101 Cleared-up Contradictions in the Bible

By: Jay Smith, Alex Chowdhry, Toby Jepson, James Schaeffer

“The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” (Proverbs 18:17)

The Charge of Contradiction

Muslims talk often about the many contradictions in the Bible. The number of contradictions vary depending on whom you are talking to. Kairanvi’s Izhar-ul-Haq presents 119 numbered contradictions, while others such as Shabbir Ally have supposedly found 101 contradictions. The problem as they see it concerns their supposition that any religious book claiming absolute divine authority must not include any contradictions, as a message emanating from an Omniscient being must be consistent with itself.

The Muslims quote from the Qur’an (4:82) which says “do they not consider the Qur’an (with care). Had it been from any other than Allah, they would have found there-in many a discrepancy.”

A Definition of Revelation:

In order to respond to this challenge it is important that we begin by recognizing and understanding clearly the presupposition and thinking that underlies such a challenge. The principle of non-contradiction has been elevated to the status of an absolute criterion, capable of being applied by human beings in judging the authenticity of God’s word. This is not a proposition to which Christians can or should give assent. The Christian will gladly admit that scripture is ultimately non-self-contradictory. But the Christian cannot agree that the principle of non-contradiction is given to men as a criterion by which they are to judge God’s word. It is this criterion which the Muslims have imposed upon the discussion of revelation.

This is a mistake which many of us fall into; measuring that which is unfamiliar to us by a standard which is more familiar; in this case measuring the Bible with the standard which they have borrowed from the Qur’an. Their book, the Qur’an, is believed to have been ‘sent down’ (Nazil or Tanzil), from heaven unfettered by the hands of men. It is this belief in scripture as a revelation which has been ‘sent down’ which they then impose upon the Bible as well. But it is wrong for Muslims to assume that the Bible can be measured using the same criteria as that imposed on the Qur’an.

The Bible is not simply one book compiled by one man as the Muslims claim for their Qur’an, but a compilation of 66 books, written by more than 40 authors, over a period of 1500 years! For that reason Christians have always maintained that the entire Bible shows the imprint of human hands. Evidence of this can be found in the variety of human languages used, the varying styles of writing, the differences in the author’s intellects and temperaments, as well as the apparent allusions to the author’s contemporary concepts of scientific knowledge, without which the scriptures would not have been understood by the people of that time. That does not mean, however, that the Bible is not authoritative, for each of the writers received their revelation by means of inspiration.

A Definition of Inspiration:

In 2 Timothy 3:16, we are told that all Scripture is inspired. The word used for inspiration is theopneustos which means “God-breathed,” implying that what was written had its origin in God Himself. In 2 Peter 1:21 we read that the writers were “carried along” by God. Thus, God used each writer, including his personality to accomplish a divinely authoritative work, for God cannot inspire error.

The Bible speaks many times of its inspiration: In Luke 24:27,44; John 5:39; and Hebrews 10:7, Jesus says that what was written about him in the Old Testament would come to pass. Romans 3:2 and Hebrews 5:12 refer to the Old Testament as the Word of God. We read in 1 Corinthians 2:13, “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit.” This is corroborated in 2 Timothy 3:16, as we saw above. In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul when referring to that which he had written says, “…you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the Word of God…” Peter speaks of the inspiration of Paul’s writings in 2 Peter 3:15-16, where he maintains that, “…Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters…” Earlier, in 2 Peter 1:21 Peter writes, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along [moved] by the Holy Spirit.” And then finally in Revelation 22:18,19 the writer John, referring to the book of Revelation states, “…if anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life…”

Charles Wesley summarizes this high view of inspiration brilliantly when he says, “The Bible must be the invention either of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God. However, it was not written by good men, because good men would not tell lies by saying ‘Thus saith the Lord;’ it was not written by bad men because they would not write about doing good duty, while condemning sin, and themselves to hell; thus, it must be written by divine inspiration” (McDowell 1990:178).

How does God inspire the writers? Does He simply move the writers by challenging their heart to reach new heights, much like we find in the works of Shakespeare, Milton, Homer and Dickens, all of which are human literary masterpieces? Or does that which He inspire contain the words of God-along with myths, mistakes and legends, thus creating a book in which portions of the Word of God can be found, along with those of finite and fallible men? Or are the scriptures the infallible Word of God in their entirety? In other words, how, Muslims will ask, is this inspiration carried out? Does God use mechanical dictation, similar to that which we find claimed for the Qur’an, or does He use the writers own minds and experiences?

The simple answer is that God’s control was always with them in their writings, such that the Bible is nothing more than “The Word of God in the words of men” (McDowell 1990:176). This means that God utilized the culture and conventions of his penman’s milieu, a milieu that God controls in His sovereign providence. Thus history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth. Differences between literary conventions in Bible times and in ours must also be observed: Since, for instance, nonchronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers. When total precision of a particular kind was not expected nor aimed at, it is no error not to have achieved it. Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.

The truthfulness of Scripture is not negated by the appearance in it of irregularities of grammar or spelling, phenomenal descriptions of nature, reports of false statements (for example, the lies of Satan), or seeming discrepancies between one passage and another. It is not right to set the so-called ‘phenomena’ of Scripture against the teaching of Scripture about itself. Apparent inconsistencies should not be ignored. Solution of them, where this can be convincingly achieved (as we have attempted in this paper), will encourage our faith. However, where for the present no convincing solution is at hand we shall significantly honor God by trusting His assurance that His Word is true, despite these appearances, and by maintaining our confidence that one day they will be seen to have been illusions.

This is not a blind hope. For instance, a century ago there were about 100 parts of the body whose function were mysterious to doctors, and people would say “This is proof of evolution as these are left over parts which we don’t need anymore”. However, because of on-going and diligent research we are now left with only one organ in the body which appears to be redundant. In time, perhaps we will find a use for that organ as well. This principle can also be

seen with the Bible. So many ‘discrepancies’ have also been cleared up due to greater research and understanding. Had Shabbir been around a century or even 25 years ago his list could easily have been 1001 contradictions. As new data is uncovered, we are continually finding answers to many of the historical mysteries. Therefore we have every reason to believe that, in God’s time, the rest will be solved as well.

We are fully aware that the Christian criteria for revelation is not acceptable to Muslims, as it is in seeming conflict with their own. Yet, by simply measuring the Bible against the nazil or Tanzil (‘sent down’) concept which they claim for their Qur’an, Muslims condemn themselves of duplicity, since they demand of the New Testament that which they do not demand of the previous revelations, the Taurat and Zabuur, though both are revered as equally inspired revelations by all Muslims. Muslims believe that Moses wrote the Taurat and David the Zabuur. However, neither claimed to have received their revelations by a means of a nazil (‘sent down’) transmission. So why insist on such for the New Testament, especially since the document makes no such claim itself?

The underlying reason perhaps lies in the belief by Muslims that the Qur’an, because it is the only revelation which came “unfettered” by human intervention, is thus the truest and clearest statement of Allah’s word, and therefore supersedes all previous revelations, even annulling those revelations, as they have supposedly been corrupted by the limitations of their human authors.

Left unsaid is the glaring irony that the claim for a nazil revelation for the Qur’an comes from one source alone, the man to which it was supposedly revealed, Muhammad. Yet there are no external witnesses both before or at the time who can corroborate Muhammad’s testimony. Not even miracles are provided to substantiate his claims, nor are there any known documents of such a Qur’an from the century in which it is claimed to have been revealed (see the paper on the historicity of the Qur’an versus the Bible.)

Even if we were to disregard the historical problems for early Qur’ans, a further problem concerns the numerous Muslim traditions which speak of the many differing copies of Qur’anic codices which were prevalent during the collating of the Uthmanic recension of the Qur’an in the mid-seventh century, and that the conflicting copies were all destroyed, so that we cannot know today whether the Qur’an in our possession was even similar to that which was first revealed.

What Muslims must understand is that Christians have always maintained that the Word of God, the Bible, was indeed written by men, but that these men were always under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Whereas the Qur’an is alleged to be free of any human element, God in the Bible deliberately chose to reveal His Word through individuals who were inspired prophets and apostles, so that His Word would not only be conveyed to humanity correctly, and comprehensively but would be communicated to their understanding and powers of comprehension as well. This the Qur’an cannot do if it has no human element, as is generally alleged.

There are other problems with the contention maintained by Muslims that the Bible is full of contradictions. For instance, what then will Muslims do with the authority which their own Qur’an gives towards the Bible?

The Qur’an gives authority to the Bible:

The Qur’an, itself, the highest authority for all Muslims, gives authority to the Bible, assuming its authenticity at least up to the seventh-ninth Centuries. Consider the following Suras:

Sura Baqara 2:136 points out that there is no difference between the scriptures which preceded and those of the Qur’an, saying, “…the revelation given to us…and Jesus…we make no difference between one and another of them.” Sura Al-I-Imran 3:2-3 continues, “Allah…He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus)…as a guide to mankind.” Sura Nisaa 4:136 carries this farther by admonishing the Muslims to, “…Believe…and the scripture which He sent before him.” In Sura Ma-ida 5:47,49,50,52 we find a direct call to Christians to believe in their scriptures: “…We sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him. We sent him the Gospel… Let the people of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein, if any do fail to judge by the light of what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel…” Again, in Sura Ma-ida 5:68 we find a similar call: “People of the Book!…Stand fast by the law, the Gospel, and all revelation that hath come to you from YOUR LORD. It is the revelation that has come to thee from THY LORD.”

