Patrology-First Nicean Council

The first Ecumenical Council of Nicea was convened in 325 to combat the pernicious Arian heresy. The heresiarch Arius believed that Jesus was the first-born of all creatures, exalted to divinity, rather than truly God, as had been the orthodox belief. What began as a theological dispute soon grew to include political issues not connected with the original questions. The emperor called the council was called in order to quell the disputes that arose between the supporters of Arianism, and the Catholics. Around 220 bishops from all corners of the empire convened at Nicea, an important port city at that time, in what is now Turkey. In response to the innovations of Arius, the council fathers drafted a creed, a statement of belief that is to this day enshrined (with some modifications) in our liturgies. Of our belief in Jesus, the Nicean creed states: “We believe…in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance of the father, God of God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of the same substance with the Father, through whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; for us men and for our salvation descended , was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the dead”. The Nicene creed combated the Arian heresy by pronouncing Jesus “of the same substance” as the Father, pointing to the equality of essences in Jesus and the Father. “Begotten, not made” refuted the Arian view of Jesus as a creature. “Through whom all things were made…” points the the pre-existence of Jesus, against Arius’ theory “there was a time when he was not”. And as if that wasn’t enough, the creed ended with a clear condemnation of Arius: “Those who say : There was a time when He was not…let them be anathema.”

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