its tortures. The Spanish Inquisition alone resulting in some 32,000 executions. (History.com)

– END OF SUMMARY – 

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

There always was a power struggle between the Church and the kings of the world over ultimate authority (Springfield Public School), for the Church and the State demand the loyalty of the same people.

In ancient times, in most civilizations, there was no distinction between religion and state. People worshiped the gods of the particular state in which they lived. (Britannica

After Christianity was legalized in 313, the Roman emperors dominated the Church: Emperor Constantine controlled the Council of Nicaea, emperors Constantius and Valens exiled Nicene bishops to the other ends of the empire and emperor Theodosius unilaterally declared Arianism illegal.  The emperors believed that they had the right and duty to regulate the worship and doctrines of the Church.

After emperor Justinian destroyed the major Arian nations in the sixth century, the Church was subject to the Eastern (Byzantine) Roman emperors for two centuries. After the Islamic conquests weakened the Byzantine Empire. the Church sought the protection of the Carolingian Franks, but the Franks also dominated the church in the 9th century. After the Frankish empire was weakened, the Ottonian dynasty dominated the Church in the 10th century.  

During the eleventh century, for the first time in its existence, the church was able to resist the dominance of the temporal rulers over it. As is discussed below, the popes not only sought independence from the state but eventually claimed authority over the state.

HIGH MIDDLE AGES

The term “Middle Ages” describes Europe between the fall of Rome in the 5th century and the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries.  The High Middle Ages was the period of European history that commenced around 1000 and continued for some centuries. During these centuries, the Church rose to become the dominant power in the West (Wikipedia). This was when the church became “larger in appearance than its associates.”

The remainder of the article discusses the developments more or less in chronological sequence, beginning where the previous article ended, namely the Byzantine Papacy.

ISLAM WEAKENED THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE.

The Early Muslim conquests of the 7th century began to expand the sway of Islam beyond Arabia. Their first clash with the Roman Empire was in 634. This was followed by decades of war between Islam and the Roman Empire.

In the 8th century, the Byzantine Empire lost its richest provinces—Egypt and Syria—to the Arab caliphate.  Suddenly, much of the Christian world was under Muslim rule. Over the subsequent centuries, the Muslim states became some of the most powerful states in the Mediterranean world. 

CONSEQUENCES

Byzantine authority all but vanished in Italy.  Pope Zachary, in 741, was the last pope to seek the emperor’s approval for his election. By 751, Rome ceased to be part of the Byzantine Empire.  This was the end of the Byzantine Papacy

Muslim conquests of the territories of the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem left in effect only two patriarchates, namely those of Rome and Constantinople.

With the dominance of Islam in the east, the power base of the Catholic Church shifted from Constantinople to Rome.  The Bishop of Rome became the Pope and the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. 

Though the Roman church claimed religious authority over Christians everywhere, it was unable to stamp out ‘heresy’ among the vast numbers of Christians in Muslim lands for the new Muslim rulers tolerated all Christian sects. 

Additionally, subjects of the Muslim Empire could become Muslims simply by declaring a belief in a single deity and reverence for Muhammad. As a result, the peoples of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria largely accepted their new rulers and many declared themselves Muslims within a few generations.

COMMENT

In the sixth century, Justinian was willing to negotiate a truce with the nations that later became Muslim but viciously attacked his fellow (Arian) Christian nations is the west.  If he did not do that, the Muslims probably would not have been able to defeat the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire.

CAROLINGIAN DYNASTY

After the demise of effective Byzantine protection of Italy in the 8th century, the Lombards again emerged as a threat to the Papacy.  This drove the Papacy to find a new protector.  For this purpose, it appealed to other Germanic rulers for protection.

After a period of volatility, the popes gained a powerful protector by linking the fate of the Papacy to the Carolingian dynasty.  This was a large Frankish-dominated empire in western and central Europe during the Early Middle Ages (800–888 – Wikipedia).  

The Frankish-papal alliance was reinforced when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as Patricius Romanorum (Holy Roman Emperor) on Christmas Day, 800. This laid the foundation for the Holy Roman Empire, which was to last until 1806.

Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was King of the Franks from 768, then also King of the Lombards from 774, and then Holy Roman Emperor from 800. He was the first recognized emperor to rule western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. The expanded Frankish state that Charlemagne founded is called the Carolingian Empire (Wikipedia).

The popes gained security from the relationship with the Carolingian dynasty, but the Carolingians followed in the footsteps of their Byzantine and Roman predecessors by asserting “immense authority over the Western church” (Britannica). The Carolingians blended the authority of the church and the state: Charlemagne used both secular and religious people as his representatives and claimed to govern both. On the other hand, the pope exercised influence in Carolingian affairs by maintaining the right to crown emperors and by sometimes directly intervening in political disputes. Church and state were re-united:

The great harlot … with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality” (Rev. 17:1-2).

