A True but Brief Hisotry of Early Christianity

by Don R. Hender


 

    "Whether Christ sent his apostles to preach metaphysics to the unlearned common people, and to their wives and children?" ~ Sir Isaac Newton


       Sorting through the fray to objectively reduce and abridge ancient Christian History to a bare but precise and candid minimum must be a very selective process. Merely to summarize the traditional scholarly skewed histories is a fruitless exercise with little truth in it for it is solely preached from the single perspective of the victor, having no objectivity whatsoever about it.

For my self, I would like to begin with the consideration of what is Christianity itself and thus persue a history of that. And to that end I would first state a query of a leading scientist who wrote more words concerning religion than he ever did about science. Sir Isaac Newton 'asked' 23 questions respecting the controvery of Homoousios. I will begin with and end with but the first for the purpose of this discussion. And that question is the one qouted above.

Certainly Christ never did send his apostles out to preach the metaphysical nature of the Godhead, if he had and if they did, they erringly went far beyond the mark as did those who confess it [the trinity] to be a mystery beyond their comprehension, and so if understanding God metaphysically is beyond their ability, then they should not seek to have it make sense to us either. (Berkhof pp. 87-90) That is the metaphysical nature of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Ghost has gone beyond the mark and intended end of teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and baptising souls unto Christ in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Jesus Christ's charge to the apostles was to preach the gospel of Christ to the nations of the world, that is the doctrine of Christ, converting the people to Jesus and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19) This was a part of the formula first prescribed at the Nicaea Coucil by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea. What that first formula was and the subsequent events of the Nicea Council is best summarized in a letter of Bishop Eusebius concerning that council to his own congregation, which will be given below. Bishop Eusebius of Ceasarea was a great Christian scholar having the grand Christian library of Caesarea to draw upon, not to mention those immediate church scholars and Bishops who preceded him. Bishop Eusebius was the author of the Ecclesiastical History of the Church [There is not better place to begin to study a more detailed history of the Church than that of Bishop Eusebius' History] as well as many other authoratative works, many of which still exist today. In particular, one may gain great insights into early Christian theology beginning with the first book of that great Church History. In it, Eusebius reveals himself and the depths of gospel understanding which he had. Being such a devoted Christian scholar, it is easy to understand why he was trusted by Emperor Constantine to sit next to him in the council of Nicaea and deliver the inaugeral formula of Christianity to the intent of uniting the faith.

Bishop Eusebius' Letter Concerning the Events of the Nicene Council

    "What was transacted concerning ecclesiastical faith at the Great Council assembled at Nicaea you have probably learned, Beloved, from other sources, rumour being wont to precede the accurate account of what is doing. But lest in such reports the circumstances of the case have been misrepresented, we have been obliged to transmit to you, first, the formula of faith presented by ourselves; and next, the second, which the Fathers put forth with some additions to our words. Our own paper, then, which was read in the presence of our most pious Emperor, and declared to be good and unexceptionable, ran thus:-

      "`As we have received from the Bishops who preceded us, and in our first catechisings, and when we received the Holy Layer, and as we have learned from the divine Scriptures, and as we believed and taught in the presbytery, and in the Episcopate itself, so believing also at the time present, we report to you our faith, and it is this:-

      "`We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God from God, Light from Light, Life from Life, Son Only-begotten, first-born of every creature, before all the ages [Col. 1:15], begotten from the Father, by whom also all things were made; who for our salvation was made flesh, and lived among men, and suffered, and rose again the third day, and ascended to the Father, and will come again in glory to judge quick and dead, And we believe also in One Holy Ghost; believing each of These to be and to exist, the Father truly Father, and the Son truly Son, and the Holy Ghost truly Holy Ghost, as also our Lord, sending forth His disciples for the preaching, said, Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost [Matthew 28:19]. Concerning whom we confidently affirm that so we hold, and so we think, and so we have held aforetime, and we maintain this faith unto the death, anathematizing every godless heresy. That this we have ever thought from our heart and soul, from the time we recollect ourselves, and now think and say in truth, before God Almighty and our Lord Jesus Christ do we witness, being able by proofs to show and to convince you, that, even in times past, such has been our belief and preaching.'

