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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Colwell's JBL Article - a Definite Rule for John 1:1c

For proof of the falsity of this trinitarian 'rule,' see the DEFinite John 1:1 study on this blog.

Journal of Biblical Literature [Vol. 52, 1933.]:  


E. C. Colwell

University of Chicago

Although Walter Bauer cautiously asserts that hard and fast rules for the use of the article in Hellenistic Greek are an impossibility[1] the grammarians have formulated many rules for which they claim various degrees of reliability. This is true of the use of the article with predicate nominatives, the use with which this study is concerned.

The discussion in A. T. Robertson’s mammoth grammar[2] may be regarded as representative since it is built upon the opinion of other grammarians and quotes largely from them. He emphasizes most strongly the two following rules: (1) predicate nouns tend to omit the article; (2) predicate nouns occur with the article in convertible propositions.

Professor Torrey goes further and claims that in some New Testament passages the article is omitted because of the anarthrous construct state in the Semitic original. He has claimed that six nouns in John are without the article for this reason.[3] Three of his anarthrous nouns (in John 1 49; 5 27; 9 5) [Jn 1:49; 5:27; 9:5] are predicate nominatives, and in each of these cases the predicate noun precedes the verb.

It was a study of these passages, especially John 1 49, that suggested the rule which is advocated in this study. In this verse Nathanael ascribes to Jesus two titles; in one of them he uses the article, in the other he does not: σὺ εἶ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. σὺ βασιλεὺς εἶ τοῦ Ἰσραήλ  [su ei ho huios tou theou. su basileus ei tou Israel: ‘you are the son of the god. you king are of the Israel.’]. What reason is there for this difference? When the passage is scrutinized, it appears at once that the variable quantum is not definiteness but word-order. “King of Israel” in this context is as definite as “Son of God.” It seems probable that the article [ho] is used with “Son of God” because it follows the verb, and is not used with “King of Israel” because it precedes the verb. If this can be established generally in the New Testament, it will of course involve only those sentences in which the copula is expressed. And for such sentences the rule may be stated briefly as follows: A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb. Of course, this can be claimed as a rule only after it has been shown to describe the usage of the Greek New Testament as a whole or in large part.

An important part of this demonstration is found in those passages in which a phrase is used now with the article and now without it. In John 19 21 the title “King of the Jews” is used of Jesus both with and without the article:  μὴ γράφε· βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ἀλλὅτι ἐκεῖνος εἶπεν· βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων εἰμί[Me graphe ho basileus ton Ioudaion, all hoti ekeinos eipen Basileus ton Ioudaion eimi: ‘not be writing the king of the jews, but that that (one) said king of the jews I am.’]. 
  It is plain that the Jews are objecting to the superscription because it may be read as a statement of fact; they want it changed so that the readers will know that this title is only a claim made by Jesus. But in each case the title itself remains the same; the article does not occur in the second instance because the predicate precedes the verb. In half a dozen New Testament passages,[4] the same phrase appears with the article after the verb. And in Matt. 27 42, where the title “King of Israel” is applied to Jesus, this appears without the article and before the verb.

The words “Son of God” appear approximately thirteen times as a predicate with the article,[5] in each of the thirteen passages they follow the verb. These words also appear ten times as predicate nominatives without the article; in nine of these passages they precede the verb,[6] and in the tenth (Matt. 27 43) it may be significant that θεοῦ precedes the verb.

The title “Son of Man” appears twice in the New Testament as a predicate nominative: once with the article (Matt. 13 37) and once without the article (John 5 27). In the Matthean passage, where it has the article, it follows the verb. In the Johannine passage, where it lacks the article, it precedes the verb.

This variation in the use of the article frequently occurs with the same phrase in the same gospel. In John 8 12 Jesus says, ἐγὼ εἰμι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου[Ego eimi to phos tou kosmou: ‘I am the light of the world’]; in John 9 5 he says, φῶς εἰμι τοῦ κόσμοῦ: ‘light I am of the world]. A similar variation occurs in Matt. 12 48 and 50, where Jesus uses the words “my mother” with the article after the verb and without the article before the verb.[7]


  One of the most impressive examples of the correlation between word-order and use of the article occurs in Matt. 13 37-39, the explanation of the parable of the tares:

σπείρωνἐστὶν υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, 38 δὲ ἀγρός ἐστιν κόσμος, … οὗτοι εἰσιν οἱ υἱοὶ τῆς βασιλείας· τὰ δὲ ζιζάνια εἰσιν οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ πονηροῦ, 39 δὲ ἐχθρὸςἐστιν διάβολος, δὲ θερισμὸς συντέλεια αἰῶνος ἐστιν. οἱ δὲ θερισταὶ ἄγγελοι εἰσιν.  
[ho speiron...estin ho huios tou anthropou. ho de agros estin ho kosmos. ... houtoi eisin hoi huioi tes basileias. ta de zizania eisin hoi huioi tou ponerou, ho de echthros... estin ho diabolos. ho de therismos sunteleia aionos estin, hoi de theristai aggeloi eisin: ‘the (man) sowing the fine seed is the son of the man; the but field is the world. ... these are the sons of the kingdom the but weeds are the sons of the wicked (one), the but enemy ... is the devil. the but harvest conclusion of age is, the but harvesters angels are’]. Here in a series of seven clauses the predicate nouns follow the verb and take the article five times; while in the last two clauses equally definite predicate nouns precede the verb and do not have the article. [But see RSV, NIV, ASV, NASB, NEB, JB, and AT, esp. for translation of “non-prepositional” aggeloi “angels”. - RDB]

That Matthew changed from one word-order to the other in a definite attempt to secure variety of style is suggested by another series of clauses similar to the one discussed above: Matt 23 8-10, eiV gar estin umwn o didaskaloV ... eiV gar estin umwn o pathr o ouranioV ... oti kaqhghthV umwn estin eiV o cristoV. [heis gar estin humon ho didaskalos... heis gar estin humon ho pater ho ouranios ... hoti kathegetes humon estin heis ho Christos: ‘one for is of you the teacher ... one for is of you the father the heavenly... because leader of you is one the christ.’]. Here he twice puts the predicate after the verb with the article, but the third time places it before the verb without the article. In neither of these Matthean passages can it be claimed that the predicates which close the series are less definite or concrete than those which precede; nor are the final clauses of the series less convertible than the others.

