In the history of Christianity, the first seven ecumenical councils include the following: the First Council of Nicaea in 325, the First Council of Constantinople in 381, the Council of Ephesus in 431, the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, the Third Council of Constantinople from 680–681 and finally, the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. All of the seven councils were convened in modern-day Turkey.
These seven events represented an attempt by Church leaders to reach an orthodox consensus, restore peaceand develop a unified Christendom. Among Eastern Christians the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Church of the East (Assyrian) churches and among Western Christians the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Utrecht and Polish National Old Catholic, and some Scandinavian Lutheran churches all trace the legitimacy of their clergy by apostolic succession back to this period and beyond, to the earlier period referred to as the Early Church.
This era begins with the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325, convened by the emperor Constantine I following his victory over Licinius and consolidation of his reign over the Roman Empire. Nicaea I enunciated the Nicene Creed that in its original form and as modified by the First Council of Constantinople of 381 was seen by all later councils as the touchstone of orthodoxy on the doctrine of the Trinity.
The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches accept all seven of these councils as legitimate ecumenical councils. The Non-Chalcedonian Oriental Orthodox Churches accept only the first three, while the Non-Ephesian Church of the East accepts only the first two. There is also one additional council, the so-called Quinisext Council of Trullo held in AD 692 between the sixth and seventh ecumenical councils, which issued organizational, liturgical and canonical rules but did not discuss theology. Only within Eastern Orthodoxy is its authority commonly considered ecumenical, however the Orthodox do not number it among the seven general councils, but rather count it as a continuation of the fifth and sixth. The Roman Catholic Church does not accept the Quinisext Council,but both the Roman magisterium as well as a minority of Eastern Orthodox hierarchs and theological writers consider there to have been further ecumenical councils after the first seven. (see the Fourth Council of Constantinople, Fifth Council of Constantinople, and fourteen additional post-schism ecumenical councils canonical for Catholics).
These seven ecumenical councils are:
|Council||Date||Convoked by||President||Attendance (approx.)||Topics|
|First Council of Nicaea||325 (May 20-June 19)||Emperor Constantine I||Hosius of Corduba (and Emperor Constantine)||318||Arianism, the nature of Christ, celebration of Passover (Easter), ordination of eunuchs, prohibition of kneeling on Sundays and from Easter to Pentecost, validity of baptism by heretics, lapsed Christians, sundry other matters.|
|First Council of Constantinople||381 (May–July)||Emperor Theodosius I||Timothy of Alexandria, Meletius of Antioch, Gregory Nazianzus, and Nectarius of Constantinople||150||Arianism, Apollinarism, Sabellianism, Holy Spirit, successor to Meletius|
|Council of Ephesus||431 (June 22-July 31)||Emperor Theodosius II||Cyril of Alexandria||200–250||Nestorianism, Theotokos, Pelagianism|
|Council of Chalcedon||451 (October 8-November 1)||Emperor Marcian||Papal legates Paschasinus, Lucentius and Boniface||520||The judgments issued at the Second Council of Ephesus in 449, the alleged offences of Bishop Dioscorus of Alexandria, the relationship between the divinity and humanity of Christ, many disputes involving particular bishops and sees.|
|Second Council of Constantinople||553 (May 5-June 2)||Emperor Justinian I||Eutychius of Constantinople||152|| Nestorianism |
|Third Council of Constantinople||680-681 (November 7-September 16)||Emperor Constantine IV||Patriarch George I of Constantinople||300||Monothelitism, the human and divine wills of Jesus|
|Second Council of Nicaea||787 (September 24-October 23)||Constantine VI and Empress Irene (as regent)||Patriarch Tarasios of Constantinople, legates of Pope Adrian I||350||Iconoclasm|
Emperor Constantine convened this council to settle a controversial issue, the relation between Jesus Christ and God the Father. The Emperor wanted to establish universal agreement on it. Representatives came from across the Empire, subsidized by the Emperor. Previous to this council, the bishops would hold local councils, such as the Council of Jerusalem, but there had been no universal, or ecumenical, council.
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 also addressed the issue of dating Easter (see Quartodecimanism and Easter 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 provincesand approved the custom by which Jerusalem was honoured, but without the metropolitan dignity.
The Council was opposed by the Arians, and Constantine tried to reconcile Arius, after whom Arianism is named, with the Church. Even when Arius died in 336, one year before the death of Constantine, the controversy continued, with various separate groups espousing Arian sympathies in one way or another.In 359, a double council of Eastern and Western bishops affirmed a formula stating that the Father and the Son were similar in accord with the scriptures, the crowning victory for Arianism. The opponents of Arianism rallied, and the First Council of Constantinople in 381 marked the final victory of Nicene orthodoxy within the Empire, though Arianism had by then spread to the Germanic tribes, among whom it gradually disappeared after the conversion of the Franks to Christianity in 496.
