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mazingerz88's avatar

Shouldn't what took place in the Council of Nicea be enough for the faithful to doubt Jesus' divinity?

Asked by mazingerz88 (18450 points ) December 21st, 2012

Saw this recent History Channel program about banned books from the Bible. Part of it tackled Constantine’s gathering of bishops in the Council of Nicea to finally decide on a unified declaration on whether Jesus was divine or not. These men decided he was. And people down the centuries bought it. Should it really be that simple?

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15 Answers

bookish1's avatar

Wow, history on the History Channel?????

You know, I have been wondering this myself ever since I learned about the Council of Nicea in Western Civ class freshman year of college…All of the stuff that mainstream Christians take for granted, like the divinity of Jesus and the nature of the Trinity, which Scriptures are canonical, etc., had to be decided by the men in power over the “universal” church. There were always contending heresies that had to be stamped out.

ETpro's avatar

A study of the intrigues afoot at the Council of Nicea and the Council of Trent and beyond shows that the Council’s primary interest was consolidating political control, not solemnly listening to God’s will. It was about stamping out competing religious thoughts and unifying all of known mankind under one man’s absolute rule.

bookish1's avatar

What @ETpro said.

bolwerk's avatar

It’s pretty much exactly what @ETpro said. It’s not an entirely bizarre concept either, as it takes a committee to create a coherent organizational message. Constantine wanted unity, and he wasn’t going to get that if the various independent churches kept fighting over doctrine. Well, he didn’t get it forever, but it calmed things a bit. Even later Roman Catholicism has always taken something of a live-and-let-live approach to things it didn’t regard as “core values,” which is why we still have Christmas trees.

It’s more the outcome that is a bit bizarre/silly, to decide by committee at the very least, and probably antithetical to earlier Christianity – which sprung from Judaism, and was strictly monotheistic.

ninjacolin's avatar

Superstitious people call those kinds of political decisions “divine guidance.”

JenniferP's avatar

I also heard that many of the bishops didn’t show up. Only a portion of them voted on it. The Trinity is ridiculous but so many people are so attached to it.

starsofeight's avatar

Who should have decided? Using which set of guide lines?

submariner's avatar

Why shouldn’t we believe that the Holy Spirit helped guide the participants to the right answer? Why would people whose goals were mainly political endorse such a challenging doctrine at a time when paganism was still a live option for many people? And why not decide it by a committee—would you feel better about it if it had simply been decreed by the Pope or the emperor?

Tell ya what—you tell me how a proton can be both a particle and a wave, and I’ll tell you how God can be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

bolwerk's avatar

@submariner: because God is Muslim and will not be mocked by you messianists.

Paradox25's avatar

As a Roman emperor Constantine’s motives were not well known, as to whether he was an actual believer or an opportunist. Constantine and his council obviously had the power to modify the Bible, if they had choosen to do so, but the real question here is: did they?

The problem with trying to use the Council of Nicea to debunk the Bible is that most Christian pastors already accepted Christ as God for several hundred years before this council. There is another problem, the manuscripts we have today date back several hundred years before Constantine. Another thing here, the twenty-one books that made it in the Bible were already acknowledged and accepted by most Christians long before Constantine. There were ten books that were disputed by mainstream Christians that didn’t make it in the Bible since they were considered ‘questionable’ (for what reasons I’m not sure).

Personally this is all irrelevant to me even if the Bible was modified, or not. Even if we somehow knew with almost certainty that we have the original biblical texts this still proves nothing to me, because I’ve not seen any evidence whatsoever that these biblical transcibers were actually inspired by the Divine. I think that Kersey Graves makes a stronger case for doubting the divinity of the Bible, and the counters from conservative Christians are fairly weak in my opinion. However, the reliability of Graves material has been questioned even by some secular researchers.

mazingerz88's avatar

@Paradox25 But why do you think, if Christian pastors as you have stated, already accepted Christ as God for several hundred years, was there a need for a council to convene at all, as deemed necessary by Constantine-?

bolwerk's avatar

@Paradox25: Constantine wanted consensus on a number of matters. I don’t think his motivations are a secret, even if his “faith” is a little shrouded. At least a large part of the backdrop was the spread of Arianism, which rejected the trinitarian position.

