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Early Christian Schisms – The Council of Nicaea – Extra History – #3


Last we left off, Constantine had just
called together a council of Christian bishops from around the known world. They
were to resolve all the challenges of the Church so that he, Constantine, could
get back to uniting the empire under Christianity. The council was set to
tackle issues ranging from what day to celebrate Easter, to how to heal the
Meletian schism; a sect like the Donatists, who are concerned with the re-admittance of lapsed priests into the Church. This council was also going to
formalize how the liturgy was given, provide rules for the structure of the
Church, and set down some guidelines for being a priest. No living in the houses
of young women, no self-castration, no engaging in usury – you know that sort of
thing. But above all they were there to deal with the one thing: the Arian Heresy.
This was the main topic; the front-and-center issue that everybody
had come to discuss. It was tearing apart the Christian world, and it was
time it came to an end. So 318 bishops assembled in one
late Spring 325 CE, in the coastal Anatolian town of Nicea, to settle this
once and for all. The conference center was arrayed in splendor by the Emperor;
the bishops and all their aides and advisors were guests of the Empire,
housed, fed and cared for at Imperial expense. But more than that, the Emperor
himself would be in attendance. That’s just how important this was to
Constantine. Constantine set the tone for the meeting, walking in, not surrounded by guards, as
was the norm for the person of the Emperor, but rather entering surrounded
only by a few friends. This wasn’t a battle – it was a time to come together.
And so it began. The debate was vigorous, using all the rhetorical art the
Roman world was famous for. Laity and clerics both engaged in arguing the
merits of each side, while the Emperor sat there, gently reminding everyone that they were
all Christians here, and that they needn’t treat each other like enemies of the
faith. And for weeks the discussions went on, contentious, impassioned, on at
least one occasion breaking out into a brawl, but for all this the truth was
that most of the bishops were relatively moderate, looking to come to the correct
answer but believing that an answer could be found that both sides had
agree to – and the Emperor himself was happy to embrace anything that would
just get all these guys to agree. So the discussions really resolved down to the
point of view of two men: Arius, the namesake of Arianism, whose unbending views
had caused the council to be summoned in the first place, and a man named Athanasius. Athanasius was a deacon of Alexandria,
where the whole Arian Schism began. He was an ardent anti-Arian, and he intended
to do everything in his power to make sure that no compromise with the Arians
was reached. And so time rolled forward with the council split – no overwhelming
majority willing to come down on either side. Debate continued on how to achieve a
compromised position, but the discussion wound in circles as these two men: Athanasius and Arius, dominated the discussion and kept any chance of truly
finding a middle ground at bay. Still, time and again the Emperor reminded them
all that they were here to heal the Church – that, as Romans and as
Christians, they were more alike than different, and that they should be able
to find a way to work such esoteric theological differences out. But
Constantine, powerful, intelligent and adroit as he was, was not the type of
subtle theologian that Athanasius turned out to be, because as the debate moved on
Athanasius began to introduce the term ‘homoousian’ into the discussion. And
this was a throw of the dice because ‘homoousian’ means ‘of the same substance’,
which made many of the bishops a little uneasy, as it had been used in other
heretical context before to claim that there was no difference between God the
Son and God the Father. But Athanasius knew that this was a term that Arius
had objected to in the past, and that he would never agree to any compromise that
involved using the term ‘homoousian’. So, Athanasius started to appear to be the
reasonable one. He could look as if he were slightly willing to bend, knowing
that no compromise he ever offered would be accepted so long as it could be
worded talking about Christ as homoousian. And here’s where the debate
really began to get rowdy, because now people had to polarize. You had to agree
