In addition, many saw emergent Christianity as simply an alternative version of the ancient Egyptian cult of Serapis (discussed in Chapter 22), based upon a "holy" family made up, as we saw in the Prologue, of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld and judge of the dead, his bride Isis and their hawk-headed son Horus.
Any ecclesiastic of authoritarian views would have seen the branches of Paul's Mediterranean Church as a chaotic free-for-all, upon which order should be restored. This challenge was met in various ways. Principal among these were to establish Jesus as a first century A.D. contemporary of Peter and the person who had appointed Peter head of the Church and was therefore the source of its apostolic tradition; to "resurrect" Peter and transport him to Rome, where he is said to have been martyred; to identify Joshua, son of Nun, as a preexistent Christ; to diminish the importance of Paul; to give a historical dimension to the theological account of the gospel by placing the suffering and death of Christ during the time of Pontius Pilate; to include these interpretations in a Creed that Christians were required to believe in order to be accepted as Christians; and to condemn as heretics any Christian who did not accept the Church's teaching.
These aims had been established by the end of the second century A.D. They reached their peak after the conversion of Constantine the Great (c. A.D. 274-337). From that time the Church was increasingly looked upon as a unifying force within the declining Roman Empire, an arm of the state that could rely on political and military support against its ideological enemies—those who disagreed with the Church's teaching and refused to accept it.
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