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.
The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion, Christendom, and the Church with its various denominations, from the 1st century to the present.
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in the Bithynian city of Nicaea by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325.
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.
These seven events represented an attempt by Church leaders to reach an orthodox consensus, restore peaceand develop a unified Christendom. Eastern Orthodox Christians, Oriental Orthodox Christians, the Church of the East, Anglican, Old Catholic, and Roman Catholics, all trace the legitimacy of their clergy by apostolic succession back to this period and beyond, to the earlier period referred to as Early Christianity.
Orthodoxy is adherence to correct or accepted creeds, especially in religion. In the Christian sense the term means "conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early Church." The first seven ecumenical councils were held between the years of 325 and 787 with the aim of formalizing accepted doctrines.
Christendom has several meanings. In one contemporary sense, as used in a secular or Protestant context, it may refer to the "Christian world": Christian-majority countries and the countries in which Christianity dominates or prevails, or, in the historic, Catholic sense of the word, the nations in which Catholic Christianity is the established religion, having a Catholic Christian polity.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 200–260 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods, although roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest surviving religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.
This era begins with the First Council of Nicaea, which 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 Nicene Creed is a statement of belief widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because it was originally adopted in the city of Nicaea by the First Council of Nicaea in 325. In 381, it was amended at the First Council of Constantinople, and the amended form is referred to as the Nicene or the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is one God, but three coeternal consubstantial persons or hypostases—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—as "one God in three Divine Persons". The three Persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature" (homoousios). In this context, a "nature" is what one is, whereas a "person" is who one is. Sometimes differing views are referred to as nontrinitarian. Trinitarianism contrasts with positions such as Binitarianism and Monarchianism, of which Modalistic Monarchianism and Unitarianism are subsets.
The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church accept all seven of these councils as legitimate ecumenical councils. The Oriental Orthodox Churches accept only the first three, while the Church of the East accepts only the first two. There is also one additional council (the Quinisext Council), which was held between the sixth and seventh ecumenical councils (in AD 692), and which issued organizational, liturgical and canonical rules but did not discuss theology. It is accepted as ecumenical by the Eastern Orthodox Church alone, however the Eastern Orthodox do not give it a number, but rather count it as a continuation of the sixth council. The Catholic Church does not accept the Quinisext Council, but both the Catholic Church and some Eastern Orthodox theologians and hierarchs consider there to have been further ecumenical councils after the first seven. (see: Eighth ecumenical council, Ninth ecumenical council, and Catholic ecumenical councils).
An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene) and which secures the approbation of the whole Church.
The Quinisext Council 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, i.e. the Fifth-Sixth Council. It was attended by 215 bishops, all from the Eastern Roman Empire. Basil of Gortyna in Crete, however, belonged to the Roman patriarchate and called himself papal legate, though no evidence is extant of his right to use that title.
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.
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||A board of government officials and senators, led by the patrician Anatolius||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.
God the Father is a title given to God in various religions, most prominently in Christianity. In mainstream trinitarian Christianity, God the Father is regarded as the first person of the Trinity, followed by the second person, God the Son, and the third person, God the Holy Spirit. Since the second century, Christian creeds included affirmation of belief in "God the Father (Almighty)", primarily as his capacity as "Father and creator of the universe". However, in Christianity the concept of God as the father of Jesus Christ goes metaphysically further than the concept of God as the Creator and father of all people, as indicated in the Apostle's Creed where the expression of belief in the "Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth" is immediately, but separately followed by in "Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord", thus expressing both senses of fatherhood.
The Council of Jerusalem or Apostolic Council was held in Jerusalem around AD 50. It is unique among the ancient pre-ecumenical councils in that it is considered by Catholics and Orthodox to be a prototype and forerunner of the later ecumenical councils and a key part of Christian ethics. The council decided that Gentile converts to Christianity were not obligated to keep most of the Law of Moses, including the rules concerning circumcision of males. The Council did, however, retain the prohibitions on eating blood, meat containing blood, and meat of animals not properly slain, and on fornication and idolatry, sometimes referred to as the Apostolic Decree or Jerusalem Quadrilateral.
