Author Tim Barnett
Published on 07/08/2024

What Really Happened at Nicea?

Tim dispels the common yet false claim that the New Testament canon was created at the Council of Nicea.


Original video: Top five bits of church history that made me start to question my faith. Number one: The Council of Nicea. If you’re unfamiliar with it, go look it up. It doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense. Basically, a bunch of dudes got together, took all the Christian writings that had previously been considered canon, and decided some of these are canon and some of them are not. Who said those dudes got to do this? Who said those dudes had any right? Those dudes. They said it. Interestingly, this all happened way after Jesus died, and not one of those dudes had ever met the man.

Tim: In her video, the Involuntary Agnostic offers five bits of church history that made her question her faith. Let’s pull out the red pen and just look at the first one together. She claims that the books of the Bible—what we call the canon—were chosen at the Council of Nicea in AD 325. This view was made popular in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. You know. That rigorous piece of scholarship.

This idea has also been propagated by podcaster Joe Rogan: “Are you an Old Testament guy or a New Testament guy? The New Testament was made by Constantine, who was a Roman emperor who wasn’t even Christian, because the New Testament is utter ****. It’s created by a bishop and an emperor. That’s a fact. That’s, like, established religious fact.”

Even atheist activist Richard Dawkins parrots this claim in his latest book, Outgrowing God. Dawkins says the canon was largely fixed in AD 325 by a conference of church leaders called the Council of Nicea, set up by the Roman emperor Constantine.

Here’s the problem, and it’s a big one. The idea that the books of the New Testament were chosen at the Council of Nicea is absolute nonsense. It is mythology, not history. Now, I know what some of you are thinking. That’s exactly what a Christian apologist would say. Okay. Don’t believe me. Maybe you’ll believe atheist and New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman: “There’s a common view, for example, that he popularized, but people had this view before he came along, that the Council of Nicea is when Christians decided which books would be in the New Testament. Where did you finally get a canon of the New Testament? Who decided those books? Oh. It was at the Council of Nicea. Wrong! They didn’t even talk about it.”

The fact is the Council of Nicea had nothing to do with choosing books. The primary purpose was to discuss how to understand Jesus’ divinity in light of his humanity. By the way, this isn’t secret information. It’s readily available to any anyone interested in the truth. What’s really tragic is that this complete fabrication of history has caused some to question and even leave their faith.