Summary: The truth about the deity of Jesus.
“Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned.” (The Da Vinci Code, p. 234).
“Until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet…a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.” (The Da Vinci Code, p. 233).
“Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power.” (The Da Vinci Code, p. 233)
“Jesus’ establishment as the ‘Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea…A relatively close vote at that.” (The Da Vinci Code, p. 233)
Church historians agree that next to the events in the New Testament, the most important event in the history of Christianity is the conversion of Emperor Constantine in A.D. 312. In brief, here’s the story: Constantine’s troops were positioned at the Milvian Bridge just outside of Rome, where they were preparing to overthrow the Roman emperor Maxentius. A victory would, in effect, make Constantine the sole ruler of the empire. But the night before the battle, Constantine saw a vision that changed his life and the history of the church.
In the words of Eusebius of Caesarea, who was both a historian and a confidant of Constantine, the emperor was praying to a pagan god when “he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross in the light of the heavens, above the sun and an inscription, Conquer By This attached to it…. Then in his sleep the Christ of God appeared to him with the sign which he had seen in the heavens, and commanded him to make a likeness of this sign which he had seen in the heavens, and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies.”
To make a long story short, Constantine crossed over the bridge and won the battle, fighting under the banner of the Christian cross. Later he issued the Edict of Milan, decreeing that Christians were no longer to be persecuted. And now, although a politician, he took leadership in the doctrinal disputes that were disrupting the unity in his empire.
One of those disputes concerned the doctrine of the person of Christ. There was a man named Arius, who was gaining a wide following by teaching that Christ was not fully God but a created god of sorts. He believed that Christ was more than a man but less than God. Arius was a great communicator, and because he put his doctrinal ideas into musical jingles, his ideas became widely accepted. Although many church bishops declared him a heretic, the disputes continued. Constantine called the first ecumenical council at Nicaea, hoping to suppress dissent and unify Christianity. In fact, the emperor even paid the expenses of the bishops who gathered.
Constantine did not care about the finer points of theology, so practically any creed would have satisfied him—a long as it would unify his subjects. As one historian has said, “Christianity became both a way to God and a way to unite the empire.” He gave the opening speech himself, telling the delegates that doctrinal disunity was worse than war.
This intrusion of a politician into the doctrines and procedures of the church was resented by some of the delegates, but welcomed by others. For those who had gone through a period of bitter persecution, this conference, carried on under the imperial banner, was heaven on earth.
More than 300 bishops met at Nicaea to settle doctrinal disputes. When Constantine finished his opening speech, the proceedings began. Overwhelmingly, the council declared Arius a heretic. Though Arius was given an opportunity to defend his views, the delegates recognized that if Christ was not fully God, then God was not the Redeemer of mankind. To say that Christ was created was to deny the clear teaching of Scripture: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him” (Col. 1:16). Clearly, if He created all things, He could not have been created Himself! To this passage, many others that teach the deity of Christ were added, both from the Gospels and the Epistles.
Affirming the divinity of Jesus, the delegates turned their attention to the question of how He related to the Father. Eusebius the historian presented his view, claiming that Jesus had a nature that was similar to that of God the Father.
Present, but not invited to the actual proceedings, was the theologian Athanasius, who believed that eve to say that Christ is similar to God that Father is to miss the full biblical teaching about Christ’s divinity. His argument that Christ could only be God in the fullest sense if His nature was the same as that of the Father was expressed by his representative, Marcellus, a bishop from Asia Minor in the proceedings. Constantine, seeing that the debate was going in Athenasius’s favor, accepted the suggestion of a scholarly bishop and advised the delegates to use the Greek word which means “one and the same.” In other words, Jesus had the very same nature as the Father.