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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Council of Nicaea (Nicene Council)

(The reason for the notes beginning at 96 is because this post is an excerpt from paragraphs 36-58 from the post "The History of the Development of the Trinity Doctrine". For additional information concerning the Council of Nicaea, see: HIST. pt. 1, par. 17; HIST. pt. 4, pars. 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 10; HIST. pt. 5, pars. 1, 6, 17, 18, 19, 21; HIST. pt. 6, pars. 2, 3.)

1  Constantine, still a pagan emperor,[96, 97, 98] was concerned not with religious truth, but about the unity of his empire.[99, 100, 101, 102] He wanted the great rift between the extremely influential Alexandria (and its Western "satellites") and the entire Eastern portion of Christianity (the original home of Christianity) to be healed at once! Furthermore, "he detested Judaism" (p. 75, When Jesus became God and see p. 499. Rise of Christianity, Frend) and, of course, the God which Judaism, including the first Christians, had always worshiped. He therefore called a council of the bishops of the Church to work out a solution that would benefit his empire.

"This council met at Nicaea in the early summer of 325. Three hundred bishops of the Church were present .... The [pagan] Emperor presided [more often his own personal religious advisor, Bishop Hosius, actually presided] over the council and paid its expenses. ['At Nicaea the emperor provided lodging for the bishops in his palace. It was there, too, that the discussions took place, and in the presence of the emperor at that. .... It is understandable if the bishops showed their gratitude by generous efforts to oblige the emperor.' - p. 52, Lohse, Short Hist.] For the first time the Church found itself dominated by the political leadership of the head of the state."[103, 104]

2  Three views were advocated at this council. (Actually, the real question to be decided at this council was only the first step by Alexandrian philosophizers [and their Roman sympathizers] toward establishing a new doctrine of God. The question was only, "Is Jesus absolutely equal to the Father: all-powerful, always existing, and of the very same substance, or not?" The introduction of a "third person" as being equal to God was not yet being attempted officially.)

(1) Basically, Athanasius, the trinitarian from Alexandria, said,

"Yes, Jesus is absolutely equal to the Father. He has always existed beside the Father. He is of the very same substance or essence (Homoousios) [105, 106, 107] as the Father. He is absolute God and must be worshiped as God."

There was a very small minority of Western Bishops at the council who agreed with him (those most influenced by Alexandria and Neo-Platonism, including the trinitarian Bishop Hosius).[108]

(2) There was another (much larger) minority of Bishops at the council who were led by Arius. Basically, Arius said,

"Jesus is not God, although he could be called 'divine.' He was made by God (the Father alone) so there was a time when he did not exist! He was made out of nothing and is, therefore, of an entirely different substance (or Essence) from that of God. He must not be worshiped as the One True God."

(Apparently Arius also believed that in his heavenly pre-existence Jesus had been the highest of angels. But this was not an invention of Arius. It was a much earlier Christian tradition which Arius was upholding - p. 50, A Short History of Christian Doctrine, Bernard Lohse, Fortress Press, 1985 - but the more recent trinitarians had rejected it.

"Traditional Christian interpretation has held that this 'angel' [the Angel of Jehovah] was a preincarnate manifestation of Christ as God's Messenger-Servant." - Gen. 16:7 footnote, NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1985.)

(3) The vast majority (more than 200 bishops) of those at the Council of Nicaea were led by Eusebius of Caesarea. These were the Semi-Arians (see The American People's Encyclopedia, 1954, p. 8-207). They strongly agreed with the Arians that Jesus was not God[109, 110, 111] and must not be worshipped as God! They believed that Jesus did not always exist. Basically, they said,

"The Father (God alone) generated Jesus (not out of nothing as Arius believed, but) from a substance similar (Homoi ousios) to His own. He is not equal to God, but is subordinate to Him, [118] even though he is above all the rest of creation. Jesus must not be worshiped as the One True God."

