Constantine and the Canon of 325

“The New Testament books were not decided on until the Roman Emperor Constantine set the Bible canon in 325 to protect his Trinity doctrine.”

The council of Nicea in 325 was held not to decide which books were scripture, but to confirm something that had been accepted by Christians everywhere for a long time already. The Nicean Council, was simply the first chance for Christians from all over Asia, Africa and Europe to come together and formally say in unison, “these are the scriptures that we have accepted for 150 years”. Propagandists like Jamal Badawi invent ridiculous stories about choosing from hundreds of gospels, stories which have not a shred of evidence and absolutely no reference. All the bishops at the conference accepted only the same four-fold Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and the canon had been set long ago. A full 125 years before the New Testament, there is manuscript evidence for the canon in a document called the Muratorian Canon. Also in 180 AD, Irenaeus wrote of the fourfold Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John):

It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground” of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. … For the living creatures are quadriform, and the Gospel is quadriform, as is also the course followed by the Lord.1

Irenaeus was trained by Polycarp who was trained by John himself, so Irenaeus was the “spiritual grandchild” of the beloved disciple of Jesus and author of the Gospel of John. In fact, confirming the canon was only a minor part of the council, which was more concerned with resolving the Arian controversy surrounding Arius’ unusual idea of who Jesus was. Basically, the dispute was over whether to interpret ” Son of God” metaphorically or literally (as Arius did). Arius built his argument on John 3:16, saying that since this verse calls Jesus “begotten of the father” he must have been literally ‘begotten’ like a child sometime before creation by God the Father (God forbid!). Arius first began his controversy when he brought up the following syllogism, recorded by the historian Socrates of Constantinople:

“If the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence.”

Or in Arius’ own poem Thalia he describes his view of Jesus:

He [God] produced him [Jesus] as a son for himself by begetting him.

This heretical idea was rejected by 99% of the bishops, since this teaching contradicts the clear teaching of scripture and is abominable. The Father-Son relationship is not supposed to be taken literally, it is a figurative metaphor for the obedience and subordination of Jesus to God. The term “begotten” (μονογενής) in John 3:16 can also mean “only” son (as in “unique”), since Jesus as the “Word of God” has a special relationship to God distinct from other people. In this controversy, both Arius and his opponents accepted the same set of scriptures and the same basic message, namely that Jesus, existing before time began, was sent by God as the unique mediator between God and man to save people from their sins through his death on the cross. Arius eventually changed his views on Jesus to accommodate the objections of his opponents. Muslim da’wa evangelists like to portray Constantine as an aggressive leader who forced the bishops against their will to condemn Arius. Actually, after Arius revised his views to fit his opponents, Constantine admonished Bishop Athanasius to readmit Arius into the Church. Athanasius refused, and so Constantine exiled him to Trier. Then Constantine directed Bishop Alexander of Constantinople to readmit Arius into the Church despite his objections, but Arius died suddenly before he was readmitted. In all these proceedings it is clear that Constantine was more favorable to Arius than the Bishops were.

  1. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.11

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