“While numerous religious scholars have approached this essential question, the focus of this paper is Saint Paul, who addresses human beings’ freedom of choice in Chapter 7 of his letter to the Romans, and Saint Augustine, who formulates a defense of free will in his treatise On Free Choice of the Will”.
Jesse A. Goldberg
Saint Paul and Saint Augustine are often compared, owing to their dramatic conversions; their universal influence and authority; their writings and teachings; and so on.
For instance Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, writes:
Patriarchal villains? It’s time to re-think St Paul and St Augustine
Paul and Augustine are blamed for any number of historical outrages. But on questions like slavery and empire, they were more progressive than many credit.
Paul of Tarsus and Augustine of Hippo are usually regarded as pantomime villains by right-thinking moderns. Any number of historical outrages and injustices have been laid at their door, jointly and severally; patriarchal oppression, collusion in slavery, the Inquisition, the collective Christian neurosis about sexuality – almost everything except the common cold. What is most interesting about these two books is that two seasoned and scholarly authors without any religious axes to grind are arguing that this profound suspicion warrants significant qualification. Neither Karen Armstrong nor Robin Lane Fox would want to absolve the two great theologians from every reproach: Paul and Augustine are men of their age, using the familiar rhetorical forms of their cultures, marked by the patterns of power they live in, uncritical of much that we would indignantly repudiate. But what both these books do is to show how, although neither Paul nor Augustine existed in a timeless world of liberal virtue, they still offer an intellectually and imaginatively serious perspective on our humanity as well as theirs and that of their contemporaries.
Both are of course frequently cited as examples of lives that have changed course dramatically in midstream. Paul describes himself as originally a passionate enemy of the incipient Christian movement; but just a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus, a traumatic visionary encounter with Jesus sets his life on a profoundly risky course as a travelling advocate for the new faith, for which, according to tradition, he eventually died a martyr under Nero. Augustine grows up as an unenthusiastic Christian in 4th-century North Africa, abandons the church for an esoteric cult and begins to make a career in the Roman imperial administration. Deepening intellectual dissatisfaction and unfulfilled spiritual passion lead him slowly to a recommitment to Christianity and a long, intensely demanding ministry as a provincial bishop, as the Roman empire dissolves around him.
But perhaps the central fact to bear in mind is that they both do something that only a few other ancient authors do – Plato being the other most obvious example: they invite their readers to imagine a social order quite different from what is now taken for granted. They are not simply “religious” thinkers, if that signifies only that they are trying to elaborate a system of teachings about something called spiritual life, distinct from the ongoing business of living together in society. Armstrong in particular gives an excellent reading of the way in which Paul’s letters make very stark demands about social relationships; Paul’s readers/hearers are instructed “to liberate themselves from habits of servility and ethnic prejudice by creating an alternative community characterised by equality”. They need to be freed from “solipsistic introversion”, false spiritualism and elitism, insensitivity to the poverty or suffering of others. In a nutshell, they are being told that they must show the world around them a model of belonging together in which no one either suffers alone or succeeds alone: well-being is always, uncompromisingly, a mutual and corporate affair. ….
[End of quote]
And Jesse A Goldberg gives his interpretation of the saints on the subject of Free Will: http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/562/free-will-in-the-christian-cosmology-comparing-paul-and-augustine
Free Will in the Christian Cosmology: Comparing Paul and Augustine
The Abrahamic God is an awesome god. He is omnipotent, omniscient, omni-benevolent, and omnipresent. Such a being truly deserves our reverence. But could we choose to revere such an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, and all-present being such as this? Or would we have no choice in the matter? This is a central question of theologians within any of the three Abrahamic traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. If God exists as a being with the four aforementioned attributes, can human beings be said to truly have free will?1
While numerous religious scholars have approached this essential question, the focus of this paper is Saint Paul, who addresses human beings’ freedom of choice in Chapter 7 of his letter to the Romans, and Saint Augustine, who formulates a defense of free will in his treatise On Free Choice of the Will. Paul lands on a kind of dualism in his discussion of law, human nature, and salvation, and Augustine approaches a robust version of human autonomy in his account of the problem of evil. While both saints manage to fit an articulation of free will within a Christian cosmology without changing the nature of God, Augustine’s account of the will seems to more closely resemble our actual phenomenology, and therefore seems to be the more complete picture of human autonomy in a world created by the awesome Christian God.
Paul’s Letter to the Romans
In chapter 7 of “Romans,” Paul writes about the dilemma of reconciling human nature, as it can be defined within the context of the fall of man, with Jewish law, which is essentially in the form of God’s commandments in the Old Testament which all present negative imperatives (“Thou shalt not…”). It is necessary to understand these two concepts before one tries to understand Paul’s grim picture of free will.
“For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh,” writes Paul (7.18). This line, along with others in the chapter which employ the word “flesh” and draw distinctions between the body and mind, points to the fault of the flesh that all human being share, being children of Adam and Eve, the first sinners. These lines also clearly reveal the dualism inherent in most, if not all, Christian thought: “I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (7.25). Once these two substances – body and mind – are made separate, one can see clearly Paul’s view of human nature as it is contained in the physical human form.
We are like children told not to take a cookie out of the cookie jar. Before anyone said anything, we would not even think of doing so, but as soon as we are told not to do it, our hand cannot resist the urge to take a cookie. As Paul writes, “Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘Thou shalt not covet’” (7.7). Similarly, Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden without any moral knowledge; they had no epistemological basis for distinguishing between right and wrong. But once the forbiddance was there, curiosity, which also springs from the negative command, was provoked. As a result, according to the second creation story of “Genesis,” humans committed the first sin by disobeying God’s command. Significantly, once they acquired knowledge of right and wrong, they immediately felt shame and cognitively knew that what they did was wrong. And so their minds understood, but their bodies acted. All these generations later, so the story as interpreted by Paul goes, we still have bodies – flesh – that are prone to sinful action, even if our minds understand right and wrong. Our flesh did come from those original sinners, after all, while our minds and spirits come from God.
The second foundational idea to Paul’s dilemma is the nature of God’s laws for the Jews. Essentially, “the law is holy and the command is holy and just and good” (7.12), but it is also the law which makes sin possible and leads to our death by reviving sin (7.9). This is inextricably linked to the nature of human beings. While the law as it was put forth in the Old Testament was originally thought to be a guide to reaching closer to God, Paul tells the Romans that the law actually is the root of sin rising in an individual and causing him or her to turn away from God. In these remarks, then, Paul is dramatically reversing long-held tenants of Judaism. It is not through serving the law that one gets close to God, but through faith in Jesus Christ that one is saved from the sinful flesh and able to at least will to do right and “bear fruit for God” (7.4).
