About fifty or sixty or so years after Jesus left us, all of his apostles had been hunted and tormented and killed or otherwise had all died off. Most of the written sacred records floating around the “original” Church were of dubious authenticity.
Mormons are wont to boast of having restored the “original” organization of the Church but frankly, what Jesus left behind wasn’t much of a Church in an organizational sense. Organizationally speaking, the Kingdom of God on Earth never emerged. What happened instead was that several kingdoms of slightly different “Gods” dug themselves into several geographical districts. These several, competing variant churches, each one claiming to be the fictional “universal” Church, almost immediately started sniping and hacking and shooting away at one-another. By even their own accounts the first two generations of post-Christ Church leadership moved only in a vague, general way toward a consensus of universal belief. To be even more pointed, the very first “universal” agreement these various branches of the Church hit upon was the notion that they were all independent of any central authority. Any branch of the Church founded by any apostle, or later, friend or student of an original apostle, was agreed to be as authoritative as any other.
In half a lifetime after Christ departed this world, there were none of His original apostles at all. Their students or disciples at that point had none of the same inherent authority to deal with even their own branch’s internal disagreement, disorganization, and in-fighting. They had no hope of enforcing any sort of order and uniformity outside their personal congregations. On top of this, these “Apostolic Fathers” as they became known, were also hounded by pagan and Jewish civil authorities and clergy.
They are today called “Apostolic Fathers” though of course, not even they claimed to be actual apostles. They did not in any way even suggest that they had the mantle of full apostleship handed down to them. But they did have living memory and some records of their masters. Unfortunately, they were beaten and tortured and all their writings and records and scriptures were taken away from them and systematically burned by various pagan Church-States and rival religious authorities. Bishops of the era were frequently publicly whipped and forced to offer sacrifices to the official pagan gods of Rome or other regions. Those who held out in faith were systematically killed off. It was a matter of decades only, until their testimonies and records were nonexistent and un-remembered. (I’ll deal with the “One surviving Group of True Believers” myths later on.)
The paradox of the first century after Christ, is that those branches of the original Church and the authorities who ran them who survived these persecutions, were almost certainly thus proved to be corrupted. Any Christian or branch of Christianity that would not be corrupted or at least compromise to worship the State or regional gods or pay homage at least a bit was destroyed—instantly and violently. Thus, any Christian Church that claims to be still around today from the beginning, is by definition at least slightly bent from the original. Only the ignorant, average congregant and the seriously compromised clergy who’d been tortured into paying homage to the pagan status-quo remained in the flock. Oh, and of course the willing sell-outs. All the real “saints,” the original saints, were killed. Full stop. The “Primitive Church” as Mormons call it, degenerated in one or two life spans into an organization no more godly or holy than Herod the Great’s little temple operation at the time of Christ.
As these rapidly deteriorating conditions of persecution and rampant heresy overcame them, the Apostolic Fathers tried to preserve or recreate for us essentially all we will ever know of the Savior’s direct ministry after his passing from mortality. The books of the New Testament as we now have them, combined with records known as the “Writings of the Apostolic Fathers,” all of which appeared around 100 AD, just before or after, stem from this era in Church development. The Letter of Barnabus, The Teachings of the Twelve or the Didache, The First Letter of Clement of Rome, The Shepherd of Hermas, The Letters of Ignatius of Antioch, The Letter of Polycarp, The Fragments of Papius, are some of the chief examples of surviving Church literature from the era.
By name, Apostolic Fathers like Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, and the unknown author of The Letter of Barnabus were probably contemporaries of John the Apostle in his very late years of life. Biographical information on the Apostolic Fathers is thin at best and entirely missing in some cases. Modern scholarship casts even more doubt upon the various authorships but unanimously date these writings to the first century AD and It is fairly certain that these men did have association either with an original apostle or an immediate disciple of an original apostle. These records essentially document Church custom and practice of the first century AD era, and have been of great interest to Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant scholars alike. Oddly enough, many of the arguments Mormons struggle through with modern Christians would be favorably resolved in favor of the Mormon point of view, were either Mormons or Christians in general familiar with the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. However, the reflections of the Fathers regarding specific Christian doctrines and customs have largely been passed over in favor of the rationalizing of later generations of Church scholars and theologians.
