The Council of Constantinople in AD 381 was not ecumenical.

“The Council of Constantinople met during May, June and July 381.” (RH, 805)

Authors quoted

LA = Ayres, Lewis, Nicaea and its Legacy, An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology, 2004

RH = Hanson RPC, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381. 1988

Due to discoveries of ancient documents and significant progress, the scholarship of the past hundred years has concluded that the traditional account of the fourth-century Arian Controversy presents history from the perspective of the winner and is a complete travesty. These books reflect the revised account of that Controversy.

It was not an ecumenical council.

It is known as the Second Ecumenical Council. ‘Ecumenical’ that it represents all churches and perspectives. However, that council was far from ecumenical. It was a regional council of Antioch. For example, the Western church did not attend. 1Hanson refers to the “tenuous contact which the council might have been thought to have with the see of Rome.” (RH, 807)

Furthermore, already in the previous year, the emperor Theodosius had made the Trinitarian version of Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire, exiled the Homoian bishop of the Capital, and outlawed all forms of non-Trinitarian Christianity, with threats of punishment. Consequently, no ‘Arian’ was allowed into the Council. It was attended only by pro-Nicenes:

“When Theodosius had entered Constantinople in November 380,” (the year before the council) he immediately exiled the Homoian bishop Demophilus and “accepted Gregory Nazianzen as de facto bishop.” (LA, 253) 

“Only about 150 bishops attended and they appear to have been carefully chosen from areas which would be friendly to Meletius, who was its president, that is areas under the influence of the see of Antioch.” (RH, 806) 2“Meletius was the initial president of the council.” (LA, 253) 3“It seems unlikely that this meeting was intended as a universal council to rival Seleucia/Ariminum or Nicaea itself. … Those present at the council initially came from a fairly restricted area and the majority from areas known to be favourable to Meletius.” (LA, 253)

“Negotiations with the Macedonians … were undertaken but no agreement could be reached and the Macedonian bishops, about 30 in number, left the council.” (RH, 807)

“The details … of this council indicate the problems with later presentation of the meeting as an ‘ecumenical’ reaffirmation of Nicaea.” (LA, 255)

The emperor controlled the meeting.

The emperor summoned the council; not the church. (LA, 253)

“Theodosius welcomed the participants in his magnificent throne-room in the Imperial palace, but the Council did not meet there. … After receiving the bishops, Theodosius did not appear at any session of the Council, but remained in the wings, as it were, holding a watching brief.” (RH, 806)

“The first act of the Council was to affirm that Gregory of Nazianzus was the Catholic and legitimate bishop of Constantinople.” (RH, 806; cf. LA, 253-4) Gregory was the person whom the emperor in the previous year unilaterally appointed as bishop of the Capital after he had exiled the incumbent Arian bishop.

The chairperson was the emperor’s agent:

The first chairperson was Meletius, but he died soon and was replaced as chairperson by Gregory Nazianzen – the person whom the emperor appointed as bishop of Constantinople. 4“During the council Meletius suddenly died, and Gregory of Constantinople was chosen to succeed him as president of the council.” (RH, 807; cf. LA, 254) 

But Gregory resigned5“In the council itself Gregory seems to have quickly made himself unpopular.” (LA, 254) “At some point he seems also to have lost the support of Theodosius. Gregory offered his resignation … and it was accepted.” (LA, 255) and was replaced by a person (Nectarius) who was the equivalent to the mayor of the city (“praetor urbanus in Constantinople” (RH, 811)), but who was a mere lay-person in the church. “It was as if today the cardinals had chosen as Pope … the mayor of Rome.” (RH, 811) 6In the place of Gregory, “the bishops of the council chose an unbaptised catechumen, an imperial civil servant, Nectarius, who then became the presiding officer.” (RH, 807) 7Nectarius was “an unbaptized civil official in Constantinople.” (LA, 255) Now the chairperson was fully under the emperor’s control.

Nectarius was also elected as bishop of Constantinople:

“The Council found itself in a quandary over the choice of a new bishop of the capital city. … They finally picked … an unbaptised layman, Nectarius, who had been praetor urbanus in Constantinople. … The bishop-elect was hastily baptised and ordained.” (RH, 811) 8“The Egyptians and Westerners could not object because they had acquiesced seven years ago at the choice for the important see of Milan of an unbaptised officer in the imperial service, Ambrose.” (RH, 811)

That the Council elected a civil servant as chairperson and as bishop of the Capital reveals the unity of church and state. The same person now managed both the city and the church. It also shows the control which the emperor had over the council.

It concluded the Meletian Schism.

As stated, Meletius, the bishop of Antioch and the first chairperson of the council, suddenly died. The meeting then discussed a replacement for Meletius as bishop of Antioch. The Meletian Schism is named after Meletius. It was a schism within the pro-Nicene camp, particularly over the rightful bishop of Antioch:

On the one side of that schism were the bishops of Rome and Alexandria (Athanasius, and his successor Peter, and Damasus, the bishop of Rome). They supported Paulinus as bishop of Antioch. All of them believed that Father, Son, and Spirit are one single Rational Faculty (one hypostasis).

In the third main center of the Empire, Constantinople, the bishop was a Homoian until the emperor exiled him. But the most important pro-Nicenes in the East were the Cappadocians and they, like the Homoians, taught three Rational Faculties (three hypostases). In this camp, Basil of Caesarea supported his friend Meletius as bishop of Antioch.

This tension continued in the council. For example:

Paulinus had been for years steadily supported by Damasus and Peter against Meletius, the leader of the party of the Easterners at the council. Considerable antagonism between him and the followers of Meletius must have been aroused.” (RH, 810)

“It is wholly improbable that the bishop of Alexandria would have attended the council as long as Meletius was presiding over it, and if the bishop of Thessalonica regarded himself as in any sense representing the bishop of Rome (and he may have done so), it is not likely that he would have been content to attend a council with Meletius at the head of it either.” (RH, 808-9)

The selection of the bishop of Antioch intensified this conflict. Gregory proposed Paulinus but the meeting elected Flavian:

“Gregory wanted the council to elect Paulinus in place of Meletius as bishop of Antioch, but it preferred to choose Flavian.” (RH, 807)

Flavian was “a prominent presbyter of the party of Paulinus.” (RH, 810) So, he was on the same side as Paulinus.

Nectarius, the praetor urbanus in Constantinople, who was elected as bishop of the Capital (Constantinople), supported “the Eustathian cause in Antioch.” (RH, 811) Eustathius was the leading Sabellian when the Arian Controversy began. Like the bishops of Rome and Alexandria, the Sabellians taught that Father, Son, and Spirit are one single Rational Faculty (hypostasis). Nectarius, therefore, was also in the ‘one-hypostasis camp’.

It is interesting that Gregory proposed Paulinus because Gregory, presumably, since he was one of the Cappadocians, supported Basil in this dispute. Perhaps the emperor instructed Gregory to propose Paulinus. The emperor’s Edict of Thessalonica of the previous year also took the one hypostasis side of that schism. It explicitly mentions Peter and Damasus in that edict as role models for the Trinity doctrine.

