Did Constantine the Great compose the bible, vote on Jesus' divinity... etc?

I read a fiction book that I'm sure most of you also read. It told a story of how Constantine the Great lived ~600 yrs after Jesus' death. He was himself a pagan and wanted to unite his country with one religion; Christianity. He had text burned, and added other text to exemplify Jesus' godliness. He then composed a book for the masses to learn from and called it the bible. It tells of how he and the other politicians of the time voted on whether or not he was the son of god, and he almost didn't win the position. I understand some of this book is fiction and some is not. I want to focus on this part and learn the truth. Also, how do you know, where did you get your information.

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I want to be corrected if I am wrong, what is your take on the following paragraph?

Jesus made no impression on any historian of the first century. If Jesus existed and if the spectacular events in the gospels really happened, they would have been noted by many writers — including Philo of Alexandria, Seneca the Elder, Pliny the Elder, Justus of Tiberius, and over thirty others. None of these men referred to Jesus or the fantastical biblical events. The earliest extra-biblical supposed references to Jesus or Christ are in one paragraph and one sentence in the writings (about 93 CE) attributed to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (who also wrote about Hercules), and the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus (about 117 CE). However, the veracity of these references is highly questionable; many scholars are convinced that Christian transcribers added them much later. The reference by Josephus was almost certainly created by “church historian” Eusebius, who first referred to it in about 324 CE — for Emperor Constantin’s Council of Nicea. The reference by Tacitus was probably added in the 1400’s (likely in 1468 by Johannes de Spire of Venice), because no mention is made to it in any known text prior to then.
You asked to be corrected, so here ;) There is a bunch of misinformation here, and one more or less worthwhile point; I'll start with the misinformation. I'll do so in detail.

First of all, it's not very remarkable that we don't see Jesus mentioned by many historians. The historical Yeshua Ben Jozef (Jesus) was a preacher and a faith healer in an obscure province of the Roman Empire. Historians of the time (which were invariably Roman and Greek aristocrats) weren't interested in Galilean preachers and faith healers, and that's why none of them (Seneca, Pliny, etcetera) mention them. This is hardly remarkable.
There was only one aristocrat who was interested in Jewish affairs, and that was Flavius Josephus, because he wrote a book that tried to explain to other aristocrats why a bunch of these Jews decided to start a bloody revolt against the Empire in 66 AD. The only historian we can reasonably expect to mention Jesus, therefore, is this Flavius Josephus. And, surprise, he does. Not just once, but twice.
What most scholars agree on is that one of these passages was added to later by a Christian transcriber: you can see it clearly when you read the text: there's a clumsy interpolation in butchered Latin that says "Christ was the Messiah". It is largely agreed upon by historians, however, that the rest of the passage is indeed genuine (in other words: there was an original passage that was added to, but it was not invented wholesale). In short: your statement that the veracity of Josephus is disputed is flat out garbage; the vast majority scholars agree that we have two valid references to Jesus, with a minority saying we have only one.

Second of all, besides these mentions in Josephus, we get a bonus: Tacitus (arguably the most important historian of the time) also mentions Jesus. He mentions everything that you'd expect Tacitus to say: he mentions that he was called the Messiah by some Jews, that he was crucified and that this was done by Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius; he also talks about how this Jesus spawned a "vile and mischievous superstition". This passage looks nothing like a clumsy interpolation: it's perfect First-Century Latin and mentions exactly what you'd expect from an aristocrat Roman who hates Christianity but wants to explain who its originator was. To pretend that this passage was a later addition by Christians requires us to believe that some Christian centuries after Tacitus mastered First-Century Tacitean English, altered the Annales so that the story about Christianity matches the larger whole, has Tacitus say exactly what we'd expect him to know through Roman historical sources about Jesus, and then not only resist the temptation to add positive references to Jesus (i.e. the clumsy interpolation in Josephus of "He was the Messiah") but also decide to insult the cult he himself belonged to (by calling it a "vile and mischievous superstition") just to make it seem more authentic, is totally absurd. So that statement of yours is again, garbage: Tacitus' passage is most likely authentic and you'll be hard pressed to find even a single reputable scholar who disputes its authenticity.