By the second century and beyond, the Church, (or Churches really) and Church leadership found themselves spending most of their time defending themselves against civil, physical, and doctrinal attack from both Jewish and Roman pagan authorities. This era was recorded by a group of men now called the “Apologists.” On top of constant Jewish persecution, early Christians were inflicted with a series of organized Roman persecutions that generated a more educated, legalistic justification of the Christian religion. These writers were scholars or lawyers, schooled in the Greek philosophical discipline. They made their arguments “logically.” They used allegory and metaphor and symbolic methods to teach and explain and decipher either the scraps of original apostolic scripture, and the older books and Jewish canon—roughly the Old Testament as we know it now, and a few less known or now lost records. They also used the writings of the Apostolic Fathers to formulate dogma and religious practice, but then wrapped it in slick, popular, “educated” and “logical” systems of response. They were only interested in defense of common criticisms of the religion.
Unfortunately, logic is logical to the parties in any given debate relative only to their common assumptions about how this or that operates. When the Church and everyone else, including the scientists and scholars of the period thought the earth was the center of the universe, it made perfectly good sense to the clergy to generate a whole system of teachings based on the assumption that God put mankind in the center of His Creation. It was very testimony-building to believe that you as a Christian were just that special to God. Every chapter and verse of holy writ that seemed to allude to this conclusion or could be made to support this conclusion was played up and played up until it seemed that an earth-centered universe was an integral concept without which the whole Christian belief system would collapse. And when smartasses like Copernicus and Galileo came on to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that God had not put the earth in the center of the universe, it made perfect sense to the clergy to oppress, silence, and snuff out these troublemakers, even if they were obviously correct. It is better that one man should die than a nation perish in unbelief. It is also better than one man shall die than a Pope should ever have to say, “Ooops, had that one wrong…”
Which gets me to the concept of Papal Infallibility, but far to early in my explorations to go into it deeply. Strangely enough, the concept of a central, primal Pope, the Bishop of Rome being same, didn’t emerge for a thousand years and more. The claim of the bishop of Rome or any other Pope being infallible, didn’t come along until the early 19th century. When the first astronomers were being persecuted for contradicting longstanding teaching of the Church, they didn’t even have that personal, Papal infallibility issue at stake in a formal sense. But the Church authority as a general body was quite willing to kill, imprison, and certainly excommunicate its subjects simply for questioning Church “tradition.” This is quite an important and a rather sticky concept, this assumption that this or that doctrine or “Truth” has “always been taught” by the Church and therefore questioning it becomes a denial of the “Faith of our Fathers.” Even if that faith is knowingly false.
With the coming of true astronomy, the Church by empirical, irrefutable evidence was confronted a thousand and a half years into its pretentions to all wisdom, by the fact that its founders had made and perpetuated a foundationally stupid and utterly false assumption about the nature of Creation. Having totally misunderstood all of God’s Creation, the Church then went on to base generations of Church dogma upon it. Now, one would think that if this fact got ‘round the masses, it might lead the faithful to wonder, gee, if the Church was wrong on something so basic as that, just how right could it be about this other stuff?
Popes and Pastors and Prophets of all faiths are called upon now and again to fake their way through an answer to those sorts of suddenly unanswerable questions. That’s what a system of “apologetics” is designed to do–take a load of silly, ignorant twaddle, and present it in a way that makes it look brilliant and sensible. In the second century after Christ, that’s what the Apologists did. They gathered together all the known sacred Jewish and Christian writings and the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. They sorted through, gleaned, picked out, discarded, branded, labeled, validated, discredited and filtered all the known sacred and secular works pertinent in their estimation to the formation of the Christian Church. It was the Apologists who first began to carve in stone the vast bulk of Church dogma, and laid down the foundation of what was to become Christian canon scripture. But they did it based upon what made sense to them. To them the world was flat and sat in the center of the universe.