Further proof of the significant relation between word-order and the use of the article with predicate nouns is easily obtained from the very grammarians who are unaware of its existence. For the examples which they offer of predicate nouns with the article or of predicate nouns without the article fall into the categories established by this rule almost without exception. Thus in Robertson’s list (pp. 768-769) of forty-one predicates in the New Testament which have the article, there are thirty-eight which follow the verb. Again Robertson lists (p.794) the constructions in which the article is omitted. One of these constructions is the predicate nominative, and in both of his examples of anarthrous predicate nominatives the predicate precedes the verb. Blass-Debrunner[8] lists eighteen predicate nouns that take the article, and every one of them follows the verb. No one will be so unkind as to insinuate that these lists were compiled to support a theory of which the compilers had never heard. Robertson and Debrunner were merely looking for examples of predicate nouns with the article; it is significant that they found them after the verb.

Further support for the claim that there is a connection between word-order and use of the article can be found in the nature of the variants which occur in the MSS of the New Testament. That the MSS vary greatly in adding and omitting the article, every scholar who has done any work in textual criticism is aware. Such a simple omission or addition would of itself prove little for the theory advocated here, but when the omission or addition of the article is accompanied by a change of word-order, we have evidence that the relation between word-order and the use of the article was as real to the scribes who copied the MSS as it was to the original authors.

In the course of this study I noted three passages in which the article is used by one group of MSS and omitted by another group with a change in word-order. In each of these passages Westcott and Hort’s Heavenly Twins (Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus) disagree; yet both of them support the rule stated in this paper. That is to say, their variation is from one to the other of the alternatives described in this rule. The MSS differ as follows:


                 B [4th century]                                                              a [4th century]

  su basileuV  ei tou Israhl                           (1) John 1 49               su ei o basileuV tou Israhl       
                           [of Israel]                                                                                                   [of Israel]

kaqhghthV umwn estin eiV                     (2) Matt. 23 10       eiV gar umwn o kaqhghthV                                                               
                   [of you]                                                                      [of you]


    eiV qeoV estin                                             (3) Jas. 2 19                  eiV estin o qeoV                          
  [one]                                                                                                                [one]


It is interesting that B each time has the predicate before the verb without the article, while a [aleph] each time has the predicate after the verb with the article.[9] Further study will doubtless multiply examples of this sort, but these are enough to indicate that the scribes felt that a definite predicate noun did not need the article before the verb and did need it after the verb. 

The predicate noun is used in the New Testament with the article 254 times in sentences in which the verb is expressed. It follows the verb 239 times, and precedes the verb 15 times. Predicate nouns which are indubitably definite appear without the article in sentences in which the verb occurs 139 times. 99 times the predicate precedes the verb, and it follows the verb 40 times[10].

These totals include predicates in relative clauses. But the word-order in relative clauses seems to be so definitely fixed as to justify the exclusion of such clauses from this study. Ten definite predicates appeared with the article[11] in relative clauses, all after the verb. Sixteen definite predicates are used without the article in relative clauses, two before the verb (with the relative in the genitive) and fourteen after the verb (with the relative in the nominative). Thus only two out of twenty-six predicates precede in relative clauses.

If the predicates which occur in relative clauses are subtracted, the totals are as follows:

I. Definite Predicate Nouns with Article.............. 244

A. After Verb ................................................... 229 (94%)

B. Before Verb ................................................ 15 (6%)

II. Definite Predicate Nouns without the Article ...123

A. After Verb .................................................... 26 (21%)

B. Before Verb ................................................. 97 (79%)

The close relation between word-order and the use of the article in these cases can be shown by a different grouping of the same figures:

I. Definite Predicates after the Verb ................ 255

A. With the Article .................................... 229 (90%)

B. Without the Article ................................ 26 (10%)

II. Definite Predicates before the Verb ............ 112

A. With the Article ..................................... 15 (13%)

B. Without the Article ................................ 97 (87%)

It is obvious that the significance of these figures rests upon the accuracy with which definite predicate nouns without the article have been identified. There are bound to be mistakes in the list of definite predicate nouns without the article; but an attempt has been made to exclude all nouns as to whose definiteness there could be any doubt.[12] This means, of course, that “qualitative” [abstract?] nouns have been omitted, since all such nouns (and their total in the New Testament is small) are not definite. An inspection of some of the definite predicate nouns without the article will demonstrate that they are definite even though they lack the article.

None of the predicates in the following passages has the article in the original, and each of them precedes the verb. In Hebrews 9 15 it is claimed that Jesus is (the) mediator of a new covenant; in I Timothy 6 10 the love of money is identified as (the) root of all evil; in John 10 2 the one who enters by the door is (the) shepherd of the sheep; in Matt. 5 35 Jerusalem is (the) city of the Great King;[13] in Mark 2 28 the Son of Man is also (the) lord of the Sabbath; in I Cor. 44 Paul says, “It is (the) Lord who must examine me;” in Rev. 21 22 it is said of the New Jerusalem that God is (the) temple in it, etc. etc. This is a fair sample of what lies behind the statistics given above.