with this term or not, as no one was going to compromise around it There was one last attempt at bringing
everyone together, though, trying to get people to meet in the middle and say
that Christ was ‘homoiousian’, or, ‘of similar nature to God’, but by now this was
thoroughly rejected by all those who had declared themselves firmly on one
side or another. And even as this compromise was being discussed, Athanasius was secretly pulling people over to his side. While the great debate
was happening in public, the anti-Arian faction was making deals and
persuading people in private. Slowly, bishop by bishop, they assembled a
majority coalition, and soon that majority was threatening damnation and
excommunication for anybody who followed the heretical Arian formulation. And so those less
firm in their Arian beliefs began to switch sides as well; not wanting to
risk their immortal souls, or perhaps their positions in the church, almost
every delegate signed onto the homoousian idea of Christ. Only Arius himself, one
deacon and two other bishops refused to sign what would become known as the
Nicene Creed, cementing the Trinitarian view of Christ. And thus, Arianism was
declared heresy, its teachings anathema, and its preaching an exilable offense.
And so the Emperor got up, dusted off his chlamys, and thought to himself “Job well done!” I mean, after all, he had
brought all the priests together, they had basically all agreed on… something,
and he could now exile those few who had disagreed, unity would be restored
and he could get back to ruling the Empire. But it’s not quite that simple
because a few months later, Constantine found he also had to exile a
man named Eusebius – a prelate who had signed the Creed but who continued to
refuse to condemn Arius. This may seem like a small thing – one man being exiled
over taking a half-hearted stand not condemning his friend – but Eusebius was
actually a distant relative of Constantine’s, and unlike Arius, who is
principally known in Egypt and the ecclesiastical circles of the East,
Eusebius was a member of Constantine’s court. In fact that’s why he had to exile him;
because he kept pushing for Arius in Constantine’s inner circle long after
Constantine was good and done with this whole heresy thing. But, Constantine’s
sister liked Eusebius, and soon he was recalled from exile. But if there was any
doubt which side Eusebius was on, his exile cemented him as a firm Arian and
so he worked at court, day by day to soften the Emperor’s views on Arianism.
And, as even exiling its principal supporters and declaring the belief
heretical hadn’t actually stamped out the Arian beliefs, Constantine began to
be receptive to the idea of a softer rapprochement than he had previously been. A
kind of ‘coexistence’. After all, he wanted harmony in his empire. But harmony was
not on Eusebius’ mind. He schemed against Athanasius, never publicly
putting himself in opposition to him, but getting other groups to accuse Athanasius of a myriad of crimes. At last, through a rigged trial, he was able to
get Athanasius convicted, and he convinced the Emperor that it was
actually Athanasius who is now preventing the rift in the Christian
Church to heal, with his diehard refusal to readmit schismatics into the Church, and that he should be exiled. Meanwhile
Eusebius had also succeeded in getting Arius recalled. So with Athanasius
exiled and Arius recalled, the Arian doctrine began to gain strength in the
Empire again. Constantine himself would, at the very
end of his life, be baptized by Eusebius. And his son? His son would be a diehard
Arian throughout his rule. And, though after hundreds of years the Nicene Creed
would eventually win out, this reprieve for Arianism allowed it to spread and slip
out of the Empire, for Eusebius ordained a Goth named Ulfilas to go on a mission
to the Gothic tribes, and he was successful, converting many and cementing Arian
Christianity as the Christianity of the northern tribes. And this is one of the
reasons that the Gothic tribes never really integrated into the Roman Empire.
It’s one of the reasons that, rather than become assimilated like so many other
groups, they remained separate; integral to the empire but never really being
part of it. And in the end, it’s part of why they tore the Empire apart. Join us
next time as we jump a few hundred years ahead, for the Monophysite Heresy, which
plagued Justinian and destroyed the unity of Eastern Rome.

