Arian Controversy and the Council of Nicaea | World History | Khan Academy

Posted By on September 20, 2019

– [Instructor] In previous videos, we have talked about
how Christianity evolved and developed under the Roman Empire. In particular we saw
that as we entered into the 4th century, that
Christianity continued to be persecuted, in particular by the Emperor Diocletian, who had some of the worst persecutions of the Christians. But over the course of the next century, from roughly 300 to 400,
the relationship between the Roman Empire and Christianity goes completely in the opposite direction. As Constantine takes over, he becomes sympathetic to the Christians and he eventually becomes Christian himself. Even then, there was a lot of diversity within the Christian Church. There were debates about the nature of Jesus Christ relative to the Father, relative to the Holy Spirit. There were multiple sects of Christianity. And one in particular
started to create a debate. There was a priest in Alexandria, which was one of the major
cities of the Roman Empire. Now remember, by this
point, Rome of course is one of the most significant, if not the most significant city. Now Constantine sets up
a capital at Byzantium, which will eventually be
known as Constantinople. And Alexandria, which
was originally founded by Alexander the Great, is also one of the significant
cities of the Empire. And in Alexandria there
is a Christian priest by the name of Arius,
who has a view on Christ that becomes a bit of a controversy. And to understand that, here is an account of his writings, or his beliefs. So this is Arius of Alexandria. If the Father begat the
Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence:
and from this it is evident, that there was a time
when the Son was not. It therefore necessarily follows that He, the Son, had his substance from nothing. So, he’s drawing a distinction
between the essence of the Father and the Son, who’s
manifested as Jesus Christ. Now this is very
controversial, because even his own bishop in
Alexandria viewed the Father and the Son to be of the same substance. Now, today, you might say,
hey, isn’t this just word play? It feels like it’s
semantic, which is really debating around the meaning of words. But, at the end of the Roman Empire and as we get into the Middle Ages, this was a major issue of philosophical and it would sometimes bleed
over into political debate. And so Constantine, who we
mentioned has a sympathy towards the Christians,
he allows Christianity to be tolerated, he does not
like this idea of this debate and he wants to help unify the Christians. So, in 325 he calls the Council of Nicaea, to help resolve this controversy, which gets known as the Arian Controversy, named after Arius of Alexandria. Now it’s worth mentioning, Arius wasn’t the first person to make this argument, that the Father in some
way was more divine than the Son, because He begat the Son, He existed before the Son. But this controversy really
revolves around Arius, because he was especially persuasive about spreading this view of
the relationship between the Father and the Son,
manifested by Jesus. And at the Council of
Nicaea, many of the bishops throughout Christendom are in attendance, it’s known as the First
Ecumenical Conference, the word ecumenical comes from the Greek word for the inhabited Earth. So you can view it as the Church leaders from the inhabited
Earth, in order to create a consensus about what it
means to be a Christian. And Arius of Alexandria was there to defend his position, but the majority of those there did not
like his point of view. So they declared Arius’ beliefs as heresy and they exile him. And to be very clear
that they do not believe that the Son is of a different substance of the Father, they
issue the Nicene Creed. So what I have here, this is known as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. And this is based on the Nicene Creed, which was established in
325, which was shorter, but then in 381, under
Theodosius, you have your Second Ecumenical
Council, which is held in Constantinople, to reaffirm some of the ideas of the Nicene Council. And so as I read this, keep a look out for some of these words, which
were really put there to try to settle the Arian Controversy, to try to ensure that that type of belief does not surface again. We believe in one God,
the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus
Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten
of the Father before all ages. So, not like Arius was
arguing, that there was a time where the Father existed
before the Son existed. Here it says begotten of the Father, but before all ages, so there was always a time when there was a Son. Light of Light, Very God of
Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made. So, once again, really addressing
this Arian Controversy, the Arian Heresy as it becomes known, that the Father and the Son
are of the same essence, one is not more divine than the other. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the
Virgin Mary, and was made man. And was crucified also for
us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end. And we believe in the
Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who
proceeds from the Father. Now here in brackets I’ve
written filoque and the son? Because even though the official Nicene- Constantinopolitan Creed just says Who proceeds from the
Father, as we will see later on, as the Church starts to become more and more divided,
in the West, in Latin, the term filoque gets added,
which means and the son. And, once again, this
is starting to address this notion of how does the
Son relate to the Father? So, when you add filoque,
you’re saying, hey, the Holy Spirit is emanating from both the Father and the Son, versus just the Father, but we’ll get into that. This was not a matter of debate in the 4th century, but it
will become a matter of debate as we go into the 6th century and beyond. And we believe in the
Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who
proceeds from the Father. Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,
Who spoke by the Prophets. And we believe in one, holy, catholic, meaning universal, and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one Baptism
for the remission of sins. We look for the Resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come, Amen. So this is interesting, because it’s, you can view it as a
unification of Christendom. Now, as we will see,
that unification does not hold well over the next
several hundred years. Even though Arius is exiled
and he dies shortly thereafter, you continue to have sympathetic bishops and even Roman Emperors,
to the Arian Doctrine. You also, this debate between the relation of the Father and the Son continues, we’ll talk about this filoque debate. But maybe most important
and the biggest cause of the eventual divisions
between the Church, ones that carry on even to today, it’s really about a power struggle. So, as we’ve been talking about the late Roman Empire and even the
fall of the Western Empire and the beginning of the Byzantine Empire, you might already notice that there are several very powerful actors here. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, you have the Byzantine Emperor, who considers him, and as we’ll see, also herself, the Roman Emperor. We have the Bishop, the Patriarch, or, often known, the Pope of Rome. Now Rome is significant,
because according to tradition the Church at Rome was
founded by the Apostle Peter, who is considered by many to be the first amongst the Apostles. But of course Rome was the
seat of the Roman Empire for a very, very, very long time. And so you could imagine the Bishop of the Church of Rome, the Pope of Rome would be a very powerful figure. Now you also have the
Bishop or the Patriarch of Constantinople,
which is another capital and really the capital
of the Byzantine Empire. And so what we’re going
to see, over the next several hundred years, is
the jockeying for position amongst these three, in particular the Byzantine Emperor
and the Pope of Rome. The Pope of Rome starts
to consider themselves as really the leader
of all of Christendom. The Patriarch of
Constantinople and the bishops of the other major
centers of Christianity, like Antioch and Jerusalem and Alexandria, they view themselves as
all kind of a college of, as peers and they will
give extra space for the Pope of Rome or the Bishop of Rome, because of the importance of
that city and the significance of how the Church of Rome was founded. And this gets, this jockeying for power over the next several hundred years gets even more complex as the West, what was the Western Roman Empire, or some of the areas of
the Western Roman Empire, start to get consolidated under Germanic rule really, Frankish rule and you start having this notion of a Holy Roman Emperor that we’ll talk about in a few hundred years down our timeline. So, keep a look out for
this power struggle. We’re going to talk
about particular issues of theological doctrine, things like the filoque issue, things
like the relationship between the Father and the Son, whether you should have icons. But, at the end of the day, what’s eventually going to lead to the Great Schism, in the beginning of the Second Millennium,
is this power struggle.

