The Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms in Three Patristic Texts



The doctrine of the two kingdoms, analyzed in the works of the reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin, is a doctrine that also appears in the patristic thought. The doctrine teaches that God’s heavenly Kingdom is superior to any earthly kingdom; that is why Christians must “obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29).

This teaching remains unchanged throughout the patristic period. What changed, however, is the patristic appreciation of the “earthly kingdom”. Indeed, there is a transition from Tertullian’s view of resistance to the secular state, to Eusebius’ view of the emperor as an imitation of God, and finally to Augustine’s understanding of the two kingdoms as mingling together until the eschaton. This transition is explained by the historical developments in the relationship between the faith community and the state authorities.


Tertullian’s early Church was persecuted by the Roman State. Roman authorities demanded worship of the emperor as a patriotic act of allegiance to the empire. The Christian rejection of this act led inevitably to confrontation. Tertullian’s “Apology” aimed to defend Christians as good patriots who serve the state better than other Romans due to their superior ethical values. On the other hand, Christians must always remain obedient to God, even if that means rejecting the state’s blasphemous laws and suffering the consequences. The following are interesting extracts from Tertullian’s “Apology” (translated by T. Herbert Bindley, 1890 – public domain):


The injustice of condemning the Christian Religion unheard and unknown.

Christianity pleads no excuse for her cause, for neither does she marvel at her present position. She knows that she is a sojourner upon the earth, that amongst strangers she readily finds enemies, but that her nativity, her home, her hope, her favor, her dignity are in Heaven. One boon meantime she craves, that she be not condemned unknown.


We are denied the rights of ordinary criminals, and the use of torture is most inconsistently employed in our case. The name alone of ‘Christian’ is made criminal.

When others are charged with similar crimes to those we are charged with, they employ both their own right of speech and a hired advocate to maintain their innocence. The opportunity of rejoinder and cross-examination is open to them, since it is illegal for them to be altogether condemned undefended and unheard. But Christians alone are forbidden to say anything either in self-exculpation, or in defense of the truth, or in hindrance of a miscarriage of justice : attention is given to that only which is required by the public hatred, namely, a confession of the name, not an enquiry into the charge.

You regard a Christian as a man guilty of every crime, hostile to the gods, to the emperors, to the laws, to morals, to all the dictates of nature; and yet you compel him to deny that you may be able to acquit him; for his denial will alone allow you to do so. You are in collusion to defeat the laws. You wish him to deny that he is guilty, so that you may return him as guiltless (though very much indeed against his will), and not as a criminal, in respect of his past life. Whence comes this perversion of intellect which neither leads you to grasp the fact that more credit is to be given to a voluntary confession than to a compulsory denial, nor to consider the possibility that, if the accused is compelled to deny, he may deny untruly, and when acquitted, straightway behind your tribunal laugh at your malevolence, a Christian once more?


We are accused of infamous secret atrocities, infanticide, a feast of blood, and incest, although no proof has ever been forthcoming, and only rumor is responsible for the charge.


You yourselves are guilty of sacrificing children and adults in your worship of various deities, and of eating blood in several loathsome rites and horrible repasts. Your knowledge of our horror of eating blood is evidenced by the tests which you apply to us. Incest, too, is one of your commonest crimes.


Your gods are nothing but names of dead men, images made of the commonest materials, which you treat with the same indignities that you inflict upon us.


In fact, you act most sacrilegiously towards your deities, both private and public.

‘BUT to us they are gods,’ you say. How is it, then, that you on the contrary are convicted of acting impiously and sacrilegiously and irreverently towards your gods; seeing that you neglect those whose existence you assume, destroy those whom you fear, and ridicule those whom you even avenge? Consider if I am not speaking the truth. In the first place, when some of you worship one god and some another, of course you offend those whom you do not worship. Your preference for one cannot but issue in the slight of another, since choice implies rejection. Therefore you undoubtedly insult those whom you reject, and to whom you are not afraid of giving offence by your rejection. For the case of each god, as we touched upon before, depended upon the judgment of the senate. He was no god at all whom a man, when consulted upon the point, had refused to deify, and by his refusal had condemned.


For you cheat them in your sacrifices, and mock them in your poetic and philosophic literature.


You insult them in your burlesques and at your theatres.


You hold grotesque views respecting our Deity. We neither worship an ass’s head, nor the Cross, nor the sun, nor a biformed monstrosity, resembling some of your gods.


We worship One God, the omnipotent and invisible Creator, to whom Nature and the human Soul bear witness.


And He hath given us a revelation of Himself through the Scriptures and the Prophets, whose writings are open to all.


The daemons and your gods are identical, as their own confession when confronted by a Christian will prove. You may further learn from them Who is the True God. Our dominion over the daemons is derived from the power of Christ.


Your charge of Sacrilege thus falls to the ground, for there can be no religious duties towards gods that have no existence. In any case, we claim the civil right of religious liberty, which you grant to everyone but us.

Now all this confession of theirs, by which they deny their own divinity and assert that there is no other God but the One Whom we serve, is quite sufficient to repel the charge brought against us of injury to religion, and especially to the Roman religion. For if it be certain that there are no gods, it is equally certain that there can be no religion belonging to them; and if there is no religion, in consequence of there certainly being no gods, then certainly neither can we be guilty of injury to that religion. But on the contrary, the reproach will recoil upon yourselves who, as the worshippers of a lie, commit the crime of true irreligion against the Truth, not merely by your neglect of the true worship of the True God, but also by your attack upon it.

