Section 7. Living The Faith... The Biblical Christian/
Catholicism and The Councils

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 Catholicism and The Councils

The first four Ecumenical councils show how far and how quickly the church deviated from its roots. If these four are any indication of what the others were like, then all seven were rotten to the core.

Carol Brooks
Edited by Vicki Narlee

 Although This is a Stand Alone Article, The Church Then and Now is Almost a Necessary Introduction. See




Introduction.... The Church Then and Now

How Quickly The Rot Set In

The Ecumenical Councils
Evangelical Defense of The Earliest Councils

The Council of Jerusalem Vs. The Ecumenical Councils
How The Council of Jerusalem Arrived At Their Decision
How The Ecumenical Councils Arrived At Their Decisions

The First Ecumenical Council
The Council of Nicaea ... The Canons

The Very Catholic Backdrop to The Council of Nicaea
Most of the following Catholic beliefs and practices were well established in the church of the day, and taught by many of the so called "fathers".
Immaculate Conception / Bodily Assumption of Mary
The Tabernacle
The Mass

How The New Testament Structured the Church

The Absolute and Self Assumed Power of The Bishops

The First Official "Patriarchs"

The Power of The Bishop of Rome

The Second Ecumenical Council
The First Council of Constantinople... The Canons 

The Third Ecumenical Council
The Council of Ephesus...
The City of Ephesus... From Diana To Mary
An Important Step In Mariology

Ambrose...(c. 340 – 397
A perfect example of men making it up as they went along


Introduction.... The Church... Then and Now
This introduction is a brief summary of the preceding article The Church... Then and Now is an almost necessary introduction to this one. The article shows how how little resemblance there is between modern churches vs. those planted by the original apostles. The disparity exists in virtually every aspect of ‘church' including how they are run and by whom to how services are conducted.

In fact, the first century apostles would probably be aghast, if not downright appalled at what we call church.


Because when they were alive the church referred not to a building or organization but to small groups of local believers. As the first century gave way to the second, and the second meandered its way into the third, it was somehow transformed into a huge organization with layer upon layer of rank, each subordinate to the one above. Once led by the Spirit, believers came under the rule of men who put into place dozens of rules and regulations that governed every conceivable aspect of the Christian's belief system. It soon became an increasingly inflexible institution governed by an elite hierarchy. And, as we will see a little further into the article, there was plenty of hierarchy to go round.

They got away with it because then as now, people tend to have a herd mentality, following those who seem to have authority. We rarely stop to ask whether that authority is God-given, or self assumed. Obviously, the Lord had good reason to call us sheep.

In summary,

    The Church Itself:  To begin with, most Christians assume "church" means the organization run by ordained clergy that conducts religious ceremonies in brick and mortar buildings down the road. In fact, the situation is so bad that should all the ranked clergy and buildings disappear tomorrow, most Christians would assume they had lost their "church". However, in New Testament times, there was no building that was set aside as a "church", and the entire proceedings were never supposed to be designed and led by the "clergy". The ekklesia, or called out group of believers met in homes -. their spiritual welfare looked after by "elders". These were mature men generally elected on the basis that they were qualified to handle the duties and responsibilities of small churches that were in effect extended families.

    The Leaders: Additionally, although some of the terms we use for the leaders of the church (bishop, pastor, etc.) find their roots in the New Testament, the concept behind the words has changed to a very large degree. For example, "clergy" as a body of ordained religious practitioners did not exist in the New Testament, neither did priests. There were no separate pastors and bishops in the early church, and a "deacon" was the same as a "minister" - a servant or one who serves. And, as a by the way, none of them wore fancy expensive embroidered robes and headgear.

    The Services: Virtually inactive, mute believers gathered together to listen to a sermon and do nothing else but sit and stand on cue and sing pre-determined hymns would have been totally foreign to the early church. The New Testament clearly showed that gathering together with other Christians was a participatory and interactive event, each person using his God given spiritual gifts for the benefit or building up of the congregation as a whole. But as the church became more and more of a very large hierarchal organization, the believer's God given freedom to contribute to the church meetings was drastically curtailed. No! I take that back. Thebchurch meetings became formal liturgical services set in stone by the higher-ups - the believer's God given freedom to contribute to them entirely done away with.

Finally, if you consider that the New Testament Christians meetings were never called a "worship service", simply because they did not gather together for corporate worship (nor to hear a sermon), one is forced to the tragic conclusion that much of the modern church has little or no idea why it exists at all, or what it is meant to do. Much less how the meetings are supposed to be structured and who they are supposed to be led by.

See The Church... Then and Now

However, this was far from all. Not only were vast changes made to the structure church itself and the services conducted therein, but the amount of human ideas added to the the basic doctrines taught in Scripture are mind boggling.

However, what is truly amazing is how soon the changes came about or, to put it more accurately (if less politely)...

How Quickly The Rot Set In
Regardless of how esteemed we believe early church doctrines to be, the fact remains that as the apostles began to die out, the church strayed further and further away from the Gospel established by Christ and fought for by the disciples and apostles. Historian and Methodist clergyman, Jesse Hurlbut, says of this time of transformation:

    "We name the last generation of the first century, from 68 to 100 A.D., 'The Age of Shadows,' partly because the gloom of persecution was over the church, but more especially because of all the periods in the [church's] history, it is the one about which we know the least. We have no longer the clear light of the Book of Acts to guide us; and no author of that age has filled the blank in the history . . ."For fifty years after St. Paul's life a curtain hangs over the church, through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises, about 120 A.D. with the writings of the earliest church fathers, we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul" [01].

At about the same time John was penning his Revelation on the island of Patmos, forces in the church were already reverting back to the Old Testament priesthood. The leaders, quickly moving away from dependency on the Holy Spirit, sought to establish their own authority by claiming that they were the successors to the apostles, therefore what they taught was God's truth. In time, it was taken for granted that they were the only ones who could correctly interpret the Bible, and hear what the Spirit was saying.

Perhaps, a good starting point to show just how far the church had deviated from its roots are the first four of the seven Ecumenical councils held by the early church, the first two of which are held in great esteem even by modern day evangelicals. (I specify the first four because they are the only ones I have looked into. If they are any indication of what the others were like, then all seven were rotten to the core).

The Ecumenical Councils
The word "ecumenical" means universal ... concerning the Christian church as a whole. In early church history, the Ecumenical councils or synods were meetings of the bishops of the whole church, who met to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice. The first seven Ecumenical Councils, recognized by both the eastern and western churches, were convened by Christian Roman Emperors in the attempt to reach a consensus on various issues and thus establish a unified Christian theology. The emperors often enforced the decisions of those councils in the church within the bounds of the Roman Empire.

Although the Roman Catholic Church recognizes twenty-one councils, the Eastern Orthodox Church only recognizes the first seven councils as ecumenical - 1. First Council of Nicaea (325), 2. First Council of Constantinople (381), 3. Council of Ephesus (431), 4. Council of Chalcedon (451), 5. Second Council of Constantinople (553), 6. Third Council of Constantinople (680), 7. Second Council of Nicaea (787)

Unlike Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox church, Protestants do not accept the authority of these councils but, because they believe that the councils did not create new doctrines but simply clarified and formalized those already found in the Scriptures, accept their teachings, especially regarding the nature of Christ and the Godhead.

Evangelical Defense of The Earliest Councils
What I cannot figure out is why present day evangelicals go to such lengths to disprove the very Catholic nature of the councils. In fact, James White, scholar in residence at the College of Christian Studies, Grand Canyon University lists the common doctrines and beliefs of the Catholic Church, which he says were not prevalent in the church of the day....

    For those who struggle with the idea that it was not "Roman Catholicism" that existed in those days, consider this: if one went into a church today, and discovered that the people gathered there did not believe in the papacy, did not believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Bodily Assumption of Mary, purgatory, indulgences, did not believe in the concept of transubstantiation replete with the communion host's total change in accidence and substance, and had no tabernacles on the altars in their churches, would one think he or she was in a "Roman Catholic" church? Of course not. Yet, the church of 325 had none of these beliefs, either. Hence, while they called themselves "Catholics," they would not have had any idea what "Roman Catholic" meant.  [02]

While Mike Oppenheimer, director of Let Us Reason Ministries, says the Catholic Church didn't "rule" Christianity until hundreds of years later... (Emphasis Added)

    The truth is that there was no Roman Catholic Church ruling Christianity before Constantine, because Christianity was an illegal religion and an underground practice. It was not until hundred's of year's later, 5th cent. to the 7th cent., that the first vestiges of this church government rose where there was a Roman bishop as the head of the Church, making it an official Roman Church functioning similar to today's. [03]

Unfortunately, the facts do not support these statements.

The problem is that by the time of the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, convened by the emperor Constantine in 325 AD, the church had already acquired a decidedly Roman Catholic slant clearly reflected in many of the decisions the council came to. And, by the time of the First Council of Constantinople held a mere 50+ years later in 381 AD, Catholicism was well established. In fact, Pope Gregory I (540 to 604 A.D.) said of the following of the first four councils (Nicaea, Constantinople I, Ephesus and Chalcedon)

    "I venerate the first four Ecumenical Councils equally with the Four Gospels (sicut quatuor Evangelia)," (Epistle XXIV. of Lib. I)

The 14th volume of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series II that documents these words, goes on to say that "no one has been found to question that in so saying he gave expression to the mind of the Church of his day". [04]

It is extremely tragic that anyone would consider councils attended and run by ordinary and very fallible men to be on par with the account of our Lord's mission on earth written by those especially chosen by the Savior to walk with and learn from Him. However, the point here is if one were to give it a modicum of thought, there has to be a very good reason that a sixth century pope were so in favor of the first four councils.

James White also says that

    Excepting the apostolic council in Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15, the Council of Nicea stands above other early councils of the church as far as its scope and its focus. Luther called it "the most sacred of all councils".... [05]

Unfortunately we never stop putting both people and events on pedestals. There is no question that Martin Luther's refusal to bow down to the dictates of the Catholic Church let the genie out of the bottle. His reforms helped empower peasants, gave rise to Protestantism as we know it and even, in the long run, contributed to democracy and changed the course of Western civilization. On the other hand, not many Martin Luther devotees seem to be aware that his idea of Grace and Faith alone differed from ours, and that several Catholic doctrines remained firmly entrenched in his belief system. To say nothing of the fact that so many of his expressed opinions were abhorrent. See Martin Luther

Before going into details of the decidedly Catholic slant of the church of the day, I would like to draw attention to the enormous differences between the first and only council held in the New Testament, and the many others convened in subsequent centuries. Can that first council, held in Jerusalem around 50 AD and attended by many of the original apostles and disciples, be compared with the many, many more that followed through the centuries, particularly (for the purpose of this article) the 325 A.D. Council of Nicaea and the 381 Second Ecumenical Council?

