Council of Nicea: Christian Catalyst

Several key events helped promulgate the new religion of Christianity in its early years. Christianity rose from an obscure sect of Judaism (Yeshua was a Jew) to a religion that would have believers creating their own obscure sects.

Without these key events occurring in the history of Christianity we may very well find ourselves in a world where the dominate religion is Judaism, Mithraism or even Druidism.

The first key event in the history of Christianity was the destruction of the Temple by the Roman Empire in 70 CE. Many in the new sect saw the destruction of the Temple as a sign that their God did not accept the Jewish religion as the priests promoted it – that the Jewish hierarchy had mistakenly dismissed the new messiah. Along with the destruction of the Temple came the toppling of the Judaic hierarchy, who up to that point had kept the new religion in check – keeping it a sect of Judaism.

This new religion had no canon or sacred texts of their own – they read the Jewish Torah. The new religion relied solely upon the Oral Tradition of story telling and people passed the stories on from generation to generation, with embellishment and exaggerations making their way in with each new telling of the story.

When Rome destroyed the Temple, the followers of the new religion had free reign and the ability to create their own sacred texts. The first thing to appear was the letters of Paul and the gospel of Thomas between 60 and 70 CE. Even though the gospel of Thomas is the earliest gospel, the church neglected that gospel as an authority.

After the Temple was destroyed came the remaining gospels that exist in the Biblical canon today; Mark (70 to 80 CE), Matthew (85 to 90 CE), Luke (85 to 95 CE) and John (90 to 100 CE). The followers of this new religion, who did not call themselves Christians, were beginning to grow.

In 135CE, Rome destroyed Israel with the defeat of Bar Kochba. Roman legions under the guidance of Julius Severus (on the orders of Emperor Hadrain) slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Jews and the ones that survived went into exile or more commonly sold into slavery. This was the final sign for the now prospering Christians. The total destruction of Israel was a sign from their God for the Jewish refusal to accept Yeshua as their savior. Christians began proselytizing with a new fervor – and quickly became the new thorn in the side of the Roman government.

The persecution of early Christians did not occur because they were Christians, but because they were a monotheistic religion. Persecution was routine for all monotheistic religions in early Rome – regardless of the single god that they believed in.

After a while, Rome began singling out the Christians not just because of their monotheistic beliefs, but also because of their criminal behavior. The Roman Empire saw a group of people that refused to follow Roman law and that were unruly. The very nature of early Christian theology put them at odds with a government that viewed its Emperor as divine. Christians were also responsible for the great Roman Fire that burned two thirds of Rome to the ground, caused by a riot of torch-wielding Christians.

This persecution continued until one Roman Emperor realized that in order to maintain power and keep the Roman Empire vital and alive, he had to stop the persecution of the monotheistic religions and allow religious freedom. The Roman Emperor decided that the power of Rome lay not in its armies, that worshiped Mithra, but in her cities, where the Christians and monotheistic believers were gaining in numbers. If this Roman Emperor could placate the Christians then he could save Rome. The Roman Emperor was Constantinus Victor Augustus Maximus, or more commonly know as Constantine.

Constantine: First papa (father) of the Church

In 312CE, Constantine had technically converted to Christianity after he defeated Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge. At the Battle of Milvian Bridge Constantine swore that he saw a blazing cross with the words, “In this sign conquer” (written in Greek) before he engaged in battle. Upon telling his Mithraic armies of this vision, they went into battle with the Venerable Sun God behind them: the blazing cross was the sign of the Venerable Sun God. The cross would come into play at the Council of Nicea and change Christianity forever.

Constantine declared it illegal to persecute monotheistic religions one year later in 313 CE with the signing of the Edict of Milan.

Constantine’s conversion to Christianity was the boost that Christianity needed to become a world religion. Because Constantine declared himself a Christian, many in the Roman Empire felt compelled to do the same. This is where the church would be greatly influenced by Paganism as the Pagan Rome would not give up her Pagan celebrations and ideas – including the “supposedly” Christian Constantine.