It is only we who are excluded from a right of possession in a religion of our own. We offend the Romans, and are not regarded as Romans, because we do not worship a god of the Romans. Well is it that He is the God of all, Whose we all are, whether we wish it or no. But with you a right exists to worship whatever you wish except the True God, as if He were not especially the God of all, Whose we all are.


You claim that Roman prosperity is due to Roman piety. Yet your chief deities are foreigners, who once reigned on earth, and therefore must some time have worshipped your earliest deities. Besides, your elaborate piety is of later growth than your prosperity, which has in reality been advanced by your impieties.


All rule and sovereignty are in the hands of the One God Who is above all.

SEE, therefore, whether it is not He Who dispenses kingdoms, Whose is both the world which is ruled and man himself who rules; whether it is not He Who has ordained the changes of empires with the periods of their duration in the world, Who existed before all time and created the course of this world, the embodiment of times and seasons and events; whether it is not He Who causes the rise and decline of states, under Whom the human race once existed without states. Why do you make such a mistake? Rome in her state of natural wildness is older than some of her own gods; she held sway before she constructed so large an enclosure of Capitol. The Babylonians, too, reigned before your Pontiffs, and the Medes before your Fifteen, the Egyptians before the Salii, the Assyrians before the Luperci, and the Amazons before the Vestal Virgins. Finally, if the religious rites of the Romans are responsible for their kingdoms, Judaea, a despiser of those common divinities of yours, would never have reigned in time past, whose God with sacrifices, whose temple with gifts, whose nation with treaties you Romans have honored at various times; and never would you have become its lords, had it not in the end sinned against Christ.


Your animosity against us is incited by demoniacal agency.


The same evil influence drives you to force us to sacrifice for the emperor’s welfare. This we refuse to do, and therefore we are charged, secondly, with Disloyalty to Caesar.


Yet the gods are Caesar’s creatures, and cannot have his welfare in their keeping.


We offer for Caesar’s welfare prayers to the True God in Whose power alone it is.

FOR we invoke on behalf of the emperor’s welfare the Eternal God, the True God, the Living God, Whom the emperors themselves also would rather have propitious to them than all the others. They know as emperors Who gave them their empire, and as men Who gave them life; they feel that He Alone is God, in Whose power alone they are; to Whom they are second, after Whom they are first, before all and above all gods.


And our prayers for him are no pretense, but part of our religious duty.

SUPPOSE that this is mere cringing to the emperor, and that the prayers of which we speak are a pretense, in order forsooth to escape your violence. Much that deceit would profit us! for you permit us to bring proofs of that which we maintain. Look, therefore, you who think we care nothing about the welfare of the Caesars, into the oracles of God, our scriptures, which we ourselves by no means suppress, and which many chances bring into the hands of outsiders. Know from these that we are exhorted to an overflowing kindness, even to the extent of beseeching God for our enemies, and praying for blessings upon our persecutors. Now who are greater enemies and persecutors of the Christians than those towards whom we are charged with disloyalty? But prayer for emperors is even expressly and plainly enjoined upon us : ‘Pray,’ says the Apostle, ‘for kings, and for princes and powers, that all things may be tranquil with you.’ For when the empire is disturbed, in the disturbance of its other parts, surely we, too, though strangers to commotions, are to be found in some place which is affected by the calamity.


And rendered necessary by our belief that the continuance of the Roman Empire delays the end of the world.

THERE is also another and a greater reason why we should pray for the emperors, as for the whole state of the empire and Roman interests; because we know, that the stupendous shock which impends over the whole world, and the close itself of this age which threatens terrible woes, is delayed by the respite granted to the Roman Empire. And so whilst we pray for the postponement of those things which we are unwilling to experience, we favor the duration of the Roman government. Moreover also we swear, not by the genii of the Caesars, but by their safety, which is more august than all genii. Are you not aware that genii are called ‘daemones,’ and thence, by a diminutive, ‘daemonia?’ In the emperors we look up to the judgment of God, Who sets them over the nations. We recognize in them this fact only, what God wills; and therefore we wish that to be safe which He wills, and we regard their safety as a great oath. But daemons, that is, genii, we are wont to adjure, that we may drive them out of men, not to swear by, so as to confer on them the honor of divinity.


We are much more truly loyal than you are; for we recognize the Divine will in the appointment of the Caesars, although we refuse to acknowledge the divinity of the Caesars themselves.

BUT why should I enlarge upon the scrupulous regard and loyalty of the Christians towards the emperor? for we are bound to look up to him as one whom our God has chosen. And I might with justice claim him as especially our Caesar, since he is appointed by our God. So also I do more for his welfare, not merely in that I ask for it from Him Who can grant it, or that I who ask it am such an one as to deserve to obtain it, but also that I, by reducing the majesty of Caesar below God, do the more commend him to God to Whom alone I subject him. But I subject him to One to Whom I do not make him equal. For I will not call the emperor a god, both because I cannot lie, and also because I dare not mock him, and because not even he himself would wish to be called a god. If he is a man, it is man’s interest to yield to God; let it be sufficient for him to be called emperor. And a noble title indeed is this which is given him by God. He who calls him a god denies that he is an emperor. Unless he be a man he is not an emperor. That he is a man, he is admonished even when triumphing in his most lofty chariot. He is reminded from behind: ‘Look behind thee; remember that thou art a man.’ And surely he rejoices the more at his glittering with such great glory that the reminder of his real lot is necessary. [He would really be less, if he were then called a god, because he would not be truly called so.] He is greater who is recalled to himself, lest he should think himself a god.


