The First Council of Nicaea

The First Council of Nicaea

On this day in 325, Roman Emperor Constantine I convened the First Council of Nicaea to resolve an early church crisis.

Held in Nicaea, Bithynia, in present day Iznik, Turkey, the Council was the first ecumenical debate held by the early Christian Church. It was convened in order to establish the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, determine the divinity of Jesus and his relationship to God the Father, calculate the date of Easter, and construct the first part of the Nicene Creed. It was attended by 318 bishops.

At the core of the debate at the First Council of Nicaea was the concept of homoousion, or the divinity of Jesus. According to that concept, advocated by Arius, Jesus was one and the same with the Father. His rival, Eusebius disagreed. He believed the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were materially separate from each other and that the Father created the Son. Arius and his followers, the Arians, believed their rivals’ view seemed to indicate more than one God, or a division of God. The Trinitarians, however, believed it diminished the Son’s importance to subordinate him to the Father. Eventually, the Trinitarian bishops prevailed and Christ’s divinity was settled as a tripartite Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Arian leaders were subsequently banished from the church for their heresy.

The Council also established the Nicene Creed, a declaration and summary of the Christian faith. Among its articles were:

“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost.”

The Council successfully concluded on 25 August 325, having resolved the ambiguities between Jesus and God.


Image: First Nicea Council Icon, circa. before 20 C, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.