Here, then, is the dilemma Christians are faced with, according to Paul. The human body is predisposed to disobey laws presented as negatives, thanks to inheriting flesh from Adam and Eve, yet the mind is capable, through Christ, to will to obey God’s commands. It is a story of mind versus matter, however, in that the mind, even with full knowledge of God’s law2 and full intention to do God’s bidding, cannot control the body and keep it from acting on carnal passions. The will exists and is the way to God, but there is a disconnect between the will and the body. When one does wrong it is not because of one’s will to do wrong, but it is sin that does wrong through the body, and sin comes about through knowledge of the law. Yet knowing the law is necessary, though not sufficient, for knowing God. The other condition which Paul wants to make clear is knowledge of Christ and faith in his salvation. If one knows the law, one’s body will turn away from following the law. But if one knows the law and knows Christ, one’s mind “can will what is right, but [one’s body] cannot do it” (7.18).
If we as readers do some heavy lifting of our own, we can see how this fits alongside God’s omnipotence and omniscience. God knows everything that we will do because our bodies are predetermined by our faulty nature to sin once knowledge of the law is acquired in the absence of Christ. Thus, God is left with a simple modus ponens syllogism for determining the action of an individual: (1) If this person knows the law and he is of flesh, he will sin, (2) This person knows the law and is of flesh, therefore, (3) this person will sin. Paul’s articulation of free will places the will not within the realm of predictable action, since that is predetermined, to an extent, but within the realm of the purely mental. While God can undoubtedly read (past, present, and future) minds, this does not exclude the possibility that a person can choose to set one’s mind toward God. God would know that he or she would do this, but he or she still decides to do so. In fact, this is exactly the kind of heavy lifting that Augustine does in his treatise On Free Choice of the Will.
Augustine’s Doctrine of the Will
Augustine’s discussion of the will in On Free Choice of the Will stems from an inquisition into the problem of evil. Indeed, the dialogue opens with Evodius asking, “Tell me, please, whether God is not the cause of evil” (3). Much of the discussion, then, while dealing with an essential nature of human beings (are they determined or autonomous?) is also a defense of the benevolent nature of God. If human beings did not do evil themselves, but it was caused by God, then it would not make sense for God to punish or reward human beings for doing good or evil since they would not be the cause of their own actions (Carlo Filice might say that they would have no “agent credit”). But God does reward and punish people, and all that God does is just, according to Christian doctrine, so God could not be rewarding or punishing essentially determined beings. We therefore must have free will.3
That brief synopsis of his argument is indicative of the reasoning present throughout the treatise. Much of the premises that allow Augustine to come to the conclusions which he eventually does are premises about the perfection of God and the imperfection of humans. This is how Augustine fits free will into a Christian cosmology. In book three, Evonius asks if God’s foreknowledge (he is omniscient after all) is inconsistent with the notion of human autonomy. Augustine’s answer, of course, is no:
“For when [God] has foreknowledge of our will, it is going to be the will that he has foreknown . . . Therefore, the will is going to be a will because God has foreknowledge of it. Nor can it be a will if it is not in our power. Therefore, God also has knowledge of our power over it. So the power is not taken from me by His foreknowledge; but because of His foreknowledge, the power to will will more certainly be present in my, since God whose foreknowledge does not err, has foreknown that I shall have the power” (93).
Here Augustine is constructing the same kind of reasoning as we as readers did in trying to situate Paul’s articulation of free will within Christian cosmology. Just because God knows what human beings will each eventually decide to do with their wills does not mean that their actions are predetermined. Augustine essentially rejects the probability argument against the compatibility of God and human autonomy that says since the probability of a person committing any action is 1 (which is true because God cannot be wrong in his foreknowledge), that person’s action is determined by forces outside of himself. Augustine astutely points out, indirectly, that God’s foreknowledge is simply knowledge of the fact that person S will decide to perform action A rather than B.
Part of God’s foreknowledge is the knowledge that S decides to do A over B. At the point of the decision, S may weigh his options in any number of ways, but he is not determined to make one decision over the other. God just simply knows, in his infinite wisdom which is beyond human understanding, that S will pick A. He does not force S to pick A. S just, as a matter of fact, picks A, and God knows all facts. Now, this sure looks like determinism to someone who is committed to the probability argument, but it is not, since the human being making the choice could have chosen otherwise; it just happens to be a fact about the future world that he did not!
This reasoning allows Augustine to situate a model of human free will within a world with an omniscient, omnipotent, omni-benevolent, and omnipresent God, but it again brings up the problem of evil. For if God is all knowing He absolutely knows when someone is going to do something horrible, and if He is all good then He surely does not want any suffering to enter into His world because of this horrible act, and if He is all powerful and always and everywhere present then there is surely nothing stopping him from stopping this horrible act, right? So how can evil ever come into the world? This returns us to Books I and II of his treatise. ….
Whilst on the subject of conversion we read at:
Felix Baffour Asare ASIEDU’s
Paul and Augustine’s Retrospective Self:
The Relevance of Epistula XXII
suggests, that because Augustine interpreted his conversion along the lines of Paul’s story in Acts the later Christian tradition came to read Paul through the eyes of Augustine. ….
Part Two: Paul and Constantine
“Nor is this the only echo of Paul in Constantine’s narrative. Like the Thirteenth Apostle, Constantine’s conversion came through a vision experienced on a journey, as a result of which, like Paul, he could claim to have received instruction at no human hands, but instead to have been taught directly by God. …. Even his claim to be “bishop of those outside” could be read as part of this narrative, for just as Paul claimed to be “Apostle to the Gentiles” so Constantine now claimed to be the apostle to “those outside” the Church”.
But Saint Paul has also been compared with Constantine [I], or vice versa.
Harold Drake draws some interesting parallels between them:
THE EMPEROR AS A ‘MAN OF GOD’: THE IMPACT OF CONSTANTINE THE GREAT’S. Conversion on Roman Ideas of Kingship ….
The most famous event of [Constantine’s] reign – the Vision of the Cross that he experienced prior to his success at the Milvian Bridge in 312 – needs to be read in this context.
The vision story was as much a foundational event for Constantine’s regime as the Battle of Actium had been for Augustus, and so far as I can tell Constantine never tired of talking about it.9 A huge body of scholarship has been devoted to this one, admittedly fascinating, event in Constantine’s long reign, but for present purposes it is only necessary to consider how the vision story helped establish Constantine’s credentials in a Christian context. Its function was to provide a segue by means of which he could transfer the charismatic qualities of his office into his new religion. It shows that Constantine’s intent was lay claim to an epithet that had been claimed by the recipient of a similarly famous vision, St. Paul (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Like Paul, Constantine aimed to become the new “Man of God” (ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος), a term that in Christian usage signified a person so completely attuned to the divine will that he functioned as an instrument of and intermediary for supernatural power.10
Nor is this the only echo of Paul in Constantine’s narrative. Like the Thirteenth Apostle, Constantine’s conversion came through a vision experienced on a journey, as a result of which, like Paul, he could claim to have received instruction at no human hands, but instead to have been taught directly by God.11 Even his claim to be “bishop of those outside” could be read as part of this narrative, for just as Paul claimed to be “Apostle to the Gentiles” so Constantine now claimed to be the apostle to “those outside” the Church. His planning even extended to his burial, for in placing himself in the center of markers for the Twelve Apostles, Constantine created a physical space for himself in their number.12 His intentions were realized in the posthumous title of Isapostolos, “equal of the Apostles”. The vision story thus is indicative of the means Constantine had devised to make his authority palatable to the church. His goal evidently was to do so by becoming the Man of God.
