The council of Nicaea 325

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by madame_zora, Feb 9, 2007.

  1. madame_zora

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    I would like to find out just how much people both who are and are not Christians know about the formation of this religion.

    For the purpose of this discussion, let's assume that Jesus was in fact a man who lived and preached, whatever else may or may not be true about his deity.

    From wikipedia:

    The First Council of Nicaea, held in Nicea in Bithynia (in present-day Turkey), convoked by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in 325, was the first ecumenical[1] conference of bishops of the Christian Church, and most significantly resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, called the Nicene Creed. With the creation of the creed, a precedent was established for subsequent 'general (ecumenical) councils of Bishops' (Synods) to create statements of belief and canons of doctrinal orthodoxy— the intent being to define unity of beliefs for the whole of Christendom.
    The purpose of the council was to resolve disagreements in the Church of Alexandria over the nature of Jesus in relationship to the Father; in particular, whether Jesus was of the same substance as God the Father or merely of similar substance. St. Alexander of Alexandria and Athanasius took the first position; the popular presbyter Arius, from whom the term Arian controversy comes, took the second. The council decided against the Arians overwhelmingly (of the estimated 250-318 attendees, all but 2 voted against Arius). Another result of the council was an agreement on the date of the Christian Passover (Pascha in Greek; Easter in modern English), the most important feast of the ecclesiastical calendar. The council decided in favour of celebrating the resurrection on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox, independently of the Bible's Hebrew Calendar (see also Quartodecimanism), and authorized the Bishop of Alexandria (presumably using the Alexandrian calendar) to announce annually the exact date to his fellow bishops.
    The Council of Nicaea was historically significant because it was the first effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom.[2] "It was the first occasion for the development of technical Christology."[2] Further, "Constantine in convoking and presiding over the council signaled a measure of imperial control over the church."[2] With the creation of the Nicene Creed, a precedent was established for subsequent general councils to create a statement of belief and canons which were intended to become guidelines for doctrinal orthodoxy and a source of unity for the whole of Christendom — a momentous event in the history of the Church and subsequent history of Europe.



    So, some three centuries after his death, this council was convened by the Roman emperor to unify the Church. Please bear in mind that there was no such thing as separation of church and state- the reiligion WAS the law of the land, and has been in most civilisations throughout history.

    The two main schools of thought at the time were the heresies of Paul and Arius. Paul claimed that Jesus was the som of God himself, and Aruis said he was a gifted prophet and teacher, but a man.

    Also understand, the Jewish religion had been fractured by the events of Jesus' preaching, and this left Rome with a great opportunity to gain power and momentum by utilising the faith of the people. Turns out if was a pretty good move, as that authority lasts even to today.

    For this discussion, I would sincerely like to hear what insights based on facts people would like to offer on this topic. While I appreciate that many people have faith, and that is surely their right, I would prefer to hear some thoughts based on facts rather than feelings.

    More pertinent reading:

    CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: First Council of Nicaea
     
  2. SpoiledPrincess

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    Jesus himself would have considered it blasphemous to say that he was God incarnate, he never said this himself and to any Jew of that day it would have been an abomination to say so. However, belief is based on faith and what is important I think isn't who or what Jesus actually was but the faith that formed around him.
     
  3. kalipygian

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    The arian position had been the orthodox one a few generations earlier. The earliest followers didn't pray to Jesus, that evolved over time, from teacher, to equivalent of saint, that is he could intercede on one's behalf, to son of god, to god. Then his immaculate conception, to his mothers immaculate comception, to his mother's assumption, to his mother's cat's immaculate conception.

    Constantine I thought was not himself present. He was not baptised until 337, a month before his death, at that time a catachumen wasn't supposed to go beyond the narthex of a church. His chaplain was an arian.

    Constantine was not one of the better emperors, the famous battle of the milvian bridge was against his brother in law. His mother was a prostitute, he was illegitimate, and he was not intended to succeed Constantius Chlorus(who was very capeable) as western emperor, so was a usurper. He killed his father in law, his brother in law, his wife, his sister in law, his oldest son, and many others. The credit christian historians give him for the revival of the empire is really due to Diocletian. After defeating Maxentius and Licinius and becoming sole emperor, he was very inactive.
     
  4. madame_zora

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    I guess I always assumed he would have been present, since he reportedly called the convention, but that is interesting.

    I also didn't know he murdered his whole family, but thanks for the hours of reading that are sure to follow!
     
  5. tripod

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    You guys are way too smart for me to even comment on this thread... WOW... did that come straight out of Kali's head? Holy smokes!!!!
     
