Conspiracy Theories Of The Council Of Nicaea (Two)

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It is written:

2 Peter 3:15-16-and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16  as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

What exactly was the Council Of Nicaea?

In 325 A.D., the Catholic church convened a meeting of several bishops to investigate a teacher by the name of Arius (the founder of Arianism). This religious teaching claimed that Jesus was of a different Nature of Substance than the Father, and that He was actually the first created Being. (This is the same doctrine taught by the religious group in our day and age known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses). In order to investigate these claims, the Council of Nicaea was organized.

Before we look into the claims made in the Da Vinci Code regarding the Nature of Jesus, we need to first consider the question of the dating and authority of the New Testament Scriptures. It is claimed in the Da Vinci Code that the Council Of Nicaea determined which books went into the New Testament canon. However, we will see that the New Testament canon had been determined long before the Council Of Nicaea!

Let’s start by examining the authorship and dating of the New Testament Books. If we can establish that the New Testament Books were indeed written by the Apostles of Christ during the first century timeframe (when Jesus lived), then it will be clearly demonstrated that the New Testament Scriptures predate the Council Of Nicaea (which took place in 325 A.D.).

There are several lines of evidence which demonstrate that the New Testament Scriptures were written in the first century by the Apostles of Christ and their companions. However, we will here only consider two.

First, let us consider the testimony of the early Christians who preceded the Council Of Nicaea. These early Christians provide powerful evidence that the New Testament Scriptures were well known and accepted long before the third century A.D.

For example:

“Concerning the four Gospels which alone are uncontroverted in the church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the Gospel according to Matthew (who was at one time a tax collector and afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ) was written first. He composed it in the Hebrew tongue and published it for the converts from Judaism. The second one written was that according to Mark, who wrote it according to the instruction of Peter. For Peter, in his general epistles, acknowledged Mark as a son, saying, “The church that is in Babylon, elect together with you, salutes you. And so does Mark, my son.” And third, was the one according to Luke, which he composed for the converts from the Gentiles. This is the Gospel commended by Paul. Last of all, there is the one according to John.” (Origen (c. 245, E), 9.412.)

“It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds. Now, the church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground” of the church is the Gospel. Therefore, it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and renewing men afresh.” (Irenaeus (c. 180, E/ W), 1.428)

“I say, therefore, that in those [apostolic] churches, the Gospel of Luke that we are defending with all our might has stood its ground from its very first publication. And it has stood its ground not simply in those churches that were founded by apostles, but in all the churches that are united with them in the fellowship of the mystery of the gospel of Christ. . . . The same authority of the apostolic churches will afford defense of the other Gospels also, which we possess equally through their means, and according to their usage. I mean the Gospels of John and Matthew—while that which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s, whose interpreter Mark was. For men usually ascribe Luke’s form of the Gospel to Paul.” (Tertullian (c. 207, W), 3.350.”

What is especially interesting here are the statements regarding the four Gospels accepted and acknowledged in the church (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

How widespread was this knowledge of the New Testament canon in the early church? To answer, we only need to examine how often the New Testament Scriptures are quoted by the church fathers.

The following information comes from Norman Geisler & Shawn Nelson, Evidence of An Early New Testament Canon, 521 (Kindle Edition); Matthews, NC; Bastion Books)

Justin Martyr: Gospels (268); Acts (10); Pauline Epistles (43); General Epistles (6 with 266 allusions); Revelation (3); Total; (330)

Irenaeus: Gospels (1, 038); Acts (194); Pauline Epistles (499); General Epistles (23); Revelation (65); Total: (1, 819)

Clement Of Alexandria: Gospels (1, 017); Acts (44); Pauline Epistles (1, 127); General Epistles (207); Revelation (11); Total (2, 406)

Origen: Gospels (9, 231); Acts (349); Pauline Epistles (7, 778); General Epistles (339); Revelation 165; Total (17, 922)

Tertullian: Gospels (3, 822); Acts (502); Pauline Epistles (2, 609); General Epistles (120); Revelation (205); Total (7, 258)

Hippolytus: Gospels (734); Acts (4); Pauline Epistles (387); General Epistles (27); Revelation (188); Total (1, 378)

Eusebius: Gospels (3, 258); Acts (211); Pauline Epistles (1, 592); General Epistles (88); Revelation (27); Total (5, 176).