‘Lord’ is no proper title of Caesar, but belongs to God.


We are called ‘public enemies’ because we refuse to join in your useless acts of worship and lewd festivities. The real traitors are always found amongst yourselves, whether of lower or higher rank.


We are necessarily well-disposed to every one, whether Caesar or neighbor.


We are forbidden to retaliate, else we might easily take our revenge, either by secret means, or as of en enemies, or even by merely withdrawing from your midst, and leaving you defenseless against the attacks of the daemons.


The Christian society ought to be recognized by the law, since it is a harmless and unambitious association.


The purposes of our assembly are pious, pure, and charitable. Our well-known love for each other is blamed, and our simple ‘love-feast’ denounced as extravagant.


Our existence is supposed to provoke the anger of the gods and to be the cause of disaster to the empire. Yet such occurrences happened before the rise of Christianity. Your own gods, too, suffer in disasters which are supposed to come from them. The presence of the Christians in the world has tempered the violence of God’s judgments.


These judgments are attributable to your misdeeds.

CONSEQUENTLY it is you, by whom God is contemned and statues worshipped, who are the troublers of mankind, it is you who are the provokers of public calamities and evils.


The real loss to the state involved in your injustice to us is overlooked.

YET no one pays attention to that loss to the commonwealth which is as great as it is real, no one pays attention to that injury to the state which arises from the punishment of so many just persons, from the slaughter of so many innocent men. For we appeal now to your own judicial acts, you who preside daily for the trial of prisoners, who balance the criminal charge-sheet by the infliction of appropriate sentences. So many culprits under various criminal charges are examined by you; what assassin or cutpurse or sacrilegious person or procurer or thief is there amongst them, who is also described as a Christian? Or when Christians are brought into court on the charge peculiar to them 115, who amongst them is ever such an one, as are your numerous culprits? It is with your own people that your prisons heave; it is with your own people that the mines perpetually sigh; it is on your own people that the beasts are continually fattened; it is from your own people that the givers of gladiatorial shows provide their flocks of criminals. No Christian is amongst them, unless it be simply because he is one; or if it be for any other reason, he is no longer a Christian 116. |127


Our sect is regarded as a school of philosophy, yet you refuse us the license you grant to philosophers. In reality, we differ from the philosophers both in the extent and definiteness of our knowledge, and in our moral standard.


Our sufferings are our triumph. Our endurance in your view redounds to our discredit; the fortitude of others to their honor. You may gain popularity by your injustice, but our sufferings and practical example continually attract new converts.



Many years after Tertullian, in 312 AD, the Church understood the “earthly Kingdom” differently. It was when Constantine offered freedom to the Church, accepted the religious Monotheism, renouncing thus his “divine status”. The emperor suddenly was not an enemy but a friend and protector of the faithful, an “imitation of God himself” according to Eusebius.

The theology of Eusebius sacrilizes the emperor’s leadership. The emperor represents the divine Logos who “reigns from ages”. Of course, this glorification of the monarchy requires the existence of a faithful monarch. The following are interesting extracts from Eusebius’ “Oration in Praise of Constantine” (translated by Ernest Cushing Richardson, 1890 –public domain):

Chapter 1

1. Today is the festival of our great emperor: and we his children rejoice therein, feeling the inspiration of our sacred theme. He who presides over our solemnity is the Great Sovereign himself; he, I mean, who is truly great; of whom I affirm (nor will the sovereign who hears me be offended, but will rather approve of this ascription of praise to God), that HE is above and beyond all created things, the Highest, the Greatest, the most Mighty One; whose throne is the arch of heaven, and the earth the footstool of his feet. His being none can worthily comprehend; and the ineffable splendor of the glory which surrounds him repels the gaze of every eye from his Divine majesty.

Chapter 2

1. This only begotten Word of God reigns, from ages which had no beginning, to infinite and endless ages, the partner of his Father’s kingdom. And [our emperor] ever beloved by him, who derives the source of imperial authority from above, and is strong in the power of his sacred title, has controlled the empire of the world for a long period of years.

2. Again, that Preserver of the universe orders these heavens and earth, and the celestial kingdom, consistently with his Father’s will. Even so our emperor whom he loves, by bringing those whom he rules on earth to the only begotten Word and Saviour renders them fit subjects of his kingdom.

5. Once more, the universal Saviour opens the heavenly gates of his Father’s kingdom to those whose course is thitherward from this world. Our emperor, emulous of his Divine example, having purged his earthly dominion from every stain of impious error, invites each holy and pious worshiper within his imperial mansions, earnestly desiring to save with all its crew that mighty vessel of which he is the appointed pilot. And he alone of all who have wielded the imperial power of Rome, being honored by the Supreme Sovereign with a reign of three decennial periods, now celebrates this festival, not, as his ancestors might have done, in honor of infernal demons, or the apparitions of seducing spirits, or of the fraud and deceitful arts of impious men; but as an act of thanksgiving to him by whom he has thus been honored, and in acknowledgment of the blessings he has received at his hands. He does not, in imitation of ancient usage, defile his imperial mansions with blood and gore, nor propitiate the infernal deities with fire and smoke, and sacrificial offerings; but dedicates to the universal Sovereign a pleasant and acceptable sacrifice, even his own imperial soul, and a mind truly fitted for the service of God.