In conclusion, the delegates “have been carefully chosen from areas which would be friendly to Meletius.” (RH, 806) But the meeting ends with Meletius dead and his opponents in the Meletian Schism appointed as Bishops of Antioch and Constantinople, and as chairperson of the council. One wonders whether the emperor contributed more than his prayers to Meletius’ death. It seems as if the emperor fully hijacked Meletius’ meeting.

Other Decisions

“The council re-affirmed N but also produced the creed C. … All this lasted three months from May to July 381.” (RH, 807) See – Was the creed of AD 381 an update of the Nicene Creed of 325?

The council agreed that “the bishop of Constantinople is to enjoy precedence in honour next after the bishop of Rome because it is the New Rome’. It is very likely that this was intended to reduce the pretensions of the archbishop of Alexandria.” (RH, 808)


OTHER ARTICLES

Origin of the Trinity Doctrine

CHURCH FATHERS

ARIAN CONTROVERSY

ARIUS

THE NICENE CREED

ARIANISM

    • The Dedication Creed 28This Creed shows how the Nicene Creed would have read if emperor Constantine had not manipulated the Nicene Council.
    • Athanasius invented Arianism. 29The only reason we today refer to ‘Arians’ is that Athanasius invented the term to falsely label his opponents with a theology that was already formally rejected by the church.
    • Did Arians describe the Son as a creature? 30‘Arians’ described Christ as originating from beyond our universe, the only being ever brought forth directly by the Father, and as the only being able to endure direct contact with God.
    • Homoian theology 31In the 350s, Athanasius began to use homoousios to attack the church majority. Homoian theology developed in response.
    • Homoi-ousian theology 32This was one of the ‘strands’ of ‘Arianism’. It proposed that the Son’s substance is similar to the Father’s, but not the same.
    • How did Arians interpret Colossians 2:9? 33Forget about Arius. He was an isolated extremist. This article quotes the mainstream anti-Nicenes to show how they understood that verse.

THE PRO-NICENES

EMPEROR THEODOSIUS

AUTHORS 

Extracts and summaries from the writings of scholars who have studied the ancient documents themselves:

LATER

TRINITY DOCTRINE – GENERAL

    • Elohim 42Elohim (often translated as God) is plural in form. Does this mean that the Old Testament writers thought of God as a multi-personal Being?
    • The Eternal Generation of the Son 43The Son has been begotten by the Father, meaning that the Son is dependent on the Father. Eternal Generation explains “begotten” in such a way that the Son is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.

Other Articles

All articles on this Site

FOOTNOTES

  • 1
    Hanson refers to the “tenuous contact which the council might have been thought to have with the see of Rome.” (RH, 807)
  • 2
    “Meletius was the initial president of the council.” (LA, 253)
  • 3
    “It seems unlikely that this meeting was intended as a universal council to rival Seleucia/Ariminum or Nicaea itself. … Those present at the council initially came from a fairly restricted area and the majority from areas known to be favourable to Meletius.” (LA, 253)
  • 4
    “During the council Meletius suddenly died, and Gregory of Constantinople was chosen to succeed him as president of the council.” (RH, 807; cf. LA, 254)
  • 5
    “In the council itself Gregory seems to have quickly made himself unpopular.” (LA, 254) “At some point he seems also to have lost the support of Theodosius. Gregory offered his resignation … and it was accepted.” (LA, 255)
  • 6
    In the place of Gregory, “the bishops of the council chose an unbaptised catechumen, an imperial civil servant, Nectarius, who then became the presiding officer.” (RH, 807)
  • 7
    Nectarius was “an unbaptized civil official in Constantinople.” (LA, 255)
  • 8
    “The Egyptians and Westerners could not object because they had acquiesced seven years ago at the choice for the important see of Milan of an unbaptised officer in the imperial service, Ambrose.” (RH, 811)
  • 9
    The pre-Nicene fathers described the Son as “our God” but the Father as “the only true God,” implying that the Son is not “true” God. This confusion is caused by the translations.
  • 10
    Sabellius taught that Father, Son, and Spirit are three portions of one single Being.
  • 11
    If we define Sabellianism as that only one hypostasis – only one distinct existence – exists in the Godhead, was Tertullian a Sabellian?
  • 12
    The Controversy gave us the Trinity doctrine but the traditional account of the Controversy is a complete traversy.
  • 13
    RPC Hanson states that no ‘orthodoxy’ existed but that is not entirely true. This article shows that subordination was indeed ‘orthodox’ at that time.
  • 14
    The term “Arianism” implies that Arius’ theology dominated the fourth-century church. But Arius was not regarded in his time as a significant writer. He left no school of disciples.
  • 15
    Over the centuries, Arius was always accused of this. This article explains why that is a false accusation.
  • 16
    There are significant differences between Origen and Arius.
  • 17
    Arius wrote that the Son was begotten timelessly by the Father before everything. But Arius also said that the Son did not always exist. Did Arius contradict himself?
  • 18
    New research has shown that Arius is a thinker and exegete of resourcefulness, sharpness, and originality.
  • 19
    The word theos, which is translated as “God” in John 1:1 is not equivalent to the modern English word “God.”
  • 20
    Constantine took part in the Council of Nicaea and ensured that it reached the kind of conclusion which he thought best.
  • 21
    Eusebius of Caesarea, the most respected theologian at the Council, immediately afterward wrote to his church in Caesarea to explain why he accepted the Creed and how he understood the controversial phrases.
  • 22
    The Creed not only uses non-Biblical words; the concept of homoousios (that the Son is of the same substance as the Father) is not in the Bible.
  • 23
    Does it mean that Father and Son are one single Being, as the Trinity doctrine claims? How was it understood before, at, and after Nicaea? – Summary of the next article
  • 24
    The Nicene Creed describes the Son as homoousios (same substance) as the Father. But how was the term used before, during, and after Nicaea?
  • 25
    The term homoousios was not mentioned by anybody during the first 30 years after Nicaea. It only became part of that controversy in the 350s.
  • 26
    The word is not found in the Bible or in any orthodox Christian confession before Nicaea.
  • 27
    The Creed seems to say that the Father and Son are the same hupostasis. This is Sabellianism.
  • 28
    This Creed shows how the Nicene Creed would have read if emperor Constantine had not manipulated the Nicene Council.
  • 29
    The only reason we today refer to ‘Arians’ is that Athanasius invented the term to falsely label his opponents with a theology that was already formally rejected by the church.
  • 30
    ‘Arians’ described Christ as originating from beyond our universe, the only being ever brought forth directly by the Father, and as the only being able to endure direct contact with God.
  • 31
    In the 350s, Athanasius began to use homoousios to attack the church majority. Homoian theology developed in response.
  • 32
    This was one of the ‘strands’ of ‘Arianism’. It proposed that the Son’s substance is similar to the Father’s, but not the same.
  • 33
    Forget about Arius. He was an isolated extremist. This article quotes the mainstream anti-Nicenes to show how they understood that verse.
  • 34
    Eustathius and Marcellus played a major role in the formulation of the Creed but were soon deposed for Sabellianism.
  • 35
    Athanasius presents himself as the preserver of Biblical orthodoxy but this article argues that he was a Sabellian.
  • 36
    In the Trinity doctrine, Father, Son, and Spirit are one substance or Being. This article shows that Basil taught three distinct substances.
  • 37
    This council reveals the state of Western theology at that time.
  • 38
    It was a regional synod of Antioch and attended only by bishops who were friendly to the bishop of Antioch. But the emperor hijacked it.
  • 39
    A summary of this book, which provides an overview of the fourth-century Arian Controversy. Lewis Ayres is a Catholic theologian and Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology.
  • 40
    A very informative lecture on the Arian Controversy by RPC Hanson, a famous fourth-century scholar
  • 41
    In the fifth century, Arian ‘barbarians’ dominated the Western Empire, but they tolerated and even respected the Trinitarian Roman Church.
  • 42
    Elohim (often translated as God) is plural in form. Does this mean that the Old Testament writers thought of God as a multi-personal Being?
  • 43
    The Son has been begotten by the Father, meaning that the Son is dependent on the Father. Eternal Generation explains “begotten” in such a way that the Son is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.

