50 C.E. Jerusalem Council. Outlined in the Book of Acts, this council set the precedent of settling theological issues through group dialogue amongst a council of elders. Convened to consider the numbers of Gentiles that were coming into the church due to the missionary work of Peter, Paul and Barnabas, and to what extent these new converts should conform to Jewish law.
At this time, the church consisted almost exclusively of Jewish Christians that had accepted Yeshua as the Messiah but also continued to observe their Jewish traditions at the Temple and synagogues. The issues taken up at the council revolved around the question of circumcision and other aspects of Mosaic Law. The Council was presided over by James, and was instigated by a group of Jewish Christians who objected to the fact that uncircumcised Gentiles were being accepted into the congregation. There was a lively debate where Peter argued that the dispute was an effort to make the Gentiles more like "us" (Jewish) rather than making them more like "Christ" in the spiritual sense. In the end the decision was pronounced by James:
"Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath." - Acts 15: 19 - 21.
189 A.D. (approx.) Synods were being held at various congregations concerning the Quartodeciman controversy. Synodical letters were sent to the Bishop of Rome, Victor I, all of which took issue with his stance on the matter. From Judea, Jerusalem, Pontus, Gaul, Corinth, Mesopotamia and elsewhere, the bishops complained, and became known by the Latins as Quartodecimanii (fourteenthers). At the heart of the issue was the question concerning what day to celebrate the Lord's sacrifice. The Eastern churches all celebrated the annual Lord's Day using the date of Nisan 14th on the Jewish calendar (commemorating the Last Supper and the sacrifice). This is the day prior to the Jewish Passover, which begins at sundown, and whatever day of the week it happened to fall on didn't matter. In Rome, however, the Latin practice had been established of celebrating Easter (commemorating the resurrection) always on Sunday. (see Easter) The difference in the dating of these celebrations had long been tolerated between the Eastern churches and Rome, but Pope Victor I took it upon himself to lay down the law, unwilling to accept the divergence in practice, he began excommunicating bishops, including some of the best known and highly respected of early church fathers. His actions also highlighted what would become the issue of Roman superiority among bishops.
232 A.D. Synod to condemn Origen's work, called for by Origen's bishop, Demetrius of Alexandria. Origen was cleared of charges. He left for Caesarea, where he opened a school that attracted a great many students. He was known to hold non-trinitarian, subordinationist beliefs, but that isn't what got him in trouble. What got him in trouble was, Origen began to introduce Greek philosophy, mixing it up with Christian teaching.
251/252 A.D. African Synod of Carthage under Cyprian to consider the treatment of the "Lapsi," and the excommunicated. Lapsi was the term given to those that had renounced their faith in fear of Roman persecution. The term also applies to lapsed Christians who fell away from the faith, only to return later. It was decided that rather than a blanket method of reinstatement, Lapsi would be dealt with according to individual guilt.
251/252 A.D. Synod of Rome (following the Synod of Carthage) affirmed the decisions of the Carthage Synod.
270 A.D. Council of Antioch to condemn Paul of Samosata’s writings. Attendees included Gregory Thaumaturgus and Anatolius. Paul was bishop of Antioch from 260 to 268. He was a believer in Monarchianism, a nontrinitarian doctrine, and had been teaching another doctrine called adoptionism. Adoptionism is a nontrinitarian theological doctrine which holds that Jesus was a man, adopted as the Son of God either at his baptism, his resurrection, or his ascension. The trinitarian controversy was only beginning to heat up around this period of time as a threat to church unity. Besides the doctrinal issues, Paul was accused of financial improprieties.
305 A.D. the Synod of Elvira. Attended by nineteen bishops and 26 presbyters. The canons produced were all concerned with the order, discipline and conduct of the Christian community. Canon 36 forbade the use of images in churches and was the first inkling of the subsequent iconoclast controversy. The statement was issued that, "Pictures are not to be placed in churches, so that they do not become objects of worship and adoration." Other rulings of the synod addressed such issues as separation between Christians and Jews. Christians and Jews could not marry, Jews could not bless the crops of Christians, and they could not share meals. Other rulings forbade holy communion for lapsed Christians (Lapsi), and advocated for celibacy among all clerics, married or not, and all who minister at the altar.
314 A.D. Ancyra. Present day Ankara. 12 bishops were present. Chorepiscopi (auxiliary bishops) were forbidden to ordain presbyters or deacons. Issues of bestiality were addressed.
315 A.D. Synod of Neocaesarea. If a woman is with child when she is baptized, benefit of her baptism is not transferred to the unborn child. Presbyters must be at least thirty years old at the time of ordination, because Yeshua waited until he was 30 before he was anointed, a Jewish custom for Temple priests. In the early church, baptism was generally by full immersion. Baptism by affusion, that is by pouring the water over the candidate, was permitted in the case of the seriously ill and where sufficient water for immersion was impractical, for example, in prisons. The term 'aspersion' describes the sprinkling of 'holy water' instead of full immersion, used especially for infants, a practice that would not become routine in the church until the 5th or 6th centuries.
Note: 325-680 A.D. is often referred to as the Synodical Period of church history, due to an increased frequency of church leadership councils and synods. The church was moving rapidly away from the more simple apostolic teachings, founded in the Torah, and into more complex mandates of faith. The many issues that rose up as more and more pagan Gentiles were being brought into the church, demanded more and more in the way of leadership councils to settle the questions that naturally rose up. This historical period kicks off with one of the most important of all church councils - Nicaea I.
325 A.D. 1st Council of Nicaea. Opposed Arius over the trinitarian doctrine, created and adopted the Nicene Creed. There were 250-318 bishops present, out of 1,800 bishops in the world. Arius was excommunicated from what would henceforth be referred to as the "orthodox" church, and a little while later he would be murdered by poison. Many other issues were taken up and settled, but Arianism was the most contentious, and most far-reaching in terms of shaping the church - turning the church away from Judaism, the Torah, and the Messianic teachings. As the trinitarian doctrine prevailed, it moved the church off the classic definition of monotheism. Nicaea also provided the first mention in church history of the season of Lent. The Greek word used was tessarakonta, meaning "forty." A season of fasting was ordered for the faithful.
334/335 A.D. Synod of Tyre, presided over by Eusebius of Caesaria against Athanasius, who left in the middle, when he saw he could not get a fair hearing. The Arianism (anti-trinitarianism) embodied and expressed within the Synod would ultimately be overturned by the Council of Constantinople (381 AD), according to the will of Emperor Theodosius.
341 A.D. Synod of Antioch. Held at the same time as the dedication of the great church in Antioch known as Domus Aurea, "Golden House." There were 97 bishops present, all of whom were openly Arians, hostile to Athanasius. There were none from the western, Latin church, and Pope Julius was not represented. However, Emperor Constantius II, known to be sympathetic to the Arians, was present in person. The council produced three alternative formulas for creeds, while repudiating certain Arian formulas. They avoided the orthodox term homoousios, fiercely advocated by Athanasius of Alexandria and accepted by the First Council of Nicaea. After much debate, they settled on a weak compromise. (see - Creeds).