To embolden this idea of the New and Old Testament’s authority we find in Sura 10:94 that Muslims are advised to confer with these scriptures if in doubt about their own, saying: “If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee. The truth had indeed come to thee from thy Lord.” And as if to emphasize this point the advice is repeated in Sura 21:7, stating, “…the apostles We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration. If ye realize this not, Ask of those who possess the message.”

Finally, in Sura Ankabut 29:46 Muslims are asked not to question the authority of the scriptures of the Christians, saying, “And dispute ye not with the people of the book but say: We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and that which came down to you.”

If there is anything in these Suras which is clear, it is that the Qur’an emphatically endorses the Torah and the Gospel as authentic and authoritative revelations from God. This coincides with what Christians believe, as well.

In fact, nowhere is there any warning in the Qur’an that the former scriptures had been corrupted, nor that they were contradictory. If the Qur’an was indeed the final and complete revelation, if it was the seal of all former revelations the Muslims claim, than certainly the author of the Qur’an would have included a warning against that which had been corrupted in the earlier scriptures. But nowhere do we find even a hint that the Bible was contradictory, or indeed that it was corrupted.

There are some Muslims, however, who contend that according to sura 2:140 the Jews and Christians had corrupted their scriptures. This aya says (referring to the Jews), “…who is more unjust than those who conceal the testimony they have from Allah…?” Yet, nowhere does this aya state that the Jews and Christians corrupted their scriptures. It merely mentions that certain Jews have concealed “the testimony they have from Allah.” In other words the testimony is still there (thus the reason the afore-mentioned suras admonish Muslims to respect the former scriptures), though the adherents of that testimony have chosen to conceal it. If anything this aya is a ringing endorsement to the credibility of those former scriptures, as it assumes a testimony from Allah does exist amongst the Jewish community.

God does not change His Word

Furthermore, both the Christian scriptures and the Muslim Qur’an hold to the premise that God does not change His word. He does not change His revelation (despite the law of abrogation found in the Qur’an). Sura Yunus 10:64 says, “No change can there be in the words of Allah.” This is repeated in Sura Al An’am 6:34: “There is none that can alter the words of Allah,” found also in Sura Qaf 50:28,29.

In the Bible we, likewise, have a number of references which speak of the unchangeableness of God’s word; such as, Deuteronomy 4:1-2; Isaiah 8:20; Matthew 5:17-18; 24:35; and Revelation 22:18-20.

If this is the recurring theme in both the Bible and the Qur’an, it is hardly likely that we would find a scripture with such a multiplicity of contradictions which Muslims claim are found in the Bible.

What then should we do with the contradictions which the Muslims claim are there?

Contradictions analyzed:

When we look at the contradictions which Muslims point out we find that many of these errors are not errors at all but either a misunderstanding of the context or nothing more then copyist mistakes. The former can easily be explained, while the latter need a little more attention. It is quite clear that the books of the Old Testament were written between the 17th and the 5th century BC on the only parchments available at that time, pieces of Papyrus, which decayed rather quickly, and so needed continual copying. We now know that much of the Old Testament was copied by hand for 3,000 years, while the New Testament was copied for another 1,400 years, in isolated communities in different lands and on different continents, yet they still remain basically unchanged.

Today many older manuscripts have been found which we can use to corroborate those earlier manuscripts. In fact we have an enormous collection of manuscripts available to which we can go to corroborate the textual credibility of our current document. Concerning the New Testament manuscripts (MSS) we have in our possession 5,300 Greek manuscripts or fragments thereof, 10,000 Latin Vulgate manuscripts and at least 9,300 other early translations. In all we now have more than 24,000 manuscript copies or portions of the New Testament from which to use! Obviously this gives us much more material with which to delineate any variant verses which may exist. Where there is a variant reading, these have been identified and expunged and noted as footnotes on the relevant pages of the texts. In no way does this imply any defects with our Bible (as found in the original autographs).

Christians readily admit, however, that there have been ‘scribal errors’ in the copies of the Old and New Testament. It is beyond the capability of anyone to avoid any and every slip of the pen in copying page after page from any book, sacred or secular. Yet we may be sure that the original manuscript (better known as autograph) of each book of the Bible, being directly inspired by God, was free from all error. Those originals, however, because of the early date of their inception no longer exist.

The individuals responsible for the copying (scribes or copyists) were prone to making two types of scribal errors, well known and documented by those expert in the field of manuscript analysis. One concerned the spelling of proper names (especially unfamiliar foreign names), and the other had to do with numbers. The fact that it is mainly these type of errors in evidence gives credence to the argument for copyist errors. If indeed the originals were in contradiction, we would see evidence of this within the content of the stories themselves. (Archer 1982:221-222)

What is important to remember, however, is that no well-attested variation in the manuscript copies that have come down to us alter any doctrine of the Bible. To this extent, at least, the Holy Spirit has exercised a restraining influence in superintending the transmission of the text.

Since God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture, it is necessary to affirm that only the autographic text of the original documents were inspired. For that reason it is essential that we maintain an ongoing textual criticism as a means of detecting any slips that may have crept into the text in the course of its transmission. The verdict of this science, however, is that the Hebrew and Greek text appears to be amazingly well preserved, so that we are amply justified in affirming, with the Westminster Confession, a singular providence of God in this matter and in declaring that the authority of Scripture is in no way jeopardized by the fact that the copies we possess are not entirely error-free.

Similarly, no translation is or can be perfect, and all translations are an additional step away from the autograph. Yet the verdict of linguistic science is that English-speaking Christians, at least, are exceedingly well served in these days with a host of excellent translations and have no cause for hesitating to conclude that the true Word of God is within their reach. Indeed, in view of the frequent repetition in Scripture of the main matters with which it deals and also of the Holy Spirit’s constant witness to and through the Word, no serious translation of Holy Scripture will so destroy its meaning as to render it unable to make its reader “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15)”

With that in mind let’s now take a look at the examples forwarded by Shabbir Ally in his pamphlet to better ascertain whether or not the scriptures can stand the test of authority espoused above?

While answering the below challenges it has proven obvious to the four of us that Shabbir made a number of errors in his reasoning which could easily have been rectified had he simply looked at the context. This may offer us an idea as to why Muslims in general seem so fond of looking for, and apparently finding “contradictions” in the Bible – most of which are very easily explained by appealing to the context. When we look at the Qur’an we are struck with the reverse situation, for the Qur’an has very little context as such to refer to. There is little narration, and passages interject other passages with themes which have no connection. A similar theme is picked up and repeated in another Sura, though with variations and even at times contradictory material (i.e. the differing stories of Abraham and the idols found in Suras 21:51-59 and 6:74-83; 19:41-49). It stands to reason, then, that Muslims fail to look in their Holy Book for other passages to derive a context. Is it no wonder that they decline to do the same with the Bible.

On the second page of his booklet “101 Clear Contradictions in the Bible”, Shabbir Ally states “Permission Granted! Please copy this booklet and spread the truth.”

We, the authors of this paper, have been delighted to fulfil this request of Mr. Ally. Although we have not directly copied all his words, we have reproduced his alleged contradictions in this booklet and replied to them. Therefore, through these rebuttals we are doing what Shabbir has asked, spreading the truth! Showing the firm foundation of the Bible, which is the truth.

Please weigh the words of Mr. Ally against the rebuttals found herein.

You will note that a number of the questions contain more then one answer. This is done to show that there are different ways to understand a seeming problem in the Biblical text.

1. Does God incite David to conduct the census of his people (2 Samuel 4:1), or does Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1)?

(Category: misunderstood how God works in history)

This seems an apparent discrepancy unless of course both statements are true. It was towards the end of David’s reign, and David was looking back over his brilliant conquests, which had brought the Canaanite, Syrian, and Phoenician kingdoms into a state of vassalage and dependency on Israel. He had an attitude of pride and self-admiration for his achievements, and was thinking more in terms of armaments and troops than in terms of the mercies of God.

The Lord therefore decided that it was time that David be brought to his knees, where he would once again be cast back onto the mercy of God. So he let him go ahead with his census, in order to find out just how much good it would do him, as the only thing this census would accomplish would be to inflate the national ego (intimated in Joab’s warning against carrying out the census in 1 Chronicles 21:3). As soon as the numbering was completed, God intended to chasten the nation with a disastrous plague which would bring about an enormous loss of life (in fact the lives of 70,000 Israelites according to 2 Samuel 24:15).

What about Satan? Why would he get himself involved in this affair (according to 1 Chronicles 21:1) if God had already prompted David to commit the folly he had in mind? It seems his reasons were entirely malicious, knowing that a census would displease the Lord (1 Chronicles 21:7-8), and so he also incited David to carry it through.

Yet this is nothing new, for there are a number of other occurrences in the Bible where both the Lord and Satan were involved in soul-searching testings and trials:

  1. In the book of Job, chapters one and two we find a challenge to Satan from God allowing Satan to bring upon Job his calamities. God’s purpose was to purify Job’s faith, and to strengthen his character by means of discipline through adversity, whereas Satan’s purpose was purely malicious, wishing Job as much harm as possible so that he would recant his faith in his God.
  2. Similarly both God and Satan are involved in the sufferings of persecuted Christians according to 1 Peter 4:19 and 5:8. God’s purpose is to strengthen their faith and to enable them to share in the sufferings of Christ in this life, that they may rejoice with Him in the glories of heaven to come (1 Peter 4:13-14), whereas Satan’s purpose is to ‘devour’ them (1 Peter 5:8), or rather to draw them into self-pity and bitterness, and down to his level.
  3. Both God and Satan allowed Jesus the three temptations during his ministry on earth. God’s purpose for these temptations was for him to triumph completely over the very tempter who had lured the first Adam to his fall, whereas Satan’s purpose was to deflect the saviour from his messianic mission.
  4. In the case of Peter’s three denials of Jesus in the court of the high priest, it was Jesus himself who points out the purposes of both parties involvement when he says in Luke 22:31-32, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.
  5. And finally the crucifixion itself bears out yet another example where both God and Satan are involved. Satan exposed his purpose when he had the heart of Judas filled with treachery and hate (John 13:27), causing him to betray Jesus. The Lord’s reasoning behind the crucifixion, however, was that Jesus, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world should give his life as a ransom for many, so that once again sinful man could relish in the relationship lost at the very beginning, in the garden of Eden, and thereby enter into a relationship which is now eternal.
  6. Jairus’s daughter had a fatal illness.
  7. All that could have been done would already have been: she was as good as dead if not already dead.
  8. Jairus knew that Jesus could both heal her and bring her back from the dead. As far as he was concerned, there was no difference.
  9. Matthew 28:1: ‘At dawnwent to look at the tomb’.
  10. Mark 16:2 ‘Very early…just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb’.
  11. Luke 24:1: ‘Very early in the morning…went to the tomb’.
  12. John 20:1: ‘Earlywhile it was still dark…went to the tomb’.
  13. The sign of the direct object in 1 Chronicals was ‘-t which comes just before “Lahmi” in the sentence order. The scribe mistook it for b-t or b-y-t (“Beth”) and thus got BJt hal-Lahmi (“the Bethlehemite”) out of it.
  14. He misread the word for “brother” (‘-h , the h having a dot underneath it) as the sign of the direct object (‘-t) right before g-l-y-t (“Goliath”). Therefore he made “Goliath” the object of “killed” instead of “brother” of Goliath, as in 1 Chronicles.
  15. The copyist misplaced the word for “weavers” (‘-r-g-ym) so as to put it right after “Elhanan” as his family name (ben Y-‘-r-y’-r–g-ymben ya’arey ‘oregim, “the son of the forest of weavers”, a most improbable name for anyone’s father). In Chronicles the oregim (“weavers”) comes straight after men\r (“a beam of”) – thus making perfectly good sense.
  16. God is not the author of confusion…” (1 Corinthians 14:33)True, God is not the author of confusion. There is very little that is confusing in the Bible. When we understand all the original readings and the context behind them, the confusion virtuallydisappears. Of course we need scholarship to understand everything in there, as we are 2,000 – 3,500 years and a translation removed from the original hearers.But this is no different to the Qur’an. On first (and tenth) readings of the Qur’an there are many things which are not apparent. Take the mysterious letters at the beginning of the suras. It seems that after 1,400 years of scholarship, people can only take a good guess at what on earth they might be there for. Or take the many historical Biblical characters whose stories do not parallel the Bible but seem to originate in second century Talmudic apocryphal writings. This is indeed confusing. However, it is because we can go to the historical context of those writings that we now know that they could not have been authored by God, but were created by men, centuries after the authentic revelation of God had been canonized.
  17. “…A house divided against itself falls” (Luke 11:17)The Bible is not divided against itself. Jesus was talking about a major division, i.e. Satan destroying his own demons. This is far removed from the Bible. A book four times the size of the Qur’an, with the remaining problems able to be counted on your fingers and toes, a 99.999% agreement! That indeed is remarkable!

Are There Predictions of Muhammad in the Old Testament?

Qur’anic translation taken from Abdullah Yusuf Ali.

Muslims and Christians alike agree that Christ’s coming was predicted often in the Old Testament. Yet, if God had intended to send another prophet far greater than He, we should naturally find predictions concerning him there as well. None are to be found. Therefore, without a prediction the sole criteria for Muhammad’s authority rests entirely on the Qur’an. For obvious reasons this kind of circular argument is untenable.

Do we find Muhammad in the Old Testament? According to Suras 7 and 61 Muhammad is predicted in the Old Testament (Taurat). For a long time now, Muslims have tried desperately to find these predictions for their prophet in those scriptures which preceded the Qur’an (the Taurat, Zabuur and the Injil), but to no avail. It is ironic that Muslims are now compelled by their own scripture to establish the credibility of their prophet in the Old Testament.

Muslims Find Muhammad in the Old Testament

Due to the situation which Muslims find themselves in, they have come forward with a series of passages from the Old Testament which they believe point to Muhammad. Outside the Deuteronomy 18 passage (dealt with separately in another study), all of these passages, which supposedly refer to a messenger, fall into four general categories:

  1. This person is someone who used the sword (Psalm 45:2-5; 149; Isaiah 63). However, when we read further, the context in these passages clearly points out that the sword-wielder is not only God, but the Creator, the Lord of Israel and the Lord of Hosts. Few Muslims would be willing to equate these titles with Muhammad.
  2. This person is someone whose lifestyle parallels that of Muhammad’s day (i.e. rides a camel, lives in a desert) (Isaiah 21:7 and 53). Yet the context again refers to both a messenger from Babylon, and a servant who was crushed, pierced, and wounded for others, hardly analogous to Muhammad’s life.
  3. This person is someone whose geographical location coincides with that of Muhammad (Deuteronomy 33:2; Isaiah 63; Habakkuk 3:3). Yet the Mount Paran which they claim to be in Mecca is instead on the Sinai Peninsula, while Bozrah is not Basrah, but modern-day Al-Busairah, situated in Edom, south of the Dead Sea.In Habbakuk 3:3 we read, “God comes from Teman.” Muslims maintain that Teman refers to Islam. To be consistent they must also adhere to the other prophecies concerning Teman. In Jeremiah 49:7 God questions whether there is any wisdom in Teman. Verse 20 says the people of Teman will be aghast at their fate. Ezekiel 25:13 promises that God will lay waste the people of Teman, and God will send fire and consume them (Amos 1:12) and there will be no survivors (Obadiah 8-10). This would imply the destruction of Islam! In reality, when we refer to the Biblical account we find that Teman is not Islam, but a town close to Jericho, in the territory of Edom.
  4. This person is someone whose name has a common root to that of Muhammad (Genesis 49:8-10=Judah; Song of Solomon 5:16=Ahmad; Haggai 2:7=Hemdah). This last category needs further discussion as it is adhered to more resolutely as real proof for a prediction than the others.

Names which point to Muhammad

Muslims believe that all three of these passages use names which can be translated as “praise” (Judah, Ahmad, and Hemdah), and are semantically similar to “Muhammad,” which means “the praised one.” However, in Arabic the verb Hamada (“to praise”) is the root for many words, yet one does not find Muslims substituting “Muhammad” and “Hamada” interchangeably.

Take for instance the very first Sura of the Qur’an. In the second aya (verse) we find, “Praise (al-hamadi) be to Allah.” Do we dare change this to Muhammad? Of course not! That is sacrilege! In Haggai 2:7 Muslims believe Hemdah (“the desire of nations”) comes from the same root as the word “Muhammad.” Yet they must certainly cringe when this word is again used in Daniel 11:37 to refer to a person “desired by women” who is a false god of the heathen.


Song of Solomon 5:16

But perhaps the best example to illustrate the difficulty in exchanging one word for another is found in the Song of Solomon, chapter 5, verse 16. In this passage Muslims claim that the Hebrew word machmad (“altogether lovely”) can be translated “praise” or “Ahmad.” Following is the text of the passage as translated in the Bible (NIV):

Song of Solomon is a poetic love story between the Beloved and her Lover. It is a piece that explores the beauty of a marriage relationship between a king and his wife.

Muslims believe that the adjectival clause “altogether lovely” can be changed to a proper noun, “Muhammad.” The text, they state, should then read, when translated into English:

This rendering, however, begs a number of difficult questions according to the context of the entire book.

  1. Who are the daughters of Jerusalem? Did Muhammad ever court one of his many wives in Jerusalem?
  2. If this is Muhammad, which of his wives is speaking? Was Muhammad ever married to a dark woman he wooed from Lebanon?
  3. Did Muhammad ever claim kingship?

What, then, is this prophecy saying? The stressed words in the text above are the English renderings of the Hebrew word, machmad. Strong’s concordance defines machmad as: desire, desirable thing, a pleasant thing.

So, can machmad signify Muhammad? Wise men allow that when one verse is in doubt it is justified to explain one passage of the Bible by another. The word machmad appears another twelve times in the Old Testament. Since Muslims are so intent on finding the Arabic name of Muhammad in the Hebrew word machmad, it is important that they remain consistent. Therefore, we have printed three of the twelve prophetic verses below and leave it to you to ascertain whether they fit. (Note: we have been consistent in now translating this word as the long-neglected “proper noun” which Muslims claim it to be.)

  1. 1 Kings 20:6
    “Yet I will send my servants to thee tomorrow about this time, and they shall search thy house, and the houses of thy servants; and it shall be, [that] whatever is Muhammad in thy eyes, they shall take [it] in their hand, and carry [it] away.”
  2. Lamentations 1:11
    “All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their Muhammad things for food to relieve the soul: see, O LORD, and consider; for I am become vile.”
  3. Ezekiel 24:21
    “Speak to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the excellence of your strength, the Muhammad of your eyes, and that which your soul pitieth; and your sons and your daughters whom ye have left shall fall by the sword.”

