A Great Historical Hoax | Tomorrow's World

A Great Historical Hoax

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Did you know that the fall of Constantinople in 1453 played a major part in exposing one of history's greatest hoaxes? The particular hoax to which I am referring is the so-called "Donation of Constantine." This was a document that was used throughout the medieval period to explain and to justify the claims of the papacy in Rome to rule a temporal territory, and to have jurisdiction over churches scattered all over—from Alexandria, to Antioch, to Jerusalem, to Constantinople—and that gave them oversight of the lands in Judea, Greece, Asia, Thrice, Africa, Italy and the various islands. This "Donation of Constantine" was a document purportedly written by the Emperor Constantine the Great.

For a half century before the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, it was the capital of the old Eastern Roman Empire. There had been church scholars traveling between Constantinople and Italy, fearing the Turkish invasion. These scholars brought more than 230 ancient manuscripts back to Italy, rescuing the "Donation" from oblivion. This set the stage for scholarship of Greek and Latin texts. In the course of that, a historical and linguistic analysis of this so-called "Donation of Constantine" led to its exposure as an absolute hoax. This created, of course, quite a bit of consternation. The analysis that was provided showed that the lands in central Italy, which the papacy had held for centuries, had certainly not been granted by the Emperor Constantine.

The role that the Catholic Church played in Italy—and indeed in the entire scope of European history—is one that it has delineated in the prophecies of Daniel. In Daniel 7, Daniel describes a creature that is descriptive of the Roman Empire, and it talks about ten horns coming up out of this head, defining these horns as representing kingdoms that would arise. But Daniel also described a little horn coming up, rising out of that same Roman Empire, that would think to change times and laws, that would persecute the true people of God, and that would play a remarkable role in the history of Europe and the revival of Roman rule in the establishment of what came to be known as the "Holy Roman Empire."

History's great hoax. The "Donation of Constantine" was just that—it was a hoax. But it certainly set the stage for events that were foreseen centuries in advance by the prophet Daniel.

This is John Ogwyn, with commentary for the Living Church of God.