The First Ecumenical Council
This Council was held in Nicea, Asia Minor in 325 A.D. at the instigation of the Emperor, Constantine
the Great. 315 Bishops were in attendance.
The Emperor called the council due to the raging Arian Controversy at that time. Arius denied the
divinity of Christ, based upon his supposition that if Jesus was born, then there was a time when He did
not exist. "If He became God, then there was time when He was not (God)." The Council declared the
teaching of Arius to be heresy, decreeing that Christ is God and declaring Him to be of the same essence
homoousios with God the Father.
The first part of the seven articles of the Creed, known to us as the Nicene Creed, were ratified at this
First Ecumenical Council
The Second Ecumenical Council
This Council took place in Constantinople in 381 A.D., under the reign of Theodosius the Great. 150
Its purpose was to determine a solution to what was called the Macedonian Controversy. Macedonius
misrepresented the Church's teaching on the Holy Spirit. He asserted that the Holy Spirit was not a
person hypostasis, but only a power dynamic of God. Consequently in his interpretation, the Holy Spirit
was inferior to the Father and the Son. The Council condemned his teaching and defined the doctrine of
the Holy Trinity, decreeing that there was One God in three persons hypostases: these persons being the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The holy fathers at the Council added five articles to the Creed: beginning, as follow:
"And (We believe) in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father: who with the
Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified: who spoke by the prophets. In one Holy, Catholic, and
Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and
the life of the world to come. Amen."
The Third Ecumenical Council
Held in Ephesus, Asia Minor in 431 under Emperor Theodosius II (grandson of Theodosius the Great).
200 Bishops were
to a man, Jesus Christ, not God the Logos ("The Word", Son should not be called Theotokos (Mother of
God), but rather, of God). Following this reasoning, he asserted that the Virgin but rather Christotokos
(Mother of Christ).
should not be called Theotokos (Mother of God), but rather,
but rather Christotokos (Mother of Christ).
Nestorianism over emphasized the human nature of Christ at the expense of the divine. The Council
denounced Nestorius, emphasizing the our Lord Jesus Christ is one person, not two separate people:
(1) the man, Jesus Christ and
with a rational soul and body. The Virgin Mary is Theotokos because she gave birth not to man but to
God who became man.
This Council declared the test of the Creed decreed at the First and Second Ecumenical Councils to be
complete and forbade any change to it.
The Fourth Ecumenical Council
The Council of 630 Bishops met in Chalcedon, near Constantinople, under the Emperor Marcian in 451
The Council was concerned with the Monophysite Controversies, again dealing with the nature of
Christ. Monophysite teaching believed that Christ's human nature (less perfect) dissolved itself in His
divine nature (more perfect). Thus, as they reasoned, Christ had only one nature, the divine. This led to
the term Monophysite (mono), meaning 'one', and physis, meaning 'nature'. The Council condemned this
theological theory, proclaiming that Christ has two natures: the divine and the human, as defined by
previous Councils. They are not confused, or divided, or separate and were in no way ever changed.
The Fifth Ecumenical Council
The Council of 165 Bishops met in Constantinople in 553 A.D., during the reign of the Emperor Justinian.
The key issues were the Nestorian and Eutychian (Monophysite) Controversies. The Council was called
in hope that it would put an end to this wrangling within the Church. It confirmed the Church's
teaching regarding the two natures of Christ and condemned a number of Nestorian influenced writings.
At this Council, the Emperor himself confessed his Orthodox Faith in the form of a famous Church
hymn, "Only begotten Son and Word of God".
The Sixth Ecumenical Council
Convened in Constantinople, under Emperor Constantine IV, in 680 A.D., 170 Bishops met to deal with
the Monothelite Controversy.
It was a final attempt to compromise with the Monophysites. They claimed that although Christ had two
natures (human and divine), He nevertheless acted as God only, i.e. His divine nature made all the
decisions and His human nature only carried and acted them out. Thus, monothelitism ( mono, meaning
'one' and thelesis,
The Council pronounced that Christ had two natures with two activities: as God - performing miracles,
rising from the dead and ascending into heaven; as Man - performing the ordinary acts of daily life.
These were mystically united in one Divine Person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The Seventh Ecumenical Council
This Seventh Council of 367 Bishops returned, in the year 787 A.D., to Nicea in Asia Minor, at the royal
pleasure of the Empress Irene.
It centered around the use of icons in the Church and the controversy between the iconoclasts and
iconophiles. The Iconoclasts were suspicious of religious art; they demanded that the Church rid itself of
such art and that it be destroyed or broken (as the term "iconoclast" implies).
The iconophilles believed that icons served to preserve the doctrinal teachings of the Church; they
considered icons to be man's dynamic way of expressing the divine through art and beauty. The
Iconoclast controversy was a form of Monophysitism: distrust and downgrading of the human side.
The Council's Proclamation
"We define that the holy icons, whether in color, mosaic, or some other material, should be exhibited in
the holy churches of God, on the sacred vessels and liturgical vestments, on the walls, furnishings, and in
houses and along the roads, namely the icons of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, that of our Lady
the Theotokos, those of the venerable angels and those of all saintly people. Whenever these
representations are contemplated, they will cause those who look at them to commemorate and love their
prototype. We define also that they should be kissed and that they are an object of veneration and honor
(timitiki proskynisis), but not of real worship (latreia), which is reserved for Him Who is the subject of our
faith and is proper for the divine nature, ... which is in effect transmitted to the prototype; he who
venerates the icon, venerated in it the reality for which it stands."
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