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On Canonicity: The Council of Nicea – Part 4

Posted by Stephen Pidgeon on Friday, May 29, 2015 at 6:00 AM

 

Contrarary to popular opinion, the Council of Nicea did not establish a canonized roster of approved books in its 20 Canons. In summary, the Council reached the following conclusions:

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten (γεννηθέντα), not made, being of one substance (ὁμοούσιον, consubstantialem) with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not (ἤν ποτε ὅτε οὐκ ἦν), or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion — all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.

The Canons (paraphrased)

Canon 1 – Self-castration shall result in no promotion among the clergy.

Canon 2 – Time is needed after conversion and baptism before advancing among the clergy.  Sensual sin attested to by two or three witnesses will result in the cessation of the clerical office.

Canon 3 – No subintroducta can live with any bishop, presbyter, deacon, or any one of the clergy, except only a mother, or sister, or aunt, or such persons only as are beyond all suspicion.

Canon 4 - A bishop should be appointed by all the bishops in the province.

Canon 5 – Those who have been excommunicated cannot be readmitted by others.

Canon 6 – The ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis may continue. No man can be made a bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, with an exception.

Canon 7 – The Bishop of Jerusalem is second to Metropolitan.

Canon 8 – The Catharis who convert may continue in their offices if they profess in writing that they will observe and follow the dogmas of the Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Canon 9 – Presbyters who have committed a crime cannot be presbyters.

Canon 10 – Even if a person has been ordained through ignorance or lapse, once discovered, they are to be deposed.

Canon 11 – Those who fell without compulsion, though they deserve no clemency, shall be dealt with mercifully.  

Canon 12 - Those were called by grace, and cast aside their military girdles, but afterwards regained their military stations); let these, after they have passed the space of three years as hearers, be for ten years prostrators.  

Canon 13 - If any man be at the point of death, he must not be deprived of the last and most indispensable Viaticum, and in the case of any dying person who asks to receive the Eucharist, let the Bishop, after examination, give it to him.

Canon 14 - Concerning catechumens who have lapsed, after they have passed three years only as hearers, they shall pray with the catechumens.

Canon 15 - Neither bishop, presbyter, nor deacon shall pass from city to city

Canon 16 - Neither presbyters, nor deacons, nor any others enrolled among the clergy, shall recklessly remove from their own church. And if anyone shall dare to carry off and in his own Church ordain a man belonging to another, without the consent of his own proper bishop, let his ordination be void.

Canon 17 - Anyone be found to receive usury, shall be deposed from the clergy and his name stricken from the list.

Canon 18 - Let the deacons remain within their own bounds, knowing that they are the ministers of the bishop and the inferiors of the presbyters. Let them receive the Eucharist according to their order, after the presbyters, and let either the bishop or the presbyter administer to them.

Canon 19 - Concerning the Paulianists who have flown for refuge to the Catholic Church, it has been decreed that they must by all means be rebaptized; and if any of them who in past time have been numbered among their clergy should be found blameless and without reproach, let them be rebaptized and ordained by the Bishop of the Catholic Church; but if the examination should discover them to be unfit, they ought to be deposed. Likewise in the case of their deaconesses, and generally in the case of those who have been enrolled among their clergy, let the same form be observed. And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity.

Canon 20 – No kneeling in prayer on the Lord's Day and in the days of Pentecost.

These are the Canons of the Council of Nicea, and further they writeth nought.

The Synodal Letter

To the Church of Alexandria, by the grace of God, holy and great; and to our well-beloved brethren, the orthodox clergy and laity throughout Egypt, and Pentapolis, and Lybia, and every nation under heaven, the holy and great synod, the bishops assembled at Nicea, wish health in the Lord.

Forasmuch as the great and holy Synod, which was assembled at Nicea through the grace of Christ and our most religious Sovereign Constantine, who brought us together from our several provinces and cities, has considered matters which concern the faith of the Church, it seemed to us to be necessary that certain things should be communicated from us to you in writing, so that you might have the means of knowing what has been mooted and investigated, and also what has been decreed and confirmed.

[The denunciation of Arius]

First of all, then, in the presence of our most religious Sovereign Constantine, investigation was made of matters concerning the impiety and transgression of Arius and his adherents; and it was unanimously decreed that he and his impious opinion should be anathematized, together with the blasphemous words and speculations in which he indulged, blaspheming the Son of God, and saying that he is from things that are not, and that before he was begotten he was not, and that there was a time when he was not, and that the Son of God is by his free will capable of vice and virtue; saying also that he is a creature. All these things the holy Synod has anathematized, not even enduring to hear his impious doctrine and madness and blasphemous words. And of the charges against him and of the results they had, you have either already heard or will hear the particulars, lest we should seem to be oppressing a man who has in fact received a fitting recompense for his own sin. So far indeed has his impiety prevailed, that he has even destroyed Theonas of Marmorica and Secundes of Ptolemais; for they also have received the same sentence as the rest.

