Out of the greatest figures in Christian history, one of the most misconstrued and slandered is the late Roman Emperor Constantine. Critics say that he founded the Catholic Church and he bonded it with paganism mixed with Christianity. This assertion has been used to wrongly deceive countless Christians and bring false information to Messianics and Evangelicals. It was first originated by anti-Christian writers, such as Franz Cumont, who introduced the theory, from an anti-Christian perspective, that Christianity took from its opponents their own weapons, and used them; the better elements of paganism were transferred to the new religion.
However, this accusation has no historical foundation because the Holy Catholic Church has already existed even BEFORE Constantine’s ascension to the Roman imperial throne in AD 324 or his birth on February 7, AD 272 in Naissus, Moesia Superior (present-day Serbia). The pre-Constantinopolitan Christians testified to it, as follows:
Ignatius, bishop of Antioch (AD 35-107)
“Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too as you would the apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command of God. Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2 [A.D. 110]).”
“In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him (Letter to the Trallians 3:1-2 [A. D. 110]).”
Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (AD 80-167)
“When finally he concluded his prayer, after remembering all who had at any time come his way – small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world – the time for departure came. So they placed him on an ass, and brought him into the city on a great Sabbath (The Martyrdom of Polycarp 8 [A.D. 110]).”
Irenaeus, bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (AD 125-202)
“The Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said (Against Heresies 1:10 [A.D. 189]).”
“Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there should arise a dispute relative to some important question among us. Should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary [in that case] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the churches? (ibid. 3:4).”
Tertullian, theologian (AD 150-225)
“Where was Marcion then, that shipmaster of Pontus, the zealous student of Stoicism? Where was Valentinus then, the disciple of Platonism? For it is evident that those men lived not so long ago – in the reign of Antoninus for the most part – and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus, until on account of their ever restless curiosity, with which they even infected the brethren, they were more than once expelled (On the Prescription Against Heretics 22,30 [A.D.200])”
Pius I, bishop of Rome (AD 142-157)
“Besides these [letters of Paul] there is one to Philemon, and one to Titus, and two to Timothy, in affection and love, but nevertheless regarded as holy in the Catholic Church, in the ordering of churchly discipline. There is also one [letter] to the Laodiceans and another to the Alexandrians, forged under the name of Paul, in regard to the heresy of Marcion, and there are several others which cannot be received by the Church, for it is not suitable that gall be mixed with honey. The epistle of Jude, indeed, and the two ascribed to John are received by the Catholic Church (The Muratorian Canon [A.D. 177]).
Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (AD 200-258)
“The spouse of Christ cannot be defiled; she is uncorrupted and chaste. She knows one home . . . Does anyone believe that this unity which comes from divine strength, which is closely connected with the divine sacraments, can be broken asunder in the Church and be separated by the divisions of colliding wills? He who does not hold this unity, does not hold the law of God, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation (On the Unity of the Catholic Church 6 [A.D. 251]).”
“Peter speaks there, on whom the Church was to be built, teaching and showing in the name of the Church, that although a rebellious and arrogant multitude of those who will not hear or obey may depart, yet the Church does not depart from Christ; and they are the Church who are a people united to the priest, and the flock which adheres to its pastor. Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church, and that those flatter themselves in vain who creep in, not having peace with God’s priests, and think that they communicate secretly with some; while the Church which is Catholic and one, is not cut nor divided, but is indeed connected and bound together by the cement of priests who cohere with one another (Letters 66 [A.D. 253]).”
Notice that those Christians did live years before Contanstine. But was Constantine the first Pope? Of course NOT! Since the Church has already existed even before the Emperor, the Church has already been governed by the Successor of Peter, as follows:
Anacletus (Cletus) (76-88)
Clement I (88-97)
Alexander I (105-115)
Sixtus I also called Xystus I (115-125)
Pius I (140-155)
Victor I (189-199)
Callistus I (217-22)
Urban I (222-30)
Lucius I (253-54)
Stephen I (254-257)
Sixtus II (257-258)
Felix I (269-274)
Caius also called Gaius (283-296)
Marcellus I (308-309)
Eusebius (309 or 310)
Sylvester I (314-35)
Why would Constantine govern a Church who was already headed by the Vicar of Christ in his times?! Remember, he was a Roman Emperor and NOT a Bishop of Rome.
Now, the question would be: If not Constantine, Who, then, founded the Holy Catholic Church?
In the Gospel of Jesus according to St. Matthew (16:18 KJV), it is written:
“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Undoubtedly, our Lord Jesus Christ indeed founded a Church (not churches) upon the rock. However, what is that Church which He established?
“And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer FOR ALL NATIONS? (Mark 11:17 NIV)”
But what is that house which was being referred to by the Lord?
“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the HOUSE of God, which is the CHURCH of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:5 KJV)”
And the divine prophecy was fulfilled because the Church was preached to all nations in accordance to His command (Matthew 28:19-20). The church was called Catholic as it is present in all nations. (NOTE: the term “catholic” was derived from a joint Greek words “kata-” and “holos” which literally mean “according to the whole”, “throughout all”, or “universal”.)
“HĒ men oun EKKLESIA KATH’ HOLES tēs Ioudaias kai Galilaias kai Samarias eichen eirēnēn oikodomoumenē kai poreuomenē tō phobō tou Kyriou, kai tē paraklēsei tou Hagiou Pneumatos eplēthyneto. (Acts 9:31 Greek)”
As what Augustine, bishop of Hippo reminded the followers of Christ:
“We must hold to the Christian religion and to communication in her Church, which is catholic and which is called catholic not only by her own members but even by all her enemies. For when heretics or the adherents of schisms talk about her, not among themselves but with strangers, willy-nilly they call her nothing else but Catholic. For they will not be understood unless they distinguish her by this name which the whole world employs in her regard (The True Religion 7:12 [A.D. 390]).”
As affirmed by the heretics:
“Ang Iglesia Katolika sa pasimula ay siyang Iglesia ni Cristo” (PASUGO, Abril 1966, ph. 46, INC)