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First Nicene Council

The First Council of Nicea was an important cornerstone in the development of the Christian Church, as it was the first ecumenical (or general) council of Christian bishops. During the Council of Nicea, also referred to as the Nicene Council, the first uniform doctrine of Christianity – the Nicene Creed – was developed, establishing the foundation for future canons.

Roman Emperor Constantine summoned the council, to which he invited some 1800 bishops, approximately 1000 of whom were from the eastern Roman Empire and 800 of whom were from the West. Of these bishops, 250 to 300 bishops attended, coming from all regions of the Roman Empire, except for Britain.

Held in Nicea in Bithynia (modern day Turkey) in 325 CE, the Roman Emperor Constantine summoned the conference in response to growing conflict within the Christian Church. This conflict stemmed from opposing views that gained momentum during the early fourth century with regard to the relationship between God and Jesus Christ.

One school of thought, known as Arianism, held that Jesus Christ was spiritually inferior to God. Espoused by such religious figures as bishop Hosius of Córdoba, Arianism was a Christian movement that believed that God and Jesus did not exist together eternally and that because Jesus was a creation of God, that Jesus was not equal to Him. This view was held in opposition to Trinitarian beliefs, which were affirmed by the Nicene Council. Trinitarians believed that Jesus was, like God, eternal and that Jesus too held a central role in the Creation.

In addition to establishing the theological centrality of Jesus in Christianity, the Nicene Council also led to the creation of the Nicene Creed. Considered to be the most widely known statement of Christian faith, the Nicene Creed is still in use today by various denominations of the Christian faith, including the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. In the Nicene Creed, the belief in one God (monotheism) is expressed, as is the belief in Jesus as God’s son. Furthermore, the Nicene Creed affirms the Christian belief in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, as well as in the second coming.

The First Nicene Council also resulted in a more formal division between the Christian Passover (Easter) and the Jewish Passover. While Easter is rooted in the Jewish Passover because Jesus was crucified during Passover, by the year 300, most Christians had placed an increased focus on the resurrection, and had thus begun celebrating the feast on the Sunday after Passover.

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