And third, Eusebius and Johannes de Spire had nothing at all to do with these passages: all three of them are authentic, although one was added to by a Christian transcriber.

This means Jesus gets a total of three mentions in two of the most influential historical works of the era. That's far more than we have for any other Galilean figure or any other Galilean preacher: Theudas, the Egyptian Prophet,...
It's more than we can expect, and that's why the existence of a historical Jesus is not disputed.

Now, the one more or less worthwhile point you do make is that if Jesus existed and all the stories in the gospels really happened (and if he really was as famous in Palestine as the gospels would have us believe), then we might expect Josephus to mention him a little bit more. That doesn't mean a historical Jesus didn't exist, however: it is just one of the many indications we have to conclude that the gospels exaggerate Jesus' fame and the so-called miracles he performed.
The reference in Josephus that people generally cite is Christian enhanced, if not entirely fabricated, but there is another reference to "James, the brother of Jesus," which is considered authentic. That at least implies that someone named Jesus was well-known enough that Josephus did not feel any need to explain who he meant.
The New Testament in its' current form was compiled, for the most part, by an Egyptian bishop (whose name I can never remember) well before the Council of Nicosia - the council simply accepted that version with minor changes.
Constantine's wanted a standard that would unify all the various sects and he wanted it written down. With the Roman fetish for rules and regulation, religion became just another sector of Roman governance imposed with the same Roman authority. Those who chose alternative sects became the heretics (from hereticus - to choose) - without the Romans, Christianity would have been just another mystery cult that died out centuries ago. They should have stuck with building roads and aqueducts.
Constantine the Great lived from 272 to 337 CE. He was born about 240 years after the estimated time of Jesus' death. He was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity and made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. There are varying interpretations of his role in the Council of Nicaea, but I think the prevailing opinion is that he convened the council having instructed the bishops to resolve the controversies that divided the various sects of Christianity. Since the majority of bishops believed what is contained in the Nicene Creed (creator god, trinity, virgin birth, simultaneous divinity and humanity of Jesus, resurrection of Jesus and all the dead, final judgment) that became the "orthodox" teaching and everything else became heretical and "unchristian." This (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_I) is the main Wikipedia article.
Another misconception is that Constantine made Christianity the state religion. This is false. The Edict of Milan decriminalized Christianity. In fact, there were pagan emperors after Constantine. Theodosius I made Christianity the state religion.
Hmmmmmmm... that doesn't sound quite right.

You are talking about the Coucil of Nicea in 325, so about 300 years after Jesus.

The council was a gathering of Christian bishops and they voted on doctrinal matters and on the biblical canon, but I don't think it's reasonable to say that they made things up.

Additionally, I suspect that Constantine's conversion was probably authentic. His conversion took place at the Battle of the Milvian bridge in 312 (thereabouts, this is an oversimplification).

He wanted a continuity on dogma, and that's what the Council of Nicea was about. While there is certainly some 'constructing' going on (interpretations of biblical texts, etc.), it doesn't imply that the religion was simply created out of holecloth. I wouldn't rely on fiction for this, there's good history texts that will give you the information.
@Arnold: As I said, the consensus among most scholars is that this passage was altered in a way to make it seem more friendly to Christians, but there was in fact a passage there to be altered in the first place.
One of the main arguments for this is that the Christian writer Origen mentions the references to Jesus in Josephus but also adds that Josephus "did not believe Jesus to be the Messiah". However, in the version of the Antiquities that we have know, it does seem like Josephus believes in Jesus (he says that he was the Messiah). That means that that was probably added later, however it also means that in Origen's time, there was already a reference to Jesus by Josephus: it just wasn't very favourable to Christians and so was altered.
The interpolation has probably been that a Christian transcriber clumsily changed Josephus' statement "He was called a Messiah" (implying that this is by no means a factual statement) to "He was the Messiah". The rest of the passage talks about (much like Tacitus) general things: Jesus was a faith healer, he was crucified, etcetera... All of that is most likely genuine as well.