The main problem the Apologists had in this work then, is context. By the second century even the Apostolic Fathers were dead or dying. There was no living association with genuine apostles. The Apologists didn’t even know somebody who knew somebody who knew Jesus, or Paul, or John or Barnabas or anyone near the founding of the original Church. Most of them didn’t even know anything about being a Jew. That tradition was two-hundred years behind them. What they knew was Greco-Roman law, science, and philosophy—with an emphasis on philosophy. They were skilled debaters and persuasive writers but they were working out of a Greco-Roman world view—a view where the heavenly bodies moved around a flat earth on hollow glass spheres like massive window-paintings. Everything in the heavens moved in circles and everything on the earth moved in straight lines. That was logic to them.
So when the question kept coming back about just Who or What God really is, who this Jesus was in relation to God, and how the Holy Spirit fit into the whole scheme, they hammered out the answer to these sorts of questions amongst themselves based on “logical” assumptions of just how life, the universe, and everything really works—from a Greco-Roman world view.
Because no prophets or manifestations from God had taken place in some two-hundred years, it was logical to the Apologists that what recorded insight into the nature of God they had on hand was all they were going to get. God had closed the books and stopped talking to man. If God did not talk to them as earnest and studied and wise as they were, it made no sense that God would speak to anyone else. The notion of a closed heavens and a closed canon started with these men. On the other hand, “We don’t know,” or “There are no records on that issue,” were not acceptable answers for them. When they had no direct insight from legitimate records, they went Greek.
Now, the one central postulate that all the Greek and Roman philosophers universally agreed upon is the notion that all matter is corrupt. Matter, flesh, any physical existence is inherently evil. This was a fundamentally pagan Greek invention and the foundation of their whole scientific, scholarly, religious and political belief system. This is not a concept that came over from Jewish tradition. This is a very easily identifiable and uniquely Greek notion that can be traced exclusively to Plato, Aristotle and Socrates, not Jesus Christ.
It was Plato and his pagan philosophers who first postulated that God, being perfect, being really really pure and far bigger and more powerful than anything man could possibly comprehend, could not have any sort of physical existence. God had to be made of incorporeal matter. God had to be made of immaterial matter—which was a substance but not a substance. That made sense to them. It was logical. The Apologists then had to reconcile this notion with that of a very corporeal Jesus. Were they both God? The same God or actually two Gods? An actual Father and Son? It was vital for purposes of spreading the faith and maintaining unity to have some sort of “logical” final ruling on every point of dogma to keep both investigator and detractor happy when the questions came up.
For Aristotle, there were two souls. One was an animal soul and the other was a rational soul. The animal soul governed growth and healing and breathing and reproduction and basically the physical senses. Animals had only this animal soul, but no thinking soul. The thinking soul was an act of specific creation. Fragments of this argument have survived in Christian tradition to explain everything from cruelty to animals because they have no intelligence or higher soul, to placing the Negro in a sub-human category due again, to their lack of this higher soul and thus being hopelessly lost to salvation.
Tertullian, one of the generation of Apologists who was prototypical of the full-time, institutionalized “Theologians” who took over Church studies in the late second, third, fourth, and fifth centuries, founded “Traduciansism,” which holds that procreation proceeds from the souls of the parents. When the animal spirit has grown a mortal body to a sufficient state, the rational soul enters into it, or “quickens” the body. For a while Christian theologians found this could be a way to transfer Original Sin to mankind from Adam and Eve, but when this theory lost favor the Church went to other rationale in later centuries–who’s theologians had by then adopted “Creationism,” an explanation for mortality with a slightly different bent that more or less said the spirit and body were created at the same instant and the spirit is the source of all character, the body being no more than a mechanism. Currently this doctrine forms the basis of the Roman Catholic position that at the instant of fertilization a fully created human body and soul are united.