The only way to come to any sensible conclusion is by comparing them.

The Council of Jerusalem Vs. The Ecumenical Councils
The first thing we need to recognize is that no council in the history of man has ever established Divine truth. God's truths, determined from before the beginning of time, were entrusted to men through the prophets and other authors of the books of the Bible - all of whom God Himself chose, and all of whom spoke and wrote under the influence of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus' words

    "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.  (John 16:13 NASB)

In other words, no council could ever have come up with any new truth. In fact, even the first council held by contemporaries of Jesus in Jerusalem around 50 A.D., was guided by unassailable evidence of God's workings, not esoteric arguments based on the writings of other men as the following ones did. In Jerusalem they made note of the signs and wonders they saw God doing among the Gentiles, then compared what they saw with the miracles performed by Jesus. Finally they ensured that this evidence conformed to the Scriptures.

How The Council of Jerusalem Arrived At Their Decision
Acts 15 tells us about a crisis in the first century church that came about when some men from Judea began to teach that no one could be saved unless they were circumcised. This caused much dissension and debate with Paul and Barnabas. However, the account in Acts 15:2 indicates that the Judeans were willing that the matter be referred to the apostles in Jerusalem. As a result, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to meet with the leaders and elders... a meeting which is counted by many historians as the first church council.

In Jerusalem, the apostle Peter stood up after much debate had already taken place and, in essence, told the leaders that it was God who had decided that the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel from his (Peter's) mouth, and that He had given the Holy Spirit to Jews and Gentiles alike with no distinction between them. Barnabus and Paul then related all the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles, through them (Vs. 12). The point being that just as Jesus had authenticated His message to the Jews with signs and wonders, God was using  similar miracles to authenticate their message to the Gentiles.

Peter went on to say that the Lord had made no distinction between Jew and Gentile - the latter were saved by faith just as the latter were. It was not therefore, their business to put an additional yoke on their necks. (Vs. 7-11).

Finally, James who was head of the Jerusalem church, referred to Peter's message about God "taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name" then, by citing Scripture (Acts 15:18), showed that taking the Gospel to the non Jew was in accordance with the writings of the prophets. James added

    "Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles,  (Acts 15:19 NASB)

It was a three step process. Peter testified as to how he had been sent to the Gentiles, Paul then related the miracles God had done among them and finally it was confirmed that all of this conformed to the Scriptures. There are two very important points to consider here

    1) The decision reached by James was based both on Scripture and on tangible miracles.

    2) The decision was unanimous. Without exception, all the apostles and all the elders.. in fact, the whole church was of "one mind". (Acts 15:22-23, 25)

Is it any wonder that they could say "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us...." (Acts 15:28). I do not know if the succeeding councils incorporated the Holy Spirit part, but the words "it seems good" was used many, many times.

How The Ecumenical Councils Arrived At Their Decisions
Sadly, this pattern was not followed by any of the succeeding councils.

A Majority Vote...
Regardless of the torrent of words and the many Scriptural verses quoted, the decisions the various councils came to were not based on the Bible, but on the aye's and the nay's. Ramsay MacMullen, emeritus professor of history at Yale University, has a book out entitled "Voting About God", that shows how Christian doctrine came to be decided by the democratic votes of bishops. In his words...

    How did Christians agree on their definition of the Supreme Being, Triune? It was the work of the bishops assembled at Nicaea in AD 325, made formal and given weight by majority vote and supported after much struggle by later assemblies, notably at Chalcedon (451) likewise by majority vote. Such was the determining process. Thus agreement was arrived at, and became dogma widely accepted down to our own day." [06]

He goes on to say that competing parties vied for "numerical superiority". (Emphasis Added)

    "More trumped less: there was in the end "validation from numbers, as a council president reminded a minority who were slow to give in.... Majority mattered; everyone must agree to an opinion "of so very many bishops in attendance." But to these words the speaker added, "in attendance with the Holy Spirit, too". [07]

The site gotquestions.org, says [Emphasis Added]

    Constantine prodded the 300 bishops in the council to make a decision by majority vote defining who Jesus Christ is. The statement of doctrine they produced was one that all of Christianity would follow and obey, called the "Nicene Creed." This creed was upheld by the church and enforced by the Emperor. The bishops at Nicea voted to make the full deity of Christ the accepted position of the church. [08]

See The Trinity

The last sentence in the quote above should raise enough flags to rouse even the comatose especially since the arguments at the various councils were...

Based, Not On Scripture, But On The Traditional Teachings of the Church
Philip Schaff, editor of The Seven Ecumenical Councils opens a window onto what was the decidedly Catholic mindset of the councils. He... (All Emphasis Added)

    "... ventures to call the attention of the reader to the fact that in this, as in every other of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the question the Fathers considered was not what they supposed Holy Scripture might mean, nor what they, from à priori arguments, thought would be consistent with the mind of God, but something entirely different, to wit, what they had received. They understood their position to be that of witnesses, not that of exegetes

    They recognized but one duty resting upon them in this respect-to hand down to other faithful men that good thing the Church had received according to the command of God.  The first requirement was not learning, but honesty. The question they were called upon to answer was not, what do I think probable, or even certain, from Holy Scripture but, what have I been taught, what has been intrusted to me to hand down to others?  [09]

And Schaff wasn't blowing smoke. In describing various practices in the church, Tertullian (c. 155/160 - 220 A.D.) said (All Emphasis Added)

    If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly custom, which without doubt flowed from tradition, has confirmed it. For how can anything come into use, if it has not first been handed down?....  If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them, custom as their strengthener, and faith as their observer. [10]

This is supported by Gregory (c. 335 – c. 395), bishop of Nyssa's letter to one Ablabius, a Christian convert and, I believe, a high official of the Roman Empire. The letter was entitled "Not Three Gods." Speaking of the very difficult problem of the Godhead which consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who are however, not three separate Gods, Gregory says... (Emphasis Added)

    ".... even if our reasoning be found unequal to the problem, we must keep for ever, firm and unmoved, the tradition which we received by succession from the fathers, and seek from the Lord the reason which is the advocate of our faith: and if this be found by any of those endowed with grace, we must give thanks to Him who bestowed the grace; but if not, we shall none the less, on those points which have been determined, hold our faith unchangeably. [11]

And this pattern continued through the centuries in the Catholic church. In a papal letter (an encyclical) addressed to the bishops of the Church, Pope Pius IX asked them for their opinion on the definition of a dogma on the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. That the vast majority of the 604 Bishops gave a positive response to the question led directly to the 1854 Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, which officially defined the dogma. (See Footnote I)

In other words, in less than three hundred years, the church had deviated many miles from the pattern established by the original apostles and elders and the path taken by the "noble-minded" Bereans who examined the Scriptures daily to see whether the things they were being told were true. Acts 17:11. Now doctrine was determined by the opinion of the "Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops and Bishops of the Entire Catholic World" .

The Council of Nicaea... The First Ecumenical Council (AD 325)
It should be first noted that the council of Nicea had nothing to do with the canon of Scripture. They did not discuss which books belonged in the Bible, much less reject certain books as being unworthy. See The Deity of Jesus Christ. Was He Lord, Liar Or Lunatic?

The Canons of The Council of Nicaea
While it was the focal point, the creed regarding the Person of Christ was not all that was achieved at the council. As James White also says...

    While the creed of the council was its central achievement, it was not the only thing that the bishops accomplished during their meeting. Twenty canons were presented dealing with various disciplinary issues within the church.  [13]

However, the council of Nicaea set an unfortunate precedent. As historian John Mcguckin points out... (Emphasis Added)

    These 20 canons have never attracted as much attention as the doctrines of Nicaea but actually had immense importance, as they were the reference point around which all future collections of church law were modeled and collated. [14]

Thereafter it fell to various councils to decide not only matters of doctrine that became accepted creeds, but they also made decisions regarding other more practical matters in the church. These decisions became canon law (laws and regulations made, or adopted by, ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members).

In other words, believers were now told what to believe, how they should behave, what rules they were required to conform to, and what the penalties were for not doing so. The body of Christ was well on its way to becoming something it was never intended to be... an enormous organization, governed by men who put dozens of man-made rules and regulations into place. (What is tremendously sad is that we abide by man made rules and regulations, yet cheerfully and consistently pretend certain instructions in the New Testament do not exist. For example, in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, Paul warned the faithful not to have any fellowship with sinners, and Matthew 18:15-17 outlined several steps that had to be taken before the church could intervene and act).

Even a cursory reading of the canons of the Council of Nicaea, the so called "disciplinary issues", shows many of the tenets of the Catholic church coming through, loud and clear. For example... (Some of these canons will be dealt with in greater detail a little later on)

    Canon 3 said any and all members of the clergy were forbidden to dwell with any woman, except a mother, sister, or aunt.

    Canon 4 speaks of the "ordination" of bishops. It says a bishop should be appointed by all the bishops in the province; but should this be difficult, at least three should meet together, and the assent of the absent bishops communicated in writing. After which the ordination could take place. 

    Canons 11 and 12 speak of penances imposed for certain sins. For example, Canon 11 says if those who denied Christ during the persecution "heartily repent", they shall pass three years among the hearers; shall be prostrators (penitents, who could not receive communion in penance for something they did) for seven years, and shall communicate with the people in prayers, but without oblation for two years. In other words, the church determined that the penalty was 12 years long if the person repented. (This in spite of the fact that verses like Acts 2:38 say you can repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit with no mention of any time delay).

As said in the notes on Canon 12 in The Seven Ecumenical Councils... "This discretionary power of the bishop to dispense with part of a penance-time is recognized in the fifth canon of Ancyra and the sixteenth of Chalcedon, and mentioned by Basil, Epist. 217, c. 74.  It was the basis of "indulgences" in their original form" [15]

    Canon 13 speaks of last rites. 

    Canon 18 explicitly states that the Eucharist is the Body of Christ and, not only reminds deacons that they are "inferiors of the presbyters" and cannot even sit among them, but also warns them that they have no right to touch the Eucharist nor administer it to the presbyters. In other words, only bishops and priests can consecrate the Eucharist.