The rule that it is the exception that proves the rule finds no exception here. The exceptions to the rule that definite predicate nouns before the verb omit the article are about 15 in number.[14] Half of them are scattered around in Luke, John, II Peter, and Revelation; and in five of these passages there is serious manuscript evidence for the omission of the article according to the rule. The other half of these exceptions (7) are grouped in I and II Corinthians; and there is no significant manuscript evidence for variation here. Five of the seven put the predicate not only before the verb, but also before the subject; e.g., I Cor. 9:1 ou to ergon mou umeiV este en kuriw [ou to ergon mou humeis este en kurio: ‘not the work of me you are in lord?’]. Thus the order in these five Corinthian passages is predicate-subject-verb. This is obviously a stylism temporarily affected by the Apostle to the Gentiles, possibly for the sake of greater emphasis. Aside from these five passages, Paul’s exceptions do not loom up as especially significant.

The other class of exceptions - the omission of the article after the verb - contains more examples.[15] Approximately twenty-six definite predicate nouns omit the article after the verb.[16] Two of these are quotations from the Septuagint; five are adjectives used as substantives; but the remainder have no common characteristics. In I Cor. 12 27 and I Thess. 4 3 the textual evidence gives some basis for reading these passages according to the rule, but elsewhere the MSS are practically unanimous for the exception. The large number of exceptions in Romans is the most notable feature in the list.

I have made a hurried sampling of Greek usage outside the New Testament, with results that vary somewhat and yet on the whole support the figures quoted for the New Testament. In Genesis,[17] chapters 1-41, about fifty-eight definite predicate nouns were counted: forty-five support the rule (4 20; 12 12; etc.); thirteen are exceptions. Eleven of the exceptions are after the verb without the article (e.g., 9 18). In Genesis 9 19 the same sort of manuscript variation as was noted for the New Testament occurs: Codex Alexandrinus reads the predicate after the verb with the article and the Cotton Genesis MS reads it before the verb without the article.

In the Didache there are six definite predicate nouns used with a verb, and all of them support the rule.[18] One comes before and five after the verb. In P. Oxy III four support the rule, and there is one exception. In the Discourses of Epictetus IV. i-iv (about 50 pp. of Schenkl’s text) out of seventeen examples fourteen support the rule and three do not.[19] In all of these sources the percentage of support for the rule is about the same: of the predicate nouns with the article about 90% follow the verb; of the definite predicate nouns without the article about 80% precede the verb.

These dead figures have certain vital implications in at least three fields of New Testament study: grammar, text, and translation or interpretation. The New Testament grammars of the future, when they say that predicate nouns regularly omit the article, will point out that this is not the case in sentences in which the verb occurs, for in such sentences two-thirds of the definite predicate nouns have the article. Nor can this use of the article with predicate nouns be attributed to the presence of a large number of participles as predicate nominatives; for of the 244 predicates with the article only 61 are participles.

The following rules may be tentatively formulated to describe the use of the article with definite predicate nouns in sentences in which the verb occurs. (1) Definite predicate nouns here regularly take the article. (2) The exceptions are for the most part due to a change of word-order: (a) Definite predicate nouns which follow the verb (this is the usual order) usually take the article; (b) Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article; (c) Proper names regularly lack the article in the predicate; (d) Predicate nominatives in relative clauses regularly follow the verb whether or not they have the article.

In the field of textual criticism the rule here advocated has an equally definite contribution to make. It shows in certain specific cases what the probabilities are as to the author’s use or non-use of the article. A fine example of this is II Peter 1
17, cited as an exception to the rule since Westcott and Hort follow Codex Vaticanus [B] in reading the predicate with the article before the verb: o uioV mou o agaphtoV mou outoV estin. [Ho huios mou ho agapetos mou houtos estin: ‘the son of me the beloved of me this is.’] The evidence given in this study as to the extreme rarity of this construction in the New Testament reinforces Tischendorf’s judgement that the variant read by practically all the rest of the MSS is to be preferred. They read the predicate after the verb with the article, outoV estin o uioV mou o agaphtoV mou, [houtos estin ho huios mou ho agapetos mou: ‘this is the son of me the beloved of me.’], the usual Greek construction.

But it is in the realm of translation and interpretation that the data presented here have their most valuable application. They show that a predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or a “qualitative” noun solely because of the absence of the article; if the context suggests that the predicate is definite, it should be translated as a definite noun in spite of the absence of the article. In the case of a predicate noun which follows the verb the reverse is true; the absence of the article in this position is a much more reliable indication that the noun is indefinite. Loosely speaking, this study may be said to have increased the definiteness of a predicate noun before the verb without the article, and to have decreased the definiteness of a predicate noun after the verb without the article.

The opening verse of John’s Gospel contains one of the many passages where this rule suggests the translation of a predicate as a definite noun.  Kai qeoV hn o logoV [Kai theos en ho logos] looks much more like “And the Word was God” than “And the Word was divine” when viewed with reference to this rule. The absence of the article does not make the predicate indefinite or qualitative when it precedes the verb; it is indefinite in this position only when the context demands it. The context makes no such demand in the Gospel of John, for this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches its climax in the confession of Thomas.[20]

The passages in which uioV tou qeou [huios tou theou: ‘son of the god’] appear have often occasioned debate: Is the word “son” definite or indefinite? It is certainly significant that when used without the article these words regularly precede the verb. Nor can it be claimed that the phrase is “qualitative” or indefinite. In John 10 36 Jesus says of himself, uioV tou qeou eimi [huios tou theou eimi: ‘son of the god I am.’]. This is translated as “the son of God” by Goodspeed, Moffatt, the Authorized Version, the American Revised Version, Weymouth, etc. In Matt. 14 33 the disciples exclaim alhqwV qeou uioV ei [Alethos theou huios ei: ‘truly of god son you are.’]. This likewise is definite, and is so rendered in the translations listed above. But in Matt. 27 54 (equals Mark 15 39), Goodspeed and Moffatt translate as indefinite an almost exactly parallel phrase: alhqwV qeou uioV hn outoV. [Alethos theou huios en houtos: ‘truly of god son was this.’]. The evidence given in this paper as to the use of the article with the predicate nouns strengthens the probability that the centurion recognized Jesus as the Son of God (so Weymouth and the older English translations), rather than as a son of God.