343/344 A.D. Sardica. There were 170 bishops present. It was an attempt to resolve the Arian controversy. The council almost broke down when some bishops refused to sit with others, and left, to form a counter-council. Of those remaining, some (the Orthodox bishops) favored the restoration of Athanasius to his see, while others (the Arian bishops) opposed restoration. In the end, Athanasius was pronounced innocent, and restored to his see, but the opposition ordered that if he attempted to enter his see, he should be put to death. He went into self imposed exile.
343-381 A.D. Synod of Laodicea - "Christians must not judaize by resting on Sabbath, but must work on that day. Instead, they should honor the Lord's Day, and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ" (cursed). In addition, the church officially commanded the observance of Lent.
347 A.D. Council of Sirmium I. Constantine the Great died in 337, leaving the empire in the hands of co-emperors. Constantius II, who favored Arianism and assumed power as emperor in the East, and Constans, who favored Nicaea, emperor in the West. Constantius, who had a residence in Sirmium, convened the first Council of Sirmium in 347. It was called to oppose Photinus, the bishop of Sirmium, an anti-Arian. In 350, Constantius became the sole Emperor of both East and West, leading to a temporary strengthening of Arianism and monotheism.
351 A.D. Council of Sirmium II. At the second Council of Sirmium, Basil, bishop of Ancyra (now Ankara) and leader of the semi-Arians, had Photinus deposed. The semi-Arians held that the Son was "of similar substance" (homoiousios) to the Father. Sirmium II also drafted the Sixth Arian Confession, which was an expanded version of the Fourth Arian Confession and was consistent with the strength of the semi-Arians.
353-369 A.D. Council of Ashtishat presided over by Nerses I of Armenia. Established various laws concerning marriage and fast days. Forbade marriage to first cousins, and mutilation or other extreme measures in periods of mourning. Nerses was exiled by the Roman emperor Valens when it was discovered he followed the teachings of Arius, but restored later and then shortly thereafter, murdered by poison.
357 A.D. Synod of Sirmium III. The third Council of Sirmium, was the high point of Arianism. The Seventh Arian Confession (Second Sirmium Confession) held that both homoousios (of one substance) and homoiousios (of similar substance) were unbiblical and that the Father is greater than the Son. (This confession was later known as the Blasphemy of Sirmium). The council produced the statement; "But since many persons are disturbed by questions concerning what is called in Latin substantia, but in Greek ousia, that is, to make it understood more exactly, as to 'coessential,' or what is called, 'like-in-essence,' there ought to be no mention of any of these at all, nor exposition of them in the Church, for this reason and for this consideration, that in divine Scripture nothing is written about them, and that they are above men's knowledge and above men's understanding." - see also - creeds
358 A.D. Synod of Seleucia - The Roman Emperor Constantius II requested two councils, one of the western bishops at Ariminum and one of the eastern bishops at Nicomedia in another attempt to resolve the Arian controversy. The eastern Council was originally intended to be held at the cathedral of Nicomedia, however shortly before the Council was to convene, an earthquake struck the city destroying the cathedral and killing the host bishop Cecropius of Nicomedia, and another bishop from the Bosporus area. Opponents of Arianism, of course, celebrated the earthquake as divine retribution. With the venue destroyed, the Emperor moved the council of some 160 bishops to Selucia. The council was bitterly divided, and procedurally irregular, and the two groups met separately, reaching opposing decisions. Acacius proposed a new creed that stated the Son was like the Father, compromising between the controversial language of Nicaea and Antioch, and condemning Anomoeanism. Later that same year, Constantius called for another council in Constantinople to consider the decision at Ariminum and resolve the split at Seleucia.
358 A.D. (approx.) Synod of Gangra. The date of this synod isn't recorded and is widely debated among scholars. This council condemned the practices of the Manichaeans, a religious movement that originated in Persia and is considered a branch of Gnosticism. For a time, Manichaeism competed with Christianity to replace classic paganism. The synod was considered a local council, but the "canons" produced by the council had wide-ranging influence in establishing church doctrine.
375 A.D. Synod of Ancyra attempts to arrest Gregory the Bishop of Nyssa. Gregory was accused of embezzling church funds and other irregularities. He was deposed and arrested, but escaped. He was restored to his see in 378.
379 A.D. Synod of Antioch. Presided over by Meletius of Antioch who was hailed as the leader of Eastern orthodoxy. As such he presided over the great synod of Antioch, at which the dogmatic agreement of East and West was established.
380 A.D. Council of Saragossa I. Condemned Manichaeans.
381 A.D. Constantinople I. Called by Emperor Theodosius I - 150 bishops attended. Theodosius' intent in calling this council was to completely eradicate Arianism, and condemn Macedonios and Apollinarianism, by establishing the teaching on the unity of the Holy Trinity. Macedonius had taught that the Holy Spirit was not a person "hypostasis", but simply a power, or "dynamic" of God, therefore concluding that the Holy Spirit was inferior to the Father and the Son. The council reaffirmed Nicaea I and defined the Holy Spirit as consubstantial and coeternal with the Father and Son. The council decided the Bishop of Constantinople was 2nd in precedence to Rome, affirming the idea that the Bishop of Rome remained "first among equals."
382 A.D. Council of Rome, during the reign of Pope Damasus I. Decreed the order of the Old and New Testaments, establishing the canon of Christian scripture. What books the church should accept and what she should shun. Also held to settle the schism of Antioch. (Antioch had rival claimants to the role of patriarch).
397 A.D. Council of Carthage. The canon of the Christian Bible, Hebrew and Greek testaments was established, including the two Books of Maccabees.
401 A.D. Council of Carthage. Decreed excommunication for anyone who attended performances of theatre on holy days. Actors were forbidden sacraments unless they gave up their profession. This decree wasn't rescinded until the 18th century.
To approve the bishop of Carthage, Aurelius’ petitions for the overseas authorities (Rome), seeking provisions from the emperor against Sunday morning pagan practices.
Note: 410 A.D. the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths, led by Alaric. This was the first time in almost 800 years that Rome had fallen to a foreign enemy. A previous sack of Rome had been accomplished by the Gauls under the leadership of Brennus in 390 A.D., where they occupied most of the city for several months, but the sacking of 410 marked the ultimate fall of Rome. The final capitulation. It would mark the turning point in the collapse of the entire Western Roman Empire. Jerome, living in Bethlehem at the time, wrote, "The City which had taken the whole world was itself taken." While the Western Empire would fall to the Germanic tribes, the Eastern Empire would remain more or less intact. The institution of the Roman Catholic church would adapt and survive these events.
415 A.D. Council of Diospolis (Lydda), Pelagianism was attacked but the council found Pelagius to be orthodox. However, he was later condemned at the Council of Carthage (418) and this condemnation was ratified at the Council of Ephesus in 431. The strict moral teachings of the Pelagians were influential in southern Italy and Sicily. Pelagius rejected the Biblical concept of grace. According to his opponents, Pelagius taught that moral perfection was attainable in this life without the assistance of divine grace, through human free will.
415 A.D. Synod of Jerusalem - Pelagius defends himself against charges. Pelagius was a British ascetic who denied Augustine's theory of "original sin." He taught a doctrine of "free will" citing Deuteronomy 24:16. The council rendered no verdict, passing the matter of Pelagius to the Latin church. The Synod of Diospolis convened also in 415 and he was restored to communion, though Catholics claim he was only restored by pretending orthodoxy.