If this mutilation of Scripture seems to you ridiculous, it is meant to be as it shows the quality of the theory behind such an idea. But don’t just take our word for it. Look up the other nine references which employ machmad and see for yourself whether Muhammad would fit. They are: 2 Chronicles 36:19, Isaiah 64:11, Lamentations 1:10, Lamentations 2:4, Ezekiel 24:16, Ezekiel 24:25, Hosea 9:6, Hosea 9:16 and Joel 3:5.

When taken to its logical conclusion it makes a mockery of Hebrew grammar. Why should an adjectival clause be translated a proper noun? Machmad already has a proper noun counterpart, ‘Chemdan’ (or ‘Hemdan’, the eldest son of Dishon of Anah the Horite). If machmad should have been written as a proper noun the author would have written Chemdan.


The Problem with this Exercise

This claim is similar to the issue of the paraclete in the book of John, which Muslims contend is a prophecy of Muhammad. Yet this prophecy in John 14 and 16 refers to the Spirit of God. We find it peculiar that Muslims will, in one text, base their claim on the meaning of one word at the expense of its pronunciation (paracletos versus periclytos) and yet with another text base their claim on the pronunciation of a single word at the expense of its meaning (desire versus praise)!

If these techniques of hermeneutics are justifiable, then wouldn’t it be quite in line to expect to find a substitute for the word paracletos a prophet named “Perry Clinton,” whose name really means “the desired one?” Absurd? Yes! That is the point. Using this technique one can conjure up a prophecy for nearly any prophet one happens to fancy.

Conversely, a Hindu could claim that in Sura 30:1, the word al-rum (for Romans), which can be written Ram, must be referring to the Hindu deity Rama.

A further irony in this whole exercise is that Muhammad is not even his original name. According to Muslim tradition, in his youth Muhammad was called Amin, a common Arab name meaning “faithful, or trustworthy.” Amin was his given name, a masculine form from the same root as his mother’s name “Amina.”


Conclusion

We understand the desire by Muslims to find any prophecy which will give credence to Muhammad, for without it Muhammad has no outside evidence to authenticate his prophethood. That then leaves the authority for the beliefs of over one billion Muslims hanging on the single testimony of just one finite man. We ask, however, that Muslims not twist or attack the Scriptures in order to gain their own agenda. We are constantly amazed that Muslims should be at once both critics and stewards of the Holy Scriptures of Christians and Jews. It would be better to be of one mind.

If Muslims firmly believe the Scriptures are inadequate then they should behave accordingly and abstain from picking and choosing what they like from what they deem a hopelessly inadequate book. We will not insult them for bravely allying with other enemies of the Bible.

But it is hypocrisy to use data from a book they claim is crude and inferior to support an already illogical argument.

If you believe the Scriptures and desire to find prophecies then please come, read them all and learn. Truly submit yourselves, as genuine believers do, to the authoritative and COMPLETE teachings of Scripture as they have been diligently preserved throughout the ages.

Is there a Prediction of Muhammad in the Taurat?

Qur’anic translation taken from Abdullah Yusuf Ali.

Al A’raf 7:157

Text

“Those who follow the apostle, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in the Taurat and the Injil…”

Al Saff 61:6

Text

“…Jesus, the son of Mary said: ‘O children of Israel! I am the apostle of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the Taurat (which came) before me and giving glad tidings of an apostle to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad’.”

Is there a prediction of Muhammad in the Taurat?

Are there predictions concerning Muhammad outside the Qur’an? Have any of the previous Jewish and Christian scriptures spoken about his coming? Some Muslims believe that in the Taurat there is reference to the prophecy which the Qur’an speaks of in Sura 7:157 and 61:6 concerning Muhammad.


*Comparison: Who is the Prophet Like Moses?

Our purpose here is to learn what evidence supports the Muslim claim that it is Muhammad who is “a Prophet like you [Moses].” Who should be the Prophet referred to in these verses — Muhammad or Jesus, the promised Messiah?

In order to support their claim, Muslim apologists have tried to list the criteria that Moses and Muhammad share, saying that both were married and had children, both led battles, both were leaders, etc. What they fail to realise is that any prophet could claim many of these parallels for himself. A handier method would be to identify those attributes which Moses fulfilled which were unique to his ministry and which would necessarily be unique to the One who is “a Prophet like you (Moses).”

Consider these nine comparisons:

MosesMuhammadJesus
The baby Moses was saved by God (Exodus 1:17; Exodus 2:2-10).Muhammad was not saved as a baby. Is he like Moses?The Baby Jesus was saved by God (Matthew 2:16). Isn’t he like Moses?
Moses had a personal relationship with God (Exodus 16:15; 33:13-14; Numbers 9:8-9)God is distant and unknown according to the prophet Muhammad. He never spoke directly with God. Is he like Moses?Jesus was in the presence of God (Matthew 17:2-8). Isn’t he like Moses?
God established Moses in authority like God (Exodus 4:16; 7:1).Nowhere in the Qur’an did God expressly say to Muhammad, “You are like God.” Is he like Moses?Jesus was like God in authority: he forgave sins (only God can forgive sins) (Mark 2:5). Isn’t he like Moses?
Moses was testified by God in the sight of all his people and performed miracles to give him authority (Exodus 7:10-20; 8-12; 9:3-15; 12:29; 14:21-22; 17:6-7; 19:9; 19:17-19; 20:18-22; Deuteronomy 4:10-16; 5:23-26).Nowhere in the Qur’an did God testify for Muhammad in the sight of all his people. He himself said of his critics that since they pronounced not witnesses, they are liars (Sura 24:13). Except for the Qur’an, he performed no miracles. Is he like Moses (Sura 29:50)?The Holy prophet Jesus was testified to by God in the sight of all His people and performed many miracles (Matthew 5:8; 8:14ff; 14:13; Luke 7:11). Isn’t he like Moses?
Moses was transfigured on the occasion of his exposition before God and his face shone (Exodus 34:29). His followers, therefore, feared him; but he called them with love and told them the Word of God (Exodus 23:29-32).Nowhere in the Qur’an is Muhammad ever transfigured. After the angel Gabriel spoke to him we see no such phenomenal sign. His followers honoured him by believing his authority and not God’s. Is he like Moses?Jesus was transfigured and his whole appearance shone. His disciples, therefore, feared him, but he talked to them about about the Word of God revealed in the moment (Mark 9:2,5; Luke 9:29,34; Matthew 17:1-7). Isn’t he like Moses?
Moses prophecied events which were fulfilled (Deuteronomy 18:15-22; 28:15-29,67).Except for alluding to battle victories, Muhammad never prophecied specific events which were fulfilled. Is he like Moses?Jesus prophecied events that were fulfilled (Matthew 24). Isn’t he like Moses?
Moses offered himself before God to take upon himself the sins of all the people (atonement) (Exodus 32:30-32).Nowhere in the Qur’an does the prophet Muhammad offer himself to be an atonement for the sins of his people. Is he like Moses?Jesus offered himself on the cross to take upon himself the sins of all humanity (atonement) (Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 26:28). Isn’t he like Moses?
Moses ordained a religion made up of mercy and the justice of God (Exodus 32:30-32) and later added the forgiveness of sins, by means of an offering for sins – a lamb – in order to be reconciled with God (Leviticus 4:2; 6:24-25; 14:13-lamb; Exodus 12:5; 13-lamb).The prophet Muhammad was openly against the shedding of the blood of a lamb, and taught that sacrifice for one’s sins doesn’t bring forgiveness (Sura Al An’am 6:164; Al Najm 53:38; note also Yusuf Ali number 543). Is he like Moses?Jesus fulfilled the forgiveness for sins by his own death, “as the final Lamb of God,” so that all who believe in His innocent sacrifice have forgiveness for their sins. He is the perfect sacrifice which lasts forever (Hebrews 9:22). Isn’t he like Moses?
Moses was descended from the prophetic line of Jacob, the son of Isaac (Exodus 2:1; 3:15).Muhammad was a descendent of Ishmael (as the Muslims claim), not Jacob. Is he like Moses?Jesus is descended from Jacob by both Joseph and Mary (Matthew 1:2,16; Luke 3:23,34). Isn’t he like Moses?

Contrast: The Prophet Cannot be Muhammad

Can we say that Muhammad is the promised one, this “Prophet like Moses?” From what we have just read, we find that Muhammad was not born in the prophetic line of Moses, had no personal relationship with God, nor was he established in authority by God, as were both Moses and Jesus.

More importantly, the mission of Muhammad was nothing like that of Moses and Jesus, for it was Moses and Jesus who offered themselves as a sacrifice for the sins of their people (Exodus 32:30-32; Deuteronomy 34:10-12; Matthew 26:28).

Most significantly, however, is the fact that, beginning with Moses and ending with Jesus, the means of forgiveness and reconciliation with God were brought about (Leviticus 4:2; 6:24,25; 14;13 and Hebrew 19:22). This is the real criteria for “a Prophet who is like you (Moses).” Many prophets can claim to be like Moses from the standpoint of human reasoning. Only one can claim to be like Moses from the standpoint of God’s reasoning. His desire to save mankind, which Moses first began by bringing the Children of Israel out of captivity from Egypt, and which Jesus finally accomplished by bringing all believers out of captivity from sin 2,000 years ago.


Consideration: This Prophet Must be Jesus

Muhammad can never claim to parallel the essential and unique aspects of Moses’ ministry on earth as Jesus can. Those who worked alongside Jesus and who predated Muhammad by nearly 700 years came to this same conclusion. Consider the following witnesses from John and Luke:

  • John 1:45 “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law….”
  • John 5:46 “If you believed Moses, you would believe me [Jesus], for he wrote about me.”
  • John 6:14 “Surely this [Jesus] is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
  • Acts 3:22 “For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people….'” (i.e. own brothers=sons of Israel.)