"By contrast [with the Arians and semi-Arians], the strongest anti-Arians experienced their present as a sharp break with the past. It was they who demanded, in effect, that Christianity be "updated" by blurring or even obliterating the long-accepted distinction between the Father and the Son.

"For young militants like Athanasius, however, ... Judaism was an offensive, anti-Christian faith." - p.74, When Jesus Became God, Harcourt, 1999.

3  Notwithstanding the vast majority of bishops' unshakably strong insistence upon a non-trinitarian view of God, the determination and power of the Emperor- supported (and Alexandrian and Neo-Platonist-influenced) bishops of the West prevailed after months of stormy debates.

Eusebius of Caesarea presented the baptismal creed of his own Palestinian community to the Nicene Council. It did not satisfy the trinitarians.

"Accordingly, they [Constantine and Hosius primarily] took another baptismal creed, of much the same type as Eusebius's, and altered its text to serve their purpose, in the process creating a new, non-liturgical type of confession. .... In the text itself, they inserted the significant expressions 'true God from true God,' 'begotten not made,' 'from the substance [ousia] of the Father,' and - most important of all, as it turned out - 'of one substance [homoousios] with the Father.' .... From the very beginning, however, people like Eusebius of Caesarea had doubts about the creed, doubts that focused on the word homoousios. This was, to be sure, a vague and non-technical term which was capable of a fairly wide range of senses. [According to historian Gibbon it was a mysterious term "which either party was free to interpret according to their peculiar tenets." - p. 686, vol. 1, Random House.] It could in principle be taken to mean exact sameness of being, but it could also be taken to suggest no more than a significant degree of similarity between Father and Son [Origen, in fact, used the term to show merely a 'unity of will' between the Father and the Son [88] - p. 46, Lohse.] - which, of course, everyone was glad to affirm. On the other hand, the term was non-Scriptural, it had very doubtful theological history, and it was open to what, from Eusebius' point of view, were some dangerous misinterpretations indeed [including the one that was finally adopted and enforced by the Roman Church]." --- The trinitarians, however, assured Eusebius (and the large majority of other Bishops opposed to them) that homoousios in this new creed would not be interpreted in the way they feared.[105] - pp. 134, 135, Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church, 4th ed., Scribners, 1985.

4  After Eusebius failed to get a compromise (concerning "substance" or "essence," but which still rejected any concept promoting any equality for Jesus with God)[111, 112] and the Emperor backed the trinitarians with all his secular power, it was forcefully put to the vast majority of bishops present: sign the trinitarian statement or be exiled and treated as heretics.[113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119] It is not too surprising, therefore, that the majority of them signed (although most of them renounced it afterward).[120, 121, 122] It is surprising, in fact, that, after escaping from the Emperor's presence, so many remained faithful to their Arian and Semi-Arian beliefs. As trinitarian Christian historian Kenneth Latourette describes the situation:

"Constantine banished Arius, ordered the death penalty for those who did not conform, and commanded the burning of the books composed by Arius..." - pp. 50-51, Christianity Through the Ages, 1965, Harper ChapelBooks.

But the small minority of Western trinitarian bishops had won.

"The [new, non-Scriptural Nicene] creed achieved the aim of excluding Arianism and providing the eastern church with a formula to which all could assent in one sense or another [because of the many different meanings possible with such terms as homoousios]." - Williston Walker, History, p. 135.

"The decisions of Nicaea were really the work of a minority, and they were misunderstood and disliked by many [even those] who were not adherents of Arius. In particular the terms ['out of the substance' - exousia] and homoousios ['of the same substance'] aroused opposition, on the grounds that they were unscriptural, novel, ... and erroneous metaphysically." - p. 41, Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd ed., Bettenson, 1967, Oxford University Press.

"But [the Council of Nicaea's] formula of the Son's 'consubstantiality' [homoousios] with the Father was slow to gain general acceptance,[148] despite [Emperor] Constantine's efforts to impose it." - p. 72, The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity, John McManners, Oxford University Press, 1992.