418 A.D. Council of Carthage condemns Pelagianism. Emperor Honorius banishes all Pelagians from the cities of Italy.
419 A.D. Carthage. During the Council Augustine and Aurelius condemned Pope Zosimus for interfering with the African Church's jurisdiction. They further warned Pope Zosimus, and later Pope Celestine I, not to "introduce the empty pride of the world into the Church of Christ" and to "keep their Roman noses out of African affairs." The Council ruled that no bishop may call himself "Prince of Bishops" or "Supreme Bishop" or any other title which suggests Supremacy.
431 A.D. Council of Ephesus - called by Eastern Emperor Theodosius II and western Emperor Valentinian II to condemn Nestorianism and Pelagianism. 200 bishops attended. Nestorians were removed from Orthodox Churches. Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople, had taught that there were two separate persons in the incarnate Christ, the one Divine and the other Human. Nestorius was teaching that the Virgin Mary gave birth to a man (Jesus), and not God (the 'Logos' and Son of God). The Logos (or 'Word') only dwelled in the Messiah, as in a Temple. One of the high points of Nestorius' teaching was the rejection of the title 'Theotokos' (bearer of God) for the Virgin Mary. Nestorios called the Virgin Mary Christotokos (bearer of Christ) rather than Theotokos. Hence, giving the name to the 'Christological controversies'. At the heart of the controversy was the idea that Christ must have been mostly "man" rather than "God" or his sacrifice for mankind would not be valid.
441 A.D. Council of Orange I. Deposed Cheliderius of Besancon because he married a widow before receiving priestly orders.
451 A.D. Chalcedon. 650 bishops attended. Accepted writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Currhus and Ebas of Edessa. It condemned the teachings of Eutyches concerning the human and divine natures of Christ as "monophysitisim." Monophysites were removed from Orthodox Churches. Coptic Christianity broke from the Byzantine churches in the wake of this, the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon. Shenouda the Great, abbot of the White Monastery in Egypt is considered the founder of Coptic Christianity (466). Also a dispute developed as to whether or not the Archbishop of Constantinople could change his title to "Patriarch." The western church opposed this change. The council developed a definition or "creed" stating that Jesus is "perfect both in deity and in humanness. This selfsame one is also actually God and actually man" (dyophysite). The council's judgments and definitions regarding the divine marked a significant turning point in the Christological debates. This council was extremely divisive, and ultimately unleashed the mass persecution and martyrdom of Christians against Christians for the first time in church history. (see - Great Schism).
475 A.D. Council of Arles. Attended by thirty bishops, in which the predestinationist teachings of the priest Lucidus were condemned. It should also be noted that post-Augustine, Augustine's doctrines that were in agreement with orthodoxy such as the inherent sinfulness of man and the necessity of preventing grace were held, but Augustine's predestination was rejected as early as the Third Ecumenical Council held at Ephesus in 431 AD and then reaffirmed and expanded at the Council of Arles in 475 AD that rejected five heresies against grace. The rejections are: (1) Those opinions that serve to oversimplify and argue that the work of human obedience need not be united with divine grace; (2) that after the fall Adam the free choice of will was completely destroyed (a freed will, sustained by grace is the orthodox view); (3) that Christ, Lord and Savior did not incur death for the salvation of all; (4) that the foreknowledge of man impels man to death (they rejected fatalism); (5) that those who perish, perish by the will of God.
484 A.D. Synod of Beth Lapat, in Persia. Declares Nestorianism as official theology of Assyrian Church of the East, effectively separating the Assyrian church from the Byzantine church.
484 A.D. Carthage, the Vandal Synod. This was a largely unsuccessful church council called by the Vandal King Huneric to persuade the Catholic bishops in his recently acquired North African territories to convert to Arian Christianity. The Catholic bishops refused and many, including Fulgentius of Ruspe and Tiberiumus, were exiled to Sardinia, and some were executed. Records indicate that nearly 500 went into exile.
499 A.D. Synod of Rome. This synod issued decrees on papal elections. It banned discussions on the election of a future Pope during a reigning Pope's lifetime. It was an attempt to make an election truly democratic, and not allow the reigning Pope to choose his successor.
506 A.D. Council of Dvin I, Armenia. Attempted to resolve theological disputes that rose up after the Council of Chalcedon. The Council stopped short of formally rejecting the Chalcedonian definition of the dual nature of Christ. Such a step, which formalized the Armenian break from the Roman church, would not take place until the Second Council of Dvin, in 554. The Armenian church had not accepted the conclusions of the Council of Chalcedon, which had defined that Christ is acknowledged in two natures, thus condemning monophysitism. Miaphysitism was the doctrine of the Armenian church among others. The attempt was made to find a compromise over the human and divine natures of the Messiah.
506 A.D. Agde - met with the permission of the Visigothic King Alaric. Caesarius of Arles presided, attended by 35 bishops. Focused mainly on ecclesiastical discipline. Forbade ecclesiastics from selling or alienating the property of the church, a cleric was forbidden to visit women to whom he was not related, and could have in his house only his mother, sister, daughter, or niece. If a young married man wished to be ordained, he required the consent of his wife.
511 A.D. Council of Orleans I. 33 bishops attended and passed 31 decrees on the rights of church sanctuaries, and ecclesiastical discipline. The decrees were equally applicable to Franks and Romans, establishing equality between conquerors and conquered. The practice of divination was forbidden. This amounted to the first treaty between the Frankish state and the church.
524 A.D. Arles - Caesarius of Arles presided. A regional council with 14 bishops and 4 presbyters present. Its canons deal chiefly with the conferring of church Orders, or church organizations.
527 A.D. Carpentras - Caesarius of Arles presided. Called to work out problems going forward for religious and ecclesiastical life in the new barbarian kingdoms of the West. A few important provisions were later incorporated into the traditional or written law of the Western Church, such as the nature and security of ecclesiastical property, the certainty of support for the parochial clergy, and the education of ecclesiastics.
529 A.D. Synod/Council of Orange II - Caesarius of Arles presided, condemned Faustus for being Semi-Pelagian.
529 A.D. Vaison - Caesarius of Arles presided. Still dealing with securing ecclesiastical support and privilege under the new Barbarian kingdoms being established in the West.
533 A.D. Council of Marseilles. 16 bishops present. Presided over by Caesarius of Arles. Called to judge a bishop, Contumeliosus of Riez, a self-confessed adulterer, who managed later to obtain a reprieve through Pope Agapetus, on the plea of irregular procedure.
533 A.D. Council of Orleans II. 25 bishops attended. Forbade marriage between Christians and Jews, and excommunicated any who partook of flesh offered in sacrifice to idols.
538 A.D. Council of Orleans III. 13 bishops attended. Established method of election for archbishops.
541 A.D. Council of Orleans IV. 38 bishops attended. Maintained the Roman calculation for the date of Easter. Authorized the official ransom of Christians who had fallen into the power of Jews (through indebtedness) but had invoked the right of sanctuary to recover their freedom. It declared that Jews who forced Christian slaves to become Jews in order to be set free should be forbidden to own such slaves.