The combination of Pagan assimilation and imperial backing helped make Christianity the dominant religion in the Roman Empire in only a few years. Christianity went from a group of people that had a personal relationship with their god to a religious political machine that was dogma and doctrine-driven with an Emperor at the helm that viewed Yeshua as a close friend instead of as a personal messiah.

One of the many duties of a Roman Emperor is to defend his faith, regardless of the faith the Emperor may have. When Constantine converted to Christianity to save Rome he immediately began setting up bishops and orthodoxy. Constantine intervened on many occasions in disputes and established order.

Constantine’s knowledge of Christian theology was minuscule, at best. What was important to Constantine was power and he knew that power came through peace in the Empire. This need for peace and order was the characteristic of Constantine that led him to call the Council of Nicea.

We step forward to 319CE in Alexandria, Egypt. We are in the council of Alexander of Alexandria. The bishops under Alexander from Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Palestine are present. During a conversation on the nature of the Trinity, a bishop named Arius accuses Alexander of heresy.

In the process of explaining why he thought Alexander had spoken heresy, Arius himself let it slip that Jesus was not equal to God. This idea stabbed at the very heart of the belief in the Trinity. Arius’ basic argument was that since Jesus was begotten, then he did not exist before then, therefore he was greater then man, but less than God. Jesus was not God’s equal, but his Son: his begotten Son.

Arius: Heretic for saying God and Jesus are not the same!

Alexander did not do anything at the time. It was Alexander’s right-hand man, Athanasius, who convinced Alexander to do something about Arius, Arianism, and the Arians. Arius was a master of art and song, and he spread his version of Christianity everywhere with what the people wanted – entertaining songs and easy-to-learn poems. People ignored the doctrine of Alexander, as his edicts were boring and long-winded in an attempt to explain the heresy of Arius. The cry of the Arians was, “There was a time when the Son was not.”

The basic argument was over two words, spelled differently by one letter. The first is homoiousious, and the second is homoousious. The difference almost seems trivial today, but it was enough to start a clash in Christianity – one that would cause riots and bloodshed – cause bishops to turn on each other and finally cause an intervention by Pagan Rome that would affect the church to modern times.

Homoiousious is the doctrine of Arianism, that the Son and Spirit are similar. They are similar because Yeshua, the Son, was at one time non-existent – he had to be born.

Homoousious is the doctrine of Alexander, that the Son and Spirit are equal. They are equal because Yeshua is part of the Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Ghost. If the Son is not equal to the father, if they are not “the same,” then the theology of the Trinity falls apart and Christianity becomes a polytheistic religion. The dogma of the Trinity must remain in tact in order to be a monotheistic religion.

Arius was friends with Eusebius of Nicomedia, who was friends with Constantina, the sister of Emperor Constantine. Because Eusebius had the ear of Constantine and so Constantine had aligned himself with Arius. Constantine did not align for any theological reasons – his knowledge of Christianity was comparable to a modern Sunday school student. Constantine sided with Arius because Arius was the friend of Eusebius. It was through Eusebius that Constantine first heard of the conflict.

Within a year, the conflict had spread across the Roman Empire. Constantine finally decided to intervene in order to restore peace. Constantine sent Hosius of Cordova (modern Spain) to Alexander to give him a letter. Constantine implored Alexander to end the conflict and bring “peace and order” back to the Empire of Rome. The letter written by Constantine makes it clear that he has no idea what the conflict is about nor does he understand the theology behind the conflict. What the letter also makes clear is that Constantine was more worried about peace and harmony in his Empire than anything else he may have had on his mind. Constantine ends his letter with a plea for peace so that he might sleep better at night:

CONSTANTINE: “Seeing that our great and gracious god, the preserver of all, has given us the common light of his grace, I entreat you that my endeavors may be brought to a prosperous end, and my people be persuaded to embrace peace and concord. Suffer me to spend my days and nights in quiet, and may I have light and cheerfulness instead of tears and groans.”