To the late William Frend, Constantine’s gambit was completely successful. “The transformation from Roman Pontifex Maximus to the Equal of the Apostles was smooth”, he wrote. “Indeed, if one regards the Emperor as now ruling by something like the grace of God, there was no break between Aurelian and Diocletian on the one hand, and Constantine on the other” (FREND, 1967, p. 402). Frend was not wrong in terms of the ultimate standing Constantine achieved in both Christian and Byzantine history. But one reason I chose to begin with the encounter between Athanasius and Constantine was to suggest that the transition, while possibly smooth, was not as seamless as Frend’s comment would have us believe.
Confirmation comes from an unlikely direction. Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea’s Life of Constantine (de vita Constantine, hereafter VC), completed shortly after Constantine’s death in 337, is the single most important written source for that emperor’s actions and intentions. It is heavily panegyrical in its approach, intent on portraying Constantine as the ideal Christian emperor.13 If anyplace, we should expect to find the parallels between Constantine and Paul in this work, and they indeed may be found in several places.14 But they are never more than implicit: Eusebius himself never overtly made this connection, even though it is in the first book of this work that we find the most obvious parallel – Eusebius’ account of Constantine’s miracle (VC 1.28). How should we explain this omission?
Eusebius has been the subject of intense study, especially in recent decades, as a result of which he has emerged as a far more subtle thinker, but overall a less influential figure than once believed. In the VC he cast himself so effectively as Constantine’s spokesman that for centuries his statements about Constantine’s policies and intentions were considered authoritative, identical to Constantine himself. But scholars no longer take seriously his pretensions to such intimacy,15 and as a result special care must be taken to distinguish Constantine’s own agenda from the hermeneutic shell in which Eusebius encased it.
We have known for a long time that Eusebius’ preferred habit to deal with material he found unpleasant was by omission or silence – the Abbé Duchesne once described the Life of Constantine as “le triomphe de la réticence et de la circonlocution” (DUCHESNE, 1910, p. 191). For this reason, Eusebius’ decision not to pursue Constantine’s very obvious interest in comparison with St. Paul indicates that he had some difficulty with it. If so, then looking at his writings on Constantine with this problem in mind can provide a way to separate the agendas of the emperor from that of his biographer. It will also show that Eusebius developed an alternative to Athanasius’ confrontational style that in the long run might have been a more effective means of curbing imperial pretensions.
A good place to begin is with two of Eusebius’ orations that he added as appendices to the VC. He delivered both in Constantinople, one the same week of November, 335 in which Athanasius was sent into exile, the other about eight months later, during the closing ceremonies of Constantine’s Thirtieth Jubilee year.16 In both, his praise of Constantine was lavish. At the start of the first, for instance, he seems to endorse the emperor’s claim to have been taught directly by God, and even alludes to Paul’s claim that his knowledge came “not by men nor through men”.17 In the second, which was the more official of the two, he repeatedly referred to Constantine as God’s “friend” (φίλος), in a way that is particularly relevant to the present question (LC 1.6, 2.1-4, 5.1, 5.4).
In this oration, “In Praise of Constantine” (Laus Constantini, hereafter LC), Eusebius uses the phrase “friend of God” (θεῷ φίλος), several times to indicate Constantine’s close relationship with deity. The phrase immediately calls to mind the “divine companion” (comes) with whom emperors needed to demonstrate a particular relationship.18 But elsewhere Eusebius uses this phrase for the Hebrew patriarchs who, in his view, mediated with God by means of a natural affinity for the true religion. Eusebius also uses this phrase in the VC.19
All this might make his failure to use the specific Pauline epithet of “Man of God” (ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος) seem unimportant, especially since one of Eusebius’ patriarchal friends of God was none other than Moses, and he explicitly compares Constantine to the great prophet in the VC. Like Moses, Eusebius writes, Constantine grew to adulthood in the house of an enemy (Diocletian, rather than Pharaoh), and just as Pharaoh drowned in the Red Sea so Constantine’s opponent, Maxentius, drowned in the Tiber at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312. There is a further implied analogy in Book II of the Life, where Eusebius depicts Constantine retiring to a tabernacle and praying (like Moses) before every battle.20
The difference, however, while subtle, is important. Like Constantine, Eusebius was adept at blending imperial ideology with Christian usage, and also at using words to side-step tricky issues. So there is every likelihood that he intended “friend of God” to signal a different relationship than “man of God” would denote. The difference, therefore, is worth pursuing.
One place to begin is with Eusebius’s account of Constantine’s vision of the Cross in Book One. Scholars have often commented on the way Eusebius hesitates before telling the story. If anyone else had told him, Eusebius admits, he would have found it hard to believe; but in this case he had it from the emperor himself. Gilbert Dagron has taken such hesitations in the Life as signs that Eusebius was uncomfortable with Constantine’s apostolic claims (DAGRON, 2003, p. 148). Another such indicator is the way Eusebius continues this story. Puzzled about what his vision might mean, Eusebius writes, Constantine had to send for Christian priests to explain it to him, and thereafter undertook instruction at their hands.21 This is a very different scenario from Constantine’s own claim that no human hand had participated in his knowledge of God, a claim Eusebius supported when speaking in Constantine’s presence.22 It exposes one glaring difference between Constantine had his biographer.
Eusebius’ concept of the office of bishop explains how he could harbor such reservations about the use of Pauline imagery and yet compare Constantine so readily with Moses. As Claudia Rapp has pointed out, Moses “served in particular as the model of the perfect bishop” (RAPP, 1998b, p. 687). Evidently, Eusebius could accept Constantine’s claim to be another bishop – he liked it enough not only to quote it in Book Four of the Life, but even to use it himself at the beginning of that work, where he described Constantine as acting “like a universal bishop appointed by God”.23
The claim to Paul’s apostolic title, “Man of God” was simply a bridge too far, and not just for Eusebius. Athanasius applied the phrase to a very different kind of holy man – Antony, the paradigmatic monk – and a cursory search of the online Thesaurus Linguae Graecae uncovered about 200 instances of its use, almost all of which followed Athanasius’ lead and applied the phrase only to monks or bishops.24 Conversely, as Rapp has noted, it would be three centuries before an emperor would once again be described as being, like Moses, a “mediator with God” (RAPP, 1998, p. 691). ….
[End of quote]
Even more dramatically, Anthony McRoy will ask the provocative question at:
Did Paul and Constantine invent Christianity?
Two common objections, or perhaps ‘conspiracy theories’ are raised about the origins of Christianity. First, that the apostle Paul was responsible for changing the pristine religion preached by Jesus, and second that Constantine completed the process, notably by establishing the canon of Scripture.
