King Constantine and a Jesus vote

OK forgive me if this is an incredibly stupid question, because I don’t recall where i heard this, and it might have actually been The Da Vinci Code, but I figure what better place to get the straight dope than here.

In this mystery source, I was told something to the effect that a group of people, led by a king named Constantine (i dont even know what he was king OF) got together and had a vote that established Christ’s divinity for personal gain.

It’s entirely possible that I’m combining stories here, and I apologize for the incredible vagueries here, but can someone fill in the holes in my story and then tell me whether or not its true?


Yes, I fear you did read this in The Da Vinci Code, although Brown was recycling a claim often made elsewhere. It is also, in the face of some stiff competition, one of the sillier claims in the book.

What Brown has done is to garble very badly the events surrounding the Council of Nicaea summoned by the Roman emperor, Constantine, in 325 to rule on the Arian controversy. The Council comprised all those bishops able to attend. The issue was not whether Jesus was divine - most Christians already thought that - but rather the highly technical and very obscure one of whether he was ‘consubstantial’ with God. Was Jesus of the same ‘substance’ as God? The Arians had said he wasn’t but the Council ruled that he was.

While there is no doubt that there was a political dimension to the Council, the skullduggery involved probably wasn’t of the sort that Brown wants to believe, as Constantine’s personal sympathies may have actually been with the losing side, the Arians. It is possible that he would have gone along with any decision at all, just so long as it resolved what had proved to be a bitterly divisive and disruptive dispute.

The theological controversies within Christendom were so strongly argued that they were causing actual violence in the streets. Constantine, the first Christian emperor, was not a deep theologian. (FWIW, he chose to be baptized as a “Catholic” – meaning the unified church that would 700 years later split into Catholic and Orthodox, so I doubt that he had strong sympathies with the Arians.) But I was taught, by people who would have no problem going against the accepted wisdom if circumstances called for it, that he was not out to see a particular result, but rather to have the Church resolve the question once and for all, to end the controversy. Noting the “Council of Jerusalem” in Acts 15, he hit on the idea of convening all the bishops to argue it out and vote for a conclusion that would be binding on all.

This set a precedent, and there were seven ecumenical councils held over the next 300 years. After the split with Orthodoxy, Catholicism continued to hold such councils but with the Orthodox not issued invitations, and the same thing happened at the Reformation.

Except for the famous (infamous?) Council of Trent, where the Protestants actually were offered invitations, but, out of either fears for their safety, or the feeling that things had just gone too far for compromise, turned them down. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if they had shown up, though.

Except that the bishop who baptized him, Eusebius of Nicomedia, had been one of the leading Arians at Nicaea in 325. It is not as if they had gone away in the years since then, whether within the church hierarchy or especially within the circle around Constantine himself.

DAMN! I was hoping for something more juicy. But, the quest for knowledge I suppose is better than the ability to make fun of random people. Thanks.

I’ve never read The Da Vinci Code, but might this have something to do with your original question? I don’t know if the assertions from the author I’ve quoted have any basis or not, though.