'Pope' Silvester, the then bishop of Rome, was represented at the council by two Roman priests, Vitus and Vincent, and by Hosius (Ossius) the Bishop of Cordova, who was president of the Council [16]. Note: Hosius is another spelling of Ossius, mentioned in Footnote II as ecclesiastical adviser to Emperor Constantine I.

Additionally, Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, one of the chief players in the council was accompanied by his deacon Athanasius, who acted as his spokesman. Athanasius, who is considered as one of the four Great Doctors of the Eastern Church along with Chrysostom, Basil and Gregory, was ordained bishop in 328 AD, after Alexander died. He referred to Rome as "the Apostolic throne", and was an early believer in the Real Presence, which means that the bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Christ at the consecration. 

Which is why I am not sure how any one can deny that the council of Nicaea was attended and run by men who had decidedly Roman Catholic ideas.

The Very Catholic Backdrop to The Council of Nicaea
Remember that James White claims that the churches of the day did not believe in the Immaculate Conception/Bodily Assumption of Mary, purgatory, indulgences and transubstantiation. He also says they did not have tabernacles on the altars in their churches, and did not have a papacy.

Much to the contrary, most of these practices were well established in the church of the day, and taught by many of the so called "fathers".

Immaculate Conception / Bodily Assumption of Mary
It is certainly true that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (Mary was free of original sin from the time she was conceived) was made ex cathedra by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and Mary's supposed bodily assumption into Heaven was only declared a doctrine by Pope Pius XII in 1950. However, from the patristic writings, one cannot doubt that they believed in the absolute purity of Mary. For example...

    Hippolytus a 3rd-century theologian said "He (Jesus) was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle (Mary) was exempt from putridity and corruption."

    Ephraim the Syrian, a 4th century theologian... a Roman Catholic Doctor of the Church, and beloved in the Syriac Orthodox Church.
    You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is neither blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these? (Nisibene Hymns 27:8 A. D. 361).

    Ambrose, 4th century archbishop of Milan (c. 340 – 397), was one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the time.
    Come, then, and search out your sheep, not through your servants or hired men, but do it yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sarah but from Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of every stain of sin (Commentary on Psalm 118:22-30

    Augustine: (November 354 – 28 August 430) We must except the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honor to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin (Nature and Grace 36:42)

The only reason God is called "savior," is because He saves people from death, the penalty for sin. In Luke 1:46-47 Mary said "My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior" which implies that Mary was a sinner like any other, because only sinners need a Savior. See Articles on Original Sin


Similarly, while the church only officially proclaimed the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary at the fifth and sixth Ecumenical Councils in 553 and 680 (the second and third councils of Constantinople), there is no question that many of the 'church fathers' like Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – c. 395), and Ambrose, archbishop of Milan (c. 340 – 397), were already arguing for the doctrine. [17].

In fact, although a thousand years of pondering the matter would not bring a reasonable and logical person any understanding their reasoning, many of them viewed Luke 1:34 as a "vow" of perpetual virginity on Mary's part. [18]

Additionally, Epiphanius of Salamis (310–320 – 403) who was the bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, at the end of the 4th century, composed the "Panarion" or "Medicine chest" in 374 or 375.... remedies that supposedly would offset the poisons of some eighty heresies. He opposed the Antidicomarianites "who held that Mary had other children after the birth of Christ". [19]

So apparently the perpetual virginity of Mary was well on it's way to becoming official church doctrine by the 3rd century.

Purgatory (All Emphasis Added)

    Tertullian (c. 155/160 - 220), "As often as the anniversary comes round, we make offerings for the dead as birthday honours" (Tertullian, The Chaplet, or De Corona. 3:3).

    A woman, after the death of her husband, is bound not less firmly but even more so, not to marry another husband...Indeed, she prays for his soul and asks that he may, while waiting, find rest; and that he may share in the first resurrection. And each year, on the anniversary of his death, she offers the sacrifice. (Tertullian. Monogamy 10:1,4)

    In short, if we understand that prison of which the Gospel speaks to be Hades, and if we interpret the last farthing to be the light offense which is to be expiated there before the resurrection, no one will doubt that the soul undergoes some punishments in Hades, without prejudice to the fullness of the resurrection, after which recompense will be made through the flesh also. (Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul. Chapter 58.)

    Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313 - 386), Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep; for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn Sacrifice is laid out. And I wish to persuade you by an illustration. For I know that many say, what is a soul profited, which departs from this world either with sins, or without sins, if it be commemorated in the prayer? For if a king were to banish certain who had given him offense, and then those who belong to them should weave a crown and offer it to him on behalf of those under punishment, would he not grant a remission of their penalties? In the same way we, when we offer to Him our supplications for those who have fallen asleep, though they be sinners, weave no crown, but offer up Christ sacrificed for our sins, propitiating our merciful God for them as well as for ourselves. (Catechetical Lecture 23. 9-10)

    Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – c. 395) After his departure out of the body, he gains knowledge of the difference between virtue and vice, and finds that he is not able to partake of divinity until he has been purged of the filthy contagion in his soul by the purifying fire. (Sermon on the Dead, 382 A.D.)

    Chrysostom (c. 349 - 407), "Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice (Job 1:5), why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them" [20].

    Augustine (c. 354 - 430), "But temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But of those who suffer temporary punishments after death, all are not doomed to those everlasting pains which are to follow that judgment; for to some, as we have already said, what is not remitted in this world is remitted in the next, that is, they are not punished with the  eternal punishment of the world to come. (The City of God. Ch. 13.)

    Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 310/320 – 403), also opposed "the heresy of the Aerians, who, contrary to the usage of the Church, held that there is no difference between bishops and presbyters, and that prayers and offerings should not be made for the dead. [21]

Note: The Aerians were one of the little known minor sects of those day.

The early church very definitely believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In other words, although they retain the appearance and taste of bread and wine, these actually become the Body and Blood of Christ at the consecration. The first part of Canon 18 of Nicaea says

    It has come to the knowledge of the holy and great Synod that, in some districts and cities, the deacons administer the Eucharist to the presbyters, whereas neither canon nor custom permits that they who have no right to offer should give the Body of Christ to them that do offer.

In his notes made on Canon 18, Zeger Bernhard van Espen who specialized in canon law, said (Emphasis Added)

    From this canon we see that the Nicene fathers entertained no doubt that the faithful in the holy Communion truly received "the body of Christ." Secondly, that was "offered" in the church, which is the word by which sacrifice is designated in the New Testament, and therefore it was at that time a fixed tradition that there was a sacrifice in which the body of Christ was offered. Thirdly that not to all, nor even to deacons, but only to bishops and presbyters was given the power of offering. And lastly, that there was recognized a fixed hierarchy in the Church, made up of bishops and presbyters and deacons in subordination to these. [22]

German Catholic priest Francis J. Schaer gave more detail. He stated that Ignatius Bishop of Antioch who was born around 50 A.D. and died between 98 and 117, wrote several letters to various Christian communities in which he "speaks of the Holy Eucharist as being the flesh and blood of our Saviour and Lord Jesus". He added that Ignatius' testimony is important since he "lived so close to the apostolic times" and "in all likelihood he knew several of the Apostles". [23]

Francis Schaer went on to speak of the writings of other early Christian authors... [Emphasis Added]

    St. Justin Martyr, who was put to death for the Christian faith about the year 165, says in the first apology, written in defence of Christianity, that the Holy Eucharist is not a common bread nor a common beverage, but the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

    Irenaeus: In his work Against Heresies, Irenaeus Bishop of Lyons in the latter part of the second century, wrote that in the Holy Eucharist the bread becomes the body of the Lord and the chalice contains His blood.

    Clement of Alexandria, a prominent Christian writer and president of the catechetical school in the latter part of the second century, says in his Paedagogus, that those who receive the Blessed Sacrament eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Lord.

    Origen, a pupil of Clement and, after him, president of the Alexandrian school, says in one of his homilies that the Lord Jesus in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist gives His body and His blood.

    Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria in the middle part of the third century, calls the Eucharist a sacred food, the body and blood of our Lord.

    Tertullian: The African writer Tertullian, who flourished in the latter part of the second and in the early part of the third centuries, speaks repeatedly of the Holy Eucharist in his works and calls it the body of the Lord and God's banquet.

    Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage in Africa and martyr in the middle part of the third century, has frequent references to the Blessed Sacrament in his works, and calls it a heavenly food, the body and blood of the Lord. According to Cyprian's treatise "On the Lapsed" written in a.d. 251, (chapter xxvi), he says a woman:  "when she tried with unworthy hands to open her box, in which was the Holy of the Lord, was deterred from daring to touch it by fire rising from it."

Francis Schaer goes on to say

    "Several of the earliest writers mentioned, such as Tertullian, Origen, and St. Cyril of Jerusalem warn the faithful not to permit any particle of the Sacrament to drop on the floor, while they were holding it in their hand at Communion, because that would be a profanation inflicted on the holiest of objects".  [24]

And so they did

    Ignatius of Antioch, was born around 50 A.D. and died between 98 and 117.

    They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. [25]

Justin Martyr, (c. 100 – 165 AD). His First Apology was written to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. Arguing against the persecution of Christians solely because of their faith, Justin Martyr provided the Emperor with a defense of the philosophy of Christianity and a detailed explanation of Christian practices and rituals.

    And this food is called among us Eukaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. [26]

Tertullian (c. 155/160 - 220 A.D.)

    Likewise, in regard to days of fast, many do not think they should be present at the sacrificial prayers, because their fast would be broken if they were to receive the body of the lord...the body of the lord having been received and reserved, each point is secured: both the participation in the sacrifice... (Prayer 19:1)

    We feel pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground. [27] 

Origen (c. 185 - 254 A.D.)

    We give thanks to the Creator of all, and, along with thanksgiving and prayer for the blessings we have received, we also eat the bread presented to us; and this bread becomes by prayer a sacred body, which sanctifies those who sincerely partake of it. [28]

Athanasius (c. 295 - 373 A.D.)

    You shall see the Levites bringing loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ....Let us approach the celebration of the mysteries. This bread and this wine, so long as the prayers and supplications have not taken place, remain simply what they are. But after the great prayers and holy supplications have been sent forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine -- and thus is His Body confected. [29]

Cyprian Of Carthage (c. 200 - 258 A.D.)

