The thesis of Alistair Kee's Constantine versus Christ does not give the lie to its provocative title. Everything depends on the assumption that only Eusebius's Panegyric (composed by a Christian bishop who would naturally wish to claim Constantine as one of his own, but also delivered in the presence of the Emperor himself and of a mixed audience) can be relied upon to tell us the unvarnished truth about Constantine's beliefs. A close reading reveals the startling absence of Christ Himself. We return to the Life and find to our surprise that He has little part to play here too. Why is this? According to Dr. Kee's (largely a priori) reconstruction Constantine's 'Christianity' was in fact pre- Christian, more or less identical with that of Noah, Abraham and Moses. His salvation was not mediated by the incarnation of the Son. He had entered into a personal covenant with God, of which the labarum (like Noah's rainbow) was the sign and the rewards victory on the field of battle, empire, longevity, and, after death, a place at God's right hand. All of this would be of no special significance in Dr Kee's eyes were it not for the fact that, in being used as an instrument of Constatine's imperial policy, Christianity was depraved, the image of Christ the suffering servant being blurred and overlaid by that of Constantine the favourite of God, whose kingly status in heaven he adumbrates on Earth.
It is a pity that Dr Kee did not have the opportunity to consult Timothy D. Barnes's Constantine and Eusebius before formulating these bold hypotheses. If he had, he might have had second thoughts about questioning the authenticity of the Speech before the assembly of saints. Barnes makes a good case for the view that both Constantine and Eusebius were led into what the Council of Nicaea would identify as the Arian heresy by unthinkingly applying in theology categories borrowed from Middle Platonist philosophy, according to which only the First God can be absolutely underived, so that the Second God must he derivative from and so not consubstantial with Him. (It is perverse of Dr Kee to deny that Eusebius identifies the Logos with the Son.) Surely it is this view, and not Dr Kee's, which enables us to understand how a Christian bishop can laud his Emperor's piety without mentioning Christ? Eusebius did believe that the truth which Christ revealed to men in the time of Tiberius was the same as the primeval faith of the patriarchs. If this is not Christianity, then he was not a Christian.
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