PART TWO: Continues from Part 1, and still the less do they understand ... and they write nonsense on vellum ... and still be doing, never done."(Contra Celsum ["Against Celsus"], Origen of Alexandria, c. 251, Bk I, p. lxvii, Bk III, p. xliv, passim)Clusters of presbyters had developed "many gods and many lords" (1 Cor. 8:5) and numerous religious sects existed, each with differing doctrines (Gal. 1:6). Presbyterial groups clashed over attributes of their various gods and "altar was set against altar" in competing for an audience (Optatus of Milevis, 1:15, 19, early fourth century). From Constantine's point of view, there were several factions that needed satisfying, and he set out to develop an all-embracing religion during a period of irreverent confusion. In an age of crass ignorance, with nine-tenths of the peoples of Europe illiterate, stabilising religious splinter groups was only one of Constantine's problems. The smooth generalisation, which so many historians are content to repeat, that Constantine "embraced the Christian religion" and subsequently granted "official toleration", is "contrary to historical fact" and should be erased from our literature forever (Catholic Encyclopedia, Pecci ed., vol. iii, p. 299, passim). Simply put, there was no Christian religion at Constantine's time, and the Church acknowledges that the tale of his "conversion" and "baptism" are "entirely legendary" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. xiv, pp. 370-1).Constantine "never acquired a solid theological knowledge" and "depended heavily on his advisers in religious questions" (Catholic Encyclopedia, New Edition, vol. xii, p. 576, passim). According to Eusebeius (260-339), Constantine noted that among the presbyterian factions "strife had grown so serious, vigorous action was necessary to establish a more religious state", but he could not bring about a settlement between rival god factions (Life of Constantine, op. cit., pp. 26-8). His advisers warned him that the presbyters' religions were "destitute of foundation" and needed official stabilisation (ibid.). Constantine saw in this confused system of fragmented dogmas the opportunity to create a new and combined State religion, neutral in concept, and to protect it by law. When he conquered the East in 324 he sent his Spanish religious adviser, Osius of Córdoba, to Alexandria with letters to several bishops exhorting them to make peace among themselves. The mission failed and Constantine, probably at the suggestion of Osius, then issued a decree commanding all presbyters and their subordinates "be mounted on asses, mules and horses belonging to the public, and travel to the city of Nicaea" in the Roman province of Bithynia in Asia Minor. They were instructed to bring with them the testimonies they orated to the rabble, "bound in leather" for protection during the long journey, and surrender them to Constantine upon arrival in Nicaea (The Catholic Dictionary, Addis and Arnold, 1917, "Council of Nicaea" entry). Their writings totalled "in all, two thousand two hundred and thirty-one scrolls and legendary tales of gods and saviours, together with a record of the doctrines orated by them" (Life of Constantine, op. cit., vol. ii, p. 73; N&PNF, op. cit., vol. i, p. 518).The First Council of Nicaea and the "missing records"Thus, the first ecclesiastical gathering in history was summoned and is today known as the Council of Nicaea. It was a bizarre event that provided many details of early clerical thinking and presents a clear picture of the intellectual climate prevailing at the time. It was at this gathering that Christianity was born, and the ramifications of decisions made at the time are difficult to calculate. About four years prior to chairing the Council, Constantine had been initiated into the religious order of Sol Invictus, one of the two thriving cults that regarded the Sun as the one and only Supreme God (the other was Mithraism). Because of his Sun worship, he instructed Eusebius to convene the first of three sittings on the summer solstice, 21 June 325 (Catholic Encyclopedia, New Edition, vol. i, p. 792), and it was "held in a hall in Osius's palace" (Ecclesiastical History, Bishop Louis Dupin, Paris, 1686, vol. i, p. 598). In an account of the proceedings of the conclave of presbyters gathered at Nicaea, Sabinius, Bishop of Hereclea, who was in attendance, said, "Excepting Constantine himself and Eusebius Pamphilius, they were a set of illiterate, simple creatures who understood nothing" (Secrets of the Christian Fathers, Bishop J. W. Sergerus, 1685, 1897 reprint).This is another luminous confession of the ignorance and uncritical credulity of early churchmen. Dr Richard Watson (1737-1816), a disillusioned Christian historian and one-time Bishop of Llandaff in Wales (1782), referred to them as "a set of gibbering idiots" (An Apology for Christianity, 1776, 1796 reprint; also, Theological Tracts, Dr Richard Watson, "On Councils" entry, vol. 2, London, 1786, revised reprint 1791). From his extensive research into Church councils, Dr Watson concluded that "the clergy at the Council of Nicaea were all under the power of the devil, and the convention was composed of the lowest rabble and patronised the vilest abominations" (An Apology for Christianity, op. cit.). It was that infantile body of men who were responsible for the commencement of a new religion and the theological creation of Jesus Christ.
Part Three will be published on Thurs-dec 13.