Jean Kelley

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100 COMMENTS

  1. 77FantasyAngel77 Posted on July 26, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    Funny, seeing people determined to spread their faith to bring happiness and stop sin trying to do so via such morally dubious means.

    Reply
  2. Napoléon Bonaparte Posted on July 31, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    The birth of the trinity cult

    Reply
  3. CarKing19 Posted on August 3, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    The ones who refused to sign were Arius himself, the deacon Euzoios, and the Libyan bishops Theonas of Marmarica and Secundus of Ptolemais—and also the bishops who signed the creed but refused to join in condemnation of Arius, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis of Nicaea

    Reply
  4. Jadyn Calder Posted on August 4, 2018 at 3:51 am

    Constantine is literally bipolar.

    Reply
  5. Zachary Durocher Posted on August 4, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Arius is the OG

    Reply
  6. K1naku5ana3R1ka Posted on August 13, 2018 at 1:05 am

    1:04 Wait, is this town spelled Nicea or Nicaea? You used the other spelling while talking about it in your First Crusade episode. I’ve seen it both ways in other places; is there some fundamental issue with transliterating the name?

    Reply
  7. Charlie Castillo Posted on August 17, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    If things between Arians and Anti-Arians were that bad, it’s basically like the current political climate in the US

    Reply
  8. Scott Wallace Posted on August 20, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Very sad that such historically weighty decisions were made about something that didn't exist.

    Reply
  9. YoshMaster Posted on September 4, 2018 at 4:42 am

    So religion is pretty much 99% about fighting for stupid little details no normal person cares about… why did they care so much about terms and weird concepts that would change nothing about their overall beliefs???

    Reply
  10. Kyle D Bear Posted on September 5, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    History proves that Christianity is just another religion created by man.

    Reply
  11. Scriptminer Posted on September 11, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    Really liking this series!

    Reply
  12. ΑΝΔΡΕΑΣ ΤΡΙΟΜΜΑΤΗΣ Posted on September 13, 2018 at 3:53 am

    Ματθ. 18,7 Οὐαὶ τῷ κόσμῳ ἀπὸ τῶν σκανδάλων· ἀνάγκη γάρ ἐστιν ἐλθεῖν τὰ σκάνδαλα· πλὴν οὐαὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ δι᾿ οὗ τὸ σκάνδαλον ἔρχεται. ..

    Reply
  13. UNION JACK THE RIPPER Posted on September 15, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    I wouldve been an arian in those days

    Reply
  14. marah -b.adrian Posted on September 18, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    Where's St Nicholas??? St Nicholas (Santa Claus) is very much involved…

    Reply
  15. Douggie Harrison Posted on September 25, 2018 at 8:10 am

    Holy duck it's 4 am but I can't stop this shit is better than a game of thrones story

    Reply
  16. Steve Davey Posted on September 30, 2018 at 3:48 am

    Wow! Really impressive and original work. Well done.

    Reply
  17. bibhusan rai Posted on October 5, 2018 at 4:29 am

    christian are full of s…

    Reply
  18. BlueBurton Posted on October 9, 2018 at 1:37 am

    Crazy how Aryans were screwing everything up that long ago too

    Reply
  19. Big O Posted on October 10, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    I really tried but I can't understand Arianism could someone please explain it to me?

    Reply
  20. TheyTookMyUsername Posted on October 14, 2018 at 12:57 am

    I’m just sitting here, an atheist.

    Reply
  21. sky Posted on October 21, 2018 at 5:43 am

    i can see the frustration in the animators become hilariously obvious as the video goes on

    Reply
  22. FollowInTruth LJ Posted on October 31, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    Quite a few incorrect "facts" in this video……

    Reply
  23. Shadow Zero Posted on November 2, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    Thank God im an Atheist

    Reply
  24. Peter Grandahl Posted on November 8, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    Childish behavior! Like a couple of kids stubbornly fighting over a toy, neither willing to bend. I don't know what the Trinity really is, who or what God really is or who or what Christ really is. These things I believe are beyond human understanding. The one thing I “know” is that the churches are made up of humans with limited spiritual understanding and the churches have for the most part been run by psychopaths more interested in power than anything truly spiritual. The Gospels were written by humans. They are full of flaws and contradictions. Because of the conflicts there is no way to know exactly what Jesus said or did for certain. I think it's best to try and be kind and help one another. You must take care of your physical life and body but also feed your soul. The best way to do that is through spiritual exercises, prayer and mediation.

