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Early Christian Church Councils

The first Council of the Christian Church took place in Jerusalem and included all of Christ's Apostle's (Acts 15:1-29). Also in attendance were Paul, Barnabus,
Silas, Barsabbas and others. This Jerusalem Council is not counted in the ecumenical councils of the Church which began after the Roman persecutions ended, and of which seven are considered binding by both the eastern and western churches.

The first seven ecumenical Councils (and the Council of Jerusalem) were responsible for fighting off various heresy's which threatened to divide and destroy the Church and their decisions gave us the theological tenents most Christians believe about God and Christ today.

Most of these councils were held in the eastern part of the empire, i.e., Jerusalem, Nicea, Ephesus, Constantinople, Chalcedon, etc., and the attendee's, though both eastern and western, were predominantly from churches in those areas.

These Councils were:

49 A.D. Council of Jerusalem
325 A.D. Council of Nicea
381 A.D. First Council of Constantinople
431 A.D. Council of Ephesus
451 A.D. Council of Chalcedon
553 A.D. Second Council of Constantinople
680 A.D. Third Council of Constantinople
787 A.D. Second Council of Nicea

The first council of Jerusalem exempted all pagan converts from the laws of Judaism. Since the Church and all the rest of the House of Israel were bound for an exile to Babylon that would last almost 2000 years, this decision had the net effect of exempting all Christians from the laws of the Torah and from virtually all other Jewish restrictions and traditions.

The First Council of Nicea, held in Bithynia in Asia Minor and overseen by the Roman emperor Constantine, proclaimed the true manhood and true divinity of Jesus Christ and decreed the doctrine of the Trinity. It was from this Council that the Nicean Creed was formulated. The Council was held to counter the heresy of Arius who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

In the First Council of Constantinople, belief in the Holy Spirit was added to the Nicene Creed.

The Council of Ephesus was held to counter the heresy of Nestorius. This Council reaffirmed the Church's doctrine of incarnation and its position that the Word of God was made man. Where Nestorius taught that in Jesus there were two separate persons, the Council decreed that in Jesus there was one person with two natures.

Nestorius also taught that Mary was the mother of Christ, but not the mother of God. The Council rejected this idea and upheld the Church's position that Mary was, indeed, the mother of God.

The Council of Chalcedon was held to counter the Monophysite doctrines (which argued against the two natures of Christ) as well as to reaffirm the Church's position in opposing the Nestorians. Chalcedon also clarified the Church's position with respect to it doctrine concerning the true nature of Christ. This Council defined the final elements in the Trinitarian formula by declaring that Christ existed in two natures, without mixture or change, without division or separation, but that His two natures were held in union in one person without losing the separate distinction of either nature. Held in Bythinia in Asia Minor, the Council of Chalcedon was attended by 600 mostly eastern bishops.

The Second Council of Constantinople was held to counter the continuing heresy of the Nestorians



In 869 A.D. a fourth Council of Constantinople was held to try to avert a schizm which had developed between the western and eastern churches over a western decision to place the phrase 'and from the son' into the Nicaen Creed regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit. The Greeks felt that the Holy Spirit came only from the Father. The Western Church, bowing to centuries of pressure, finally inserted into the creed the Church's official position that the Holy Spirit came to us through both the Father and the Son. The term used was called 'Filioque'.

The ensuing controversy split the western and eastern churches into two opposing camps, where they have remained ever since.

See Also:

Church Creeds

Fundamental Doctrines


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