Church Councils Notes

Compiled from First seven Ecumenical Councils and related linked articles from Wikipedia

First Council: First Nicaea 325

(Trinity, first Nicene Creed)

Emperor Constantine convened this council to settle a controversial issue, the relation between Jesus Christ and God the Father. The council drew up a creed, the original Nicene Creed, which received nearly unanimous support. The council’s description of “God’s only-begotten Son”, Jesus Christ, as of the same substance with God the Father became a touchstone of Christian Trinitarianism. The Council was opposed by the Arians, and Constantine tried to reconcile Arius, after whom Arianism is named, with the Church.

 The council also addressed the issue of dating Easter (see Quartodecimanism andEaster controversy), recognised the right of the see of Alexandria to jurisdiction outside of its own province (by analogy with the jurisdiction exercised by Rome) and the prerogatives of the churches in Antioch and the other provinces and approved the custom by which Jerusalem was honoured, but without the metropolitan dignity.

Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius (ca. AD 250–336), a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the persons of the Trinity(‘God the Father’, ‘God the Son’ (Jesus of Nazareth), and ‘God the Holy Spirit’) and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father. Deemed a heretic by the First Council of Nicaea of 325, Arius was later exonerated in 335 at the First Synod of Tyre, and then, after his death, pronounced a heretic again at the First Council of Constantinople of 381. The Roman Emperors Constantius II (337–361) and Valens (364–378) were Arians or Semi-Arians.

The Arian concept of Christ is that the Son of God did not always exist, but was created by—and is therefore distinct from—God the Father. This belief is grounded in theGospel of John passage “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” (verse 14:28)

Arianism is defined as those teachings attributed to Arius which are in opposition to mainstream Trinitarian Christological doctrine, as determined by the first two Ecumenical Councils and currently maintained by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and most Reformation ProtestantChurches. “Arianism” is also often used to refer to other nontrinitarian theological systems of the 4th century, which regarded Jesus Christ—the Son of God, the Logos—as either a created being (as in Arianism proper and Anomoeanism), or as neither uncreated nor created in the sense other beings are created (as in Semi-Arianism).

Second Council: First Constantinople 381

(Nicene Creed)

The council approved the current form of the Nicene Creed as used in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox churches, but, except when Greek is used, with two additional Latin phrases (“Deum de Deo” and “Filioque”) in the West.

The council also condemned Apollinarism, the teaching that there was no human mind or soul in Christ. It also granted Constantinople honorary precedence over all churches save Rome.

The council did not include Western bishops or Roman legates, but it was accepted as ecumenical in the West.

Apollinarism or Apollinarianism was a view proposed by Apollinaris of Laodicea (died 390) that Jesus could not have had a human mind; rather, that Jesus had a human body and lower soul (the seat of the emotions) but a divine mind.

Third Council: First Ephesus 431

(Mother of Jesus)

Theodosius II called the council to settle the Nestorian controversy. Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, opposed use of the term Theotokos (Greek Η Θεοτόκος, “God-Bearer”). This term had long been used by orthodox writers, and it was gaining popularity along with devotion to Mary as Mother of God.He reportedly taught that there were two separate persons in the incarnate Christ, though whether he actually taught this is disputed.

The council deposed Nestorius, repudiated Nestorianism, proclaimed the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos.

Theotokos – the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox,Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations include Mother of GodRoman Catholics and Anglicans use the title Mother of God more often than Theotokos. The Council of Ephesus decreed in 431 that Mary is Theotokos because her son Jesus is one person who is both God and man, divine and human.

Nestorianism is a Christological doctrine advanced by NestoriusPatriarch of Constantinople from 428–431. The doctrine, which was informed by Nestorius’s studies under Theodore of Mopsuestia at the School of Antioch, emphasizes the disunion between the human and divine natures of Jesus. Nestorius’ teachings brought him into conflict with some other prominent church leaders, most notably Cyril of Alexandria, who criticized especially his rejection of the title Theotokos (“Bringer forth of God”) for the Virgin Mary. Nestorius and his teachings were eventually condemned as heretical at the First Council of Ephesus in 431 and theCouncil of Chalcedon in 451, leading to the Nestorian Schism in which churches supporting Nestorius broke with the rest of the Christian Church. Afterward many of Nestorius’ supporters relocated to Sassanid Persia, where they affiliated with the local Christian community, known as the Church of the East. Over the next decades the Church of the East became increasingly Nestorian in doctrine, leading it to be known alternately as the Nestorian Church.

