The First Council of Nicaea officially opened on 20 May 325 and lasted two months. The Council, made up of 318 Holy Fathers, was the first to lay the dogmatic and canonical foundations of Christianity in response to the challenge of the Arianist heresy promoted by Arian, a Libyan-born priest in Alexandria.
The First Council of Nicaea officially opened in Nicaea on 20 May 325 and lasted until 25 August of the same year. Emperor Constantine himself attended the official opening and closing sessions.
The official sessions of the Synod were held in the reception hall of the imperial palace in Nicaea, under the presidency of Bishops Eustatius of Antioch (324-330) and also Alexander of Alexandria (313-328). So, the Church tradition has established the number of 318 Fathers who attended the Synod of Nicaea. Therefore, the Fathers gathered at Nicaea rejected the teaching of Arian and condemned it. Also, Arianism is a rational-human understanding of Christianity.
Interesting facts about Nicaea
Nicaea, with its Turkish name Iznik, the same as the lake on whose eastern shore it is located, is the only city in the world that, during its history of several thousand years, has been the capital of four empires:
- In 316 BC, under Antigonos, one of Alexander the Great’s generals (356-323 BC);
- In 301 BC, under Lysimachus, when it was named Nicaea after his wife, the beautiful daughter of Antiparos;
- After the death of Nikomedes III in 74 BC, the city becomes part of the Roman Empire and the Roman Empire, competing with Nicomedia (today’s Izmit) for the title of the state capital. Emperor Valentinianus of Byzantium gave it the title of Metropolis in 364 AD;
- In 1071, its territory was ruled by the Seleucids. Nicaea, this time with the name Iznik, again becomes the capital.
What role did Constantine play in the Council of Nicaea?
Some people think that since Emperor Constantine called the controversy a “little thing,” he didn’t understand it. Curiously, in a letter from Eusebius of Caesarea, the emperor is recorded as explaining the word, showing that the heretical usage of Samosata differs from that of Paul.
Constantine played an essential role in the assembly. Eusebius of Caesarea reports that Constantine the Great played a leading role in the Council of Nicaea in pacifying, persuading, and getting everyone to agree on points of contention.
The eloquence and glory of the Emperor may have induced some. However, it must be remembered that eventually (a few years after the Council), the Emperor supported the Aryan group. A few years after the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, Arius discovered a new method of interpreting the word “homoousian” by his doctrines.
Who was present at the Council of Nicaea?
So this council took place in Nicaea in 325 and established the rule of organization for all ecumenical synods. It was also convened by Holy Emperor Constantine the Great to resolve disputes in the Church arising from the heresy of the priest Arian of Alexandria. He also set the precedent that only the emperor could convene an ecumenical synod, and the Church accepted his authority as bishop of the outsiders.
Among the Fathers who were at the Synod, some saints are well known among the faithful to the Council of Nicaea: St. Hierarch Nicholas, who boldly and also courageously rebuked the heretic Arian; and St. Spyridon, who confessed the truth about the Most Holy Trinity by a miracle he performed during the work of the Synod.
Therefore, in this way, St. Spyridon demonstrated that Christians believe in One God (One Being), One Person, Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. The First Ecumenical Council fought Arianism, formulated the first seven articles of the Creed, and also established the rule for calculating the date of the Easter feast.
What did the First Ecumenical Council do?
The symbol of the Christian faith synthetically includes the teaching about Christ and His saving work. The most crucial defender of the good faith at this Council was St Athanasius the Great, who suffered several exiles for his defense of Nicene Christianity.
The First Ecumenical Council combated Arianism, formulated the first seven articles of the Creed, and established the rule for calculating the date of the Easter feast. The Holy Fathers “anathematized Arianism and all those who thought like him.
Therefore, the 318 Fathers present at this first Ecumenical Council formulated the teaching of the Christian faith concerning the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The articles of the Nicene Creed confess that the Saviour Jesus Christ is the One-Begotten Son of God, of one Being with the Father, Who was born of the Father before eternity and Who was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.
Who has attempted to clarify the question concerning the Holy Spirit?
The synod’s outcome satisfied Constantine, but disputes continued even though Arie was initially excommunicated. He would return to Constantine’s good graces and his opponent Athanasius. Who became Bishop of Alexandria, was banished from Alexandria at least five times, being restored to the bishop’s chair towards the end of his life.