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 48 comments

  1. Khan Academy, just wondering is Arius connect to Tertullian? The reason I ask is because I have read Tertullian writing and his idea sounds like the quote from Arius.
    Also fun fact:
    The Pope didn't show up at the Council of Nicaea because the Pope and the Emperor didn't see eye to eye.

  2. Well it's well known that the catholics have added a lot of pagan beliefs into christianity. It's a chance that nowadays other nominations have studied and corrected many dogma's.

  3. "Christians" have from the beginning believed all sorts of things about the nature of Jesus and the relation of Jesus to God. Some thought Jesus was a prophet Later some thought he was adopted by God, (see for instance the Gospel of Mark). Still later, it was claimed that he was begotten by God. Some thought he was a spirit who existed in the heavens below the moon, et alias et cetera. And when they weren't busy killing "pagans", Jews and Muslims, they would turn to their theological disputes and kill each other.
    The Doctrine of the Trinity was adopted as a compromise among competing factions, and although it didn't really make sense, it was required to believe it. It was a "MYSTERY", so just shut up, bend the knee, and drop your offering in the collection plate.

  4. Can anyone explain for me the link, if there is one, between Arius and the self-identifying "Arians" (arian race). Links appreciated

  5. Mr khan where have you been my entire life your so good. I am now facing the tests and I have benefited from the videos​ so I would like to say thanks Mr khan academy

  6. Fact: 1john 5:7-8 Trinity was admittedly invented by Tertullian and forced into the New Testament and Nicaen creed by Constantine at Nicaen council in 325 ce.
    He burned alive countless "heretics"(Arians and Jews) who rejected this idolatry insertion . He also criminalized Judaism by death penalty for teaching Torah or ordaining rabbi s.
    In Roman Church archives it shows he killed more people as heretics in roman coliseums than the pagan roman s did.

    Look up "comma debate,Trinity,Tertullian". שלום

  7. You mention "power struggle" as if there were no violence or bloodshed…
    Wars were fought…all the way up to the 1700s…millions persecuted and killed by the Rcc and Protestants…Islam pales in comparison to what Europe did.
    All in the name of JC and various details in scripture and creeds. Insane.

  8. I like this channel but this one is too big to just let slip by.
    The Arian controversy did not occur in a vacuum. To say that there were multi sects won't help either.
    Arius (and the subsequent debate, insert 2nd 3rd Oeucumenical Councils) came up with his idea *because of* a controversy that stirred you the church in the 2nd century : Modalism aka Sabellianism aka Monarchianism aka Modal Monarchism, which boils down to this Economic Trinity (Trinity to the world) = Ontological Trinity (Trinity by essence), God has 3 hats: Father hat, Jesus hat, Spirit hat.
    That heresy was condemned. Now enter Arius. The last thing they wanted to avoid was to be associated with Modalism. Arius, in a sense thought of himself as a "protector" sound doctrine by separating (at all cost) The Father and the Son (again, think Modalism). Hence, he introduced the Creator / Creation divide. And then… Controversy.
    Again, this channel is great but this is just too big to just let slip by.