[For proof of the falsity of this trinitarian 'rule,' see the DEFinite John 1:1 study on this blog.]



1. Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament, GieBen, 1928, s.v.o.

2. Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research,3 New York,  1919, p. 767f. I regret that I did not have access to the 4th edition, 1923, but the material  used is unchanged in the first three editions.

3. C.C. Torrey, “The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel,” Harvard Theological Review  XVI, 1923, p. 323f. I have attempted to make a general answer in The Greek of the Fourth Gospel, Chicago, 1931, p. 78f.         
4. Matt. 27 11,37; Mark 15 2; Luke 23 3,37; John 18 33.

5. Matt. 16 16; 26 63; Mark 3 11; 15 39; Luke 4 41; 22 70; John 1 39,49; 11 27; 20 31; Acts 9 20;  I John 4 15; 5 5.

6. Matt. 4 3,6; 14 33; 27 40,54; Luke 4 3,9; Mark 15 39; John 10 36.

7. A similar variation occurs in Matt. 18 1 and 4.

8. A. Debrunner, Friedrich Blass’ Grammatik des neutestamentlichen Griechisch,6   Gottingen, 1931, p. 156.

9. Tischendorf’s attestation: with B (1) AL 1.33 (2) DGL 1.33. 124. 26ev 48ev xscr (3) 69.ascr cscr; with ! [aleph] (1) the great majority of MSS (2)GDQP unc8 al pler (3) A 68. 

10. The Greek text used was that of Westcott and Hort. No claim of absolute accuracy is advanced for these totals, nor is there any need for absolute accuracy, as no significance is, or can be attached to a definite mathematical proportion.

11. The distribution is interesting: Col. 3, Eph. 2, Rev. 5.

12. The least definite nouns included are found in a group of about ten phrases such as “(the) seed of Abraham,” e.g., John 8 33. Practically all such expressions as o qeoV agaph estin [ho theos agape estin: ‘the god love is’] have been excluded from this study [abstract predicate nouns - RDB]; their inclusion would greatly increase the total for predicate nouns without the article before the verb. Proper names, also, have been excluded because they regularly lack the article whether they appear before or after the verb.

The Septuagint of Psalm 47 3 reads h poliV tou basilewV tou megalou [he polis tou basileos tou megalou: ‘the city of the king of the great’] without a verb.

14. Luke 4 41; John 1 21; 6 51; 15 1; II Peter 1 17; Rom. 4 13; I Cor. 9 1,2; 11 3,25; II Cor. 1 12; 3 2,17; Rev. 19 8; 20 14.

15. Proper Names regularly omit the article in the predicate when after the verb; they are not included here. For relative clauses, cf. p.7.

16. Matt. 20 16; Mark 4 32; 9 35; 12 28; Luke 20 33; 22 24; John 4 18; 18 13,37; Acts 10 36; Rom. 4 11,18; 7 13; 8 16,29; 11 6; I Cor. 12 27; 16 15; II Cor. 5 21; 6 16; Gal. 4 31; I Thess. 4 3; I Peter 5 12; Heb. 11 1

17. Swete’s text was used, and the evidence of the variants given in his brief apparatus is included.

The text used was Kirsopp Lake’s edition of the Apostolic Fathers in the Loeb Classical Library, iv. 7, 14; vi. 3; xiii. 3; xiv. 3; xv. 2.

After verb with article: IV i. 42, 62, 63, 114, 132, 158, 166; iii. 12; iv. 44; after verb without article: IV i. 118; before verb without article: IV i. 60, 71, 73, 94, 158; before verb with article; IV iv. 22, 48.

20. John 20 28.

[For proof of the falsity of this trinitarian 'rule,' see the DEFinite John 1:1 study on this blog.]


Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Holy One of God

The Holy One of God

(From the RDB Files)

A correspondent asked concerning the ‘Holy One of Israel’ (YHWH) and the ‘Holy One of God’ (Jesus):

"John 6:69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One [hagios] of God."

What say you? [implying that they must be the same person, God]

There are many ‘holy ones’ (hagios - Greek, Strong’s #40 and qadosh - Hebrew, Strong’s #6918) including all Jehovah’s angels. The ‘Holy One of Israel’ obviously means the one whom Israel worships as Holy (Jehovah God alone). The ‘Holy One of God’ means God’s Holy One (this includes those who are considered to be holy by God: angels, King David, Jesus, etc.

We would not consider God to be the ‘Holy One OF God’ any more than we would consider a ‘man OF God’ to be God, or the Prophet OF God, or the Angel OF God to BE God!

Here are some of the uses in the ASV:

Jude 1:14 And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones [Strong’s #40]

Deuteronomy 33:3 Yea, he loveth the people; All his saints [Strong’s #6918] are in thy hand: And they sat down at thy feet; [Every one] shall receive of thy words.

Psalms 34:9 Oh fear Jehovah, ye his saints [Strong‘s #6918]; For there is no want to them that fear him.

Psalms 106:16 They envied Moses also in the camp, [And] Aaron the saint [Strong’s #6918] of Jehovah.

Daniel 8:13 Then I heard a holy one [Strong’s #6918] speaking; and another holy one [Strong’s #6918] said unto that certain one who spake, How long shall be the vision [concerning] the continual [burnt-offering], and the transgression that maketh desolate, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Council of Nicaea (Nicene Council)

(From the RDB Files)

(The reason for the notes beginning at 96 is because this post is an excerpt from paragraphs 36-58 from the post "The History of the Development of the Trinity Doctrine". For additional information concerning the Council of Nicaea, see: HIST. pt. 1, par. 17; HIST. pt. 4, pars. 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 10; HIST. pt. 5, pars. 1, 6, 17, 18, 19, 21; HIST. pt. 6, pars. 2, 3 or by clicking here.)