Grand Totals: Gospels (19, 368); Acts (1, 352); Pauline Epistles (14, 035); General Epistles (870); Revelation (664); Total (36, 286)

So strong is the evidence of the early Christian knowledge of the New Testament canon of Scripture that Geisler notes:

“What is more, if we compile the 36,289 quotations by the early church Fathers of the second to fourth centuries we can reconstruct the entire New Testament minus 11 verses.”. (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 532 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)

Second, we should also consider that the enemies of Christianity were familiar with the New Testament Books long before Nicaea, again demonstrating that they were away of the existence of the New Testament Scriptures.

All of the evidence thus far demonstrates the genuineness of the New Testament Scriptures.

“Infidel writers of the first four centuries also wrote favoring our authors. The Emperor Julian, known as “the apostate,” wrote in 361 a work against Christianity; but he nowhere expressed a doubt as to either the books of Christians or their authors. It is almost certain that had occasion admitted of it, he would have challenged the genuineness of the books. Porphyry, universally conceded to have been the most formidable opponent to Christianity, wrote in 270, and spoke of Matthew as “their evangelist.” In 176, Celsus, esteemed by modern infidels as a wonderful philosopher, wrote a book against Christianity entitled A True Discourse, of which Origen has preserved fragments. But so unlike was he to his modern infidel brethren that he admitted the existence of the Christian or New Testament writings, and their genuineness…Whatever the reason, it must be apparent to every unprejudiced mind that earnest seekers after truth, who ignore such testimony accessible to the average scholar, are inexcusably guilty of trifling with indisputable evidence which would be convincing in any civil court. Such testimony has been provided in abundance by the friends and foes of the lowly Nazarene- our Lord in glory- and it proves that these”…holy men of God,” to whom their writings were assigned, “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).”” (James Todd, quoted by W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words, 167-168,; Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company)

Everest sheds more light on these fascinating topics:

“All the early adversaries of Christianity granted the genuineness of the New Testament books. These adversaries were men of talent and learning. By worldly interests and intense hatred of Christianity they were urged to use against it every possible weapon. The fact that they did not show its sacred books to be spurious is proof that they were not able to do so….”Testimony of Julian. The Emperor Julian composed his work against Christianity in 361. He united talent, learning, power, and persecuting zeal. If anything could have been said against the genuineness of the New Testament he would have been eager to make his attack from this side, but he did not. He bore witness to the genuineness of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. He concedes their early date and quotes them as the genuine works of their reputed authors. He quotes Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians. His whole attack assumes the genuineness and credibility of the New Testament…”2. Testimony of Hierocles. In 303 he was president of Bithynia; a cruel persecutor, and a sarcastic writer. He concedes the genuineness, and confines his efforts to the hunting up of internal flaws and contradictions. He refers to six of the eight authors of the New Testament. 3. Testimony of Porphyry. He was the most severe and formidable adversary of the primitive church…”He wrote about 270. He was well acquainted with the New Testament. He has plain references to Matthew, Mark, John, Acts, and Galatians. There is no trace of a suspicion that the sacred books were spurious. That he would have made this point, if possible, is evident from the fact that he did attack the book of Daniel in this manner…4. “Testimony of Celsus. He flourished about 176, and about 76 years after the death of the Apostle John. What we know about his work entitled ‘The True Word’ has been preserved by Origen. More than eighty quotations, made by him from the New Testament, have been thus preserved. His whole argument proceeds upon the concessions that the books he quoted were in existence, were held in high esteem by the churches, and were genuine. Thus by a plain and independent path we can trace the New Testament back to the Apostolic Age. It is also a remarkable fact that these bitter enemies are made to bear this unwilling, but decisive, testimony.” Harvey W. Everest, The Divine Demonstration: A Textbook Of Christian Evidence, 54-55; Nashville, TN; Gospel Advocate Company)

It is little wonder that scholars have noted the existence and acceptance of the New Testament canon long before the time of the Council Of Nicaea.