Arius ultimately fled to Nicomedia to stay under the protection of Eusebius of Nicomedia. From here, Arius continued to influence people and change them to his version of theology, to homoiousious. Riots escalated and bloodshed among Christians worsened. Alexandria and Nicomedia were exchanging heated words and threatening war over the heresy.

Finally, after several failed attempts by Hosius, as the messenger of Constantine, to bring peace, Constantine decided to intervene on a more personal level. Constantine put out a call for all bishops in the Empire to meet in Nicea.

The Council of Nicea (Nicea was chosen because of its climate) had now been officially called by the Emperor of Rome. The call went out to over 1800 bishops, but only 318 bishops were able to make it. Of the 318 bishops that managed to survive the travel and arrive at Nicea, only 6 were from the West – the rest represented the East.

Some bishops died in route to the Council, dying at the hands of bandits or renegades. Many bishops could not attend because of their geographic location or because of logistics and financing. Some bishops refused to attend because they saw Constantine as a still-practicing Pagan and others refused to attend because they did not want to compromise between Arianism and Alexandrianism.

When Constantine arrived in Nicea, he came with his armies. The armies of Constantine encircled Nicea and placed it under siege. The writings of bishops and two historians at the Council tell us that the bishops were in awe of Constantine. Constantine arrived in scarlet high-heeled buskins and a purple gown strewn with gold embroidery and jewels. The influence that Constantine had over the bishops was recognizable from the moment he walked into the room.

There are some minor variations of Constantine’s speech, but they generally agree:

CONSTANTINE: “It is my desire that you should meet together in a general council, and so I offer to the King of All my gratitude for this mercy that has come to me above my other mercies—I mean that there has been granted to me the benefit of seeing you assembled together and to know you are resolved to be in common harmony together. When I gained my victories over my enemies, I thought nothing remained for me but to give thanks unto God and to rejoice with those who have been delivered by me. But when I learned, contrary to all expectations, that there were divisions among you, then I solemnly considered them, and praying that these discords might also be healed with my assistance, I summoned you here without delay. I rejoice to see you here, yet I should be more pleased to see unity and affection among you. I entreat you, therefore, beloved ministers of God, to remove the causes of dissension among you and to establish peace.”

Again, we see that Constantine’s main goal is not theological accuracy, but peace in his Empire.

The Council of Nicea lasted for more than two months with the debate between Arius and the followers of Alexander raging. Arius was prone to sing his version instead of ranting on-and-on in boring statements. The banter and song went back and forth. This singing by Arius actually helped initially with keeping Constantine on his side. The singing and prose were easier for Constantine, in his limited theological knowledge, to understand.

There is some disagreement over which bishop first proposed a creed to resolve the problem. There are two probable candidates: Athanasius and Hosius, with Hosius being the more likely of the two.

After Athanasius or Hosius suggested a creed, Eusebius of Caesarea offered the first wording of a creed, which was a creed he had learned while growing up:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible,

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God from God, Light from Light, Life from Life, the only begotten Son, the Firstborn of every Creature, begotten of the Father before all worlds, through whom also all things were made.

Who for our salvation was made flesh and lived among men, and suffered and rose again on the third day, and ascended to the Father, and shall come again in glory to judge the quick and the dead.

And in the one Holy Ghost.

Believing each of them to be and to have existed, the Father, only the Father, and the Son, only the Son, and the Holy Ghost, only the Holy Ghost…

Arius and Constantine accepted this creed without any argument. Because the creed made no reference to “similar” or “equal,” the proponents of Arius accepted it gleefully. However, the opponents of Arius saw that the creed did not resolve the matter, but simply gave Arius plenty of wriggling room in order to continue spreading his heresy.

By this time, many of Arius’ proponents were wavering and he was losing support. Even Constantine finally turned against Arius and suggested the use of the term homoousious (equal). So they wrote a new creed based on the suggestion of Constantine:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only begotten, that is, from the substance of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, very God from very God, begotten not made, of the same substance as the Father, through whom all things were made, both things in Heaven and things in earth; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was made flesh, was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into Heaven, and shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

And in the Holy Ghost.

