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4th Century...Council of Nicaea (1st Ecumenical Council)

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The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia (present-day ─░znik in Turkey) by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in A.D. 325. The 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 relationship of Jesus to God the Father; the construction of the first part of the Nicene Creed; settling the calculation of the date of Easter; and promulgation of early canon law.

Overview

The First Council of Nicaea is commonly regarded to have been the first Ecumenical council of the Christian Church. 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 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 council did not create the doctrine of the deity of Christ as is sometimes claimed but it did settle 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 the one 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.

One purpose of the council was to resolve disagreements arising from within the Church of Alexandria over the nature of Jesus in relationship to God the Father; in particular, whether Jesus was the literal son of God or was he a figurative son, like the other "sons of God" in the Bible. 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 voted against Arius.)

Another result of the council was an agreement on when to celebrate the Easter, 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, independent of the Hebrew Calendar (see also Quartodecimanism and Easter controversy). It authorized the Bishop of Alexandria (presumably using the Alexandrian calendar) to announce annually the exact date to his fellow bishops.

Historically significant as the first effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom, the Council was the first occasion where the technical aspects of Christology were discussed. Through it a precedent was set for subsequent general councils to adopt creeds and canons. This council is generally considered the beginning of the period of the first seven Ecumenical Councils in the History of Christianity.
Character and purpose

The First Council of Nicaea was convened by Constantine I upon the recommendations of a synod led by Hosius of Cordoba in the Eastertide of 325. This synod had been charged with investigation of the trouble brought about by the Arian controversy in the Greek-speaking east. To most bishops, the teachings of Arius were heretical and dangerous to the salvation of souls. In the summer of 325, the bishops of all provinces were summoned to Nicaea (now known as ─░znik, in modern-day Turkey), a place easily accessible to the majority of delegates, particularly those of Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Greece, and Thrace.

This was the first general council in the history of the Church since the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem, the Apostolic council having established the conditions upon which Gentiles could join the Church. In the Council of Nicaea, "the Church had taken her first great step to define doctrine more precisely in response to a challenge from a heretical theology."
Agenda and procedure

Fresco depicting the First Council of Nicaea

The agenda of the synod included:

1. The Arian question regarding the relationship between God the Father and Jesus; i.e. are the Father and Son one in divine purpose only or also one in being
2. The date of celebration of the Paschal/Easter observation
3. The Meletian schism
4. The validity of baptism by heretics
5. The status of the lapsed in the persecution under Licinius

The council was formally opened May 20, in the central structure of the imperial palace at Nicaea, with preliminary discussions of the Arian question. In these discussions, some dominant figures were Arius, with several adherents. "Some 22 of the bishops at the council, led by Eusebius of Nicomedia, came as supporters of Arius. But when some of the more shocking passages from his writings were read, they were almost universally seen as blasphemous." Bishops Theognis of Nicaea and Maris of Chalcedon were among the initial supporters of Arius.

Eusebius of Caesarea called to mind the baptismal creed of his own diocese at Caesarea at Palestine, as a form of reconciliation. The majority of the bishops agreed. For some time, scholars thought that the original Nicene Creed was based on this statement of Eusebius. Today, most scholars think that the Creed is derived from the baptismal creed of Jerusalem, as Hans Lietzmann proposed.

The orthodox bishops won approval of every one of their proposals regarding the Creed. After being in session for an entire month, the council promulgated on June 19 the original Nicene Creed. This profession of faith was adopted by all the bishops "but two from Libya who had been closely associated with Arius from the beginning." No historical record of their dissent actually exists; the signatures of these bishops are simply absent from the Creed.
source: Wikipedia
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