     For if Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, is Himself the chief priest of God the Father, and has first offered Himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded this to be done in commemoration of Himself, certainly that priest truly discharges the office of Christ, who imitates that which Christ did; and he then offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church to God the Father, when he proceeds to offer it according to what he sees Christ Himself to have offered. [30]

Cyril of Jerusalem, (313 - 386), was a theologian of the early Church. He is known for the twenty-three lectures given to catechumens in Jerusalem who were being prepared for baptism. The last five of the lectures deal with Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. In Lecture 19, he wrote

    "For as the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist before the invocation of the Holy and Adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, while after the invocation the Bread becomes the Body of Christ, and the Wine the Blood of Christ, so in like manner such meats belonging to the pomp of Satan, though in their own nature simple, become profane by the invocation of the evil spirit." [31]

In Lecture 22 (on The Mysteries),

    1. ".... Since then He Himself declared and said of the Bread, This is My Body, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has Himself affirmed and said, This is My Blood, who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not His blood?...."

    6. "Consider therefore the Bread and the Wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord's declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for even though sense suggests this to you, yet let faith establish you. Judge not the matter from the taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that the Body and Blood of Christ have been vouchsafed to you"

    9. "Having learned these things, and been fully assured that the seeming bread is not bread, though sensible to taste, but the Body of Christ; and that the seeming wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ .... " [32]

In other words, Cyril was urging the catechumens to be strong in faith, regardless of what their senses told them about the Eucharist. Finally...

The Tabernacle
In the Old Testament the tabernacle was the locus of God's presence among the Jews.

In Roman Catholic, Orthodox and, I believe, some Anglican and Lutheran churches the consecrated bread and wine, believed to be the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (although its appearance remains unchanged), is stored in an often very ornate, box like container also called a tabernacle. Because the change is permanent the Eucharist is kept securely (reserved) for services, to take Communion to the sick and, in some churches, as the focus for meditation and prayer.

It is impossible to precisely fix the date, but certainly from very early on, a perpetual reservation for the sick was made in the churches.

    The necessity of having the consecrated bread and wine for the sick led to their reservation, a practice which has existed in the Church from the very beginning, so far as any records of which we are in possession shew. St. Justin Martyr, writing less than a half century after St. John's death, mentions that "the deacons communicate each of those present, and carry away to the absent the blest bread, and wine and water." [33].

Certainly that from at least the fourth century onward the practice of reserving the Holy Eucharist in the church itself became the norm.

     St. Chrysostom in writing of the great riot in Constantinople in the year 403, spoke of soldiers bursting into the place "where the Holy Things were stored, and saw all things therein". He added that "the most holy blood of Christ was spilled upon their clothes." [34]

The Mass
But none of this should be surprising considering that by the 2nd century, all of the rites and practices of the Catholic Church were already prevalent. In fact, as early as 155 A.D., Justin Martyr described what is, quite clearly, an early version of the Catholic Mass.

The Synod of Laodicea - was a regional synod of approximately thirty clerics from Asia Minor that assembled about 363–364 AD in Laodicea... a mere 40 years after Nicaea in 325, and less than 20 before the first Council of Constantinople in 381. The major concern of the Council was regulating the conduct of church members, to which end they came up with some 60 canons. Canon 19, which dealt with the worship of the early church, reads (Emphasis Added)

    After the sermons of the Bishops, the prayer for the catechumens is to be made first by itself; and after the catechumens have gone out, the prayer for those who are under penance; and, after these have passed under the hand [of the Bishop] and departed, there should then be offered the three prayers of the faithful, the first to be said entirely in silence, the second and third aloud, and then the [kiss of] peace is to be given. And, after the presbyters have given the [kiss of] peace to the Bishop, then the laity are to give it [to one another], and so the Holy Oblation is to be completed. And it is lawful to the priesthood alone to go to the Altar and [there] communicate. [36]

However, the Excursus (a lengthy appended exposition) to this Canon paints an even more recognizable picture of the Mass. In fact, Johnson's Universal Cyclopædia says

    "it seems to be true that much earlier than this (the fourth century) there was a definite and fixed order in the celebration of divine worship and in the administration of the sacraments. The famous passage in St. Justin Martyr (Apolog. Cap. LXVII.) seems to point to the existence of such a form in his day".

Following are some excerpts from the Excursus that should be easily recognized by anyone familiar with the Catholic Mass.

     A reader ascends the ambo, which stood in the middle of the church, between the clergy and the people, and read two lessons; then another goes up in his place to sing a psalm.  This he executes as a solo, but the congregation join in the last modulations of the chant and continue them. This is what is called the "Response".... The series ended with a lection from the Gospel, which is made not by a reader but by a priest or deacon.  The congregation stands during this lesson.

    When the lessons and psalmodies are done, the priests take the word, each in his turn, and after them the bishop.  The homily is always preceded by a salutation to the people, to which they answer, "And with thy spirit." ....

    The deacon gives the outline of this prayer by detailing the intentions and the things to be prayed for. The faithful answer, and especially the children, by the supplication Kyrie eleison (Greek for "Lord, have mercy"). Then the catechumens rise up, and the deacon asks them to join with him in the prayer which he pronounces; next he makes them bow before the bishop to receive his benediction, after which he sends them home....
    The bishop washes his hands and vests himself in festal habit; the priests range themselves around him, and all together they approach the altar. This is a solemn moment. After private prayer the bishop makes the sign of the cross upon his brow and begins,

    "The grace of God Almighty, and the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you always!"

    "And with thy spirit."

    139 "Lift up your hearts."

    "We lift them up unto the Lord."

    "Let us give thanks unto our Lord."

    "It is meet and right so to do."

    "It is very meet," etc.....

    now the officiant keeps close to the Gospel account of the last supper; the mysterious words pronounced at first by Jesus on the night before his death are heard over the holy table.  Then, taking his inspiration from the last words, "Do this in remembrance of me," the bishop develops the idea, recalling the Passion of the Son of God, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, the hope of his glorious return, and declaring that it is in order to observe this precept and make this memorial that the congregation offers to God this eucharistic bread and wine.  Finally he prays the Lord to turn upon the Oblation a favourable regard, and to send down upon it the power of his Holy Spirit, to make it the Body and Blood of Christ, the spiritual food of his faithful, and the pledge of their immortality.... Thus ends the eucharistic prayer, properly so-called.  The mystery is consummated.…

    The bishop places the consecrated bread in the right hand, which is open, and supported by the left; the deacon holds the chalice - they drink out of it directly. To each communicant the bishop says, "The Body of Christ"; and the deacon says, "The Blood of Christ, the Cup of life," to which the answer is made, "Amen." [37]

How The New Testament Structured the Church
Sadly, as long as there wasn't a "pope", those that accept the modern institutional church have little or no difficulty with the fact that bishops and other church officials were running what amounted to a tightly structured religious show. This is probably because Protestant Christianity has been so brainwashed into thinking that church is an organization run by pastors, bishops and archbishops, with brick and mortar building we visit once a week.

The sad truth is this version of church is a man made invention which has deviated in every possible way from the New Testament model. However, there is way too much information to cover here so I will simply summarize the structure of the church leadership as it was in the New Testament which, by the early second century, had been completely and utterly dropped in favor of status, titles, privilege, prestige and power.

The Four Main Terms...
Both Paul and Peter use four terms... elder (presbuteros), bishop or overseer (episkopos), pastor or shepherd (poimen) and steward (oikonomos) to describe a position of authority in the church. However, what should be very clear from the examples below, is that all four terms are used interchangeably, which means that all of them refer to same office.

    From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders (Gk. presbuteros) of the church...."Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (Gk. episkopos), to shepherd (Gk. poimaino) the church of God which He purchased with His own blood".  (Acts 20: 17, 28 NASB)

    For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders (Gk. presbuteros) in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer (Gk. episkopos) (bishop in the KJV) must be above reproach as God's steward (Gk. oikonomos), not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, (Titus 1:5-7 NASB)

    Therefore, I exhort the elders (Gk. presbuteros) among you, as your fellow elder (Gk. sumpresbuteros) and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd (Gk. poimaino) the flock of God among you, exercising oversight (Gk. episkopeo) not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-3 NASB)

Also to be noted is that these were not honorary titles, but a job description. The varied functions of the office would not have been nearly as clear had only one term been used. This is why four different terms, each of which describes a separate duty and purpose of the one office, are used. They did not 'hold office, but performed a function, which was to "shepherd" or "tend" the flock in their care. Additionally they were to provide an example to the flock, not "lord it over" them.

    Elder: The word comes from the Greek word presbuteros and literally means an elder, or senior, as is clearly shown from how it is used in Paul's first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 5:1-3). Timothy was a relatively young man, which is why Paul told him not to let anyone look down on him because of his youth (1 Timothy 4:12). In other words, "elder" could simply mean those older and/or more experienced. Mature men who could handle the duties and responsibilities of the leader of the church.

Note: In Catholicism the presbuteros morphed into the priesthood, becoming intermediaries between God and man, who were supposedly uniquely authorized to administer the sacraments of baptism, communion, etc. In the Scriptures, all Christians are called priests.

    Steward: A steward is a person who manages another's property, finances, or other affairs (See the context of the term as used in Luke 12:42)

    Shepherd: The Greek word used in Acts 20:28 is poimaino. 1 Corinthians 9:7 (Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends (poimaino) a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?) makes it very clear that it means to "tend as a shepherd". (1 Corinthians 9:7 NASB)

    Overseer: Acts 20: 28 above, makes it very clear that the elders were also the overseers, who probably made the final decision for the local congregation. However, it is also clear that the overseers (Titus 1:7) were to shepherd, or tend, the flock.

The idea that elders (presbuteros) are assistants to the bishop has no basis whatsoever in Scripture. They were instead, mature men... servants and stewards of the Lord's church, who fulfilled their duty by shepherding the flock with great care. As overseers these same men presided over meetings, and made final decisions for the local congregation under their care. [Also See The Leaders - Then and Now]

So, considering there were only four terms for the elders that shepherded the flock, how did we come up with words like pope, Patriarch, Ecumenical Patriarch, Metropolitan, Cardinal, Archbishop etc. etc. etc. And, considering their sole role was to tend the flock, why do we call them "Holiness", "Eminence", "Reverend", "your Grace" and on and on ad nauseum.

In summary, the New Testament makes no distinction between the "bishop", and the "priest" or "pastor", which are all modern names for the same "elders" who 'oversaw' or 'shepherded' the flock.

Besides which, there is not the slightest hint in the New Testament of one bishop ruling cities or even regions. Yet, as early as late 1st or early 2nd century, The First Epistle of Clement (one of the earliest of extant Christian documents) describes the structure of the Church. As he sais

    There is the high priest to whom Christ's "own peculiar services" are assigned. There are other subordinate priests and a group called "Levites" (While I have not been able to find any information on who these "Levites" were, it is obviously another layer of rank). Finally, at the very bottom of the early church ladder are found the laymen.