Constantine’s role in the Council of Nicaea

Purpose

Emperor standing before the bishops

“The Council of Nicaea met from May to the end of July 325.” (RH, 152) “The Nicene Creed is the most famous and influential creed in the history of the church.” (Justin Holcomb) It is official doctrine for most Christian churches.

The purpose of this article is to describe the influence that Emperor Constantine had on the Council of Nicaea, and on the Nicene Creed.

Summary

Legalized Christianity – Religious freedom did not exist in the Roman Empire. The emperors decided which religions are allowed. After three centuries of persecution by the Roman authorities, Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the year 313.

Letter to Alexander and Arius – Even before Constantine understood the matter, he wrote to Alexander and Arius to stop their quarreling. This shows that he got involved in this dispute, not because of a desire for right doctrine, but because he could not afford a split in the church.

Council in Antioch – A few months before the Council of Nicaea, an anti-Arian Council was held in Antioch, consisting mainly of people who sympathized with Alexander. It provisionally excommunicated Eusebius of Caesarea, the most respected theologian of that time, who also supported Arius against Alexander. Since Constantine’s religious advisor (Ossius) chaired this meeting, it was approved by Constantine, which means that, even before Nicaea, Constantine had taken Alexander’s part.

Called the Council – Constantine called the Nicene Council. Nobody asked him to do it. He did it on his own initiative for his own purposes. It was Constantine’s meeting in his capacity as emperor.

The General Council – In fact, Constantine invented the concept of a general council for the church. The church never before had a meeting of representatives from all parts of the empire. Neither did it have the ability to call such a council. Only the emperor was able to call such a meeting.

Emperor’s Motive – As his letter to Arius and Alexander shows, Constantine did not call the Nicene Council because of a concern about right doctrine. He called the Council because a split in the church could also split the empire. Constantine, therefore, invented and called the general council as a means of managing the church in the interest of the empire.

Chairperson – To ensure that the Nicene Council remains under his control, the emperor appointed his religious advisor (Ossius) as chairperson. Ossius acted as Constantine’s agent.

Took Alexander’s Part – It is often correctly stated that Arius had considerable support. The Nicene Creed, however, was constructed as a deliberately anti-Arian document and was approved by all of the 250-300 delegates, except 2. Why? Arius’ support was not really support for his theology. It was a vote AGAINST Alexander’s theology. Alexander, however, was victorious at Nicaea because the emperor had taken his part. If Constantine had not taken Alexander’s part, the meeting might have condemned Alexander; not Arius.

Homoousios – At the time, the term homoousios (same substance) seemed especially objectionable to many people because it was associated with Sabellianism, is not a Biblical term, was not part of the standard Christian language, but was borrowed from pagan philosophy. (See – Objections to Homoousios) Constantine’s decisive influence on the Council and on the Creed, therefore, is particularly revealed by the fact that he was able to force the inclusion of the word homoousios. He personally proposed, explained, and enforced the key term homoousios.

Reconcile – Although Constantine took Alexander’s part and insisted on Homoousios, his ultimate goal was to reconcile the quarreling parties. For example, he explained homoousios in such a way that even the Eusebians (the so-called Arians) were able to accept the term. He paid all expenses and surrounded the delegates with honor.

Exile – The bishops knew, if they do not accept the Creed, that they would lose their jobs and be exiled to a different part of the empire. How many bishops would have voted against the Nicene Creed if exile was not hanging over their heads?

Exile and Restore – In the Roman Empire, the standard penalty for bishops for deviant teachings was exile but only the emperor was able to exile and restore bishops.

Enforced Nicaea – After Nicaea, Constantine issued a number of letters attempting to enforce the Council’s decisions.

Conclusion – “Constantine took part in the Council of Nicaea and ensured that it reached the kind of conclusion which he thought best.” (RH, 850)

– END OF SUMMARY –


Authors

The main authors quoted in this article are:

LA = Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and its legacy, 2004, Ayres is a Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology at Durham University in the United Kingdom.

RH = Bishop R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God – The Arian Controversy 318-381, 1987

RW = Archbishop Rowan Williams Arius: Heresy and Tradition, 2002/1987

Legalized Christianity.

During the first three centuries, the Roman authorities persecuted Christianity. The Diocletianic Persecution of 303-313 was the most severe persecution of Christians up to that point in history. Diocletian’s first edict commanded churches and holy sites razed to the ground, sacred articles burned, and believers jailed.

However, in 313, the Western Roman Emperor Constantine (306–337) legalized Christianity through the Edict of Milan. He granted Christians “the right of open and free observance of their worship.” 1Ehler, Sidney Zdeneck; Morrall, John B (1967). Church and State Through the Centuries: A Collection of Historic Documents with Commentaries. p. 6-7.

Therefore, the first point that we want to make, with respect to the role of the Roman emperors, is that the emperors decided which religions are allowed. Religious freedom was not part of the Roman system.

Letter to Arius & Alexander

However, only a few years after Christianity was legalized, a disagreement broke out in Alexandria of Egypt between Arius (c. 250–336), a minister (presbyter or priest), and his bishop Alexander, about the nature of Christ. This was centuries before the rise of Islam, and Alexandria was one of the main centers of Christianity. 

