Friday, January 31, 2014

Olaf Tryggvason: Christian Viking King, Destroyer of the Thor Idol (Theonomy Applied)

Olaf Tryggvason (964-1000) was a Viking swashbuckler and warrior who later converted to Christianity after meeting a warrior-priest named Thangbrand. When he became king of Norway in 995, he strove to win converts to Christ—sometimes, wrongly, by force, but other times by preaching.[1] 

His impact was broad; "By commissioning missionaries and baptizing visiting dignitaries, Olaf was able to introduce Christianity to the Shetland, Faroe, and Orkney islands and to Iceland and Greenland."[2]

Olaf Tryggvason
As king, Olaf worked for a theonomic reformation. John Eidsmoe describes his actions in 998:
[A]t an assembly in Tunsberg, King Olaf ordered the expulsion of all magicians, sorcerers, and warlocks from Norway. He burned some of them and later executed others by the common Norse method of binding them to ocean skerries so they would drown when the tide came in. Later that year, at Maerin, he entered the pagan temple, where "he found [an image of] Thor sitting there as the most honored of all the gods, adorned with gold and silver. King Olaf lifted up the gold-adorned rod he held in his hand and struck Thor, so he fell from his pedastal. Then the king's men ran up and shoved all the gods from their pedastals."[3]
Eidsmoe goes on to describe some fruits of Olaf's reign:
Slowly the old pagan rites faded away, and along with them went the pagan practices of exposing infants and old people to die. Gradually the Norse gave up their Viking ways and settled down to a more peaceful way of life.[4]
A warrior to the end, Olaf is said to have died at the Battle of Svolder in 1000although some hold that he managed to survive and escape the enemy. In any case, he never returned to rule his kingdom.

By acting as a minister of God, Olaf Tryggvason suppressed the pagan viking
practices, which contributed to the Norse abandoning their pagan ways and
embracing a more peaceful way of life.


[1] John Eidsmoe, Columbus & Cortez, Conquerors for Christ (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 1993), 23.
[2] "Olaf I Tryggvason," in Encyclopedia Britannica (2014). Retrieved January 28, 2014 from
[3] Eidsmoe, Columbus & Cortez, 25. Eidsmoe draws from and cites Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway, 13th century work trans. by Lee M. Hollander (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964, 1967), Chs. 62-69, 201-208. 
[4] Ibid. 

Note about the Theonomy Applied Series: In quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily endorse every aspect of that law as biblical, whether it be the prohibition, sanction, court procedure, etc. Rather, we are merely showing the more or less attempt to apply biblical law in history, whether or not that application was fully biblical. Moreover, in quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily consider those who passed and/or enforced such a law as being fully orthodox in their Christian theology. Professing Christian rulers in history have ranged in their theology from being orthodox (that is, Reformed Protestants) to heretical (for example, Roman Catholics).   


Anonymous said...

A good case study here of how Christianity lived out will have impact in our culture when there's a heart transformation.

Steve C. Halbrook said...

Veritas Domain, historically, I see a trend when civil rulers profess Christianity - they go on to defend God's honor by suppressing blasphemy and idolatry. Our current Christian rulers are out of step with history ...