"The Council of Nicaea, then, was not universal. Nevertheless, it is everywhere considered the first ecumenical (or universal) council of the Catholic Church. Several later gatherings would be more representative of the entire Church; one of them, the joint council of Rimini-Seleucia (359), was attended by more than five hundred bishops from both the East and West. If any meeting deserves the tilte "ecumenical," that one seems to qualify, but its result - the adoption of an Arian creed - was later repudiated by the Church. Councils whose products were later deemed unorthodox not only lost the "ecumenical" label but virtually disappeared from the official Church history." - p. 75, When Jesus Became God, Harcourt, 1999.

5  In contrast to the conduct of the trinitarians we find the conduct of the Arians and Semi-Arians during the Nicene Council (which we must read in the extremely biased accounts of the Athanasians since their opponents' accounts, records, and doctrinal evidence were destroyed by the prevailing Athanasians) to be a much more proper example for those professing to be Christian:

"The Arians .... recommended the exercise of Christian charity [love] and moderation, urged the incomprehensible nature of the controversy, disclaimed the use of any terms or definitions which could not be found in the Scriptures, and offered, by very liberal concessions, to satisfy their adversaries without renouncing the integrity of their own principles. The [trinitarians] received all their proposals with haughty suspicion and anxiously sought for some irreconcilable mark of distinction, the rejection of which might involve the Arians in the guilt and consequences of heresy. A letter was publicly read and ignominiously torn [by the trinitarians], in which [Arian] Eusebius of Nicomedia ingenuously [honestly, openly, honorably, with a superior character - Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary] confessed that the admission of the homoousion,[105, 106, 107, 108, 110] or Consubstantial [a non-Biblical, paganistic term], a word already familiar to the platonists, was incompatible with the principles of their theological system. The fortunate opportunity [for the trinitarians] was eagerly embraced by the [minority group of Western, trinitarian] bishops, who governed the resolutions of the Synod, and, according to ... Ambrose, they used the sword, which heresy itself had drawn from the scabbard, to cut off the head of the hated monster [Arianism and semi-Arianism]." - pp. 685-686, Gibbon, vol. 1, Random House.

6  In other words, trinitarian Gibbon, who admittedly dislikes the non-trinitarian Arian teaching, tells us that the Arians wished to keep peace and unity by compromising as much as they honestly could. They wanted to confine the discussion to the Scriptures alone and not introduce any philosophic and paganistic teachings.[15, 79, 107, 108, 143] And they wanted to conduct this Council or Synod in the spirit of Christian Love. But the trinitarians would have none of it and actually searched for a way to have the non-trinitarian majority persecuted as heretics! And when the Arian spokesman, in the spirit of Christian honesty and openness, wrote that one thing they simply could not compromise with was the use and potential meanings of the pagan non-Biblical term ("Homoousious" or "of equal substance" - a term introduced at the council by Emperor Constantine himself), the trinitarian bishops immediately and publicly tore up the letter and started the proceedings for heresy!

7  Which side seems more in line with the teachings of Christ and his Apostles to you? (Compare Matt. 5:5-12; 5:39; 6:14-15; Gal. 5:19-24.) Don't we find the trinitarian Athanasians - even DURING this most significant Council - more like those the Apostles warned us about at 2 Tim. 4:3-5 and 1 John 3:10-12? Don't we find the more humble, peace-loving Arians and Semi-Arians more in line with 1 John 4:17, 20, 21? Who is more like the self-righteous ones in religious authority in these scriptures: Matt. 12:9, 14; 22:15; 23:23, 34 - the Athanasians? The Arians and Semi-Arians?