541 A.D. Constantinople - repudiated Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.).
549 A.D. Council of Orleans V. Nine archbishops and 41bishops attended. Condemned the errors of Nestorius, Eutyches, and prohibited simony. Simony is the buying or selling of a church office or appointment.
553 A.D. Constantinople II - called by Emperor Justinian I. The monophysite controversy continued to burn, even after the condemnation of Eutyches. The council anathematized Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Currhus and Ebas of Edessa, even though these Antiochian bishops had all been dead a hundred years. The accusation was that the writings of all three, were tainted with Nestorianism.
554 A.D. Council of Dvin II. Church of Armenia officially breaks with West, during the second Council of Dvin where the dyophysite formula of Chalcedon was rejected.
560 A.D. Synod at Brefi in Britain. The synod was apparently called in order to condemn the heretical teachings of Pelagius, although this is not certain. It was an important milestone in the rise of Saint David of Wales. The story goes that Saint Paulinus persuaded Saint Dubricius, the senior bishop, to allow David, a minor abbot, to address the crowd. His words were so eloquent that Dubricius retired in David's favor.
569 A.D. Synod at Caerleon in Britain, also called the synod of Victory. condemned the heresy of Pelagianism. It was officiated by Saint David of Wales.
589 A.D. Toledo - Filioque clause put into Creed. Filioque is a Latin term which caused a further division between the western Roman church and the Eastern Orthodox. The original text says that the Holy Spirit proceeds "from the Father." The revised text, still in use in most western churches states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from "the Father [and the Son]." This issue along with the question of papal primacy and a few other issues would set the table for the great schism developing between the eastern and western churches, in 1054 AD.
614 A.D. Synod of Paris V. The Edict of Paris was produced in the wake of this council. The Synod had decreed that all Jews holding military or civil positions must accept baptism, together with their families. Despite the exclusion of Jews from high office, their right to bring legal actions against Christians was preserved. Similarly, the right of a woman not to be married against her will was affirmed.
649 A.D. Lateran Synod - called by Pope Martin I - 105 bishops. This synod was held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran to condemn Monothelitism, a Christology espoused by many Eastern Christians. The Council did not achieve ecumenical status in either East or West, but represented the first attempt of a pope to convene an ecumenical council independent of the Roman emperor. Yes, it took six hundred years for someone to dare calling a council independent of the emperor. Pope Martin I and Maximus the Confessor were abducted by Constans II and tried in Constantinople for their role in the Council (Martin I being replaced as pope before dying in exile), their position was ultimately endorsed by the Third Council of Constantinople in 680.
662 A.D. Council of Hereford, Britain. Six bishops present. Roman calculation for the date of Easter was accepted. Ruled against divorce in most cases, requiring scriptural regulation for lawful divorce.
664 A.D. Synod of Whitby, Britain. The Northumbrian King Oswy, along with two bishops take up the long standing Quartodeciman argument which was dividing the Celtic and Roman communions. Oswy favored the Saint John practice of the Jewish Paschal cycle (fourteenthers), while his son, Alchfrid, along with two other bishops favored the Nicene practice, referred to as the 'Saint Peter' tradition. After all the debating, Oswy decided not to offend Saint Peter saying, "I dare not longer contradict the decrees of him who keeps the doors of the Kingdom of Heaven, lest he should refuse me admission."
680 A.D. Constantinople III. Called by Emperor Constantine IV, attended by 170 bishops. It was an ill-fated attempt to bring back the Armenians to the Orthodox Church. The emperor Heraclius had proposed a teaching called 'monothelitism' in an effort at reconciliation. Originally proposed as a compromise, Monothelitism was meant to strike a middle ground between Orthodoxy and Armenian Monophysites. Monothelitism is Greek for "One Will." It was a theological doctrine teaching that Messiah's human will was at all times completely at one with the will of God. The controversy was that monothelitism held that Messiah had two natures, both human and divine, yet he had only one will, indistinguishable from the will of God. Orthodoxy held that Yeshua had both a human will and a divine will. The debates whether Messiah had one nature (divine/human) or two (divine and human) divided the eastern and western churches. The idea of monothelitism was tolerated by Pope Honorius I, but after he died, it was bitterly condemned by succeeding popes. In the east it was supported by several emperors and leading patriarchs and the schism between east and west grew. Honorius was declared a heretic, and a number of orthodox leaders were martyred including Pope Martin I, and Saint Maximus the Confessor.
Note: In 680 A.D. the aforementioned Council in Constantinople was the last universal council, because this was the last council where both the eastern and western bishops were present. Orthodoxy was already moving towards a split, east and west, leading up to what would become the Great Schism in 1054.
Councils, east or west, would be held at the local or regional level, they might be imperial assemblies attended by bishops, or they might be ecumenical or general, although true “universal” synods would henceforth become quite rare. Their decrees thus varied in their authority. Whereas the decrees of a meeting held by a local bishop would be binding only upon his see, those issued by assemblies with papal legates and rulers in attendance would be considered to have a more general application. Councils of east or west would henceforth not be authoritatively recognized by each other.
691 A.D. Constantinople IV - called by Emperor Justinian II, created a legislative code for the church. Western church never accepted the authority of this council.
692 A.D. Quinisext Council. Also held in Constantinople, 215 bishops present, all from the Eastern church. The Western church never recognized the authority of this council. They condemned the Armenian practice of using wine, undiluted with water, for the Eucharist. Eating eggs and cheese on the Saturdays and Sundays of Lent. Giving preference to the children of clergy for appointments to the priesthood. They condemned the fasting on Saturdays of Lent, and banned all representations of Christ as a lamb. It was decided that a priest, in any of the three ranks of priesthood, could not enter into marriage after he had been ordained. Thus, and for the first time, priesthood as a sacrament was accorded precedence and superiority over the sacrament of matrimony, and though there is no dogmatic justification for this doctrinal demotion of the sacrament of matrimony, the doctrine stands to this day.
742 A.D. Council of Germanicum. Another long-standing pagan tradition at the springtime equinox was the lighting of fires to drive away the darkness. These had become known as "Easter fires," and were banned by this council and the council of Lestines in 743. However, many Catholic churches continue a muted version of this tradition in the lighting of special Easter candles.
743 A.D. Council of Lestines - banned Easter fires, a pagan tradition that predated Messiah, yet borrowed by many Christian churches.
754 A.D. Constantinople V, actually held in the palace of Hieria, outside of Constantinople and is therefore sometimes called the Council of Hieria. The council considered itself to be ecumenical, but would later be completely dismissed by the Orthodox Church (which had not yet split between east and west). It was called by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine V, and was attended by 333 bishops. Constantine V was an iconoclast who stood resolutely in opposition to the use of icons in the church. The council found in favor of the emperor's position and condemned the spiritual and liturgical use of iconography as heresy. The church condemned the council, largely because of the orthodox church's (east and west) commitment to iconography. They accused the Hieria synod of lacking ecumenical authority. They called it the robber council, and the Mock Synod of Constantinople.
