Iota

  

The “i” or iota, is the smallest letter in the Hellenic alphabet. But this tiniest of demarcations took center stage at the first great Council of Nicaea in 325. Constantine, after his conversion to Christianity, noticed there were many, many kinds of Christianity across his empire and he commissioned a council to have then unified and clarified — and put into one book.

At Nicaea, there were hundreds of representatives of the various Christian sects from all across the Mediterranean, and there were hundreds of chapters vying to be placed in the Book (Hellenic Biblio).

One prominent requirement for inclusion in the Book was that it must be usable by everyone, from the common people to the sophisticate. However, being universally accessible meant that some sophisticated books, as well as all controversial accounts and esoteric knowledge would not be included. (“Universal is the Latin translation of the Hellenic kata-holon, literally “down from the whole”.) The Bible must be universal they insisted, even if some nuances and subtleties are lost. Such is the origin of that catholic requirement.

(After the Council, these controversial and esoteric scrolls were declared heretical and received such scorn and persecution that many had to be hidden back at home. Some waited millennia to be found.)

But the most controversial point of the Council concerned the distinction between inspired humans and divine incarnations. Was Joshua of Galilee descended from God or a God-infused, but human-prophet? Was Jesus the messenger of God or the mouth of God?

The protagonists were Athanasios (Mouth of God) and Arius (messenger of God). The Arian argument went something like: Jesus was a human, and no matter how much God infused him, the limitations in the structure of being human would dictate that he be considered similar to God, inspired by God, full of God, taken over by God even, but not God Himself.

Athanasios replied with certainty. The ancients agree: God can do whatever He wants; if the Divine Presence that is the ground of everything and everyone wants to take form and be born, then that is no problem; the Infinite is not critically qualified by the finite. Period. The principle of avataric incarnation has always been found in great teachings. The Nazarene was not similar, he was the Same.

The words they used to describe “similar presence” and “same presence” are homoiousia and homoousia, differentiated only by the little “i”. (Also translatable as “similar essence” and “same essence” or “similar substance” and “same substance”.) But at last, the intense argument over the iota ended, as all heated propositions did, with a vote. The Council voted overwhelmingly  (~300 to 2) for homoousia, the "Same", stating that there was not an iota of difference between Jesus and the presence and substance of God. This is why the Nicene Creed says, "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made. Being of one substance with the Father...".

Every time you hear the words "not an iota of difference" you can recall how the ancient way of simple relationship with the Incarnation has always been revered.





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