There were early Church factions who thought Jesus and the Father were the same being, appearing to man via different manifestations. There were also originally a lot of Church scholars who thought there were two distinct beings in the Father and the Son. The only thing that was almost unanimously condemned in the early centuries is the contention that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are the same being, the same God all three, but manifested in three separate forms.
The issue of who the Holy Spirit is, has never actually been resolved in world-Christian terms to this day. There is in fact no effective way to resolve it and never has been, because today, as it ever has been, the “Christian” Church or the “Body of Christ,” in reality is little more than a voluntary association of councils and self-appointing committees who only occasionally call conferences to try to negotiate the much-touted, but still entirely fictional, “One Holy, Catholic, and Universal Church.”
The third and fourth centuries moved the Church past its cult status, having outlived the Jewish State and won approval of a series of Roman and Eastern Emperors. But true respectability in this context meant Christianity had to become an orderly State religion that sanctioned, and was sanctioned by, the State leadership. Christianity entered an era called, “Caesaro-Papism” where the Church and the Emperor were essentially bonded together into a single, all-powerful council. Christianity moved into this role with the Emperor Constantine, who among other things, beat up a few Bishops, called a conference, and made them spit out some final creed regarding this nature of God issue, so the Christian State could move on to other business and stop fighting about it.
Constantine moved the Roman world capital from Rome to a new city he build and named after himself, Constantinople. There he could build Christian churches in his own name and install Christian administrators of his empire who could freely worship in a Christian fashion, and the new regime could sidestep in one swift move the whole incumbent structure of Roman Emperor-as-pagan-defender-of-the-Roman-Gods. In the process he killed a son and a wife and never did get baptized until his deathbed, but he did get things done in his new Church-State.
In the third and fourth centuries and beyond, there were several centers of the Church: Rome, Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria, and at least for some time, Jerusalem. There isn’t even a suggestion that the Roman Church or its bishop had any primacy over any of the others for century after century. There wasn’t necessarily even any regional “universality” and the various regional bishops would also hold councils and bicker about doctrine, then agree to disagree or sanction one-another with mutual charges of heresy. Local and regional, even global Church dogma changed suddenly and with deadly force as emperors or bishops or even governors and mayors changed.
In 325, Constantine (conceding a little bit of fairness to him as a ruler) set out to resolve a raging conflict on the nature of God. He ordered a council of bishops to convene in Nicaea, where they came to blows over one word, homoousios. They already had a rough idea of what was needed in the creed Constantine had demanded of them. In polishing it up however, it turned out that nearly all their objections hung on this one word. Apart from this controversy it was fairly smooth sailing. Constantine doesn’t seem to have had a personal stake in the question, he simply wanted to get on with ruling an orderly Christian empire by brutal force. In 326 this council eventually produced what was supposed to be the defining Christian statement of belief.
The Nicene creed did not make everyone happy and create the “Universal” Church Constantine was demanding at all. It set off another string of clerical battles for the next several hundred years. The language of the Nicene Creed itself defines God the Father and Jesus Christ as being out of the same substance, not some separate substances. That was what the big fight was all about. All those centuries, all those years trying to nail it down, and that’s all they came up with. The Nicene Creed also defined Jesus as “Logos” or “the Word,” or more accurately, “the Verb” which implies the acting force or action. Logos was co-eternal with the Father and of the same substance. The whole “Word made Flesh” thing would be hashed for generations with great fury.
