The word "doctrine" comes from the Latin... "doctor"... which means "to teach."
The word "doctor" implies "doing something to" and even "adulterate" such as
"doctoring" a stew... or "fixing" or "rigging" something that is not working.
Religious doctrines are interpretations or translations that are based on a source
of information... such as scriptures, letters, histories, long traditions, or divine revelation.
Such doctrines serve as a "guide" to help people decide what is good or bad... and
what they should believe as they live their lives. Doctrines are used to teach us how
to worship God. Doctrines offer purpose, meaning, and a bonding with others...
where there is a shared and an agreed-upon set of beliefs.
"This means this... so we believe that."
Whenever large groups of people began to live together, they had to develop a
civil system and a social structure within which all could interact in peace.
Hammurabi is known for instituting a set of laws in 16th century BC, but even
then, this was not new.
Often, it evolved that religion and government became one and the same. The
ruler was "god" or the son of a god. This eliminated the need to justify what a
ruler might do. Authority was absolute.
But, with religions, it is the law of God that
determines what will be decided or done. Thus... there is a need to discover what
God's laws really are.
Every religion has developed its own working list of rules. At one point or another...
some person or group of persons decided what things meant... what the meaning
of life was... who mankind was... who the gods or God was... and then the
followers set about worshipping it all.
And... every... religion... believed... it was... the... absolute... truth.
Believing these doctrines was/is equated with... believing in the gods,
Each religion had their teachers... holy men... priests... ministers... who knew the
secrets and details of the gods or God... and administered advice... interpreted
the teachings... performed holy ceremonies... prophesied... and generally served
as a mediator between the divine and unseen world of the gods or God... and the
"mortal" world that we live in.
The gods or God had their jobs, too. They gave the lowly people in the mortal world
gifts... of... love... prosperity... comfort... defense against enemies... rain... crops...
health... cleansing from sin... and generally tended to the needs of the struggling
and suffering populace.
With some religions, fortune-telling or prophesying involved the sacrifice of animals...
even the dissection of animals and the examination of the entrails or other organs.
With few exceptions,
these religions all developed a form of repayment to the gods or God... in the form of
prayer and flattery, offerings of various commodities and foods, or sacrifices. It was
imperative to appease and please the gods or God... for the consequences of
not doing so would be fearful.
In Greece, philosophy and science were advancing. Knowledge increased through
the concept of questioning and of logic. Socrates (469-399 BC), Plato (428-347 BC),
and Aristotle (384-322 BC) advanced the concept of reason and intellect. This had a
marked influence when reason and religious authority conflicted. Philosophy, science,
and reason emancipated Greece from their theologies.
When Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) swept across the Near East he brought
Greek colonists, the Greek language, Greek literature, and the Greek schools of
philosophy, science, and reason. The world of religion was evolving and changing,
and the populace became open to new ideas and beliefs.
Around 283-246 BC, the Greek king of Egypt, Ptolemy II, commissioned a Greek
translation of the Torah for his library in Alexandria. It came to be referred to as
"the Septuagint" from the story that it was translated by 70 scholars in 70 days.
The Septuagint became popular reading material throughout the now Greek-speaking
world. Jews and Gentiles alike... had access to the religion of the Hebrews. Its beliefs were
appealing to those in search of a greater truth. Many Gentiles converted to a version
It was an age of philosophical searching, and many sects and cults formed their own
religious ideas in this air of experimentation. These beliefs often merged and morphed
based on some core beliefs that everyone considered to be fact... one of which
was... gods sometime took human form.
Among the many sects and groups of beliefs, one philosophy emerged that taught
forgiveness, love, and peace... Christianity. As an outgrowth of Judaism that the
world was now familiar with, it was accepted by many. The following that had
formed under Jesus began to evolve. According to the story that we are told...
many people had turned against Jesus at his trial. The crowds yelled,
"Crucify him." The revolutionaries of the times... chose Barabas to be saved.
Paul... the evangelizer... had once been the arch-enemy of Jesus and his followers.
