Sunday, August 10, 2008

Council of Nicea

This key event in Judeo-Christian history is somewhat removed from the 500 year mark I was shooting for. Of course, our previously discussed events were

The Exodus (1500 B.C.)
The Monarchy (1000 B.C.)
The Exile (500 B.C.)
Christ (4 B.C.)

and now Council of Nicaea (325 A.D)

Many people have heard of this event, but may have some incorrect assumptions about its effects. Let me clear up a few myths.
  1. This is NOT the council that decided what books would be in the Bible. (I know, I know, you heard it in a movie.) In fact there never was such a council, and the canon we have came mainly by consensus.
  2. This is NOT the council that invented the idea of the Trinity. This concept existed for centuries before this time. This council did, however, defend the doctrine of the Trinity from those who denied it.
So what did happen?

Christianity had entered a new period of its existence. For three centuries before this time, it was considered a cult or insurgent movement that was to be suppressed. However, the emperor Constantine converted to Chrsitianity and it suddenly became the official religion of the empire.

However, due to this new peace, there was time for squabbling about points of doctrine. One such controversy came from Arius who taught that Jesus and the Father were not essentially the same (in other words, denying one of the central points of the Trinity). Constantine and the Church leaders wanted to put and end to this controversy, so they called a meeting.

Roughly 300 people showed up in Nicaea to discuss these and other issues. They came to an overwhelming agreement regarding the Trinity and published a famous summary of those beliefs called the Nicene Creed. Not only did this establish one of the first official positions of the church, but it established a pattern for future councils to debate matters of teaching.

The Council of Nicaea marks a definitive moment in institutional Christianity, and shows the desire of early Church leaders to stand up against error and argue vehemently for Biblical teachings.

(This is part of the Half-Mil Bible history, focusing on key events in Judeo-Christian history every 500 years. The first post was on the Exodus, the second post was on the establishment of the monarchy, the third post was on the return from exile, and the fourth post was about Christ.)

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