OTTONIAN (GERMAN) DYNASTY

As Carolingian power waned in the late 9th and the 10th century, the papacy once again found itself threatened by powerful local nobles, seeking to control it.

In the 10th century, the Ottonian dynasty in Germany established a new imperial line and became the preeminent power in Latin Europe.

Otto I was German king (from 936) and Holy Roman Emperor (962–973).  By suppressing rebellious vassals and his decisive victory over the Hungarians, he consolidated the German Reich and revived Charlemagne’s empire in 962. He used the church as a stabilizing influence to ensure a secure empire.  For this reason, he required papal stability and deposed Pope John XII (955–964) for immorality.

The Ottos, accustomed to the tradition in which great landowners built and owned the churches on their estates as private property, treated Rome and all important sees in this spirit. Bishops were appointed on royal nomination and forbidden appeals to Rome. (Britannica)

WHAT ALLOWED THE LITTLE HORN TO BECOME ‘LARGER’

The article on the Fifth Century provides some reasons why the Roman Church, after the Western Roman Empire fell, actually grew stronger, such as:

      • While there was no single government that united all people, the Church had a strong, centralized organization.
      • Secular governments came and went through chaos and warfare, but the Papacy remained. 
      • The Church gave people a sense of communal identity. 

Other factors that, in later years, allowed the Church to become “larger” than the kings of Europe include the following:

TITHING

Ordinary people across Europe had to ‘tithe’ 10 percent of their earnings each year to the Church. This allowed the Church to amass a great deal of money and power.

One indication of the high status of the Church during the Middle Ages is that cathedrals were the largest buildings in medieval Europe.  They could be found at the center of towns and cities across the continent.

SALVATION IS THROUGH THE CHURCH.

In the Middle Ages, people did not have access to information. Consequently, the Church was able to teach that salvation—escape from eternal hell—was only available through the Church, namely through the sacraments and ceremonies which priests and other clergy administered.  The church used this monopoly on salvation to wield power over political rulers:

Popes excommunicated disobedient kings. This meant the king is denied salvation and his vassals are freed from their duties to him.

If an excommunicated king continued to disobey the pope, the popes used an even more frightening weapon; the interdict.  Under an interdict, many sacraments and religious services could not be performed in the king’s lands. As Christians, the king’s subjects believed that, without such sacraments, they are doomed to hell.

MONASTERIES

Christian monasticism is the practice of individuals who live ascetic and typically secluded lives that are dedicated to Christian worship. This became popular in the Middle Ages.  The monastic communities became storehouses of knowledge.  In addition to being centers for spiritual life, they preserved crafts and artistic skills and were centers for agriculture and production. 

Before the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, books were works of art. Craftsmen in monasteries created handmade books with colored illustrations, gold and silver lettering, and other adornments.

Convents were one of the few places where women could receive an education.  Nuns wrote, translated, and illuminated manuscripts as well.

The monasteries elevated the authority of the Roman Catholic (McFarland). Many times, monasteries were the only reason the Bible and records of history survived at all (Bainton, 1964, 129). 

CRUSADES

Toward the end of the 11th century, the Catholic Church began to authorize military expeditions, or Crusades, to expel Muslim “infidels” from the Holy Land and to return it to Christian control. In 1095, Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade when he received an appeal from Byzantine emperor Alexius I to help ward off a Turkish invasion.

Crusaders, who wore red crosses on their coats to advertise their status, believed that their service would guarantee the remission of their sins and ensure them eternal life. They also received worldly rewards, such as papal protection of their property and forgiveness of some kinds of debts.

The crusades were unsuccessful, and brutality committed by the armies of both sides left a legacy of mutual distrust between Muslims and Christians.

The Crusades were a sign of the increased authority of the popes over the political rulers, for the pope called for the crusades. The kings, by (1088–99) participating in the crusades, in a sense, submitted themselves to the authority of the pope. 

The crusades also greatly enhanced papal prestige in the 12th and 13th centuries.  They gave Catholics a common purpose, and they inspired waves of religious enthusiasm among people.

THE POWER STRUGGLE 

EARLY RESISTANCE

The Cluniac reform of monasteries already began in the year 910. This placed abbots under the direct control of the pope rather than under the secular control of feudal lords.

The popes, during this time of increasing dominance, also sought to establish the primacy of Rome over the church worldwide. This worsened tensions between Rome and Constantinople and eventually brought about the Schism of 1054 between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

One important measure—initiated in 1059—was the organization of the College of Cardinals in which was vested with the right to name new popes. This served to restrict interference from political rulers. 

The Church also attempted to control most marriages among the great. In 1059, the Church prohibited marriages involving consanguinity (blood kin) and affinity (kin by marriage) to the seventh degree of relationship. Under these rules, almost all great marriages required a dispensation.

INVESTITURE CONTROVERSY

Beginning in the mid-11th century the popes challenged the traditional authority of the European monarchs to control appointments to the higher church offices within their territories. This is known as the Investiture Controversy. Investiture means “the action of formally investing a person with honors or rank.”