But pain of excommunication, torture and death didn’t settle the matter either, and Christianity has had several goes at the same statement like this entry from the Wikipedia:
The Athanasian Creed (Quicumque vult) is a Christian statement of belief, focusing on Trinitarian doctrine and Christology. The Latin name of the creed, Quicumque vult, is taken from the opening words “Whosoever wishes.” The Athanasian Creed has been used by Christian churches since the sixth century AD. It is the first creed in which the equality of the three persons of the Trinity is explicitly stated, and differs from the Nicene-Constantinopolitan and Apostles’ Creeds in the inclusion of anathemas, or condemnations of those who disagree with the Creed.
Widely accepted among Western Christians, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and most liturgical Protestant denominations, the Athanasian Creed has been used in public worship less and less frequently. The creed has never gained much acceptance among Eastern Christians.
What any of these creeds and professions of faith actually mean is anybody’s guess. The point of these creeds was to auspiciously state the mystery, not explain it. It was very important to these philosophers, which words they chose to explain how you could not understand the nature of God.
Now, the Western Churches adopted the Nicene Creed almost immediately. The Eastern Church basically adopted the creed but continued to argue about what it meant, quibbling about that one word, homoousios, until the Second Ecumenical council, also called the first Council of Constantinople in 381, where the riddle was not solved, but it was agreed to be unsolvable, one of the mysteries of God that was inappropriate to question.
The Nicene Council defined God as pure and immaterial. At the same time it declared the Father and Son to be two divine Persons. Logos, was pure and immaterial, not created and co-eternal of the same substance as the Father. Man was created by God or Logos, out of nothing. The nature of Logos is entirely different than the nature of Man. Man had a spirit, created by Logos, and this (depending on who’s your bishop through the ages) is infused with the animal spirit and body, which is also created out of nothing by Logos. This is pure Platonism. This is Plato’s concept of God and Man.
To this point in the Church-wide doctrinal bickering, the main interest was this so-called “Trinitarian” theology. (To be honest however, the Holy Spirit is given very little thought in the process. It’s really “Binitarian” more than “Trinitarian.”) The Nicene Creed, with the force and authority of the Church, East and West, and the Roman Empire, rather than put the matter to rest, only led to what would become known as the “Christological Conflict” and the “Theotokos” problem–the nature of Mary, the “Mother of God.”
As the battle raged over Trinitarianism however, the winning side became more and more entrenched in the Nicene statement whatever other problems it caused elsewhere theologically. The Nicene Creed http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02033b.htm comes right out and just says God in all His forms is incomprehensible and if you don’t believe it you’re dead to God and more importantly, the Church. That’s pretty stern warning against anyone thinking otherwise.
Depending upon who you want to believe, an even more enhanced version of the Nicene Creed was developed which further reinforced the mandatory belief in Trinitarian dogma. Until recently this was called the Athanasian Creed without thought to the validity of its actual author. This version probably grew out of some regional conferences starting in about 361 AD. Others contend it couldn’t have been in use any earlier than 500 AD. Frankly, it’s even harder to decipher than the Nicene Creed. The actual author is now widely in question, but it bears strongly the influence of the thinking of Athanasius of Alexandria, the presumed author of the original Nicene language, though it was written in Latin, not Athanasius’ Greek, and in a style of Western authors, not an Alexandrian. This enhanced Nicene language also reinforces the writings and postulations of one Augustine of Hippo, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/augustine/ (354-430 AD.) Which brings us to the essentially full-time, professional theologians of the 4th and 5th centuries.
A new development in the Church in the middle of the first millennium, was monasticism. Former priests or sometimes those with no formal Church connection or authority at all formed closed orders dedicated to Christian study. Out of one of these in suburban Constantinople emerged a monk named Eutyches. Eutyches stuck his nose into the then again raging theological fights between Antioch and Alexandria concerning the nature or natures of God and Christ. He favored the Alexandrian position, which had just won out violently and sneakily at the Council of Ephesus in 431 under the pressure of the Patriarch of Alexandria, Cyril.