Conclusion: Without a Prediction, Where is Muhammad’s Authority?

In order to prove that Muhammad was a true prophet, the Qur’an stipulated that in the Taurat and the Injil predictions concerning him could be found (Suras 7:157 and 61:6). Yet we find none of these prophecies in either the Taurat or the Injil (e.g. John 16:7). What does this say for the authority of Muhammad?

At the heart of the argument, for a Muslim, is the desire to find any external predictions for the coming of Muhammad in the Taurat and the Injil as referred to in Sura 7:157. Without it, the only criteria for Muhammad’s authority is the Qur’an, while the only authority for the Qur’an is Muhammad. This is circular reasoning, which is not a valid scholarly argument. Since the evidence for any prediction by Moses concerning Muhammad does not exist in the Taurat, this creates a problem for Muslims who must produce external criteria for the authenticity of their prophet. Without it, Muhammad has no outside evidence to prove his prophethood.

Furthermore, internally, the Qur’an claims (Sura 29:27) that prophethood belongs solely to the line of Isaac and Jacob, of which Muhammad has no part. Consequently, the authority for the beliefs of over one billion Muslims hangs on the single testimony of one finite man. This solitary man himself admitted his lack of power (Sura 20:49) and sinfulness (Sura 40:55) in contrast with the claim by Jesus to have all power (Matthew 28:18) and to be without sin (I Peter 2:22).

As you read these verses and consider what has been said, you too must come to a conclusion. Based on the evidence before you, you must decide who indeed is the person spoken of in the Taurat, Deuteronomy 18:18: Muhammad or Jesus.

The Council of Nicaea: Purposes and Themes

Anthony N. S. Lane

In tackling this theme we will consider first the sources that are available to us concerning the Council of Nicaea, secondly the purpose for the calling of the council (looking especially at the events which led up to the council), thirdly the events of the council itself, fourthly the official documents of the council (creed canons and letter) and fifthly related letters written concerning the council. Finally we shall review this material in order to draw together some conclusions concerning the purposes and themes of the council.


I. The Sources for the Council

If any official minutes, or Acta, were kept of the Council of Nicaea, these have not survived. But fortunately, that does not mean that we are left in the dark. There are four different types of documents on which we can rely.

First, although there are no minutes, the Creed of the council and its twenty canons, or disciplinary decisions, are preserved in a variety of sources, as is a synodical letter that the council sent to the church of Alexandria. [1]

Secondly, the council is described in a number of church histories from the period. Eusebius of Caesarea, the first church historian, concludes his famous Church History before the time of the council, but he does cover the events in his later Life of Constantine. [2] From the following century there are three important church histories which pick up from where Eusebius left off and which all, at or near the beginning, cover the events of Nicaea. These are by Socrates, Sozomen and Theodoret, [3] all of whom wrote in the 440s. Although they were writing more than a hundred years after the event, they were using contemporary documents, for which they are valuable sources.

Thirdly, although there are no minutes, three of those who were present and deeply involved in events later describe the council. Eusebius of Caesarea’s Life of Constantine, already mentioned, covers the council but completely ignores the theological issues at stake. [4] He does, however, describe the doctrinal discussions in an important letter to his church justifying his own behaviour at the council. [5] Athanasius also describes the events of the council in two of his later works. [6] Finally, Eustathius of Antioch’s account is preserved by Theodoret in his Church History. [7] As Eusebius and Eustathius were bitterly opposed to one another their two rival partisan accounts are valuable for reconstructing the course of the debate.

Finally, there are a few other documents which have survived independently of the above, such as the letter from the earlier Council of Antioch and Constantine’s letter naming Nicaea as the venue for our council.


II. The Prehistory of the Council

Why was there a Council of Nicaea? The sources are clear that the Emperor Constantine called the council in order to bring an end to dissension within the church. In particular, he was concerned about two specific issues which were causing disagreement: Arianism and the date of Easter. [8] Other matters were settled at the council, but these were the two that prompted the calling of the council.

Since the second century there had been rival ways of calculating the date of Easter. [9] Such diversity was tolerable in the pre-imperial persecuted church. It was not tolerable for the new Christian emperor and his imperial church. Constantine was influenced by the old pagan idea of the pax deorum, the idea that the purpose of the state religion was to win the favour of the gods by offering them acceptable worship. Their side of the deal was to bring peace and prosperity to the empire. Constantine the Christian held to a Christianised version of this. It was his duty as emperor to ensure that the Christian God received pure worship from a harmonious and undivided church. Internal harmony is always a greater priority for the politician than the theologian and this was especially true where Constantine was concerned. For the emperor, the primary scandal with Arianism and the diverse dates of Easter was not the fact of error but the fact of division. [10]

The question of the date of Easter needs no further elaboration, but the Arian controversy is more complex. A brief review of the events leading to the council is in order. While the precise dating and order of some of the events is uncertain, what actually happened is clear enough, which is all that is necessary for our purposes. [11]

Some time around AD 318/9 Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, was told about the unorthodox views of Arius, an influential presbyter in the same church. These views concerned the deity of Christ. Here is not the place for a full discussion of Arius’s views or their origin, about which there has been considerable discussion in recent years. [12] Fortunately, there is no serious question about the basic thrust of Arius’s teaching, which is all that needs concern us at present. Arius himself very accurately stated the issue in a letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, a leading bishop who supported him:

We are persecuted, because we say that the Son has a beginning, but that God is without beginning. This is the cause of our persecution, and likewise, because we say that he is of the non-existent. And this we say, because he is neither part of God, nor of any essential being. [13]

The two debated points were whether or not the Son had a beginning and whether or not he was created out of nothing. Behind these is the fundamental issue of the deity of Christ, which Arius denied. For him the Son was not to be identified with God himself but is the first and greatest of God’s creatures. He was made ex nihilo, although Arius (like the Jehovah’s Witnesses today) also affirmed that all of the rest of God’s creation was made through the Son. Since time is an aspect of the created universe, which was made through the Son, the latter existed before all time. [14] But he is not eternal and ‘before his generation he was not.’ The same idea was also expressed in the Arian slogan ‘there was once [before time] when he was not’—~jn pote “ote ohuk ~jn. These are the key points, to which Nicaea responded. Arius was also accused of teaching that the Son was morally mutable and liable to sin and change, [15] that he is called God’s Word and Wisdom only loosely or inaccurately as courtesy titles [16] and that he has no perfect or even direct knowledge of the Father. [17] The first of these is the charge most often repeated and is answered in the Creed of Nicaea.

Alexander took action against Arius, calling a synod of bishops and requiring him to sign a confession of orthodoxy. Arius declined to do so and was excommunicated. Arius and his supporters travelled, seeking and gaining support. Alexander responded by sending out an encyclical letter to all bishops. [18] A council was held in Bithynia which declared Arius orthodox and demanded his restoration by Alexander. Arius also wrote a conciliatory letter to Alexander, with a manifesto of his beliefs. [19] Arius received support from Eusebius of Caesarea and from a council of Palestinian bishops, which protested to Alexander about his treatment of Arius and in turn received a stern reply. Arius thereupon wrote a letter to another Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, [20] whose influence was then considerable since Nicomedia had become the site of an imperial palace. ‘When Eusebius received the epistle, he too vomited forth his own impiety,’ and wrote an important letter to a like-minded bishop, Paulinus of Tyre. [21]

At this point the situation was transformed. Since 312 the western empire had been ruled by the newly converted Constantine, the eastern half by the pagan Licinius. Relations between the two had deteriorated and Licinius began to oppress the church in his domain. Matters came to a head in 324 when Constantine defeated Licinius in battle, becoming sole emperor. At this stage Constantine encountered the Arian controversy. Ever since 312 Constantine had had to wrestle with the Donatist schism, which had split the church in Roman Africa (roughly modern Algeria and Tunisia). He had hoped that the eastern church could help with resolving this dispute. Instead, he found the eastern church itself split over the Arian question. He promptly dispatched his ecclesiastical advisor, the Spanish bishop Hosius of Cordoba, to Alexandria with a letter rebuking Alexander and Arius for their needless squabble and commanding them to agree to differ. [22]

On arriving at Alexandria Hosius saw at once how serious was this dispute. Constantine the politician was concerned for harmony. Hosius the bishop and theologian was concerned for truth. Hosius was totally on Alexander’s side and they organised a council which met at Antioch, early in 325. A letter which appears to be from this council was first identified and published in 1905. [23] That it comes from this council was initially contested, but is now widely accepted. [24] The letter strongly repudiates Arianism, but without using the terms which were to be coined at Nicaea, a strong indication of its pre-Nicene date. All but three of the bishops present accepted the conclusions, the dissidents including Eusebius of Caesarea, the church historian. These three were excommunicated but were also offered ‘the great and priestly synod at Ancyra as a place of repentance and recognition of the truth.’ This last point is the key to understanding Eusebius’s behaviour and role at Nicaea.