And those who say “There was a time when he was not” and “He did not exist before he was made” and “He was made out of nothing” or those who pretend that the Son of God is “of another hypostasis or substance” or “created” or “alterable” or “mutable,” the Catholic Church anathematizes.

This form of the Nicene Creed was a tool: a sledgehammer against heresy. The Creed lacked prose, rhyme, and dignity. The orthodox followers of Alexander had gotten their way: in doing so they had created a Creed that was, in lack of other words, boring.

Constantine had spoken out against Arianism and decreed that anyone espousing the ideas of Arius would be heretics and put to death. Anyone owning or concealing a book written by Arius would die. The Roman Emperor that had embraced religious freedom and outlawed persecution was now preventing religious freedom and supporting the persecution and execution of anyone that did not agree completely with his view of the theology as written in the Nicean Creed.

Constantine later sent out a decree to all the bishops of Rome telling them that they would comply because the Council had spoken. The argument being, since all the bishops agreed that God must have ordained it, it was the correct view. Any bishop that disagreed with the creed or with Constantine was guilty of heresy and punishment was execution.

Arius and one other bishop refused to sign the Creed. Constantine banned them and sent them to exile. While the heresy of Arius laid to rest at the Council, the Arianism movement continued and even grew for many more years. A form of Arianism exists even to this day; we call them Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The 318 bishops set forth the following doctrines at the Council of Nicea before they finished with a massive celebratory feast:

Canon I Summary: Self-castration leads to loss of ministry – only those castrated by barbarians or by a physician for medical reasons can remain in the ministry.

Canon I Complete: If anyone in sickness has been subject by physicians to a surgical operation, or if he has been castrated by barbarians, let him remain among the clergy; but, if anyone in sound health has castrated himself, it behooves that such as one, if already enrolled among the clergy, should cease from his ministry, and that from henceforth no such person should be promoted. But, as it is evident that this is said of those who willfully do the thing and presume to castrate themselves, so if any been made eunuchs by barbarians, or by their masters, and should otherwise be found worthy, such me the Canon admits to the clergy.

Canon II Summary: Rules for ordination and for the disposition of those guilty of “sensual sin.”

Canon II Complete: Forasmuch as, either from necessity, or through the urgency of individuals, many things have been done contrary to the Ecclesiastical Canon, so that men just converted from heathenism to the faith, and who have been instructed by a little while, are straightway brought to the spiritual layer, and as soon as they have been baptized, are advanced to the episcopate or the presbyter, it has seemed right to us that for the time to come no such thing shall be done. For to the catechumen himself there is need of time and of a longer trial after baptism. For the apostolical saying is clear, “Not a novice; lest, being lifted up with pride, he fall into condemnation and the snare of the devil.” But if, as time goes on, any sensual sin should be found out about the person, and he should be convicted by two or three witnesses, let him cease from the clerical office. And whoso shall transgress these enactments will imperil his own clerical position, as a person who presumes to disobey the great Synod.

Canon III Summary: Only women who are relatives may enter your house.

Canon III Complete: The Great Synod has stringently forbidden any bishop, presbyter, deacon, or anyone of the clergy whatever, to have a subintroducta dwelling with him, except only a mother, or sister, or aunt, or such persons only as are beyond all suspicion.

Canon IV Summary: How to choose a new bishop.

Canon IV Complete: It is by all means proper that a bishop should be appointed by all the bishops in the province; but should this be difficult, either on account of urgent necessity or because of distance, three at least should meet together, and the suffrages of the absent bishops also being given and communicated in writing, then the ordination should take place. But in every province the ratification of what is done should be left to the Metropolitan.

Canon V Summary: Another bishop cannot reintroduce anyone excommunicated. Two synods a year should vote on contested excommunications.