6. For this sacrifice alone is grateful to him: and this sacrifice our emperor has learned, with purified mind and thoughts, to present as an offering without the intervention of fire and blood, while his own piety, strengthened by the truthful doctrines with which his soul is stored, he sets forth in magnificent language the praises of God, and imitates his Divine philanthropy by his own imperial acts. Wholly devoted to him, he dedicates himself as a noble offering, a first-fruit of that world, the government of which is entrusted to his charge. This first and greatest sacrifice our emperor first dedicates to God; and then, as a faithful shepherd, he offers, not famous hecatombs of firstling lambs, but the souls of that flock which is the object of his care, those rational beings whom he leads to the knowledge and pious worship of God.

Chapter 3

1. And gladly does he accept and welcome this sacrifice, and commend the presenter of so august and noble an offering, by protracting his reign to a lengthened period of years, giving larger proofs of his beneficence in proportion to the emperor’s holy services to himself. Accordingly he permits him to celebrate each successive festival during great and general prosperity throughout the empire, advancing one of his sons, at the recurrence of each decennial period, to a share of his own imperial power.

2. The eldest, who bears his father’s name, he received as his partner in the empire about the close of the first decade of his reign: the second, next in point of age, at the second; and the third in like manner at the third decennial period, the occasion of this our present festival. And now that the fourth period has commenced, and the time of his reign is still further prolonged, he desires to extend his imperial authority by calling still more of his kindred to partake his power; and, by the appointment of the Cæsars, fulfills the predictions of the holy prophets, according to what they uttered ages before: And the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom.

3. And thus the Almighty Sovereign himself accords an increase both of years and of children to our most pious emperor, and renders his sway over the nations of the world still fresh and flourishing, as though it were even now springing up in its earliest vigor. He it is who appoints him this present festival, in that he has made him victorious over every enemy that disturbed his peace: he it is who displays him as an example of true godliness to the human race.

4. And thus our emperor, like the radiant sun, illuminates the most distant subjects of his empire through the presence of the Cæsars, as with the far piercing rays of his own brightness. To us who occupy the eastern regions he has given a son worthy of himself; a second and a third respectively to other departments of his empire, to be, as it were, brilliant reflectors of the light which proceeds from himself. Once more, having harnessed, as it were, under the self-same yoke the four most noble Cæsars as horses in the imperial chariot, he sits on high and directs their course by the reins of holy harmony and concord; and, himself every where present, and observant of every event, thus traverses every region of the world.

5. Lastly, invested as he is with a semblance of heavenly sovereignty, he directs his gaze above, and frames his earthly government according to the pattern of that Divine original, feeling strength in its conformity to the monarchy of God. And this conformity is granted by the universal Sovereign to man alone of the creatures of this earth: for he only is the author of sovereign power, who decrees that all should be subject to the rule of one.

6. And surely monarchy far transcends every other constitution and form of government: for that democratic equality of power, which is its opposite, may rather be described as anarchy and disorder. Hence there is one God, and not two, or three, or more: for to assert a plurality of gods is plainly to deny the being of God at all. There is one Sovereign; and his Word and royal Law is one: a Law not expressed in syllables and words, not written or engraved on tablets, and therefore subject to the ravages of time; but the living and self-subsisting Word, who himself is God, and who administers his Father’s kingdom on behalf of all who are after him and subject to his power.

Chapter 5

1. And in this hope our divinely-favored emperor partakes even in this present life, gifted as he is by God with native virtues, and having received into his soul the out-flowings of his favor. His reason he derives from the great Source of all reason: he is wise, and good, and just, as having fellowship with perfect Wisdom, Goodness, and Righteousness: virtuous, as following the pattern of perfect virtue: valiant, as partaking of heavenly strength.

2. And truly may he deserve the imperial title, who has formed his soul to royal virtues, according to the standard of that celestial kingdom. But he who is a stranger to these blessings, who denies the Sovereign of the universe, and owns no allegiance to the heavenly Father of spirits; who invests not himself with the virtues which become an emperor, but overlays his soul with moral deformity and baseness; who for royal clemency substitutes the fury of a savage beast; for a generous temper, the incurable venom of malicious wickedness; for prudence, folly; for reason and wisdom, that recklessness which is the most odious of all vices, for from it, as from a spring of bitterness, proceed the most pernicious fruits; such as inveterate profligacy of life, covetousness, murder, impiety and defiance of God; surely one abandoned to such vices as these, however he may be deemed powerful through despotic violence, has no true title to the name of Emperor.

4. Let, then, our emperor, on the testimony of truth itself, be declared alone worthy of the title; who is dear to the Supreme Sovereign himself; who alone is free, nay, who is truly lord: above the thirst of wealth, superior to sexual desire; victorious even over natural pleasures; controlling, not controlled by, anger and passion. He is indeed an emperor, and bears a title corresponding to his deeds; a Victor in truth, who has gained the victory over those passions which overmaster the rest of men: whose character is formed after the Divine original of the Supreme Sovereign, and whose mind reflects, as in a mirror, the radiance of his virtues. Hence is our emperor perfect in discretion, in goodness, in justice, in courage, in piety, in devotion to God: he truly and only is a philosopher, since he knows himself, and is fully aware that supplies of every blessing are showered on him from a source quite external to himself, even from heaven itself. Declaring the august title of supreme authority by the splendor of his vesture, he alone worthily wears that imperial purple which so well becomes him.