Alexander removed Arius from office, and in 321 a synod at Alexandria denounced Arius. But that did not end the Controversy. Consequently, before the Council of Nicaea, the emperor attempted to intervene:

“In 324 the Emperor Constantine … (who recently) assumed control of the whole empire, took an interest in the dispute. Constantine wrote to Alexander and Arius telling them to stop quarrelling about what seemed to him to be such a small matter.” (LA, 17-18) 2“At the end of 324” (RH, 137), “Constantine sent a letter to both Arius’ and Alexander dismissing the controversy as trivial and commanding them to be reconciled.” (RH, 130, 137) 3Constantine dismissed the theological question of the relationship of Father and Son as “intrinsically trifling and of little moment” (Drake, 4. Constantine and Consensus) 4Constantine wrote: “For as long as you continue to contend about these small and very insignificant questions, I believe it indeed to be not merely unbecoming, but positively evil, that so large a portion of God’s people which belong to your jurisdiction should be thus divided.” (Davis, Leo Donald. The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787): Their History and Theology. Vol. 21. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 1990. 55)

Constantine, therefore, attempted to intervene even before he understood what this dispute was about. “It initially took the efforts of bishops like Ossius and Alexander of Alexandria to persuade him that anything significant was at issue in Alexandria.” (LA, 87-88) 5“Constantine had basically no understanding whatsoever of the questions that were being asked in Greek theology.” (A Short History of Christian Doctrine, Bernard Lohse, 1966, p51-53)

This shows that he got involved in this dispute simply because he disliked schisms in the church; not because of a desire for right doctrine.

Council of Antioch

A few months before the Council of Nicaea, “early in 325,” an “anti-Arian Council” (RH, 131) was held in Antioch (RH, 149, 147), consisting mainly of those who sympathized with Alexander. (RH, 130)

That meeting drafted a Statement of Faith. “That this Statement is anti-Arian is overwhelmingly clear. But it is equally clear that it represents the theology of Alexander of Alexandria.” (RH, 150)

At the meeting, “Eusebius of Palestinian Caesarea,” the most respected theologian at the time and a supporter of Arius, was provisionally “excommunicated.” (RH, 146) Eusebius was not a follower of Arius. He supported Arius because he “thought the theology of Alexander a greater menace than that of Arius.” (RW, 173)

This Eusebius previously “acquitted the accused Arians [including Arius] of heresy” and “wrote to Alexander protesting at the way in which Arius had been treated.” (RH, 130, 135) Now Alexander’s party hits back by excommunicating the leader of the Eusebian party.

“In normal circumstances the Metropolitan of the area in which the Council met would have presided … But Constantine’s representative, Ossius, took precedence … over Eustathius.” (RH, 155) This implies that the meeting took place with the approval of the emperor, which means that, even before Nicaea, Constantine had taken Alexander’s part in his dispute with Arius.

It is also important to notice that the Statement of Faith from this council does not mention the term homoousios or the ousia of God. (RH, 146) This shows that this was not a word which Alexander regarded as important.

For a further discussion of this council, see – Hanson.

Called the Council.

Constantine’s letter failed to unite the warring factions. Consequently. In the year 325, “Constantine himself summoned the bishops” (LA, 18) to end this dispute. The council was not called by a church official and nobody asked Constantine to call this meeting. It was his initiative.

“It was then certainly Constantine who convoked the Council of Nicaea.” (RH, 153-4)

“Religious partisanship has in the past led some scholars to suggest that Silvester, bishop of Rome, convoked the Council of Nicaea, but modern Roman Catholic scholars honourably dismiss this idea.” (RH, 154)

It was, therefore, the emperor’s meeting in his capacity as emperor. It was a meeting of bishops, but Constantine called the meeting to serve his own purposes.

The General Council.

A ‘general council’, in theory, is a meeting of representatives from all of Christendom. However, “by the time Nicaea met Church leaders … had no precedent for the idea of a council that would legislate for the Church as a whole.” (LA, 87)

Nicaea “was the first time that any attempt had been made to summon a general council of the whole church at which, at least in theory, the church in every part of the Roman Empire should be represented.” (RH, 152)

It is, therefore, not valid to say that the emperors became involved in the general church councils. The reality is that Constantine invented the concept of a general council.

“The procedures of a council modelled on methods of Roman governance would have been familiar to Constantine, and we can assume that he saw it as the natural means to achieve consensus within the Church.” (LA, 87)

Furthermore, without the assistance of the emperor, the church was unable to call a general council. Only the emperor could call a general council:

“Even Damasus [a later bishop of Rome] would have admitted that he could not call a general council on his own authority.” (RH, 855)

“Everybody recognised the right of an Emperor to call a council, or even to veto or quash its being called.” (RH, 849-50)

Constantine’s Purpose

As his letter to Arius and Alexander shows, Constantine did not call the Nicene Council because he was concerned about right doctrine. 6“Constantine himself of course neither knew nor cared anything about the matter in dispute.” (McGiffert A.C. A History of Christian Thought, 1954, Vol. 1, p. 258)

His main goal was also NOT to reconcile the schism in the church. His main goal was to protect his empire. The Roman Empire was very large and consisted of many different and diverse nations. The main task of the emperors was to keep the empire united. In this regard, religion was a powerful force. Religion had a strong power over the people. Religious diversity could split the empire apart. Religious uniformity, on the other hand, particularly with strong links to the state, could help to unite the empire. The Roman emperors, therefore, used religion to help them to keep the empire united.

On the one hand, the emperors determined what the people must believe. For example, as already mentioned, the emperors determined which religions were allowed. As another example, in 380, Emperor Theodosius commanded ALL Roman citizens to believe the Trinity doctrine.

On the other hand, the emperors could not afford disunity in the authorized religion.

That was why, before Christianity was legalized, the empire persecuted Christians and required the pagan ceremonies of showing respect for the gods and the emperor.

For the same reason, the Christian emperors, such as Constantine, controlled Christianity after it was legalized in 313 AD. By maintaining control over the church, the emperors controlled the people.

“Constantine’s attitude reflects deeply embedded Roman attitudes about the social function of religion.” (LA, 88)

Constantine, therefore, called the council because he was concerned that the controversy in the church may threaten the unity of the empire. He invented and called the general council as a means of managing the church:

“The Council of Nicea was first and foremost an attempt by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great to keep his empire from splitting.” Pavao, Paul. Decoding Nicea (p. 3). Kindle Edition.

“Constantine himself had become sole emperor only in 324 (after having ruled the western half since 310–12), and he seems to have promoted Christianity as a unifying religion for the empire.” (LA, 87)

“The same desire to preserve unity within the church, rather than the protection of any creed or interpretation of Christian doctrine, led Constantine to intercede for the settlement of the Arian controversy. … Believing ‘disunity in the church’ a danger to the state ‘more grievous than any kind of war’.” (Boyd, p37 or The Ecclesiastical Edicts of the Theodosian Code, p37) 7“Since Constantine desired that the church should contribute to the social and moral strength of the empire, religious dissension was a menace to the public welfare.” (Boyd, p34). (The Ecclesiastical Edicts of the Theodosian Code)

Chairperson

“The evidence weighs strongly in favour of the view that Ossius … presided at Nicaea.” (RH, 154) 8“Ossius of Cordoba probably chaired the meeting.” (LA, 89)

But Ossius was the bishop of the “obscure” see of Cordova (RH, 155). His inferior position in the church would not have allowed him to chair.

