Catholic Councils (1 – 4)

FIRST COUNCIL OF NICAEA
Year: 325

Summary:

The Council of Nicaea lasted two months and twelve days. Three hundred and eighteen bishops were present. Hosius, Bishop of Cordova, assisted as legate of Pope Sylvester. The Emperor Constantine was also present. To this council we owe the Nicene Creed, defining against Arius the true Divinity of the Son of God (homoousios), and the fixing of the date for keeping Easter (against the Quartodecimans).  Christians often assume that the Bishops were able to resolve their doctrinal differences themselves but if fact they were not.  After several years of deadlock, Constantine intervened and selected the Proto-Orthodox view of Christ i.e. that he was both human and divine and made it a legal religion thus protecting it from future prosecution by the Roman state.  The Nicene Creed produced by this council was a pledge of allegiance not to a Trinitarian Doctrine of belief but rather to an affirmation of duality of the God head as being composed of Jesus and God … Jesus being of the same substance as God (homoousios).

Further Reading: www.newadvent.org/cathen/11044a.htm

 

FIRST COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE
Year: 381

Summary:
The First General Council of Constantinople, under Pope Damasus and the Emperor Theodosius I, was attended by 150 bishops. It was directed against the followers of Macedonius, who impugned the Divinity of the Holy Ghost. To the above-mentioned Nicene Creed it added the clauses referring to the Holy Ghost (qui simul adoratur) and all that follows to the end.

The essential points of the dogma may be resumed in the following propositions:

  • The Holy Ghost is the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.
  • Though really distinct, as a Person, from the Father and the Son, He is consubstantial with Them; being God like Them, He possesses with Them one and the same Divine Essence or Nature.
  • He proceeds, not by way of generation, but by way of spiration, from the Father and the Son together, as from a single principle.

Further Reading: www.newadvent.org/cathen/04308a.htm

COUNCIL OF EPHESUS
Year: 431

Summary:
The Council of Ephesus, of more than 200 bishops, presided over by St. Cyril of Alexandria representing Pope Celestine I, defined the true personal unity of Christ, declared Mary the Mother of God (theotokos) against Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, and renewed the condemnation of Pelagius.

Further Reading: www.newadvent.org/cathen/05491a.htm

COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON
Year: 451

Summary:
The Council of Chalcedon — 150 bishops under Pope Leo the Great and the Emperor Marcian — defined the two natures (Divine and human) in Christ against Eutyches, who was excommunicated.
Further Reading: www.newadvent.org/cathen/03555a.htm

UNOFFICIAL COUNCIL AT JERUSALEM (not counted in the 21 Councils)
Year: 48 AD

Summary:
According to the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples of Jesus Christ called a council at Jerusalem to discuss stresses between two parties. One party, led by St. Peter and St. James (the “Lord’s brother”), an early leader in Jerusalem, stressed continuity between ancient Judaism and its law and the community that had gathered around Christ. The other, led by St. Paul, stressed the mission of Christians to the whole inhabited world, with its preponderance of Gentiles (or non-Jews). At the council the latter group tended to prevail.