POPE GREGORY VII AND KING HENRY IV

One famous incident illustrates how powerful the pope has become:

In 1075, Pope Gregory VII, with the Dictatus Papae (1075), claimed the pope as the highest authority in the church and banned lay investiture. 

In response, the German emperor—King Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire, ordered Gregory to step down from the papacy. Gregory then excommunicated the king. Afterward, German bishops and princes sided with the pope. To save his throne, the king tried to win the pope’s forgiveness:

Stripped of his royal robes, and clad as a penitent, Henry had to come barefooted in ice and snow, and request for admission to the presence of the pope. All day he remained at the door of the citadel, fasting and exposed to the wintry weather, but was refused admission. A second and third day he thus humiliated and disciplined himself, and finally, on 28 January, l077, he was received by the pontiff and absolved from censure. (Cath. Ency. VI, 794)

Henry was the mightiest king in Europe at the time. Imagine the head of the mightiest nation today having to ask the pope for forgiveness in this way.  This shows how powerful and arrogant the Church has become.

CONCORDAT OF WORMS

Gregory died in exile, but his ideals eventually prevailed, for royal intervention in church affairs was seriously curtailed. The successors of Gregory and Henry continued to fight over lay investiture until 1122. In that year, representatives of the Church and the emperor met in the German city of Worms. They reached a compromise known as the Concordat of Worms. By its terms, the Emperor renounced the right to invest ecclesiastics with ring and crosier, the symbols of their spiritual power, and agreed that the Church would appoint their own officials, but that the emperor could veto the appointment of the bishops. This was a victory for the pope, but the emperor did retain considerable power over the Church.

While on the surface it was over a matter of official procedures regarding the appointments of offices, underneath was a power struggle for control over who held ultimate authority, the King or the Pope.

AUTHORITY OVER THE STATE

The Church was not satisfied to have authority over itself.  It reasoned that the pope has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole church and that that makes it the ultimate ruler of the kingdoms within Christendom.  It believed that the Pope, as the Vicar of Christ on earth, should have authority over the state:

Emperors and kings had to … be in communion with the Pope, as essential conditions of their reigning lawfully; if these conditions were broken, of which the Pope was the judge, then … he could … declare their ruler unfit to reign. [Cath Dic, 257]

Pope Leo III’s crowning of Charlemagne as emperor in 800 was a first attempt to establish the tradition that Papal endorsement is required for the crowning of emperors. 

During the High Middle Ages, the Popes claimed the right to depose the kings of Western Europe. They were sometimes successful. For example, Sixtus V (Cath. Ency. I729) excommunicated Protestant Henry III of Navarre and sent an army to unseat him.  Sixtus promised the Spanish King a subsidy for the Armada, with which England was to be subjugated.  

In consequence to these developments, powerful popes, such as Alexander III (r. 1159–81), Innocent III (r. 1198–1216), Gregory IX (r. 1227–41), and Innocent IV (r. 1243–54) claimed authority over emperors and kings.

The Catholic Church therefore reformed from being subordinate to the secular power to be supreme over the secular rulers.  It developed political power, rivaling that of the secular rulers of Europe. For more detail, see:

Church and state in medieval Europe (Wikipedia)
The Power of the Church

12TH CENTURY

The 11th century was a period of change. In the 12th century, both the popes and kings adjusted to the new realities.

The papacy evolved into a great administrative bureaucracy. The papal court created legal machinery of great sophistication and became, in some ways, the highest court of appeals, exercising jurisdiction in a broad range of matters (Britannica).

13TH CENTURY

In the pontificate of Innocent III (1198–1216), the papal claims to authority reached their zenith. Innocent:

      • Declared that the pope stood between God and humankind as the vicar (stand in the place) of Christ.
      • Expanded papal legal authority by claiming jurisdiction over matters relating to sin.
      • Involved himself in the political affairs of France and the Holy Roman Empire.
      • Called the Fourth Crusade (1202–04), which led to the sack of Constantinople.
      • Also called the Albigensian Crusade, which was intended to end heresy in southern France and resulted in the massacre of Christians classified as heretics by the Papacy.
      • Approved legislation requiring Jews to wear special clothing.

Innocent’s successors continued his policies and further extended papal authority.

The popes carried out the Inquisition, which was a powerful office set up within the Catholic Church to root out and punish heresy. Beginning in the 12th century and continuing for hundreds of years, the Inquisition is infamous for the severity of its tortures. Its worst manifestation was in Spain, where the Spanish Inquisition was a dominant force for more than 200 years, resulting in some 32,000 executions. (History.com)

List of all articles on this website

Justinian and the Byzantine Papacy made an end to Arianism.

