As I have demonstrated in previous articles, early Christians worshipped a physical/material God. Nowhere is this more evident than the Resurrected (very physical and material) Christ. I quote the following from Luke (New Testament):
34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking
36 ¶ And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them,
Peace be unto you.
37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit
hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye
here any meat?
42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
43 And he took it, and did eat before them.
Clearly, the resurrected Christ was a physical Being with flesh and bones. So the question remains, how did we end up with an immaterial Christian God whose physical body fills the immensity of space, yet is small enough to dwell in the heart of a man? The answer may or may not surprise you.
First of all, Gnostism is Plato and Plato is a Greek philosopher. Alexander the Great was a "Philosopher King" that sought to proselyte Plato's ideas to the whole known world. Even those that lived at Jerusalem were eventually were divided: The Pharisees believed in a physical resurrection, and the Sadducees did not. The Sadducees were Hellenized, Platonic Jews. Paul, when called before the Sanhedrin stated that "For the Resurrection of the Dead am I brought before you this day".
Jesus Christ taught the doctrine of the Resurrection. So did His followers. So, what happened?
1. First of all, the early Christian Church was obliterated by three influences: Those that called themselves Jews, but were not (They denied the Resurrection); The Roman Emperors (Nero, Caligula, etc.); and apostates within the Church that taught false doctrines.
2. By the third century AD, all that remained of the early Christian Church were the 4 Gospels, The Book of Acts, The Book of Revelation and some of the writings of the early apostles. Roman persecution meant the destruction of both the early Church Leadership and its records. Justin Martyr described some of the tortuous deaths suffered by early Christians at the hands of the Romans.
Enter Constantine, the great Hellenized/Gnostic, Philosopher King:
" When Diocletian and Maximian announced their retirement in 305, the problem posed by the Christians was unresolved and the persecution in progress. Upon coming to power Constantine unilaterally ended all persecution in his territories, even providing for restitution. His personal devotions, however, he offered first to Mars and then increasingly to Apollo, reverenced as Sol Invictus.
The next significant event in Constantine's religious development occurred in 312. Lactantius, whom Constantine appointed tutor of his son Crispus[] and who therefore must have been close to the imperial family, reports that during the night before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge Constantine was commanded in a dream to place the sign of Christ on the shields of his soldiers. [] Twenty-five years later Eusebius gives us a far different, more elaborate, and less convincing account in his Life of Constantine. [] When Constantine and his army were on their march toward Rome - neither the time nor the location is specified - they observed in broad daylight a strange phenomenon in the sky: a cross of light and the words "by this sign you will be victor" (hoc signo victor eris or ). During the next night, so Eusebius' account continues, Christ appeared to Constantine and instructed him to place the heavenly sign on the battle standards of his army. The new battle standard became known as the labarum." (source)
Constantine decided that the future of Rome was in the East (Constantinople). He divided the empire in two and allowed his brother in law, Licinius, to rule the Western half of the empire.
"In February 313, probably, Constantine and Licinius met at Milan. On this occasion Constantine's half-sister Constantia was wed to Licinius. Also on this occasion, the two emperors formulated a common religious policy. Several months later Licinius issued an edict which is commonly but erroneously known as the Edict of Milan. [] Unlike Constantine, Licinius did not commit himself personally to Christianity; even his commitment to toleration eventually gave way to renewed persecution. Constantine's profession of Christianity was not an unmixed blessing to the church. Constantine used the church as an instrument of imperial policy, imposed upon it his imperial ideology, and thus deprived it of much of the independence which it had previously enjoyed. (Source)
In other words, Licinius, the Western Emperor, never embraced Christianity. In fact, he continued to persecute it. Civil wars broke out between Constantine and Licinius. In the end, Licinius was conquered and put to death by Constantine, who then turned his focus on organizing a new "Catholic" or "Universal" religion on the ashes of early Christianity. One of the main disputes at the time was what we call the Arian controversy (heresy):
"Early in the fourth century a dispute erupted within the Christian church regarding the nature of the Godhead, more specifically the exact relationship of the Son to the Father. Arius, a priest in Alexandria, taught that there was a time when Christ did not exist, i.e. that he was not co-eternal with the Father, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were three separate and distinct hypostaseis, and that the Son was subordinate to the Father, was in fact a "creature." These teachings were condemned and Arius excommunicated in 318 by a council convened by Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria. But that did not by any means close the matter. Ossius (or Hosius) of Cordova, Constantine's trusted spiritual advisor, failed on his mission to bring about a reconciliation.
Constantine then summoned what has become known as the First Ecumenical Council of the church. The opening session was held on 20 May 325 in the great hall of the palace at Nicaea, Constantine himself presiding and giving the opening speech. The council formulated a creed which, although it was revised at the Council of Constantinople in 381-82, has become known as the Nicene Creed. It affirms the homoousion, i.e. the doctrine of consubstantiality. A major role at the council was played by Athanasius, Bishop Alexander's deacon, secretary, and, ultimately, successor. Arius was condemned. []
If Constantine had hoped that the council would settle the issue forever, he must have been bitterly disappointed. The disputes continued, and Constantine himself vacillated. Eusebius of Nicomedia, a supporter of Arius exiled in 325, was recalled in 327 and soon became the emperor's chief spiritual advisor. In 335 Athanasius, now bishop of Alexandria and unbending in his opposition to some of Constantine's policies, was sent into exile at far-away Trier. " (source)