Now, Cyril was a brutal Jew-exterminating thug who called the council after bribing a lot of bishops and the governmental officials involved to grease the system in his favor. He also didn’t inform the Eastern bishops, none of whom would have agreed with his personal doctrinal lines. Cyril passed away in 444 AD but the dogmatic legacy of his council lives on today. At Ephesus, Cyril sought to exterminate a theologist of note at the time, named Nestorius. Nestorius taught that Christ had two natures, a human and a divine nature. Before the incarnation these were separate, and after the incarnation they were again separate. Cyril roused all of Christendom at the time by saying it was blasphemy to split our Lord Jesus Christ in such a way.
Eutyches, picked up the fight after Cyril’s death when Nestorianism was rearing its ugly head again, and argued that there were two natures before the incarnation but after, the two natures were intimately fused into one nature, the human and the immortal bound into one purified and divine nature.
I confess that I am a Mormon, and as such this quibbling bores me to tears. I at once understand why it is so de-emphasized in the LDS system. The specifics of these debates are still treated by general Christianity as if the very essence of light and truth and knowledge is being sorted out. Under the lightest analysis however, they actually sound mindless and in print look completely idiotic—like bad free-verse or a sort of poetic clanging. (It’s a psychological phenomenon common to lunatics who prattle earnestly away and seem entirely convincing till you realize it’s all nonsense.) It pains me to go into much detail about these early theological battles but it is vital for those both Mormon and Christian faithful to understand that they did go on. And on. And on. The claim today is that Christianity represents what “Christians” have “always believed.” There is no such thing. In the first three or four centuries “What Christians have always believed” changed from bishop to bishop, year-to-year, emperor-to-emperor. And it didn’t stop there. This is true whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet of God or just an idiot-savant with incredible storytelling abilities.
None of the specifics of early Church gibberish actually matters much to most Christians today. They believe in Jesus as their personal Savior and that’s the entire depth of it. Most self-professing Christians couldn’t tell you what their actual religion stands for or what all they’re supposed to believe in if there was money in it. In fact they give money to professional Christians to keep reminding themselves what they stand for and believe in. But not even the professional Christians really get down to the basic guts of the religion. Those who do so, are considered radical, fundamentalist nut-jobs. Sadly, these fundamentalist nut-jobs actually come closer to “What Christians have always Believed” than most modern, mainstream, harmless, Jesus-friendly versions of the faith. Above all else, going way back to the first century, the common thread that holds Christian faith together has been that if you don’t think like we think, if you don’t believe as we believe, you’re burning in hell.
For those still true to Old World Christian religions, the only thing you need to know is that you do not believe in the Faith of your Fathers. Or perhaps, you belief the faith of your fathers, but not of your father’s fathers, or their fathers before them. At some point some group of your father’s, father’s fathers had bought into a violently different Christian faith than yours. You believe the latest version of what Christians have always believed in. You do not believe what Christians have always believed because there has never been an “all of” Christianity and it’s changed what it believes in frequently for two thousand years. It took two thousand years of vicious murder and intrigue between Church and State for you to scrounge together a “Faith” you could even pretend that Christians have always believed.
But back to Eutyches. His nature-of-Jesus Christ argument did win out in the long run, and became adopted almost universally. For the Protestant, however, particularly American Protestant, like Joseph Smith and company in their day, the most important thing that made it into the central heart of every Christian argument afterward however, is the way Eutyches proposed to prove his claims: Eutyches said, “Since God has written a book, He must have put in it everything that was important for us to know. It is just a question of reading God’s book and understanding it. The sentiments of the Fathers are no help.” The authoritative emphasis of Christianity then shifted from those closest the original documents and doctrines, to a feeling that it was all up to the learned Theologians, some holy writings and a lot of “figuring it out.”
Eutyches may have not been the absolute first person to express this sentiment, but in his time and in the major debates he undertook for this or that doctrine, his concept of accepted scripture being the only full authority on earth to speak for God took root as justification for just about anything the clergy, monks, and scholars then cared to argue. Then, as now, of course, you could take any tangential phrase from any Biblical author and make it support anything you want if you’re clever enough. This naturally, was one of little Joe Smith’s first observations and the impetus which he says prompted him to go right to the source.