Canon V Complete: Concerning those, whether of the clergy or of the laity, who have been excommunicated in the several provinces, let the provisions of the canon be observed by the bishops which provides that persons cast out by some be not readmitted by others. Nevertheless, inquiry should be made whether they have been excommunications through captiousness, or contentiousness, or any such like ungracious disposition in the bishop. And, that this matter may have due investigation, it is decreed that in every province synods shall be held twice a year, in order that when all the bishops of the province are assembled together, such questions may be them be thoroughly examined, that so those who have confessedly offended against their bishop, may be seen by all to be for just cause excommunicated, until it shall seem fit to a general meeting of the bishops to pronounce a milder sentence upon them. And let these synods be held, the one before Lent, that the pure Gift may be offered to God after all bitterness has been put away, and let the second be held about autumn.

Canon VI Summary: Establishment of patriarchs and their jurisdictions.

Canon VI Complete: Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop. If, however, two or three bishops shall from natural love of contradiction, oppose the common suffrage of the rest, it being reasonable and in accordance with the ecclesiastical law, then let the choice of the majority prevail.

Canon VII Summary: Giving bishops certain honors and privileges.

Canon VII Complete: Since custom and ancient tradition have prevailed that the Bishop of AElia (Jerusalem) should be honored, let him, saving its due dignity to the Metropolis, have the next place of honor.

Canon VIII Summary: How to deal with the Novatians, a heretical sect of Christians.

Canon VIII Complete: Concerning those who call themselves Cathari, if they come over to the Catholic and Apostolic Church, the great and holy Synod decrees that they who are ordained shall continue as they are in the clergy. But it is before all things necessary that they should profess in writing that they will observe and follow the dogmas of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; in particular that they will communicate with persons who have been twice married, and with those who having lapsed in persecution have had a period [of penance] laid upon them, and a time [of restoration] fixed so that in all things they will follow the dogmas of the Catholic Church. Wheresoever, then, whether in villages or in cities, all of the ordained are found to be of these only, let them remain in the clergy, and in the same rank in which they are found. But if they come over where there is a bishop or presbyter of the Catholic Church, it is manifest that the Bishop of the Church must have the bishop’s dignity; and he who was named bishop by those who are called Cathari shall have the rank of presbyter, unless it shall seem fit to the Bishop to admit him to partake in the honor of the title. Or, if this should not be satisfactory, then shall the bishop provide for him a place as Chorepiscopus, or presbyter, in order that he may be evidently seen to be of the clergy, and that there may not be two bishops in the city.

Canon IX Summary: Anyone ordained and found out later to have sinned, will be found guilty.

Canon IX Complete: If any presbyters have been advanced without examination, or if upon examination they have made confession of crime, and men acting in violation of the canon have laid hands upon them, notwithstanding their confession, such the canon does not admit; for the Catholic Church requires that which is blameless.

Canon X Summary: Those that ordained them will depose anyone lapsed or guilty regardless of prior knowledge.

Canon X Complete: If any who have lapsed have been ordained through the ignorance, or even with the previous knowledge of the ordainers, this shall not prejudice the canon of the Church for when they are discovered they shall be deposed.

Canon XI Summary: Rules of penitence for apostates of Licinius.

Canon XI Complete: Concerning those who have fallen without compulsion, without the spoiling of their property, without danger or the like, as happened during the tyranny of Licinius, the Synod declares that, though they have deserved no clemency, they shall be dealt with mercifully. As many as were communicants, if they heartily repent, shall pass three years among the hearers; for seven years they shall be prostrators; and for two years they shall communicate with the people in prayers, but without oblation.

Canon XII Summary: Rules of penitence for those that agreed or aided Licinius during his war on Christians.

Canon XII Complete: As many as were called by grace, and displayed the first zeal, having cast aside their military girdles, but afterwards returned, like dogs, to their own vomit, (so that some spent money and by means of gifts regained their military stations); let these, after they have passed the space of three years as hearers, be for ten years prostrators. But in all these cases it is necessary to examine well into their purpose and what their repentance appears to be like. For as many as give evidence of their conversions by deeds, and not pretence, with fear, and tears, and perseverance, and good works, when they have fulfilled their appointed time as hearers, may properly communicate in prayers; and after that the bishop may determine yet more favorably concerning them. But those who take [the matter] with indifference, and who think the form of [not] entering the Church is sufficient for their conversion, must fulfill the whole time.