    "On this faith being publicly put forth by us, no room for contradiction appeared; but our most pious Emperor, before any one else, testified that it comprised most orthodox statements. He confessed, moreover, that such were his own sentiments; and he advised all present to agree to it, and to subscribe its articles and to assent to them, with the insertion of the single word, `One in substance' (omoousioj), which, moreover, he interpreted as not in the sense of the affections of bodies, nor as if the Son subsisted from the Father, in the way of division, or any severance; for that the immaterial and intellectual and incorporeal nature could not be the subject of any corporeal affection, but that it became us to conceive of such things in a divine and ineffable manner. And such were the theological remarks of our most wise and most religious Emperor; but they, with a view to the addition of `One in substance,' drew up the following formula:-

      "`We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible:- And in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Only-begotten, that is, from the Substance of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, very God from very God, begotten, not made, One in substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, both things in heaven and things in earth; who for us men and for our salvation came down and was made flesh, was made man, suffered, and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven, and cometh to judge quick and dead.

      "`And in the Holy Ghost. But those who say, "Once He was not," and "Before His generation He was not," and "He came to be from nothing," or those who pretend that the Son of God is "Of other subsistence or substance," or "created," or "alterable," or "mutable," the Catholic Church anathematizes.'

    "On their dictating this formula, we did not let it pass without inquiry in what sense they introduced `of the substance of the Father,' and `one in substance with the Father.' Accordingly questions and explanations took place, and the meaning of the words underwent the scrutiny of reason. And they professed that the phrase `of the substance' was indicative of the Son's being indeed from the Father, yet without being as if a part of Him. And with this understanding we thought good to assent to the sense of such religious doctrine, teaching, as it did, that the Son was from the Father, not, however, a part of His substance. On this account we assented to the sense ourselves, without declining even the term `One in substance,' peace being the object which we set before us, and steadfastness in the orthodox view. In the same way we also admitted `begotten, not made'; since the Council alleged that `made' was an appellative common to the other creatures which came to be through the Son, to whom the Son had no likeness. Wherefore, said they, He was not a work resembling the things which through Him came to be, but was of a substance which is too high for the level of any work, and which the Divine oracles teach to have been generated from the Father, the mode of generation being inscrutable and incalculable to every generated nature. And so, too, on examination there are grounds for saying that the Son is `one in substance' with the Father; not in the way of bodies, nor like mortal beings, for He is not such by division of substance, or by severance; no, nor by any affection, or alteration, or changing of the Father's substance and power (since from all such the ingenerate nature of the Father is alien), but because `one in substance with the Father' suggests that the Son of God bears no resemblance to the generated creatures, but that to His Father alone who begat Him is He in every way assimilated, and that He is not of any other subsistence and substance, but from the Father.

    "To which term also, thus interpreted, it appeared well to assent; since we were aware that, even among the ancients, some learned and illustrious Bishops and writers have used the term `one in substance' in their theological teaching concerning the Father and Son. So much, then, be said concerning the faith which was published; to which all of us assented, not without inquiry, but according to the specified senses, mentioned before the most religious Emperor himself, and justified by the fore-mentioned considerations. And as to the anathematism published by them at the end of the Faith, it did not pain us, because it forbade to use words not in Scripture, from which almost all the confusion and disorder of the Church have come. Since, then, no divinely inspired Scripture has used the phrases, `out of nothing' and `once He was not,' and the rest which follow, there appeared no ground for using or teaching them; to which also we assented as a good decision, since it had not been our custom hitherto to use these terms. Moreover, to anathematize `Before His generation He was not' did not seem preposterous, in that it is confessed by all that the Son of God was before the generation according to the flesh. Nay, our most religious Emperor did at the time prove, in a speech, that He was in being even according to His divine generation which is before all ages, since even before he was generated in energy, He was in virtue with the Father ingenerately, the Father being always Father, as King always and Saviour always, having all things in virtue, and being always in the same respects and in the same way. This we have been forced to transmit to you, Beloved, as making clear to you the deliberation of our inquiry and assent, and how reasonably we resisted even to the last minute, as long as we were offended at statements which differed from our own, but received without contention what no longer pained us, as soon as, on a candid examination of the sense of the words, they appeared to us to coincide with what we ourselves have professed in the faith which we have already published."3