III. The Events of the Council [25]

Constantine was not satisfied with the manner in which Hosius had summarily resolved the issue. He sent out a letter to all bishops inviting them to the coming council. The venue he changed from Ancyra to a more westerly location at Nicaea, for three reasons: ‘because the bishops from Italy and the rest of the countries of Europe are coming, and because of the excellent temperature of the air, and’ (the real reason) ‘in order that I may be present as a spectator and participator in those things which will be done.’ [26] He also ‘pledged his word that the bishops and their officials should be furnished with asses, mules, and horses for the journey at the public expense.’ [27]

In due course the council opened on 19 June 325 not, as Socrates mistakenly held, on 20 May, [28] and lasted for two months. There is less certainty about the number of bishops present. There are imperfect copies of the list of bishops who signed at the end. These contain 228 names and do not include all of those known to have been present. [29] Reports of the council refer to ‘more than 250,’ [30] ‘about 270,’ [31] ‘300,’ [32] about 300, [33] ‘over 300,’ [34] ‘about 320,’ [35] and, finally, 318 bishops. [36] This last figure prevailed and became the norm. Its origin has been traced to the mystical significance of the number in Greek and to Genesis 14:14. The variation in numbers may be because not all of the bishops stayed for the duration of the council. Another explanation that has been given is that the Arian bishops were not counted, but only two remained obstinate out of an initial number of seventeen pro-Arians, [37] and the high figure of 318 is clearly meant to refer to the number assenting to the conclusions. There is a later Arabian tradition that over 2000 bishops were present. [38] This may be a simple error or may arise from counting all of those present, whether bishops or not. Theodoret describes how many of the bishops had been physically mutilated in earlier persecutions and comments that ‘the Council looked like an assembled army of martyrs.’ [39] Eusebius also comments on the wide range of nations represented at the council, from countries as far away as Persia, Scythia and Spain. [40] While this may be true, the fact remains that all but a handful of the bishops were from the East, although this did not prevent the council from reaching conclusions highly congenial to the West.

What actually happened at the council? Some of the events are well documented. After his arrival, early in July, Constantine made an oration to the council at a special meeting in his palace in which he, as normal, laid considerable emphasis on the importance of harmony. [41] According to Theodoret, Constantine stressed the normative role of Scripture:

For the gospels, the apostolic writings, and the oracles of the ancient prophets, clearly teach us what we ought to believe concerning the divine nature. Let, then, all contentious disputation be discarded; and let us seek in the divinely-inspired word the solution of the questions at issue. [42]

The question of Easter was amicably resolved. [43] The status of clergy involved in the Melitian schism was also resolved. [44] Constantine met with Acesius, a bishop of the rigorist Novatian schism, which did not believe that those guilty of mortal sins should be restored to communion. Acesius approved the Creed of Nicaea and stated that it contained no new doctrine but the ancient faith. Constantine’s response to his rigorist stance was to urge him to ‘take a ladder and ascend alone to heaven.’ [45]

Another noteworthy incident concerns the attempt to impose celibacy on the clergy. The precise proposal was to forbid those who were married at the time of their ordination from having intercourse with their wives, it being assumed that clergy would not marry after their ordination. The Egyptian bishop Paphnutius, one of whose eyes had been gouged out in the persecutions, earnestly opposed this, stressing that marriage itself is honourable and chaste and warning the council not to impose too strict a burden which would itself give rise to temptation and sin. [46]

Constantine also arranged a splendid banquet at which, according to Eusebius, not one of the bishops was absent. Eusebius’s editor wryly comments that ‘one cannot help noting that the human nature of ancient and modern councils is the same,—much controversy and more or less absenteeism, but all present at dinner.’ [47] Finally, Constantine made a farewell speech to the council, in which he predictably stressed the benefits of peace and harmony. [48] Those at all familiar with the subsequent course of the Arian controversy will be aware how utterly ineffectual this exhortation proved to be.

One matter has not been mentioned: the discussion of the Arian issue and the production of the creed. For this we are largely dependent upon the three eye-witness accounts mentioned earlier. Eustathius states that ‘the formulary of Eusebius was brought forward, which contained undisguised evidence of his blasphemy. The reading of it before all occasioned great grief to the audience, on account of its departure from the faith.’ [49] To which Eusebius does he refer? Eusebius of Caesarea, the church historian, did present a creed as we shall see, but the description better seems to fit the stance adopted by the other Eusebius, of Nicomedia. This is confirmed by Athanasius’s account. He describes the arguments used by the Arian party, referring to them as ‘Eusebius and his fellows.’ He later refers to Eusebius of Caesarea, stating that he was ‘at first an accomplice of the Arian heresy.’ [50] Ambrose later speaks of a letter of Eusebius of Nicomedia being read at the council and provoking a negative reaction. [51] It is not possible to be certain, but it is very likely that Eustathius and Athanasius are describing the arguments put forward by Eusebius of Nicomedia and the Arian party.

What then of the other Eusebius? He duly signed the creed and was so embarrassed at the apparent inconsistency of this (in the light of his earlier teaching) that he hastily wrote a tortuous letter of explanation to his church. [52] He is clearly apprehensive about the reception that he will receive on his return and writes warning them not to pay heed to any rumours that they may have heard. He cites two creeds, one that he had submitted to the council and the Creed of Nicaea. But why should Eusebius have submitted a creed to the council? The answer, which has been realised only since the identification earlier this century of the letter of the Council of Antioch, is that Eusebius had been excommunicated and had been granted at Nicaea ‘a place of repentance and recognition of the truth.’ [53] Eusebius, understandably, does not draw attention to this fact. Eusebius proceeds to affirm his full commitment to the doctrines of the creed that he had submitted. He also goes on to affirm that the teaching of the Creed of Nicaea is identical to his, save only the addition of the single word homoousios, which will be discussed below. He then proceeds to give a blatantly minimising interpretation of the Creed of Nicaea.

Whose idea was the introduction of the word homoousios? Athanasius describes how the bishops first tried to reject Arianism by the use of scriptural terms alone, but found that the Arians could twist whatever terms they used to an unorthodox meaning. So just as the Arians ‘uttered their impieties in unscriptural terms,’ the council responded by condemning them by ‘unscriptural terms pious in meaning.’ [54] But why the word homoousios in particular? Eusebius states that it was proposed by the emperor. [55] Given the former’s considerable unease with the term, he would hardly have enhanced its prestige by attributing it to the emperor unless this was accurate. But why should the emperor have proposed it? There is some evidence to support the theory that it was suggested to him by Hosius, his ecclesiastical advisor, possibly in alliance with Alexander of Alexandria. [56] Constantine played a dominant role at the council and this meant that those who had his ear, especially Hosius, were able to lead events to the conclusion that they desired. The outcome reflected the interests not so much of the emperor as of the western-Alexandrian alliance of Hosius and Alexander.


IV. The Official Documents of the Council

There are three documents that survive from the council: the creed, the canons and a letter to the Egyptian church. There is an alleged decree of the council on Easter which is not generally considered to be authentic. [57]

(a) The Creed of Nicaea

The most important document from the council is undoubtedly the creed. The Creed of Nicaea, often referred to as ‘N,’ is not to be confused with what is today known as the Nicene Creed. The latter originates from the Council of Constantinople (381) and is substantially different. [58] It probably acquired its name because it was seen as a reaffirmation of the faith of Nicaea.

Eusebius, in his letter to his church, states that the council approved his creed with the addition of the single word homoousios. This in the past led some to the erroneous conclusion that Eusebius’s Caesarean creed formed the basis for N, but it is clear that Eusebius is referring to doctrine, not to the use of documents. [59] Nicaea, he alleges, taught no more than does the Caesarean creed with the addition of homoousios.

What, then, was the origin of N? It is now generally accepted that it was produced by starting with a local eastern creed (probably of Syro-Palestinian provenance) and adding to it a number of anti-Arian statements. [60] The actual text is as follows, with the anti-Arian additions in italics: [61]

We believe in one God the Father all powerful, maker of all things both seen and unseen.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten begotten from the Father, that is from the substance of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father, through whom all things came to be, both those in heaven and those in earth; for us humans and for our salvation he came down and became incarnate, became human, suffered and rose up on the third day, went up into the heavens, is coming to judge the living and the dead.
And in the Holy Spirit.
And those who say ‘there once was when he was not,’ and ‘before he was begotten he was not,’ and that he came to be from things that were not, or from another hypostasis or substance, affirming that the Son of God is subject to change or alteration—these the catholic and apostolic church anathematises.

A brief comment on the additions is in order. [62] ‘That is from the substance of the Father’ was added in order to clarify the meaning of ‘begotten from the Father.’ Eusebius of Nicomedia had earlier pointed out that even the dew drops are begotten by God (Job 38:28). [63] The added clause makes it clear that creation is not in mind. The same point is made by the addition ‘begotten not made,’ which makes the contrast explicit. ‘True God from true God’ was added because the Arians followed an older tradition and, citing John 17:3, distinguished between the Father (who is true God) and the Son (who is not). ‘Consubstantial with the Father’ introduces the word homoousios which is the most controversial of the additions. There is much debate about its meaning, but in the present context it should be seen as affirming the full deity of Christ, as do all of the other additions so far.

The statements anathematised had all been made by Arius and/or his followers or were at least attributed to them. The first two deny the eternity of the Son. The first was used by Arians and the second had been used by Arius himself. [64] The next two state that the Son was created ex nihilo or that he came to be from some source other than the Father. [65] So far we have the condemnation of the ideas that the Son had a beginning and was created out of nothing, the points which Arius himself (correctly) identified as crucial to the debate. [66] The last point, that the Son is subject to change or alteration, Arius was accused of teaching [67] but denied. [68] Perhaps Arius held that the Son was changeable by nature (as a creature) but changeless by God’s grace.