  6. Lordpendragon

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    I agree MZ that this is one of the defining moments in Western history. I haven't had enough coffee yet this morning, but I will come back with more thoughts on orthodoxy and heresy. For me it is fascinating how one thing becomes orthodox and then so many accept and something else becomes heresy and is so quickly despised and forgotten. I also hope that the discussion can remain historic and anthropological rather than about faith. Fine lines for some.

    One thing that does come to mind is that the difficulties stem from the fact that Jesus did not lay out a set of dogmas. Love thy neighbour and love God has never been enough for some.
     
  7. B_Ray6955

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    HIS was *NOT* an Immaculate Conception -- HIS was a virgin birth. These two concepts are totally different. Mary's conception was immaculate, not Christ's.
     
  8. madame_zora

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    Religions and religious texts have served as a cultural definition for civilisations throughout history, so the Bible is not alone there. In many ways, it is beneficial for a group of people to set down in writing "this is what we believe, this is who we are". We did this with our Consititution, but as I said earlier, governments didn't used to be separate from their religions.

    The historical Jesus presents a problem for research though, because throughout history, anything written about him is coloured with opinions about faith, and the "faithful" are often nearly completely unaware of the development of the very beliefs they hold.

    We'll never know what the historical Jesus said about himself, because no writing is directly attributed to him, and the writings about him were long in surfacing. As oral traditions, it would have been miraculous indeed if much historical accuracy at all survived, and that was okay for their purposes at the time. This was not a story about history, it was about a people's views about their god and their salvation. Mithos vs. logos, as Danny would say.

    The best anyone can really do is to look at the society of that time, and draw what could be considered the most logical conclusions based on the available evidence. In this quest, I have an almost unquenchable thirst. I started this thread to learn, so I'll appreciate any and all considered opinions but I'll appreciate sources even more.
     
  9. Lordpendragon

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    Have a look at this MZ.

    Gospel of Thomas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    For me the style is consistent with the other two early gospels of mark and Mathew. John is later and in a different style altogether.

    The early Gospels are a matter of a generation after th events and can be taken to be failry accurate as oral tradition was very strong. The Thomas gospel is in it's original form and very interesting.
     
  10. AlteredEgo

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    I was thinking something very similar!
     
  11. kalipygian

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    Constantine was present, along with 2,048 ecclesiastics, I didn't check that before I posted.

    I would recommend Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', it is very readable, it would not otherwise have stayed in print for 220 or so years. His attitude toward religion was very enlightenment.

    Another worthwhile book is Robert L. Wilken, 'The Christians as the Romans Saw Them'.

    The nicene creed, the credo of the Sacra Ecclesiastica Catholicos Romanorum, with the addition of one word, 'filioqae', is the same now as was agreed on then.

    Had to learn it by rote and recite it with the rest of the latin mass, daily in parochial gradeschool. It was much more sententious when it was a complete mystery.
     
  12. Freddie53

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    It has always been my understanding that at this same Council, the present canon for the Bible was completed. There were several books that were not accepted. I don't know the names of all of them. Most were gnostic.

    My father, a learned theologian, said that Revelation was almost not accepted at this Council.

    If anyone knows sources about the canon of the Bible both Old and New Testaments please post.
     
  13. madame_zora

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    Freddie, great to see you guy!

    From what I understand, it wasn't so much that individual books of the Bible were voted on, although Danny also tells me that Revelation was almost not included (and that he personally wishes it wasn't). I think it was mainly versions of the Bible were being judged as true or false, in a sense. I remember reading that somewhere around 300 versions of the Bible were presented, and all but the Paulian versions were burned. I wish I could remember where I read it, I'd post a link. I've often wondered what was in all those burned versions, no doubt some of it was lost right then and there.

    LPD, thanks so much for that link. I've heard of the Gospel of Thomas but never read any of it. I'll read it tonight, and please clue me in on any others you find interesting. This is exactly what I was hoping for, you guys are the best. I always hope that what I lack in knowledge I make up for in eagerness as a student.
     
  14. madame_zora

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    I thought I detected a parochial education. While every one of my cousins went to Catholic schools, my mother was the rebel- we were Unitarian. I understand better now why I feel the sense of familiarity in your posts though, and I appreciate very much the book recommendations. This is a fairly new revival of interest for me, as lifetimes go. While I studied eastern religions in my youth, it is a study I let go for almost two decades raising a child. I dabbled here and there, but about four years ago, I decided to just audit a course on religion and mysticism to get the ball rolling again. Shortly thereafter, I joined this site, so it was a timing thing as much as anything.

