Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning
Page: 218The passage in I. John, v. 7, which reads thus: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one," is one of the numerous interpolations which were inserted into the books of the New Testament, many years after these books were written.[380:3] These passages are retained and circulated as the word of God, or as of equal authority with the rest, though known and admitted by the learned on all hands, to be forgeries, willful and wicked interpolations.
The subtle and profound questions concerning the nature, generation, the distinction, and the quality of the three divine persons of the mysterious triad, or Trinity, were agitated in the philosophical and in the Christian schools of Alexandria in Egypt,[380:4] but it was not a part of the established Christian faith until as late as A. D. 327, when the question was settled at the Councils of Nice and Constantinople. Up to this time there was no understood and recognized doctrine on this high subject. The Christians were for the most part accustomed to use scriptural expressions in speaking of the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit, without defining articulately their relation to one another.[380:5]
In these trinitarian controversies, which first broke out in Egypt—Egypt, the land of Trinities—the chief point in the discussion was to define the position of "the Son."
There lived in Alexandria a presbyter of the name of Arius, a disappointed candidate for the office of bishop. He took the [Pg 381]ground that there was a time when, from the very nature of Sonship, the Son did not exist, and a time at which he commenced to be, asserting that it is the necessary condition of the filial relation that a father must be older than his son. But this assertion evidently denied the co-eternity of the three persons of the Trinity, it suggested a subordination or inequality among them, and indeed implied a time when the Trinity did not exist. Hereupon, the bishop, who had been the successful competitor against Arius, displayed his rhetorical powers in public debates on the question, and, the strife spreading, the Jews and Pagans, who formed a very large portion of the population of Alexandria, amused themselves with theatrical representations of the contest on the stage—the point of their burlesques being the equality of age of the Father and the Son. Such was the violence the controversy at length assumed, that the matter had to be referred to the emperor (Constantine).
At first he looked upon the dispute as altogether frivolous, and perhaps in truth inclined to the assertion of Arius, that in the very nature of the thing a father must be older than his son. So great, however, was the pressure laid upon him, that he was eventually compelled to summon the Council of Nicea, which, to dispose of the conflict, set forth a formulary or creed, and attached to it this anathema:
"The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes those who say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, and that, before he was begotten, he was not, and that, he was made out of nothing, or out of another substance or essence, and is created, or changeable, or alterable."
Constantine at once enforced the decision of the council by the civil power.[381:1]
Even after this "subtle and profound question" had been settled at the Council of Nice, those who settled it did not understand the question they had settled. Athanasius, who was a member of the first general council, and who is said to have written the creed which bears his name, which asserts that the true Catholic faith is this:
"That we worship One God as Trinity, and Trinity in Unity—neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance—for there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost, but the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal,"
—also confessed that whenever he forced his understanding to [Pg 382]meditate on the divinity of the Logos, his toilsome and unavailing efforts recoiled on themselves; that the more he thought the less he comprehended; and the more he wrote the less capable was he of expressing his thoughts.[382:1]
We see, then, that this great question was settled, not by the consent of all members of the council, but simply because the majority were in favor of it. Jesus of Nazareth was "God himself in human form;" "one of the persons of the Ever-Blessed Trinity," who "had no beginning, and will have no end," because the majority of the members of this council said so. Hereafter—so it was decreed—all must believe it; if not, they must not oppose it, but forever hold their peace.
The Emperor Theodosius declared his resolution of expelling from all the churches of his dominions, the bishops and their clergy who should obstinately refuse to believe, or at least to profess, the doctrine of the Council of Nice. His lieutenant, Sapor, was armed with the ample powers of a general law, a special commission,