1  Constantine, still a pagan emperor,[96, 97, 98] was concerned not with religious truth, but about the unity of his empire.[99, 100, 101, 102] He wanted the great rift between the extremely influential Alexandria (and its Western "satellites") and the entire Eastern portion of Christianity (the original home of Christianity) to be healed at once! Furthermore, "he detested Judaism" (p. 75, When Jesus became God and see p. 499. Rise of Christianity, Frend) and, of course, the God which Judaism, including the first Christians, had always worshiped. He therefore called a council of the bishops of the Church to work out a solution that would benefit his empire.

"This council met at Nicaea in the early summer of 325. Three hundred bishops of the Church were present .... The [pagan] Emperor presided [more often his own personal religious advisor, Bishop Hosius, actually presided] over the council and paid its expenses. ['At Nicaea the emperor provided lodging for the bishops in his palace. It was there, too, that the discussions took place, and in the presence of the emperor at that. .... It is understandable if the bishops showed their gratitude by generous efforts to oblige the emperor.' - p. 52, Lohse, Short Hist.] For the first time the Church found itself dominated by the political leadership of the head of the state."[103, 104]

2  Three views were advocated at this council. (Actually, the real question to be decided at this council was only the first step by Alexandrian philosophizers [and their Roman sympathizers] toward establishing a new doctrine of God. The question was only, "Is Jesus absolutely equal to the Father: all-powerful, always existing, and of the very same substance, or not?" The introduction of a "third person" as being equal to God was not yet being attempted officially.)

(1) Basically, Athanasius, the trinitarian from Alexandria, said,

"Yes, Jesus is absolutely equal to the Father. He has always existed beside the Father. He is of the very same substance or essence (Homoousios) [105, 106, 107] as the Father. He is absolute God and must be worshiped as God."

There was a very small minority of Western Bishops at the council who agreed with him (those most influenced by Alexandria and Neo-Platonism, including the trinitarian Bishop Hosius).[108]

(2) There was another (much larger) minority of Bishops at the council who were led by Arius. Basically, Arius said,

"Jesus is not God, although he could be called 'divine.' He was made by God (the Father alone) so there was a time when he did not exist! He was made out of nothing and is, therefore, of an entirely different substance (or Essence) from that of God. He must not be worshiped as the One True God."

(Apparently Arius also believed that in his heavenly pre-existence Jesus had been the highest of angels. But this was not an invention of Arius. It was a much earlier Christian tradition which Arius was upholding - p. 50, A Short History of Christian Doctrine, Bernard Lohse, Fortress Press, 1985 - but the more recent trinitarians had rejected it.

"Traditional Christian interpretation has held that this 'angel' [the Angel of Jehovah] was a preincarnate manifestation of Christ as God's Messenger-Servant." - Gen. 16:7 footnote, NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1985.)

(3) The vast majority (more than 200 bishops) of those at the Council of Nicaea were led by Eusebius of Caesarea. These were the Semi-Arians (see The American People's Encyclopedia, 1954, p. 8-207). They strongly agreed with the Arians that Jesus was not God[109, 110, 111] and must not be worshipped as God! They believed that Jesus did not always exist. Basically, they said,

"The Father (God alone) generated Jesus (not out of nothing as Arius believed, but) from a substance similar (Homoi ousios) to His own. He is not equal to God, but is subordinate to Him, [118] even though he is above all the rest of creation. Jesus must not be worshiped as the One True God."

"By contrast [with the Arians and semi-Arians], the strongest anti-Arians experienced their present as a sharp break with the past. It was they who demanded, in effect, that Christianity be "updated" by blurring or even obliterating the long-accepted distinction between the Father and the Son.

"For young militants like Athanasius, however, ... Judaism was an offensive, anti-Christian faith." - p.74, When Jesus Became God, Harcourt, 1999.

3  Notwithstanding the vast majority of bishops' unshakably strong insistence upon a non-trinitarian view of God, the determination and power of the Emperor- supported (and Alexandrian and Neo-Platonist-influenced) bishops of the West prevailed after months of stormy debates.

Eusebius of Caesarea presented the baptismal creed of his own Palestinian community to the Nicene Council. It did not satisfy the trinitarians.

"Accordingly, they [Constantine and Hosius primarily] took another baptismal creed, of much the same type as Eusebius's, and altered its text to serve their purpose, in the process creating a new, non-liturgical type of confession. .... In the text itself, they inserted the significant expressions 'true God from true God,' 'begotten not made,' 'from the substance [ousia] of the Father,' and - most important of all, as it turned out - 'of one substance [homoousios] with the Father.' .... From the very beginning, however, people like Eusebius of Caesarea had doubts about the creed, doubts that focused on the word homoousios. This was, to be sure, a vague and non-technical term which was capable of a fairly wide range of senses. [According to historian Gibbon it was a mysterious term "which either party was free to interpret according to their peculiar tenets." - p. 686, vol. 1, Random House.] It could in principle be taken to mean exact sameness of being, but it could also be taken to suggest no more than a significant degree of similarity between Father and Son [Origen, in fact, used the term to show merely a 'unity of will' between the Father and the Son [88] - p. 46, Lohse.] - which, of course, everyone was glad to affirm. On the other hand, the term was non-Scriptural, it had very doubtful theological history, and it was open to what, from Eusebius' point of view, were some dangerous misinterpretations indeed [including the one that was finally adopted and enforced by the Roman Church]." --- The trinitarians, however, assured Eusebius (and the large majority of other Bishops opposed to them) that homoousios in this new creed would not be interpreted in the way they feared.[105] - pp. 134, 135, Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church, 4th ed., Scribners, 1985.

