About the
Labarum

If you look on the right sidebar, you will see one of the most prominent symbols of the early undivided Church: the Labarum. It is found both in the manuscripts and art of early Christians and became intertwined with the Church of the Roman Empire after the conversion of Constantine. Since the origin of this symbol may not be familiar to many Christians (even though most are familiar with the symbol itself), a brief explanation will be given.

Originally, the word “labarum” referred to the imperial standard carried before the Roman legions. Constantine, then fighting rivals for the throne, allegedly received a vision telling him to conquer under the cross of Christ. He adopted for his army a sign that had sometimes been used by early Christians: the Greek letter chi (which looks like “X”) upon the Greek letter rho (which looks like “P”). This symbol was in common use to denote key passages in manuscripts and as a shorthand for the Greek word chrestos meaning good. The similarlty of “chrestos” and “Christos” plus the resemblance of the letter chi to a cross made the symbol a natural opportunity for Christians to use a common symbol to express their faith in Christ.

The actual events surrounding Constantine’s supposed vision have long been a subject of debate; that Constantine made use of this symbol is not doubted. The sign was affixed to the imperial battle standard, Constantine vanquished his foes for the imperial throne, Christianity evolved from a persecuted minority to a tolerated and later the established religion of Rome (under the emperor Theodosius), and the adopted symbol became the emblem of the Christian Empire. Over time, the word “labarum” was associated less with the imperial standard than the symbol itself, and it is to this usage that this blog takes its name.

The use of the labarum no more endorses every action of Constantine than using the Book of Common Prayer does likewise for Henry VIII. The labarum as a symbol looks to Christ and is a reminder that we have an historic faith – one occurring in time but with an eye always looking to eternity. It hearkens back to the time when the Faith was guarded and novelties disdained. It reminds us of the early persecuted Christians who used this symbol (and others) as a sign of hope. It recalls the period when the Church first emerged from the oppression and drew the boundaries against heresy. Most importantly, its use as a military standard is a sign to us that we are engaged in warfare – albeit a spiritual one against principalities and powers and we must remain vigilant until the end of the age.

7 thoughts on “
About the
Labarum

  1. i have read your comments on virtue and found them in line with much of my thinking. our family also went to good shepherd until the recent split and are with the newman group. where is a traditional christian to go if he is not ready to go to rome on the main line? can you help?

  2. John,

    This is a difficult situation although it may differ since we traveled a bit of a distance to Good Shepherd (we live in the Downingtown/Coatesville area). I certainly do not want to discourage you from attending the Newman Fellowship if that is where you think God has called you to worship. We are still searching in our area. There is a tiny little continuing Anglican parish in Phoenixville which is about 20-30 minutes away for us and we have been there a few times. There is also the option of Eastern Orthodoxy. I haven’t tried yet and if I did it would likely be Antiochian since they are most open to Westerners. There is an Antioichian parish in West Chester that would also be about 25 minutes away for us and consists mostly of Western converts.

    For you, I would suggest checking the website of the Anglican Church in North America and see if they have any parishes relatively close to your area. These could vary from low to high church so you would have to know what sort of parish you are visiting as well. I would not recommend any parish in TEC. There are still some good ones out there but they are compromized by their staying in an apostate church. Eventually, they will either have to surrender their witness or go through what we already did the last decade.

  3. Have you seen the documentary Lamp in the Dark: the dark history of the bible? Close to the end of the movie they talk about the Catholic churches supposed role in corruption of the modern translations. They mention Wescott and Hort and they have a few KJV advocates, and others, commenting on the greek text that they developed. That whole section of the movie seems kinda sketchy. I would be cool to hear a good review from someone who seems to know what they’re talking about. Peace

    1. That video is quite frankly paranoid conspiracy theory. At least in relation to the erroneous information the video provides on KJV Onlyism I would recommend Albert’s series of videos. He does an exquisite job of debunking such views.

  4. thanks for your response. we can’t stay in the TEC any longer either but are not sure of the direction we will go.

  5. “If you look on the right of the page header you will see one of the most prominent symbols of the early undivided Church: the Labarum.”

    Where is it Albert? I cannot see it on my computer.

    1. I put that up when I used a different WordPress theme and it was on there (it’s the chi-rho symbol). I have not gotten around to adding it to this one. I guess I will have to do so now. 🙂 Just great – one more thing to do.

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