What is often ignored is the apostle’s stated use of pre-Pauline tradition. If Paul did divert canonical Christianity from what Jesus and His immediate disciples actually taught, we should not find him utilising early – and thus prior – Christian tradition in his writings, since this would undermine his supposed goal. Yet he does indeed cite such earlier Christian tradition! Various scholars have pointed to 1 Corinthians 15:1-3, where Paul’s use of the terms paredoka (‘tradition’) and parelabon (‘receive’) definitely indicate prior tradition. Paul ‘delivered’ (paradidymi) what those who were Christians before him imparted. The employment of terms such as ‘received’, ‘deliver’ and ‘confess’ are indications that Paul is citing early Christian material.
In 1 Corinthians 15:3 ff, we encounter what R.P. Martin in New Testament Foundations (Volume 2, p.251) has described as ‘telltale marks which stamp it as a creedal formulary. The fourfold “that” (‘oti) introduces each member of the creed (in verses 3, 4, 5). The vocabulary is unusual, containing some rare terms and expressions Paul never employs again’. The verses refer to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Christ’s saving death is also addressed in 1 Corinthians 11:23 in connection with the Lord’s Supper, again using the language of tradition – ‘received’, ‘delivered’. So, immediately, we can see that two major Christian doctrines were not invented by Paul, merely passed on by him.
Person of Christ
In regard to the Person of Christ, in Romans 1:3-4 we encounter what scholars of all hues have recognised as a pre-Pauline formula utilising the title Son. Again, Paul uses terminology not found elsewhere (e.g. ‘Spirit of holiness’). Note the reference to Jesus being ‘a descendant of David according to the flesh’, a redundant qualification unless Christ also possessed a higher origin. Similar examples of pre-Pauline Christological formulae are found in Galatians 4:4 and Romans 8:3, which again indicate that Jesus was not simply human.
There is a general scholarly consensus that Philippians 2:5 ff is a pre-Pauline hymn. This hymn climaxes by quoting Isaiah 45:23-25, where the original object of adoration (‘every knee will bow’) is YHWH [Yahweh], but in the hymn, Jesus is identified with YHWH, such that the universal confession is that Jesus is ‘Lord’. Paul simply reproduced an already existing Christian tradition: Christ’s eternal Sonship and indeed his deity were not Pauline doctrinal innovations.
‘In Christ before me’
A further indication that Paul did not change pristine Christian doctrine is demonstrated by his epistle to the Romans (written circa 57 AD). Paul wrote to a congregation that he did not found, and refers to the Jewish-Christian apostles ‘Andronicus and Junias … outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me’ (Romans 16:7). Since it is likely that Paul was converted within a year or so of the Crucifixion- Resurrection event, the two individuals – called ‘apostles’ – must have been among the earliest converts to Christianity. The church in Rome was in existence by 49 AD – as demonstrated by the edict of Claudius that year, expelling all Jews from the city, because of riots concerning ‘Chrestus’. Acts 2:10 refers to ‘visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes’ present on the day of Pentecost, so it is probable that this was the origin of the church [in Rome].
As the church at Rome was not of Pauline foundation, its theological beliefs did not originate with that Apostle. Had Paul’s teaching been contrary to the original gospel of Jesus, earlier Christian believers, such as Andronicus and Junias – described as ‘apostles’ no less – would have contested it. Hence, it must be the case that Paul’s doctrine – Jesus’s divinity, his redemptive death and resurrection, the means of salvation (by grace through faith alone on the basis of Jesus’s crucified self-sacrifice) – was indeed the same message preached from the start by the other disciples. We know from the Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians, usually dated circa 70-95 AD, that Paul’s message and apostolic standing were endorsed by the Roman Christians.
Regarding Constantine, the usual ‘conspiracy theory’ claim is that he was a pagan who feigned conversion, and, chairing the Council of Nicaea, completed the Hellenisation / paganisation of Christianity and fixed the Canon. The fact that Constantine ordered 50 copies of the Scripture is brought forward as evidence of this. The claim of an ulterior motive for conversion is ridiculous …. In 312, when this happened, Christians constituted at most 10% of the empire’s population. All that Constantine needed to do to gain Christian support was to promise religious toleration, which he did in the Edict of Milan. For a modern parallel, imagine the impact of a Pakistani leader seeking support from his Christian compatriots: he would not have to feign conversion to gain their votes, but merely to promise equal rights.
Contemporary Christians acknowledged that Constantine was a Christian – Lactantius (died circa 320), a tutor to Constantine’s son Crispus, was convinced of this, and wrote of the Emperor’s miraculous conversion (the Labarum vision). Later, Eusebius of Caesarea, the famous church historian, affirmed both the conversion and Constantine’s Christian piety several times in his writings. It is known that Christian clergy were close to Constantine after his conversion, especially the bishop of Rome. Interestingly, both Athanasius, the scourge of Arianism, and Arius himself acknowledged Constantine’s Christian piety.
The pagans did likewise. When the Roman Senate erected the Arch of Constantine in 315, they ascribed his victory at the Milvian Bridge to the ‘inspiration of divinity’. The Senate, being pagan, might have balked at naming Christ as the author of the victory over Maxentius, and so a more nebulous phrase was employed. Again, Zosimus, the early Byzantine pagan historian, writing about the late fifth and early sixth centuries, bitterly affirmed Constantine’s Christian faith, one of his sources being the work by the pagan sophist Eunapius of Sardis called The Lives of the Sophists, written circa 395, which referred to the sophist Sopater trying to ‘wean Constantine away from Christianity by the force of his learned arguments’ and of the Emperor ‘pulling down the most celebrated temples and building Christian churches’. Finally, the later Emperor Julian the Apostate, who knew Constantine, ridiculed Constantine’s Christian allegiance.
Constantine believed himself to be a Christian, as demonstrated by his writings. In his correspondence with both provincial governors and bishops, from 313, he affirms his Christian faith. For example, in a letter to the bishops after the Council of Arles in 314, Constantine addresses them as ‘brothers’; he acknowledges that he previously wandered in ‘darkness’, but that now he was ‘converted to the rule of justice’ through the kindness of Almighty God. In Constantine’s oration ‘To the Assembly of the Saints’, usually dated circa 325, he refers to ‘the Spirit of the Father and the Son’, attacks polytheism and idolatry, satirising the idea that the many gods breed to ‘excess’ and denouncing the sculptor ‘who idolises his own creation, and adores it as an immortal god’. He goes on to refer to ‘Christ … who is God, and the Son of God’.
Who’s who at Nicaea
As for the Council of Nicaea, in none of the contemporary sources do we encounter the idea that Constantine chaired the synod. It seems that Bishop Ossius of Cordoba chaired the Council, as indicated by Athanasius in Defence of his Flight (Apologia de Fuga), and Socrates, who notes that Ossius’s name was first in the list of bishops attending, indicating his chairmanship. Significantly, in the letter sent by the synod to Alexander of Byzantium, the first name in the list of attendees is Ossius, the usual way of indicating the chairman.
