The early Christian ecumenical councils were the conferences of the bishops which represented the whole Church. It is known that there are three major branches of the Christian Church: Orthodox Church, Catholic Church and Protestant Church. They recognize seven early ecumenical councils which include the following ones: the Council of Nicaea that took place in 325 AD, the Council of Constantinople that was held in 381 AD, The Council of Ephesus ”“ 431 AD, the Council of Chalcedon which was held in 451 AD,The Council of Constantinople II that occurred in 553,The Council of Constantinople III ”“ in 680 AD, The Council of Nicaea II which took place in 787 AD. The above mentioned early ecumenical councils represented different ways of understanding the nature of Jesus, but, eventually, created the major standards of the Christian doctrine.
My goal in this paper is to discuss how the early ecumenical councils developed the Church’s understanding of the nature of Jesus.
The first Ecumenical Council which took place in Nicaea, Asia Minor had the major task ”“ to discuss the issue concerning the nature of Jesus, namely the relation between the Father and the Son. The Roman emperor Constantine called a council which consisted of about 300 bishops who issued the first Ecumenical Creed ”“ Nicene Creed. This creed says that “the creator, God the Father, and the Redeemer, Son of God, were of the same nature, and Jesus is the only begotten of the Father”¯. (Elsaie 25)
It was declared that Christ is equal to the Father, or in other words Jesus is of the same substance as the Father. This Council proved the fact of duality of God. (Mueller 12)
The Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople issued a new version of Nicene Creed where it was told that Jesus is “begotten of the Father before all worlds”¯. Special attention was paid to the role of Holy Spirit. The council discussed the concept of the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This dogma was agreed as a Church doctrine. The emperor Theodosius the Great convened this council. (Davis 27)
The Third Council of Ephesus held in 431 AD discussed the nature of Christ in the following way. The Council stated that Jesus was one person but not two persons: God and man who had his soul and his body. It was also said the Virgin Maria gave birth to God as a man. The Council told about the union of Jesus. (Davis 52)
The Forth Council of Chalcedon was held in Bithynia, in 451. It stated that there were two different natures in Jesus Christ which were united “without any confusion, change, division or separation”¯. The Council issued the Chalcedonian Creed which gave description of full humanity and divinity of Jesus. The doctrine stated that the divine nature and the human nature are united in Jesus. (Dulles 2)
The Fifth Council of Constantinople II was held by the Roman emperor Justinian in 553 AD. It is known that in theological sources, this Council is called “the council of acclamation”¯. It is also known that this council stated that “God died”¯, while the third council stated that “God was born”¯. (Elsaie 71)
The Sixth Council of Constantinople III was held in 680 AD. It discussed the dual nature of Jesus Christ. Moreover, this Council explored the issue concerning the will of Jesus. It was stated that Jesus has two wills ”“ a divine will and a human will. This Council stated that Jesus is both divine and human. (Davis 37)
The Seventh Council of Nicaea II which was held in 787 discussed the role of icons which became the acceptable images to warship including the images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Saints and the Angels. It is known that the monotheistic religion of Jesus was transformed to a polytheistic one. (Davis 52)
In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the nature of Jesus Christ was discussed by the early ecumenical councils in order to develop true Christian doctrines. According to the historical data, all the serious and very important fundamental concepts of the Christian religion were developed by humans who played a significant role in teaching of Jesus Christ. (Elsaie 87)
The early ecumenical councils discussed in this paper establish the major principles and standards of the doctrine of early Christian religion.
The first four ecumenical councils are the most important ones because they discuss and define the major meaning of the Christian faith.
Dulles, A. Saving Ecumenism from Itself. A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life. Issue 178. December, 2007.
Elsaie, A. History of Truth: The Truth about God and Religions. AS Noordeen Press. 2004. Print.
Davis L., The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787): Their History and Theology. Collegeville, Minn. Liturgical Press. 1983. Print.
Mueller, J.J. Theological Foundations: Concepts and Methods for Understanding the Christian Faith. Winona: Saint Mary’s Press, 2007. Print.