Smith’s solution of course, was against the rules in the early Christian Church and still is. You can talk to God all you want, but if He starts talking back, you have a problem. Science, logic, now, that was perfectly sound however. The Apostolic Fathers were brushed aside as useless in one stroke. The ramblings of the Apologists took on more importance than those who actually knew the original saints and biblical authors. In fact, by Eutyches’ day, the Apologists had indeed already determined most of the Creeds and arguments that were still being developed, defined and expanded by the Theologians. The Theologians however, were driven to take the Apologetic arguments into more exact language–mighty poetic, philosophical language to glorify the mysteries into even more glorious mysteries. The mysteries of God were not comprehensible to man anyway, so it was simply a case of expressing them in the most poetic and mystical fashion. You must understand that most of Christian spiritual writing and analysis to this day concerns itself with worship and marveling at the Great Mystery that is God–not in getting to the bottom of things.
Eutyches brazenly asserts some three or four centuries into the well-known shambles of the randomly preserved Christian library, that God wrote us a complete, comprehensive manual. This is another good example of how “logic” is often just another word for “BS.” Simply asserting that God wrote a book doesn’t make it true. Proceeding from this unfounded assumption may sound “logical,” but in truth is just silly.
Case in point: the New Testament as we know it was not canonized and adopted by all branches of the Christian Church for another good thousand years or so. Eutyches couldn’t have even get a council together in his own day to agree upon just what book, or collection of books, he was talking about when he referred to “God’s book.” Indeed, half of any council or any number of bishops assembled in the day would violently disagree upon the validity of half the allegedly holy scriptures anyone cared to put before them at the time. Nevertheless, this notion grew that God had written a book, a “bible” or “The Bible” or “Holy Bible.”
So, having spent three hundred, four hundred years trying to decide if Jesus and the Father were made of the same stuff or two different bits of stuff, the Church then had the problem of figuring out how that decision could be reconciled with a couple of other hard doctrines they’d been mostly ignoring: like explaining Christ, born of a human woman, who lived and died and suffered with an obvious physical body, which He raised from the tomb and went to heaven with. This was clearly the whole point of the surviving New Testament library. There were four known Gospels from genuine apostles clearly telling all about it. The human Jesus born of a mortal woman with God as a Father clearly described in their now totally authoritative Bible did not harmonize now with most of the more mystical theology they’d worked on amongst themselves for the last three or four hundred years.
This “Trinitarian” argument of Nicaea, central as it seems now, was merely the main argument going, not the only argument going all this time of course. The Apologists, the Theologians, had whole libraries full of their teachings that were now going to have to be reconciled with written, authoritative holy scripture. And of course, they hadn’t really defined just what they were going to call holy scripture, or what translation they were going to consider reliable, much less, authoritative.
And while all of Christianity openly knew of these limitations with holy scripture, the notion of a “Bible” still grew more and more promoted and sanctified. And since God was now claimed to have written it, it was the only authoritative Word of God.
Jesus was gone. The apostles were gone. The prophets were all dead. The Apostolic Fathers were all dead. Now the Church and the various councils and divinity schools and holy orders would take these questions up directly from what was fast becoming Holy Writ. Any observation or conclusion made by anyone of any authority was as valid as any other—if it was based upon the Holy Bible. This made getting just the right translation, just the right wording to fit your particular sect just all that much more important.
Did this new move to a Biblical “authority” solve any problems with the “Universal Body of Christ?” No. Christianity thereafter went furiously about, excommunicating and killing one-another for reading or daring to publish the “wrong” Bible. The Bible became just one more reason to torture you to death—usually by piling your “false” Bibles and heretical writings on top of you and burning you to ashes with them in the town square as an object lesson to others who might stray from the Church’s official narrative.