The First Council of Nicaea was the first ecumenical council of bishops held in 325 AD at Nicaea in Asia Minor
(modern Turkey). The council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia (present-day Turkey) by the Roman
Emperor Constantine I in AD 325. This first ecumenical council was the first effort to attain consensus in the church
through an assembly representing all of Christendom.
Its main accomplishments were settlement of the Christological issue of the nature of The Son and his relationship to
God the Father, the construction of the first part of the Creed of Nicaea, settling the calculation of the date of Easter,
and promulgation of early canon law.
The purpose was to resolve disputes in the church - primarily those concerned with Arianism - regarding the
relationship between the Father and the Son. Constantine (ca. 288-377), the sole emperor of the Roman Empire,
feared that the church would split over this theological issue and thus called a universal council. In May 325,
Constantine opened the council where roughly 250-300 bishops attended, the majority from the East. The council
produced the first truly ecumenical creed which is known as the Nicene Creed which became a test of orthodoxy and
set a precedent for future councils.
The church was required to give a more concrete definition of Jesus' relationship to the Father, further specifying his
unique status as "Son of God", "Son of Man, "Word" or "Logos." Many solutions had been proposed, yet the efforts to
define Jesus' nature had been unsatisfactory.
One of the proposals was known as Monarchianism. Coming from the Greek word monarchy, meaning "one source",
this view stressed the unity of God. One Monarchianist, Sabellius, taught that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were
separate modes from which the one God had appeared throughout history. These were merely three names that
described one reality. Followers of Sabellius later became known as Modalists. Another variation of Monarchianism was
known as Adoptionism. Proponents of this view taught that Jesus had been adopted by God and was given the fullness
of the divine presence. Neither view was found to be satisfactory since both threatened the belief that Jesus was a
distinct person and was fully divine.
Most significantly, it resulted in the first, uniform Christian doctrine, called the Creed of Nicaea. With the creation of the
creed, a precedent was established for subsequent local and regional 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
The council settled, to some degree, the debate within the Early Christian communities regarding the divinity of Christ.
This idea of the divinity of Christ, along with the idea of Christ as a messenger from God (The Father), had long existed
in various parts of the Roman empire. The divinity of Christ had also been widely endorsed by the Christian community
in the otherwise pagan city of Rome. The council affirmed and defined what it believed to be the teachings of the
Apostles regarding who Christ is: that Christ is the one true God in deity with the Father. Here we learn that it was a
man-made decision how to define Jesus.
One purpose of the council was to resolve disagreements arising from within the Church of Alexandria over the nature
of the Son in his relationship to the Father; in particular, whether the Son had been 'begotten' by the Father from his
own being, or created as the other creatures out of nothing. St. Alexander of Alexandria and Athanasius claimed to
take the first position; the popular presbyter Arius, from whom the term Arianism comes, is said to have taken the
second. The council decided against the Arians overwhelmingly (of the estimated 250–318 attendees, all but two
agreed to sign the creed and these two, along with Arian, were banished to Illyria). The emperor's threat of banishment
is claimed to have influenced many to sign, but this is highly debated by both sides.
The Arian controversy describes several controversies between the Christian Church fathers Arius and Athanasius
related to Christology which divided the Christian church from before the Council of Nicaea in 325 to after the Council
of Constantinople in 381. The most important of these controversies concerned the relationship between God the
Father and Jesus Christ, with Arius defending the non-trinitarian position, while Athanasius supported the trinitarian
The early history of the controversy must be pieced together from about 35 documents found in various sources. The
Trinitarian historian Socrates of Constantinople reports that Arius first became controversial under the bishop Achillas
of Alexandria, when he made the following syllogism: he said, "If the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a
beginning of existence: and from this it is evident, that there was a time when the Son was not. It therefore necessarily
follows, that he had his substance from nothing". Arius appealed to Scripture, quoting verses such as John 14:28: "the
Father is greater than I". And also Colossians 1:15: "the firstborn of all creation." Thus, Arius insisted that the Father's
Divinity was greater than the Son's, and that the Son was under God the Father, and not co-equal or co-eternal with
When Christianity took hold in the Roman Empire, doctrine had yet to be fixed. A council is an assembly of theologians
and church dignitaries called together to discuss the doctrine of the church. There have been 21 councils of what
became the Catholic Church (17 before 1453).
Despite a long history of disagreement, the Trinitarian bishops prevailed. Emperor Constantine may have been a
Christian at the time (although this is a matter of dispute: Constantine was baptized shortly before he died). Despite
this, he had recently made Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire. This made heresy akin to revolt,
so Constantine exiled the excommunicated Arius to Illyria (modern Albania). Constantine's friend and Arian-
sympathizer Eusebius, who eventually withdrew his objection, but still wouldn't sign the statement of faith, and a
neighboring bishop, Theognis, were also exiled -- to Gaul (modern France). Constantine reversed his opinion about
the Arian heresy, and had both exiled bishops reinstated three years later (in 328). At the same time, Arius was
recalled from exile.
St. Athanasius - 4 Discourses Against the Arians: 'The essences of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, are
separate in nature, and estranged, and disconnected, and alien, and without participation of each other...'
Anniversary of the Nicene Creed:
August 25, 2012 marked the 1687th anniversary of the creation of the upshot of the Council of Nicea, an initially
controversial document cataloging the basic beliefs of Christians -- the Nicene Creed.
Origins of the Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed is the most widely accepted statement of faith among Christian churches. It is used by Roman
Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and most Protestant churches. The Nicene Creed was established to
identify conformity of beliefs among Christians, as a means of recognizing heresy or deviations from orthodox biblical
doctrines, and as a public profession of faith.
The original Nicene Creed was adopted at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. The council was called together by the
Roman Emperor Constantine I and came to be known as the first ecumenical conference of bishops for the Christian
Church. In 381, the Second Ecumenical Council of Christian churches added the balance of the text (except for the
words "and from the Son"). This version is still used today by Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches. In the
same year, 381, the Third Ecumenical Council formally reaffirmed the version and declared that no further changes
could be made, nor could any other creeds be adopted.
The Roman Catholic Church made the addition of the words "and from the Son" to the description of the Holy Spirit.
Roman Catholics refer to the Nicene Creed as the "symbol of faith." In the Catholic Mass, it is also called the
"Profession of Faith." For more about the origins of the Nicene Creed visit the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Along with the Apostles' Creed, most Christians today regard the Nicene Creed as the most complete expression of the
Christian faith, with it often being recited in worship services. Some evangelical Christians, however, reject the Creed,
specifically its recitation, not for its content, but simply because it is not found in the Bible.
The Nicene Creed Traditional Version
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty
Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds;
God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God;
begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father,
by Whom all things were made:
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven,
and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man:
And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried:
And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures:
And ascended into Heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father:
And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead:
Whose Kingdom will have no end:
And I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord, and Giver of Life,
Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified,
Who spake by the Prophets.
And I believe in One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.
And I look for the Resurrection of the Dead:
And the Life of the world to come. Amen.
The Nicene Creed originated from this council approximately 300 years after the birth of Christ.
|When was the New Testament added?