Neither for that matter do the sources suggest that Constantine directed the debate. Moreover, it must be remembered that the pro-Arian party was very much a minority, and that its position had been previously condemned by Eastern Church leaders, even before Constantine conquered the East. The outcome – denunciation of Arius – was inevitable on these grounds. Moreover, there was no canonical issue involved: Arius’s writings show that he held to the orthodox Canon, and quoted from the canonical Scriptures in support of his position. Hence no discussion ensued at Nicaea about the canon.
As for the 50 copies of the Scriptures which Constantine wrote to Eusebius (circa 333) to order, this was done to provide Bibles for the churches of the new imperial city Constantinople:
Great numbers have united themselves to the most holy church in the city which is called by my name. It seems, therefore, highly requisite … that the number of churches should also be increased… I have thought it expedient to instruct your Prudence to order 50 copies of the sacred Scriptures, the provision and use of which you know to be most needful for the instruction of the Church, to be written on prepared parchment in a legible manner, and in a convenient, portable form, by professional transcribers thoroughly practiced in their art.
Significantly, Constantine says nothing about the canon, which, as we have seen, was not a matter of dispute between the Arian and orthodox parties (it should be noted that Eusebius had been identified with the Arian party at first). It follows that Constantine had no role in establishing the biblical canon. These claims about Paul and Constantine are totally invalid. Conspiracy theorists will have to hunt elsewhere.
Part Two: Paul and Constantine.
(ii) Constantine “a new Moses”
“For if Constantine should be seen as a new Moses, how should Christian subjects then catch the spirit of their own part? An audience acquainted with Paul’s use of the Israelites as negative examples in 1 Corinthians 10 (where the wayward followers of Moses were destroyed in the wilderness) … would probably not be slow to hear Constantine’s reference to the Moses narratives as a dire warning to themselves concerning internal discord”.
Constantine [I] has, for his part, been compared with Moses – even described as “a new Moses”.
Finn Damgaard draws some interesting parallels between them:
…. Propaganda Against Propaganda: Revisiting Eusebius’ Use of the Figure of Moses in the Life of Constantine
In the last two decades there has been an increasing interest in the literary aspects of the Life of Constantine (VC) and a number of recent studies have touched on Eusebius’ use of the figure of Moses in this work.  In the introduction and commentary to their translation, Averil Cameron and Stuart G. Hall show a keen interest in the parallels between Constantine and Moses and even call these parallels “the most obvious device used by Eusebius in the Life of Constantine to bring home his ideological message.” In a similar way, Claudia Rapp has called these parallels a Leitmotif in the work.  Several recent studies have also sought to explain why Eusebius chose precisely the model of Moses for his term of comparison. According to Cameron and Hall, the comparison between Constantine and Moses “was perfectly suited to the work’s apologetic purpose.” By portraying Constantine as the successor of Moses, Eusebius provided a precise and detailed demonstration of how God’s plan for Christian government on earth was realized.  Michael J. Hollerich also stresses the apologetic purpose of Eusebius’ use of Moses. According to Hollerich, however, Eusebius was not only drawn to Moses as a biblical exemplum for Constantine in order to stress his divinely inspired mission and his example of a godly life, he also invoked the figure of Moses in order “to sanction behavior that appeared to contradict traditional Christian views on the taking of life.” Taking a somewhat different approach, Sabrina Inowlocki has suggested that: “Eusebius’ portrayal of Moses also testifies to the ambiguity of the legislator in Christianity.” According to Inowlocki, Eusebius skilfully exploits the ambivalence of Moses in order to achieve apologetic purposes. Thus Eusebius compared Constantine with Moses in order to identify him as a figure de l’entre deux. According to Inowlocki, Moses himself is portrayed as a figure de l’entre deux in Eusebius’ thought as being both a Hebrew and the founder of Judaism. Referring to Eusebius’ apologetic works, the Praeparatio Evangelica and the Demonstratio Evangelica, Inowlocki demonstrates that Moses appears as an ambivalent character whose different facets are exploited according to the context. On the one hand, the figure of Moses is continuously glorified in the pagan-Christian debate described in the Praeparatio Evangelica. On the other hand, the description of Moses is far less enthusiastic in the Jewish-Christian debate described in the Demonstratio Evangelica. According to Inowlocki, Eusebius thus implicitly identifies Constantine as a figure de l’entre deux by choosing Moses as an exemplum for Constantine.
What is common to these suggestions is that they all take for granted that the comparison with Moses was invented by Eusebius himself. In this article, I shall suggest another approach, namely that it was actually Constantine (or his near advisers) who originally fabricated the comparison with Moses as part of his propaganda. As we shall see, Eusebius’ use of the comparison probably reuses much material from Constantine’s Moses propaganda, but he also seems to have reshaped some parts of it in order to promote his own interests. Moreover, I shall argue that Philo’s portrait of Moses as a model ruler in his Life of Moses was an important source for Eusebius’ idealized portrait of Constantine and his revision of Constantine’s Moses propaganda.
Moses in Constantine’s own Political Propaganda
Interestingly, it is in the speech that Eusebius attaches to the Life of Constantine that we come upon Constantine’s own use of Moses. In order to support his paraphrase of Constantine’s speeches (VC 4.29.2–5), Eusebius promises to append to the Life of Constantine an example of one of the emperor’s own speeches which he refers to as “To the Assembly of the Saints” (VC 4.32).  The authenticity of the speech was long in doubt, but is now generally considered to be authentic by the majority of scholars.  The speech seems to address a Christian audience—most likely bishops—but the date as well as the venue and occasion for the speech are still in question. I shall come back to this issue later.
As Mark Edwards has argued in the introduction to his new translation, the speech should probably be read as a “manifesto of ambition.” The speech does not have Christianity per se as its focus; rather Christianity seems a means of persuading the Christian audience of the emperor’s right to rule. Constantine’s appeal to Moses at approximately the middle of the speech is a particularly illustrative example of this. In his attack on the fallen ideologies of Christianity’s enemies, Constantine suddenly hints at his own experience when he claims that he himself has been “an eyewitness of the miserable fortune of the cities [Memphis and Babylon]” (Oration to the Saints 16). By claiming himself to be an eyewitness, Constantine succeeds in drawing a parallel between himself and Moses, since it was Moses who desolated Memphis when he:
[. . .] in accordance with the decree of God shattered the arrogance of Pharaoh, the greatest potentate of the time, and destroyed his army, victor as it was over many of the greatest nations and fenced round with arms—not by shooting arrows or launching javelins, but just by holy prayer and meek adoration.
Oration to the Saints 16, my emphasis
Though Constantine does not explicitly cast himself as a new Moses, he seems to imply this when, later in the oration, he claims that everything has also turned out “according to my prayers—acts of courage, victories, trophies over my enemies” (Oration to the Saints 22, my emphasis) and finally concludes:
Now in my view a ministry is most lovely and excellent when someone, before the attempt, ensures that what is done will be secure. And all human beings know that the most holy devotion of these hands is owed to God with pure faith of the strictest kind, and that all that has been accomplished with advantage is achieved by joining the hands in prayers and litanies, with as much private and public assistance as everyone might pray for on his own behalf and that of those dearest to him. They indeed have witnessed the battles and observed the war in which God’s providence awarded victory to the people, and have seen God co- operating with our prayers. For righteous prayer is an invincible thing, and no-one who pays holy adoration is disappointed of his aim.
