The Christian Faith, Lesson 5

Early Church Councils


This lesson will cover important councils in so-called church history. It won't be exhaustive since there were many councils, not all of which involved all believers, but we'll take a brief look at those at the end.

The Council at Jerusalem (~50 a.d.)

This is recorded in Acts 15.

The Council at Jamnia (~90 a.d.)

See this source.

The 1st Council at Nicaea (~325 a.d.)

First we need to know what was percolating before this council was convened, from historian Philip Schaff in his History of the Christian Church, ch. 4, sec. 42 Clergy and Laity, as I excerpted here. (sacerdotalism is the belief that there must be a priesthood mediating between God and people.)

According to this source, the primary agenda was on the deity of Jesus and the celebration of Easter. Constantine the 1st presided, mostly as a moderator, but it set the precedent of a government official being involved in church matters. It followed the 313 a.d. Edict of Milan that officially ended Roman governmental persecution of Christians. Learn the lesson from this: Decades of severe persecution couldn't stop the faith from spreading, but offer peace to the weary and they'll be very tempted to accept the government's involvement. This was the birth of tradition over truth, the fake over the genuine, and it's this that most of the world considers Christianity. I point this out because it's not enough to merely claim a cover-up; we must have evidence.

Notice especially what was not on the agenda: The canon. It wasn't until 367 a.d. that Athanasius made a complete list of the 66 books as we know them; the Council and Constantine were not involved. For more about that, see this source.

The 2nd Council at Nicaea (~787 a.d.)

According to New World Encyclopedia, the primary agenda was to restore the adoration of icons and relics, and to forbid women from residing in monasteries or the houses of bishops, to avoid the appearance of immorality. The canon was still not on the agenda. Constantine the 6th presided.

Other Councils



Critics of the Bible simply parrot the mantra, Constantine and the Roman Catholic Church decided the canon at the Council of Nicaea— no details, no dates, no research. But the important fact is that the New Testament never ordered any future councils. Doctrine and practices were set by the original apostles, which never included rules about icons, church buildings, sacred calendars, clergy, memberships, rituals, or anything else associated with tradition. So appeals to post-apostolic councils as somehow having any Biblical weight or authority are red herring fallacies against the Bible and anything it teaches.

Other Resources