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
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...
Believing these doctrines was/is equated with...
believing in the gods, or God.
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 of Judaism.
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...
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
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
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 world.
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.