Church History

Posts on the history of the Christian church from the day of Pentecost to today, with an emphasis on the early (Ante-Nicene) church through the end of the Patristic era (about the close of the 8th century).

The Mythical Legend of Boniface and the Christmas Tree

In the U.S., my favorite holiday (Thanksgiving) is behind us. Now, the madness of the hyper-commercialized Christmas season is upon us. I confess, the overabundance of hype and secular slant that now dominates, make it difficult for me to enjoy Christmas. I’m most assuredly not joyless but mythical legends like that of St. Boniface and the Christmas tree don’t help.

Unfortunately, madness isn’t confined to secular myths about jolly overweight men in red suits and unbounded commercialism. In recent years, this false legend concerning the origin of the Christmas tree has been widely circulated. The internet era quickens and intensifies the production and repetition of manmade history, both in secular and religious spheres.

The Vatican first displayed a Christmas tree in 1982, a mere 40 years ago and within my own lifetime. I do not oppose Christmas trees. My family recently put our tree up and I’m glad the Vatican does so. This is one Christmas tradition I enjoy. What I am against is false legends that get unknowingly and uncritically consumed by the masses, especially when they are propagated by those who should know better, in support of their exclusivist religious tradition.

Cyprian and the Myth of Early Roman Primacy: Part 1

Cyprian of Carthage and Roman Primacy
Cyprian of Carthage (200-258 AD): These images are amusing. Nobody knows what Cyprian looked like but as an African, he probably didn’t resemble an Icelandic Viking.

One of the earliest texts from the Ante-Nicene era (before AD 325) that is often quoted in support of Roman primacy is Cyprian’s On the Unity of the Church. Modern polemicists that proudly proclaim the supremacy of the Roman see, as imagined through the ancient eyes of the 3rd century Bishop of Carthage (modern day Tunisia) are seemingly innumerable. One only needs to search the term: “he founded a single chair” to see how popular this is among internet quote-mines and apologetic sites. What you are unlikely to find in the search results is any discussion of the history of this text, but history sheds a great deal of light for those that have an interest in honestly evaluating this text.

Scroll to Top