“In normal circumstances the Metropolitan of the area in which the Council met would have presided, and in this case it would have been Eusebius of Nicomedia.” (RH, 155)

Ossius presided “as the Emperor’s representative” (RH, 154) and as Constantine’s “agent.” (RH, 190) “Ossius … represented the policy of Constantine” (RH, 170) He was “Constantine’s chief adviser and agent in matters concerning the Christian church.” (RH, 130, 137) 9“Ossius the bishop of Cordoba in Spain … apparently acted in some sort of advisory capacity to Constantine, and perhaps also served as his representative in these events.” (LA, 18) 10“He had recently presided in a similar capacity over the Council of Antioch.” (RH, 154)

In the 381-council, Emperor Theodosius similarly assigned one of his civil servants as chairperson. That was one of the ways in which the emperors managed the meetings to ensure the ‘right’ outcome.

Two Main Issues

The controversy at Nicaea may be divided into two main parts. The first has to do with Arius’ theology. The second is the term homoousios. These two issues may be related because indications are that homoousios was inserted particularly to force the Arians to reject the creed so that the council could depose and the emperor could exile them. 11“The most satisfactory explanation of why it was put there is that it was certainly a word … which serious and wholehearted Arians could not stomach; Arius in his Thalia had specifically rejected it.” (RH, 167) 12“Ambrose says ‘When this letter (of Eusebius of Nicomedia) was read at the Council of Nicaea, the Fathers placed … (the term homoousios) in the Statement of Faith, because they saw that it caused alarm to their opponents.” (RH, 161) 13Athanasius also stated that “the term homoousion was inserted in the Creed of Nicaea” because it was the only term which “the Arians” could not accept. (RH, 162)

Nevertheless, homoousios was not a term that Alexander preferred. It is never found in his writings and does not appear in the pro-Alxander creed that was formulated at Antioch only a few months before Nicaea. It is, therefore, appropriate to distinguish between these two issues.

Arius’ Theology

“It became evident very early on that the condemnation of Arius was practically inevitable” (RW, 68). The Nicene Creed “was constructed as a deliberately anti-Arian document.” (RH, 164) “All the more obnoxious doctrines of Arius and his followers are struck at in N in the most impressive way.” (RH, 165)

But, the question is, if Arius had so much support as is often claimed, why did only two of the nearly 300 bishops reject the creed? 14Only Arius and two of his friends refused to sign, for which they were excommunicated.” Bernard Lohse, A Short History of Christian Doctrine, 1966, p51-53 (cf. RW, 70; 71) 15“Two bishops who refused to sign the Creed … were deposed by the Council and exiled by the Emperor. Arius himself was exiled.” (RH, 162-3)

“In older narratives of the fourth century it was reasonably easy to understand why the Nicene creed was agreed with little dissent: only the few ‘heretics’ would refuse such a clear acknowledgement of the Church’s constant faith. Without this older narrative, matters are more complex.” (LA, 88)

A more accurate reflection of the situation is that Arius’ true followers were limited. Most of his supporters supported him because they had the same enemy, namely Sabellianism, and Alexander was a semi-Sabellian. So, they supported Arius in his dispute with Alexander without necessarily accepting Arius’ entire theology. (See – Arius’ Support)

But the question remains, why was Arius rejected so completely at Nicaea? Why did the council not protest against Alexander’s theology? Why was “the Nicene creed … agreed with little dissent?” (LA, 88)

The reason is that the emperor had accepted Alexander’s part in the dispute. For example, at the council of Antioch a few months earlier, the leader of the Eusebians and the most respected theologian of that era was provisionally excommunicated because he supported Arius:

“Tension among Eusebian bishops was caused by knowledge that Constantine had taken Alexander’s part and by events at the council of Antioch only a few months before.” (LA, 89)

“This imperial pressure coupled with the role of his advisers in broadly supporting the agenda of Alexander must have been a powerful force.” (LA, 89) 16“We can certainly see that Eusebians … were under pressure and seem to have been on the defensive. … the direction of the council was very clearly in the hands of others.” (LA, 88-89)

So, it was the support of the emperor that allowed a minority party (Alexander’s party) to dominate and which compelled the vast majority of the delegates to accept the rejection of Arius. 17“The decisions of the Council of Nicaea were really the work of a minority, and they were misunderstood and disliked by many who were not adherents of Arius. In particular, the terms aroused opposition, on the grounds that they were unscriptural, novel and tending to Sabellianism.” (Henry Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd Ed 1963, p 41)

If Constantine had not taken Alexander’s part, the meeting might have condemned Alexander’s theology; not Arius.

Homoousios

A Surprising Inclusion

At the time, the term homoousios (same substance) was the most controversial term in the Nicene Creed. As discussed in the article on the meaning of the term homoousios, most delegates at the Council had considerable reservations about the term because:

      • Before Nicaea, that term was only preferred by Sabellians,
      • The Bible never says anything about God’s substance (ousia),
      • The term was not part of the standard Christian language at the time, 18“We can detect no Greek-speaking writer before Nicaea who unreservedly supports homoousion as applied to the Son.” (RH, 169) 19“To say that the Son was ‘of the substance’ of the Father, and that he was ‘consubstantial’ with him were certainly startling innovations. Nothing comparable to this had been said in any creed or profession of faith before.” (RH, 166-7) and
      • It was “borrowed from the pagan philosophy of the day.” (RH, 846)

For those reasons, the term homoousios “seemed especially objectionable to many bishops and theologians of the East” 20Bernard Lohse, A Short History of Christian Doctrine, 1966, p51-53 and “a majority opposed the Nicene creed. The majority who opposed the creed were not aligned with Arius!” (Bible.ca21“The Origenists had considerable reservation about homoousios and the other phrases containing the term ousios (substance).” (Erickson) 22Eusebius accepted homoousion with “obvious reluctance.” (RH, 165)

Constantine insisted.

