The first council of Nicaea was the result of a “request” (absolute demand) of the Emperor Constantine for all the bishops and other muckity mucks to gather together to get their proverbial shit together, to stop the squabbling that was having an impact on Constantine’s empire (a very large empire).
According to historical documents, (Athanasius, To the Bishops
2; Socrates, Church History ; Sozomen, Church History– so you see, I’m not making this stuff up.) there were 2 major bones of contention, Arianism (the main problem was the Arian view of the son of God, this poor Jesus fellow, in whose name so many people have been tortured and murdered. (Ed. If he did exist? Have you ever wondered what he would have to say on all of this?) The Arians believed that Jesus was a creation of God and therefore under God in the whole Trinity thing. This was not a popular opinion, makes sense but does sense or logic ever have a hand in religion?
The other bishops, the majority – believed that Jesus was a part of God made manifest and not a creation at all. This would mean that Jesus was right up there, on the same level as God, because he was, in fact God. (I am not making this stuff up, ask your neighbourhood Catholic priest).
We may see this as a simplistic argument over interpretation but it is vital to remember that people were murdered for having the Arian view.
The other big deal was the date of Easter, when it was to be celebrated. You see, they just didn’t know. They couldn’t decide. So, here we have, arguably THE most important date in Christendom and these guys are debating when it should be celebrated. They didn’t know. They had no idea when the crucifixion actually took place, nor when the alleged resurrection occurred; kind of a stumbling block when these particular dates are the cornerstone of your belief system.
The first council was called by Constantine because of politics. The politics of religion were causing much dissention and trouble in the empire. Constantine had worked very hard at gathering regions together, waging and winning wars to consolidate his position as emperor. It is safe, I believe, to assume that Constantine was less concerned with spiritual matters and far more concerned with the effect these matters would have on his position as ruler. How better to consolidate and strengthen his hold than to collect all the dissenting factions and force them into a consensus, thereby, removing a real stone in his shoe (sandal)? Constantine was a ruthless man, but a smart one. Factions tear things apart and when one has become attached to one’s empire, tearing apart is a bad thing.
I discovered something very interesting in my research for these pieces. The inclusion of books into what is now called the bible was NOT decided at any of the Councils of Nicaea. It was at the Synods of Carthage in 397 and 418 when the 27 books of the New Testament were collected and affirmed. There were criteria, criteria that was not met by all books. We may never know why the infamous Gospel of Thomas was excluded. Why so many of the books from the Nag Hammadi didn’t make it and to this day, are considered heresy by the Roman Catholic church. If you read the books or Elaine Pagel’s excellent analysis (The Gnostic Gospels) it soon becomes quite clear as to why these books didn’t make the final cut, if they were presented at all. Nobody knows. The Nag Hammadi library is a true mystery. Why these scrolls were hidden, who hid them, when did they hide them…for what purpose?
Did they not make the cut because the books clearly indicate that gnosis is found within? That truth or the knowledge of godhead is a totally internal struggle, that no man, no bishop, no church can offer a man redemption through faith? This would truly blow the boats of the big 3 right out of the water.
What if this Jesus, this Jew and prophet to all 3 religions was being quoted as not supporting the concept of organized religion as the path to god? What if an educated, reading public read and believed these, until recently, unknown quotations of Jesus?
For starters, the big 3 would have a lot of explaining to do, much foot shuffling and double talk – more so than usual. If godhead is found within, if this gnosis, this truth is available to every man, woman and child without the intercession of clergy, the end of organized religion may, would have to, follow. That’s a lot of money, a lot of property and power to give up, willingly, for something as mundane as truth.