Besides the Nicene Creed, the Council of Nicaea agreed on Twenty Statements or Cannons that became Church law.
The Twenty Cannons of the Church that was agreed upon at Council of Nicaea 325 (Source California State University- Northridge Library)
Eunuchs may be received into the number of the clergy, but those who castrate themselves shall not be received.
Those who have come from the heathen shall not be immediately advanced to the priesthood. For without probation of some time a neophyte is of no advantage. But if after ordination it is found out that he has sinned previously, let him then be expelled from the clergy.
"The Great Synod has stringently forbidden any bishop, presbyter, deacon, or any one of the clergy whatever, to have a subintroducta dwelling with him, except only a mother, or sister, or aunt, or such persons only as are beyond all suspicion."
(Full original text)
"It is by all means proper that a bishop should be appointed by all the bishops in the province. But should this be difficult, either on account of urgent necessity or because of distance, three at least should meet together, and the suffrages of the absent bishops also being given and communicated in writing, then the ordination should take place. But in every province the ratification of what is done should be left to the Metropolitan." (Full original text)
Such as have been excommunicated by certain bishops shall not be restored by others, unless the excommunication was the result of pusillanimity, or strife, or some other similar cause. And that this may be duly attended to, there shall be in each year two synods in every province--one before Lent, the other toward autumn.
"Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis prevail: that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood: that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the Great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop. If, however, two or three bishops shall from natural love of contradiction, oppose the common suffrage of the rest, it being reasonable and in accordance with the ecclesiastical law, then let the choice of the majority prevail."
(Full original text)
"Since custom and ancient tradition have prevailed that the Bishop of Aelia [Capitolina = Jerusalem] should be honored, let him (saving the due dignity to the Metropolis [Caesarea Maritima]) have the next place of honor." (Full original text)
If those called Cathari come over, let them first make profession that they are willing to communicate with the twice married, and to grant pardon to the lapsed. And in this condition he who happens to be in orders, shall continue in the same order, so that a bishop shall be a bishop. Whoever was a bishop among the Cathari let him, however, become a Chorepiscopus, or let him enjoy the honor of a presbyter or a bishop. For in one church there shall not be two bishops.
Whoever is ordained without examination shall be deposed if it be found out afterwards that they had been guilty." [Of, e.g., blasphemy, bigamy, heresy, idolatry, magic]
"If any who have lapsed have been ordained through ignorance, ore even with the [previous knowledge of the ordainers, this shall not prejudice the Canon of the Church. For when they are discovered, they shall be deposed."
(Full original text)
As many as fell without necessity, even if therefore undeserving of indulgence, yet some indulgence shall be shown them and they shall be prostrators for twelve years.
Those who endured violence and were seen to have resisted, but who afterwards yielded to wickedness, and returned to the Army, shall be excommunicated for ten years. But in every case the way in which they do their penance must be scrutinized. And if anyone who is doing penance shows himself zealous in its performance, the Bishop shall treat him more leniently than had he been cold and indifferent.
The dying are to be communicated. But if any such get well, he must be placed in the number of those who share in the prayers, and with these only. [This refers to those who have been excommunicated, or who are undergoing a major penance.]
"Concerning catechumens who have lapsed, the Holy and Great Synod has decreed that after they have passed three years as mere hearers, they shall pray with the Catechumens."
(Full original text)
Neither bishop, nor presbyter, nor deacon shall be transferred from city to city. But they shall be sent back should they attempt to do so, to the Churches in which they were ordained.
Such presbyters or deacons as desert their own Church are not to be admitted into another, but are to be sent back to their own diocese. But if any bishop should ordain one who belongs to another Church without the consent of his own bishop, the ordination shall be canceled.
Since many enrolled among the clergy, following covetousness and lust of gain, have forgotten the Divine Scripture, which says, `He heat not given his money upon usury (Ex. 22.25; Deut. 23.29),' and in lending money asks for 1% per month interest, the Holy and Great Synod thinks it just that if after this Decree anyone be found to receive interest, whether he accomplish it by secret transaction or otherwise, as by demanding `the whole and one half', or by using any other contrivance whatever for filthy lucre's sake, he shall be deposed from the Clergy and his name stricken from the list."