    These things therefore being manifest to us, and since we look into the depths of the divine knowledge, it behoves us to do all things in (their proper) order, which the Lord has commanded us to perform at stated times. He has enjoined offerings (to be presented) and service to be performed (to Him), and that not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the appointed times and hours. Where and by whom He desires these things to be done, He Himself has fixed by His own supreme will, in order that all things being piously done according to His good pleasure, may be acceptable to Him. Those, therefore, who present their offerings at the appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the laws of the Lord, they sin not. For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen. [38]

Bishops and archbishops who look after entire regions and are above the pastors in rank etc. were an invention of the church after New Testament times. The first part of Canon 18 of Nicaea makes it very clear that there was already an established hierarchy, with Bishops at the top of this man made institution.

    It has come to the knowledge of the holy and great Synod that, in some districts and cities, the deacons administer the Eucharist to the presbyters, whereas neither canon nor custom permits that they who have no right to offer should give the Body of Christ to them that do offer.

Additionally, as mentioned earlier, Canon 4 of the Council of Nicaea says a bishop should be appointed by all the bishops in the province; but should this be difficult, at least three should meet together, and the assent of the absent bishops communicated in writing. After which the ordination could take place. However, it also adds that in every province the ratification of what is done should be left to the Metropolitan, who was bishop or archbishop of a metropolis. (the chief city of a historical Roman or ecclesiastical province).

Additionally, Ignatius of Antioch went as far as to compare the bishop with Christ.

The Absolute (and Self Assumed) Power of The Bishops
While there are some fifteen letters attributed to Ignatius, eight are generally regarded as forgeries, and the other seven are not without controversy, believed by some to have been written in the early to mid third century. However, forgery or not, the letter to the Smyrnaeans give us an insight into church history of the time, inasmuch as they indicate the absolute power of the bishop, which undoubtedly, paved the way to papal infallibility.

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans.
Chapter 8. Let nothing be done without the bishop

    See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is (administered) either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude (of the people) also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid. [39]

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians.
Chapter 3. Honour the deacons, etc.

    In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God, and assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church.

Chapter 7. The same continued

    He that is within the altar is pure, but he that is without is not pure; that is, he who does anything apart from the bishop, and presbytery, and deacons, such a man is not pure in his conscience. [40]

But first, how did all of this come about?

The First Official "Patriarchs"
According to New Advent, when Diocletian organized the Roman Empire, the most important cities in the East were Alexandria of Egypt and Antioch of Syria. "So the Bishop of Alexandria became the chief of all Egyptian bishops and metropolitans; the Bishop of Antioch held the same place over Syria and at the same time extended his sway over Asia Minor, Greece and the rest of the East". The Bishop of Rome was "Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Primate of Italy".  [41]

In fact, the designated bishops of the various jurisdictions ie. the bishops of Alexandria and Antioch mentioned in the canon of Nicaea are, even today, heads of various orthodox churches who have retained similar powers to the Roman pontiff, although on a smaller scale. In fact, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, is also called a pope.

The Patriarch of Alexandria: It has been estimated that there are 17 or 18 million Copts in Egypt. The Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria holds the title of Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, in the Holy See of St. Mark the Apostle. His name in Greek is Theodoros, which translates to Tawadros in Coptic.  Pope Tawadros II is "Pope of Alexandria & Patriarch of All Africa". When he met with Pope Francis, "bishop of Rome and supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church" in Vatican City, in May 2013, it was said to be only the second papal gathering in Italy in 1,500 years. [Wikipedia].

Patriarch of Antioch : It is believed that Peter established a church at Antioch in AD 37, and was, therefore, the first bishop of Antioch. On September 14, 1980, Mor Severius was consecrated the Patriarch of Antioch under the name Ignatius Zakka I. He resides at the Mor Ephrem monastery near Damascus. [42]

Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
The Patriarch of Constantinople (Greek Orthodox church). Patriarch Bartholomew, the 270th holder of the title, claims to be the direct successor of the Apostle Andrew and is the spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians around the world. However, "Turkey's once-flourishing Greek community is fading away. The country is predominantly Muslim and led by a secular government that's had a complicated relationship with the patriarchate.  If Turkish laws, demographics and attitudes aren't changed, Bartholomew could ultimately be the last Patriarch of Constantinople... The Turkish government also refuses to recognize the title Ecumenical Patriarch, or Bartholomew's role as an international religious leader"  [43]

And, quite a few other patriarchates have been added in the centuries since Nicaea. For example we now have the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem who ranks fourth of nine Patriarchs in the Eastern Orthodox Church.  Also the Patriarchate of Moscow (the Russian Orthodox Church ) which was established in 1589 and ranks fifth - right after the ancient Greek Patriarchates of: Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

And on and on... ad infinitum.

The Power of The Bishop of Rome
Canon 6 of the Council of Nicaea reads, in part...

    Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges.

Of this canon James White says

    This canon is significant because it demonstrates that at this time there was no concept of a single universal head of the church with jurisdiction over everyone else. While later Roman bishops would claim such authority, resulting in the development of the papacy, at this time no Christian looked to one individual, or church, as the final authority. This is important because often we hear it alleged that the Trinity, or the Nicene definition of the deity of Christ, is a "Roman Catholic" concept "forced" on the church by the pope. The simple fact of the matter is, when the bishops gathered at Nicea they did not acknowledge the bishop of Rome as anything more than the leader of the most influential church in the West. [44]

In other words, this canon contradicts the pope's claim to be the leader of the universal Church.

It may be true that, at the time, there wasn't a "single universal head of the church with jurisdiction over everyone else", and the Roman Catholic church did not 'rule' Christianity before Constantine. There is little question that this canon formally acknowledged the first official "patriarchs", which means there wasn't one, but several bishops who had power and authority over the churches in their provinces. In fact, "As a leader of Eastern Christianity, the patriarch of Constantinople represented a clear challenge to the universalist claims of Rome". [45]

However, the point is not that there was a papacy ensconced in the Vatican in Rome, but in a very short period of time the bishop of Rome, as the supposed successor of Peter was officially enthroned as the leading prelate, with all the other bishops slightly subordinate to Rome. Canon 3 of the second Ecumenical Council said "The Bishop of Constantinople, however, shall have the prerogative of honour after the Bishop of Rome; because Constantinople is New Rome", of which Schaff wrote...

    "the intention doubtless was to exalt the see of Constantinople, the chief see of the East, to a position of as near equality as possible with the chief see of the West". [46]

As said in the Catholic Encyclopedia..

    "The oldest canon law admitted only three bishops as having what later ages called patriarchal rights — the Bishops of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch... As soon as a hierarchy was organized among bishops, the chief authority and dignity were retained by the Bishop of Rome. The successor of St. Peter as a matter of course held the highest place and combined in his own person all dignities. He was not only bishop, but metropolitan, primate, and patriarch; Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Primate of Italy, and first of the patriarchs. As soon as a hierarchy was organized among bishops, the chief authority and dignity were retained by the Bishop of Rome." [47].

This is supported by FactualWorld, a leading collection of encyclopedia and reference articles..

    FactualWorld states "After Constantine the Great had enlarged Byzantium to make it into a new city named after himself in 330, it was thought appropriate that its bishop, once a suffragan of Heraclea Pontica and traditionally a successor of St Andrew the Apostle, should become second only to the Bishop of Old Rome. Soon after the transfer of the Roman capital, the bishopric was elevated to an archbishopric. For many decades the heads of the church of Rome opposed this ambition, not because anyone thought of disputing their first place, but because they defended the 'Petrine principle' by which all Patriarchates were derived from Saint Peter and were unwilling to violate the old order of the hierarchy for political reasons". [48]

Amazingly, according to some ancient documents, by the time the curtain rose on the 325 A.D. Council of Nicaea, there had already been more than 30 bishops of Rome. [49]

That the bishop of Rome had substantial powers even as early as the very early fifth century is seen in the events leading up to and including the Third Ecumenical Council. But first...

The First Council of Constantinople - The Second Ecumenical Council (AD 381)
It is interesting that the first Council of Constantinople in 381 was a local gathering of only about one hundred and fifty bishops, none of whom represented the see of Rome. This council is considered the Second Ecumenical Synod because it's creed was universally accepted.

The council of Nicaea, held some 50 plus years earlier, was focused on the Person and nature of Christ, and gave scant attention to the Holy Spirit. Reformed Theologian, Loraine Boettner (1901-1990), author of a number of books, clearly outlined the situation...

    But so absorbed had the Council been in working out the doctrine concerning the Person of Christ that it omitted to make any definite statement concerning the Holy Spirit. Athanasius had taught the true Deity of the Holy Spirit, but many of the writers of the period identified Him with the Logos or Son, while others regarded Him as but the impersonal power or efficacy of God. It was but natural that until the question concerning the Person and nature of the Son was settled, not much progress could be made in the development of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The defect of the Nicene Creed was remedied, however, by the Second Ecumenical Council, which met at Constantinople in 381, and included in its creed the statement: "We believe in the Holy Ghost, who is the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who, with the Father and Son, together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets."  [50]

    "Once they demonstrated the Biblical and philosophical possibility of two persons of the divine substance, it was a small step to demonstrate the third person". [51]

And this "small step" was taken at The Second Ecumenical Council, that put the official stamp on the 'third person of the trinity', a doctrine that is considered to be so sacred, and so foundational a part of the Christian faith, that many supposedly orthodox churches, religious organizations, and even individual Christians, use it as a litmus test for defining who is, and who isn't, a true Christian. In other words, although the Bible says no such thing, they consider a person cannot be saved if they don't believe in one God, who exists as three distinct, but equal, Persons.

The problem being that the doctrine of the Trinity is neither clearly, nor specifically, mentioned in the Bible.

There are several points to consider...  the New Testament abounds with so much proof of the deity of Jesus Christ, that it is puzzling that so many who claim to believe in the Bible repudiate it. It is equally bewildering that it took a battle royal in the church and a council convened by an emperor to figure it out. Also Acts 5:3-4 is more than enough to clinch the issue of the Holy Spirit being God. However, although The Bible definitively points to a plurality in the Godhead, there is absolutely no evidence that the Holy Spirit is the 'third person of the trinity'. 

 Since this topic is way too long and involved to go into here, it has been dealt with in a separate article. [Is God A Trinity?]