Purpose of this article

JUSTINIAN THE GREAT

This article series has a dual purpose:

Firstly, it discusses the Historical Development of the Trinity Doctrine. The purpose is to show that the decisions to adopt the Trinity doctrine were not taken by Church Councils, but by the Roman Emperors; particularly Constantine, Theodosius, and Justinian. 

The second purpose is to identify the eleventh horn of Daniel 7. After the fourth beast has already fragmented into many kingdoms, that eleventh horn grows out of that beast (Dan 7:7, 24). That horn becomes God’s all-time great adversary (Dan 7:25); only to be destroyed when Christ returns (Dan 7:9-14). A comparison of the beasts of Daniel 7 and 8 identified the fourth beast as the Roman Empire. Since the current article series also explains the history of the fall of the Roman Empire, it also identifies that 11th horn.

Previous Articles

In summary, the previous articles in this series cover the following ground:

First Three Centuries

The series starts with articles that show that Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and other church fathers of the first three centuries were not Trinitarians. They had a very high view of Christ, but always subordinate to the Father, who they identified as the only true and almighty ‘god’.

Fourth Century

The controversy over the nature of Christ arose early in the fourth century when a presbyter named Arius taught that, with respect to the Son, “there was when He was not.” But since he also believed that the Son existed before time began, the phrase “there was when He was not” does not refer to literal time but means that the Father was the Ultimate Source of all things. In other words, the Son received His existence from the Father and therefore was subordinate to Him

To bring an end to the controversy, Emperor Constantine exerted his influence on the Council of Nicaea of the year 225 and on the formulation of the Nicene Creed. That creed declared the Son to be “true God from true God.” To support this view, the Nicene Creed ventured that the Father and Son are of the “same substance” (homoousios).

However, over the next fifty years following Nicaea, more or less from 330 to 380, the church adopted Arianism and rejected the Nicene Creed. Constantine’s successors, Emperors Constantius and Valens were Arians and actively encouraged the church to reverse the Nicene Creed. They also exiled bishops adhering to the Nicene Creed and crushed the Nicene party.

But then Theodosius – an ardent supporter of the Nicene Creed – became emperor in 380. He immediately outlawed Arianism and exiled all Arian bishops. He did this even before the 381 Council and manipulated that council to accept the Nicene Creed.

Fifth Century

After Theodosius died, the Western Roman Empire weakened. Germanic tribes, who previously migrated into the Empire, reached such large numbers and high positions in the Roman army that they, in reality, controlled the Western Roman Empire. Over the course of the fifth century, they divided the territory of the Western Empire into Germanic kingdoms. Since these Germanic peoples were Arians, the Western Empire was Arian once again!

In the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire), with Constantinople as its capital, Nicene Christianity remained dominant.

Sixth Century – Byzantine Papacy

To free the Roman Church in the west from Unitarian (Arian) domination, Emperor Justinian, emperor of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire in the sixth century, sent troops to combat the Arian nations and significantly weakened Arianism. His troops dispersed the Vandals to the fringes of the empire, forced the Ostrogoths back north to South Austria, and barricaded the Visigoths with the new province of Spania.

Some Arian nations remained, but after liberating the Roman Church from Arian domination, the Byzantine Empire continued to protect, strengthen and rule over the Roman Church. Through two centuries of Byzantine rule over the Papacy (known as the Byzantine Papacy), the Byzantine Empire, through the Roman Church, converted the remaining Arian kingdoms, one after the other, to Nicene Christology.

Conclusion

Given the facts of this brief overview, it is not possible to deny the decisive influence which the emperors had on the church’s acceptance of the Trinity doctrine. As mentioned above, Constantine and Theodosius respectively manipulated the key creeds of 325 and 381, and Justinian, through the Byzantine Papacy, wiped Arianism out. These emperors did not develop this doctrine, but they did decide what the church should believe concerning the nature of Christ (Christology).

This means that the church received the Trinity theory from the Roman Empire. As stated in Revelation 13:2, the dragon (the Roman Empire), gave the beast from the sea (the Church of the Middle Ages) “his power and his throne and great authority.

Summary of this article

Fall of the Western Roman Empire

In the fifth century, the Germanic people, who have migrated into the Western Roman Empire over the previous century or more, became a dominant force within the Western Roman Empire due to their large numbers and military supremacy. They revolted against the severe conditions under which they were allowed to remain in the Empire, sacked Rome twice, and deposed the last Roman Emperor. Through wars, they divided up the territory of the Western Empire into Germanic kingdoms. However, these nations at least pretended to function as part of the Roman Empire—under the governance of the Emperor in Constantinople.

Although they were Arian Christians, they allowed the Roman peoples and the Roman Church to remain in their territories. This is one indication of the desire of these immigrants to remain part of the Roman Empire.

The Roman Church had to depend on the Arian nations for physical protection. But still, the Roman Church managed to grow in strength, partly due to its central and superior organization and administration and expertise in statecraft from years of being part of the Roman Government in the fourth century.

Unity of Church and State

Justinian I was the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire (also called the Byzantine Empire) from 527 to 565. 