Constantine’s domination of the Nicene Council, therefore, is particularly revealed by the fact that he was able to force the inclusion of the word homoousios:

“’Homoousios’ and ‘from the essence of the Father’ were added to the creed by Constantine himself, bearing witness to the extent of his influence at the council.” 23(Jörg Ulrich. Nicaea and the West. Vigiliae Christianae 51, no. 1 (1997): 10-24. 15.) 24“The concept put into the creed by Constantine himself, the homoousios. ” (Bernard Lohse, A Short History of Christian Doctrine, 1966, p51-53)

Proposed

Constantine himself proposed the term:

The Emperor accepted Eusebius’ creed “and he advised all present to agree to it … with the insertion of the single word ‘consubstantial.’” (Beatrice) (See also – Eusebius’ letter.) 25“Constantine did put forth the Nicene creed term ‘homoousios’.” (Millard J. Erickson, God in Three Persons, p82-85) 26“The decisive catchword of the Nicene confession, namely, homoousios, comes from … the emperor himself.” (Bernard Lohse, in ‘A Short History of Christian Doctrine’, 1966, p51-53)

Explained

Constantine’s domination of that council is also revealed by the fact that the council allowed him to explain the term and accepted his explanation:

“Eusebius … writes that Constantine himself spoke, endorsing the term homoousios, but insisting that it did not imply any material division in God.” (LA, 90-91) 27According to Eusebius “the Emperor himself qualified the addition of ‘consubstantial’ by saying that it must not be understood “in the sense of any corporeal experiences.” (RH, 165) 28Eusebius of Caesarea “gives the impression throughout this letter that Constantine took the initiative in all the matters that the letter deals with, apparently regarding himself as qualified to deal with any discussion about the profound questions raised by the Christian doctrine of God.” (RH, 160)

Amazingly, the council accepted Constantine’s explanation. Before him, the emperor had the most senior members of the church. They have been wrestling with these concepts for years and had developed very strong views about what these terms mean. Their acceptance of his explanation shows the extent of the “imperial pressure.” (LA, 89) Constantine had dominated both the chairperson and the entire meeting.

Enforced

Furthermore, Emperor Constantine insisted on the inclusion of that term:

“Constantine took part in the Council of Nicaea and ensured that it reached the kind of conclusion which he thought best.” (RH, 850)

Constantine “pressed for its inclusion.” (RH, 211)

“The emperor at first gave the council a free hand, but was prepared to step in if necessary to enforce the formula.” (Millard J. Erickson, God in Three Persons, p82-85) 29Constantine “himself … insisted upon the word homoousia being included in the creed.” (Jörg Ulrich. “Nicaea and the West.” Vigiliae Christianae 51, no. 1 (1997) p 15.) 30“The emperor “himself proposed and insisted on the word homoousios.” (Erickson, Millard J, God in Three Persons, p82-85) 31“The emperor exerted considerable influence. Consequently, the statement was approved by all except three.” (Erickson) 32“Constantine had taken Alexander’s part.” (LA, 89) “This imperial pressure coupled with the role of his advisers in broadly supporting the agenda of Alexander must have been a powerful force.” (LA, 89)

Conclusion

Constantine, therefore, played a decisive role in the acceptance of the term homoousios. That Constantine was able to convince the meeting to accept this highly suspicious term reflects his dominant role:

“Overawed by the emperor, the bishops, with two exceptions only, signed the creed, many of them much against their inclination.” 33Britannica, 1971 edition, Vol. 6, “Constantine,” p. 386

“The emperor incited all to unanimity, until he had rendered them united in judgment on those points on which they were previously at variance.” 34Eusebius, quote in The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus – Book II

Reconcile

Although Constantine took Alexander’s part and insisted on Homoousios, his ultimate goal was to heal the division and reconcile the fighting parties.

“The Emperor, rightly or wrongly, thought himself called to foster and protect the Church, and therefore to prevent as far as he could the damage that was caused by controversy and schism.” (RH, 153)

We see evidence of the emperor’s desire for reconciliation in a number of ways. For example:

Eusebius of Caesarea “was the most learned and one of the best-known of the 300-odd bishops present” (RH, 159) but he had recently been provisionally excommunicated by the “anti-Arian Council” in Antioch (RH, 131). “The excommunication of a man so universally respected for his scholarship as Eusebius of Caesarea must have given him (the emperor) a shock. He wanted to be in a position to see that the anti-Arian party at the Council did not do anything that would further exasperate the division already existing in the Church … but rather heal it.” (RH, 153) Therefore, after Eusebius had read his creed, the “Emperor himself was the first to witness that it was entirely orthodox.” (RH, 160)

Eustathius mentioned that his radical anti-Arius party, after an Arian document was read, was reduced to silence “using the cause of reconciliation as a pretext.” (RH, 160) In other words, the emperor did not allow Alexander’s party unlimited control.

Constantine did his best to explain homoousios in such a way that even the Eusebians (the so-called Arians) could accept the term.

He paid all expenses and surrounded the delegates with honor. This includes the honor of the personal presence of the emperor of the entire empire.

Eusebius of Caesarea described the emperor as genuinely seeking for reconciliation:

“He surrounded the Fathers (of the Council), or rather the prophets of God, with every honour and called them a second time and again acted patiently as a mediator to the same people and again distinguished them by gifts, and he offered board and lodging in a letter and confirmed and put his seal to the decisions of the synod.” (RH, 175)

The Threat of Exile

That only two bishops refused to accept the Nicene Creed is often mentioned as a great victory for Nicene Christology, but few mention that the bishops knew that, if they do not accept the Creed, they would lose their jobs and be exiled. The question is, how many bishops would have voted against the Nicene Creed if exile were not hanging over their heads and if the emperor did not employ his considerable position and interpersonal skills to bring the meeting to unanimity?

Exile/Restore

In the Roman Empire, the standard penalty for bishops for deviant teachings was exile but only the emperor was able to exile the bishops. For example:

“Two bishops who refused to sign the Creed … were deposed by the Council and exiled by the Emperor. Arius himself was exiled.” (RH, 162-3) 35“Secundus of Ptolemais and Theonas of Marmarike, both Libyan sees, refused to sign N, were deposed by the Council and exiled by Constantine.” (RH, 172) 36“Arius too was banished by Constantine.” (RH, 173) 37“Constantine exiled Arius along with two Libyan bishops … The Emperor also exiled Eusebius of Nicomedia.” (LA, 19)

“Shortly after the Council … Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis of Nicaea were also banished by Constantine. … Constantine … declares that their fault was to have received and communicated with some Arian presbyters in Nicomedia.” (RH, 173)

Since the emperor was the only person who could exile a bishop, the emperor was also the only person who could restore a bishop to his see. For example, the bishops asked Constantine – not the church – to restore them:

“The third letter of Arius is … sent to the Emperor Constantine by Arius and Euzoius who are in exile and are in this letter pleading for a return from exile and a re-admission to the Church (which they presumably imagine that Constantine can effect).” (RH, 8) 38“Arius and Euzoius returned from exile and presented a rather non-committal creed to the emperor.” “It satisfied Constantine, who wrote to Alexander, pressing him to accept Arius and Euzoius back in Alexandria.” Thereafter, “the local Bithynian synod … readmitted Arius to communion.” (RW, 75) 39“There is also extant a letter of Arius and Euzoius from exile to Constantine petitioning for their return” (RH, 176)

In a letter, “Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis of Nicaea” asked “some unnamed bishops … to petition Constantine for their recall.” (RH, 175)

Constantine also was the one who restored them:

The two bishops whom Constantine exiled after Nicaea “were both restored to their sees by Constantine at some time impossible to fix accurately but before 335. (RH, 172)

“Within two or three years, however, Arius and the others exiled by Constantine were recalled, it seems at the behest of the Emperor.” (LA, 19)

Since it was the emperor who had the right to decide who should be exiled and who should be restored, the emperor, in this regard, functioned as the real head of the church.

