THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA
The Da Vinci Code is not the first book to make more out of The Council of Nicaea than what actually took place. Many charges are made about what took place in 325 A.D. at this council. Consider what The Da Vinci Code says took place at the Council of Nicaea:
“At this gathering many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon–the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus.” (233)
“My dear until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet…a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.” (233)
“Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.” (233)
“Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned.” (234)
“More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relatively few were chosen for inclusion–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.” (231)
History records that the Council of Nicaea was not deciding which gospels belonged in the Bible or to vote making Jesus the Son of God. At the time, there were two groups within Christianity arguing about the nature of Jesus. Athanasius argued for the full deity of Jesus but Arius argued that Jesus was a created being, not God in human flesh. One can quickly recognize that Arius was teaching a form of the doctrine known as Gnosticism, a growing false doctrine if the early centuries. Constantine called the Council together because of the disputing between these two ideologies. The location of the gathering was the town of Nicaea, hence the gathering was called “The Council of Nicaea.” The purpose of this council was not to unify the empire under one religion nor was it to declare Jesus as divine. Rather, these church leaders gathered to consider what the scriptures teach about Jesus.
Wikipedia.com describes the purpose of the Council like this: “The purpose of the council was to resolve disagreements in the Church of Alexandria over the nature of Jesus in relationship to the Father: in particular whether Jesus was of the same or of similar substance as God the Father.”
Notice how The Da Vinci Code distorts what was under consideration at the Council. The divinity of Jesus was not under consideration. No one disputed that Jesus is God. The question was: how was Jesus God? Arius said that Jesus was a created God. No one questioned the divinity of Jesus. The dispute was how Jesus was divine in relation to God the Father.
The Da Vinci Code goes on and on about how no one in the first couple centuries thought Jesus was God and how the Council of Nicaea made Jesus divine from a mortal prophet by a vote. Open any encyclopedia and you will see that this is simply fabrication.
Dan Brown’s novel further states that establishing Jesus as divine came down to a close vote. This is an outright lie. First, as we have noted, the Council did not vote upon whether or not Jesus was divine. There was no question that Jesus is divine. But even if this had been the question, the vote was not close. Out of over three hundred church leaders, only two refused to sign the Nicene Creed which described Jesus as “true God from true God.” Two abstained from signing the document that over 300 others signed, but this is a close vote? Nice try, but we have caught Dan Brown in yet another lie about history.
The Da Vinci Code brings out these charges in an effort to prove that the Roman Catholic Church had been engaged in a cover up about Mary and distorted the true Jesus. But the Roman Catholic Church as we know it today, with a hierarchy of bishops, archbishops, and a pope, emerged gradually over hundreds of years and did not exist all at once. The Council of Nicaea did not establish the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, in 325 A.D. the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church had not come into being but was still gradually forming.
I hope the Catholic Church can see the bind they are in concerning the charges of this novel. The Roman Catholic Church claims to have existed from the very beginning in 30 A.D. But to make this declaration leaves it open to charges that the various councils were establishing doctrines and eliminating teachings that did not conform to their orthodoxy. If one believes that the Roman Catholic Church determined the canon of the Bible, then the book rightly questions why the Catholic Church omitted other gospels like the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, and Gospel of Judas. The Roman Catholic Church must face the music and come up with an answer for themselves.
The truth is that the Roman Catholic Church did not establish which books would be in the Bible and which would not. The Roman Catholic Church would lead one to believe they gave the world the Bible at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., but history shows otherwise. Most people do not realize that the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were solidly established and recognized over 100 years before the Council of Nicaea. The Council of Nicaea did not establish anything new. The Council simply reaffirmed what was already widely accepted. In our upcoming lessons we will be able to look at this history in greater detail. Irenaeus wrote Against Heresies in 180 A.D. and declared that only the four gospels were from God. I do not have the space to quote him here, but I will quote Origen (185-254 A.D.) who also wrote over 100 years before the Council of Nicaea:
“I know a certain gospel which is called “The Gospel according to Thomas” and a “Gospel according to Matthias,” and many others have we read–lest we should in any way be considered ignorant because of those who imagine they possess some knowledge if they are acquainted with these. Nevertheless, among all these we have approved solely what the church has recognized, which is that only the four gospels should be accepted.”
The Council of Nicaea did not established the four gospels because Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were already established and recognized as from God while the other “gospels” were considered spurious. The truth is in history, not in the claims of the Roman Catholic Church nor Dan Brown.