(Full original text)
Deacons must abide within their own bounds. They shall not administer the Eucharist to Presbyters, nor touch it before Presbyters do, nor sit among the Presbyters. For all this is contrary to the canons and decent order.
Paulianists must be rebaptized, and if such as are clergymen seem to be blameless let them be ordained. If they do not seem to be blameless, let them be deposed. Deaconesses, who have been led astray, since they are not sharers of ordination, are to be reckoned among the Laity.
On the Lord's Day and at Pentecost all must pray standing and not kneeling.
Constantine The Great was quiet during most of the Council and apparently very satisfied with progress that was made on the Council. He never asked them to look at canonizing books into a Bible. Now it can be clearly seen that The Council of Nicaea was a place where you could discuss and agree with others as long as you were on the right side. The difference in creeds probably has to do with language differences and translations. It is also interesting to note, that instead of solving all the problems of the Church, this conference just started the concept that there would be another Conference called to solve the next set of problems. The next Conference of Nicaea which would be held in 381 C.E.
However it has been seen by some Roman Catholics as the place where the Bishop of Rome became the supreme ruler of Christianity and by many Protestant scholars as the place where Constantine the Great became the sole decider of what books went into the Bible. Both of these misconceptions are far from the truth. Look at Cannon Six and you will see that the Bishop of Rome was not selected in a superior position at all. In fact the position that the Bishop of Rome was Superior could be traced to the Donation of Constantine. It was allegedly written around this same time although it was not really produced until about the eighth century. This was a letter “written” by Constantine himself and granting Pope Sylvester I and his successors, as inheritors of St. Peter, dominion over lands in Judea, Greece, Asia, Thrace, and Africa as well as Rome and both Italy and the entire Western Roman Empire, while Constantine would retain imperial authority in the Eastern Roman Empire from his new imperial capital of Constantinople. The text claims that the Donation was Constantine's gift to Sylvester for instructing him in the Christian faith, baptizing him, and miraculously curing him of leprosy. Now one may ask what the problem with this is. (Donation of Constantine)
The answer is simple- it was not true on many levels. First, All one has to do is read Cannon Six below and see that this letter goes against the agreement of all the Bishops at the Council of Nicea. Second, according to the legend surrounding the Donation, the Pope Sylvester I cured Constantine of leprosy with the waters of baptism. This was supposed to have taken place in the year 326 in the city of Rome. There is just one problem: it didn't happen like that. Instead the truth was that Constantine postponed his baptism to right before his death. He was baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia in April of 337 not Pope Sylvester I in 326. By the time of Constantine’s baptism, Pope Sylvester I had died and therefore couldn't have baptized him. The other fact was Constantine was on his deathbed when he was baptized he was not cured. He died about three or four weeks after the event. Therefore, none of the Donation was true. (Life of Constantine)
Constantine was a very manipulative person but he did not do this and it was Pope Leo IX in 1054 who was the first Pope to actually cite the Donation in his famous letter of excommunication to Michael Cærularius, Patriarch of Constantinople. In this letter Pope Leo IX cited the Donation to show that the Holy See possessed both an earthly and a heavenly imperium, the royal priesthood. However, according the Church Council of Nicaea 325 the Bishop of Rome didn't have that type of power. He was just one among equals not a superior. Much of what we have thought we learned about how the Bible came about was based on misconception. (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Now, since the background of the early church and some of its parts is more fully understood. Let us turn our attention to the history of the Bible as a book. This history begins shortly after the Council of Nicaea and probably would never have come into existence with the Council of Nicaea. The Church had grown so large and over such a large area that in 331 C.E. the Emperor Constantine asked Eusebius of Caesarea to make 50 bibles for the use of the Bishop of Constantinople in the growing number of Orthodox churches. This was documented by Eusebius himself in his book Life of Constantine. Then in 367 C.E. Athanasius of Alexandria made his list of canonical books in his Thirty-Ninth Festal Epistle of A.D. 367. He was the most prominent theologian of the fourth century, and he served as bishop of Alexandria.