    I'm not sure what I feel on God and the whole religious proposition, but I find the study is fascinating, and I'll reserve judgement pending more information. I love it when people don't tell me what to think, but what to read- that is indeed a gift.
     
  15. JustAsking

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    This is an awesome thread. Thanks for starting it, MZ.

    Princess,
    Actually, Jesus makes many claims to divinity in the New Testament.
     
  16. madame_zora

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    Wondered where you were mate, you're late!

    Actually, Jesus is reported to have claimed divinity in the NT, but there is certainly room for speculation as to what he actually said, since no writing of his has of yet been uncovered. She would certainly not be the first who believes that such a claim would have been against Jewish tradition of the time, as would have been letting an unmarried man teach at Temple.
     
  17. B_josiah852

    B_josiah852 New Member

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    The Gospel of Thomas is interesting in the fact that he wrote in terms of a good ole boy. Not like a english major.
     
  18. JustAsking

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    haha, yes, I seem to be late to this thread. Actually, I think kalypigian has the floor in this thread. Very interesting stuff.

    And yes, I suppose if you rule out the entire New Testament as bunk, then you would certainly have trouble with the notion of Jesus' divinity.

    As for the claim going against Jewish tradition... ummm.... hello!, he goes against Jewish tradition in almost every other chapter of the Gospels. this might have something to do with why he was nailed to a tree.

    Anyway, I understand your point about there being no writings of Jesus himself.

    By the way, I am currently reading The God Delusion. I wish I could write like Dawkins does. He could convince anyone of anything.
     
  19. madame_zora

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    Aww no, don't put me in the category of calling the whole NT bunk, that's not where I am! On this point I must be very clear. I spent enough years in traditional Christiandom to understand that people are taught to have an all-or-nothing view of the books and even phrases in the Bible, but it is my personal opinion that THAT is bunk.

    I am perfectly free to separate books from the Bible based on who wrote them, and investigate what their personal intentions might have been. I am free to consider what was going on in the world at that time, which was very unlike our time now, when trying to recreate why things were said as they were. I am free to consider the amount of time the gospels spent as oral traditions before they were written down, and to remember that there was NO mass communication at all back then, so even though they were written down within the first hundred years following his death, there were over 300 versions of the story of Jesus' life being debated at the council of Nicaea in 325.

    Bunk? Hardly. The NT is a love story between a people and their God, hardly bunk. Hardly factual history either though. It just is what it is.

    Oh HELL yeah, Jesus was a rebel! I just find it hard to believe he would have been allowed to teach at Temple for three years without the shock of his being single, or claiming divinity at Temple ever coming up. This was a guy who was well-received for those three years, and I just don't see that being the case had he been making those sorts of claims. We're not alone, Arius and many of his contemporaries thought so too. That side just lost the election. The side one is voting for doesn't always win, but that has nothing to do with what the truth is or was.

    As I recall, when brought before Herod, he was asked if he was the son of God and he replied, "It's you who say I am". I also realise he's quoted as saying "I am the way, the truth and the light, no one gets to the Father but through me". It's a personal opinion, but I find the style of that sentiment to be very Paulian, and not much like the more humble man I am inclined to believe Jesus would have been. As I said, just opinion.

    edit- If I could write like you, I wouldn't envy Dawkins.
     
  20. madame_zora

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    LPD, I did read the whole wiki page, and found a decent site for the Gospel of Thomas itself.

    Gospel of Thomas (Lambdin Translation) -- The Nag Hammadi Library

    Danny is on a business trip or I'd call him to confirm what I think he's told me, but here it is- in the days Jesus lived, and for some time thereafter, there was a serious need for secrecy to avoid persecution. Any time a phrase like "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" is interjected, is it rather like an indication that what he is saying is in a sort of "code" or parable written in ways to avoid detection by potential persecutors. It was like saying "read between the lines".

    Another thing that became apparent to me reading this was the comparisons. I think it was early Greek that did not offer good words for comparisons, like "more". In order to make the point that you were to value something "more" than something else, the language itself was limiting in the sense that the only good way to convey this idea was to say that you had to "love" one thing and "hate" the other. It didn't mean love and hate in the sense that we use them today, it was understood by the people of that time that one thing was just more important than the other.

    I especially liked #50-
    (50) Jesus said, "If they say to you, 'Where did you come from?', say to them, 'We came from the light, the place where the light came into being on its own accord and established itself and became manifest through their image.' If they say to you, 'Is it you?', say, 'We are its children, we are the elect of the living father.' If they ask you, 'What is the sign of your father in you?', say to them, 'It is movement and repose.'"

    Sure sounds like something a messiah would say, alright.

    This is a first read, so those are just some early thoughts on it. Thanks again.
     
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