Canon XIII Summary: Excommunicated persons can be communicated on their death bed.

Canon XIII Complete: Concerning the departing, the ancient canonical law is still to be maintained, to wit, that, if any man be at the point of death, he must not be deprived of the last and most indispensable Viaticum. But, if any one should be restored to health again who has received the communion when his life was despaired of, let him remain among those who communicate in prayers only. But in general, and in the case of any dying person whatsoever asking to receive the Eucharist, let the Bishop, after examination made, give it him.

Canon XIV Summary: Rules of penitence for catechumens weakened during persecution.

Canon XIV Complete: Concerning catechumens who have lapsed, the holy and great Synod has decreed that, after they have passed three years only as hearers, they shall pray with the catechumens.

Canon XV Summary: Bishops, priests and deacons cannot pass from one church to another.

Canon XV Complete: On account of the great disturbance and discords that occur, it is decreed that the custom prevailing in certain places contrary to the Canon, must wholly be done away; so that neither bishop, presbyter, nor deacon shall pass from city to city. And if any one, after this decree of the holy and great Synod, shall attempt any such thing, or continue in any such course, his proceedings shall be utterly void, and he shall be restored to the Church for which he was ordained bishop or presbyter.

Canon XVI Summary: Clerics cannot leave their church and be ordained in another.

Canon XVI Complete: Neither presbyters, nor deacons, nor any others enrolled among the clergy, who, not having the fear of God before their eyes, nor regarding the ecclesiastical Canon, shall recklessly remove from their own church, ought by any means to be received by another church; but every constraint should be applied to restore them to their own parishes; and, if they will not go, they must be excommunicated. And if anyone shah dare surreptitiously to carry off and in his own Church ordain a man belonging to another, without the consent of his own proper bishop, from whom although he was enrolled in the clergy list he has seceded, let the ordination be void.

Canon XVII Summary: Clerics cannot lend money and charge interest.

Canon XVIII Summary: Rules and roles for deacons.

Canon XVIII Complete: It has come to the knowledge of the holy and great Synod that, in some districts and cities, the deacons administer the Eucharist to the presbyters, whereas neither canon nor custom permits that they who have no right to offer should give the Body of Christ to them that do offer. And this also has been made known, that certain deacons now touch the Eucharist even before the bishops. Let all such practices be utterly done away, and let the deacons remain within their own bounds, knowing that they are the ministers of the bishop and the inferiors of the presbyters. Let them receive the Eucharist according to their order, after the presbyters, and let either the bishop or the presbyter administer to them. Furthermore, let not the deacons sit among the presbyters, for that is contrary to canon and order. And if, after this decree, any one shall refuse to obey, let him be deposed from the diaconate.

Canon XIX Summary: Rules for letting Paulianists back in and for putting misled deaconesses back into the laity.

Canon XIX Complete: Concerning the Paulianists who have flown for refuge to the Catholic Church, it has been decreed that they must by all means be rebaptized; and if any of them who in past time have been numbered among their clergy should be found blameless and without reproach, let them be rebaptized and ordained by the Bishop of the Catholic Church; but if the examination should discover them to be unfit, they ought to be deposed. Likewise in the case of their deaconesses, and generally in the case of those who have been enrolled among their clergy, let the same form be observed. And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity.

Canon XX Summary: Say all prayers while standing.

Canon XX Complete: Forasmuch as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord’s Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere (in every parish), it seems good to the Holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing.

What else was decided at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE?

