Hence, the world of Christianity has been divided since the time of Jesus. History
chronicles an initial two hundred years, during which the disciples and their followers split from Paul and his divergent theology. This early period is crucial to an understanding of Christianity, for one can reasonably expect the purity of Christology
(doctrines of Christ) and Christian creed to have been best represented among those closest to the teachings of Jesus.
However, our knowledge of this period is vague, with disappointingly little verifiable information surviving to the present day. What is clear is that opinions differed wildly. Some early Christians believed God manifested His message on earth through inspiration, others through incarnation. Some believed the message was conveyed through direct transmission and interpretation by the prophet himself, others spoke of spiritual enlightenment, as claimed by Paul.
Some followed the Old Testament Law taught by Jesus; others negated the laws in favor of Paul’s “Justification by Faith.” Some (such as the disciples) believed God’s law was to be interpreted literally. Others (such as Paul) felt the law was to be interpreted allegorically. Whether or not the apostles ever agreed upon a creed is unclear.
What is commonly known as the Apostles’ Creed is not, in fact, the creed of the apostles, but rather a baptismal formula that evolved over an indefinite period. Encyclopaedia Britannica states that the Apostles’ Creed “did not achieve its present form until quite late; just how late is a matter of controversy.”
So how late is “quite late”? According to
Ehrman, the Apostles’ Creed was derived from credal formulas conceived in the fourth century. That dates its origin, at the very earliest, three hundred years from the time of the apostles, and many would say considerably later.
Just as different understandings of Christology evolved over centuries, so too has the creed of Christianity remained in debate to the present day. Some seek answers in the New Testament and early Christian documents; others question the integrity of the New Testament in the first place—a discussion deferred to the final chapters of this book.
From these murky origins, the third century saw the many and varied Unitarian schools thrown into conflict with the newly conceived Trinitarian formula. This came to a head when Emperor Constantine sought to unify his empire under one Christian theology,
and imperially summoned the Council of Nicaea, the First Ecumenical Council, in 325 CE.
Convened to address the Unitarian theology of Arius, a prominent priest of
Alexandria, seven ecumenical councils followed in wellspaced sequence over the next six centuries. A further thirteen councils (considered ecumenical by the Roman Catholic Church, but not by the Orthodox) followed, the most recent being the Second Vatican Council of 196265, to make a total of twentyone. And yet, debate continues to rage over
issues which have failed to achieve unanimous acceptance.
Hence, Trinitarian theology has not only been at odds with Unitarian theology for
the past two millennia, but has roused contentious debate among its own constituents. Historically, the greatest upheavals came in the form of… Click here to continue reading