4  After Eusebius failed to get a compromise (concerning "substance" or "essence," but which still rejected any concept promoting any equality for Jesus with God)[111, 112] and the Emperor backed the trinitarians with all his secular power, it was forcefully put to the vast majority of bishops present: sign the trinitarian statement or be exiled and treated as heretics.[113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119] It is not too surprising, therefore, that the majority of them signed (although most of them renounced it afterward).[120, 121, 122] It is surprising, in fact, that, after escaping from the Emperor's presence, so many remained faithful to their Arian and Semi-Arian beliefs. As trinitarian Christian historian Kenneth Latourette describes the situation:

"Constantine banished Arius, ordered the death penalty for those who did not conform, and commanded the burning of the books composed by Arius..." - pp. 50-51, Christianity Through the Ages, 1965, Harper ChapelBooks.

But the small minority of Western trinitarian bishops had won.

"The [new, non-Scriptural Nicene] creed achieved the aim of excluding Arianism and providing the eastern church with a formula to which all could assent in one sense or another [because of the many different meanings possible with such terms as homoousios]." - Williston Walker, History, p. 135.

"The decisions of Nicaea were really the work of a minority, and they were misunderstood and disliked by many [even those] who were not adherents of Arius. In particular the terms ['out of the substance' - exousia] and homoousios ['of the same substance'] aroused opposition, on the grounds that they were unscriptural, novel, ... and erroneous metaphysically." - p. 41, Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd ed., Bettenson, 1967, Oxford University Press.

"But [the Council of Nicaea's] formula of the Son's 'consubstantiality' [homoousios] with the Father was slow to gain general acceptance,[148] despite [Emperor] Constantine's efforts to impose it." - p. 72, The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity, John McManners, Oxford University Press, 1992.

“Before the assembling of the council of Nice, Constantine had been persuaded that the Arian doctrine contained a blasphemy against the divinity of Christ, and that the [homoousian] was absolutely required, in order to maintain the dignity of Christ’s person. …. It was nothing but the influence of the emperor Constantine which induced the eastern bishops at the council of Nice to suffer the imposition of a doctrinal formula which they detested and from which, indeed, they sought immediately to relieve themselves.” - Neander’s History of Christianity, Vol. 3, p. 189, Bohn.
"The Council of Nicaea, then, was not universal. Nevertheless, it is everywhere considered the first ecumenical (or universal) council of the Catholic Church. Several later gatherings would be more representative of the entire Church; one of them, the joint council of Rimini-Seleucia (359), was attended by more than five hundred bishops from both the East and West. If any meeting deserves the tilte "ecumenical," that one seems to qualify, but its result - the adoption of an Arian creed - was later repudiated by the Church. Councils whose products were later deemed unorthodox not only lost the "ecumenical" label but virtually disappeared from the official Church history." - p. 75, When Jesus Became God, Harcourt, 1999.

5  In contrast to the conduct of the trinitarians we find the conduct of the Arians and Semi-Arians during the Nicene Council (which we must read in the extremely biased accounts of the Athanasians since their opponents' accounts, records, and doctrinal evidence were destroyed by the prevailing Athanasians) to be a much more proper example for those professing to be Christian:

"The Arians .... recommended the exercise of Christian charity [love] and moderation, urged the incomprehensible nature of the controversy, disclaimed the use of any terms or definitions which could not be found in the Scriptures, and offered, by very liberal concessions, to satisfy their adversaries without renouncing the integrity of their own principles. The [trinitarians] received all their proposals with haughty suspicion and anxiously sought for some irreconcilable mark of distinction, the rejection of which might involve the Arians in the guilt and consequences of heresy. A letter was publicly read and ignominiously torn [by the trinitarians], in which [Arian] Eusebius of Nicomedia ingenuously [honestly, openly, honorably, with a superior character - Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary] confessed that the admission of the homoousion,[105, 106, 107, 108, 110] or Consubstantial [a non-Biblical, paganistic term], a word already familiar to the platonists, was incompatible with the principles of their theological system. The fortunate opportunity [for the trinitarians] was eagerly embraced by the [minority group of Western, trinitarian] bishops, who governed the resolutions of the Synod, and, according to ... Ambrose, they used the sword, which heresy itself had drawn from the scabbard, to cut off the head of the hated monster [Arianism and semi-Arianism]." - pp. 685-686, Gibbon, vol. 1, Random House.

6  In other words, trinitarian Gibbon, who admittedly dislikes the non-trinitarian Arian teaching, tells us that the Arians wished to keep peace and unity by compromising as much as they honestly could. They wanted to confine the discussion to the Scriptures alone and not introduce any philosophic and paganistic teachings.[15, 79, 107, 108, 143] And they wanted to conduct this Council or Synod in the spirit of Christian Love. But the trinitarians would have none of it and actually searched for a way to have the non-trinitarian majority persecuted as heretics! And when the Arian spokesman, in the spirit of Christian honesty and openness, wrote that one thing they simply could not compromise with was the use and potential meanings of the pagan non-Biblical term ("Homoousious" or "of equal substance" - a term introduced at the council by Emperor Constantine himself), the trinitarian bishops immediately and publicly tore up the letter and started the proceedings for heresy!

7  Which side seems more in line with the teachings of Christ and his Apostles to you? (Compare Matt. 5:5-12; 5:39; 6:14-15; Gal. 5:19-24.) Don't we find the trinitarian Athanasians - even DURING this most significant Council - more like those the Apostles warned us about at 2 Tim. 4:3-5 and 1 John 3:10-12? Don't we find the more humble, peace-loving Arians and Semi-Arians more in line with 1 John 4:17, 20, 21? Who is more like the self-righteous ones in religious authority in these scriptures: Matt. 12:9, 14; 22:15; 23:23, 34 - the Athanasians? The Arians and Semi-Arians?