In the East, the “Cappadocian Fathers”: Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea (329-379), his younger brother Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa (335-395), and Gregory of Nazianz (329-391), also tried to clarify the question of the Holy Spirit, which had appeared at the end of the Nicene Creed. People did not know what to think of him.
The Cappadocian theologians put forward the idea that God cannot be known but is perceived through the three manifestations through which he made himself known: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Which were, therefore, not three beings but just three “terms we use” to talk about God.
Key Verse related to The First Council of Nicaea
“How did the bishops gathered at Nicea interpret this creed they had just adopted and which would eventually become the creed of the universal church? So, it is difficult to know, and one can well imagine that those who assented to this formula interpreted it differently, according to their theological traditions.”
(A History of Christian Thought. Volume 1: From the Beginnings to the Council of Chalcedon. p. 268. Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.)
Why did the Church invoke the Council of Nicaea?
In 325, the Holy Emperor Constantine the Great convened the First Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church in Nicaea, also in present-day Turkey. So the First Ecumenical Council officially opened on 20 May 325 and lasted two months. Therefore, the Council, made up of 318 Holy Fathers, was the first to lay the dogmatic and canonical foundations of Christianity in response to the challenge posed by the Arianist heresy promoted by Arian, a Libyan-born priest in Alexandria.
The Council of Nicaea, still invoked today, has been used by the Christian Church for various manipulations. One example is the Vatican’s claim to priority over the Christian world. When the work of the Council became legendary, the claim arose that the decision on the nature of Jesus was made only because the Bishop of Rome – the Pope – supported the final solution, and also, all participants recognized the authority (see Irenaeus, “Against Heresies”; III:3:2).
Indeed, Rome enjoyed extra attention because it was the capital of the Empire, but “Canon 6” makes it clear that “Christian power” at that time was divided equally among three important centers: Rome, Constantinople, and Alexandria.
Who has rebuked Saint Arian?
So, returning to his chair, St. Hypatia was attacked by some heretics of Novatians and beaten until he was almost breathless. Also, praying for those who tormented him, he passed into the eternal after a woman deceived by the heresy of Arius threw a stone at his head.
One of the 318 fathers who took part in the First Council of Nicaea, St. Hypatia rebuked Arius for his heresy, as he had great power to work miracles: he cured the infirm and drove out devils. Turned bitter water into drinking water, and much more. Having slain a fearsome dragon, he was summoned by the emperor to Constantinople. Commanding the dragon to follow him, St. Hypatia made the beast throw itself into the fire and save the people in the palace from danger.
All those who had tormented the saint fell in love, and the body of St. Hypatia was found by a plowman and buried with honor. Arriving at the saint’s tomb, his tormentors were delivered from the evil spirit, thus showing the great mercy of the martyr.
What does Arian say about Jesus?
Indeed, few historical moments have had such long-term reverberations as the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325. This synod was also convened by Emperor Constantine the Great and was intended to settle one of the most heated debates in the Church up to that time.
In essence, Arian argued that Jesus of Nazareth could not possess the unique deity of the Father. He argued that Jesus of Nazareth would not be the Son of God born from eternity but merely a creation of the Father who, in His solitude, would have created Jesus and set Him up. The central discussion of this synod revolves around the term “homoousios” (consubstantial of the same being). Arius proposed the formula “homousios” (of a similar being) in that Jesus would have received a being identical to the Father and not the same being.
Saint Arius, or Arie, claimed that Jesus was an exceptional Teacher but that he was not God Incarnate. Arie resorted to logic to support his opinion, showing skill in handling Bible verses that mentioned differences between Jesus and God the Father, for example, John 14:28 – “The Father is greater than I.”
What do the canons of the Synod have in consideration?
The First Council of Nicaea is of particular importance because it was the first gathering of bishops from the whole Church, where fundamental doctrinal issues were debated, and significant decisions were taken on the right faith and the unity of the Church.
