The Human Origin of the Bible: How Nicaea Defined God with a Vote

Gary Lenaire

“The main point is not the names of the religionists who edited the first Bibles; nor is it the dates that those events occurred on. My Christian critics attempt to distract you with such trivia in order to evade the real issue here. What does matter is how the church fathers produced what is called ‘God’s Word.'”

The circular argument is so persuasive that many people seldom realize the error no matter how often it’s pointed out to them. As a younger man I was a prime candidate for this deception. In many cases I honestly thought that a circular argument was valid or didn’t even realize that it was circular to begin with.

What is a circular argument? When a series of statements in an argument is made such that the conclusion is assumed in one or more of the premises the argument is circular. For example:

The Bible is the true, perfect, and inerrant word of God. How do I know this? Because the Bible says so.

If scholars were to set out to verify whether the Bible (or any other religious book) is truly divine and perfect, they would make inquiries and comparisons with an independent, rational, and logical source. They would not let the early architects of the Bible go unchecked simply because they claim that it is God’s Word. Likewise, the same scholars would not accept the authenticity of a newly found Shakespeare manuscript until examination and verification had taken place.

It’s called a circular argument because the premise gives the illusion of creating or reinforcing the conclusion. The following example further illustrates a circular argument:

Miracles happen and many ministers have witnessed them. We know that ministers witnessed miracles because these ministers say so. If the miracles were not witnessed, ministers would not say that they were. Therefore, the miracles happened and were witnessed.[1]

Roman Emperor Flavius Valerius Constantinus (Constantine) became the Eastern ruler of Rome in 305-306 CE (Common Era). Though the date of his conversion to Christianity is unclear, Constantine experienced his infamous “in hoc signo vinces” (in this sign you shall conquer) vision around 312 CE before his victory at the Milvian Bridge battle. History states that he had a vision of those words on a Christian cross prompting him to pledge to convert if he actually did win the battle. Since Constantine did succeed in the fight, the alleged vision eventually led to his conversion. And because of that the world will never be the same. Crusades? Inquisitions? Male chauvinism? Forbidding condom usage in AIDS-stricken Africa?… So glad Christianity is improving the world!

When Jesus and the Apostles are said to have existed, the Roman Empire ruled the Palestinian region. The empire destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE thus scattering the Jews. At that time the Jesus Movement and Christ Cult, in their many diverse forms, were growing in influence throughout the Mediterranean. Because many of these believers would not worship the Roman emperors or serve the magistrates, they experienced persecution and political conflict over the next two centuries. In this respect I sort of liked the early Christians–you know, sticking it to Caesar and all… but I digress.

In 313 CE Constantine shared the Roman throne with emperor Licinius. The two met at Milan and issued the Edict of Milan, confirming that Christianity would be legal throughout the empire. The edict made Christianity lawful but had not yet made Christianity the official state religion. When Constantine defeated Emperor Licinius in 323 CE, he ended the conflicts against the Christian church and took full control of the Empire. Shortly after that time Christianity was branded the primary religion of the Roman Empire. Up until then the various Christian movements were spread out and disorganized. Many disciples didn’t associate the earthly Jesus of Nazareth with a spiritual Christ. Some simply followed the Gnostic teachings of the earthly Jesus Movement while others believed in a Jesus that never actually lived in the flesh. Many Christians did not regard any writings as inspired by God. Please notice that up until Constantine’s reign there was no “official” and unified understanding of Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit within the church. Under Constantine’s rule the many various versions of Jesus were fused into one messiah. The other messiahs were then branded “heresy.” Thus the “I am right you are wrong” fundamentalist tradition continues in Judeo-Christian religions. (Islam now shares that same brand of orthodox arrogance.)