"Nicaea cost the Church its independence, however, for the Church became imperial from this time and was increasingly dominated by the Emperor."[123]

"Nevertheless ... Constantine's unification of state and church did not please everyone. .... it had indeed required a mental and spiritual turnabout to belong to a church which, instead of being perpetually proscribed ["outlawed," persecuted - see 2 Tim. 3:12, John 15:19-20] was subsidized and directed from the lateran palace under the guidance of the Emperor."[124]

8  Up to this point Christians had been persecuted by those around them, including the government itself - just as foretold by Christ and the inspired Bible writers, but they would not persecute in return (also as commanded by Jesus). Then at this single stroke a new God was to be worshiped by all Christians, and these newly-proclaimed "orthodox" (trinitarian) Christians were no longer persecuted, proscribed. Those being persecuted in accord with Christ's prophecy were still the non-trinitarians who continued on the narrow road (Matt. 7:13-14) as commanded by their Lord and Savior.

"The Bishop of Rome (Pope) was given the royal palace of the Laterni [the Lateran Palace] and magnificent new churches. The liturgy borrowed imposing features from official and court ceremonial." Even "episcopal [bishops'] courts were given jurisdiction in civil cases." - Grant, pp. 220, 221.

St. Jerome's doubts about the desirability of such a position for the church echoed a feeling of disgust that went wide and deep among the members of the church:

"This feeling had ancient roots. Before official recognition of the church, many Christian writers had detested not only the Roman state but the whole Greco-Roman and particularly Greek philosophical culture in which the Alexandrians and other apologists had tried to dress the Jewish doctrines of Christianity."[125]

Yes, the religion which Christ himself had said was no part of the world (Jn 17:16; compare 1 Jn 2:15-17) was now gladly fusing itself wholly with that world. Protestant Church historian Neander noted,

"the consequence would be a confusion of the church with the world ... whereby the church would forfeit her purity, and, while seeming to conquer, would herself be conquered." - General History of the Christian Religion and Church, vol. 2, p. 161.

She herself had become a large part of the adulteress (or the Harlot - Rev. 17:1-6; 18:2-3) which she had been so clearly warned against.

"Ye adulteresses [ASV footnote: 'That is, who break your marriage vow to God'], know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God." - James 4:4, 5, ASV.

Influences Upon The Nicene Council

10 But, to get back to the influences upon that infamous council, the most influential person at the Nicene Council was Bishop Hosius of Cordova (sometimes translated “Ossius” or “Osius of Cordoba”) who actually presided over most of the Council sessions. He was the representative for the Pope (the Bishop of Rome) and the most trusted, most influential “Christian” advisor for the Emperor himself. As the leader of the Western, Alexandria-influenced bishops he was committed to the trinity idea. It is he who ultimately convinced the Emperor to decide (against the large majority of bishops present) in favor of the “Jesus is God” doctrine.[126, 127]  In fact, Constantine relied almost exclusively on this trinitarian advisor and had very little interest in the actual decision of this council (except that it must permanently resolve the religious dissension in his Empire):

“Constantine had basically no understanding whatsoever of the questions that were being asked in Greek Theology” - p. 51, A Short History of Christian Doctrine, Lohse, Fortress Press, 1985.

11 About 20 years before Emperor Constantine convened the Nicene (or Nicaean) Council, the famous Bishop Hosius of Cordova was the “leading spirit” of the Council of Elvira in 306 A.D.[128] As The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us:

“It is significant that the leading bishop at Elvira [Bishop Hosius] was to preside at the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325."[129]

12 It is significant indeed! Was this “leading spirit” himself guided by Holy Spirit and Holy Scripture? Well, let’s look at the results of the Council of Elvira, for, as Jesus forewarned:

“You will know them by their fruits.” - Matt. 7:16, NASB

Here, then, are the “fruits” of the Council of Elvira: its published canons. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia (p. 185),

“[The Council of Elvira] published the oldest known positive law concerning clerical celibacy."[130]

And what is “clerical celibacy”? Again The Catholic Encyclopedia (p. 100) informs us:

“Celibacy is the ecclesiastical law in the western [Roman Catholic] Church imposed on clerics forbidding ... those in holy orders from marriage.”

13 Now turn to God’s inspired word at 1 Timothy 4:1-7 (NEB):

“... some will desert from the faith and give their minds to subversive doctrines inspired by devils, through the specious falsehoods of men whose own conscience is branded with the devil’s sign.”

And exactly how can we recognize those who “desert from the faith and give their minds to subversive doctrines”?

THEY FORBID MARRIAGE and demand abstinence from foods.” - 1 Tim. 4:3, NRSV.

Throughout the history of Biblical Israel God allowed his priests and high priests to marry (even John the Baptist’s father was a married priest - Luke chapter 1). And the Christian servants of God were permitted to marry (and remain married) throughout the writings of the New Testament Scriptures (e. g., 1 Tim. 3:2, 4) and up to the time of Hosius.

So what was it that inspired Bishop Hosius to include this God-defying command to forbid marriages in the edicts of the Roman Church? Well, 1 Tim. 4:1 clearly shows the source of that spirit, but the actual agent of that spirit at this time was the very popular and influential surrounding pagan mystery religions and philosophies!

In particular, Hosius and his Alexandrian-influenced confederates borrowed extensively from the Alexandrian trinity cult of Serapis-Isis-Horus:

“The contributions of the Alexandrine cult to Christian thought and practices were even more considerable .... Its priests took on the head-shaving [“tonsure” of Catholic priests] and the characteristic garments of the Egyptian priests, because that sort of thing seemed to be the right way of distinguishing a priest. One accretion followed another."[131]

More specifically:

“the ceremonial burning of candles ... was a part of the worship of the Serapeum .... her [Isis’] images stood in the temple, crowned as the Queen of Heaven and bearing the infant Horus in her arms. The candles flared and guttered before her and the wax ex-votos hung about the shrine. The novice was put through a long and careful preparation, he took vows of celibacy, and when he was initiated his head was shaved and he was clad in a linen garment .... The garments of ritual and symbol and formula that Christianity has worn, and still in many countries wears to this day were certainly woven in the cult and temples of Jupiter-Serapis and Isis that spread now from Alexandria throughout the civilized world.'[132, 133, 134, 135]

Rome itself was greatly influenced by its own celibate pagan priests (in addition to those of Jupiter-Serapis-Isis above which Rome also had imported).