(b) The Canons [69]

A simple summary of the canons will serve to give a feel of their character and will also make it clear what subjects are and are not covered in them:

  1. Those who in good health have castrated themselves are banned from the clergy, but this does not apply to those castrated forcibly or for medical reasons.
  2. Those converted from paganism should not be promoted to be presbyters or bishops immediately after their baptism.
  3. Clergy are not to have women living with them, except for a relative or someone who is above suspicion.
  4. Bishops should ideally be appointed by all the bishops of a province and at least by three with the written approval of the others. The metropolitan bishop of the province [70] has the right of confirming the proceedings.
  5. Those excommunicated in one place are not to be admitted elsewhere. Each province should hold a synod twice yearly to consider such cases.
  6. The traditional authority of the bishops of Alexandria, Rome and Antioch is to be preserved. No one may become a bishop without the consent of his metropolitan.
  7. The bishop of Aelia [Jerusalem] is to have his ancient honour, save only the dignity proper to the metropolitan.
  8. Novatianist clergy who come over to the Catholic Church may retain their status after the laying on of hands, if they give a written undertaking to accept the rules of discipline of the Catholic Church. If a Novatianist bishop comes over where there is a Catholic bishop, he will have the rank of presbyter unless the bishop is willing to share the honour of his title.
  9. If anyone has been ordained despite some sin which should have prevented it, with or without having concealed the sin, his ordination is not to be accepted.
  10. Those who have been ordained despite having lapsed under persecution are to be deposed.
  11. Those laity who lapsed without great pressure, if they genuinely repent are to be restored to communion in stages over a period of twelve years.
  12. Those who renounced the army because of their faith and then return to it are to be restored to communion over a period of thirteen years, though the bishop may shorten the time for those who show especial sincerity.
  13. Those at the point of death are not to be denied communion.
  14. Catechumens who lapse are to be readmitted after three years as hearers only.
  15. Clergy are not to transfer from city to city.
  16. Clergy are not to be received in other churches but are to be returned to their own dioceses under pain of excommunication.
  17. Any clergy who in future practise usury are to be deposed.
  18. Deacons are not to give communion to presbyters, nor to receive it before bishops, nor to sit among the presbyters.
  19. Followers of Paul of Samosata who seek to join the Catholic Church are to be rebaptised. Those who have been clergy may, if suitable, be ordained by the Catholic bishop.
  20. On Sundays and during the season of Pentecost one should pray standing and not kneeling.

These are the twenty canons which today are accepted as genuine. Those are the only canons found in the earliest Greek and Latin collections, from the fourth and fifth centuries and it is precisely those canons that are found in medieval collections, both Greek and Latin. But there is an Arabic translation which contains eighty canons [71] or, in some manuscripts, eighty-four canons. What is the origin of these extra canons? Some of them are manifestly later than Nicaea, referring to events which are subsequent to 325 (such as the elevation of Byzantium to imperial and ecclesiastical honour or the appointment of bishops in Ethiopia) and rejecting heresies from later centuries (such as Monophysitism and Monothelitism).

How did these extra sixty canons come to be added? The answer is very simple. From early times it was the practice to collect the canons of different councils into one document. The canons of Nicaea came first and over time some copyists, deliberately or otherwise, neglected to mention the origin of subsequent canons from later councils, thus making it appear that these too were from Nicaea. An early example of this type of mistake came in 417-418 when Pope Zosimus claimed the right to hear appeals from Africa, citing as his authority a canon of Nicaea. The Africans were ignorant of this canon and appeals were made to the East for authentic copies, which confirmed that there were only twenty canons. Zosimus had cited a canon from the later council of Serdica, mistakenly attributing it to Nicaea. [72]

There are other grounds on which it is alleged that Nicaea promulgated more than twenty canons. For example, Jerome states that we read that the Nicene Synod reckoned the Book of Judith as part of Holy Scripture. This is a reference not to a canon of the council but probably to the citation of the book as Scripture at the council. That this does not refer to any binding decision, such as a canon, is shown by the fact that later eastern fathers rejected the canonicity of the Book of Judith and Jerome himself questioned it. [73]

(c) Letter of the council to Egyptian Church [74]

This letter reports on the results of the council, mentioning the condemnation of Arius and of those who sided with him, the treatment of the Melitians and the settlement of the date of Easter.


V. Related Letters Written concerning the Council

(a) Letter of Constantine to the Alexandrian Church [75]

The emperor also wrote personally to the Alexandrian church. He talks of those who had been blaspheming against the Saviour, teaching ‘contrary to the divinely inspired Scriptures.’ He also stresses that ‘that which has commended itself to the judgment of three hundred bishops cannot be other than the doctrine of God; seeing that the Holy Spirit dwelling in the minds of so many dignified persons has effectively enlightened them respecting the divine will.’

(b) Letter of Constantine to those bishops not present at Nicaea [76]

Here Constantine returns to his favourite emphasis on harmony. The council examined the issues, ‘until that judgment which God, who sees all things, could approve, and which tended to unity and concord, was brought to light, so that no room was left for further discussion or controversy in relation to the faith.’ He proceeds to describe the agreement that had been reached on the date of Easter, stressing how unfitting it was to follow Jewish calendrical calculations in this matter and also how scandalous it had been for different Christians to celebrate Easter at different times. There is no mention of Arianism in this letter.

(c) Letter of Constantine about Arius’s Works [77]

This letter relates to the condemnation of Arius, but it is not clear how soon after the council it was issued. In it Constantine orders all of Arius’s writings to be burnt. Anyone concealing a copy of any of his works and not being willing to surrender it is to be subject to the death penalty.

(d) Letter of Constantine to Eusebius of Caesarea concerning the Scriptures [78]

This letter has no connection to the Council of Nicaea, but since it concerns Constantine and the Scriptures it is worthy of mention. Constantine wrote to Eusebius asking him to arrange for the production of ‘fifty copies of the Sacred Scriptures, both legibly described, and of a portable size, the provision of which you know to be needful for the instruction of the Church.’ This command has nothing whatsoever to do with the canon of Scripture but is simply the provision of the funds necessary for the making of extra copies, needed for new churches being built in Constantinople.


VI. Conclusions

What was the purpose of the Council of Nicaea? It was called by the Emperor Constantine with the aim of bringing peace and harmony to the church. The issues that needed to be resolved were the date of Easter and the Arian controversy. The spectacle of public theological disagreement was injuring the Christian cause. ‘To so disgraceful an extent was this affair carried, that Christianity became a subject of popular ridicule, even in the very theatres.’ [79]

Constantine’s concern was above all for unity and harmony. The bishops, while sharing this concern, placed a higher premium on theological truth. For them the resolution of the Arian affair had to preserve the truth of the Gospel as well as the unity of the church. Those who were concerned to maintain the full deity of Christ had every reason to be satisfied with the creed that emerged from the council. But the deity of Christ is just one of the components of the doctrine of the Trinity and judged by this fuller criterion Nicaea is less satisfactory. The doctrine of the Trinity also includes the clear distinction between Father and Son. Not only did Nicaea fail to state this clearly enough for some but some of its leading supporters, such as Eustathius, were not totally orthodox in this area. Nicaea, therefore, while it affirmed the full deity of Christ was not in any way a final resolution of the doctrine of the Trinity. That happened only after another half century of controversy.

What were the achievements of the council? The two original aims were met in that Arianism was condemned and the date of Easter was fixed. Other disciplinary matters were also resolved in the canons of the council.

What did the council decide about the Scriptures? Absolutely nothing. The issue was not raised in any form.


