First Council of Constantinople

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First Council of Constantinople
Date 381
Accepted by Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Assyrian Church of the East, Anglicanism, Lutheranism
Previous council First Council of Nicaea
Next council Council of Ephesus
Convoked by Emperor Theodosius I
Presided by Timothy of Alexandria, Meletius of Antioch, Gregory Nazianzus, and Nectarius of Constantinople
Attendance 150 (no representation of Western Church)
Topics of discussion Arianism, Apollinarism, Saberianism, Holy Spirit, successor to Meletius
Documents and statements Nicene Creed of 381, seven canons (three disputed)
Chronological list of Ecumenical councils

The First Council of Constantinople (second ecumenical council) was called by Theodosius I in 381 to confirm the Nicene Creed and deal with other matters of the Arian controversy .


[edit] Background

The Council of Nicaea did not end the Arian controversy which it had been called to clarify. By 327, Emperor Constantine I had begun to regret the decisions that had been made at the Nicene Council. He granted amnesty to the Arian leaders and exiled Athanasius because of Eusebius of Nicomedia. Even during numerous exiles, Athanasius continued to be a vigorous defender of Nicene Christianity against Arianism. The Cappadocian Fathers also took up the torch, their Trinitarian discourse was influential in the council at Constantinople.

Up until about 360, theological debates mainly dealt with the Divinity of Jesus, the 2nd person of the Trinity. However, because the Council of Nicaea had not clarified the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the 3rd person of the Trinity, it became a target for heretics. The Macedonians denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. This was also known as Pneumatomachianism.

[edit] The proceedings

Timothy of Alexandria, Meletius of Antioch, Gregory Nazianzus, and Archbishop Nectarius of Constantinople successively presided. Gregory Nazianzus was appointed Archbishop of Constantinople, but soon resigned from the position a few months later, and Nectarius was then put in his place.

The council affirmed the original Nicene creed of faith as true and an accurate explanation of Scripture. This council also developed a statement of faith which included the language of Nicaea, but expanded the discussion on the Holy Spirit to combat heresies. It is called the Nicene Creed of 381 and was a commentary on the original Nicene formula. It expanded the third article of the creed dealing with the Holy Spirit, as well as some other changes. About the Holy Spirit the article of faith said he is "the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified". The statement of proceeding from the Father is seen as significant because it established that the Holy Spirit must be of the same essence (ousia) as God the Father.

Gregory of Nazianzus presided over part of the Council

This Council's decision regarding the Holy Spirit also gave official endorsement to the concept of the Trinity. By the end of the 4th century, the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius "issued a decree that the doctrine of the Trinity was to be the official state religion and that all subjects shall adhere to it" (See "Constantine, the first Christian emperor," Antiquity Online)

Seven canons, four of these doctrinal canons and three disciplinary canons, are attributed to the Council and accepted by both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches; the Roman Catholic Church accepts only the first four[1].

The first canon[2] is an important dogmatic condemnation of all shades of Arianism, also of Macedonianism and Apollinarianism.

The second canon[3] renews the Nicene legislation imposing upon the bishops the observance of diocesan and patriarchal limits.

The famous third canon[4] declares that because Constantinople is New Rome the bishop of that city should have a pre-eminence of honour after the Bishop of Old Rome. Baronius wrongly maintained the non-authenticity of this canon, while some medieval Greeks maintained (an equally erroneous thesis) that it declared the Bishop of Constantinople in all things the equal of the Bishop of Rome. The purely human reason of Rome's ancient authority, suggested by this canon, was never admitted by the Roman Catholic Church, which always based its claim to supremacy on the succession of St. Peter. Nor did Rome easily acknowledge this reordering of rank among the ancient patriarchates of the East. It was rejected by the Papal Legates at the Council of Chalcedon. Pope Leo the Great (Ep. cvi in P.L., LIV, 1003, 1005) declared that this canon has never been submitted to Rome and that it was a violation of the Nicene order. At the Fourth Council of Constantinople in 869 the Roman legates (J. D. Mansi, XVI, 174) acknowledged Constantinople as second in patriarchal rank. In 1215, at the Fourth Lateran Council (op. cit., XXII, 991), this was formally admitted for the new Latin patriarch, and in 1439, at the Council of Florence, for the Greek patriarch (Hefele-Leclercq, Hist. des Conciles, II, 25-27). The Roman correctores of Gratian (1582), at dist. xxii, c. 3, insert the words: "canon hic ex iis est quos apostolica Romana sedes a principio et longo post tempore non recipit."

The fourth canon[5] declares invalid the consecration of Maximus of Constantinople, the Cynic philosopher and rival of Gregory of Nazianzus, as Bishop of Constantinople.

The fifth canon[6] might have been passed the next year, 382, and is in regard to a Tome of the Western bishops, perhaps that of Pope Damasus I.

The sixth canon[7] might belong to the year 382 as well and was passed at the Quinisext Council as #95 and limits the ability to accuse bishops of wrongdoing.

The seventh canon[8] regards procedures for receiving certain heretics into the church.

Pope Damasus I was not invited (or declined to attend), thus sometimes this council is called the unecumenical council. However, it was affirmed as ecumenical at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

[edit] Aftermath

This council effectively handled Arianism and it began to die out with more condemnations at a council by Ambrose of Milan in 381. With the discussion of Trinitarian doctrine now developed and well under agreement to orthodox and Biblical understanding, it led to Christology. Christology would be the topic of the Council of Ephesus of 431 and the Council of Chalcedon of 451.

[edit] External links

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Orthodox & Catholic Nicaea I | Constantinople I | Ephesus | Chalcedon | Constantinople II | Constantinople III | Quinisext Council | Nicaea II | Constantinople IV
Eastern Orthodox Constantinople V | Synod of Jerusalem
Catholic Sutri | Lateran I | Lateran II | Lateran III | Lateran IV | Lyon I | Lyon II | Vienne | Pisa | Constance | Siena | Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence | Lateran V | Trent | Vatican I | Vatican II
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First Council of Constantinople

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