Enforced Nicaea

After Nicaea, “Constantine … issued a number of letters attempting to enforce its decisions.” (LA, 88) “Constantine in other respects behaved despotically towards the church when he thought it necessary. He writes to the churches after Nicaea like a mediaeval Pope.” (RH, 850)

Conclusions

Constantine took the side of the Alexander-faction in its dispute with Arius, called the Council on his own initiative, strategically positioned the council at Nicaea so he could participate, 40(Drake, H. A. “The Impact of Constantine on Christianity.” Cambridge University Press, 2005. 111) paid all expenses, 41“The bishops were allowed to travel by the imperial postal service … and were entertained in Nicaea at the emperor’s expense.” (RW, 67) 42“The Emperor Constantine … he had summoned the Council, had paid all its expenses.” (RH, 157) appointed his religious advisor as chairperson, welcomed the delegates, surrounded them with every honour, opened the Council with an address, actively guided the discussions, proposed and enforced the key word Homoousios despite great resistance, actively sought reconciliation between the factions, warned them that those who do not accept the Creed will be exiled, exiled those who refused the Creed, and enforced the Council’s decisions.

Consequently, the Nicene Creed, particularly its more controversial aspects, does not reflect the view of the church majority at the time but specifically what the emperor thought best:

“Constantine took part in the Council of Nicaea and ensured that it reached the kind of conclusion which he thought best.” (RH, 850)

This established the pattern for the rest of the century. The church made and implemented its ‘ecumenical’ decisions through the civil government of the Roman Empire, represented by the emperors:

“Before Constantine, the Church was simply not in a position to make universally binding and enforceable decisions. From Nicaea onwards the Church decided, and communicated its decisions, through the official network of the empire.” (RW, 90)

In that respect, church and state were united. “Simonetti remarks that the Emperor was in fact the head of the church” (RH, 849).


Other Articles in this Series

Church Fathers

Arian Controversy

Arius

The Nicene Creed

Arianism

    • Athanasius invented Arianism. 61The only reason we today refer to ‘Arians’ is that Athanasius invented the term to falsely label his opponents with a theology that was already formally rejected by the church.
    • Did Arians describe the Son as a creature? 62‘Arians’ described Christ as originating from beyond our universe, the only being ever brought forth directly by the Father, and as the only being able to endure direct contact with God.
    • Homoian theology 63In the 350s, Athanasius began to use homoousios to attack the church majority. Homoian theology developed in response.
    • Homoi-ousian theology 64This was one of the ‘strands’ of ‘Arianism’. It proposed that the Son’s substance is similar to the Father’s, but not the same.
    • How did Arians interpret Colossians 2:9? 65Forget about Arius. He was an isolated extremist. This article quotes the mainstream anti-Nicenes to show how they understood that verse.

The Pro-Nicenes

Authors on the Arian Controversy

Extracts from the writings of scholars who have studied the ancient documents for themselves:

Trinity Doctrine – General

    • Elohim 70Elohim (often translated as God) is plural in form. Does this mean that the Old Testament writers thought of God as a multi-personal Being?
    • The Eternal Generation of the Son 71The Son has been begotten by the Father, meaning that the Son is dependent on the Father. Eternal Generation explains “begotten” in such a way that the Son is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.