References

  1. These will be cited from Norman P. Tanner (ed.), Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils vol.1 (London: Sheed & Ward and Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 1990) 1-19. Hereafter it will be cited simply as Decrees. They are also to be found in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church Second Series, 14 volumes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971 reprint) 14:1-56. This series was originally published in the 19th century but will be used here because it has the twin advantages of being comprehensive in its coverage and widely available, even on CD ROM. Anyone with access to this series will be able to verify most of what follows below and also to follow up any points of particular interest. Hereafter it will be cited simply as NPNF. References to works cited will be as they are given in this edition, even though chapter numbers sometimes vary slightly from other editions. Some readers may find it easier to refer to J. Stevenson, A New Eusebius (London: SPCK, 1957) or to the later edition of this revised by W.H.C. Frend (London: SPCK, 1987), where the numbering of items has been changed. Items that are found in this work will be cited as NE a/b, where a and b refer to the number of the item in the old and the new editions respectively.
  2. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 2:61-73, 3:4-23 (NPNF 1:515-18,520-26).
  3. Socrates, Church History 1:5-14 (NPNF 2:3-20); Sozomen, Church History 1:15-25 (NPNF 2:251-57); Theodoret, Church History 1:1-15 (NPNF 3:33-54). (Chapter numbers in Theodoret vary from edition to edition.)
  4. While Eusebius mentions the Arian controversy in Book 2, the account of the council in Book 3 makes no mention of Arius or the Arian controversy. A reader who knew only Eusebius’s Life of Constantine might not realise that the council had anything to do with the Arian issue.
  5. Athanasius, Defence of the Nicene Definition 33(NPNF 4:74-76); Socrates, Church History 1:8 (NPNF 2:10-12); Theodoret, Church History 1:11 (NPNF 3:49-51); NE 301/291.
  6. Athanasius, Defence of the Nicene Definition (NPNF 4:150-72 + 74-76) and his synodical letter To the Bishops of Africa (NPNF 4:489-94) include description of events at Nicaea.
  7. Theodoret, Church History 1:7 (NPNF 3:44).
  8. These two reasons are mentioned by Athanasius, To the Bishops 2 (NPNF 4:490); Socrates, Church History 1:8 (NPNF 2:8); Sozomen, Church History 1:16 (NPNF 2:252f.).
  9. For a brief account, cf. E. Ferguson (ed.), Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (Chicago & London: St James Press, 1990) 696.
  10. This is especially evident in Constantine’s letter to Alexandria prior to the council (Eusebius, Life of Constantine 2:64-72 (NPNF 1:515-18); Socrates, Church History 1:7 (NPNF 2:6f.); NE 297/287).
  11. The order and dating followed here is that of R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988) 129-51, which follows the work of H.G. Opitz who published an important collection of original documents. For a slightly different reconstruction, see R. Williams, Arius. Heresy and Tradition (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1987) 48-61.
  12. See, e.g., Williams, Arius, 95-178; Hanson, Search, 3-128.
  13. Theodoret, Church History 1:4 (NPNF 3:41); NE 293/283. For the same ideas, cf. Socrates, Church History 1:5 (NPNF 2:3); Theodoret, Church History 1:1 (NPNF 3:34).
  14. The NPNF translations frequently confuse this point by inserting the word time where it does not appear in the Greek. Some modern works are guilty of the same error.
  15. Socrates, Church History 1:6,9 (NPNF 2:4,12); Theodoret, Church History 1:3,7f. (NPNF 3:35f.,45f.).
  16. Socrates, Church History 1:6 (NPNF 2:4).
  17. Socrates, Church History 1:6 (NPNF 2:4).
  18. Socrates, Church History 1:6 (NPNF 2:3-5); NE 292/282.
  19. Athanasius, The Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia 16 (NPNF 4:458); NE 294/284.
  20. Theodoret, Church History 1:4 (NPNF 3:41); NE 293/283.
  21. Theodoret, Church History 1:4 (NPNF 3:42).
  22. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 2:64-72; Socrates, Church History 1:7 (NPNF 2:6); NE 297/287.
  23. NE 298/288.
  24. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds (London: Longman, 1972 – 3rd edition) 208-11.
  25. For accounts of the events, see T.D. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius (Cambridge (MA) & London: Harvard University Press, 1981) 214-19; Hanson, Search, 152-72; C.J. Hefele, A History of the Christian Councils, from the Original Documents, to the Close of the Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1871) 270-447 (H. Leclercq’s French translation of the second edition of the German original, Histoire des Conciles d’après les documents originaux, vol.1 (Paris: Letouzey & Ané, 1907) is fuller); Kelly, Creeds, 211-30,249-54; I. Ortiz de Urbina, Nicée et Constantinople (Paris: Éditions de l’Orante, 1963) 53-68; G.C. Stead, ‘“Eusebius” and the Council of Nicaea,’ Journal of Theological Studies 24 (1973) 92-98, reprinted in his Substance and Illusion in the Christian Fathers (London: Variorum, 1985) item 5; Williams, Arius, 67-72.
  26. NE 299/289. Nicaea was close to the imperial palace at Nicomedia.
  27. Theodoret, Church History 1:6 (NPNF 3:43).
  28. Kelly, Creeds, 211; Decrees, 1. Socrates, Church History 1:13 (NPNF 2:19) is followed by Hanson, Search, 152; Ortiz de Urbina, Nicée, 59.
  29. Hefele, History of the Christian Councils, 296f.
  30. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3:8 (NPNF 1:522).
  31. Eustathius in Theodoret, Church History 1:7 (NPNF 3:44).
  32. Athanasius, Councils 43 (NPNF 4:473), Defence against the Arians 23 (NPNF 4:112); Constantine in Socrates, Church History 1:9 (NPNF 2:14).
  33. Athanasius, Defence of the Nicene Definition 2:3 (NPNF 4:152) and History of the Arians 66f. (NPNF 4:294f.).
  34. Socrates, Church History 1:8 (NPNF 2:8), inaccurately citing Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3:8; Constantine in Socrates, Church History 1:9 (NPNF 2:13);.NE 303/293.
  35. Sozomen, Church History 1:17 (NPNF 2:253).
  36. Athanasius, To the Bishops 2 (NPNF 4:489) (a later work); Socrates, Church History 1:8 (NPNF 2:10); Theodoret, Church History 1:6,10 (NPNF 3:43,48).
  37. Cf. Socrates, Church History 1:8 (NPNF 2:10); Sozomen, Church History 1:20f. (NPNF 2:255); Theodoret, Church History 1:6 (NPNF 3:44).
  38. Hefele, History of the Christian Councils, 270f.
  39. Theodoret, Church History 1:6 (NPNF 3:43).
  40. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3:7 (NPNF 1:521), quoted also by Socrates, Church History 1:8 (NPNF 2:8).
  41. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3:10-13 (NPNF 1:522f.); Sozomen, Church History 1:19 (NPNF 2:254f.); Theodoret, Church History 1:6 (NPNF 3:43f.).
  42. Theodoret, Church History 1:6 (NPNF 3:44).
  43. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3:14 (NPNF 1:523); Socrates, Church History 1:9 (NPNF 2:13); Sozomen, Church History 1:21 (NPNF 2:256); Theodoret, Church History 1:8 (NPNF 3:47). Cf. Hefele, History of the Christian Councils, 298-332.
  44. Socrates, Church History 1:9 (NPNF 2:12f.); Sozomen, Church History 1:24 (NPNF 2:256f.); Theodoret, Church History 1:8 (NPNF 3:46f.).
  45. Socrates, Church History 1:10 (NPNF 2:17f.); Sozomen, Church History 1:22 (NPNF 2:256).
  46. Socrates, Church History 1:11 (NPNF 2:18); Sozomen, Church History 1:23 (NPNF 2:256).
  47. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3:15 (NPNF 1:523f.). Cf. Sozomen, Church History 1:25 (NPNF 2:257).
  48. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3:21 (NPNF 1:525f.).
  49. Theodoret, Church History 1:7 (NPNF 3:44).
  50. Athanasius, To the Bishops 5f. (NPNF 4:491f.).
  51. Ambrose, The Christian Faith 3:15:125 (NPNF 10:260).
  52. In Socrates, Church History 1:8 (NPNF 2:10-12); Theodoret, Church History 1:11 (NPNF 3:49-51); NE 301/291.
  53. NE 298/288.
  54. Athanasius, To the Bishops 5f. (NPNF 4:491f.)
  55. Socrates, Church History 1:8 (NPNF 2:11); Theodoret, Church History 1:11 (NPNF 3:49); NE 301/291.
  56. Kelly, Creeds, 251-53. Williams, Arius, 69f., represents Eusebius of Caesarea as the architect of the unanimous acceptance of homoousios. This is not plausible given the tone of Eusebius’s letter.
  57. Decrees, 4. Ortiz de Urbina, Nicée, 93-95,259f.,295f. accepts the decree. There is also the list of signatories (Hefele, History of the Christian Councils, 296f.). For other spurious documents, cf. Hefele, History of the Christian Councils, 439-47.
  58. Kelly, Creeds, ch.10.
  59. Kelly, Creeds, 217-26.
  60. Kelly, Creeds, 227-30.
  61. Decrees, 5. Cf. NPNF 14:3-7.
  62. Cf. Kelly, Creeds, 234-54; Hanson, Search, 163-72; Ortiz de Urbina, Nicée, 69-92.
  63. Theodoret, Church History 1:5 (NPNF 3:42).
  64. Athanasius, Councils 16 (NPNF 4:458); NE 294/284; Theodoret, Church History 1:4 (NPNF 3:41); NE 293/283.
  65. The denial that the Son came from any other hypostasis or ousia is ambiguous and potentially confusing. See Hanson, Search, 167f. It could be taken to equate the two words and thus deny that the Trinity are three hypostases. Since the majority of the bishops at the council held to the doctrine of three hypostases they are unlikely to have taken it that way. All that it is actually denied is that the Son takes his origin from some hypostasis or ousia distinct from the Father, not that Father and Son are two hypostases.
  66. See at n.13, above.
  67. See n.15, above.
  68. Athanasius, The Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia 16 (NPNF 4:458); NE 294/284; Theodoret, Church History 1:4 (NPNF 3:41); NE 293/283.
  69. Decrees, 6-16. Also in NPNF 14:8-42; NE 300/290. Cf. Ortiz de Urbina, Nicée, 95-117.
  70. Roughly the same as a modern archbishop.
  71. For the captions of these, see NPNF 14:46-50. None of them relate in any way to the question of the canon of Scripture.
  72. For this and the previous paragraph, cf. Hefele, History of the Christian Councils, 355-67; NPNF 14:43-45.
  73. For this paragraph, cf. Hefele, History of the Christian Councils, 367-75, esp. 370f.
  74. Socrates, Church History 1:9 (NPNF 2:12f.); Theodoret, Church History 1:8 (NPNF 3:46f.); NE 302/292; Decrees, 16-19; NPNF 14:53f.
  75. Socrates, Church History 1:9 (NPNF 2:13f.); NE 303/293.
  76. Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3:17-20 (NPNF 1:524f.); Socrates, Church History 1:9 (NPNF 2:14-16); Theodoret, Church History 1:9 (NPNF 3:47f.).
  77. Socrates, Church History 1:9 (NPNF 2:14).
  78. Socrates, Church History 1:9 (NPNF 2:16); Theodoret, Church History 1:15 (NPNF 3:53).
  79. Socrates, Church History 1:6 (NPNF 2:5).