Paradox25's avatar

@mazingerz88 It was well known what the intentions of the first Council of Nicea were, to unify the Christian churches with a trinitarian position. It does seem suspicious to me, but still irrelevant because of what I said above about me being skeptical that many of these teachings were of Divine origin.

I don’t think that the entire Bible is bunk, and I still feel that some of the writings were of Divine origin. All you have to do is read a great deal of the Old Testament, and even the concept of a Savior to realize that many of these writings could not have come from an omnipotent and loving God in my opinion.

@bolwerk I agree, and even the earliest writings of the books that made it into the Canon can not be verified to be the originals, nor the actual words of Jesus. Obviously, just like today there was plenty of rift between different Christian beliefs. It makes me wonder about something though, if the churches’ motives were for political reasons and control, then why did the trinitarian position win out over the nontrinitarian position when realistically the church could have utilized either concept to obtain political control?

I’m saying churches’ here because the more sources that I read about pertaining to this topic it seems that Constantine actually had little influence over what books made it into the Canon, when compared to the various trinitarian churches’ that represented the first council.

I think there are two other things to consider here as well: one is that the concepts of both trinitarian and nontrinitarian teachings are a matter of subjective interpretation of the books that make up the Canon. Obviously the trinitarian position won out here as evidenced today, along with the fact that even many biblical scholars can’t seem to agree with each other on biblical interpretations. Secondly, the books that already made it into the Canon well preceded the first Council of Nicea, so to me it really comes down to why ten of those books (likely from gnostic origins) didn’t make it into the Canon. That, and along with the fact that we can’t even verify that the earliest writings were the original teachings of Jesus.

bolwerk's avatar

@Paradox25: my understanding is Constantine literally didn’t give much of a shit. He really just wanted a consensus for the sake of political cohesion. I would think that the trinitarian position’s advantage, politically anyway, is that it creates a strong high Christology that a non-trinitarian position doesn’t create. Christ matters not because his teachings were good, but because he’s part of the Godhead. If you buy that, it’s hard to argue with a lot of the implications. And a natural consequence is, if you can spin your position into one this Godhead Jesus would agree with, you probably won the debate. Still works today. :-p

I tend to agree that, yes, there is probably no way to separate the Bible into what Christ said and what people attributed to Christ. I’m not sure that means there is much reason to be skeptical that the four gospels generally reflect Christ’s teaching, well even, but that’s not a problematic position for me as a non-believer. John, probably the latest, likely is the most distant – partly because it’s more political than the others, and partly because the political climate is a later one (late first century AD, maybe later). The other three, the so-called synoptic gospels, were formulated within 30–40 years of Christ’s death, though research does point to them sharing a source that we lost, known as Q in Biblical scholarship. IIRC, Q is believed to be mixed with Mark to in part create Luke and Matthew.

Paradox25's avatar

@bolwerk The more I’ve researched both Christianity and Buddhism, the more I’ve found remarkable similarities between Celtic Christians and Buddhism philosophy. These philosophies are in par with the afterlife research done by many scientists that I’ve been reading about over the past ten years, along with the Silver Birch teachings that I’ve started taking seriously. These philosophies are also very much in line with the Way of Jesus.

I guess it is very obvious that the judgmentalism that is prevaliant in the Bible, along with the turn or burn (or turn or be obliviated depending upon the denomination) pagan concept of a savior likely infiltrated the Bible against the wishes of Jesus, well if I was a betting man anyways. We’ll likely never know what really happened during the time of Christ, and I hate speculating. This is one of the reasons why I prefer to get my spiritual information outside of the Bible, and to go along with more modern research.

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