But as may be seen by Bishop Eusebius' letter, the designning innovators of the religion could not leave the simple initial formula alone with its basic commission unto the apostles to preach the gospel of Christ and baptise those who would believe on Jesus' name. Now as to which particular 'advisors/Bishops' who did entice the Emperor to include and change, beginning with the single word Homoousia is given by others but not here, and it was not the deacon Athanasius. But after so doing 'they' further defined it and made it into a demanded criteria to accept their self defined metaphysical nature of God, which they themslves could not comprehend nor understand, it being but a mystery to them. Yet they would demand it of others' acceptance, going far beyond the mark of Christ's intent and purpose of the simpleness of the way of the Gospel of Christ. Even the Emperor Constantine himself would condemn them for the divisiveness which their 'mental exercise' had done to the unity of the Faith of Christ.

~ Constantine’s Rebuke of Alexander and Arius ~

                                                                   
 Eusebius Pamphilius: Life of Constantine 
                                                                    

CHAPTER LXIX.—Origin of the Controversy between Alexander and Arius, and that these Questions ought not to have been discussed.

    [EMPEROR CONSTANTINE SPEAKING/WRITING] I UNDERSTAND, then, that the origin of the present controversy is this. When you, Alexander, demanded of the presbyters what opinion they severally maintained respecting a certain passage in the Divine law, or rather, I should say, that you asked them something connected with an unprofitable question, then you, Arius, inconsiderately insisted on what ought never to have been conceived at all, or if conceived, should have been buried in profound silence. Hence it was that a dissension arose between you, fellowship was withdrawn, and [p. 517] the holy people, rent into diverse parties, no longer preserved the unity of the one body. Now, therefore, do ye both exhibit an equal degree of forbearance, and receive the advice which your fellow-servant righteously gives. What then is this advice? It was wrong in the first instance to propose such questions as these, or to reply to them when propounded. For those points of discussion which are enjoined by the authority of no law, but rather suggested by the contentious spirit which is fostered by misused leisure, even though they may be intended merely as an intellectual exercise, ought certainly to be confined to the region of our own thoughts, and not hastily produced in the popular assemblies, nor unadvisedly intrusted to the general ear. For how very few are there able either accurately to comprehend, or adequately to explain subjects so sublime and abstruse in their nature? Or, granting that one were fully competent for this, how many people will he convince? Or, who, again, in dealing with questions of such subtle nicety as these, can secure himself against a dangerous declension from the truth? It is incumbent therefore on us in these cases to be sparing of our words, lest, in case we ourselves are unable, through the feebleness of our natural faculties, to give a clear explanation of the subject before us, or, on the other hand, in case the slowness of our hearers’ understandings disables them from arriving at an accurate apprehension of what we say, from one or other of these causes the people be reduced to the alternative either of blasphemy or schism.

Emperor Constatine was quite correct, this mental exercise of discussing the metaphysical nature of God ought not ever have occurred, little alone been relied upon as constituting a 'doctrine' prescription which must be forced accepted in order for one to come unto Christ. It had gone beyond the mark of the simpleness of the way of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Being a Christian did not depend upon coming to a conclusion concerning the metaphysical nature of God. What the intent of the council of Nicaea was, was to be the uniting of the faith. By going beyoud the mark of the commission given to the apostles of preaching the gospel, the divisiveness of innovated opionion entered into the pride of the Bishops to know more than the other in making of God what they in their philosophical pride would imagine him to be. Even as great as the apostles were, they did not go beyond the mark of ministering the gospel and into this point of at best a 'mystery doctrine'.

    "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." ~ 1 John 3:2

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    "WHEN the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves." D&C 130:1

Constantine's intent in the Nicene Council was to unify Christianity rather than to divide it. Because of continued innovative Bishops who insisted upon their 'deep' imagined opinions being Christian doctrine even though it was upon such questions of which none could authoritatively substantiate rather than to holding to the unifiying simple Gospel of Christ. And these wolves of innovation would insist upon their 'mystery metaphysical' presumptions even at the extent of violent pursecutions, tortures and even murders of any who did not conform. This persisted through the ages of the 'Catholic' Church at the expense of those who were more Christian in the treatment of their fellow men.

