Constantine and the Church 5 – Who was at Nicaea?

Within the Church, of course, other than granting Christianity legal status, Constantine is perhaps best known for calling the council at Nicaea that eventually came to be recognized as the first ecumenical council. Yes, that phrasing is important. You see, there were many councils before Nicaea (though none with an emperor present) and there were a number in the years following as the Arian controversy continued to rage within the empire. There was really very little at the time that made this particular council appear any more or less “ecumenical”. It was mostly just another council and one that subsequently remained in considerable dispute. It wasn’t really until after what we now call the second ecumenical council affirmed the first, defined the Nicene Creed as we know it today, and became accepted by churches everywhere did this council truly become established as the first ecumenical council.

Myths swirl around this council, but when you deconstruct many of them, you find the idea that Constantine somehow imposed his will on the bishops and the church and changed what the church believed in one way or another.

Really?

Let’s look at one of the reports about the attendees of this council. Remember our earlier post on the dates of persecution relative to this council in AD 325.

At this period many individuals were richly endowed with apostolical gifts; and many, like the holy apostle, bore in their bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ. James, bishop of Antioch, a city of Mygdonia, which is called Nisibis by the Syrians and Assyrians, raised the dead and restored them to life, and performed many other wonders which it would be superfluous to mention again in detail in this history, as I have already given an account of them in my work, entitled “Philotheus.” Paul, bishop of Neo-Cæsarea, a fortress situated on the banks of the Euphrates, had suffered from the frantic rage of Licinius. He had been deprived of the use of both hands by the application of a red-hot iron, by which the nerves which give motion to the muscles had been contracted and rendered dead. Some had had the right eye dug out, others had lost the right arm. Among these was Paphnutius of Egypt. In short, the Council looked like an assembled army of martyrs. Yet this holy and celebrated gathering was not entirely free from the element of opposition; for there were some, though so few as easily to be reckoned, of fair surface, like dangerous shallows, who really, though not openly, supported the blasphemy of Arius.

So this group bearing scars and wounds from persecution by emperors for the sake of the faith would turn around a few years later and, for any reason whatsoever, compromise that faith in any way for another emperor?

Again I say, really?

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