"Nicaea cost the Church its independence, however, for the Church became imperial from this time and was increasingly dominated by the Emperor."[123]

"Nevertheless ... Constantine's unification of state and church did not please everyone. .... it had indeed required a mental and spiritual turnabout to belong to a church which, instead of being perpetually proscribed ["outlawed," persecuted - see 2 Tim. 3:12, John 15:19-20] was subsidized and directed from the lateran palace under the guidance of the Emperor."[124]

8  Up to this point Christians had been persecuted by those around them, including the government itself - just as foretold by Christ and the inspired Bible writers, but they would not persecute in return (also as commanded by Jesus). Then at this single stroke a new God was to be worshiped by all Christians, and these newly-proclaimed "orthodox" (trinitarian) Christians were no longer persecuted, proscribed. Those being persecuted in accord with Christ's prophecy were still the non-trinitarians who continued on the narrow road (Matt. 7:13-14) as commanded by their Lord and Savior.

"The Bishop of Rome (Pope) was given the royal palace of the Laterni [the Lateran Palace] and magnificent new churches. The liturgy borrowed imposing features from official and court ceremonial." Even "episcopal [bishops'] courts were given jurisdiction in civil cases." - Grant, pp. 220, 221.

St. Jerome's doubts about the desirability of such a position for the church echoed a feeling of disgust that went wide and deep among the members of the church:

"This feeling had ancient roots. Before official recognition of the church, many Christian writers had detested not only the Roman state but the whole Greco-Roman and particularly Greek philosophical culture in which the Alexandrians and other apologists had tried to dress the Jewish doctrines of Christianity."[125]

Yes, the religion which Christ himself had said was no part of the world (Jn 17:16; compare 1 Jn 2:15-17) was now gladly fusing itself wholly with that world. Protestant Church historian Neander noted,

"the consequence would be a confusion of the church with the world ... whereby the church would forfeit her purity, and, while seeming to conquer, would herself be conquered." - General History of the Christian Religion and Church, vol. 2, p. 161.

She herself had become a large part of the adulteress (or the Harlot - Rev. 17:1-6; 18:2-3) which she had been so clearly warned against.

"Ye adulteresses [ASV footnote: 'That is, who break your marriage vow to God'], know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God." - James 4:4, 5, ASV.

Influences Upon The Nicene Council

10 But, to get back to the influences upon that infamous council, the most influential person at the Nicene Council was Bishop Hosius of Cordova (sometimes translated “Ossius” or “Osius of Cordoba”) who actually presided over most of the Council sessions. He was the representative for the Pope (the Bishop of Rome) and the most trusted, most influential “Christian” advisor for the Emperor himself. As the leader of the Western, Alexandria-influenced bishops he was committed to the trinity idea. It is he who ultimately convinced the Emperor to decide (against the large majority of bishops present) in favor of the “Jesus is God” doctrine.[126, 127]  In fact, Constantine relied almost exclusively on this trinitarian advisor and had very little interest in the actual decision of this council (except that it must permanently resolve the religious dissension in his Empire):

“Constantine had basically no understanding whatsoever of the questions that were being asked in Greek Theology” - p. 51, A Short History of Christian Doctrine, Lohse, Fortress Press, 1985.

11 About 20 years before Emperor Constantine convened the Nicene (or Nicaean) Council, the famous Bishop Hosius of Cordova was the “leading spirit” of the Council of Elvira in 306 A.D.[128] As The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us:

“It is significant that the leading bishop at Elvira [Bishop Hosius] was to preside at the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325."[129]

12 It is significant indeed! Was this “leading spirit” himself guided by Holy Spirit and Holy Scripture? Well, let’s look at the results of the Council of Elvira, for, as Jesus forewarned:

“You will know them by their fruits.” - Matt. 7:16, NASB

Here, then, are the “fruits” of the Council of Elvira: its published canons. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia (p. 185),

“[The Council of Elvira] published the oldest known positive law concerning clerical celibacy."[130]

And what is “clerical celibacy”? Again The Catholic Encyclopedia (p. 100) informs us:

“Celibacy is the ecclesiastical law in the western [Roman Catholic] Church imposed on clerics forbidding ... those in holy orders from marriage.”