The Trinity's traditional 'hero' was not Bishop Alexander, it is considered to be Athanasius who was but an attending deacon at the first council of Nicaea. During that period following the Nicene Council all WAS NOT smooth sailing for the doctrine of the Trinity. As here in stated, Constantine considered it divisive and not worthy of considertation. During his reign and in part his son's reign, Athanasius was exiled no less than seven times for his persistence in it. In 335 A.D., He was deposed at the Synod/Council of Tyre and Jerusalem, that is 'anaethematized', by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, considered by objective historians as so acting in concert with Constantine who agrees with that council concerning Athanasius and so Athansiua is exiled to Trier by the Emporer. Now a 'hero' of the Catholic Church, Athanasius during his life time and under the rule of Constantine, was anything but the common Christian hero seeking unity of the faith. Only the eventual 'winners' who traded true Christianity of the Gospel of Christ for the metaphysics of the nature of the Godhead have made a 'saint' of Athanasius. And they would come to pursecute, torture and murder any and all who would not accept their, Athanasius' metaphysical godhead, which they so state that they cannot understand it themselves. This was not the Gospel of Jesus Christ which the Apostles did take to the world, converting and baptising all who would believe in and accept Jesus as their Savior and Redeemer.

The True 'Father' of the Nicene 'Trinity'

Will the real 'Father of the Trinity' please stand up. Be shuttled by the writings of history after the facts of the matter in a compliance with the preferred perspective of the 'winners' or today's Catholic skewed view, has been the 'true identity' of the 'father of the Nicene Trinity'. Cutting to the essentials, Theodosius I 'the Great' was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395 and ironically he was the last emperior to rule over both the eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire. And also of irony, he ruled out of Constantinople. At the beginning time of his rule the 'Nicene Controversy' over the 'difference of one iota' betwix 'homoousios' and 'homoiousios' was still in hot debate. And any such doctrines from 'three gods in one' to the extreme demonized concept that Jesus was not even divine, so labeled by the Trinitarians upon the Arian doctrine, were still in play. The moderate truth of the matter has been lost in the historical contrivance of the history, which was according to the Hitory of the Church written by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, that Jesus was divine, the creator of heaven and earth under the direction of the Father, he was the same as Jehovah the God of the Old Testament; and yet born of our and his Heavently Father as His Only Begotten Son in the flesh. And that in truth God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Ghost were three separate and distinct beings. In Theodosius' day Christianity stood divided as ever it was with several different Church factions that promoted alternative 'Christologies' which were still as threating to the Roman Empire as ever.

Thus Theodosius was to choose and father what was the acceptable flavor of Christianity. On 27 February 380, Emperor Theodosius, who had come to promote the now termed 'Nicene Trinitian Christianity' declared that this was the only legitimate imperial religion, even the 'Universal or Catholic Church'. Of further ironical notice is that when 'The Council of Constantinople' was held as convened by Theodosius I to so settle the Godhead doctrinal dispute, the Bishop, Father or papa(pope) of Rome, Damasus I and all his legates 'declined' to attend. They were vacant. Thus it is to Emperor Theodosius I that history must in fact look to be the defining father of the Trinitarian doctrine of the Godhead so imposed by the Emperor's decree that his approved brand of Christianity was the only legitimate and acceptible flavor and brand of Christianity, the offical Christian Church of the Roman Empire. In short it was Theodosius who made the Catholic Church and the 'Nicean' Trinity the only official state religion.

In Summary of This Brief Christian History

Christianity is the spreading and preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the administration of the ordiances of salvation such as baptism. That is Christianity and Christian history ought to be centered in that work of bringing men unto Jesus Christ and his gospel. That is the mainstrean of Christ's gospel and delving in the backroads beyond that central stream and cause of Christ is not primary to the Christianity of Jesus Christ. It is NOT a requirement of being a Christian or of Christianity to have a metaphysical understanding concerning the nature of God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is simple enough that a child might understand it—And was ever meant to be so. So when men teach of the Traditional History of the Christian Church in terms of such as the Nicene Creed and so forth, it is not Jesus' Christianity of which they speak but the backroads history of the designs of the inovations of men, which one has been drawn into. The whole of that is but an over stuffed quazi-history, 'having a form thereof', but not having the true simple history of the Christianity of Jesus Christ at all.


rev. 15 Septemper 2012