The acts of the synod have not been preserved, but Eusebius of Caesarea (in Vita Constantini) gives a complete account of the proceedings they had in consideration. On this occasion, 20 canons were adopted, which dealt with the following issues:
- the clandestine life of the clergy;
- the importance of particular episcopal sees;
- attitude towards Cathars;
- promotion to the priesthood without the necessary examination;
- denial of their faith by the laity;
- those who left the world for the consecrated life and then returned to it;
- penitents who ask for the Eucharist on their deathbed;
- lapsed catechumens (those who died during the persecution);
- clergy who move from one place to another;
- about clergy who camouflage themselves;
- about those who come into the Catholic Church from the error (heresy) of Paul of Samosata and about deaconesses.
The participating bishops also wrote a letter to the Egyptians with a profound anti-Aryan message.
Was the Creed written at the Council of Nicaea?
Although initially adopted at the Synod of Nicaea in 325, in 381, the Synod of Constantinople adopted a more extensive version similar to the one today.
According to historical sources, the Council of Nicaea wrote and edited the Creed. The Nicene Creed would soon become the point of reference for the Orthodox tradition, especially the subsequent synods. There is an opinion that the other synods are nothing more than the confirmation and explanation of the Nicaea orthodoxy (in fact, the later synods will even begin with the pronouncement of the Nicaea Creed).
Indeed, in 589, at the Synod of Toledo, the Western Church also decided that the verse: [I believe]”in the Holy Spirit who from the Father” to read “and in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son,” by also adding the word “Filioque.” Pope Leo III (795-816) was against this addition and forbade it.
Was The Bible Created At The Council Of Nicea?
Eusebius, the ecclesiastical historian (340 A.D.), divided the books of the New Testament into three classes, recognized, controversial, and heretical (Eusebius, Church History). The recognized ones included the four Gospels, Acts, the thirteen Pauline Epistles (so less To the Hebrews), First John, and First Peter. On these, he says, there was no controversy.
According to the writings and testimonies of the Council of Nicaea, it was there that the Bible was assembled and created with all the manuscripts found at the Dead Sea. But subsequently, more than three hundred and fifty years have passed. And it has become evident that the Holy Fathers could not agree on which books should make up the Bible, and the Synods entered the scene to settle the matter properly.
The Alexandrian manuscript, belonging to the fifth century A.D., was probably written in Egypt, containing the two Epistles of Clement in its New Testament.
- So, a fascinating fact is that the monastery of Panagia Sumela in Trabzon, Turkey, preserves an original fresco depicting the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. Also, the unusual feature of this depiction is that St. Nicholas is shown slapping the heretic Arian.
- Until that time, the generally accepted thesis of the church was that God and Jesus were not identical beings but only similar. So Constantine the Great forced the members of the Council to take the thesis of the indissoluble unity of Jesus and God.
- An ecumenical council or synod ( σύνοδος in Greek, a word formed from the particles “together” and “way”) is, for Christians, a gathering of bishops. Representing as many local churches as possible to debate universally good faith teachings or pastoral guidelines.
The history of modern Christianity begins with the First Council of Nicaea in 325, said to have been convened by Constantine the Great, who is also said to have invited all the bishops of the Christian Church in the Empire, some 1800 people. So, according to existing data, the number of participants ranged from 250 (Eusebius of Caesarea) to 300 (Gelasius of Cizic). Also, the Church tradition puts the figure at 318 participants.
The Church has formalized this figure based on a fragment of the Old Testament (Genesis; 14:14). Therefore, Abraham, with his 318 servants, defeated the coalition of four kings and freed his brother Lot… IHT figures led to the Christian interpretation of IH = Jesus Christ and T = the sign of the cross (Epistle of Barnabas; 9:7-8 and Clement in Stromata; VI:85).
Thank you for walking with us through understanding what happened at the Council of Nicaea. And also, to test your knowledge on this subject, in the next paragraph, you will find a representative Quizlet. Have a great day!
Quizlet about The First Council of Nicaea
- Davis, L. D. (1990). The first seven ecumenical councils (325-787): their history and theology (Vol. 21). Liturgical Press.
- Grant, R. M. (1975). Religion and Politics at the Council at Nicaea. The Journal of Religion, 55(1), 1-12.
- Pope, H. (1925). The Council of Nicaea. Blackfriars, 6(64), 379-386.
- Stead, G. C. (1973). ‘EUSEBIUS’AND THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA. The Journal of Theological Studies, 85-100.
- Walter, C. (2000). Icons of the First Council of Nicaea. Pictures and languages: How the Byzantines Exploited Them. London, 166-187.