For example:

“Up to this point in our discussion, the historical sources have indicated that by the early second-century Christians already had a conception of a bi-covenantal canon—that apostolic documents stand alongside the Old Testament books as the next stage of God’s revelation. Some of these books were even being read publicly in worship. Moreover, by this time, a substantial collection of Paul’s letters (exactly how many is unclear), the four canonical Gospels, and a number of other books (Hebrews, 1 John, Revelation, etc.) were functioning as authoritative documents for early Christian communities.” (Michael J. Kruger, Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books, 305-306 (Kindle Edition); Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway)


“As can be seen, there is good reason to affirm an early New Testament canon. An early canon fits well with the Old Testament practice and with the historical and theological setting of the first-century church. Jesus told the church that new revelation was coming through the apostles. The apostles composed and then imposed their writings on the church early on. The church received these writings as inspired Scripture early. Spurious books and additional writings began to circulate, creating a need for leaders to begin drawing up lists indicating which books were safe to follow. Eventually final ratification would be made once the church matured. But it is clear that the central core of the New Testament books was well established very early. This is strong proof of an early canon. Christians have every reason to believe our New Testament is the inspired, infallible and inerrant “all truth” that Jesus promised to his church.” (Norman Geisler & Shawn Nelson, Evidence of an Early New Testament Canon, 503-512 (Kindle Edition); Matthews, NC; Bastion Books)

And yet again:

“So what truths can we pick up from our first stop? At least as early as the mid-second century, the standard for determining which writings were authoritative in the church was whether the book represented eyewitness testimony about Jesus. Writings that came after the deaths of these witnesses could not be regarded as universally authoritative in the churches, regardless of how popular these texts might become. Here’s what’s also clear from the Muratorian Fragment: even though Christians disagreed for several hundred years about seven or so writings, the core of the New Testament—including the four Gospels, Acts, Paul’s letters, and at least John’s first letter—was accepted as authoritative no later than the mid-second century, probably earlier.” (Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and The Cross, 1276-1282 (Kindle Edition); Lake Mary, FL: FrontLine: A Strang Company)

What then was the relationship between the Council Of Nicaea and the New Testament canon?

“By the close of the first century, the 27 books that compose the New Testament had been accepted by the early church as canonical. The evidence for this is verified by early church history. (In case you desire to read a more thorough treatment of this subject, I’ve listed several books for further reference at the end of this chapter.) The Roman Catholic Church maintains that the collection of books that compose the New Testament canon was determined by them. This is incorrect. The purpose of this council was not to sort through dusty old scrolls that had been stored in some monastic attic and then announce to the Christian world which books were canonical and which were not. The council simply affirmed what the early church had long since affirmed-that the 27 books we know as the New Testament were canonical. We must not make the mistake of thinking that the Scriptures received their authority because some council made a public statement of their acceptance. The truth of the matter is that the early church accepted the Scriptures in much the same way as Israel accepted the Old Testament Scriptures-they believed the Scriptures to be inspired of God. The church rightly saw herself as subject to the authority of Scripture and not the other way around. Though the church existed before the New Testament was written, this did not give the church authority over Scripture or even authority equal to Scripture. The church must always be subject to the authority of God’s written Word. What enabled the early church to accept the canon of the New Testament so readily was the unique position of the apostles. They were the Lord’s companions for most of his ministry, and he trained them for a special mission: world evangelism. Not only were they eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus, but they were endowed with the necessary credentials to establish themselves as God’s spokespersons. The miracles they performed testified to this role.” (Tony Coffey, Answers to Questions Catholics Are Asking, 325-336 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, Oregon; Harvest House Publishers)

The New Testament canon of Scripture existed long before the time of Constantine and the Council Of Nicaea. Indeed, the Apostles themselves referred to their writings as “Scripture” (2 Peter 3:15-16; 1 Timothy 5:18 with Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7)!

So far, the conspiracy theories and claims made by the Da Vinci Code regarding the Council Of Nicaea are clearly shown to be untrue.

Yet what about the claims in the Da Vinci Code that there were over eighty gospels that the Council Of Nicaea suppressed?

That will be the focus of our next study.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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