Nestorianism is a form of dyophysitism, and can be seen as the antithesis to monophysitism, which emerged in reaction to Nestorianism. Where Nestorianism holds that Christ had two loosely-united natures, divine and human, monophysitism holds that he had but a single nature, his human nature being absorbed into his divinity. A brief definition of Nestorian Christology can be given as: “Jesus Christ, who is not identical with the Son but personally united with the Son, who lives in him, is one hypostasis and one nature: human.” Both Nestorianism and monophysitism were condemned as heretical at the Council of Chalcedon. Monophysitism survived and developed into the Miaphysitism of the modern Oriental Orthodox churches.

Fourth Council: Chalcedon 451

(Chalcedon Definition/Hypostatic Union/Two-Natures: Human & Divine)

The council repudiated the Eutychian doctrine of monophysitism, described and delineated the “Hypostatic Union” and two natures of Christ, human and divine; adopted the Chalcedonian Creed.

The Confession of Chalcedon (also Definition or Creed of Chalcedon), also known as the Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union or the Two-Nature Doctrine, was adopted at the Council of Chalcedonin 451 in Asia Minor. That Council of Chalcedon is one of the first seven Ecumenical Councils accepted by Eastern OrthodoxCatholic, and many Protestant Christian churches. It is the first Council not recognized by any of the Oriental Orthodox churches.

The Definition defines that Christ is ‘acknowledged in two natures’, which ‘come together into one person and hypostasis’. The formal definition of ‘two natures’ in Christ was understood by the critics of the council at the time, and is understood by many historians and theologians today, to side with western and Antiochene Christology and to diverge from the teaching of Cyril of Alexandria, who always stressed that Christ is ‘one’.

English Translation:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood;

truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body;

consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood;

in all things like unto us, without sin;

begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood;

one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably;

the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God (μονογεν Θεν), the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ;

as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

Eutyches (Greek: Εὐτυχής; c. 380–c. 456) was a presbyter and archimandrite at Constantinople. He first came to notice in 431 at the First Council of Ephesus, for his vehement opposition to the teachings of Nestorius; his condemnation of Nestorianism as heresy precipitated his being denounced as a heretic himself.

According to Nestorius, all the human experiences and attributes of Christ are to be assigned to ‘the man’, as a distinct personal subject from God the Word, though united to God the Word from the moment of his conception. In opposition to this, Eutyches inverted the assertion to the opposite extreme, asserting that human nature and divine nature were combined into the single nature of Christ: that of the incarnate Word. Although this accorded with the later teaching of Cyril of Alexandria, Eutyches went beyond Cyril in denying that Christ was ‘consubstantial with us men’, by which he did not intend to deny Christ’s full manhood, but to stress his uniqueness.

Monophysitism (Greekmonos meaning “only, single” and physis meaning “nature”), is the Christological position that, after the union of the divine and the human in the historical Incarnation, Jesus Christ, as the incarnation of the eternal Son or Word (Logos) of God, had only a single “nature” which was either divine or a synthesis of divine and human.

Monophysitism is contrasted to dyophysitism (or dia-, dio-, or duophysitism) which maintains that Christ maintained two natures, one divine and one human, after the Incarnation.

A brief definition of Monophysitism can be given as: “Jesus Christ, who is identical with the Son, is one person and one hypostasis in one nature: divine-human.”

Fifth Council: Second Constantinople 553

Condemned certain Nestorian writings and authors. This move was instigated by Emperor Justinian in an effort to conciliate the monophysite Christians, it was opposed in the West, and the Popes’ acceptance of the council caused a major schism.

Sixth Council: Third Constantinople 680-681

Repudiated monothelitism, a once popular and widely supported doctrine, affirming that Christ had both human and divine wills.

Seventh Council: Second Nicaea 787

In 753, Emperor Constantine V convened the Synod of Hieria, which declared that images of Jesus misrepresented him and that images of Mary and the saints were idols. The Second Council of Nicaea restored the veneration of icons and ended the first iconoclasm.

Nicene Creed

*Italics are in second creed

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;

by whom all things were made;

who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;

he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again,according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heavenand sitteth on the right hand of the Father;

from thence he shall come againwith glory, to judge the quick and the dead;
whose kingdom shall have no end

And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.

In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

(First Council of Nicaea closed with: [But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’—they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.])

Apostles’ Creed

1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

5. The third day he rose again from the dead:

6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:

9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

10. The forgiveness of sins:

11. The resurrection of the body:

12. And the life everlasting. Amen.