    Reply
  25. Sara McCutcheon Posted on December 2, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    I don't understand why priests wavering in their opinion could genuinely fear damnation for not agreeing with ideas put forward by these other guys.

    Reply
  26. Big Zakk Posted on December 9, 2018 at 12:59 am

    And that's when the Trinity came from lol

    Reply
  27. Carsonian The Great Posted on December 14, 2018 at 3:12 am

    Saint Athanasius’ name is pronounced Ath-in-ay-shus

    Reply
  28. Christopher Ellis Posted on December 20, 2018 at 5:07 am

    Monophysites are still around. Egypt, Ethiopia, Armenia, India Syria. Iran

    Reply
  29. Baron Jay Posted on December 21, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    The phrase "His son would be a die-hard Arian" sounds off to me. Any thoughts why?

    Reply
  30. Lo Pikachu Posted on December 26, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    Is it me or does the beginning of John seem to be related to this?

    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

    Reply
  31. shiny x Posted on January 1, 2019 at 1:29 am

    Self-castration was so common they had to make a rule against it???

    Reply
  32. ManticOmar 11 Posted on January 2, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    Islam is one only true faith

    Reply
  33. Magnus Peacock Posted on January 3, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    Fun fact: the arians, teaching that Christ was matterial, where exiled to Medina where 150 years later Islam would emerge teaching that Christ was entirely matterial and just a prophet.

    Reply
  34. Brian Crane Posted on January 3, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    Lots of people had their own ideas about Christ and NEVER MIND WHAT ANY FIDDLING SCRIPTURES SAID! When The Bible contradicted their ideas they simply didn't believe The Bible! (or they forged their own version!) You've read the history but not The Scripture. These "problems that split Christians" were answered in The Bible. Assume that Jesus Christ DID DIE FOR YOU then re-read The Bible! You'll see…

    Reply
  35. kasimk4 Posted on January 8, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    Oh well…its all shirk.

    Reply
  36. Jacob Stewart Posted on January 12, 2019 at 2:58 am

    How does not believing the same thing as something (i.e. the Roman empire) = tearing it apart?

    Reply
  37. Guess my name Posted on January 15, 2019 at 1:33 am

    "Even a little difference, a difference the size of an acorn head can split Christianity."
    -My Christan Mother

    Reply
  38. ModoTheGreat Posted on January 23, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    "A deacon named Athanasius set himself against Arius and succeeded in getting his teachings declared heresy." I'm sorry… Whose teachings now?

    Reply
  39. Thomas Walder Posted on January 26, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    All those dealings and arguing… Humans have always been humans

    Reply
  40. Arturo Stojanoff Posted on January 26, 2019 at 9:13 pm

    As an atheist I find it so weird how they can get so worked up over this.

    Reply
  41. Paul TheSkeptic Posted on January 27, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    This makes me think that when you take a belief that can't be tested and one that believed zealously, its natural nature is to split. Then to split again, and again… etc. Think about it. To this day we'll never really know if Arius was right. Not on earth anyway. But if someone believes he's right, then those who don't believe it are monsters. So they make a movement. And even this will, of course, eventually branch off to something else. That's why the thousands of Christian denominations today all disagree on some point of doctrine.

    Reply
  42. Bin Brail Posted on January 29, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    Arius did nothing wrong #GothicGang

    Reply
  43. Mr Peco Posted on January 31, 2019 at 7:56 am

    i'm of asian descent
    i believe in Jesus, the best way to phrase it is i grew up believing
    i guess this would be a good time too consider myself no in this set of problems

    Reply
  44. Itai Eiron Posted on January 31, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Cake is just flavored bread.

    Reply
  45. Robert McDiarmid Posted on February 4, 2019 at 8:53 am

    You missed the part when Arius gets hit in the face bye Santa clause in the middle of the council, classic Saint Nick shenanigans. 👊

    Reply
  46. Tyrant-Den Posted on February 7, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    If I had a time machine, I would give Constantine a hug.