5. He is indeed an emperor, who calls on and implores in prayer the favor of his heavenly Father night and day, and whose ardent desires are fixed on his celestial kingdom. For he knows that present things, subject as they are to decay and death, flowing on and disappearing like a river’s stream, are not worthy to be compared with him who is sovereign of all; therefore it is that he longs for the incorruptible and incorporeal kingdom of God. And this kingdom he trusts he shall obtain, elevating his mind as he does in sublimity of thought above the vault of heaven, and filled with inexpressible longing for the glories which shine there, in comparison with which he deems the precious things of this present world but darkness. For he sees earthly sovereignty to be but a petty and fleeting dominion over a mortal and temporary life, and rates it not much higher than the goatherd’s, or shepherd’s, or herdsman’s power: nay, as more burdensome than theirs, and exercised over more stubborn subjects. The acclamations of the people, and the voice of flattery, he reckons rather troublesome than pleasing, because of the steady constancy of his character, and genuine discipline of his mind.

6. Again, when he beholds the military service of his subjects, the vast array of his armies, the multitudes of horse and foot, entirely devoted to his command, he feels no astonishment, no pride at the possession of such mighty power; but turns his thoughts inward on himself, and recognizes the same common nature there. He smiles at his vesture, embroidered with gold and flowers, and at the imperial purple and diadem itself, when he sees the multitude gaze in wonder, like children at a bugbear, on the splendid spectacle. Himself superior to such feelings, he clothes his soul with the knowledge of God, that vesture, the broidery of which is temperance, righteousness, piety, and all other virtues; a vesture such as truly becomes a sovereign.

7. The wealth which others so much desire, as gold, silver, or precious gems, he regards to be, as they really are, in themselves mere stones and worthless matter, of no avail to preserve or defend from evil. For what power have these things to free from disease, or repel the approach of death? And knowing as he does this truth by personal experience in the use of these things, he regards the splendid attire of his subjects with calm indifference, and smiles at the childishness of those to whom they prove attractive. Lastly, he abstains from all excess in food and wine, and leaves superfluous dainties to gluttons, judging that such indulgences, however suitable to others, are not so to him, and deeply convinced of their pernicious tendency, and their effect in darkening the intellectual powers of the soul.

8. For all these reasons, our divinely taught and noble-minded emperor, aspiring to higher objects than this life affords, calls upon his heavenly Father as one who longs for his kingdom; exhibits a pious spirit in each action of his life; and finally, as a wise and good instructor, imparts to his subjects the knowledge of him who is the Sovereign Lord of all.

Chapter 6

1. And God himself, as an earnest of future reward, assigns to him now as it were tricennial crowns composed of prosperous periods of time; and now, after the revolution of three circles of ten years, he grants permission to all mankind to celebrate this general, nay rather, this universal festival.

Chapter 9

1. And now we may well compare the present with former things, and review these happy changes in contrast with the evils that are past, and mark the elaborate care with which in ancient times porches and sacred precincts, groves and temples, were prepared in every city for these false deities, and how their shrines were enriched with abundant offerings.

2. The sovereign rulers of those days had indeed a high regard for the worship of the gods. The nations also and people subject to their power honored them with images both in the country and in every city, nay, even in their houses and secret chambers, according to the religious practice of their fathers. The fruit, however, of this devotion, far different from the peaceful concord which now meets our view, appeared in war, in battles, and seditions, which harassed them throughout their lives, and deluged their countries with blood and civil slaughter.

Chapter 11

1. And now, victorious and mighty Constantine, in this discourse, whose noble argument is the glory of the Almighty King, let me lay before you some of the mysteries of his sacred truth: not as presuming to instruct you, who art yourself taught of God; nor to disclose to you those secret wonders which he himself, not through the agency of man, but through our common Saviour, and the frequent light of his Divine presence has long since revealed and unfolded to your view: but in the hope of leading the unlearned to the light, and displaying before those who know them not the causes and motives of your pious deeds.

2. True it is that your noble efforts for the daily worship and honor of the Supreme God throughout the habitable world, are the theme of universal praise. But those records of gratitude to your Saviour and Preserver which you have dedicated in our own province of Palestine, and in that city from which as from a fountain-head the Saviour Word has issued forth to all mankind; and again, the hallowed edifices and consecrated temples which you have raised as trophies of his victory over death; and those lofty and noble structures, imperial monuments of an imperial spirit, which you have erected in honor of the everlasting memory of the Saviour’s tomb; the cause, I say, of these things is not equally obvious to all.

3. Those, indeed, who are enlightened in heavenly knowledge by the power of the Divine Spirit, well understand the cause, and justly admire and bless you for that counsel and resolution which Heaven itself inspired. On the other hand the ignorant and spiritually blind regard these designs with open mockery and scorn, and deem it a strange and unworthy thing indeed that so mighty a prince should waste his zeal on the graves and monuments of the dead.

6. Hence it is only for those who are themselves instructed in Divine things and understand the motives of that zeal of which these works are the result, to appreciate the more than human impulse by which our emperor was guided, to admire his piety toward God, and to believe his care for the memorial of our Saviour’s resurrection to be a desire imparted from above, and truly inspired by that Sovereign, to be whose faithful servant and minister for good is his proudest boast.