787 A.D. Nicaea II. Convened by Empress Irene, attended by 367 bishops. Condemned Constantinople V, and accepted image worship. The controversy between iconoclasts and iconophiles, revolved around the excessive religious attention, and the miracles ascribed to icons by some members of the church. These approached the point of worship and idolatry. It was decided to parse words. While some believed that icons served to preserve the doctrinal teachings of the Church and considered icons to be man's dynamic way of expressing the divine through art and beauty, others considered it nothing short of idolatry. The decree of the Council for restoring icons to churches added an important clause which still stands at the foundation of the rationale for using and venerating icons in the Orthodox Church to this day. "We define that the holy icons, whether in color, mosaic, or some other material, should be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on the sacred vessels and liturgical vestments, on the walls, furnishings, and in houses and along the roads, namely the icons of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, that of our Lady the Theotokos (mother of God), those of the venerable angels and those of all saintly people. Whenever these representations are contemplated, they will cause those who look at them to commemorate and love their prototype. We define also that they should be kissed and that they are an object of veneration and honor (timitiki proskynisis), but not of real worship (latreia), [the parsing of words] which is reserved for Him Who is the subject of our faith and is proper for the divine nature. The veneration accorded to an icon is in effect transmitted to the prototype; he who venerates the icon, venerated in it the reality for which it stands." (A distinction without a difference. This decision will stand to the eternal shame of the church.)
794 A.D. Council of Frankfurt of Western bishops. This council rejected the Council of Nicaea II. Charlemagne refused to recognize the Nicene decision on the veneration of icons. As a result of his hostility, a synod was held in Frankfurt in 794 to condemn the veneration of icons and to reject the entire Council of Nicaea II.
813 A.D. Council of Arles. Held at the instigation of Charlemagne, for the correction of abuses and the reestablishment of ecclesiastical discipline. Its decrees insist on a sufficient ecclesiastical education of bishops and priests, on the duty of both to preach frequently to the people and to instruct them in the Catholic faith, and on the obligation of parents to instruct their children.
824 A.D. Council of Paris - France and the East tried to agree on the devotion to be paid to images.
843 A.D. Synod in Constantinople (regional). Called by Empress Theodora. The veneration of icons was solemnly proclaimed at the St. Sophia's Cathedral. Monks and clergy came in procession and restored the icons in their rightful place. The day was called "Triumph of Orthodoxy." Since that time, this event is commemorated annually with a special service on the first Sunday of Lent, the "Sunday of Orthodoxy."
853 A.D. Council of Quierzy. Called to condemn the teachings of Gottschalk, a Saxon monk, who argued that God predestines some people to hell as well as predestining some to heaven, a view known as double predestination. Hincmar, Archbishop of Reims presided and was Gottschalk's primary adversary. Gottschalk argued that his teachings were shaped by those of St. Augustine, but were regarded as heretical by Hincmar, who had the monk imprisoned. The "paradox of free will," was at issue, whereby God's omniscience seems incompatible with human free will. Eriugena, an Irish theologian, discarded Augustine's teaching on predestination, and wrote that God's predestination should be equated with his foreknowledge of people's choices. The condemnation of Gottschalk was upheld at the councils of Valence (855) and of Savonnières (859). Hincmar wrote a refutation of Gottschalk's theories, in which he asserted:
1 The predestination of some to salvation, and, in consequence of Divine foreknowledge, the doom of others to everlasting punishment. (foreknowledge is not the same as predestination)
2 The remedy for the evil tendencies of free will through grace.
3 The Divine intention of saving all men.
4 The fact of universal redemption.
869-870 A.D. Constantinople IV by Eastern Orthodox reckoning. Some confusion is introduced because Eastern and Western churches had begun calculating the numerical identifications of councils differently. Called by Emperor Basil I, and included 102 bishops, three papal legates, and four patriarchs. It deposed Photius, a layman who had been appointed as Patriarch of Constantinople. The Council also reaffirmed the decisions of the Second Council of Nicaea in support of icons and holy images and required the image of Christ to have veneration equal with that of the gospel book. The council determined, "If anyone does not venerate the image of Christ our Lord, let him be deprived of seeing him in glory at his second coming. The image of his all pure Mother and the images of the holy angels as well as the images of all the saints are equally the object of our homage and veneration." In 858, Photius, a noble layman from a local family, had been appointed Patriarch of Constantinople, the most senior episcopal position save only that of Rome. Emperor Michael III had deposed the previous patriarch, Ignatius. Ignatius refused to abdicate, setting up a scandalous power struggle between the Emperor and Pope Nicholas I. The 869–870 Council condemned Photius and deposed him as patriarch and reinstated his predecessor, Ignatius. It also ranked Constantinople before the other three Eastern patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.
879 A.D. Constantinople IV. Ignatius dies in 877, and the Emperor reinstated Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople. Another Council was convened in 879, held at Constantinople, comprising the representatives of all five patriarchates, including that of Rome, 383 bishops in all. It was called by the emperor in the hopes that the new pope, John VIII, would recognize the appointment of Photius. Papal legates immediately approved. The other primary issue was the councils implicit condemnation of the addition of the Filioque to the Nicene Creed. Eastern Orthodox Christians argue that the council condemned not only the addition of the Filioque clause to the creed but also denounced the clause as heretical, a view strongly espoused by Photius in his polemics against Rome, while Roman Catholics insist on the theological orthodoxy of the clause. (see Creeds)
897 A.D. The Cadaver Synod. One of the weirdest episodes in papal history. The posthumous ecclesiastical trial of Pope Formosus, held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. It was a trial conducted by Pope Stephen VI, the successor to Formosus' successor, Pope Boniface VI. Stephen had Formosus' corps exhumed and brought to the papal court for judgment. He accused Formosus of perjury and of having acceded to the papacy illegally. At the end of the trial, Formosus was pronounced guilty and his papacy retroactively declared null.
After having the skeletal remains stripped of its papal vestments, Stephen then cut off the three fingers of the right hand that it had used in life for blessings, and then formally invalidated all of Formosus' acts and ordinations. The body was finally interred in a graveyard for foreigners, only to be dug up once more, tied to weights, and cast into the Tiber River. The macabre spectacle turned public opinion against Stephen. Rumors circulated that Formosus' body had washed up on the banks of the river, and had begun performing miracles. A public uprising led to Stephen being deposed and imprisoned. While in prison, in July or August of 897, he was strangled to death.
989 A.D. Synod of Charroux, France, The Pax Dei (Peace of God) movement started in southern and central France in order to protect ecclesiastical property, women, priests, pilgrims, merchants, and other noncombatants from violence.
990 A.D. Synod of Narbonne, France. Met to promote the Pax Dei.
990 A.D. Synod of Le Puy, France. To promote the Pax Dei, an edict of the Catholic Church, three synods in different parts of southern and central France were held – at Le Puy, Charroux, and Narbonne – attempting to outlaw acts of war against non-combatants and the clergy. The aim of these gatherings was to bring down to earth, through the agency of the saints, the peace of the heavenly order.
1023 A.D. Council of Seligenstadt, Germany. Most important result was the introduction of ember days with their strict rules for fasting. The term "ember days" refers to three days set apart for fasting, abstinence, and prayer during each of the four seasons of the year. It was another practice of the Roman pagan church, being formally adopted by Catholicism.