All articles on this Site

FOOTNOTES

  • 1
  • 2
    “At the end of 324” (RH, 137), “Constantine sent a letter to both Arius’ and Alexander dismissing the controversy as trivial and commanding them to be reconciled.” (RH, 130, 137)
  • 3
    Constantine dismissed the theological question of the relationship of Father and Son as “intrinsically trifling and of little moment” (Drake, 4. Constantine and Consensus)
  • 4
    Constantine wrote: “For as long as you continue to contend about these small and very insignificant questions, I believe it indeed to be not merely unbecoming, but positively evil, that so large a portion of God’s people which belong to your jurisdiction should be thus divided.” (Davis, Leo Donald. The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787): Their History and Theology. Vol. 21. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 1990. 55)
  • 5
    “Constantine had basically no understanding whatsoever of the questions that were being asked in Greek theology.” (A Short History of Christian Doctrine, Bernard Lohse, 1966, p51-53)
  • 6
    “Constantine himself of course neither knew nor cared anything about the matter in dispute.” (McGiffert A.C. A History of Christian Thought, 1954, Vol. 1, p. 258)
  • 7
    “Since Constantine desired that the church should contribute to the social and moral strength of the empire, religious dissension was a menace to the public welfare.” (Boyd, p34). (The Ecclesiastical Edicts of the Theodosian Code)
  • 8
    “Ossius of Cordoba probably chaired the meeting.” (LA, 89)
  • 9
    “Ossius the bishop of Cordoba in Spain … apparently acted in some sort of advisory capacity to Constantine, and perhaps also served as his representative in these events.” (LA, 18)
  • 10
    “He had recently presided in a similar capacity over the Council of Antioch.” (RH, 154)
  • 11
    “The most satisfactory explanation of why it was put there is that it was certainly a word … which serious and wholehearted Arians could not stomach; Arius in his Thalia had specifically rejected it.” (RH, 167)
  • 12
    “Ambrose says ‘When this letter (of Eusebius of Nicomedia) was read at the Council of Nicaea, the Fathers placed … (the term homoousios) in the Statement of Faith, because they saw that it caused alarm to their opponents.” (RH, 161)
  • 13
    Athanasius also stated that “the term homoousion was inserted in the Creed of Nicaea” because it was the only term which “the Arians” could not accept. (RH, 162)
  • 14
    Only Arius and two of his friends refused to sign, for which they were excommunicated.” Bernard Lohse, A Short History of Christian Doctrine, 1966, p51-53 (cf. RW, 70; 71)
  • 15
    “Two bishops who refused to sign the Creed … were deposed by the Council and exiled by the Emperor. Arius himself was exiled.” (RH, 162-3)
  • 16
    “We can certainly see that Eusebians … were under pressure and seem to have been on the defensive. … the direction of the council was very clearly in the hands of others.” (LA, 88-89)
  • 17
    “The decisions of the Council of Nicaea were really the work of a minority, and they were misunderstood and disliked by many who were not adherents of Arius. In particular, the terms aroused opposition, on the grounds that they were unscriptural, novel and tending to Sabellianism.” (Henry Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd Ed 1963, p 41)
  • 18
    “We can detect no Greek-speaking writer before Nicaea who unreservedly supports homoousion as applied to the Son.” (RH, 169)
  • 19
    “To say that the Son was ‘of the substance’ of the Father, and that he was ‘consubstantial’ with him were certainly startling innovations. Nothing comparable to this had been said in any creed or profession of faith before.” (RH, 166-7)
  • 20
    Bernard Lohse, A Short History of Christian Doctrine, 1966, p51-53
  • 21
    “The Origenists had considerable reservation about homoousios and the other phrases containing the term ousios (substance).” (Erickson)
  • 22
    Eusebius accepted homoousion with “obvious reluctance.” (RH, 165)
  • 23
    (Jörg Ulrich. Nicaea and the West. Vigiliae Christianae 51, no. 1 (1997): 10-24. 15.)
  • 24
    “The concept put into the creed by Constantine himself, the homoousios. ” (Bernard Lohse, A Short History of Christian Doctrine, 1966, p51-53)
  • 25
    “Constantine did put forth the Nicene creed term ‘homoousios’.” (Millard J. Erickson, God in Three Persons, p82-85)
  • 26
    “The decisive catchword of the Nicene confession, namely, homoousios, comes from … the emperor himself.” (Bernard Lohse, in ‘A Short History of Christian Doctrine’, 1966, p51-53)
  • 27
    According to Eusebius “the Emperor himself qualified the addition of ‘consubstantial’ by saying that it must not be understood “in the sense of any corporeal experiences.” (RH, 165)
  • 28
    Eusebius of Caesarea “gives the impression throughout this letter that Constantine took the initiative in all the matters that the letter deals with, apparently regarding himself as qualified to deal with any discussion about the profound questions raised by the Christian doctrine of God.” (RH, 160)
  • 29
    Constantine “himself … insisted upon the word homoousia being included in the creed.” (Jörg Ulrich. “Nicaea and the West.” Vigiliae Christianae 51, no. 1 (1997) p 15.)
  • 30
    “The emperor “himself proposed and insisted on the word homoousios.” (Erickson, Millard J, God in Three Persons, p82-85)
  • 31
    “The emperor exerted considerable influence. Consequently, the statement was approved by all except three.” (Erickson)
  • 32
    “Constantine had taken Alexander’s part.” (LA, 89) “This imperial pressure coupled with the role of his advisers in broadly supporting the agenda of Alexander must have been a powerful force.” (LA, 89)
  • 33
    Britannica, 1971 edition, Vol. 6, “Constantine,” p. 386
  • 34
  • 35
    “Secundus of Ptolemais and Theonas of Marmarike, both Libyan sees, refused to sign N, were deposed by the Council and exiled by Constantine.” (RH, 172)
  • 36
    “Arius too was banished by Constantine.” (RH, 173)
  • 37
    “Constantine exiled Arius along with two Libyan bishops … The Emperor also exiled Eusebius of Nicomedia.” (LA, 19)
  • 38
    “Arius and Euzoius returned from exile and presented a rather non-committal creed to the emperor.” “It satisfied Constantine, who wrote to Alexander, pressing him to accept Arius and Euzoius back in Alexandria.” Thereafter, “the local Bithynian synod … readmitted Arius to communion.” (RW, 75)
  • 39
    “There is also extant a letter of Arius and Euzoius from exile to Constantine petitioning for their return” (RH, 176)
  • 40
    (Drake, H. A. “The Impact of Constantine on Christianity.” Cambridge University Press, 2005. 111)
  • 41
    “The bishops were allowed to travel by the imperial postal service … and were entertained in Nicaea at the emperor’s expense.” (RW, 67)
  • 42
    “The Emperor Constantine … he had summoned the Council, had paid all its expenses.” (RH, 157)
  • 43
    The pre-Nicene fathers described the Son as “our God” but the Father as “the only true God,” implying that the Son is not “true” God. This confusion is caused by the translations.
  • 44
    Sabellius taught that Father, Son, and Spirit are three portions of one single Being.
  • 45
    If we define Sabellianism as that only one hypostasis – only one distinct existence – exists in the Godhead, was Tertullian a Sabellian?
  • 46
    RPC Hanson states that no ‘orthodoxy’ existed but that is not entirely true. This article shows that subordination was indeed ‘orthodox’ at that time.
  • 47
    The term “Arianism” implies that Arius’ theology dominated the fourth-century church. But Arius was not regarded in his time as a significant writer. He left no school of disciples.
  • 48
    Over the centuries, Arius was always accused of this. This article explains why that is a false accusation.
  • 49
    There are significant differences between Origen and Arius.
  • 50
    Arius wrote that the Son was begotten timelessly by the Father before everything. But Arius also said that the Son did not always exist. Did Arius contradict himself?
  • 51
    New research has shown that Arius is a thinker and exegete of resourcefulness, sharpness, and originality.
  • 52
    The word theos, which is translated as “God” in John 1:1 is not equivalent to the modern English word “God.”
  • 53
    Constantine took part in the Council of Nicaea and ensured that it reached the kind of conclusion that he thought best.
  • 54
    Eusebius of Caesarea, the most respected theologian at the Council, immediately afterward wrote to his church in Caesarea to explain why he accepted the Creed and how he understood the controversial phrases.
  • 55
    The Creed not only uses non-Biblical words; the concept of homoousios (that the Son is of the same substance as the Father) is not in the Bible.
  • 56
    Does it mean that Father and Son are one single Being, as the Trinity doctrine claims? How was it understood before, at, and after Nicaea? – Summary of the next article
  • 57
    The Nicene Creed describes the Son as homoousios (same substance) as the Father. But how was the term used before, during, and after Nicaea?
  • 58
    The term homoousios was not mentioned by anybody during the first 30 years after Nicaea. It only became part of that controversy in the 350s.
  • 59
    The word is not found in the Bible or in any orthodox Christian confession before Nicaea.
  • 60
    The Creed seems to say that the Father and Son are the same hupostasis. This is Sabellianism.
  • 61
    The only reason we today refer to ‘Arians’ is that Athanasius invented the term to falsely label his opponents with a theology that was already formally rejected by the church.
  • 62
    ‘Arians’ described Christ as originating from beyond our universe, the only being ever brought forth directly by the Father, and as the only being able to endure direct contact with God.
  • 63
    In the 350s, Athanasius began to use homoousios to attack the church majority. Homoian theology developed in response.
  • 64
    This was one of the ‘strands’ of ‘Arianism’. It proposed that the Son’s substance is similar to the Father’s, but not the same.
  • 65
    Forget about Arius. He was an isolated extremist. This article quotes the mainstream anti-Nicenes to show how they understood that verse.
  • 66
    Eustathius and Marcellus played a major role in the formulation of the Creed but were soon deposed for Sabellianism.
  • 67
    Athanasius presents himself as the preserver of Biblical orthodoxy but this article argues that he was a Sabellian.
  • 68
    A summary of this book, which provides an overview of the fourth-century Arian Controversy. Lewis Ayres is a Catholic theologian and Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology.
  • 69
    A very informative lecture on the Arian Controversy by RPC Hanson, a famous fourth-century scholar
  • 70
    Elohim (often translated as God) is plural in form. Does this mean that the Old Testament writers thought of God as a multi-personal Being?
  • 71
    The Son has been begotten by the Father, meaning that the Son is dependent on the Father. Eternal Generation explains “begotten” in such a way that the Son is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.