Oration to the Saints 26, my emphasis
Constantine could of course hardly claim to have won by conquest without having “shot arrows or launched javelins,” but he might have hoped that his audience would catch the parallel to Moses when he piously claims that his palm of victory was similarly based on prayers and God’s co-operation. Also the fact that Constantine does not dwell on priestly or visionary aspects of the Moses figure, but rather turns the figure into a military and political leader suggests that Constantine constructed Moses as his own model: 
What could one say about Moses to match his worth? Leading a disorderly people into good order, having set their souls in order by persuasion and awe, he procured freedom for them in place of captivity, and he made their faces bright instead of blear.
Oration to the Saints 17
As Michael Williams has recently suggested, “It is difficult to read this as anything other than a kind of idealised portrait of the first Christian emperor—that is, as a portrait of Constantine himself.” Williams’ suggestion is, I believe, right on target. There are, however, some rather important political motives for Constantine’s use of Moses that Williams does not examine, probably because he regards the speech as a conventional defense of Christianity.  For if Constantine should be seen as a new Moses, how should Christian subjects then catch the spirit of their own part? An audience acquainted with Paul’s use of the Israelites as negative examples in 1 Corinthians 10 (where the wayward followers of Moses were destroyed in the wilderness)  would probably not be slow to hear Constantine’s reference to the Moses narratives as a dire warning to themselves concerning internal discord. Thus, Constantine continues his panegyric of his predecessor by describing how the Israelites “became superhumanly boastful” though Moses was their sovereign. If Constantine had only referred to Moses in order to legitimize his own rule, he would probably not have touched on the Israelites’ acts of disobedience in the wilderness. Like Paul, Constantine seems, by contrast, to exploit the Moses narratives in order to control his Christian audience. Thus, when he reminds his audience that “no people would ever or could ever have been more blessed than that one [the Israelites], had they not voluntarily cut off their souls from the Holy Spirit” (Oration to the Saints 17), he makes a convenient agreement between the Holy Spirit and Moses, since it was of course Moses who had set their souls in order in the first place. By appending the Oration to the Saints to his Life of Constantine, Eusebius provides us with a fascinating glimpse of Constantine skilfully making use of the example of Moses in order to advance his own political agenda, namely to control the bishops.
Playing Constantine’s Game
The first time Eusebius himself invokes the Moses narratives in relation to Constantine is in the well-known passage in the ninth book of the Ecclesiastical History (HE) probably composed in 314 or 315.  In this passage, Eusebius compares Constantine’s victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge in 312 with the defeat of Pharaoh at the Red Sea (HE 9.9.2–8). Though the passage seems to be Eusebius’ own invention, he could actually have been inspired by Constantine’s Oration to the Saints if we accept an early date of delivery. According to Girardet, the speech was delivered by Constantine in Trier or Rome at Easter 314.  With Girardet and Edwards, I take the field “prepared for battle” mentioned in chapter 22 to be the battlefield of the Milvian Bridge, and Constantine’s reference to the tyrant of the most dear city “who was suddenly overtaken in a fitting manner worthy of his atrocities” (Oration to the Saints 22) as referring to Maxentius.  Though Constantine does not himself compare the battle at the Milvian Bridge explicitly with the battle at the Red Sea, he refers to the defeat of Pharaoh earlier in the speech and even in a context that, as we have seen, might be viewed as an implicit comparison of Constantine with Moses. As Girardet has argued, the speech was probably also sent out as a circular letter to all bishops in Constantine’s part of the empire and therefore also translated into Greek at the same occasion in order to address congregations in places such as South Italy and Sicily.  If the speech had received such a wide distribution, Eusebius could have learned about it as he composed the ninth book of the Ecclesiastical History.  Eusebius’ comparison of Constantine’s victory at the Milvian Bridge with the battle at the Red Sea might thus develop a potential in Constantine’s own speech.  However, while Constantine would probably approve Eusebius’ comparison in the Ecclesiastical History (and perhaps even regret that he had not developed it himself), I shall argue that not all Eusebius’ parallels between Constantine and Moses in the Life of Constantine would play Constantine’s game. On the contrary, some of Eusebius’ parallels might be read as an attempt to turn Constantine’s own Moses propaganda upside down.
Revisiting the Use of Moses in the Life of Constantine
Eusebius’ portrait of Constantine in the Life of Constantine has often been seen as only an encomiastic portrait of the deceased emperor, and several of his comparisons with Moses in the Life of Constantine are certainly flattering. The comparison known from the Ecclesiastical History between Constantine’s victory over Maxentius and the defeat of Pharaoh is for instance turned into an even more complimentary comparison, since Eusebius now compares Constantine explicitly to Moses (VC 1.39.1). Also Eusebius’ portrait of Constantine’s childhood told in close connection to Moses’ upbringing (VC 1.12.1–2) seems to be written by a servile panegyrist. Thus, Eusebius claims that Moses’ youth resembles the youth of Constantine, since Constantine, like Moses, “sat at the tyrant’s hearth, yet though still young he did not share the same morality as the godless” (VC 1.12.2). Very little is known about Constantine’s involvement at Diocletian’s court and his role in the great persecution. The fact, however, that Constantine was present at Diocletian’s court during the persecution may have given rise to Christian criticism. Thus, Constantine seems to make an effort to dissociate himself from the persecutors when, in a letter against polytheistic worship which Eusebius included in the Life of Constantine, he stresses that he was just a boy (VC 2.51.1) when the persecution began—even though he may have been about thirty.  In his comparison of Constantine’s presence at Diocletian’s court to Moses’ stay at the court of Pharaoh, Eusebius also seems to acquit Constantine of blame. Like the Constantinian letter, in his own narrative Eusebius stresses that Constantine was still young when he sat at the tyrants’ hearth like Moses, whom Eusebius claims was still in his infancy (VC 1.12.1).  And just as the book of Exodus implicitly describes Moses as being in opposition to Pharaoh’s policy, since Moses observed the Hebrews’ toil and struck down one of the Egyptians who was beating one of the Hebrews,  so Constantine, says Eusebius, conducted himself in the same way as Moses (VC 1.19.1). Just as Moses withdrew from Pharaoh’s presence because Pharaoh sought to kill him as a result of his murder of the Egyptian,  so Constantine “sought his safety in flight, in this also preserving his likeness to the great prophet Moses” (VC 1.20.2). Constantine’s “flight” was due in part to the circumstance that those in power devised secret plots against him based on envy and fear,  since “the young man was fine, sturdy and tall, full of good sense” (VC 1.20.1). 
