Your RDA of Irony

Mitre Makes Rite

Audition Call: We need 300 “reenactors” for the¬†anniversary of the Council of Nicaea. Yes, the Council opened on this day in 325. Any prospective reenactors should be in excellent health. The Council was literally a La Cross tournament, with the bishops wielding their crosiers as sticks. The Emperor Constantine was both host and referee.

It would be charming to include a descendant of Constantine in the celebrations. Unfortunately, there aren’t any. Constantine did have a large family, but they preoccupied themselves with killing each other off. The Emperor had six children, two grandchildren and no great-grandchildren. That is internecine efficiency. It is the same story for the Emperor’s nephews and nieces, just shorter, with Constantine killing a few himself.

Fortunately, there should be no lack of descendants of the attending bishops. In 325, many bishops and most priests were married. There were a few curmudgeons who advocated celibacy, but they were a distinct minority. The presiding bishop of the Council, Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria, actually encouraged priests to be married. If the Council never issued an official endorsement of married clergy, that was only because it was too obvious to be necessary.

The Church had more important–serious–issues to resolve. By A.D. 325, Christianity was out of the catacombs and in the establishment, the favorite theology of the Emperor Constantine. Unfortunately, religious tolerance gave Christians the freedom to persecute each other. It was not the spiritual monolith that Constantine had expected. The exasperated emperor summoned the bishops to Nicaea, ordering the fractious theologians to agree to a binding definition of the Holy Trinity.

Since the Trinity was now the doctrine of the Church, the Greek intellectuals could fight over the nature of the Trinity. That would be good for about five centuries of debates, denunciations and schisms.

And what is a religion without relics. Here is one of mine:

  1. Michele says:

    Eugene, you’d better stage this production quickly. My sources tell me all the best Christian crazies will be gone after Saturday.

    • Eugene Finerman says:


      Once again, Jesus is too embarrassed by this planet to be seen on it. This time I blame Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Jesus did not want to deal with confused reporters: “No, I am a different Dominique. Yes, it is the same word, and his name but my title…”


  2. Rafferty Barnes says:

    We staged a reenactment of the Council of Nicea in my Roman Religions class. Professor Serfass chose the role of Constantine for himself. I was an Arian, and had many arguments ready for Jesus not being God from having dated and debated a Jehovah’s Witness. The Trinitarians were lazy because they knew they won historically, so this time Constantine declared in favor of the Arians.

    That was a very fun class.

    • Eugene Finerman says:


      That class–or at least that project–seems very enjoyable. I would have loved participating in such a reenactment. (My Purim skits are not quite the same. If we were allowed to improvise, my charming Haman would probably win over the audience–and dramatically change the Bible’s narrative. Jesus raised as a Zoroastrian? Interesting thought….)

      However, I must dispute the title of your class: Roman Religions? All that contention about the Trinity was Greek metaphysics. Romans did not care about theological nuances; they appreciated the Church as a new manifestation of power.


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