How the Ecumenical Councils Sharpened Our View of Jesus

The Ecumenical Councils were the battleground where the nature of God was determined and the foundation of Christianity as we now know it was laid.

Ecumenical Councils

Human thoughts and beliefs change over time, but the first seven Ecumenical Councils issued mandates and anathema that were consistent. There were umpteen regional councils that vacillated on issues, but the Ecumenical Councils were the battleground where the nature of God was determined and the foundation of Christianity as we now know it was laid. Those princes of the church were at times like rapacious beasts, but their pooled intellect and faith prepared the foundation of a resilient Christian church.

The First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea adopted a recommendation of Metropolitan Alexander of Alexandria that the Scriptures of Christianity are the foundation of all discourse about Christianity. The varied social context in which bishops did their ministry, and the many languages of the ecumenical dialog complicated the decision-making. Those were among the reasons for the many necessary follow-up regional and Ecumenical Councils. The goal was mutual acceptance of the Christological mandate.

The imperial court of Rome mandated that Christianity was the official religious faith of the Roman Empire in 324 C.E. Emperor made Christian clergy state officials in 380 C.E. The bishops remained in conflict about Jesus’ person and natures. It is apparent that many of the conflicts arouse because of the miscommunication of delegates. They were probably saying the same thing and seem to disagree because of the different languages and cultures that mediated communication. Greek and Latin speaking delegates often misread the perspectives of the other. Although the bishops endeavored to support the mandates of previous councils, new ideas and arguments were introduced, which opened new controversies. The mandates have been that:

  • God became human (incarnation) as Jesus of Nazareth. 

  • Jesus of Nazareth is “One person with two natures; one human, the other divine. 

  • The Holy Trinity is One God in three 
persons, namely:
(a) God the Father 
(b) God the Son (incarnate Jesus) 
(c) God the Holy Spirit 

  • Jesus of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) is one 
person of the undivided Trinity. 

  • The three persons of the Godhead does 
not mean that there are gods 

Pseudo-Dionysus has this interesting commentary on the Incarnation:

“Yet the goodness of the Deity has endless love for humanity and never ceased from benignly pouring out on us its providential gifts. It took up- on itself in a most authentic way all the characteristics of our nature, except sin. It became one with us in our lowliness, losing nothing of its own real condition, suffering no change or loss. It allowed us as those of equal birth, to enter into communion with it and to acquire a share of its own true beauty.”

One may not know God without divine assistance. Jesus is both hidden as well as immanent in the Church. The incarnate God left the Church behind as the light in the world. The Church is the de facto reflector of the glory of God on to human beings. Those who believe that Jesus is the incarnation of God also believe that they are the bright shining image and likeness of God (2 Cor. 3:18, GNB-TEV).


This article is an excerpt from Dr. and Reverend Joslyn Lloyd Angus’ book, Jesus of Nazareth: God Emptied “Self” Into Man