Eusebius does not, however, follow the lead of Constantine in all of his Moses parallels. Thus, for instance, his portrait of Constantine differs from Constantine’s self-portrait in the Oration to the Saints. In his description of Constantine’s miraculous vision before the battle with Maxentius, Eusebius claims that Constantine decided to venerate his father’s God (VC 1.27.3) though Constantine claims that he had not been raised a Christian (Oration to the Saints 11).  Eusebius probably changed this, because he wanted to enhance the parallel between Constantine’s vision and Moses’ vision in Exodus 3:6 where God identifies himself to Moses as “the God of your father.” But there may also be another and more important reason for the change, namely Eusebius’ wish to turn Constantine into a convenient model for his own sons. As most scholars agree, the Life of Constantine should probably be read as a “mirror for princes.” Perhaps Eusebius, who had recently hymned Constantine (as he himself notes in the very first lines of the work, cf. VC 1.1.1), might even have planned to take the liberty to present copies of his Life of Constantine to the new Augusti.  In presenting to Constantine’s sons a portrait of their father as a Christian emperor, Eusebius was in the privileged position that such a portrait was without precedent. Thus he was in a sense free to claim a particular action as characteristic of a Christian emperor and thereby bring his influence to bear on what did and did not fall within the sphere of Christianity.  When Eusebius implicitly claims that Constantine had been raised as a Christian and that he turned to his “father’s God” at a crucial point in his career, Eusebius has probably the three brothers Augusti in mind. Thus, in Eusebius’ version, the scene is laid for Constantine’s sons imitating their father (like Constantine, cf. VC 1.12.3) in order for them to adhere to the God of their father.
Actually, however, Eusebius’ use of the figure of Moses seems somewhat misplaced in this context, since Christians hitherto had used the figure of Moses to argue against succession through descent. In his homilies on Numbers (22.4.1–2), Origen, for instance, praises Moses because he did not pray to God in order to have his own kin appointed leaders of the people. The interpretation seems to derive from Philo’s Life of Moses, which Eusebius had probably used as an inspiration for some of his comparisons between Constantine and Moses. Thus in the famous passage of the Life of Moses where God requites Moses the kingship of the Hebrews, Philo keenly stresses that Moses subdued his natural affection for his own sons and avoided promoting them as his heirs (Life of Moses 1.150). Eusebius could hardly have failed to notice the telling difference between Constantine’s and Moses’ attitude to dynasties. While Philo seems to reproduce and imitate a Roman aristocratic and senatorial opposition to dynasties probably in polemical contrast to the degeneracy of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Eusebius, by contrast, flatteringly describes Constantine’s sons as “new lamps” (VC 1.1.3) and “as virtuous and God-beloved sons” (VC 2.19.3) who succeeded Constantine by law of nature (VC 1.9.2). Despite these panegyrical titles, the Life of Constantine reflects a latent sense of unease concerning the continuation of the Roman Empire under the direction of the new Augusti. Thus, for instance, Eusebius took pains to stress that the Augusti had really been instructed in “godly piety” by Constantine himself:
Sometimes he [Constantine] encouraged them [his sons] while they were with him with personal admonitions to copy him and taught them to make themselves imitators of his godly piety. Sometimes when communicating with them in their absence about imperial matters he would express his exhortations in writing, the greatest and most important of these being that they should prize the knowledge of God the King of all and devotion to him above all wealth and even above Empire. By now he had also given them authority to take action for the public good by themselves, and he urged them that one of their prime concerns should be the Church of God, instructing them to be frankly Christian.
The agreement between this passage and the introduction to the Life of Constantine is rather significant. At the beginning of the work, Eusebius provided the reader with the basic threads of the work, namely the contrast between Constantine and his rivals and the likeness between the life of Constantine and the lives of the God-beloved men as recorded in Scripture—in particular, the life of Moses. Here Constantine is claimed to be a present “example to all mankind of the life of godliness” (VC 1.3.4) and “a lesson in the pattern of godliness to the human race” (VC 1.4.1). By claiming agreement between how Constantine had presented himself to his sons and the way Eusebius now presents him to “all mankind,” Eusebius probably hoped to oblige the Augusti to comply with his picture of their father. For if they would choose another line of action than suggested in Eusebius’ portrait of Constantine, they would find themselves in conflict with the way they had purportedly been instructed by their own father. From the biblical narratives, Eusebius would know that succession through descent was a difficult undertaking. However, by reusing Constantine’s comparison with Moses, Eusebius was able to stress that good kingship was not based on descent, but on godliness. Ironically, Eusebius pays Constantine back in his own coin, so to speak. For just as Constantine used Moses to control the bishops, so Eusebius uses the same figure to promote his own view of how Constantine’s sons should rule.
Constructing a Christian Dynasty
As H. A. Drake reminds us in his Constantine and the Bishops, praise is a means of control, and panegyrics could be an effective “means of indicating the actions that would delegitimize an emperor.” Far from being innocent analogies, Eusebius’ comparison of Constantine and Moses represents a wish to influence the Constantinian dynasty by controlling and defining the imperial role and by presenting an imperial model that the Christian bishops could support. According to Eusebius, a Christian emperor would, for instance, “shut himself at fixed times each day in secret places within his royal palace chambers, and would converse with his God alone with the alone (monos monôi, VC 4.22.1)” and in so doing, he would imitate Moses whom the Lord used to speak with “face to face (enôpios enôpiôi), as if someone should speak to his own friend.” Though Neoplatonists such as Numenius and Plotinus had also used the expression monos monôi in relation to their metaphysics and mystical philosophy,  I find it more likely that Eusebius may have alluded to Exodus 33:11, given the fact that Philo also rephrases the same biblical passage in this way (Life of Moses 1.294; 2.163). 
Also Eusebius’ emphasis on the close affinity between piety and philanthropy in government seems to construct an imperial portrait characteristic of a Christian emperor. As is well known, Eusebius puts great emphasis on piety in the Life of Constantine. According to Eusebius, Constantine’s physical bearing was indicative of his piety: “his fear and reverence for God [. . .] was shown by his eyes, which were cast down, the blush on his face, his gait, and the rest of his appearance” (VC 3.10.4). His piety led him to write statutes forbidding private sacrifice and favoring the building of churches (VC 2.45.1–2) and to repeal a law that had forbidden childless couples to inherit property (VC 4.26.2). He piously acknowledged God as the author of victory at his adventus into Rome (VC 1.39.3, see also 1.41.1–2, 46; 2.19.2; 3.72; 4.19); and at the end of the work, Eusebius claims that no other Roman emperor could be compared with him in exceeding godly piety (VC 4.75). In close connection with Constantine’s piety, Eusebius also stresses his philanthropy. According to Eusebius, Constantine:
[. . .] traveled every virtuous road and took pride in fruits of piety (eusebeias) of every kind. By the magnanimity of his helpful actions he enslaved those who knew him, and ruled by humane (philanthrôpias) laws, making his government agreeable and much prayed for by the governed.
