Did Constantine Declare Jesus to Be “God” in AD 325?

The Da Vinci Code is not alone in claiming that in the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine changed Christianity to further his political agenda. Historians or false teachers who deny Christ’s deity sometimes suggest this event as a possibility.

The truth is, Christians regarded Jesus as both God and man from the very beginning. In John 1:1, 14, we see that the eternal Son of God (the Word) was called “God,” and at the moment of His miraculous conception, He took on full humanity —including a body of material flesh. Repeatedly in the New Testament, Jesus is declared both man and God (see John 1:1, 14; Romans 1:3; Galatians 4:4; Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:6-8; and 1 Timothy 3:16). The idea that later Christians selected or changed Scripture to downplay Christ’s humanity in favor of divinity is complete fiction. In fact, Christians in the first and second centuries had to defend Christ’s full humanity against heretics like the Gnostics who argued that Christ was only God but not really human (1 John 4:2; 2 John 1:7).

Beyond the New Testament, followers of the apostles continued to emphasize that Jesus is both God and man at the same time. Ignatius, the pastor of Antioch who was martyred in about AD 110 and who may have known the apostle John, wrote: “There is only one physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and unborn, God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering and then beyond it, Jesus Christ our Lord.”5 Ignatius also deliberately called Jesus “God” several times in his writings.

The claim that Jesus was regarded by early Christians as only a great man until later Christians emphasized His divinity is untrue. In fact, the central claim of Christianity has always been that the eternal, divine Son willingly became fully human for us, lived a perfect life, died a brutal death to pay for our sins, and rose again as the victorious God-man, who will come again in judgment. This truth has stood against false teachers from the age of the apostles to our own day, and it will stand as truth for all generations to come.

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, The Way of Truth in a World of Fiction: Beyond the Di Vinci Code workbook (Plano, Tex.: Insight for Living Publishing, 2006): 108-110. Copyright © 2006 Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

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Michael J. Svigel received his master of theology in New Testament and doctor of philosophy in Theological Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). He currently serves as associate professor of Theological Studies at DTS, teaching Theology and Church History. Prior to accepting his position at the seminary in 2007, he worked as a writer in the Creative Ministries Department at Insight for Living Ministries. Mike and his wife, Stephanie, are parents of three children.