Wednesday, April 02, 2008

How the Council of Nicea Changed the World

Livescience continues its 'events that changed the world' series with the Council of Nicea.

"When Constantine became the first Christian leader of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, his vast territory was populated by a hodgepodge of beliefs and religions.
Within his own young religion, there was also dissent, with one major question threatening to cleave the popular cult — as it was at the time — into warring factions: Was Jesus divine, and how?

It's hard to imagine riots in the streets, pamphlet wars and vicious rhetoric spawned by such a question, but that was the nature of things in A.D. 325, when Constantine was forced to take action to quell the controversy. That summer, 318 bishops from across the empire were invited to the Turkish town of Nicea, where Constantine had a vacation house, in an attempt to find common ground on what historians now refer to as the Arian Controversy. It was the first ever worldwide gathering of the Church.

The Christianity we know today is a result of what those men agreed upon over that sticky month, including the timing of the religion's most important holiday, Easter, which celebrates Jesus rising from the dead. "

The Council quelled the controversy over the question of Jesus' divinity with the politically astute compromise (forged by the Emperor himself) that Jesus and God were of the 'same substance'. This compromise, as issued in the Nicene Creed, forms a fundamental basis for chistian ideology and this statement of faith is still used in many services to this day. The council also settled a number of other church rules and settled on the way to determine the date of the Easter holiday celebration - the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the spring equinox. However, this particular council did not settle on the final selections of which books to include in the Bible, which was done at one of the later Councils of Carthage, but there was a fairly widespread agreement on which books were canonical as early as 367.

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