That in my mind is pretty conclusive evidence that this is also a genuine reference to Jesus, albeit one that has been toyed with. Still, even if we insist on being hyper-sceptical, that still leaves two references to Jesus left that are not fabricated: the reference to Jesus' brother James (non-existent figures can't have blood-and-flesh brothers) and the one in Tacitus.
I agree, though the tampered with Josephus also adds, after referring to "a man named Jesus," something like, "if one can call him a man." That is almost certainly a Christian addition. I don't doubt the earliest Christians had known a man they thought was the messiah and that his name was Jesus (Yeshua). I just don't believe any details of his actual life have been preserved, beyond the fact he was a preacher, had a reputation as a healer and was crucified.
Agreed. I do think we can get a bit more out of his life (the question of what we can deduce about the historical Jesus is an on-going and fascinating academic discussion) like his apocalypticism and the like.
(the question of what we can deduce about the historical Jesus is an on-going and fascinating academic discussion)

An item of archaeological evidence might be nice. The evidence cited by Graydon Snyder in his Ante pacem: archaeological evidence of church life before Constantine is utterly unconvincing. The question of what we can deduce about the non historical jesus is also quite valid for objective discussion.

For example, the words of Arius of Alexander inflamed and then were perpetuated for generations in the Arian Controversy immediately following the War Council of Nicaea. These words are preserved in the earliest literary accounts of the Nicaean Creed, as a disclaimer clause which casts anathemas on any person who would be so silly as to adopt the words of Arius as being representative of this Historical Jesus figure, whom Constantine is publishing far and wide in his 50 Constantine Bibles.

These words of Arius of Alexandria are the following:

There was time when He was not. Before He was born He was not. He was made out of nothing existing.
He is/was from another subsistence/substance.
He is subject to alteration or change.

Is the subject "Jesus" an historical figure?
Maybe Arius was speaking about a non historical Jesus.
You know -- like Harry Potter, Bilbo Baggins or Superman.
#MATT who wrote .............. The interpolation has probably been that a Christian transcriber clumsily changed Josephus' statement "He was called a Messiah" (implying that this is by no means a factual statement) to "He was the Messiah". The rest of the passage talks about (much like Tacitus) general things: Jesus was a faith healer, he was crucified, etcetera... All of that is most likely genuine as well.

I disagree. It is most likely the interpolation of the very first "christian researcher" Eusebius of Caesarea. He has been called the most thoroughly dishonest historian in antiquity and his name has been associated with the "Testimonium Flavianum (ie - the academic term that has been applied to this interpolated paragraph into Josephus). As many have recently pointed out, Eusebius was also interested in the "Nation (or the tribe) of Christians". See for example:

Eusebian integrity: Assessment on the integrity of his character

The Testimonium Flavianum: A chronological summary of Censure

Eusebius Forged the TF: An article by Ken Olsen



You wrote ..... That in my mind is pretty conclusive evidence that this is also a genuine reference to Jesus, albeit one that has been toyed with.

I disagree, since it has been recognised as a stupid forgery since the Enlightnment ---- as a fabrication which has been inserted into Josephus in the 4th century

Still, even if we insist on being hyper-sceptical, that still leaves two references to Jesus left that are not fabricated: the reference to Jesus' brother James (non-existent figures can't have blood-and-flesh brothers) and the one in Tacitus.

I disagree completely with this. Both the minor reference in Josephus and the Tacitus reference have been long questioned by very responsible academics and scholars as being genuine. Have a look at the WIKI SOURCE article:

The Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus by Arthur Drews, translated by Joseph McCabe

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