Constantine, in keeping with Roman logic and politics, brought order to the various Christian groups. How he did it, however, was very clever. He knew that there must be a unified creed to bring ecumenical peace between congregations throughout the empire. (Religion and politics are sisters in Western culture; the one is most always influenced by the other.) If Christianity was to be the Roman religion then it must be brought under submission to Constantine’s interests. Written edicts were a Roman tradition and those edicts were used as legal creeds. Legal creeds were used to control and punish. Henceforth Christianity ruled, tortured, and murdered with an iron fist.

Constantine’s actions are very important. In the years before he took the throne, the various forms of the Jesus Movement were rapidly gaining influence in the minds of various Roman citizens, including many philosophers. Before Constantine, the emperor Diocletian tried to hinder the growth of Christianity by way of persecution. He failed. By that time, the church was too large and its leaders too resourceful to be eradicated. Christianity could not be destroyed by persecution. The refusal of Christians to honor the traditional gods, and hence to worship the Roman Emperor, created a conflict for the Roman leaders. By forcing the choice between the accepted Roman gods and Jesus, the emperors badly misjudged the resiliency of Christians. Many Christian fathers and mothers died for their faith thereby abandoning or endangering their children and elderly dependents. That fact becomes even less noble when we remember that Muslim suicide bombers and other martyrs die for their faith quite often. Faith is no reason to kill yourself or others.

By 323 CE Constantine was sympathetic to the church. He devised a plan to make room for the Christian faith under the umbrella of a genial monotheism. In granting the church ecclesial legitimacy, Constantine not only diffused a tense situation, he harnessed Christian allegiance to the Roman State. Constantine had previously been the Eastern ruler of a divided Rome. Now that the consolidated throne wielded absolute power over the empire he was not about to see it divided again.

Constantine commissioned the Council of Nicaea to vote on the orthodox (accepted / adjudicated) view of Jesus’ identity. Columbia University published this statement:

When Constantine defeated Emperor Licinius in 323 CE he ended the persecutions against the Christian church. Shortly afterwards Christians faced a trouble from within: the Arian controversy began and threatened to divide the church. The problem began in Alexandria, it started as a debate between the bishop Alexander and the presbyter (pastor, or priest) Arius. Arius proposed that if the Father begat the Son, the latter must have had a beginning, that there was a time when he was not, and that his substance was from nothing like the rest of creation. The Council of Nicaea, a gathering similar to the one described in Acts 15:4-22, condemned the beliefs of Arius and wrote the first version of the now famous creed proclaiming that the Son was “one in being with the Father” by use of the Greek word homoousius.[2]

I want to stress the importance of this fact. In mandating the vote, Constantine directed the path of Christianity for centuries to come. Consider this: Flavius Constantine (the ruler of the known world) instituted Christianity as the official religion and then later demanded 40-50 copies of the “agreed upon” Bible be published to govern the church. This not only radically and exclusively defined Christianity; it changed the trajectory of history. The Holy Roman Empire was born. That “Christian” (yes folks, very Christian) Empire dominated humanity with a bloody sword for the next ten centuries. Perhaps the actual human rabbi “Jesus” had something very different in mind regarding his teachings. Selah?

The Council of Nicaea numbered around three hundred bishops and other Christians. In his writings, Eusebius lists many of them and their country of origin. Several of the believers present had, because of recent conflicts, faced the threat of death for their faith. Consider the fact that Nazis killed people for less than a generation; the Romans killed Christians for the first two hundred years of the first millennium! At any distance we can see the possibility of Christians on the Nicene council being politically persuaded in the aftermath of persecution. It is also significant to note that the Jews canonized their Old Testament Bible upon returning from their oppressive Babylonian Exile in 515 BCE (Before Common Era). Reactions to war and persecution have caused some similar subsequent patterns in those who suffered. After converting to Christianity, the Holy Roman Empire embarked upon its prestigious record of murder, torture, persecution, inquisitions, and crusades that lasted for centuries.

The “born-again” Christian Emperor Constantine murdered his wife Fausta and son Crispus in the year 325 CE. That’s right, he murdered, killed… ended his own personal family. Only a very Christian-like figure (in the traditional sense) can dream of abandoning personal kin (see Matthew 19:29). These senseless killings happened just over a year after he ordered the Council of Nicaea to convene. The Nicene Christians voted on whether Jesus of Nazareth was merely a man, Christ, and or the Son of God. Under Constantine’s mandate to vote, the log Nicene council also decided that Jesus was consubstantial with the father. Therefore, it was a family murderer who was ultimately responsible for directing the church to settle the debated question of the so-called divinity of Jesus.

Violence runs thick in the history of Christianity. Don’t think so? Jesus’ description of his own worldwide judgment in the Revelation of John is the bloodiest and most violent text of the Bible. Eternal hell is Jesus’ way of dealing with people who are not born with the ability to believe in him. That’s because the early church fathers (Bible architects) chose a violent and eternally angry God instead of a forgiving one. Why?

From its beginning, Christianity has faced a huge problem: many people refuse to convert. In order to maintain control over the people, the priests have had to insist on the “universal sin” of Adam while denying “universal salvation” of Jesus. The reason for this is to make converts! If you tell the people that “all” will be saved, then very few people will convert to Christianity and then the church has no money, influence, or power. The writers (priests, bishops, etc.) of the Bible understood this fact very well. This is probably why the Apocalypse of Peter was rejected from the final New Testament canon. Peter wrote that Jesus would eventually save all people from hell.[3]

How did the Nicene Council decide the ontological status of the “Son of God”? Again, they literally voted on it![4] The Holy Spirit’s inspiration had nothing to do with the voting. Humans were the ones who made their choice in the election. Because Constantine mandated the ballot, these bishops had no choice but to do it. The voting bishops were under Constantine’s authority and therefore had vested political and financial interests in following his orders.

The Nicene Council, which included the highly influential church father Eusebius of Caesarea (263-339), produced a creed that preceded a collection of books that would later become the first Bible. Constantine, looking to promote and organize Christianity in the growing number of churches in Constantinople, directed Eusebius to have at least forty copies of the scriptures made by practiced scribes and written legibly on prepared parchment. Eusebius became acquainted with Bishop Agapius, presbyter Dorotheus in Antioch, and Pamphilus of Caesarea. With the help of Origen’s Hexapla and commentaries collected by Pamphilus, Eusebius prepared the first version New Testament. According to Eusebius:

Such were the emperor’s commands, which were followed by the immediate execution of the work itself, which we sent him in magnificent and elaborately bound volumes of a threefold and fourfold form.[5]

Keep in mind the events that led up to this important first version of the New Testament. The Christians on the Nicene Council voted on the divine status of Jesus of Nazareth. Council member Eusebius, in concert with Dorotheus, Agapius, Pamphilus, Origen, and other believers, published their version (and that’s all it was) of what they thought the Christian God was all about. Hundreds of other texts were thrown out as unorthodox or uninspired. Emperor Constantine took those New Testament copies and instituted them as authoritative.

The commentary from scholars, as well as from American Founding Father Thomas Paine (1737-1809), sees the Council of Nicaea as an election body because they did indeed vote upon various important issues concerning Jesus and the Church. The fact that the so-called Holy Spirit would depend on a few hundred mortal, fallible men to decide upon his words and characteristics with a mere vote should be enough to prove that the Christian religion and theology is man-made. Thomas Paine said this:

But by what authority do you call the Bible the Word of God? For this is the first point to be settled. It is not your calling it so that makes it so, any more than the Mahometans calling the Koran the Word of God makes the Koran to be so. The Popish Councils of Nice [Nicaea] and Laodicea, about 350 years after the time the person called Jesus Christ is said to have lived, voted the books that now compose what is called the New Testament to be the Word of God. This was done by yeas and nays, as we now vote a law. The Pharisees of the second temple, after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, did the same by the books that now compose the Old Testament, and this is all the authority there is, which to me is no authority at all. I am as capable of judging for myself as they were, and I think more so, because, as they made a living by their religion, they had a self-interest in the vote they gave.[6]

Constantine, the Council of Nicaea, and Eusebius are all responsible for the events leading up to the first version of the New Testament scriptures. Therefore, they are responsible for the Roman Empire’s first official and decreed version of God and Christianity. They dictated to the world by force the message of Jesus. They proselytized by the sword in order to convert the helpless and hopeless. They sold the message of damnation while claiming to own the only antidote to the curse. The Christian priests bathed in riches as they collected money from the poor. These wretched practices have been the church’s calling card to this day.

God did not drop the original Bible from the windows of heaven. No, it was human politics, violent religion, and compulsory votes that eventually determined the divinely extraterrestrial message of the so-called God. Human opinion, and opinion alone, determined God’s Word! Because of that there have been many versions of the Bible since. The Church, in its 20,000+ denominations and sects, still argues about which books should be included. (Side note: the fact that the council could at least vote is ironically a positive thing; a voting body is better than just one monarch forcing his choice on the people.)

OK, forget the previous paragraphs for a moment. There is something exceedingly more important than the names and dates of the people and events that formed the first Bibles. The main point is not the names of the religionists who edited the first Bibles; nor is it the dates that those events occurred on. My Christian critics attempt to distract you with such trivia in order to evade the real issue here. What does matter is how the church fathers produced what is called “God’s Word.” If you claim that the Holy Spirit guided the early Christians in the process of “receiving” God’s Word then I would like for you to prove that assertion (fantastic claims require fantastic proof). There is no evidence that an invisible Holy Sprit even exists. Further, if you think you can discern the voice and words of God better than someone else then you are claiming the same authority as Eusebius and his cronies. That is, you think you know what God is and isn’t saying to the world. That thinking is arrogant, irrational, and unfounded. You can claim that your invisible friend is better than someone else’s but the only people who will agree with you are the ones sharing your religious membership! A quote from my first book, An Infidel Manifesto (2006):

The argument is made by many Christians that the books that are now referred to as the Bible have been miraculously preserved by the Holy Spirit. Even if God had performed this miracle, it doesn’t change the historical fact that people (not God) wrote the books in the first place. Again, if you decide who heard from God and who didn’t, then you are using the same process as those who canonized the Bible. To accept the Bible’s inerrancy is to accept the group of men who canonized it as inerrant. By making this choice you also are determining what is inerrant and what is not. You have become a part of the process that dictates to the world what God’s inerrant word really is. Logically, then, you are claiming that your judgment is inerrant! Many Christians shrug this reality off by saying, “the Holy Spirit leads my thinking.” Like love, circular logic can be blinding.

The decision to include or exclude any particular book in the canon was made under the same influence that all other political and religious decisions have been made. That influence is love, money, power, vengeance, forgiveness, families, sex, unity, greed, loss, royalty, revenge, fear, geography, and all other human issues. It is naive to assume that your religious heroes were immune to the weaknesses and circumstances that all humans face. It is equally naive to think that your religious heroes possessed some kind of supernatural infallible powers.[7]

The idea of authority is called into question as we approach the topic of Jesus’ identity and the canonization of the Bible. A group of Bishops on the Nicene Council literally voted to decide Jesus’ divinity. Did they have magic or spiritual powers to discern God’s characteristics? Of course they didn’t; they were human, just like you and me. They voted like we vote for our laws and politicians; it’s a popularity, political, and cultural race. Eusebius’s publication was simply the first Roman version of the new orthodox Bible. It wasn’t even close to perfect. The traditional Christian Bible, in all of its inconsistencies, contradictions, and anachronisms… frankly–sucked. That’s why people have been trying to improve upon it since its beginning. Richard Carrier notes:

Contrary to common belief, there was never a one-time, truly universal decision as to which books should be included in the Bible. It took over a century of the proliferation of numerous writings before anyone even bothered to start picking and choosing, and then it was largely a cumulative, individual and happenstance event, guided by chance and prejudice more than objective and scholarly research, until priests and academics began pronouncing what was authoritative and holy, and even they were not unanimous. Every church had its favored books, and since there was nothing like a clearly-defined orthodoxy until the 4th century, there were in fact many simultaneous literary traditions. The illusion that it was otherwise is created by the fact that the church that came out on top simply preserved texts in its favor and destroyed or let vanish opposing documents. Hence what we call “orthodoxy” is simply “the church that won.[8]

Let me ask a very important question to evangelical Christians: How did you come to place your trust in the early church father’s decision to choose the inspired books from the uninspired? Whatever your answer to that question is, you still had to make that decision for yourself. You chose to believe in their version of God and his word as published in the Bible. That means you, like the early church fathers, think you know what God says and what he doesn’t say. By this logic you also know that the Apocalypse of Peter is uninspired and should not be in the Bible. You have become an authority on the validity of God’s words. Bible Christians, for example, claim the authority to say that the Bible is God’s Word but the Koran is not. Put simply Christians claim to know God’s voice and insist that non-Christians do not. The Bible has no more authority than the Koran. If you don’t already, you would do well to doubt the veracity of the Jewish-Christian Bible writ. More educated (and honest) believers tend to base their faith on nonwritten ideas about spirituality and gods.

Again, the main point here is not the names of the religionists who edited the first Bibles; nor is it the dates that the events occurred on. Christian apologists attempt to distract you with those things in order to evade the non divine truth about the Bible. The importance dwells with how the church fathers produced what they called “God’s Word.” It was and is a human fabrication. Even though there is some historical accuracy in the scriptures, the miracles and other fantastic claims are simply mythology.

Constantine died in 337 CE. The city of Rome was founded in the year 753 BCE. Before Constantine, Rome had survived over a thousand years as a multicultural and polytheistic nation. In 410 CE Rome was conquered by the Visigoths, just 86 pathetic years after the commencement of Constantine’s new Christian church-state empire. Constantine is, in my opinion, the most important figure in Western history. He changed the face of religion, politics, and the world. He set the stage for modern Christianity and holy war.

The Roman Catholic popes that Constantine gave birth to would later go on to design a bloodbath second to none. The Crusades, Inquisition, wars, torture, sexual oppression, pedophilia, witch hunts, persecution of scientists, and ignorance are all trademarks of the Roman Catholic Church. It all started with one man who married Christianity to the Roman state: Constantine. His existence has troubled the lives of millions since.

Let’s take moment and reflect upon the prestige, longevity, domination, privilege, and power the Church has held for the last 1,700 years. No one has done it better; the killing, torture, rape, pedophilia, nonsense, delusion oppression, and perversion the Church has enjoyed for centuries are second to none! The Church, if you will pardon my blunt edge, has partied with the best of them. And let’s give credit where credit is due: the European Church has maintained its supreme royalty where their competitors have failed in comparison. Here in the States religion has prospered wholesale as the puritan and Baptist revolution gave way to the milquetoast and watered-down megachurches. From begging televangelists to greedy faith healers, America has lost that warm, heavenly, religious vibe of the pomp and ceremony that is the Roman Catholic and Orthodox (Eastern, Russian, Greek, etc.) churches. But what hasn’t been lost is the Christian fundamentalist Bible-believing thirst to conquer the world for the Nicene version of Jesus.

Notes

 

[1] Gary Lenaire, An Infidel Manifesto: Why Sincere Believers Lose Faith, p. 73

[2] http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/sbrandt/nicea.htm

[3] Gary Lenaire, An Infidel Manifesto: Why Sincere Believers Lose Faith, p. 44

[4] Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, Volume III, Nicene and Post-Nicene

[5] Vita Const. 4.36.37

[6] Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

[7] Gary Lenaire, An Infidel Manifesto: Why Sincere Believers Lose Faith, p. 91

[8] Richard Carrier, “The Formation of the New Testament Canon,” (2000)

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