7. In full persuasion, then, of your approval, most mighty emperor, I desire at this present time to proclaim to all the reasons and motives of your pious works. I desire to stand as the interpreter of your designs, to explain the counsels of a soul devoted to the love of God. I propose to teach all men, what all should know who care to understand the principles on which our Saviour God employs his power, the reasons for which he who was the pre-existent Controller of all things at length descended to us from heaven: the reasons for which he assumed our nature, and submitted even to the power of death. I shall declare the causes of that immortal life which followed, and of his resurrection from the dead. Once more, I shall adduce convincing proofs and arguments, for the sake of those who yet need such testimony:

Chapter 16

6. Our Saviour’s mighty power destroyed at once the many governments and the many gods of the powers of darkness, and proclaimed to all men, both rude and civilized, to the extremities of the earth, the sole sovereignty of God himself. Meantime the Roman empire, the causes of multiplied governments being thus removed, effected an easy conquest of those which yet remained; its object being to unite all nations in one harmonious whole; an object in great measure already secured, and destined to be still more perfectly attained, even to the final conquest of the ends of the habitable world, by means of the salutary doctrine, and through the aid of that Divine power which facilitates and smooths its way.

Chapter 18

1. These words of ours, however, [gracious] Sovereign, may well appear superfluous in your ears, convinced as you are, by frequent and personal experience, of our Saviour’s Deity; yourself also, in actions still more than words, a herald of the truth to all mankind. Yourself, it may be, will vouchsafe at a time of leisure to relate to us the abundant manifestations which your Saviour has accorded you of his presence, and the oft-repeated visions of himself which have attended you in the hours of sleep. I speak not of those secret suggestions which to us are unrevealed: but of those principles which he has instilled into your own mind, and which are fraught with general interest and benefit to the human race. You will yourself relate in worthy terms the visible protection which your Divine shield and guardian has extended in the hour of battle; the ruin of your open and secret foes; and his ready aid in time of peril. To him you will ascribe relief in the midst of perplexity; defense in solitude; expedients in extremity; foreknowledge of events yet future; your forethought for the general good; your power to investigate uncertain questions; your conduct of most important enterprises; your administration of civil affairs; your military arrangements, and correction of abuses in all departments; your ordinances respecting public right; and, lastly, your legislation for the common benefit of all. You will, it may be, also detail to us those particulars of his favor which are secret to us, but known to you alone, and treasured in your royal memory as in secret storehouses. Such, doubtless, are the reasons, and such the convincing proofs of your Saviour’s power, which caused you to raise that sacred edifice which presents to all, believers and unbelievers alike, a trophy of his victory over death, a holy temple of the holy God: to consecrate those noble and splendid monuments of immortal life and his heavenly kingdom: to offer memorials of our Almighty Saviour’s conquest which well become the imperial dignity of him by whom they are bestowed. With such memorials have you adorned that edifice which witnesses of eternal life: thus, as it were in imperial characters, ascribing victory and triumph to the heavenly Word of God: thus proclaiming to all nations, with clear and unmistakable voice, in deed and word, your own devout and pious confession of his name.



Eusebius’ “Oration” describes a harmony between Church and State in the Constantinian and post-Constantinian Roman Empire. However, this harmony could not exist forever. The fall of Rome in 410 AD was a shock for the Roman Christians. Augustine, in his book “The City of God” moves away from Eusebius’ thought. The “Kingdom of this world” is presented as contrasted to “the Kingdom of God”. For Augustine, Christians must bring the “earthly Kingdom” into as much resemblance to the “Heavenly Kingdom” as they can.

The two Kingdoms (or the two cities, as he calls them) co-exist in history but they will be separated at the eschaton, where the Kingdom of God will remain as the only kingdom. Because of that, the Church must always be critical to civil authorities, pointing to the eschaton and remaining obedient to God. The following are interesting extracts from “the City of God” (translated by Marcus Dods, 1887 –public domain):

Book XI

Chapter 1.— Of This Part of the Work, Wherein We Begin to Explain the Origin and End of the Two Cities.

The city of God we speak of is the same to which testimony is borne by that Scripture, which excels all the writings of all nations by its divine authority, and has brought under its influence all kinds of minds, and this not by a casual intellectual movement, but obviously by an express providential arrangement. For there it is written, Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. And in another psalm we read, Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness, increasing the joy of the whole earth. And, a little after, in the same psalm, As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God. God has established it for ever. And in another, There is a river the streams whereof shall make glad the city of our God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved. From these and similar testimonies, all of which it were tedious to cite, we have learned that there is a city of God, and its Founder has inspired us with a love which makes us covet its citizenship. To this Founder of the holy city the citizens of the earthly city prefer their own gods, not knowing that He is the God of gods, not of false, i.e., of impious and proud gods, who, being deprived of His unchangeable and freely communicated light, and so reduced to a kind of poverty-stricken power, eagerly grasp at their own private privileges, and seek divine honors from their deluded subjects; but of the pious and holy gods, who are better pleased to submit themselves to one, than to subject many to themselves, and who would rather worship God than be worshipped as God. But to the enemies of this city we have replied in the ten preceding books, according to our ability and the help afforded by our Lord and King. Now, recognizing what is expected of me, and not unmindful of my promise, and relying, too, on the same succor, I will endeavor to treat of the origin, and progress, and deserved destinies of the two cities (the earthly and the heavenly, to wit), which, as we said, are in this present world commingled, and as it were entangled together. And, first, I will explain how the foundations of these two cities were originally laid, in the difference that arose among the angels.

Book XIV

Chapter 1.— That the Disobedience of the First Man Would Have Plunged All Men into the Endless Misery of the Second Death, Had Not the Grace of God Rescued Many.