13 Now turn to God’s inspired word at 1 Timothy 4:1-7 (NEB):

“... some will desert from the faith and give their minds to subversive doctrines inspired by devils, through the specious falsehoods of men whose own conscience is branded with the devil’s sign.”

And exactly how can we recognize those who “desert from the faith and give their minds to subversive doctrines”?

THEY FORBID MARRIAGE and demand abstinence from foods.” - 1 Tim. 4:3, NRSV.

Throughout the history of Biblical Israel God allowed his priests and high priests to marry (even John the Baptist’s father was a married priest - Luke chapter 1). And the Christian servants of God were permitted to marry (and remain married) throughout the writings of the New Testament Scriptures (e. g., 1 Tim. 3:2, 4) and up to the time of Hosius.

So what was it that inspired Bishop Hosius to include this God-defying command to forbid marriages in the edicts of the Roman Church? Well, 1 Tim. 4:1 clearly shows the source of that spirit, but the actual agent of that spirit at this time was the very popular and influential surrounding pagan mystery religions and philosophies!

In particular, Hosius and his Alexandrian-influenced confederates borrowed extensively from the Alexandrian trinity cult of Serapis-Isis-Horus:

“The contributions of the Alexandrine cult to Christian thought and practices were even more considerable .... Its priests took on the head-shaving [“tonsure” of Catholic priests] and the characteristic garments of the Egyptian priests, because that sort of thing seemed to be the right way of distinguishing a priest. One accretion followed another."[131]

More specifically:

“the ceremonial burning of candles ... was a part of the worship of the Serapeum .... her [Isis’] images stood in the temple, crowned as the Queen of Heaven and bearing the infant Horus in her arms. The candles flared and guttered before her and the wax ex-votos hung about the shrine. The novice was put through a long and careful preparation, he took vows of celibacy, and when he was initiated his head was shaved and he was clad in a linen garment .... The garments of ritual and symbol and formula that Christianity has worn, and still in many countries wears to this day were certainly woven in the cult and temples of Jupiter-Serapis and Isis that spread now from Alexandria throughout the civilized world.'[132, 133, 134, 135]

Rome itself was greatly influenced by its own celibate pagan priests (in addition to those of Jupiter-Serapis-Isis above which Rome also had imported).

“When the worship of Cybele, the Babylonian goddess, was introduced into Pagan Rome, it was introduced in its primitive form, with its celibate clergy.” - p. 220, The Two Babylons, Hislop.

14 And the highly-respected and very popular religion of Mithraism (which Emperor Constantine himself favored) was well-known for its celibate priests.

“Originally  was one of the lesser gods of the ancient Persian pantheon, but he came to be regarded as the spiritual Sun, the heavenly Light,... and already in the time of Christ he had risen to be co-equal with, though created by, Ormuzd (Ahura-Mazda), the Supreme Being....” (pp. 136-137) “Mithraism had its austerities, .... It had also its nuns and its male CELIBATES.” - p. 143, The Paganism in our Christianity, Weigall, New York, 1974.

So we see that in both Alexandria and Rome the customary perception of a priest included the unscriptural pagan concept of celibacy!

15 For those who accept the authority of the Holy Scriptures and the testimony of history, there can be absolutely no doubt as to what “spirit” motivated Hosius, who was the “leading spirit” of the Council of Elvira, and motivated the Roman Church which accepted the paganistic doctrines he advocated. “[those who] desert the faith and who give their minds to subversive doctrines inspired by devils” include those who “forbid marriage and inculcate abstinence from certain foods.” (Incidentally that same Roman Church did “inculcate abstinence from certain foods”: The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1976, admits, in the article entitled “Abstinence”: “The law of abstinence is binding to all over 14 years of age .... It forbids the eating of meat and soups of meat stock, gravy and sauces of meat. On days of complete abstinence these foods may not be eaten at all.” - p. 17.)