    Reply
  47. Saran The Wrap God Posted on February 11, 2019 at 2:02 am

    Is this where Muhammad got the idea for Jesus as a prophet lol

    Reply
  48. /ibestr Posted on February 12, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    do you have any resources i could refer to about the collusion you describe at 4:10

    Reply
  49. Jack Mara Posted on February 13, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Last known shisma: End of the 19th century…. I bet this won't end.

    Reply
  50. zaco 2121 Posted on February 13, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    Constantine being an Arian is news to me. Comstantine's son being an Arian is even more interesting. The Church hides a lot of things.

    Reply
  51. QueenBoadicea Posted on February 14, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    0:36 Catholic priests: "We can't have access to young women? What'll we do for sex? Didn't say anything about young boys, did they? Hmmmm…."

    Reply
  52. astroSuperkoala Posted on February 23, 2019 at 4:07 am

    Legend has it that st nick, the one who Santa would be named after, punched arius in the face

    Reply
  53. Vlad Alkorrah Nar Rannoch Posted on February 26, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    “They were there to deal with one thing…”
    “THE HORUS HERES-No wait. Wrong heresy.”

    Reply
  54. pop5678eye Posted on March 2, 2019 at 9:36 am

    This is what happens at debates where all sides 'know the truth.'

    Compare with scientific debates that stretch over decades with each side admitting they don't know the whole truth.

    Reply
  55. Joseph Halbohn Posted on March 4, 2019 at 12:17 am

    They had to be TOLD to not CASTRATE THEMSELVES???

    Reply
  56. pyropowerz Posted on March 6, 2019 at 5:30 am

    'And soon that majority was threatening damnation and excommunication for anybody who followed the heretical Aryan formulation'

    Reply
  57. Phil H Posted on March 6, 2019 at 7:36 am

    "Homoousian" was basically just a fusion of Arianism and modalism.

    Reply
  58. Rienk Kroese Posted on March 8, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    HERESY!!!

    Reply
  59. Polandball Historian Posted on March 11, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    7:12
    Goth?
    Goth?
    GOTH??
    GOOOOTH
    FUCKING GOOOOOTH
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

    Reply
  60. Lanny Bear Posted on March 12, 2019 at 2:37 am

    People today may think that it was unreasonable for Arians and Trinitarians to not find middle ground. But there are some things where there can no compromise. Jesus is either God or he isn't.

    Reply
  61. TSGaming1234 Posted on March 12, 2019 at 3:36 am

    whos here after Tfues video

    Reply
  62. Juu Ju Posted on March 12, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    Constantine seems to be the beleaguered and tired HR manager in this arguments.

    Reply
  63. Jesinchen Posted on March 13, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    The persecution of the arian christian is one of the earliest examples of christian tolerance and love.

    Reply
  64. Joel 14 Posted on March 27, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    The view of earthly guys

    Reply
  65. Tintin Posted on April 5, 2019 at 4:47 am

    “rulebook including: banning self castration” ??! I always knew Christianity was one of the daftest religions… but if bishops want to cut their own balls off I say let ‘em!

    Reply
  66. nosuchthing8 Posted on April 5, 2019 at 10:09 pm

    Who was the pirate priest

    Reply
  67. Philly Wonken Posted on April 6, 2019 at 12:42 am

    Early Christianity is basically the fate of modern history balancing on a bunch of nerdy assholes trying to figure out which Rick & Morty fan theory is absolutely 100% correct…

    Reply
  68. ur2c8 Posted on April 10, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Why all the schisms? Because that is what humans do – and Christianity is a human creation.

    Reply
  69. Paulthored Posted on April 16, 2019 at 4:03 am

    Do you have to use the antichristian and unscientific term CE for your timescales? (~Whine~) During a video about Christianity no less?!?
    I don't get the reasoning behind BCE/CE myself, so perhaps a video? Eh?? ✌😉

    Reply
  70. rushan akmal Posted on April 23, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    Soo….. Christian nowadays not really authentic?