“When the worship of Cybele, the Babylonian goddess, was introduced into Pagan Rome, it was introduced in its primitive form, with its celibate clergy.” - p. 220, The Two Babylons, Hislop.

14 And the highly-respected and very popular religion of Mithraism (which Emperor Constantine himself favored) was well-known for its celibate priests.

“Originally  was one of the lesser gods of the ancient Persian pantheon, but he came to be regarded as the spiritual Sun, the heavenly Light,... and already in the time of Christ he had risen to be co-equal with, though created by, Ormuzd (Ahura-Mazda), the Supreme Being....” (pp. 136-137) “Mithraism had its austerities, .... It had also its nuns and its male CELIBATES.” - p. 143, The Paganism in our Christianity, Weigall, New York, 1974.

So we see that in both Alexandria and Rome the customary perception of a priest included the unscriptural pagan concept of celibacy!

15 For those who accept the authority of the Holy Scriptures and the testimony of history, there can be absolutely no doubt as to what “spirit” motivated Hosius, who was the “leading spirit” of the Council of Elvira, and motivated the Roman Church which accepted the paganistic doctrines he advocated. “[those who] desert the faith and who give their minds to subversive doctrines inspired by devils” include those who “forbid marriage and inculcate abstinence from certain foods.” (Incidentally that same Roman Church did “inculcate abstinence from certain foods”: The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1976, admits, in the article entitled “Abstinence”: “The law of abstinence is binding to all over 14 years of age .... It forbids the eating of meat and soups of meat stock, gravy and sauces of meat. On days of complete abstinence these foods may not be eaten at all.” - p. 17.)

“In 325 the Council of Nicaea declared that those who were unmarried at ordination could not marry afterward ....” - p. 280, The Christian Book of Why, John C. McCollister (Lutheran minister and university professor - graduate of the Trinity Lutheran Seminary), NY, 1983. - - Also see p. 660 f.n., Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, vol. 3, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1944.

16 It becomes clear, then, why the Athanasians refused to agree to stick to the Holy Scriptures as their support for a multiple-person God during the Nicene Council: The western pagan-borrowing, Alexandrian-influenced “Christians” had been bending and ignoring Scripture for so long that it was already a clearly established pattern. Scripture had to be ignored in order to adopt popular paganisms. It should come as no surprise, then, that these paganizing Alexandria and Rome-influenced western bishops would not stick to scripture (in spite of the pleas by the majority of bishops present at the council) as the sole basis for their desired adoption of the trinity doctrine at the Nicene Council.

17 Why even during that very same council, according to Prof. McCollister above, they forced the inclusion of the pagan-inspired scripturally condemned practice of “forbidding marriage” (and “inculcating abstinence from certain foods"[135a])! This certainly shows the “fruits” of these men and the “fruits” of the Nicene Council as a whole!

18 Yes, embracing the more popular and influential pagan philosophies and religious doctrines and marrying them to god’s pure religion was more important to them than God’s inspired word. A clear example of the figurative “adultery” the Bible warns against!

19 But what about that “Christian” emperor who convened the Nicene Council and finally decided its “canons” himself? Saint Constantine some churches have named him. Was he really a trinitarian Christian? Was he a Christian at all?

As we have seen, [96, 97, 98, 99] Constantine, throughout his reign, was more pagan than Christian and didn’t even ask to be baptized as a Christian until he lay upon his death bed.

“Toward the close of his life he favored the [non-trinitarian] Arians ... and he even banished many Roman Catholic [trinitarian] bishops. In the year 337 he fell ill ..., was baptized, and died after a reign of 31 years.” - Encyclopedia Americana, p. 555, v. 7, 1944.

20 Not only did Constantine “favor” the Arians in his later years and help them to dominant positions in the Church that they retained for many years after his death,[136] but he made an extremely significant gesture as he lay upon his death bed!

“Not until his last illness did he fully accept Christianity. Then he cried, ‘let there be no ambiguity!’ and asked for baptism [by an Arian, non-trinitarian bishop].” - Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia, v. 3, p. 456, 1950.

Yes, instead of calling in his old friend and advisor, Hosius, or even Athanasius, he called for Eusebius of Nicomedia, (the leader of the Arian party since the death of Arius) to baptize him! This certainly ended any ambiguity!

“[Eusebius of Nicomedia] baptized Constantine in 337, and became patriarch of Constantinople in 339 [the capital of the empire at that time].” - Americana, 1944, v. 10, p. 585.

What a powerful and significant deathbed confession by Saint Constantine![137]

21 In other words, Constantine, upon the insistent advice of Hosius, had forced the trinitarian views of Athanasius and the Alexandrians upon a reluctant Church. Shortly after, however, he began exiling the trinitarians and restoring the Arians and Semi-Arians. Then, when he finally decided to fully become a Christian himself, he chose to be baptized as an Arian Christian to dispel any perception of ambiguity about himself and his desires for the empire.

22 It must be made perfectly clear that the original Nicene Creed, as formulated in 325 A. D. and forced upon the Church, did not yet attempt to include the holy spirit as an equal member of a “Godhead.” The Nicene Council was just the first step in the Alexandrian process of making an official trinity for Christendom.

“...the early Church did not forthwith attain to a complete [trinity] doctrine; nor was it, in fact, until after the essential divinity [‘deity’] of Jesus had received full ecclesiastical sanction [325 A.D. or later] that the personality of the Spirit was explicitly recognized, and the doctrine of the Trinity [fully and officially] formulated. .... It is better to regard the spirit as the agency which, proceeding from the Father and the Son, dwells in the church as the witness and power of the life therein.” - Encyclopedia Americana, v. 14, p. 326, 1944-1957 (at least).