The Canons of The Second Council of Constantinople
There were not many canons or rules of law passed by this council, other than the fact that they declared anathemas on various heresies, defined as anyone that didn't agree with the decisions on doctrine the council arrived at. Note: An anathema is a formal ecclesiastical ban, curse, or excommunication.

    Canon 2 defined the jurisdictions of the various bishops of five "dioceses"... Alexandria, Antioch, Pontus (Cappadocia), Ephesus and Thrace and forbid them to operate in any diocese but their own, unless invited to do so. The next canon, declared the primary position of the Bishop of Rome, followed by the Bishop of Constantinople.

    Canon 7 said certain heretics who submitted a written renunciation of their errors were first sealed or anointed with the holy oil upon the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears. Others, including the Eunomians, Montanists and Sabellians were received as heathen and the following procedure was followed "On the first day we make them Christians; on the second, catechumens; on the third, we exorcise them by breathing thrice in their face and ears; and thus we instruct them and oblige them to spend some time in the Church, and to hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them.

Again, this was a tremendous deviation from Scripture, which states that a person has to repent of their sins, not their disagreement with the doctrines of the church. And when someone in the first century church repented and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ they could immediately be baptized. I have no idea where the "breathing thrice" in people's face and ears idea came from, but it certainly wasn't the New Testament.

But, all this is hardly surprising since, by this time, the laws of the "church" had superseded the basic Gospel message, and complex doctrines and practices had complicated the simplicity of New Testament beliefs and practices.

See RepentanceBaptism.

The Council of Ephesus - The Third Ecumenical Council
was held in 431 AD. in Ephesus (near present-day Selçuk in Turkey). It was called by the Roman Emperor Theodosius II after "Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria appealed to Pope Celestine I to condemn Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople for heresy due to Nestorius' refusal to use the term theotokos (Mother of God) in relation to the Virgin Mary".

To this Pope Celestine "replied on 11 August, 430, by charging St. Cyril to assume his authority and give notice in his name to Nestorius that, unless he recanted within ten days of receiving this ultimatum, he was to consider himself excommunicated and deposed" [52]. One cannot imagine that Celestine would threaten to depose the Patriarch of Constantinople, unless he had the power to do so. However, Nestorius apparently paying scant attention to the pope's ultimatum, persuaded the emperor to summon a general council to decide between Cyril and himself.

Again, it is interesting as to how much political maneuvering played a part. The web site of the Blessed Sacrament Church in Seattle Washington, conducted an Ancient Christian Writings Seminar in 2008. The downloadable document says the following of Nestorian... [Emphasis Added]

    In 428, the eastern emperor Theodosius II decided to appoint an obscure Syrian monk named Nestorius as archbishop of Constantinople.  Nestorius was austere yet studious and eloquent.  Unfortunately, he clearly lacked the political skills needed for such a crucial ecclesial position, the second most important in the whole Church.

    However, the emperor's sister seemed to have possessed the necessary political skills in abundance

    "... the emperor's sister Pulcheria hated Nestorius and favored Cyril’s theology. She managed to have the venue changed to the city of Ephesus, the greatest center of devotion to Mary the Mother of God in the whole Mediterranean world. Oral tradition claimed Ephesus as the place where Mary lived for many years with John the beloved disciple. Nestorius should have seen trouble coming.

    Nestorius expected a small meeting of bishops and theologians to resolve the issue, so he brought along sixteen bishops. But Cyril decided to take no chances. He was accompanied by fifty bishops, and his ally Archbishop Memnon of Jerusalem brought another forty. The Antiochenes, who leaned towards Nestorius, were about forty in number as well, but arrived late. [53]

Pope Celestine did not personally attend the council, but was represented by three papal delegates... the bishops, Arcadius and Projectus, and the priest, Philip, as his personal representative. The council eventually formalized the idea of the Virgin Mary as theotokos (Mother of God) and condemned Nestorius' teaching that Virgin Mary may be called the Christotokos, "Birth Giver of Christ" but not the Theotokos, "Birth Giver of God".

    "If anyone will not confess that the Emmanuel is very God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Theotokos), inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh [as it is written, 'The Word was made flesh': let him be anathema." Council of Ephesus, Anathemas Against Nestorius, I.

To be noted is the fact that John Cassian, who was one of the "Desert Fathers" wrote a Treatise on the Incarnation, at the request of the future Pope Leo, which was probably at least partially instrumental in the condemnation of Nestorius. Again what is interesting is that after all the letters between Cyril and Nestorius had been read, the bishops sided with Cyril's theology that they considered in accordance with the Nicene creed. After which

    "... the letter of Pope Celestine was dutifully read, and the bishops, all of whom were from the East, regarded it as having the force of a juridical sentence to which they felt bound to subscribe. Having been thus officially excommunicated, for this was what was demanded in the Papal brief, the decree of deposition was likewise solemnly proclaimed, thereby depriving the proud Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, of all episcopal dignity. [54]

The resulting schism is described by the New World Encyclopedia...

    "Although Cyril's council was ultimately accepted by the emperor and confirmed by the pope, its pronouncements resulted in the Nestorian schism and the separation of the Assyrian Church of the East from the Eastern Orthodox Church. The council is accepted as ecumenical by Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and a number of later Western Christian groups, including some Protestants. [55]

Nestorius initially retired to a monastery in Antioch but later, Augusta Pulcheria persuaded the emperor Theodosius to exile Nestorius to the monastery of the Great Oasis of Hibis in Thebaid, Egypt.

In summary, the council was a battle over a single word, held in a city that venerated Mary, thus skewed from the beginning. Besides which, the writings of a Catholic mystic and a nudge by the Roman bishop helped resolve the issue.

The City of Ephesus... From Diana To Mary
However, what I find truly interesting is why the Emperor's sister Pulcheria was keen on the council being held in the city of Ephesus.

While some believe that Mary lived in the apostle John's home in Ephesus, there is no evidence for this other than tradition. On the other hand, the situation in Ephesus at the time was very conducive to a the idea of a divine mother.

Ephesus was home to a Greek temple considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and dedicated to the goddess Artemis, one of the most widely venerated of the ancient Greek deities. See Acts 19:23-31, for an account of the uprising of the silver smiths of Ephesus against Paul when he came to Ephesus and preached against idolatry, which threatened the livelihood of the silversmiths, who made shrines and statues of Diana to sell to the public. The account also tells us that she was worshipped in all of Asia and the world.

    "Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence." (Acts 19:27 NASB)

Although "Artemis" is used in the original Biblical Greek, it stands to reason that if she was worshipped all over the world, she was worshipped under different names, depending on the country and language. When the Romans came to power, they substituted their goddess Diana for Artemis. Diana was the goddess of the hunt, the moon and birthing, but along with Minerva and Vesta who swore never to marry, she was also one of the three maiden goddesses. In other words she was a virgin goddess, something that even Shakespeare wrote about more than once [See Footnote III]

The original temple in Ephesus was built in the 8th century BC, but was destroyed more than once - by flood and arson etc. It's final destruction came in a raid by the Goths, an East Germanic tribe. Although there is some discrepancy as to the exact year this happened (some sources date the event to 401 AD), it is probable that the temple was destroyed in the second half of the third century.

Apparently, one of two things happened. The conversion to Christianity left a felt void in people that had worshipped a female deity for centuries, which was probably enhanced when the city was also suddenly bereft of her temple.

The Council of Ephesus was held in 431 AD, anywhere from 30-60 years after the destruction of the temple of Diana. So it is hardly surprising that, although many in Ephesus had converted to Christianity, the concept of a divine mother still held a strong attraction. However, the Bible is very patriarchal, describing the Creator as "Father", and Jesus as His "Son", which left little room for a mother image. Since other deities could not be assimilated into Christianity, the veneration of Mary provided an outlet for what, even now, seems to be a common desire for a divine mother. In short, Ephesus simply transferred it's affection from the goddess Diana, to Mary.

In fact, the Biblical account of the virgin birth of Christ tied in very nicely with the story of Diana as a maiden goddess. Mary was considered the new Eve who, in complete contrast to the first Eve who brought death into the world, was the instrument of hope for mankind. It is little wonder that the people demanded she be called "Mother of God" and that, from then on, countless statues, paintings and hymns would be devoted to her. Particularly interesting is one of the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez's earliest known works.... The Immaculate Conception (1618-19), which shows Mary standing on the moon or earth, with a small image of a temple in the bottom left hand corner... a temple that bears some resemblance to the temple of Diana.

Therefore, although I have heard protestants acclaim the council of Ephesus as 'defending Christian theology', it did no such thing. Much to the contrary, the decisions of the council did a great deal to continue the unbroken line of female goddess worship throughout history, simply because much of the world did not (and still does not) make the distinction that Mary was simply mother of God incarnate.

In other words, Mary did not "make God" in the same way a mother "makes" her baby. She was not the mother of Jesus' divinity, but was a vehicle for the incarnation. She simply carried God "in the flesh" in her womb.

Technically, the church denied Mary as divine but, in effect, because it conveys a sense of holiness, the title 'Mother of God' implies that Mary had a role in creating divinity. It gives the impression of bestowing on Mary a position that she does not hold.... mother of "God" Himself. Which is why so many in the Catholic church have elevated her to a position beyond that of mere mortals.

An Important Step In Mariology
Roman Catholic Mariology is the systematic study of Mary and of her place in God's plan for salvation. Tom Perna, Director of Adult Evangelization and Catechesis at Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, in Gilbert, Arizona, lists three areas in which the council is said to have succeeded, his third point being...

    The council not only clearly defined Christology, but also defined an important step in Mariology. [56]

It was but a short, and very easy, step from "Mother of God" to the many doctrines that have been since invented, none of which are even hinted at in the Scriptures.

    1) The Immaculate Conception, which teaches Mary was born without original sin and remained sinless all her life.

    2) Mary's perpetual virginity was proclaimed a doctrine at the fifth and sixth Ecumenical Councils in 553 and 680.

    3) Her physical ascension into heaven, which means she never experienced physical death.

    4) Her role as Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix.

    5) Her right to receive prayer and veneration due to her role in redemption and as an intermediary.

    6) Queenship of Mary, established in an encyclical of Pope Pius XII (The Ad Caeli Reginam), on the 11th of October, 1954, which said .... "Mary was chosen as Mother of Christ in order that she might become a partner in the redemption of the human race; As Christ, the new Adam must be called a King not merely because He is Son of God, but also because He is our Redeemer, so, analogously, the Most Blessed Virgin is queen not only because she is Mother of God, but also because, as the new Eve, she was associated with the new Adam."

See Original Sin

The Canons of the Council of Ephesus
largely went down through the ecclesiastical ranks and ordered that any Metropolitans, provincial bishops, or city or country clergy who, publicly or privately, maintained the doctrines of Nestorius or, in any way, attempted to join the apostasy, would be removed from office. Clergy who submitted to the bishops who had apostatized, or attempted to set aside the orders made by the holy Synod at Ephesus, would be deposed, while laymen would be excommunicated.

A perfect example of men making it up as they went along is seen in Ambrose, archbishop of Milan's writings on Mary, the mother of Christ.

Ambrose...(c. 340 – 397), Concerning Virginity (Book II)
Ambrose, archbishop of Milan was one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century, and one of the four original doctors of the Church, who also had much influence on Augustine. Here is an example of Ambrose's inventiveness and creative thinking... how like many of the other 'theologians' of the day, he allowed his imagination to soar and, in doing so, paved the way for many of the false beliefs and doctrines in the modern day church.

    7. The first thing which kindles ardour in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose? What more chaste than she who bore a body without contact with another body? For why should I speak of her other virtues? She was a virgin not only in body but also in mind, who stained the sincerity of its disposition by no guile, who was humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse; wont to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to rise up before her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue. When did she pain her parents even by a look? When did she disagree with her neighbours? When did she despise the lowly? When did she avoid the needy? .....

    8. Why should I detail her spareness of food, her abundance of services — the one abounding beyond nature, the other almost insufficient for nature? And there were no seasons of slackness, but days of fasting, one upon the other. And if ever the desire for refreshment came, her food was generally what came to hand, taken to keep off death, not to minister to comfort. Necessity before inclination caused her to sleep, and yet when her body was sleeping her soul was awake, and often in sleep either went again through what had been read, or went on with what had been interrupted by sleep, or carried out what had been designed, or foresaw what was to be carried out.

    9. She was unaccustomed to go from home, except for divine service, and this with parents or kinsfolk. Busy in private at home, accompanied by others abroad, yet with no better guardian than herself, as she, inspiring respect by her gait and address, progressed not so much by the motion of her feet as by step upon step of virtue. But though the Virgin had other persons who were protectors of her body, she alone guarded her character; she can learn many points if she be her own teacher, who possesses the perfection of all virtues, for whatever she did is a lesson. Mary attended to everything as though she were warned by many, and fulfilled every obligation of virtue as though she were teaching rather than learning.

    10. Such has the Evangelist shown her, such did the angel find her, such did the Holy Spirit choose her. Why delay about details? How her parents loved her, strangers praised her, how worthy she was that the Son of God should be born of her. She, when the angel entered, was found at home in privacy, without a companion, that no one might interrupt her attention or disturb her; and she did not desire any women as companions, who had the companionship of good thoughts. Moreover, she seemed to herself to be less alone when she was alone. For how should she be alone, who had with her so many books, so many archangels, so many prophets? [57]

All of which begs the question... how did Ambrose know any of this?

Sine he undoubtedly wasn't physically present during Mary's early years nor knew anyone who was, there are only two options left. Either he was inspired of the Holy Spirit, or he simply had the audacity to embellish, elaborate and add to the simple stories told in the Scriptures. Considering that none of the inspired Biblical authors went into such rhapsodies over anyone's character (not even that of the Messiah) one can only conclude that Ambrose, like many others of his time, got carried away by their own extravagant enthusiasm and inane flights of fancy. It seemed like all too many of the early church fathers preferred rhetoric to Biblical truths. Elaborate, pretentious ideas and speech trumped accuracy.

Why can we not believe that had God wanted us to know the details of Mary's character, what wonderful deeds she performed, and what her 'spiritual routine’ was before the birth of Christ, He would have told us.

While there is no question that Mary had one of the most important roles to play in all of Biblical history, we cannot forget that had Abraham not left Ur, Moses not confronted the Pharaoh, Esther not bargained with the king, etc. there would have been no Jewish nation - and no Mary. Each one had their part to play to bring about the birth of the Messiah. but the point is that every one of these outstanding Biblical characters also had some character flaws... all part of being human. What made them outstanding men and women of God was their hearts.. their tremendous faith. Their desire to please God and trust Him absolutely always overcame their fears and initial hesitation (the 'who me?' syndrome)

None of them were believed to have been 'assumed' into heaven, nor been free of the so called stain of original sin which, by the way, is itself yet another myth. [Please see several article on Original Sin in THIS page]

Similarly, why can we not accept that God, in His infinite wisdom, chose "the best person for the job". Certainly, we can be sure that Mary was a young Jewish woman of probably exemplary character. However, taking into consideration the character of many other who were called on to fill some very important, nay crucial, roles (Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, Moses, Esther etc.), we can draw one certain conclusion... Mary was certainly a woman of faith who would have the strength and courage to trust God all the way to Calvary. Her faith and fortitude were not only her outstanding, but necessary qualities, without which she would never have been chosen.

However, in making these elaborate and usually ridiculous claims about Mary, most seem to have ignored the fact that she was quite an amazing woman. I find it wryly amusing that it is a Protestant that drew my attention to the qualities that the Bible attributes to her. Mary's deep familiarity with and faith in the word of God, her grasp of His purposes and promises, her gratitude for the grace He bestowed on her, her submission to His will of God, and the very breath and scope of her vision are all reflected in her short hymn of praise, called The Magnificat. Mary - Queen of Heaven

So, when Ambrose pretended to know that strangers praised Mary, we need to take what he says with the proverbial grain of salt, and then look very carefully at everything else he wrote. If one of his beliefs is tarnished with the brush of fallacy, it stands to reason that others probably were too.


Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the three 'Cappadocian Fathers" who played a huge part in the direction the second council of Constantinople took, called Mary "the Mother of the King of the universe," and the "Virgin Mother who brought forth the King of the whole world," [58]

Gregory of Nyssa, another of the 'Cappadocian Fathers' was a mystic who read the burning bush as some kind of prefiguration of Mary.

    It seems to me that, already, the great Moses knew about this mystery by means of the light in which God appeared to him, when he saw the bush burning without being consumed. For Moses said: "I wish to go up closer and observe this great vision.” I believe that the term "go up closer" does not indicate motion in space but a drawing near in time. What was prefigured at that time in the flame of the bush was openly manifested in the mystery of the Virgin, once an intermediate space of time had passed. As on the mountain the bush burned but was not consumed, so the Virgin gave birth to the light and was not corrupted. Nor should you consider the comparison to the bush to be embarrassing, for it prefigures the God-bearing body of the Virgin. [59]

And yes, typology is extremely common in the Scriptures. However, all typology is very realistic, very clear, and does not require one to stretch ones imagination to breaking point to see the connection, as do Gregory's ideas. [See Typology]

Sadly the make believe doctrines came about, not from the Word of God, but from fallible men who made it up as they went along.... These same men, and others like them, who were the leaders of the church and, therefore, were/are presumed to be in the know, were the ones that presided over and/or greatly influenced the First Council of Nicaea, The First Council of Constantinople, The Council of Ephesus, the Council of Chalcedon and, quite possibly, all the others that followed. 

Was anything written by these so called church fathers worth retaining? The ONLY way we can make that decision is by comparing every single thing they said and wrote, with the Scriptures.

Unfortunately, when that is done they, more often than not, come up very, very short.

Footnote I ... In the 1854 Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, which defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius IX wrote that

    "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."

    Therefore, far above all the angels and all the saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater, and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending fully. [60]

So how did this come about? In a papal letter (an encyclical) addressed to the bishops of the Church, Pope Pius IX asked them for their opinion on the definition of a dogma on the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Points three and the second half of point six of this encyclical say

    3. Moreover, Venerable Brethren, many of you have sent letters to Our Predecessor and to Us begging, with repeated insistence and redoubled enthusiasm, that We define as a dogma of the Catholic Church that the most blessed Virgin Mary was conceived immaculate and free in every way of all taint of original sin

    6. We eagerly desire, furthermore, that, as soon as possible, you apprise Us concerning the devotion which animates your clergy and your people regarding the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin and how ardently glows the desire that this doctrine be defined by the Apostolic See. And especially, Venerable Brethren, We wish to know what you yourselves, in your wise judgment, think and desire on this matter. [61]

If you read this encyclical in it's entirety, there is not a single reference to what the Bible has to say on the matter. On reflection this is hardly surprising, because the silence is deafening when it comes to verses that even indicate Mary was born sinless. However, the positive response to Ubi Primum led to the 1854 bull Ineffabilis Deus, which defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Assuming her redemption by Christ, Mary was born without original sin.

Pope John Paul II wrote (Emphasis Added)

    Down the centuries, the conviction that Mary was preserved from every stain of sin from her conception, so that she is to be called all holy, gradually gained ground in the liturgy and theology. At the start of the 19th century, this development led to a petition drive for a dogmatic definition of the privilege of the Immaculate Conception.

Around the middle of the century with the intention of accepting this request, Pope Pius IX after consulting the theologians, questioned the Bishops about the opportuneness and the possibility of such a definition, convoking as it were a "council in writing". The result was significant: the vast majority of the 604 Bishops gave a positive response to the question....

    The special commission of theologians set up by Pius IX to determine the revealed doctrine assigned the essential role to ecclesial practice. And this criterion influenced the formulation of the dogma, which preferred expressions taken from the Church's lived experience, from the faith and worship of the Christian people, to scholastic definitions. [62]

In other words, the beliefs of the church as an organized institution are the opinion of the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops and Bishops of the Catholic World. Humans decided that Mary was born without original sin. [PLACE IN TEXT]

Footnote II... The First Council Of Nicaea
While it does not matter what his reasons were, many believe that Constantine who convened the first council of Nicaea did not particularly care what decisions the council came to but, realizing that a schism in the church would go a long way towards destabilizing his empire, was determined to ensure this did not happen.

John Mcguckin, a priest of the Orthodox Church, is professor of early church history at Union Theological Seminary, and Professor of Byzantine Christianity at Columbia University in New York. In his article The Road to Nicaea, posted on Christianity Today in 2008, he says it was possibly Ossius, the theological adviser of the emperor, who suggested that the magic word to nail the Arian party would be homoousios. The term meant "of the same substance as," and when applied to the Logos it proclaimed that the Logos was divine in the same way as God the Father was divine (not in an inferior, different, or nominal sense). In short, if the Logos was homoousios with the Father, he was truly God alongside the Father.