1025 A.D. Council of Arras I against Manichaeans
1038 A.D. Council of Bourges, France. Met to promote the Pax Dei (Peace of God) movement.
1050 A.D. Council of Rome I condemned Berengarius of Tours. This and all of the subsequent condemnations of Berengarius revolved around the issue of the Eucharist and whether or not the bread and wine were literally transformed into the flesh and blood of Yeshua, or if the transition was merely a "spiritual" one. He dared to question the orthodoxy of transubstantiation.
1050 A.D. Council of Vercelli - condemned Berengarius of Tours
1051 A.D. Council of Paris - condemned Berengarius of Tours. Berengarius denied the doctrine of transubstantiation arguing that if the bread were the literal flesh of Christ, how could the priest dare "break it," or the recipient "crush it with his teeth."
Note: 1054 A.D. The Great Schism between the Western and Eastern Christians resulted from a variety of political, cultural and theological factors which developed over centuries. Historians generally regard the mutual excommunications of 1054 as the final termination event. It is difficult to agree on an exact date or precise event where the start of the schism began to open up. It may have started as early as the Quartodeciman controversy at the time of Pope Victor I of Rome (approx. 189 A.D.). Orthodox apologists point to this incident as an example of claims by Rome to papal primacy and the rejection of that claim by the Eastern Churches. (see Great Schism)
1059 A.D. Synod of Sutri. Antipope Benedict X had been elected in 1058, but there were allegations of irregularities based on claims that the office had been bought and sold by the Holy Roman Emperor. A number of opposing cardinals were forced to flee Rome. In December 1058, A group of cardinals met in Siena, and elected Gérard de Bourgogne who took the name Nicholas II, setting up a conflict between popes. Nicholas proceeded to Sutri where a hastily arranged synod was held declaring Benedict X deposed and excommunicated. Nicholas then proceeded to Rome, forcing Benedict to flee, but the supporters of both claimants went to war. The forces of Nicholas went on to conquer stronghold after stronghold with great success, until later in 1059 Benedict X was forced to surrender and renounce the Papacy. The importance of these events lay in the termination of the emperor's role in selecting popes. This in turn, opened the door for a church reformation movement.
1059 A.D. Council of Rome II condemned Berengarius of Tours
1076 A.D. Synod of Worms. This was an ecclesiastical synod and Imperial diet convened by the German king and emperor-elect Henry IV. Henry sought to condemn Pope Gregory VII, a strident advocate of the papal supremacy over Henry's emperorship, he pushed the Gregorian Reform, including the principle that the papal title is unique in the world and that it may even be permitted for popes to depose emperors. The assembly declared the Pope deposed and a good number of bishops abandoned all obedience to him. Henry had a letter drawn up to Gregory, calling him 'Hildebrand the false monk' and demanding his resignation. Three weeks later, the Pope declared Henry deposed and excommunicated him. He released all his subjects from their oath of allegiance. Eventually Henry was forced to seek reconciliation.
1079 A.D. Council of Rome III condemned Berengarius of Tours
1080 A.D. Council of Burgos - Imposed Roman rite on Spain instead of Visigothic rite
1096 A.D. Council of Clermount - launch of first Crusade. Pope Urban II announces his call to arms. It would turn out to be the only successful crusade of the many that would follow. Jerusalem was captured, the "Kingdom of Jerusalem" was established in 1099 and would last until 1187 when Jerusalem was essentially overrun by the army of Saladin. News of the fall of Jerusalem, brought to Rome by Joscius, Archbishop of Tyre, is said to have caused Pope Urban III to die of shock.
1097 A.D. Council of Arras II
1098 A.D. Council of Bari. Both eastern and western bishops were present, in a failed attempt to mend the growing schism. Addressed issues of the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed, and the use of unleavened bread in the Western church's observance of the Eucharist.
1099 A.D. Easter Synod, held in Rome, called by Urban II during the Easter season. These were Urban's last days, took up issues of the Schism, and the first crusade which was underway. He did not live to hear of the success of his monstrous project, the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders on July 15, 1099. It was a vicious, bloody war of territorial acquisition.
1102 A.D. Council of London. Convened by Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury. Anselm took the opportunity to initiate the Gregorian reforms, prohibiting marriage, concubinage, and drunkenness to all those in holy orders, condemning sodomy and simony, and regulating clerical garments. Anselm also established a decree against the British slave trade, although this was aimed mainly at the sale of English slaves to Ireland and did not prevent the church from owning slaves.
1123 A.D. First Lateran Council. The 9th Ecumenical council by Roman reckoning. First called by Pope Callixtus II immediately after the Concordat of Worms in 1122. The Concordat was an agreement meant to end the power struggle between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperors. The council assembled in Rome, with three hundred bishops and six hundred abbots (fathers), and Callixtus II personally presiding. Decisions of the Concordat were read to the assembly and ratified. These were, first, bring an end to the practice of conferring ecclesiastical benefices (permanent church appointments, which included property and income) by people who were laymen (secular rather than church authorities). Second, free the election of bishops and abbots from secular influence. Three, clarify the separation of spiritual and temporal affairs. Four, re-establish the principle that spiritual authority resides solely with the Church. Five, abolish the claim of the emperors to influence papal elections.
1128 A.D. Council of Arras III. Recognized and confirmed the Order of the Knights Templar and resolved disputes involving the Bishop of Paris.
1140 - 1141 A.D. Council of Sens. The council seems to have had no object but to impart solemnity to the presentation of the relics which graced and embellished the cathedral. The primary work of this council was the condemnation of Abelard's doctrine. The egregious criticism of Abelard was that as a teacher he sought to establish the ascendancy of the philosophical authority of Aristotle which became firmly established following his death. Among other things he analyzes the idea of sin and concludes that actions are not what a man will be judged for, but intentions.
1148 A.D. Council of Reims. Only lasted 11 days. The main purpose of the council was to debate and approve canons that had been approved already at earlier councils. The exception was a prohibition of furs in clerical garments. A side issue also condemned and ordered the arrest of Éon de l'Étoile, a Breton heretic. He was eventually tortured into confession and imprisoned until his death in 1150.
1148 A.D. Cremona - called in order to announce the Reims decrees.
Note: For nearly five hundred years, heresy was practically unknown in Western Europe. When Gregory I converted the Arians of Spain and Lombardy in the latter part of the sixth century, it was believed that the last vestiges of heresy had been extinguished. Then new dissenting movements began to rise up, driven by the common people and not by the schools or princes. Even though the princes harbored a growing resentment of the clergy's avarice and their invasion of the realm of civil authority. The vast majority of those who suffered punishment as heretics during this period, were of the common people. Their ignorance was a constant subject of mocking and ridicule as they stood for trial before the ecclesiastical tribunals. Apparently the clergy did not recognize that the ignorance of the laity was indicative of their own ecclesiastical failings. The heresy of the Reformation in the sixteenth century would differ in this regard, driven by scholars and priests. These would then suffer the same punishments of the heretics, but at least were able to give a better accounting of themselves, to the shame of their accusers.