In 331, Constantine I commissioned Eusebius to deliver fifty Bibles for the Church of Constantinople. Athanasius (Apol. Const. 4) recorded Alexandrian scribes around 340 preparing Bibles for Constans. Little else is known, though there is plenty of speculation. For example, it is speculated that this may have provided motivation for canon lists, and that Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus are examples of these Bibles. Together with the Peshitta and Codex Alexandrinus, these are the earliest extant Christian Bibles.
The council approved the current form of the Nicene Creed used in most Oriental Orthodox churches. The Eastern Orthodox Church uses the council's text but with the verbs expressing belief in the singular: Πιστεύω (I believe) instead of Πιστεύομεν (We believe). The Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church also uses the singular and, except in Greek,adds two phrases, Deum de Deo (God from God) and Filioque (and the Son). The form used by the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, has many more additions. This fuller creed may have existed before the Council and probably originated from the baptismal creed of Constantinople.
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 later accepted as ecumenical in the West.
Theodosius II called the council to settle the christological controversy surrounding Nestorianism. Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, opposed use of the term Theotokos (Greek: Ἡ 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, and proclaimed the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos.
After quoting the Nicene Creed in its original form, as at the First Council of Nicaea, without the alterations and additions made at the First Council of Constantinople, it declared it "unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different (ἑτέραν) Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa."
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 Definition. For those who accept it (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and most Protestants), it is the Fourth Ecumenical Council (calling the Second Council of Ephesus, which was rejected by this council, the "Robber Synod" or "Robber Council").
In November 448, a synod at Constantinople condemned Eutyches for unorthodoxy.Eutyches, archimandrite (abbot) of a large Constantinopolitan monastery, taught that Christ was not consubstantial with humanity.
In 449, Theodosius II summoned a council at Ephesus, where Eutyches was exonerated and returned to his monastery.This council was later overturned by the Council of Chalcedon and labeled "Latrocinium" (i.e., "Robber Council").
This council condemned certain writings and authors which defended the christology of Nestorius. 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.
Prior to the Second Council of Constantinople was a prolonged controversy over the treatment of three subjects, all considered sympathetic to Nestorianism, the heresy that there are two separate persons in the Incarnation of Christ.Emperor Justinian condemned the Three Chapters, hoping to appeal to miaphysite Christians with his anti-Nestorian zeal. Monophysites believe that in the Incarnate Christ there is only one nature (i.e. the divine) not two while miaphysites believe that the two natures of Christ are united as one and are distinct in thought only.
Eastern Patriarchs supported the Emperor, but in the West his interference was resented, and Pope Vigilius resisted his edict on the grounds that it opposed the Chalcedonian decrees.Justinian's policy was in fact an attack on Antiochene theology and the decisions of Chalcedon. The pope assented and condemned the Three Chapters, but protests in the West caused him to retract his condemnation. The emperor called the Second Council of Constantinople to resolve the controversy.
The council, attended mostly by Eastern bishops, condemned the Three Chapters and, indirectly, the Pope Vigilius.It also affirmed Constantinople's intention to remain in communion with Rome.
Vigilius declared his submission to the council, as did his successor, Pope Pelagius I.The council was not immediately recognized as ecumenical in the West, and Milan and Aquileia even broke off communion with Rome over this issue. The schism was not repaired until the late 6th century for Milan and the late 7th century for Aquileia.
Emperor Justinian's policy failed to reconcile the Monophysites.
Third Council of Constantinople (680–681): repudiated monothelitism, a doctrine that won widespread support when formulated in 638; the Council affirmed that Christ had both human and divine wills.
Quinisext Council (= Fifth-Sixth Council) or Council in Trullo (692) has not been accepted by the Roman Catholic Church. Since it was mostly an administrative council for raising some local canons to ecumenical status, establishing principles of clerical discipline, addressing the Biblical canon, without determining matters of doctrine, the Eastern Orthodox Church does not consider it to be a full-fledged council in its own right, viewing it instead as an extension of the fifth and sixth councils. It gave ecclesiastical sanction to the Pentarchy as the government of the state church of the Roman Empire.
Second Council of 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.
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In the 9th century, Emperor Michael III deposed Patriarch Ignatius of Constantinople and Photius was appointed in his place. Pope Nicholas I declared the deposition of Ignatius invalid. After Michael was murdered, Ignatius was reinstated as patriarch without challenge and in 869–870 a council in Constantinople, considered ecumenical in the West, anathematized Photius. With Ignatius' death in 877, Photius became patriarch, and in 879–880 another council in Constantinople, which many Easterners consider ecumenical, annulled the decision of the previous council.