Paul was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were a group of religious fanatics who believed
in spirits, magic, and strict laws. He was also a Roman citizen. Being a Roman citizen
gave him freedoms and privileges.
One day, Paul had a vision of God. Rather than hunt down the Christians... he now
became one... with his own vision of all that this Christian religion was. Paul began
preaching and traveling... and he established communities of followers. They needed
rules and he gave those rules to them.
But, the disciple groups of Jesus... with Peter as the head... differed.
Peter and Paul had serious differences.
The precept of holding all things in common... of giving to the poor... a precept that was so
basic that Jesus himself had been called to task when he used an expensive oil that could
have been sold... that precept had not been adopted by the churches under Paul.
Jesus' simple teaching of worshipping God in their daily lives... with love... with no
need of a temple... had become an organization with doctrines, rules, and rituals.
Due to the evangelizing of Paul, parts of the Gentile world came to adopt a religion
based on the death, resurrection, and return of Jesus.
A problem arose. The world did not end. Jesus did not return.
This "Christian" sect evolved as it grew. The administration of the financial and
business aspects were put in charge of assistants. Leaders rose to the head of their
town or city churches. Clarifications in doctrines were decided on and cleared up
by each groups' leaders.
Leaders became priests and equal to prophets... and made powerful. To contradict the
bishop, or the church... was equivalent to contradicting God. There were disputes
between the churches about what the proper doctrine would be. Some arguments were fierce.
The church came under severe persecution under the Roman emperors. At one point,
every trace of Christian literature was destroyed. Christians who practiced the "drinking
of blood" and the "eating of flesh" were shunned and killed. The beliefs of "confessing sins"
and "witnessing" that Jesus was their Savior... cannot have been helpful in securing their
safety... but then... death was said to unite them with Jesus... in heaven.
Constantine became Emperor of the Western Roman Empire in 313 AD.
But the Empire was broken into an Eastern and Western Empire.
As the story goes... Constantine was preparing for a great battle to unify the western
and the eastern empires... when he had a vision. If he carried the banner of the cross,
the battle... and the world... would be his. And it was a great victory. The Empire of
Rome was now unified. He was grateful to the Christians and pronounced the end
of their persecution. Constantine ruled that all religions could now be
practiced without prejudice.
There had been rebellion from religions and religious awakenings before. Now,
there had been a migration of large numbers of people into lands of former enemies.
There was no unifying force in the empire.
Constantine most surely... was conscious of the need to keep the peace in this vast empire
that spanned all of Europe and Near Asia. Every region had their own customs and their
own versions of religion. And Rome had its own deities and religion... with the Emperor
as its leader and prophet.
As Emperor, Constantine was... Pontifex Maximus... or high priest of the
official deity worship. At some point after 325 AD... he declared Christianity the
official religion of the state, and began organizing the church on the basis of the
political organization of the Roman Empire. He merged government with religion,
with himself at its head. He himself practiced several forms of belief, and was
not baptized a Christian until shortly before his death.
The basic doctrines of the Christian Religion were established under Constantine.
The many and constant religious arguments among the various bishops and the
various townships... that had evolved their own beliefs about Jesus... were settled...
either by the direct decree of Constantine, or through the influence of his vast
generosity. The Truth of all religion... was decided. There was only one
truth. And... the Christian Church had come into its own.
If one looks closely, one can see parts of many religious beliefs in what is now
considered the doctrine of Christianity. There are traces of Hinduism, Egyptian
religion, Sun worship, Isis worship, Greek, and others. It was a universal religion.
It was the one true religion... of the Roman Empire.
Constantine is a character of interest. He was known to like dressing in women's
clothes. His mother made trips to Palestine to find the historical sites that were
mentioned in the Hebrew manuscripts. Much planning went into the creation of
the church of Rome. It may well have been his attempt to establish peace in the
Constantine's reputation and his legacy continued long after his death. As the
Roman Empire declined, his new universal church assumed more and more
influence and power. Christian philosophy had become an institution of enormous
strength... and the world was taught the doctrines of this Christianity...
the doctrines... of Constantine.