1163 A.D. Synod of Tours. Subsequent councils reiterated and intensified the condemnation of the Cathars of southern
1179 A.D. Council of Hromcla - Nerses of Lambron almost effected a union of the Greek and Armenian churches.
1179 A.D. 3rd Lateran Council. Pope Alexander III presided and 302 bishops attended. A divided conclave of cardinals had elected two popes, Alexander III elected by the majority, and the anti-pope Victor IV, who had the support of the Emperor Frederick I, creating a schism. Then when Victor IV died, he was replaced by two new anti-popes in opposition to Alexander. Emperor Frederick, wishing to cement his authority in Italy, declared war on the Italian states and especially the Church which had been growing too powerful. The bitter conflict was concluded with the Peace of Venice in 1177, the victorious Alexander promised Frederick that he would arrange an ecumenical council to settle the disputes. It met in 1179, and resolved the schism of anti-popes, also condemning the Waldensian and Cathar heresies. Among other legislative canons adopted by the council was the first prohibition against sodomy. It forbade the charging of money to conduct burials, bless a marriage or for performing the celebration of any of the sacraments. They excommunicated those who engage in usury, and forbade Jews and Muslims from having Christian servants, also stating that the legal evidence of Christians is always to be accepted over that of Jews.
1184 A.D. Council of Verona - condemned the Waldensians, Humiliati, Cathars and others as heretics. The Waldensian movement started with an attempt to make known the Scriptures through the common language. They held that temporal offices and dignities were not meant for preachers of the Gospel, that relics were simply rotten bones (it could not be known who they belonged to), that to go on pilgrimage served no purpose but to empty one's purse, that flesh might be eaten any day as long as one's appetite allowed, that holy water was not one bit more efficacious than rain water, and that prayer in a barn was just as effectual as that offered in a church. They were accused, moreover, of having scoffed at the doctrine of transubstantiation, and of having spoken blasphemously of the Catholic Church as the Harlot of the Apocalypse. They rejected the idolatry of the Catholic Church and considered the Papacy as the Antichrist of Rome. In other words, they attempted to strip away much of the pagan tradition that had so adulterated church doctrine and practice, and for that, they had to be punished.
1215 A.D. 4th Lateran Council. This Council was the main event of Innocent III's pontificate. Pope Innocent expanded Gregory VII's claims to temporal as well as spiritual matters, trying to impose a theocracy on the Christian world.
1218 A.D. Council of Bergamo. 12 Waldenses had denied purgatory as the "invention of the Antichrist."
1229 A.D. (local) Council of Toulouse after the capitulation of the Albigensians, they forbid the laity to possess Bibles.
Note: 1229 A.D. Begin the Inquisition. The establishment of the inquisition is often dated from this year, though there had been some years of pre-planning, using Dominicans to test the waters against the heresies of the Cathars.
1231 A.D. Pope Gregory IX issues Excommunicamus, incorporating into canon law the 1224 constitution of Frederick II. This explicitly permits the burning of heretics at the stake. Gregory IX formally established the Inquisition, and appoints the Dominicans to administer it. Pope Gregory IX dispatches Inquisitors to Aragon. In the Bull Declinante jam mundi, Archbishop Esparrago and his suffragans (subordinate bishops) are instructed to search for, and punish heretics in their dioceses.
1232 A.D. The inquisitorial persecution of Jews began. Ironically, a theological dispute within the Jewish community of Provence, France, led several rabbis to denounce the Jewish sage Maimonides to the Dominicans. Happy to become involved in the rabbinical dispute, the Dominican court ordered the burning of Maimonides' books. Eight years later, 1240 in Paris, the Talmud was put on trial and condemned by an inquisitorial court. Two years after that, 1242, twenty-four wagon loads of Jewish books were burned. The investigation and persecution of Jews became a common occurrence by church inquisitorial courts in the centuries thereafter.
1234 A.D. All of 210 people are condemned to the stake by Inquisitors at Moissac, southern France. Many more mass burnings would follow.
1237 A.D. Council of Lerida. The Inquisition is formally placed under the authority of the Dominicans and the Franciscans.
1245 A.D 1st Council of Lyons. Presided over by Pope Innocent IV, attended by 250 prelates, 140 bishops, a number of Latin Patriarchs. Decided to excommunicate and depose the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II who was holding Rome under siege at the time. All signed the decree against Frederick, but the council did not possess any means of enforcement. The council also decided to embark on a new crusade, the seventh crusade to reconquer the Holy Land. It was also decided that cardinals should wear red hats.
1274 A.D. 2nd Council of Lyons. Convened by Pope Gregory X. This council drew an enormous number of attendees. Another crusade was discussed, but never acted upon. The thrust of the council was to seek reunification between the eastern and western churches. The Greeks conceded on the issue of the Filioque clause (three words added to the Nicene creed), and reunification was proclaimed, but the union was later repudiated by Andronicus II.
1311, 1312 A.D. Vienne. Much treachery was afoot. The principal act of the council was to withdraw papal support for the Knights Templar on the urging of Philip IV of France, after the French monarch attacked Rome and killed Pope Boniface VIII (Attack at Anagni). Philip IV of France needed money urgently to continue his war with England and so he accused the Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques De Molay, of corruption and heresy. In 1307 Philip had many French Templars arrested, charged with fictitious heresies, and tortured by the French authorities until they confessed. This action released Philip from his obligation to repay loans from the Templars and allowed him to confiscate the Templars' assets in France. The council was called by Pope Clement V to meet in Vienne, considered a neutral site outside the direct control of Phillip IV. The attendees consisted of twenty cardinals, four patriarchs, about a hundred archbishops and bishops, plus several abbots and priors. Among the irregularities, in 1312, Clement negotiated directly with envoys of Phillip VII, without consulting the council. In the End, Clement produced several bulls ordering the suppression of the Templars, and confiscation of their properties. In return, Phillip dropped charges of heresy against the late Pope Boniface VIII, and Phillip was absolved of all responsibility for what happed to Boniface at the "Outrage at Anagni,"
1341 A.D. Constantinople VIII Condemned monk Barlaam for opposing Hesychast sect on Mt. Athos.
1414-1418 A.D. Council of Constance - under Martin V - Ended the Western Schism of anti-popes. 2 popes deposed, 1 abdicated, and 1 new pope elected. Condemned 45 propositions of Wycliffe and 30 of Hus, who was burned at the stake.
1431-1449 A.D. Basel. This council was convened by Pope Martin V just weeks before his death in 1431. At issue were the Hussite wars in Bohemia, the growing threat of the Ottoman Empire, and the matter of papal primacy. Before his death, Martin appointed cardinal Julian Cesarini to head the council. The bishops were few and outnumbered by the lower orders, the doctors of theology, representatives of chapters, monks and clerks of inferior rank. The council took on an anti-papal posture declaring the superiority of the council over the pope.
1438-1449 A.D. Council of Florence. Called as a rival council in opposition to Basel by Pope Eugene IV. It was originally convened in Ferrara, but after an outbreak of plague erupted in Ferrara, it was moved to Florence. They attempted reunification with some of the Eastern churches, finding agreement on such matters as the Western insertion of the Filioque to the Nicene Creed, the definition and number of sanctioned sacraments, and the doctrine of purgatory. Another key issue was papal primacy, declaring the primacy of the pope over that of councils. This declaration opposed that of the council of Basel, and the entire council of Basel was excommunicated, declared heretical by the council in Florence. An attempt was made to organize a response to the Muslim Turks that were threatening Constantinople. The organizing of a unified front to oppose the Ottomans ultimately failed.