Similarly, Eusebius later claims that Constantine’s decrees were not only full of philanthropy: they were also a token of his piety towards God (VC 2.20.1). In sum, philanthropy is said to have been Constantine’s most conspicuous quality (VC 4.54.1).
Though both virtues are, of course, stock virtues in encomiastic literature of antiquity, the insistence on the close affinity between them cannot be found in other ancient writers such as, for instance, Plutarch, who is otherwise well known for his extensive reference to philanthropy.  In his insistence on the centrality of these virtues in government, Eusebius probably again constructs Constantine as a new Moses. Indeed, Philo had also singled out Moses as the one who has embodied both virtues to the highest degree.  According to Philo, piety and philanthropy are the queens of virtue (On the Virtues 95) and Philo stresses time and again how essential they are to the Mosaic legislation (On the Virtues 51–174).  Thus, in the Life of Moses, he claims that Moses was the most pious of men ever born (Life of Moses 2.192; see also 1.198; 2.66); and, as for philanthropy, Philo asserts that Moses was the best of all lawgivers in all countries (Life of Moses 2.12) because he acquired all the legislative virtues, among which philanthropy is the one mentioned first (Life of Moses 2.9). In the inquiry devoted to philanthropy in On the Virtues (51–174), which Philo regarded as a supplement to the Life of Moses (On the Virtues 52), he also stresses the connection between philanthropy and piety. Thus Moses:
[. . .] perhaps loved her [philanthropy] more than anyone else has done, since he knew that she was a high road leading to piety, [and he accordingly] used to incite and train all his subjects to fellowship, setting before them the monument of his own life like an original design to be their beautiful model.
On the Virtues 51 
Eusebius and Philo also both employ topoi typical of philanthropy, for instance the sparing of the lives of prisoners of war (Life of Constantine 2.10.1, 13.1–2, Life of Moses 1.249).  In addition, like Philo, Eusebius adds to the classical definition of philanthropy the idea of the king’s kindness toward widows and orphans.  Eusebius’ repeated references to Constantine’s gifts to the poor, widows, and orphans thus resemble Philo’s emphasis on the benefit of Moses’ philanthropic legislation for the needy and unfortunate. For both authors, such generosity is equated with piety and philanthropy (On the Virtues 90–95, Life of Constantine 1.43.1–3; 2.20.1). 
In his use of Philo’s figure of Moses as a model for his own portrait of Constantine, Eusebius shows himself to be more like an independent biographer than a servile eulogist. By using Philo’s Life of Moses as an inspiration for his idealized portrait of Constantine as a Christian emperor, Eusebius revises Constantine’s Moses propaganda in order to influence those with influence at court—not least Constantine’s sons themselves.
As we have seen, Constantine himself already appeals to Moses and the Exodus narratives in his Oration to the Saints. Eusebius was accordingly not the first to compare Constantine and Moses; on the contrary, the comparison probably came into being in Constantine’s own propaganda machine. Eusebius, however, not only reproduces the propaganda, he also adapts the comparison to his own agenda. Thus, whereas Constantine used the comparison to issue a subtle warning to his audience of bishops concerning their divisive behavior, Eusebius, by contrast, focuses on the similarities between Constantine and Moses in order to control and define the character of the Constantinian dynasty.
In addition to the figure of Moses, the Life of Constantine also offers other comparisons with heroes of myth and history as is typical of the genre of the basilikos logos. Thus, Eusebius contrasts Constantine with Cyrus and Alexander the Great (VC 1.7–9)  and later with the rivals from whom he had delivered the empire (VC 3.1–3).  Apart from the tetrarchs who as Constantine’s rivals could hardly be ignored, Eusebius did not compare Constantine with Roman emperors before him such as Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius, who all featured in Late Antique panegyric.  In this way, Eusebius divorced Constantine “almost entirely from the society which seemed to have produced him.” By consigning the history of imperial Rome to oblivion, Eusebius claims that a new beginning has taken place. Constantine and his dynasty were more on a par with Moses than with their Roman predecessors. Symptomatically, even when Eusebius ends the Life of Constantine with a brief comparison with “all the Roman emperors,” he actually once again compares Constantine with Moses:
He [Constantine] alone of all the Roman emperors has honoured God the All-sovereign with exceeding godly piety [. . .] and surely he alone has deserved in life itself and after death such things as none could say has ever been achieved by any other among either Greeks or barbarians, or even among the ancient Romans, for his like has never been recorded from the beginning of time until our day.
Compared with the Greeks, the barbarians and even the ancient Romans, Constantine was, so Eusebius flatteringly asserts, without peer; and yet, the message of the Life of Constantine is that Constantine was only second to none, because he actually followed in the footsteps of a figure equal to himself, namely Moses.  ….
[End of quote]
Milvian bridge Episode
and defeat of Pharaoh
We find Eusebius’s comparison of these events at, e.g.:
[Constantine now devoted himself to the study of Christianity and the Bible,] and he made the priests of God his councilors and deemed it incumbent upon him to honor the God who appeared to him with all devotion. After this, being fortified by well-grounded hopes in Him, he undertook to quench the fury of the fire of tyranny.
[Meantime Maxentius at Rome was giving himself utterly over to deeds of cruelty and lust, and on one occasion caused his guards to massacre a great multitude of the Roman populace.]
In short it is impossible to describe the manifold acts of oppression by which this tyrant of Rome oppressed all his subjects; so that by this time they were reduced to the most extreme penury and want of necessary food, a scarcity such as our contemporaries do not remember ever to have existed before at Rome. Constantine, however, filled with compassion on account of all these miseries, began to arm himself with all warlike preparations against the tyranny, and marched with his forces eager to reinstate the Romans in the freedom they had inherited from their ancestors. . . . The Emperor, accordingly, confiding in the help of God, advanced against the first, second, and third divisions of the tyrant’s forces, defeated them all with ease at the first assault, and made his way into the very interior of Italy.
Already he was close to Rome, when to save him from the need of fighting with all the Romans for the tyrant’s sake, God Himself drew the tyrant, as it were by secret cords, a long way outside the gates. For once, as in the days of Moses and the Hebrew nation, who were worshipers of God, He cast Pharaoh’s chariots and his host into the waves of the Red Sea, and at this time did Maxentius, and the soldiers and guards with him, sink to the bottom as a stone, when in his flight before the divinely aided forces of Constantine, he essayed to cross the river [the Tiber] which lay in his way, over which he had made a strong bridge of boats, and had framed an engine of destruction—really against himself, but in hope of ensnaring thereby him who was beloved by God. [But God brought this engine to be Maxentius’s undoing:] for the machine, erected on the bridge with the ambuscade concealed therein, giving way unexpectedly before the appointed time, the passage began to sink down, and the boats with the men in them went bodily to the bottom. And first the wretch himself, then his armed attendants and guards, even as the sacred oracles had before described “sank as lead in the mighty waters.” [So Constantine and his men might well have rejoiced, even as did Moses and the Israelites over the fate of Pharaoh’s host in the Red Sea.] ….