  9. why would the son claim to be equal to his father? arius was correct. there is no1 worthy of worship but the father. the father who poops, not. the father who bathes, not. the father who sleeps not. the father who eats not. the father who cries not. the father who dies not. the father who is white, not. the father who is blonde haired not. the father with blue eyes not. the father who is jesus, not. any doubts im happy to hear it, NOT lool

  10. This is prophet Muhammad's letters to the Byzantine emperor:

    The text of the letter to Heraclius, as transmitted by Muslim historians, reads as follows:

    “ من محمد بن عبد الله إلى هرقل عظيم الروم: سلام على من اتبع الهدى، أما بعد فإنى أدعوك بدعوة الإسلام . أسلم تسلم ويؤتك الله أجرك مرتين ، فإن توليت فإن عليك إثم الأريسيِّين.
    {قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْا إِلَىٰ كَلِمَةٍ سَوَاءٍ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ أَلَّا نَعْبُدَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ وَلَا نُشْرِكَ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضًا أَرْبَابًا مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ ۚ فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَقُولُوا اشْهَدُوا بِأَنَّا مُسْلِمُونَ} [سورة آل عمران : 64].

    In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy

    From Muhammad, son of Abdullah to Heraclius the Leader of the Romans:

    Peace be upon he who follows the guidance.

    Furthermore, I invite you with the invitation of Islam. If you accept Islam- you will find peace, Allah will give your reward in double. If you turn away, you will bear the sin of the Arians.

    "Say, 'O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you – that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah .' But if they turn away, then say, 'Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him].' (Quran 3:64)

  11. G Child
    5 months ago
    Can you make a video on how international bankers make money off funding both sides of a war?

    Simple Bozo…You just lend money to both sides…..Derrrh, I never thouyght of that….Uh Huh

  12. Most if not all religions are about power over and the control of others and reducing them, in effect, to being slaves to religious dogma and doctrines.  Religious leaders, wallowing in self-satisfying  wealth and excesses of their own,  serve as agents to the wealthy class.   By far, most religious programs serve one primary purpose, which is to keep the poor quiet and contented(?) while chained to their state by religious based dogma and doctrines.   As such, they, the poor,  continue to be the non-resisting fodder for the excesses of the affluent.

  13. The council of Nicaea was a dog and pony show put on by Constantine and those bishops who supported the thesis that the Father and Son are of the same substance, and that the Son and Father are both fully God.  Like Ptolemy 1, Constantine was trying to unite an empire under his rule and they both arrived at the same conclusion to use religion to do this.  Ptolemy 1 created the man/god Serapis and the Cult of Serapis, while Constantine and those bishops seeking the power and influence of the Emperor created a man/sungod Jesus and the pagan religion of Christianity.  

    Have you ever wondered why only 300 of the 1800 bishops, supposedly invited to the council with all expenses paid, bothered to show up?  Did they have something better to do at that time or were the vast majority of bishops not holding the same view as Constantine and those 300 bishops who did show.  So only 1/6 of the bishops set the tone for all of Christianity.  You have to wonder how many of those 5/6 were excommunicated or wound up dead, or just went along to get along?  There's a lot of things that we do not learn about history, because history is written by the victors.  In the case of Christianity it is written by those bishops who sought power and the Emperor who gave it to them.  No matter how you view it, it goes without question, the religion of Christianity came about through the syncretizing of pagan beliefs and holidays into a Western Philosophy stylized movement, based on the teachings of Jesus and the Old Testament.  Over the course of history Christianity canonized it's own New Testament, selecting writings that supported it's doctrines and the dogma it taught.

  14. Most of modern Christianity is based on decisions made by heated and bitter debates and from all accounts, none seemed exactly holy, blessed, or inspired. While the original Pentecost was accompanied by miracles, these meetings that defined canon, doctrine, and creeds that are supposedly irrefutable and to challenge is heresy, none of those meetings had any sacred or godly graces marking them but rather a whole lot of fighting that led to a lot of eventual fear, hate, and bloodshed. By the fruits ye shall know them. Well, the fruits of this crap was largely rotten. I felt like Arius made the most sense and by many accounts seemed adamant and strongly "inspired" to put his position forward. I think out of all the people involved, I think he was probably the most earnest. He fought what he thought was right, not popular.

    Also the ultimate decision is nonsensical contradictions anyways. So they're definitely not right.

  15. Why do people think that a Creed written in 300 AD have any bearing on what I believe now. I believe what I see in the Bible period. I may see the creeds as a summation of some things that I believe but I am not living in an age when the Bible is hidden to me. I can read about it myself and come to my own conclusions.

  16. History also records that once the council of Nicaea formulated their doctrine, anyone who taught against it would be either executed or exiled. That just goes to show that those men were never inspired by God but by demonic forces.


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