It is important to understand that separation of Church and State did not exist at that time. In the view of the time, the Christian Roman Emperor was regarded as God’s agent on earth. The supreme bishops of the Empire – the spiritual heads of the Christian world – acted in harmony with him. Church and State, therefore, were one. Justinian believed that “he had the right and duty of regulating by his laws the minutest details of worship and discipline.”

His authority was not limited to the church in the east. In Justinian’s view, the Church included the Church in Rome and he, as emperor, had the right and duty to also protect and regulate the Church in Rome. 

The Imperial conviction always was that the unity of the Empire presupposes the unity of faith. Emperor Justinian protected the ‘purity’ of the faith by persecuting and killing ‘heretics’.

Delivered the Papacy from Arian domination.

After the Germanic peoples, in the fifth century, divided the territory of the Western Empire between them, the Church in Rome was subject to their laws and customs. The Roman Church was unable to dominate or to compel the population in Europe to comply with its doctrines.

As a keen supporter of the Nicene church in Rome, Justinian considered it his divine duty to restore the Roman Empire to its ancient boundaries and to liberate the church in Rome from Arian domination. He sent troops to combat the Arian nations in the west:

      • They dispersed the Vandals of North Africa to the fringes of the empire.
      • Following their final defeat at the Battle of Mons Lactarius in 553, the Ostrogoths went back north and (re)settled in South Austria.
      • Justinian’s troops recovered a small strip of land along the Mediterranean coast which formed a barrier between the Visigoths and Rome.

It is remarkable that Justinian attacked the Christian nations in the west, but was willing to negotiate a truce with the pagan nations to his east. As it turned out, in later years, these pagan nations later became Muslim countries and conquered most of the previous territory of the Eastern Empire.

Byzantine Papacy

Justinian’s wars conquered the Italian peninsula and delivered the church in Rome from Arian domination. This commenced the period of about two centuries which is known today as the Byzantine Papacy because the Byzantine monarch claimed for himself the right to approve the appointment of the bishop of Rome.

On the one hand, the Roman Church was now once again subject to the authority of the Roman (Byzantine) Emperor. On the other hand, the Nicene Church (the Byzantine Papacy), with the protection and status it received from the Byzantine Empire, became a powerful social and political institution in Europe. 

This relationship also allowed the Byzantine Empire, through the Byzantine Papacy, a certain level of control over the Germanic nations in the West. To some extent, the Roman Empire was reunited.

The Germanic tribes, consequently, during the Byzantine Papacy, abandoned Arianism in favor of Catholicism. By the 8th century, Arianism had ceased to be the mainstream belief of the Germanic people as the tribal rulers gradually came to adopt Nicene orthodoxy.

Conclusions

Firstly, this article shows how the Trinity Doctrine was advanced by the military might of the Roman Empire. If Justinian, followed by the Byzantine Papacy, did not wipe out Arianism in the territory of the Western Empire, Arianism might still have dominated the church today. It is not possible to deny the decisive influence which emperors such as Constantine, Constantius, Valens, Theodosius, and Justinian had on the church’s acceptance of the Trinity doctrine.

Secondly, this article helps us to identify the little horn of Daniel 7 as the Nicene Church. As predicted in Daniel 7:

    • The Roman Empire was divided into MANY FRAGMENTS (symbolically, the 10 horns),
    • The 11th horn comes into existence AFTER the Roman Empire has already been fragmented into many kingdoms (horns), and
    • It UPROOTED THREE of the other horns as it came up; the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and the Vandals.

– END OF SUMMARY –

Fall of the Western Roman Empire

Barbarians divided the territory of Western Rome

Arian and Chalcedonian kingdoms in 495
Arian and Chalcedonian kingdoms in 495

In the fifth century, the Germanic people, who have migrated into the Western Roman Empire over a century or more, became a dominant force within the Western Roman Empire due to their large numbers and military supremacy. They revolted against the severe conditions under which they were allowed to remain in the Empire, sacked Rome twice, and deposed the last Roman Emperor. Through wars, they divided up the territory of the Western Empire into Germanic kingdoms. However, these nations continued to function as part of the Roman Empire—under the governance of the Emperor in Constantinople.

Tolerated the Roman Church

There are at least two reasons why the Germanic peoples might have made an end to the Roman Church (the Church in Rome):

Firstly, the Roman Church was part of the Roman government. In the Roman Empire, there was no separation of church and state. The church was a department of government. In practice, the bishop of the Church in Rome was accountable to the Roman Emperor.

Secondly, the Germanic peoples were Arian Christians because they became Christians during the 50 years in the fourth century when the Roman Church was Arian (Fourth Century Arian Period). These Germanic peoples included the Ostrogoths, the Visigoths of Spain, and the Vandals in North Africa.

Despite these facts, the Arian nations allowed the Roman peoples and the Roman Church to remain in their territories. This is one indication of the desire of these immigrants to remain part of the Roman Empire.

The Roman Church grew in strength.

After the Western Roman Empire was divided up into these kingdoms, the Roman Church had to depend on the Arian nations for physical protection. But the Roman Church managed to grow in strength. The reasons include the following:

1. Previously, the Emperor appointed the bishop of Rome and the bishop was subordinate to the Roman Emperor. Now, the church had more independence.

2. The church’s central and superior organization and administration and expertise in statecraft from years of being part of the Roman Government allowed it to stand out among the various Germanic nations that had no central political control.

3. The Germanic nations desired to remain part of the Empire. As the official religion of the Empire, the church had a certain status.

Unity of Church and State

Justinian I is traditionally known as Justinian the Great. He was the Eastern Roman emperor from 527 to 565. He ruled from Constantinople; the capital of the empire. Due to his religious preferences and actions, he is venerated by the Roman Catholic Church and by some other churches.

What was the Byzantine Empire?

This article often refers to the “Byzantine Empire.” Byzantium was an ancient Greek colony in early antiquity that later became Constantinople; the capital of the Roman Empire.

The Byzantine Empire is simply another name for the Eastern Roman Empire after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. The Byzantine Empire, therefore, was the continuation of the Roman Empire.

Byzantine Empire is a term created after the end of that empire. Its citizens referred to their empire simply as the Roman Empire and to themselves as Romans.

Church and State were One.

It is important to understand the context of the time. A Cambridge article explains the relationship between church and state in the Byzantine Empire:

The idea of papal sovereignty was foreign to the Byzantines. … unintelligible, unreasonable, and unhistorical. … (in) their concept of the order of the Christian world … The Christian Roman Emperor was the elect of God and God’s vice-gerent (God’s agent on earth) on earth … His patriarchs or supreme bishops of the Christian Empire … were the spiritual heads of the Christian world, acting in harmony with him. Church and State were therefore one, indissoluble and interdependent.

Modern readers may find this lack of separation of Church and State may be difficult to grasp but unless we understand this concept, we will not understand the history of the church or of the process through which the Trinity doctrine became accepted.

Similar to his predecessors, Justinian believed that “he had the right and duty of regulating by his laws the minutest details of worship and discipline, and also of dictating the theological opinions to be held in the Church”.1Ayer, John Cullen, ed. (1913). A Source Book for Ancient Church History. Mundus Publishing (2008 reprint). p. 553 The Emperor regulated everything:

At the very beginning of his reign, he promulgated by law the Church’s belief in the Trinity and the Incarnation and threatened all heretics with the appropriate penalties.[See Wikipedia page on Justinian 1]

He made the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan creed the sole symbol of the Church: “We direct that all Catholic churches, throughout the entire world, shall be placed under the control of the orthodox bishops who have embraced the Nicene Creed.” (Codex Justinianus)

Justinian felt entitled to settle disputes in papal elections, as he did when he favored Vigilius and had his rival Silverius deported.

As a result, the church within the Eastern Roman Empire had become firmly tied with the imperial government. Church and State were one.

Including the Church in the West

The First Council of Nicaea in 325 affirmed that the bishop of a provincial capital had a certain authority over the other bishops of the province. It also recognized the authority of the sees of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch and granted special recognition to Jerusalem. The First Council of Constantinople in 381 added the see of Constantinople.

Emperor Justinian assigned to those five sees (including Rome) a superior ecclesial authority that covered the whole of his empire. In other words, in Justinian’s view, the Church included the Church in Rome and he, as emperor, had the right and duty also to protect and regulate the Church in Rome

A Genuine Interest in the Church

Justinian had a genuine interest in the church. Over the course of his reign, he authored a small number of theological treatises. He was indeed a “nursing father” of the Church. Both the Codex and the Novellae contain many enactments to benefit the church. Just in Constantinople, he built 25 churches (see traditioninaction). Justinian also rebuilt the Church of Hagia Sophia, with its numerous chapels and shrines, gilded octagonal dome, and mosaics.

Suppressed Heretics

Even before Christianity was legalized in 313, the Imperial conviction always was that the unity of the Empire presupposes the unity of faith. Emperor Justinian protected the ‘purity’ of the church by suppressing heretics. For example:

The Codex contained two statutes [WIKIPEDIA JUSTINIAN NOTE 76] that decreed the destruction of paganism. These provisions were zealously enforced.

At Constantinople, on one occasion, not a few Manicheans, after strict inquisition, were executed in the emperor’s very presence: some by burning, others by drowning. [WIKIPEDIA JUSTINIAN NOTE 93] Manichaeism was a major religion that was founded by the Iranian prophet Mani. It taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. (See the Wikipedia page on Manichaeism.)