“In 325 the Council of Nicaea declared that those who were unmarried at ordination could not marry afterward ....” - p. 280, The Christian Book of Why, John C. McCollister (Lutheran minister and university professor - graduate of the Trinity Lutheran Seminary), NY, 1983. - - Also see p. 660 f.n., Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, vol. 3, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1944.

16 It becomes clear, then, why the Athanasians refused to agree to stick to the Holy Scriptures as their support for a multiple-person God during the Nicene Council: The western pagan-borrowing, Alexandrian-influenced “Christians” had been bending and ignoring Scripture for so long that it was already a clearly established pattern. Scripture had to be ignored in order to adopt popular paganisms. It should come as no surprise, then, that these paganizing Alexandria and Rome-influenced western bishops would not stick to scripture (in spite of the pleas by the majority of bishops present at the council) as the sole basis for their desired adoption of the trinity doctrine at the Nicene Council.

17 Why even during that very same council, according to Prof. McCollister above, they forced the inclusion of the pagan-inspired scripturally condemned practice of “forbidding marriage” (and “inculcating abstinence from certain foods"[135a])! This certainly shows the “fruits” of these men and the “fruits” of the Nicene Council as a whole!

18 Yes, embracing the more popular and influential pagan philosophies and religious doctrines and marrying them to god’s pure religion was more important to them than God’s inspired word. A clear example of the figurative “adultery” the Bible warns against!

19 But what about that “Christian” emperor who convened the Nicene Council and finally decided its “canons” himself? Saint Constantine some churches have named him. Was he really a trinitarian Christian? Was he a Christian at all?

As we have seen, [96, 97, 98, 99] Constantine, throughout his reign, was more pagan than Christian and didn’t even ask to be baptized as a Christian until he lay upon his death bed.

“Toward the close of his life he favored the [non-trinitarian] Arians ... and he even banished many Roman Catholic [trinitarian] bishops. In the year 337 he fell ill ..., was baptized, and died after a reign of 31 years.” - Encyclopedia Americana, p. 555, v. 7, 1944.

20 Not only did Constantine “favor” the Arians in his later years and help them to dominant positions in the Church that they retained for many years after his death,[136] but he made an extremely significant gesture as he lay upon his death bed!

“Not until his last illness did he fully accept Christianity. Then he cried, ‘let there be no ambiguity!’ and asked for baptism [by an Arian, non-trinitarian bishop].” - Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia, v. 3, p. 456, 1950.

Yes, instead of calling in his old friend and advisor, Hosius, or even Athanasius, he called for Eusebius of Nicomedia, (the leader of the Arian party since the death of Arius) to baptize him! This certainly ended any ambiguity!

“[Eusebius of Nicomedia] baptized Constantine in 337, and became patriarch of Constantinople in 339 [the capital of the empire at that time].” - Americana, 1944, v. 10, p. 585.

What a powerful and significant deathbed confession by Saint Constantine![137]

21 In other words, Constantine, upon the insistent advice of Hosius, had forced the trinitarian views of Athanasius and the Alexandrians upon a reluctant Church. Shortly after, however, he began exiling the trinitarians and restoring the Arians and Semi-Arians. Then, when he finally decided to fully become a Christian himself, he chose to be baptized as an Arian Christian to dispel any perception of ambiguity about himself and his desires for the empire.

22 It must be made perfectly clear that the original Nicene Creed, as formulated in 325 A. D. and forced upon the Church, did not yet attempt to include the holy spirit as an equal member of a “Godhead.” The Nicene Council was just the first step in the Alexandrian process of making an official trinity for Christendom.

“...the early Church did not forthwith attain to a complete [trinity] doctrine; nor was it, in fact, until after the essential divinity [‘deity’] of Jesus had received full ecclesiastical sanction [325 A.D. or later] that the personality of the Spirit was explicitly recognized, and the doctrine of the Trinity [fully and officially] formulated. .... It is better to regard the spirit as the agency which, proceeding from the Father and the Son, dwells in the church as the witness and power of the life therein.” - Encyclopedia Americana, v. 14, p. 326, 1944-1957 (at least).