  1. They chose the Roman Sun-Day or “day of the Sun” as the Christian Sabbath instead of Saturday. Up until this point, the Christians and Jews both celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday. This is a glaring example of the influence that Constantine’s Paganism had on the early church.
  2. The emblem of the Sun God, the cross of light, was adopted as the official emblem of Christianity.
  3. They declared Jesus a god instead of a mortal prophet. This permanently established the doctrine of the Trinity, which would have apologists busy explaining how three gods can be one from then until modern times.
  4. They established rules for setting the date of Easter. The Christians up until this point still celebrated Passover with the Jews. The Council decided to move their Passover celebration to the first Sunday after the Jewish Passover, which falls on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nisan. Later the church would rename Passover to Easter, after the Pagan celebration of Ester.
  5. They established the authority of bishops, which laid the foundation for the coming of the Roman Pope and the concentration of power in the hands of the ecclesiastics.

Was Constantine a Pagan or a Christian?

  1. Constantine: Sol Invictus, the Sun Emperor

    Constantine converted to Christianity for political reasons (313 CE) – to save the cities of the Roman Empire from destruction.

  2. Constantine was the chief priest of Sol Invictus. The followers of Sol Invictus referred to Constantine as “The Sun Emperorship.”
  3. Constantine changed the celebration of Jesus’ birthday from January 6th to December 25 (321CE). He did this because Natalis Invictus, the celebration of the birth/rebirth of the Sun, was on December 25.
  4. Constantine had “Sol Invictus” (the invincible Sun) displayed on his imperial banners and the coinage of Rome.

The Council of Nicea established the rules and guidelines for additional Councils in the future (there have been a lot since the first one in 325CE). The Council of Nicea did not vote on any of the canons, per se. They did state a preference for some of the canon, but they did not canonize them. Because of the “ordained by God” statements of Constantine, the preferential treatment of some of the canon was practically a canonization. Later councils would go over the lists and it would change very little. There were 27 “gospels” chosen by the Council that would late become the actual canon of the New Testament.

What is surprising is the number of books that never made it into the preferred list of the first Council and were finally officially defeated in 397 at the Council of Trent:

Apocalypse of Paul
Apocalypse of Peter
Apocryphon (secret book) of John
Book of Thomas the Contender
Damascus Document
Dialogue of the Savior
Epistle of Barnabas
Gospel According to the Hebrews
Gospel of Barnabas
Gospel of Phillip
Gospel of Mary (Magdalene)
Gospel of the Nazoreans
Gospel of the Egyptians
Gospel of Thomas
Gospel of Truth
Habakkuk Commentary
Letter of Peter to Phillip
On the Origin of the World
Revelation of Peter
Second Apocalypse of James
Secret Book of James
Shepherd of Hermas
Temple Scroll
Testimony of Truth
Travels and Teachings of the Apostles
Treatise on Resurrection
War Scroll
Wisdom of Jesus Christ

Looking back at the Council of Nicea it is clear that a group of men chose the fate of Christianity. A group of men led by a still-practicing Pagan that was paying political lip-service to the Christians helped guide Christianity into becoming a hybrid religion – a religion composed of its own beliefs, beliefs of Judaism, beliefs of Paganism and beliefs of political power from a Roman Emperor that saw religion as one of the greatest political tools there is.

Ultimately, these decisions would backfire on the Roman Empire as it crumbled. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire lists Christianity as one of the top contributors to the fall of the Roman Empire.


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  17. Jesus – God or the Son of God? A Comparison of the Arguments, by Brian Holt
  18. Macmillan Information Now Encyclopedia: World Religions, by Macmillan Publishing
  19. Paganism and Christianity, 100-425 CE, by Ramsay MacMullen
  20. Paganism in the Roman Empire, Ramsay MacMullen
  21. Remedial Christianity: What Every Believer Should Know About the Faith, but Probably Doesn’t, by Dr. Paul Laughlin
  22. When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity During the Last Days of Rome, by Richard E Rubenstein

One comment on “Council of Nicea: Christian Catalyst

  1. […] I discuss the Council of Nicea briefly here as well as an article about the Council of Nicea here. […]

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