We have already stated in the preceding books that God, desiring not only that the human race might be able by their similarity of nature to associate with one another, but also that they might be bound together in harmony and peace by the ties of relationship, was pleased to derive all men from one individual, and created man with such a nature that the members of the race should not have died, had not the two first (of whom the one was created out of nothing, and the other out of him) merited this by their disobedience; for by them so great a sin was committed, that by it the human nature was altered for the worse, and was transmitted also to their posterity, liable to sin and subject to death. And the kingdom of death so reigned over men, that the deserved penalty of sin would have hurled all headlong even into the second death, of which there is no end, had not the undeserved grace of God saved some therefrom. And thus it has come to pass, that though there are very many and great nations all over the earth, whose rites and customs, speech, arms, and dress, are distinguished by marked differences, yet there are no more than two kinds of human society, which we may justly call two cities, according to the language of our Scriptures. The one consists of those who wish to live after the flesh, the other of those who wish to live after the spirit; and when they severally achieve what they wish, they live in peace, each after their kind.

Book XV

Chapter 4.— Of the Conflict and Peace of the Earthly City.

But the earthly city, which shall not be everlasting (for it will no longer be a city when it has been committed to the extreme penalty), has its good in this world, and rejoices in it with such joy as such things can afford. But as this is not a good which can discharge its devotees of all distresses, this city is often divided against itself by litigations, wars, quarrels, and such victories as are either life-destroying or short-lived. For each part of it that arms against another part of it seeks to triumph over the nations through itself in bondage to vice. If, when it has conquered, it is inflated with pride, its victory is life-destroying; but if it turns its thoughts upon the common casualties of our mortal condition, and is rather anxious concerning the disasters that may befall it than elated with the successes already achieved, this victory, though of a higher kind, is still only short-lived; for it cannot abidingly rule over those whom it has victoriously subjugated. But the things which this city desires cannot justly be said to be evil, for it is itself, in its own kind, better than all other human good. For it desires earthly peace for the sake of enjoying earthly goods, and it makes war in order to attain to this peace; since, if it has conquered, and there remains no one to resist it, it enjoys a peace which it had not while there were opposing parties who contested for the enjoyment of those things which were too small to satisfy both. This peace is purchased by toilsome wars; it is obtained by what they style a glorious victory. Now, when victory remains with the party which had the juster cause, who hesitates to congratulate the victor, and style it a desirable peace? These things, then, are good things, and without doubt the gifts of God. But if they neglect the better things of the heavenly city, which are secured by eternal victory and peace never-ending, and so inordinately covet these present good things that they believe them to be the only desirable things, or love them better than those things which are believed to be better—if this be so, then it is necessary that misery follow and ever increase.

Chapter 5.— Of the Fratricidal Act of the Founder of the Earthly City, and the Corresponding Crime of the Founder of Rome.

Thus the founder of the earthly city was a fratricide. Overcome with envy, he slew his own brother, a citizen of the eternal city, and a sojourner on earth. So that we cannot be surprised that this first specimen, or, as the Greeks say, archetype of crime, should, long afterwards, find a corresponding crime at the foundation of that city which was destined to reign over so many nations, and be the head of this earthly city of which we speak. For of that city also, as one of their poets has mentioned, the first walls were stained with a brother’s blood, or, as Roman history records, Remus was slain by his brother Romulus. And thus there is no difference between the foundation of this city and of the earthly city, unless it be that Romulus and Remus were both citizens of the earthly city. Both desired to have the glory of founding the Roman republic, but both could not have as much glory as if one only claimed it; for he who wished to have the glory of ruling would certainly rule less if his power were shared by a living consort. In order, therefore, that the whole glory might be enjoyed by one, his consort was removed; and by this crime the empire was made larger indeed, but inferior, while otherwise it would have been less, but better. Now these brothers, Cain and Abel, were not both animated by the same earthly desires, nor did the murderer envy the other because he feared that, by both ruling, his own dominion would be curtailed,— for Abel was not solicitous to rule in that city which his brother built—he was moved by that diabolical, envious hatred with which the evil regard the good, for no other reason than because they are good while themselves are evil. For the possession of goodness is by no means diminished by being shared with a partner either permanent or temporarily assumed; on the contrary, the possession of goodness is increased in proportion to the concord and charity of each of those who share it. In short, he who is unwilling to share this possession cannot have it; and he who is most willing to admit others to a share of it will have the greatest abundance to himself. The quarrel, then, between Romulus and Remus shows how the earthly city is divided against itself; that which fell out between Cain and Abel illustrated the hatred that subsists between the two cities, that of God and that of men. The wicked war with the wicked; the good also war with the wicked. But with the good, good men, or at least perfectly good men, cannot war; though, while only going on towards perfection, they war to this extent, that every good man resists others in those points in which he resists himself. And in each individual the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. Galatians 5:17 This spiritual lusting, therefore, can be at war with the carnal lust of another man; or carnal lust may be at war with the spiritual desires of another, in some such way as good and wicked men are at war; or, still more certainly, the carnal lusts of two men, good but not yet perfect, contend together, just as the wicked contend with the wicked, until the health of those who are under the treatment of grace attains final victory.

Chapter 6.— Of the Weaknesses Which Even the Citizens of the City of God Suffer During This Earthly Pilgrimage in Punishment of Sin, and of Which They are Healed by God’s Care.

