Sunday, 4 October 2009
The Council of Nicaea
Today our view of the Christian Faith is determined by what ever Church we were brought up in,whether it be Catholic,Eastern,Anglican or Lutheran.
What all these institutions have in common is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the literal sense of the word.
This was not always the case,prior to The Council of Nicaea in AD 325 there were many different groups with varying belief systems.
In simple terms we may seperate them into two distinct groups. 1.The Literalists who believed every word in the Bible was true as written. 2.The Gnostics whose approach to the Bible was one of allegory that required interpretation achieved through the pursuit of personal knowledge leading to enlightenment.
So therefore the battle lines were drawn in AD 325 when Emperor Constantine convened the council of bishops to determine the future of a state sponsored religion.
We all know today the outcome, but many will be unaware of the purges that followed the establishment of the Catholic Church in Rome and the Eastern Church in Constantinople.
With the power of the Empire behind them the early Catholic Bishops systematically destroyed the Gnostic Church by persecuting it's adherents and wherever possible destroying their literature.
This did not succeed in total since Gnosticism reappears in different guises throughout the history of Christendom,often in the form of sects or secret societies.
The Knights Templar,The Cathars and The Bogomils are just three examples where the pursuit of knowledge was paramount in achieving Christian enlightenment.
Gnostics have much to thank Islam for preserving within the Koran their own belief of Jesus as a man,prophet and Messiah in the traditional Jewish sense.
The great period of Islamic culture which coincided with Europe's Dark Ages preserved and indeed enhanced ancient knowledge which was later reintroduced into Europe during the rennaisance.Knowledge and learning were greatly revered in the Caliphate of Baghdad when Rome was busy burning so-called heretics.
Not until the Twentieth Century was evidence found for the existence of other Gospels and even then only fragments remain of the Gospels of Mary Magdalene,Phillip and Judas. But enough to suggest that there were widely differing interpretations on the teachings of Jesus.
Just imagine one day the deserts of the Middle East may give up the actual writings of Jesus,this indeed would be momentous!