The Chalcedonian Definition is a declaration of Christ's nature, adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451. Chalcedon was an early centre of Christianity located in Asia Minor. The council was the fourth of the ecumenical councils that are accepted by Chalcedonian churches which include the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican and Reformed churches.
The Council of Chalcedon was the fourth ecumenical council of the Christian Church. It was convoked by the Roman emperor Marcian. The council convened in the city of Chalcedon, Bithynia from 8 October to 1 November 451 AD. The council was attended by over 520 bishops or their representatives, making it the largest and best-documented of the first seven ecumenical councils. The principal purpose of the council was to re-assert the teachings of the ecumenical Council of Ephesus against the heresies of Eutyches and Nestorius. Such heresies attempted to dismantle and separate Christ's divine nature from his humanity (Nestorianism) and further, to limit Christ as solely divine in nature (Monophysitism).
An ecumenical council, also called general council, is a meeting of bishops and other church authorities to consider and rule on questions of Christian doctrine, administration, discipline, and other matters in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene) and which secures the approbation of the whole Church.
The First Council of Constantinople was a council of Christian bishops convened in Constantinople in AD 381 by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. This second ecumenical council, an effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom, except for the Western Church, confirmed the Nicene Creed, expanding the doctrine thereof to produce the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, and dealt with sundry other matters. It met from May to July 381 in the Church of Hagia Irene and was affirmed as ecumenical in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon.
The original Nicene Creed was first adopted at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. In 381, it was amended at the First Council of Constantinople. The amended form is also referred to as the Nicene Creed, or the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed for disambiguation.
The Council of Ephesus was a council of Christian bishops convened in Ephesus in AD 431 by the Roman Emperor Theodosius II. This third ecumenical council, an effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom, confirmed the original Nicene Creed, and condemned the teachings of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who held that the Virgin Mary may be called the Christotokos, "Christ-bearer" but not the Theotokos, "God-bearer". It met in June and July 431 at the Church of Mary in Ephesus in Anatolia.
Chalcedonian Christianity is the branch of Christianity that accepts and upholds theological and ecclesiological resolutions of the Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth Ecumenical Council, held in 451. Chalcedonian Christianity accepts the Christological Definition of Chalcedon, a Christian doctrine concerning the union of two natures in one hypostasis of Jesus Christ, who is thus acknowledged as a single person (prosopon). Chalcedonian Christianity also accepts the Chalcedonian confirmation of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, thus acknowledging the commitment of Chalcedonism to Nicene Christianity.
Dioscorus I, also known as Dioscorus the Great, was the pope of Alexandria and patriarch of the See of St. Mark who was deposed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. He was recognized as patriarch by the Coptic Church until his death. He died in Gangra, Paphlagonia, in September 454. He is venerated as a saint by the Coptic and other Oriental Orthodox Churches.
The East–West Schism is the ongoing break of communion since 1054 between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Immediately following the beginning of the schism, it is estimated that Eastern Christianity comprised a slim majority of Christians worldwide, with the majority of remaining Christians being Western. The schism was the culmination of theological and political differences which had developed during the preceding centuries between Eastern and Western Christianity.
The Quinisext Council, i.e. the Fifth-Sixth Council, often called the Council in Trullo, Trullan Council, or the Penthekte Synod, was a church council held in 692 at Constantinople under Justinian II. It is known as the "Council in Trullo" because, like the Sixth Ecumenical Council, it was held in a domed hall in the Imperial Palace. Both the Fifth and the Sixth Ecumenical Councils had omitted to draw up disciplinary canons, and as this council was intended to complete both in this respect, it took the name of Quinisext. It was attended by 215 bishops, mostly from the Eastern Roman Empire. Basil of Gortyna in Crete belonged to the Roman patriarchate and called himself papal legate, though no evidence is extant of his right to use that title.
Pentarchy is a model of Church organization formulated in the laws of Emperor Justinian I (527–565) of the Roman Empire. In this model, the Christian church is governed by the heads (patriarchs) of the five major episcopal sees of the Roman Empire: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
The Second Council of Ephesus was a Christological church synod in 449 AD convened by Emperor Theodosius II under the presidency of Pope Dioscorus I of Alexandria. It was intended to be an ecumenical council, and it is accepted as such by the miaphysite churches but was rejected by the Chalcedonian dyophysites. It was explicitly repudiated by the next council, the Council of Chalcedon of 451, recognised as the fourth ecumenical council by Chalcedonian Christians, and it was named the Latrocinium or "Robber Council" by Pope Leo I; the Chalcedonian churches, particularly the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communions, continue to accept this designation, while the Oriental Orthodox repudiate it.