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.
Quartodecimanism refers to the custom of early Christians celebrating Passover beginning with the eve of the 14th day of Nisan, which at dusk is biblically the "Lord's Supper." 1 Corinthians 11:20
The controversy over the correct date for Easter began in Early Christianity as early as the 2nd century AD. Discussion and disagreement over the best method of computing the date of Easter Sunday has been ongoing and unresolved for centuries. Different Christian denominations continue to celebrate Easter on different dates, with Eastern and Western Christian churches being a notable example.
The Patriarch of Alexandria is the archbishop of Alexandria, Egypt. Historically, this office has included the designation "pope".
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 what the current form of the Nicene Creed as used in most Oriental Orthodox churches is. 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 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 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, 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.
Arianism is a nontrinitarian Christological doctrine which asserts the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was begotten by God the Father at a point in time, a creature distinct from the Father and is therefore subordinate to him, but the Son is also God. Arian teachings were first attributed to Arius, a Christian presbyter in Alexandria of Egypt. The term "Arian" is derived from the name Arius; and like "Christian", it was not a self-chosen designation but bestowed by hostile opponents—and never accepted by those on whom it had been imposed. The nature of Arius's teaching and his supporters were opposed to the theological views held by Homoousian Christians, regarding the nature of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. The Arian concept of Christ is based on the belief that the Son of God did not always exist but was begotten within time by God the Father.
The Chalcedonian Definition was 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 Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and most Protestant churches. It was the first council not to be recognised by any Oriental Orthodox church; these churches may be classified as non-Chalcedonian.
The Council of Chalcedon was a church council held from 8 October to 1 November, 451, at Chalcedon, a town of Bithynia in Asia Minor. The Council was called by Emperor Marcian to set aside the 449 Second Council of Ephesus. Its principal purpose was to assert the orthodox catholic doctrine against the heresy of Eutyches and the Monophysites, although ecclesiastical discipline and jurisdiction also occupied the council's attention.
Pope Dioscorus I of Alexandria, 25th Pope of Alexandria & Patriarch of the See of St. Mark. He was deposed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 but was recognized as Patriarch by the Coptic Church until his death. He died on the Island of Gangra, Paphlagonia, in September 454. He is venerated as a saint by the Coptic and other Oriental Orthodox churches.
The East–West Schism, also called the Great Schism and the Schism of 1054, was the break of communion between what are now the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches, which has lasted from the 11th century. The Schism was the culmination of theological and political differences between the Christian East and West which had developed over the preceding centuries.
Pentarchy is a model of Church organization historically championed in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It found its fullest expression in the laws of Emperor Justinian I of the Roman Empire. In the 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.
Eutychianism refers to a set of Christian theological doctrines derived from the ideas of Eutyches of Constantinople. Eutychianism is a specific understanding of how the human and divine relate within the person of Jesus Christ.
The Fourth Council of Constantinople was the eighth ecumenical council of the Catholic Church held in Constantinople from October 5, 869, to February 28, 870. It included 102 bishops, three papal legates, and four patriarchs. The Council met in ten sessions from October 869 to February 870 and issued 27 canons.
Oriental Orthodoxy is the communion of Christian Churches that adheres to Miaphysite Christology and theology, with 60 to 70 million members worldwide. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, it has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Armenia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and parts of the Middle East and India. An Eastern Christian communion of autocephalous churches, its bishops are equal by virtue of episcopal ordination, and its doctrines can be summarised in that the communion recognizes the validity of only the first three ecumenical councils.
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.
The Edict of Thessalonica, issued on 27 February AD 380 by three reigning Roman Emperors, made Nicene Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire.
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.
With the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 AD, Emperor Theodosius I made Nicene Christianity the Empire's state religion. The Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Catholic Church each claim to stand in continuity with the church to which Theodosius granted recognition, but do not look on it as specific to 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 with the Oriental Orthodox miaphysites, the Iconoclast controversy, the Photian schism, the Great Schism between East and West, and the Hesychast controversy. The period after the Second World War 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.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Catholic Ecumenical Councils.
... 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.