The Council of Nicea took place in 325 A.D. by the order of the Roman Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine. Nicea was located in Asia Minor, east of Constantinople. At the Council of Nicea, Emperor Constantine presided over a group of Church bishops and leaders with the purpose of defining the true God for all of Christianity and eliminating all the confusion, controversy, and contention within Christ’s church. The Council of Nicea affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ and established an official definition of the Trinity-the deity of The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit under one Godhead, in three co-equal and co-eternal Persons.
Council of Nicea
Constantine, a converted Christian, called for a council meeting to be held in Nicea with the bishops of the Christian church to resolve escalating quarrels and controversy mounting to a bitter degree of disunity among the church leadership concerning theological issues. The failing Roman Empire, now under Constantine’s rule, could not withstand the division caused by years of hard-fought, “out of hand” arguing over doctrinal differences. He saw it not only as a threat to Christianity but as a threat to society as well. Therefore, at the Council of Nicea, Constantine demanded that the Christians settle their internal disagreements and become Christ-like agents who could bring new life into a troubled, beaten-down empire. Constantine felt “called” to use his authority to help bring about the unity, peace, and love, all for which Christ stands. He and the bishops had reason to worry about the future survival of Christianity within the Roman world empire, let alone the survival of his world empire. The Council of Nicea, led by Emperor Constantine, was the meeting to settle differences, to become like-minded, all to the glory of Christ.
The main theological issue and focus had always been about Christ. Since the end of the Apostolic Age and beginning of the Church Age, saints began questioning, debating, fighting, and separating over the question, “Who is the Christ?” Is He more divine than human or more human than divine? Was Jesus created / made or begotten? Being the Son of God, is He co-equal and co-eternal with Father God, or less and lower in status than the Father? Is the Father the One and only True God, or are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit the One true God? “True God of True God,” “One Being, Three Persons”, a tri-unity called “Trinity”? Jesus said, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).
Once the Nicea Council meeting was underway Constantine demanded that the 300 bishops make a decision by majority vote defining who Jesus Christ is. Constantine commanded them to create a “creed” doctrine that all of Christianity would follow and obey, a doctrine that would be called the “Nicene Creed,” upheld by the Church and enforced by the Emperor. The bishops voted to make the full deity of Christ the accepted position for the church. The Council of Nicea voted to make the Trinity the official doctrine of the church. However, the Council of Nicea did not invent these doctrines. Rather, it only recognized what the Bible taught, and systematized the doctrines.
The purpose of a creed is to act as a yardstick of. The creeds of Christianity have been drawn up at times of conflict about doctrine: acceptance or rejection of a creed served to distinguish believers and deniers of a particular doctrine or set of doctrines. For that reason a creed was called in Greek a σύμβολον, a word that meant half of a broken object which, when placed together with the other half, verified the bearer's identity. The Greek word passed through Latin "symbolum" into English "symbol", which only later took on the meaning of an outward sign of something. The Nicene Creed was adopted in the face of the Arian controversy. Arius, a Libyan preacher, had declared that although Jesus Christ was divine, God had actually created him, and "there was when he was not," also worded by others of the era "there was once when he was not" and "he was made out of nothing." This made Jesus less than the Father and contradicted the doctrine of the Trinity. Arius's teaching provoked a serious crisis.
The Nicene Creed of 325 explicitly affirms the divinity of Jesus, applying to him the term "God". The 381 version speaks of the Holy Spirit as worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son. The Athanasian Creed describes in much greater detail the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Apostles' Creed makes no explicit statements about the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit, but, in the view of many who use it, the doctrine is implicit in it.
The Coptic Church has the tradition that the original creed was authored by Pope Athanasius I of Alexandria. F. J. A. Hort and Adolf Harnack argued that the Nicene creed was the local creed of Caesarea (an important center of Early Christianity) brought to the council by Eusebius of Caesarea. J.N.D. Kelly sees as its basis a baptismal creed of the Syro-Phoenician family, related to (but not dependent on) the creed cited by Cyril of Jerusalem and to the creed of Eusebius.Soon after the Council of Nicaea, new formulae of faith were composed, most of them variations of the Nicene Symbol, to counter new phases of Arianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia
identifies at least four before the Council of Sardica, where a new form was presented and inserted in the Acts of the Council, though it was not agreed on.
The Nicene Creed: