· The idea of the Trinity was made up by the Catholic Church, a status Jesus was
elected to at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE.
· This was done on the orders of the Emperor Constantine who wished to make Christianity
the new state religion of the Roman Empire.
· This ‘son of god’ status being given to Jesus was a follow on from pagan ideas
of ‘god men’ such as Mithras and Dionysus. In saying this Asher Norman is repeating
the ideas of antichristian writers like Raymond Massey, Archarya S and Mike Licona
and the producers of the film ‘Zeitgeist’. I have written a response to Zeitgeist
which is available at http://messiahfactor.com/page51.html .
Asher Norman repeats the claim of Dan Brown in the Da Vinci Code that it was the
Roman Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicea in 325 CE who gave Jesus the status
of ‘God’. He says ‘Many early Christians known as Arians did not believe that Jesus
was a deity. In the year 325 CE Emperor Constantine convened a church council at
Nicea in Turkey and ordered the Gentile Bishops to decide the status of Jesus for
his new state religion. At Nicea Jesus was ‘elected god’ by a vote of 218 to 2.’
This is quite a similar statement to the one found in Dan Brown’s novel. In the Da
Vinci Code the leading character, Teabing, claims that at the Council of Nicea the
Emperor Constantine led the bishops to declare Jesus as Son of God by a vote – ‘a
relatively close vote at that’ (page 315). This was a new idea because ‘Until that
moment in history Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet … a great
and powerful man, but a man nonetheless, a mortal.’ In other words Christianity
as we know it today was invented by Constantine who imposed the view of Jesus as
a divine person on the church through the Council of Nicea.
Is this true?
Diocletian, the Roman Emperor from 284-305 was the last great persecutor of the Christians
under the Roman Empire. The main period of persecution was from 303 -305 during
which time there were many martyrs and much destruction of the property and books
of Christians. The death of Diocletian led to the rise of Constantine who was proclaimed
emperor in 306. Constantine was challenged by his rival Maxentius whom he defeated
at the battle of Milovan Bridge in 312. At this point the Roman Empire was in danger
of fragmenting. Constantine is reputed to have seen sign of cross at this battle
and believed he conquered through the cross. So he took this as a sign that Christianity
was the favoured religion which would unify the empire. He published the Edict of
Milan in 313 formally ending Christian persecution and restoring confiscated church
property to Christians.
Constantine wanted to use Christianity as a means of uniting the Roman Empire so
he wanted the Christians to be united. He was not happy to find disagreements amongst
Christians about issues of interpreting the teaching of the Bible and about who Jesus
was. Constantine himself was not so much interested in the finer details of doctrine
as in ending the strife that was caused by religious disagreements. This resulted
in him supporting various sides of theological issues during the course of his life,
depending on which side might help peace to prevail.
Arius and Athanasius.
Around this period a controversy had arisen amongst the Christians over the question
of the divinity of Jesus. This centred on the teaching of Arius who was a bishop
and lived in Libya from about 250 to 336. Arius’ position was certainly not the
one put forward in Da Vinci Code – that Jesus was just a great and powerful man.
Arius had a view of Jesus as the Saviour who came from heaven and used the Bible,
not the Gnostic gospels, in his arguments. However he said that if Jesus is the
‘only begotten Son’ of the Father, there must have been a time when he was ‘begotten’,
therefore He must have had a beginning. As a result there must have been a time
when ‘he was not’, i.e. he was a created being. Arius argued that Jesus is not of
‘the same substance as the Father’ (i.e. that he is a kind of lesser god who takes
second place to the Father).
Arius was opposed by Athanasias who argued that ‘If Christ were not truly God, then
he could not bestow life upon the repentant and free them from sin and death.’ He
showed from the scriptures and the witness of the early church fathers that Jesus
is not a created being and exists from eternity being of ‘one substance’ with the
Athanasius won the debate and the Council agreed to the following statement about
the identity of Jesus in the Nicene Creed, which express a clear belief in Jesus
as a divine person: ‘I believe in one God, the Father almighty, Maker of all things
visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of
the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one
substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for
our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; he suffered, and the
third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; from thence he shall come to judge
the quick and the dead.’
In fact the Council of Nicea did not invent the idea of the divinity of Jesus. This
was the claim of Jesus Himself (‘I and My Father are one’ John 10.30), which was
taught by the Apostles in the New Testament and affirmed by a huge number of writings
of early Christians which predate the Council of Nicea (AD 325) by up to two hundred
years. It is true that the issue of Jesus’ divinity was a central issue at the Council
of Nicea in order to settle the debate raised by Arius’ teaching which was opposed
Constantine did not take part in this debate nor did he pressure the bishops as to
how they should decide on this issue. At the time he accepted the vote deciding
for Athanasius’ view of the divinity of Jesus but in later years he sided with Arius
and his followers against Athanasius whom he banished in 336 AD.
Church and State after Constantine.
There were certainly negative consequences for Biblical Christianity in Constantine’s
involvement. He began process of unifying church and state which led the way to
the established Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches and the church’s compromise
of the truth of the Gospel in return for political power. He encouraged the process
already at work of cutting Christianity away from its Jewish roots, separating Easter
from Passover and fixing Sunday as the day of worship. He centralised power in Constantinople
(modern Istanbul) in 330 leading to increasing imperial control of the church in
Following his death in 337 the empire was divided between his three sons leading
to the division between the eastern empire ruled from Constantinople and the western
empire ruled from Rome. Power for the Roman Church resided in the Bishop of Rome
who became known as the ‘Pontifex Maximus’ (the supreme Pontiff) in 378. After the
fall of the Roman Empire the Pontiff or Pope assumed a secular as well as a spiritual
power and the Roman Catholic Church emerged as a power broker in the former Roman
Empire. All of this led to the corruption of what became known as Christianity
but which had totally departed from the Messiah Yeshua in its teaching and life style.
The ensuing anti-Semitism of Christendom was a terrible distortion and negation
of the original message of the Messiah.
Continuing debate about the divinity of Jesus.
It is no accident that the concept of the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity was an
issue of controversy at the time of the Council of Nicea. It remains today the aspect
of the Christian faith most likely to be attacked by those outside the faith and
most likely to be misunderstood by those within it. Jehovah’s Witnesses expend considerable
energy teaching against this belief and in fact follow an idea of who Jesus is which
is very similar to the one put forward by Arius. They try to convince others that
Jesus Christ is a created being, not having existed in eternity past with the Father,
and not fully God.
Among the world religions, Islam specifically teaches against the Trinity. Chapter
four of the Koran argues, ‘Say not ‘Trinity’: desist: it will be better for you:
for Allah is One God: glory be to Him: (far Exalted is He) above having a son’ (4:171).
Although Muhammad seems to have wrongly believed that Christians taught that the
Trinity consisted of God the Father, Mary the Mother, and Jesus the Son, they reject
as sinful anything being made equivalent with Allah, especially Jesus.
It is true that the word ‘Trinity’ never appears in the New Testament. However the
concept that God is a plural unity is central to the uniqueness of the Christian
faith. The Bible teaches that God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God. Each plays
a part in our salvation. Jesus is the visible member of Godhead who became man in
order to redeem us. As such for the time that He was on earth He was subordinate
to the Father and will at the end of the age present the redeemed creation to the
Verses pointing this out are often used to attack the view of Jesus’ divinity, in
particular John 14.28 where Jesus says, ‘My Father is greater than I’ and 1 Corinthians
15.28 where Paul writes, ‘Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son
Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be
all in all.’ The explanation of these verses is that for the purpose of His mission
to save the human race Jesus humbled Himself to take the form of a servant and appear
as a man. During this time He was submitted to the Father, with the ultimate aim
that He would restore to God the present creation which is in disorder as a result
of Satan’s rebellion against God and the human race falling into sin as a result
of Adam’s disobedience.
This submission to the Father, like an astronaut’s submission to ground control during
his mission, did not mean an inferior status to the Father. In John 10.33 Jesus
states clearly, ‘I and My Father are one’, the implication of which was not lost
on the Jewish opposition who took up stones to stone Him, ‘because You being a man
make Yourself God.’ (John 10.36). At other points in John’s Gospel Jesus claims
to be of one nature with the Father (John 5.17-8, John 8.58, 14.1, 9). The opening
verses of John make it clear that the author’s intention is to declare the divinity
of Jesus: ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word
was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and
without Him nothing was made that was made.’
Just in case you might miss the point about who John is referring to when he uses
the term ‘the Word’ he writes in verse 14 ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among
us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full
of grace and truth.’ It stands to reason that if all things were made through the
Word (Jesus) then He Himself was not made and is uncreated. So obvious is this fact
that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ translation of the Bible has to re write John 1.1 by
saying ‘the Word was a God’ which is an interpretation to suit their idea not a valid
translation from the original Greek text.
The issue that led to Jesus’ trial and crucifixion was His claim to be God. In His
trial the High Priest asks Him ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed?’ If
you put together Jesus’ reply recorded in Matthew 26.63-66, Mark 14.61-64 and referred
to in John 19.7 it is clear that the Sanhedrin understood Jesus to be claiming to
1. The Son of the Blessed
2. The one who would sit at the right hand of power.
3. The Son of Man who would come on the right hand of power.
Their response was to condemn Him to death for blasphemy.
Other relevant issues are:
1. Jesus accepted worship as God (Matthew 8.2, 14.33, John 9.35-9, 20.27-9, Revelation
5). By contrast wherever anyone worships a created being in the New Testament they
are told not to (Acts 10.25-26, 14.12-18, Revelation 19.10).
2. He claimed authority to forgive sins which only God can do. Mark 2.5-7.
3. Paul affirmed him as God. Philippians 2.9-11, Titus 2.13
4. So did Peter. Matthew 16.15-17, Acts 2.36.
5. So did Thomas. John 20.28
6. So did Stephen. Acts 7.59.
7. So did the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah. Isaiah 7.14, 9.6,
In his book ‘Evidence that demands a verdict’ (page 111-112) Josh McDowell asks ‘If
God became man what would you expect him to be like?’ The answer:
1. He would have an unusual entrance into life.
2. He would be without sin.
3. He would manifest the supernatural in the form of miracles.
4. He would have an acute sense of difference from other people.
5. He would speak the greatest words ever spoken.
6. He would have a lasting and universal influence.
7. He would satisfy the spiritual hunger in humanity.
8. He would exercise power over death.
Such an expectation was met uniquely and perfectly in the person of the Lord Jesus,
the Messiah who is revealed as God made flesh in the New Testament and was believed
as such by the church fathers long before the Council of Nicea. Ignatius wrote in
his Epistle to the Ephesians in around 110 AD: ‘For our God Jesus Christ was conceived
in the womb of Mary by the Holy Ghost.’ Aristides wrote in 125 AD ‘He Himself is
Son of God on high, who was manifested of the Holy Spirit, came down from heaven,
and being born of a Hebrew virgin took on His flesh from the virgin. He it is who
was according to the flesh born of the race of Hebrews by the God-bearing virgin