The Council of Nicaea lasted two months and twelve days. Three hundred and eighteen bishops were present. Hosius, Bishop of Cordova, assisted as legate of Pope Sylvester. The Emperor Constantine was also present. To this council we owe the Nicene Creed, defining against Arius the true Divinity of the Son of God (homoousios), and the fixing of the date for keeping Easter (against the Quartodecimans).Preview This Lesson
Buy Councils #1: Council of Nicea, 325 for only $3.99
The Nicene Council, to a large extent, was convened to combat the Arian heresy. What was this heresy and why did it cause such controversy?
Arius was born in Libya around 256. At first, Arius joined Meletius, an Egyptian schismatic, as the latter fought against the bishops in Egypt. Arius later reconciled with Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria in Egypt and was a priest in the port district of that city. Around 318 Arius began to preach that Jesus Christ did not always exist and that He was not equal to God the Father. At first Bishop Alexander called a meeting with his priests and deacons to discuss the matter. The Bishop explained that Jesus always existed and was co-equal to God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Arius refused to recant and indeed continued to preach Alexander called a synod of bishops in Egypt and Libya who voted that Arius should be condemned and exiled for his teachings. Arius did leave but only to continue his teachings in Palestine and thereafter in northwestern Asia Minor. His supporters had their own synod where they condemned Alexander.
Constantine, the Emperor of the West, had meanwhile conquered Licinius, the Emperor of the East, in 324 only to find his politically united empire threatened by religious differences. Concerned, he called a general council in Nicaea — close to his palace in Nicomedia. About 300 bishops with accompanying priests and deacons attended the councils. Three patriarchs came — Alexander from Egypt, Eustathius of Antioch and Macarius of Jerusalem - as well as representatives from Pope Silvester who was too old to travel from Rome. The church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, St. Athanasius and St. Nicholas of Myra (also known as Santa Claus) as well as several bishops who had been tortured during the recent Christian persecutions took part. Most of the Bishops were from the Eastern part of the Empire. An exception was Bishop Hosius from Cordova who was also the Emperor’s religious advisor.
Salaminius Sozomen (ca 400-450) in the Ecclesiastical History, Book 1, Chapter 17 “Of the Council convened at Nicaea on Account of Arius” speaks of the Bishops who gathered together:
“Many of the bishops who were then assembled, and of the clergy who accompanied them, being remarkable for their dialectic skill, and practiced in such rhetorical methods, became conspicuous, and attracted the notice of the emperor and the court. Of that number Athanasius, who was then a deacon of Alexandria, and h... Please purchase this lesson to continue learning.
Councils #1: Council of Nicea, 325 is part of the following course(s):