    The word pleased Constantine, who seems to have seen it as an ideal way to bring all the bishops back on board for a common vote. It was broad enough to suggest a vote for the traditional Christian belief that Christ was divine, it was vague enough to mean that Christ was of the "same stuff" as God (no further debate necessary), and it was bland enough to be a reasonable basis for a majority vote. [63]

Certainly, in spite of the enthusiastic endorsement of the decree of this council by millions of modern Christians, there is certainly an ambiguity to the use of the word homoousios, which seems to be exactly what the Arians thought. They disagreed with the vote because they felt "the Jerusalem creed did not really resolve the precise issue under consideration, that is, how the Son of God related to the divine Father.... "they saw that it gave the Son equality with the Father without explaining how this relationship worked". [PLACE IN TEXT]

Footnote III. References to Diana's Virginity in Shakespeare
In Henry IV, Part 1, Falstaff styles himself and his highway-robbing friends as "Diana's foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon" who are governed by their "noble and chase mistress the moon under whose countenance [they] steal".

There is a reference to Diana in Much Ado About Nothing where Hero is said to seem like 'Dian in her orb', in terms of her chastity.

In All's Well That Ends Well Diana appears as a figure in the play and Helena makes multiple allusions to her, such as, "Now, Dian, from thy altar do I fly..." and "...wish chastely and love dearly, that your Dian/was both herself and love..." The Steward also says, "...; Dian no queen of virgins,/ that would suffer her poor knight surprised, without/ rescue in the first assault or ransom afterward." It can be assumed that 'Dian' is simply a shortening of 'Diana' since later in the play when Parolles' letter to Diana is read aloud it reads 'Dian'.

The goddess is also referenced indirectly in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The character Hippolyta states "And then the moon, like to a silver bow new bent in Heaven". She refers to Diana, goddess of the moon, who is often depicted with a silver hunting bow. In the same play the character Hermia is told by the Duke Theseus that she must either wed the character Demetrius "Or on Diana's alter to protest for aye austerity and single life". He refers to her becoming a nun, with the goddesse Diana having connotations of chastity.

In The Merchant of Venice Portia states "I will die as chaste as Diana, unless I be obtained by the manner of my father's will". (I.ii) [PLACE IN TEXT]


[01] Jesse Lyman Hurlbut. The Story of the Christian Church, Zondervan; Reprint edition (September 17, 1967). Pg. 33

[02] James White. What Really Happened At Nicea? http://www.equip.org/articles/what-really-happened-at-nicea/#christian-books-

[03] Mike Oppenheimer. Let Us Reason Ministries. The Nicene Council, what was it really about? http://www.letusreason.org/Trin13.htm

[04] Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series II, Volume 14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Schaff, III. The Number of the Ecumenical Synods. Philip (1819-1893) (Editor). Publisher: Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.iii.iii.html Or  http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.iii.iii.html or http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.pdf

[05] James White. What Really Happened At Nicea? http://www.equip.org/articles/what-really-happened-at-nicea/#christian-books-2

[06] Ramsay MacMullen. Voting About God in Early Church Councils. Yale University Press; 1 edition (October 10, 2006) Pg 7

[07] ibid. Pg 42

[08] What occurred at the Council of Nicea? http://www.gotquestions.org/council-of-Nicea.html

[09] Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series II, Volume 14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Historical Introduction. Schaff, Philip (1819-1893) (Editor). Publisher: Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.vii.ii.html or

[10] Tertullian. De Corona. Chapter III and IV. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight

[11] Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series II, Volume 5 (NPNF2-05). Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises On "Not Three Gods.” To Ablabius. Schaff, Philip (1819-1893) (Editor). Publisher: Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

[12] John Mcguckin, The Road to Nicaea. Christian History. https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-85/road-to-nicaea.html

[13] James White. What Really Happened At Nicea? http://www.equip.org/articles/what-really-happened-at-nicea/#christian-books-1

[14] John Anthony Mcguckin. The Road to Nicaea. posted 7/01/2008 on Christianity Today.

[15] Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series II, Volume 14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Schaff, Philip (1819-1893) (Editor). Publisher: Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.vii.vi.xviii.html

[16] Myers, Edward. "Hosius of Cordova." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 8 Jan. 2014 http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07475a.htm

[17] The Blackwell Companion to Catholicism. Edited by James Buckley, Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt and Trent Pomplun. Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (March 26, 2007). Page 315

[18] Mary in the New Testament edited by Raymond Edward Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Karl Paul Donfried. Publisher: Paulist Press (December 8, 1978) Page 278

[19] Early Christian Writings. The Post-Nicene Greek Fathers. Epiphanius.  copyright © 2001-2014 Peter Kirby

[20] Homily on First Corinthians 41:5. Quoted in The Catechism of The Catholic Church.

[21] Early Christian Writings. The Post-Nicene Greek Fathers. Epiphanius.  copyright © 2001-2014 Peter Kirby

[22] Nicene And Post-Nicene Fathers Of The Christian Church. NPNF2-14 (Volume XIV). The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Second Series Edited By Philip Schaff, D.D., Ll.D. And Henry Wace, D.D. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.vii.vi.xxvii.html

[23] Francis J. Schaer. The Tabernacle: Its History, Structure and Custody. Rev. Francis J. Schaefer. The Tabernacle: Its History, Structure and Custody. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=679

[24] ibid.

[25] The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans. Chapter 7. Let us stand aloof from such heretics. From Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885). Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0109.htm.

[26] First Apology of St. Justin Martyr. Chapter Lxvi -- Of The Eucharist. http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/269/First_Apology_of_St._Justin_Martyr.html

[27] The Catholic Encyclopedia. Tertullian. De Corona. Chapter III. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0304.htm OR see http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.iv.vi.iii.html

[28] The Catholic Encyclopedia. Origen. Contra Celsus (Against Celsus) Book 8. Chapter 33. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Translated by Frederick Crombie. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/04168.htm.

[29] The Early Christians Believed in the Real Presence. From Athanasius' Sermon to the Newly Baptized.

[30] The Catholic Encyclopedia. Cyprian Of Carthage. Epistle 62:14. Translated by Robert Ernest Wallis. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050662.htm.

[31] The Catholic Encyclopedia. Cyril of Jerusalem. Catechetical Lecture 19. First Lecture on the Mysteries. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894.) Translated by Edwin Hamilton Gifford. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310119.htm

[32] The Catholic Encyclopedia. Cyril of Jerusalem. Catechetical Lecture 22 on the Body and Blood of Christ. Translated by Edwin Hamilton Gifford. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310122.htm

[33] Philip Schaff. NPNF2-14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.vii.vi.xx.html. Just. M. Apol. I. cap. lxv.

[34] Philip Schaff.  NPNF2-14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.vii.vi.xx.html. Chrys. Ep. ad Innoc. Sec. 3.


[36] The Catholic Encyclopedia. Synod of Laodicea (4th Century) From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900.) Translated by Henry Percival. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3806.htm>

[37] Excursus on the Worship of the Early Church. (Percival, H. R.:  Johnson’s Universal Cyclopædia, Vol. V., s.v. Liturgics)The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Volume 14 ( NPNF2-14)Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace.

[38] Clement Of Rome, First Epistle. Letter of Clement to the Corinthians. Ch. 40.

[39] The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0109.htm>

[40] The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0106.htm

[41] Fortescue, Adrian. "Patriarch and Patriarchate." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 8 Jan. 2014 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11549a.htm>

[42] Syriac Orthodox Resources. HH Patriarch Mor Ignatios Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church. http://sor.cua.edu/ChMon/DamascusMEphrem/index.html

[43] Bill Wunner, The last Orthodox patriarch in Turkey? CNN August 27, 2010 3:13 p.m.

[44] James White. What Really Happened At Nicea? http://www.equip.org/articles/what-really-happened-at-nicea/#christian-books-1

[45] Encyclopædia Britannica. Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

[46] Nicene And Post-Nicene Fathers Of The Christian Church. Volume XIV (NPNF2-14). The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Canon III. Second Series Edited By Philip Schaff, D.D., Ll.D. And Henry Wace, D.D. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.ix.viii.iv.html

[47] Fortescue, Adrian. "Patriarch and Patriarchate." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 8 Jan. 2014 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11549a.htm

[48] Patriarch of Constantinople. Early History. © 2014 FactualWorld All rights reserved. http://www.factualworld.com/article/Patriarch_of_Constantinople

[49] The Catholic Encyclopedia. The List of Popes. (1911). In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved January 11, 2014 from New Advent:  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12272b.htm

[50] Loraine Boettner. The Trinity... Historical Aspects of the Doctrine. http://www.theoldtimegospel.org/message3/trin_09.html

[51] Melinda Penner. The Doctrine of the Trinity at Nicaea and Chalcedon. http://www.str.org/articles/the-doctrine-of-the-trinity-at-nicaea-and-chalcedon#.Un5oFtLTmCi

[52] Chapman, J. (1909). Council of Ephesus. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved January 15, 2014 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05491a.htm

[53] Mary, Mother of God: The Origin of the Dogma Proclaimed at the Council of Ephesus in 431. Ancient Christian Writings Seminar. April 29, 2008 Fr. Bernhard Blankenhorn, OP.

[54] Br. Michael, M.I.C.M. The Council of Ephesus. August 1, 2005 Catholicism.org. http://catholicism.org/the-council-of-ephesus.html

[55] New World Encyclopedia. Council of Ephesus.http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Council_of_Ephesus

[56] http://tomperna.org/2013/12/31/the-declaration-of-the-theotokos-at-the-council-of-ephesus/

[57] Ambrose of Milan. Concerning Virginity (Book II). Chapter 2. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 10. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1896.) Translated by H. de Romestin, E. de Romestin and H.T.F. Duckworth. Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/34072.htm

[58] S. Gregorius Naz., Poemata dogmatica, XVIII, v. 58; PG XXXVII, 485. As quoted in On Proclaiming The Queenship Of Mary (Ad Caeli Reginam). Encyclical Of Pope Pius XII  Promulgated October 11, 1954. http://www.catholictradition.org/Assumption/coronation2.htm

[59] As quoted in Weekly saying from the Fathers. St Gregory of Nyssa, On the birth of Christ

[60] The Immaculate Conception. Ineffabilis Deus. Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854.

[61] Ubi Primum On The Immaculate Conception. Encyclical Of Pope Pius Ix. February 2, 1849.

[62] Pope John Paul II.  Immaculate Conception Defined By Pius ix. http://mariansolidarity.org/immaculate-conception-defined-by-pius-ix/

[63] John Anthony Mcguckin. The Road to Nicaea. posted 7/01/2008 on Christianity Today.


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