Monophysitism

In the east, in Justinian’s time, the main threat to the orthodoxy was not Arianism but Monophysitism. This sect had many adherents in the eastern provinces of Syria and Egypt. While the Council of Chalcedon in 451 concluded that Jesus has two natures; a divine and a human nature, Monophysitism maintained that Jesus Christ only had one nature; a divine nature or a synthesis of a divine and human nature.

Previous emperors and the Patriarch of Constantinople tolerated Monophysitism and allowed the appointment of Monophysites to church offices but this had been a source of tension in the relationship with the bishop of Rome.

Justin I—Justinian’s predecessor—reversed this policy, confirmed the Chalcedonian doctrine, and openly condemned the Monophysites. This allowed him to reestablish the union between Constantinople and Rome.[WIKIPEDIA – JUSTINIAN – NOTE 75]

Justinian’s policies alternated between ATTEMPTS TO FORCE Monophysites to accept the Chalcedonian creed by persecuting their bishops and monks – thereby embittering their sympathizers in Egypt and other provinces – and ATTEMPTS AT A COMPROMISE that would win over the Monophysites without surrendering the Chalcedonian faith.

Justinian’s wife Theodora favored the Monophysites unreservedly. While Theodosius’ wife is venerated in the Catholic Church because she was a fervent supporter of the Nicene Creed, Empress Theodora, for Catholics, was “one of the most … deplorable figures of ancient history,” for “she became an enemy of the Faith and a supporter of the heresies, and she strove to make Justinian enter into conflict with the Holy See at the end of his life” (traditioninaction). “Near the end of his life, Justinian became ever more inclined towards the Monophysite doctrine” (Wikipedia).

Wars against the Arian nations in the West

After the Germanic peoples divided the territory of the Western Empire between them in the fifth century, the Church in Rome was subject to their laws and customs. 

From a catholic perspective, the website Traditioninaction states that the Catholics at the time were groaning under the yoke of the barbarians. But from a Jewish perspective, “in contrast with the domination of the orthodox church, the Arian was distinguished by a wise tolerance and a mild treatment of the population of other faiths” (Kohler et al, ARIANISM”. Jewish Encyclopedia). 

What we can conclude, at least, is that the Roman Church was unable to dominate or to compel the population in Europe to comply with its doctrines.

As an ardent supporter of the Nicene church in Rome, Justinian considered it his divine duty to restore the Roman Empire to its ancient boundaries and to liberate the church in Rome from Arian domination. Justinian never personally took part in military campaigns, but one of the most spectacular features of Justinian’s reign was the recovery of large stretches of land around the Western Mediterranean basin that had slipped out of Imperial control in the 5th century.

Through these wars, Justinian neutralized the three main Arian nations that prevented the supremacy of the Papacy:

Vandal kingdom of North Africa

The first Arian Christian kingdom which Justinian’s armies attacked was the Vandals in North Africa. Again, from a catholic perspective, “that whole area had been taken over by the worst barbarians, the Vandals” (traditioninaction). Although the Arians generally tolerated other faiths, the Vandals tried for several decades to force their Arian beliefs on their North African Nicene subjects, exiling Nicene clergy, dissolving monasteries, and exercising heavy pressure on non-conforming Nicene Christians. This might have been why Justinian attacked them first.

In the Vandalic War of 533–534, general Belisarius defeated the Vandals.2[WIKIPEDIA ARIANISM NOTE 40] The Vandals were dispersed to the fringes of the empire and became lost to history.

Ostrogoths in Italy

Justinian next attacked the Ostrogoths; another Arian Christian nation. This war may be divided into three phases:

In 535, Belisarius invaded Sicily and advanced into Italy, sacking Naples and capturing Rome in 536. In 540 he reached the Ostrogothic capital Ravenna and reclaimed it for the Empire.[WIKIPEDIA JUSTINIAN NOTE 52]

But Belisarius was recalled in the face of renewed hostilities by the Persians to the East. While military efforts were focused on the east, the Ostrogoths made quick gains in Italy. They reconquered the major cities of Southern Italy and soon held almost the entire Italian peninsula.

The third phase of the war in Italy (from 541 to 554) followed after a truce was agreed upon with the Persians. Following their final defeat at the Battle of Mons Lactarius in 553, the Ostrogoths went back north and (re)settled in south Austria. Through the Gothic War, Justinian restored Dalmatia, Sicily, Italy, and Rome to the empire after more than half a century of Ostrogoth rule.

Visigoths in Spain

In 552, Justinian dispatched a force of 2,000 men to invade Visigothic Hispania: still another Arian Christian Germanic nation. This short-lived reconquest recovered only a small strip of land along the Mediterranean coast, known as the new province of Spania (Hispania) before being checked by the Visigoths. This campaign marked the apogee (apex) of Byzantine expansion. Spania kept the Visigoths as a threat to Hispania alone and not to the western Mediterranean nor to Africa.

Perhaps it is worth commenting that Justinian was willing to negotiate a truce with the pagan nations to the east of his empire but attacked Christian nations in the west. One obvious reason was that his purpose was to reunite the old empire, but it also reveals his intolerance for Arianism.

