What happened at Nicea?
According to many Muslims, in the Council of Nicea (325 AD) four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were selected from among hundreds of possible alternatives, and then the rest were burned, including the original one. This claim arises from the fact that according to the Koran, the New Testament prophesies the coming of Muhammad, but today these texts have "disappeared" from the Gospels. Therefore, they say the text has been corrupted, and the original is lost - or even worse - has been deliberately destroyed.
The historical records
However, according to the historical records of the Council of Nicea preserved to this day, the issues addressed in the Council were:
- The divinity of the Word (Logos), defended by Athanasius who postulated that Father and Son are of the same substance (Gk. homo-ousion), and rejected by Arius, who alleged that the Logos is the first created being. The resolution was expressed in the Nicene Creed.
- The Council also reinstated Malesius who had been excommunicated and set the date on which the Passover had to be held annually.
- Finally, the Council enacted twenty laws on ecclesiastical discipline, the ordination of clergy, the liturgy, and other miscellaneous matters.
- All this was included in a letter sent to the Egyptian Christians.
(As recorded by Eusebius of Caesarea - a supporter of Arius - and by Athanasius of Alexandria, a trinitarian.)
One and the same New Testament
The best answer to the claims of the Muslims is to say that this discussion, both by its supporters and its detractors, was based on one and the same New Testament, including the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. That is, the attenders of the Council never discussed any of the canonical books of the NT, but all defended their positions by relying on those same texts, fully known and accepted by the Universal Church for three centuries.
A side note
The statement about the selection of four gospels at Nicea stems from a margin note in the Synodicon Ventus (SV), which by the ninth century collects the Councils decisions to date. According to the SV marginal note, "The Apocrypha was distinguished from the canonical books as follows: all of them were placed in the house of God on atlar, after which the bishops prayed that those texts which were inspired stay above, while the spurious down, and thus happened" (SV, 887, vol.5, p.9).
This margin note was translated into French by Father Philippe Labbe in the seventeenth century (Conciles, vol.1, p.84, appendix) and collected by Voltaire in his Dictionary of Philosophy at the eighteenth century. Once the work was translated into English, Muslims started to claim that the original gospel had been destroyed at Nicea.
Some questions for Muslims
- Do you believe in a God "so weak" that is powerless to prevent men of corrupting His Word? Or in a God "so unpredictable" that changes his mind or correct himself? Don't you fear of being blaspheming Him?
- When was the Bible corrupted and altered, before or after Muhammad? If before, why Muhammad invites Jews and Christians to judge according to their own Scriptures (Al Maeda 5:47)?
- How do you explain that there are thousands of manuscripts belonging to dates before the Council of Nicea (325 AD) and that all match each other?
- Show me any historical document, prior to Nicea, where is witnessed that another Injil (NT) different of those exists today, had been recognized as cannonical.
- For what end was corrupted the Bible and which verses? If it was altered from the beginning why did God let the "believers" in the dark for 6 centuries (supposedly until the arrival of the Koran)?
- Who changed and corrupted the Bible? Why there is no trace of a reaction from other people dissatisfied with this (for example, those who did not accept the divinity of Christ)?
- How were thousands of manuscripts scattered throughout the Roman Empire confiscated to make them disappear? How were thousands of copies altered at once? How were the changes added to the copies that couldn't be removed from circulation?
- If there was an original Bible in times of Muhammad, why didn't Muslims save a copy? If they did, where is that copy so that we can compare it with the today's NT?