[Removing authority from Meletius]

But when the grace of God had delivered Egypt from that heresy and blasphemy, and from the persons who have dared to make disturbance and division among a people heretofore at peace, there remained the matter of the insolence of Meletius and those who have been ordained by him; and concerning this part of our work we now, beloved brethren, proceed to inform you of the decrees of the Synod. The Synod, then, being disposed to deal gently with Meletius (for in strict justice he deserved no leniency), decreed that he should remain in his own city, but have no authority either to ordain, or to administer affairs, or to make appointments; and that he should not appear in the country or in any other city for this purpose, but should enjoy the bare title of his rank; but that those who have been placed by him, after they have been confirmed by a more sacred laying on of hands, shall on these conditions be admitted to communion: that they shall both have their rank and the right to officiate, but that they shall be altogether the inferiors of all those who are enrolled in any church or parish, and have been appointed by our most honourable colleague Alexander. So that these men are to have no authority to make appointments of persons who may be pleasing to them, nor to suggest names, nor to do anything whatever, without the consent of the bishops of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, who are serving under our most holy colleague Alexander; while those who, by the grace of God and through your prayers, have been found in no schism, but on the contrary are without spot in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, are to have authority to make appointments and nominations of worthy persons among the clergy, and in short to do all things according to the law and ordinance of the Church. But, if it happen that any of the clergy who are now in the Church should die, then those who have been lately received are to succeed to the office of the deceased; always provided that they shall appear to be worthy, and that the people elect them, and that the bishop of Alexandria shall concur in the election and ratify it. This concession has been made to all the rest; but, on account of his disorderly conduct from the first, and the rashness and precipitation of his character, the same decree was not made concerning Meletius himself, but that, inasmuch as he is a man capable of committing again the same disorders, no authority nor privilege should be conceded to him.

These are the particulars, which are of special interest to Egypt and to the most holy Church of Alexandria; but if in the presence of our most honoured lord, our colleague and brother Alexander, anything else has been enacted by canon or other decree, he will himself convey it to you in greater detail, he having been both a guide and fellow-worker in what has been done.

[Concerning Easter]

We further proclaim to you the good news of the agreement concerning the holy Easter, that this particular also has through your prayers been rightly settled; so that all our brethren in the East who formerly followed the custom of the Jews are henceforth to celebrate the said most sacred feast of Easter at the same time with the Romans and yourselves and all those who have observed Easter from the beginning.

Wherefore, rejoicing in these wholesome results, and in our common peace and harmony, and in the cutting off of every heresy, receive with the greater honour and with increased love, our colleague your Bishop Alexander, who has gladdened us by his presence, and who at so great an age has undergone so great fatigue that peace might be established among you and all of us. Pray also for us all, that the things which have been deemed advisable may stand fast; for they have been done, as we believe, to the well-pleasing of Almighty God and of his only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

Source. Translated by Henry Percival. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900.)

We now see the origin of the doctrine of Easter, being obtained by a consensus and agreement between the Bishops so that those of the East who were practicing the so-called feasts of the Jews, such as Pecach (Passover), Matsah (Unleavened Bread), Bikoor (First Fruits), Sheva’oth (Pentecost), Teruah (Trumpets), Kippuriym (Atonement), and Sukkoth (Booths), would abandon those practices to join with the Romans who had been practicing the feast of Ishtar (Easter) prior to their conversion to Christianity. 

Paragraph two tells us why.  First, we have the claim for common peace and harmony.  This age-old saw concerning peace and harmony always begs the question: who yields and who doesn’t?  How many of us would be willing to embrace Islam, for instance, for the sake of peace and harmony, and after doing so, would you have peace and harmony?  (Frankly, the consensus could be 99.99%, and I still would refuse to join).  Unity at what price?  And to which doctrine shall we be unified?

Here, because of a robust anti-Jewishness present at the Council, the self-appointed clergy determined to abandon the express teachings of Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23, and instead embrace the Babylonian pagan practice of the feast of the fertility goddess Ishtar.

The second identified reason to abandon the biblical Sabbaths and to embrace the Babylonian fertility goddess ritual was to cut off every heresy.  One wonders how embracing a Roman pagan feast at the expense of scriptural mandates can be called the cutting off of heresy; however, by the time we reach this Council, the works of Marcion were already present.  These works include 11 books which included his personal rewrite of the gospel of Luke, and 10 (not 14) epistles of Paul, at least two of which were notorious forgeries (the Epistle to the Alexandrians and the Epistle to the Laodiceans).  Marcion, by 180 AD, had moved even beyond his creation of a new god, and had begun to embrace Gnosticism (which at its root, rejected that MASHIACH came in the flesh), which resulted in his expulsion from the community of believers.

I submit to you that this cutting off of heresy had to do with a continual pursuit to twist the words of the letters of the New Testament to reach the desired anti-Jewish path, ignoring the plain genealogy of MASHIACH set forth in Mattithyahu 1 and Lucas 3, both of which demonstrate his heritage as a direct descendent of both Yahudah and Pheres.  We will discuss the pernicious aspects of this doctrine in future blogs.  

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