Note: 1453 A.D. Constantinople fell to the Muslim Turks, under the command of the Muslim Sultan Mehmet II, who renamed the city "Istanbul." In a gesture of unity, in the city’s final hours, both Byzantine and Roman Christians receive Holy Communion together in the Church of Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia would undergo a triumphalist conversion whereby Islamic minarets were constructed to surround it. This, which had stood as the largest Christian church in the world for a thousand years was desecrated and vandalized. On top of the great dome, the Muslims also placed the crescent moon symbol, which appears above all of their mosques and on their flags, honoring a pagan goddess from antiquity. The rape, killing, enslavement and deportations of Christians followed, as the victorious Turks claimed their prize.
The Ottoman Turks would make every effort to drive a wedge between the Byzantine church in the East, and the Latin church in the West. They recognized that the division of the Christian church was useful to their purposes, so they exploited the doctrinal differences defined in the Great Schism of 1054. They began persecuting Western Christians, while naming the Eastern church's Patriarch of Constantinople the head of the Christian community under the Turkish Caliphate. The bishop of Byzantium finally got the title of “Ecumenical Patriarch,” denied by Rome, but granted by the Muslims. However, under the Caliphate, Christians would always be second class citizens, often required to wear identifiable clothing.
1545-1563 A.D. Council of Trent. This council was convened as a response to the so-called heresies of the Protestant Reformation. A broad range of issues were taken up including scripture, the Biblical canon, sacred tradition, original sin, salvation, justification, the sacraments, the mass, and the veneration of saints. Another issue arose concerning the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the clergy. It was decided, "If anyone shall say that there is not in the Catholic Church a hierarchy established by the divine ordination, consisting of bishops, presbyters and ministers, let him be anathema." The hierarchy would remain and even be imitated throughout the reformationist denominations. The council of Trent met for 18 years in 25 sessions in Trento and Bologna in northern Italy. When it opened, there were 15 bishops and 4 prelates. The newly organized Jesuit Order was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540. The Council of Trent authorized them to participate in anti-reformation activities. All the issues debated over the years of the council meetings were summed up in the Tridentine Profession of Faith, known also as the Trentine Creed, issued by Pope Pius IV, in 1565, repudiating contrary reformationist doctrines.
1672 A.D. Council of Jerusalem. Convened by Orthodox Patriarch Dositheos Notaras. The occasion was the consecration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The Synod was attended by most of the prominent representatives of the Eastern Orthodox Church. They settled a controversy whereby some had claimed Calvinism was in full conformity with Orthodox teaching. However, Calvinism was repudiated, and the Calvinist teachings of unconditional predestination and justification by faith alone, were renounced. Traditional Orthodox doctrines were reasserted about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the fate of the soul after death.
1791 A.D. Council of Baltimore. 22 priests met with one bishop to draw up guidelines for the practice of the faith. Baltimore at this time was the only diocese in north America, so this synod took on a national character. North America had been founded by various Protestant groups who mostly fled to this continent seeking freedom of religion, and to get as far away as possible from the hated Catholic persecutors. To see the Catholic church following them to North America was not a welcome sight, and the Catholics were not greeted warmly.
1829 A.D. Council of Baltimore. All the Baltimore councils debated issues and made rules for such diverse questions as Catholic education, the Indian and African-American church leaders, lay participation in secret societies, immigration and colonization.
1833 A.D. Council of Baltimore, presided over by archbishop Whitfield.
1870 A.D. First Vatican Council. The doctrine of papal primacy was further developed at the First Vatican Council, which declared that "in the disposition of God the Roman church holds the preeminence of ordinary power over all the other churches." This council also affirmed the dogma of papal infallibility, declaring the infallibility of the pope himself, when he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church. These new dogma, as well as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception promulgated in Ineffabilis Deus a few years prior, are unequivocally rejected by the Eastern Church as heretical.
1962-1968 A.D. Vatican II. 2,900 bishops and 2 prelates. In many respects, Vatican II represents a major concession to Protestantism, as it officially grants the celebration of mass and other ceremonial practices in local vernacular, rather than Latin. Yet, many parishes still resist, preferring the traditional Latin mass. This council upset the clergy as well as the laity to such an extent, that the church suffered steep losses in membership through the 1960s and 1970s. They're still trying to decide if it's best for the priest to face the congregation (as a preacher) or turn his back (as a leader).
2019 A.D. The Amazon Synod. Bishops met in Rome to discuss the tremendous obstacles involved in evangelizing to the indigenous peoples of the vast remote areas of the Amazon Basin. It was argued that some of these obstacles could be overcome by relaxing certain rules for the clergy, such as celibacy, allowing married priests, or ordaining women as deacons. Both proposals passed, but still need to be approved by the pope. There were accusations of "sacrilegious and superstitious acts" involving the statue of a pagan fertility goddess called Pachamama which was permitted to stand in Saint Peter's Basilica, until someone stole it in the middle of the night and threw it into the Tiber River. The recommendations of the Synod were ultimately rejected by Pope Francis.
The Latin language is by definition a dead language, in that it is no longer the commonly spoken language of any peoples on earth. It lingers on nonetheless, like an undead zombie tongue, still commonly used in law, science, and religion. The Roman Catholic church in particular, has kept the Latin language on life-support for a thousand years through its use of the Vulgate Bible as well as church prayers, ceremonies, and services. Latin suffered a gradual death as the Lingua Franca of a vast empire after the fall of Rome, though it still survives as a foundational parent language to French, Spanish and others. The Vatican II council may have put another nail in the coffin of a language slowly fading from use.
In contrast, the Hebrew language died out rather abruptly (relatively speaking) after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and the great diaspora that followed. Spoken Hebrew survived only in some limited religious usage, while written Hebrew was preserved only in sacred texts. Hebrew too had become by definition, a dead language. However, Hebrew has been miraculously resurrected in the twentieth century and is once again a thriving, commonly used language among the Jewish people, and as the official language of the State of Israel (see - Zion), There's never been another instance of a dead language being revived to usage as the mother tongue of a nation, literally brought back from the dead. Mazel Tov.
a brief history of church councils and synods
profiling the various issues the Christian religion has struggled with over it's long life
There have in fact been a few more councils and synods than those listed here, but this list covers all of the most important conferences, as well as a good number of the less noteworthy. In addition, this list provides a good running profile of the issues the church has wrestled with since it's inception. Councils and synods have shaped and informed the church's theology, doctrine, structure, and relationship with both God and man from the time of the apostles to the present day.
The council of Chalcedon, also numbered as the fourth ecumenical council by the Catholic church. This council is recognized and accepted by the Roman Catholic church, the Eastern Orthodox church, the Anglican, Lutheran and most other Protestant churches. It was the first council not to be recognized by the Oriental Orthodox church. The Oriental Orthodox communion is composed of six independent churches: the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Collectively, they consider themselves to be the one, holy, catholic, and Apostolic church, because only they had rejected the Council of Chalcedon.
The difference between an ecumenical council and a synod is that a synod can err, while the canons issued by an ecumenical council are thought to be infallible. Councils can draft new church law (canons), synods cannot. Synods can draft recommendations for the pope to consider, and either reject, or possibly write into an encyclical or exhortation, which would then give them the weight of papal consent along with papal infallibility (let the reader use discernment).
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