Byzantine Papacy

After Justinian conquered the Italian peninsula and delivered the church in Rome from Arian domination, he replaced the pope and also appointed the next three popes. In this way, Justinian put the church in the west firmly under the control of the Byzantine monarch. This practice was continued by his successors for the next two centuries. The papacy in the years 537 to 752 is known as the Byzantine Papacy because the Byzantine monarch claimed for himself the right to approve the appointment of the bishop of Rome. This allowed the emperor to also dominate the Papacy in other ways during this period.

Dominance of the Greek Language

One indication of the dominance of the Byzantine Empire, over the church in Rome, during these years, was the Greek dominance of the Roman Church:

The two halves of the Empire always had cultural differences, exemplified particularly by the widespread use of the Greek language in the Eastern Empire and its more limited use in the West. The spoken vernacular in the West was Latin.

During the Byzantine Papacy, countless Easterners rose through the ranks of the clergy in the church in Rome. At the end of the sixth century, Easterners constituted less than one percent of the papal hierarchy. In contrast, according to Ekonomou, over a century later, between 701 and 750, “Greeks outnumbered Latins by nearly three and a half to one”.

This confirms that the church in the west was now once again firmly subject to the authority of the (Eastern) Roman Emperor. 

The Empire reigned over the West.

After Justinian defeated the Goths, the Roman Church was no longer dependent on the Arian Germanic nations for protection. The church and its Nicene Christology, with the protection and status it received from the Byzantine Empire, became a powerful social and political institution in Europe. 

This relationship also allowed the Byzantine Empire, through the Church, a certain level of control over the Germanic nations in the West. To some extent, the Roman Empire was reunited.

Arian conversions to the Papacy

The Franks entered the Western Roman Empire as Pagans. In 496, before the time of Justinian, Clovis I, the pagan king of the Franks, was the first important barbarian ruler to convert to Catholicism rather than to Arianism. He forcibly converted the Franks to Chalcedonian Christianity.

After Justinian established protection for the Papacy, the Germanic tribes, consequently, abandoned Arianism in favor of Catholicism.

The first Germanic ruler to convert from Arianism to Chalcedonian Christianity was Reccared I of the Arian Visigoths in Spain. He converted in 587. Visigothic Spain converted to Catholicism at the Third Council of Toledo in 589

Pope Gregory I reigned from 590 to 604; a few decades after Justinian. He was perhaps the best-known pope of the Byzantine Papacy. Britannica describes him as the first of the medieval popes. With the support of the Byzantine Empire, He reformed the ecclesiastical structures and administration, which then launched renewed missionary efforts to convert the peoples of northern Europe as far north as Ireland. These efforts were able to convert the Arian peoples to Catholic (Nicene) Christianity:

The Anglo-Saxons of Southern Britain were the predecessors of the English. They had never been part of the Empire and were entirely pagan, but were forcibly converted by their king Æthelberht of Kent, following the work of missionaries sent by Pope Gregory the Great.

The Anglo-Saxons in turn sent missionaries to northwestern Europe – to what is now the Netherlands. 

The Visigoths also converted to Catholicism during the Byzantine Empire.

Aripert I of the Lombards converted to Catholic Church in 653. Grimwald, King of the Lombards (662–671) and his young son and successor Garibald (671) were the last Arian kings in Europe. By 700, the Lombards in northern Italy have moved away from Arianism to Catholicism.

By the 8th century, Arianism had ceased to be the mainstream belief of the Germanic people as the tribal rulers gradually came to adopt Nicene orthodoxy.

Conclusions

Trinity Doctrine

Firstly, this article shows how the Trinity Doctrine was advanced by the military might of the Roman Empire. What would the Christian world have looked like if Justinian did not effectively wipe out Unitarianism (Arianism) in the territory of the Western Empire? If Europe was allowed to remain Unitarian, Unitarianism might have dominated the church today.

The Little Horn

Secondly, this article helps us to identify the little horn of Daniel 7 as the mainstream Christian Church:

Daniel 7 This article confirms:
The fourth empire, identified as the Roman Empire, divides into many fragments – symbolized as 10 or 11 horns. The current article mentions some of these kingdoms, such as the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, Franks, and the Anglo-Saxons.
The little horn comes into existence AFTER the fourth (Roman) empire has already been fragmented into many kingdoms (horns). The Papacy was not able to dominate until after Justinian conquered the Arian nations.
The little horn uprooted three of the other horns as it came up. The Roman Empire uprooted the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and the Vandals to establish the Papacy.
The eleventh horn will become larger than the others, persecute the saints, and attempt to change the law.
The next articles will explain this.

Other Articles

  • 1
    Ayer, John Cullen, ed. (1913). A Source Book for Ancient Church History. Mundus Publishing (2008 reprint). p. 553
  • 2
    [WIKIPEDIA ARIANISM NOTE 40]

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