    Reply
  71. Alex Sunderland Posted on May 3, 2019 at 5:13 am

    Yeamo

    Reply
  72. Dante Caputo Posted on May 5, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    I’m beginning to see why Julian just said ‘screw this’ in 360 AD.

    Reply
  73. John Erickson Posted on May 7, 2019 at 5:29 am

    I love that the difference between the two factions literally came down to one iota.

    Reply
  74. Holy Diver Posted on May 9, 2019 at 11:16 pm

    Whenever he says 'Heresy' and 'Emperor' 40K instantly comes to my mind
    help

    Reply
  75. Alexander Rodriguez y Gibson Posted on May 10, 2019 at 4:12 am

    All hail Justinian, second only to Walpole in cameos.

    Reply
  76. Black Marble Posted on May 31, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    I see why they were upset. The middle dude was saying god jesus and the bishops were all homos

    Reply
  77. martin corderoy Posted on June 5, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    Basically jst an early version of Brexit .Two extreme parties plus those who call themselves moderates squabbling and never getting anything settled.

    Reply
  78. Aleksandar Vil Posted on June 10, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    Nicaea = Daycare Center

    Christian Bishops = Toddlers (2-6 years)

    Constantine = Battered Head of Daycare Center

    Reply
  79. Aleksandar Vil Posted on June 10, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    Arius : NO HOMO……..

    Reply
  80. Deimi KK Posted on June 17, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    Did the end the Schisms? It was Walpole.

    Reply
  81. I am hacker - anonymous Posted on June 18, 2019 at 10:44 am

    Do I here Aryan 🙂

    Reply
  82. christof mortensen Posted on June 24, 2019 at 10:25 pm

    Arianism is non biblical.

    Reply
  83. Im So Lonely Posted on June 27, 2019 at 7:28 am

    7:20 Beautiful artwork.

    Reply
  84. Mike Moats Posted on July 6, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    Please show me immortal soul in the Bible.

    Reply
  85. Mike Moats Posted on July 6, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    Arianism believe d Christ was sub servant to god sense scripture says he was created. There is no Trinity it's pagan in Origen it's false. You are worshipping the son. Therefore not only offending our Father but the son too. Good luck with that.

    Reply
  86. Athenian Privateer Posted on July 7, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    Arius was right!

    Reply
  87. TheBayzent Posted on July 9, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    "And his son? His son would be a hard Arrian through his life" I've heard as "half Aryan" and suddenly I imagined Constantius II talking about Thule and the Elders of Zion on the Byzantine equivalent of 4chan (the Hippodrome probably) while listening to "Erika" in the background.

    Reply
  88. 50PullUps Posted on July 11, 2019 at 3:55 am

    So the council of nicea was just a big room of men shouting at each other?

    Reply
  89. Joshua Santerelli Posted on July 13, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    I really enjoyed your perspective on the early Christian Church. Specifically in this episode I was wondering why you didn’t mention the formation of the the canon at the Council of Nicaea, where they also determined which books were considered to be “hypocryphal gospels”?

    Reply
  90. rotenaka Posted on August 18, 2019 at 1:31 am

    So uhmm, people kill each other and suffer for thousands of years just from disagreeing about how their superstar was born? That's actually too petty behind all the grandiose theology, I think.

    Reply
  91. IntermediateJesus Posted on August 22, 2019 at 1:17 am

    What a bunch of nerds!

    Reply
  92. TickedOff Priest Posted on August 28, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    0:57 I have to make this my desktop wallpaper.

    Reply
  93. JaredMithrandir Posted on September 8, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    According to Eusebius it was Constantine who introduced the word Homoousias.

    Reply
  94. JaredMithrandir Posted on September 8, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    What are your Sources on all this? Your painting Athanasius as a master politician of the Council when others say he wasn't even there as he wasn't a Bishop.

    Reply
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