The Scythian monks were a community of monks from the region around the mouths of the Danube, who played an influential role in Christian theological disputes between the 4th and 6th centuries. The name Scythian comes from Scythia Minor, the classical name of the modern Dobruja region in Romania and Bulgaria, at the time a Roman province. The monks were raised not only from local Christian elements, but also from immigrant Christians who came to live ascetic lives.
The Oriental Orthodox Churches are Eastern Christian churches adhering to Miaphysite Christology, with approximately 60 million members worldwide. The Oriental Orthodox Churches are part of the Nicene Christian tradition, and represent one of its oldest branches.
Christianity in the 4th century was dominated in its early stage by Constantine the Great and the First Council of Nicaea of 325, which was the beginning of the period of the First seven Ecumenical Councils (325–787), and in its late stage by the Edict of Thessalonica of 380, which made Nicene Christianity the state church of the Roman Empire.
In the 5th century in Christianity, there were many developments which led to further fracturing of the State church of the Roman Empire. Emperor Theodosius II called two synods in Ephesus, one in 431 and one in 449, that addressed the teachings of Patriarch of Constantinople Nestorius and similar teachings. Nestorius had taught that Christ's divine and human nature were distinct persons, and hence Mary was the mother of Christ but not the mother of God. The Council rejected Nestorius' view causing many churches, centered on the School of Edessa, to a Nestorian break with the imperial church. Persecuted within the Roman Empire, many Nestorians fled to Persia and joined the Sassanid Church thereby making it a center of Nestorianism. By the end of the 5th century, the global Christian population was estimated at 10-11 million. In 451 the Council of Chalcedon was held to clarify the issue further. The council ultimately stated that Christ's divine and human nature were separate but both part of a single entity, a viewpoint rejected by many churches who called themselves miaphysites. The resulting schism created a communion of churches, including the Armenian, Syrian, and Egyptian churches, that is today known as Oriental Orthodoxy. In spite of these schisms, however, the imperial church still came to represent the majority of Christians within the Roman Empire.
In 6th-century Christianity, Roman Emperor Justinian launched a military campaign in Constantinople to reclaim the western provinces from the Germans, starting with North Africa and proceeding to Italy. Though he was temporarily successful in recapturing much of the western Mediterranean he destroyed the urban centers and permanently ruined the economies in much of the West. Rome and other cities were abandoned. In the coming centuries the Western Church, as virtually the only surviving Roman institution in the West, became the only remaining link to Greek culture and civilization.
Christianity in late antiquity traces Christianity during the Christian Roman Empire – the period from the rise of Christianity under Emperor Constantine, until the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The end-date of this period varies because the transition to the sub-Roman period occurred gradually and at different times in different areas. One may generally date late ancient Christianity as lasting to the late 6th century and the re-conquests under Justinian of the Byzantine Empire, though a more traditional end-date is 476, the year in which Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus, traditionally considered the last western emperor.
The state church of the Roman Empire refers to the church approved by the Roman emperors after Theodosius I issued the Edict of Thessalonica in 380, which recognized the catholic orthodoxy of Nicene Christians in the Great Church as the Roman Empire's state religion. Most historians refer to the Nicene church associated with emperors in a variety of ways: as the catholic church, the orthodox church, the imperial church, the imperial Roman church, or the Byzantine church although some of those terms are also used for wider communions extending outside the Roman Empire. The Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Catholic Church all claim to stand in continuity from the Nicene church to which Theodosius granted recognition, but do not consider it to be a creation of the Roman Empire.
The history of Eastern Orthodox Christian theology begins with the life of Jesus and the forming of the Christian Church. Major events include the Chalcedonian schism of 451 with the Oriental Orthodox miaphysites, the Iconoclast controversy of the 8th and 9th centuries, the Photian schism (863-867), the Great Schism between East and West, and the Hesychast controversy. The period after the end of the Second World War in 1945 saw a re-engagement with the Greek, and more recently Syriac Fathers that included a rediscovery of the theological works of St. Gregory Palamas, which has resulted in a renewal of Orthodox theology in the 20th and 21st centuries.
... Tarasius ... skilfully put forward the project of an Ecumenical Council which should restore peace and unity to the Christian world. The Empress [...] summoned the prelates of Christendom to Constantinople for the spring of 786. ... Finally the Council was convoked at Nicaea in Bithynia; it was opened in the presence of the papal legates on 24 September 787. This was the seventh Ecumenical Council.