First seven ecumenical councils
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In the history of Christianity, the first seven Ecumenical Councils, from the First Council of Nicaea (325) to the Second Council of Nicaea (787), represent an attempt to reach an orthodox consensus and to establish a unified Christendom. The East-West Schism, formally dated to 1054, was still almost three centuries off. Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican churches all trace their clergy by apostolic succession back to this period and earlier, see Early Christianity. However, breaks of unity that still persist today had occurred even during this period. The Assyrian Church of the East rejected the Council of Ephesus (431). The Oriental Orthodox churches recognise the first three and consider the Second Council of Ephesus (449) to be the Fourth Ecumenical Council. The Roman Catholic Church rejects the Quinisext Council which attempted to establish the Pentarchy.
This era begins with the First Council of Nicaea, which enunciated the Nicene Creed that in its original form and as modified by the First Council of Constantinople of 381 was seen as the touchstone of orthodoxy on the doctrine of the Trinity. At this point, though the emperors had already ceased to reside habitually at Rome, the church in that city was seen as the first church among churches. In 330 Constantine built his "New Rome", which became known as Constantinople, in the East. And all the seven councils were held in the East, specifically in Anatolia. In 410 the Visigoths sacked Rome, but then withdrew. In 568 the Lombards invaded Italy and established a Kingdom of Italy that lasted until 774, for nearly all of which period (until 751) Rome was governed by the Exarchate of Ravenna, representing the Byzantine emperor at Constantinople.
The first scholar to consider this time period as a whole was Philip Schaff, who wrote The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church, first published after his death in 1901. The topic is of particular interest to proponents of Paleo-orthodoxy who seek to recover the church before the schisms.
The First Seven Ecumenical Councils, as commonly understood, are:
- First Council of Nicaea (325)
- First Council of Constantinople (381)
- Council of Ephesus (431)
- Council of Chalcedon (451)
- Second Council of Constantinople (553)
- Third Council of Constantinople (680)
- Second Council of Nicaea (787)
However, not all of these Councils have been universally recognised as ecumenical. As indicated above, the Assyrian Church of the East accepts only the first two, and Oriental Orthodoxy only three. Present-day nontrinitarians, such as Unitarians, Latter-day Saints and other Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses, reject all seven Councils.