This sickliness— that is to say, that disobedience of which we spoke in the fourteenth book— is the punishment of the first disobedience. It is therefore not nature, but vice; and therefore it is said to the good who are growing in grace, and living in this pilgrimage by faith, Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 In like manner it is said elsewhere, Warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 And in another place, If a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. Galatians 6:1 And elsewhere, Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Ephesians 4:26 And in the Gospel, If your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. Matthew 18:15 So too of sins which may create scandal the apostle says, Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. 1 Timothy 5:20 For this purpose, and that we may keep that peace without which no man can see the Lord, Hebrews 12:14 many precepts are given which carefully inculcate mutual forgiveness; among which we may number that terrible word in which the servant is ordered to pay his formerly remitted debt of ten thousand talents, because he did not remit to his fellow-servant his debt of two hundred pence. To which parable the Lord Jesus added the words, So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother. Matthew 18:35 It is thus the citizens of the city of God are healed while still they sojourn in this earth and sigh for the peace of their heavenly country. The Holy Spirit, too, works within, that the medicine externally applied may have some good result. Otherwise, even though God Himself make use of the creatures that are subject to Him, and in some human form address our human senses, whether we receive those impressions in sleep or in some external appearance, still, if He does not by His own inward grace sway and act upon the mind, no preaching of the truth is of any avail. But this God does, distinguishing between the vessels of wrath and the vessels of mercy, by His own very secret but very just providence. When He Himself aids the soul in His own hidden and wonderful ways, and the sin which dwells in our members, and is, as the apostle teaches, rather the punishment of sin, does not reign in our mortal body to obey the lusts of it, and when we no longer yield our members as instruments of unrighteousness, Romans 6:12-13 then the soul is converted from its own evil and selfish desires, and, God possessing it, it possesses itself in peace even in this life, and afterwards, with perfected health and endowed with immortality, will reign without sin in peace everlasting.

Book XIX

Chapter 17.— What Produces Peace, and What Discord, Between the Heavenly and Earthly Cities.

But the families which do not live by faith seek their peace in the earthly advantages of this life; while the families which live by faith look for those eternal blessings which are promised, and use as pilgrims such advantages of time and of earth as do not fascinate and divert them from God, but rather aid them to endure with greater ease, and to keep down the number of those burdens of the corruptible body which weigh upon the soul. Thus the things necessary for this mortal life are used by both kinds of men and families alike, but each has its own peculiar and widely different aim in using them. The earthly city, which does not live by faith, seeks an earthly peace, and the end it proposes, in the well-ordered concord of civic obedience and rule, is the combination of men’s wills to attain the things which are helpful to this life. The heavenly city, or rather the part of it which sojourns on earth and lives by faith, makes use of this peace only because it must, until this mortal condition which necessitates it shall pass away. Consequently, so long as it lives like a captive and a stranger in the earthly city, though it has already received the promise of redemption, and the gift of the Spirit as the earnest of it, it makes no scruple to obey the laws of the earthly city, whereby the things necessary for the maintenance of this mortal life are administered; and thus, as this life is common to both cities, so there is a harmony between them in regard to what belongs to it. But, as the earthly city has had some philosophers whose doctrine is condemned by the divine teaching, and who, being deceived either by their own conjectures or by demons, supposed that many gods must be invited to take an interest in human affairs, and assigned to each a separate function and a separate department—to one the body, to another the soul; and in the body itself, to one the head, to another the neck, and each of the other members to one of the gods; and in like manner, in the soul, to one god the natural capacity was assigned, to another education, to another anger, to another lust; and so the various affairs of life were assigned—cattle to one, grain to another, wine to another, oil to another, the woods to another, money to another, navigation to another, wars and victories to another, marriages to another, births and fecundity to another, and other things to other gods: and as the celestial city, on the other hand, knew that one God only was to be worshipped, and that to Him alone was due that service which the Greeks call λατρεία, and which can be given only to a god, it has come to pass that the two cities could not have common laws of religion, and that the heavenly city has been compelled in this matter to dissent, and to become obnoxious to those who think differently, and to stand the brunt of their anger and hatred and persecutions, except in so far as the minds of their enemies have been alarmed by the multitude of the Christians and quelled by the manifest protection of God accorded to them. This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby earthly peace is secured and maintained, but recognizing that, however various these are, they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities, that it even preserves and adopts them, so long only as no hindrance to the worship of the one supreme and true God is thus introduced. Even the heavenly city, therefore, while in its state of pilgrimage, avails itself of the peace of earth, and, so far as it can without injuring faith and godliness, desires and maintains a common agreement among men regarding the acquisition of the necessaries of life, and makes this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven; for this alone can be truly called and esteemed the peace of the reasonable creatures, consisting as it does in the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God and of one another in God. When we shall have reached that peace, this mortal life shall give place to one that is eternal, and our body shall be no more this animal body which by its corruption weighs down the soul, but a spiritual body feeling no want, and in all its members subjected to the will. In its pilgrim state the heavenly city possesses this peace by faith; and by this faith it lives righteously when it refers to the attainment of that peace every good action towards God and man; for the life of the city is a social life.


Tertullian’s, Eusebius’ and Augustine’s writings express various views on the nature of the “earthly kingdom” interpreting different historical circumstances. However, they agree on the supremacy of “God’s Kingdom” as well as on the faithful’s duty to “obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29).

About the Author:

Rev.Fr.Dr.Vassilios Bebis is the Presiding Priest at Saint Nektarios Orthodox Church in Rosindale,Boston and a Senior Fellow of the Sophia Institute.