The Bible history as a book begins shortly after the Council of Nicaea. The Church had grown so large and over such a large area that in 331 C.E. the Emperor Constantine asked Eusebius of Caesarea to make 50 bibles for the use of the Bishop of Constantinople in the growing number of Orthodox churches. This was documented by Eusebius himself in his book Life of Constantine. Then in 367 C.E. Athanasius of Alexandria made his list of canonical books in his Thirty-Ninth Festal Epistle of A.D. 367. He was the most prominent theologian of the fourth century, and he served as bishop of Alexandria.
Thirty-Ninth Festal Epistle of A.D. 367 Source (Bible Research)
But since we have made mention of heretics as dead, but of ourselves as possessing the Divine Scriptures for salvation; and since I fear lest, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, some few of the simple should be beguiled from their simplicity and purity, by the subtlety of certain men, and should henceforth read other books—those called apocryphal—led astray by the similarity of their names with the true books; I beseech you to bear patiently, if I also write, by way of remembrance, of matters with which you are acquainted, influenced by the need and advantage of the Church.
- In proceeding to make mention of these things, I shall adopt, to commend my undertaking, the pattern of Luke the evangelist, saying on my own account, Forasmuch as some have taken in hand to reduce into order for themselves the books termed Apocryphal, and to mix them up with the divinely inspired Scripture, concerning which we have been fully persuaded, as they who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word, delivered to the Fathers; it seemed good to me also, having been urged thereto by true brethren, and having learned from the beginning, to set before you the books included in the Canon, and handed down, and accredited as divine; to the end that anyone who has fallen into error may condemn those who have led them astray; and that he who has continued steadfast in purity may again rejoice, having these things brought to his remembrance.
- There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and names being as follows. The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next Leviticus, after that Numbers, and then Deuteronomy. Following these there is Joshua the son of Nun, then Judges, then Ruth. And again, after these four books of Kings, the first and second 1 being reckoned as one book, and so likewise the third and fourth 2 as one book. And again, the first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as one book. Again Ezra, the first and second 3 are similarly one book. After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs, next Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Job follows, then the Prophets, the Twelve [Minor Prophets] being reckoned as one book. Then Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations and the Epistle, one book; afterwards Ezekiel and Daniel, each one book. Thus far constitutes the Old Testament.
- Again, it is not tedious to speak of the books of the New Testament. These are: the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. After these, The Acts of the Apostles, and the seven epistles called Catholic: of James, one; of Peter, two, of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, written in this order: the first, to the Romans; then, two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians, then, to the Philippians; then, to the Colossians; after these, two of the Thessalonians; and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John.
- These are the fountains of salvation that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone the teaching of godliness is proclaimed. Let no one add to these; let nothing be taken away from them. For concerning these, the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures. And he reproved the Jews, saying, Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of me.
- But for the sake of greater exactness I add this also, writing under obligation, as it were. There are other books besides these, indeed not received as canonical but having been appointed by our fathers to be read to those just approaching and wishing to be instructed in the word of godliness: Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being merely read; nor is there any place a mention of secret writings. But such are the invention of heretics, who indeed write them whenever they wish, bestowing upon them their approval, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as if they were ancient writings, they find a means by which to lead astray the simple-minded.
It is very interesting to note several important things here. This was a letter written by one person, the author was at that time of writing the letter the Bishop of Alexandra. Although he had been a Bishop for almost 40 years when he wrote this, it is still his opinion and not official Church doctrine that goes to Athanasius and uses him as an expert source. He ends his Epistle with the statement, “Let no man add to these Canonical Books, or take anything from them.”
This was an appeal not to add to or take away from the concept of what should be. However, by simplifying this statement to its own devices we see that the mere mention of the statement actually adds and therefore he takes out his own logic. The Protestants try to argue a bad logical fallacy here. They appeal to history but they only used some historical facts. A fact that is based upon the premise that Bishop Athanasius should know what he is talking about because he was a Bishop of his Church and recognized as a Saint in both the East and the West. This is odd- the same people totally reject the Churches represented here but uphold the concept that they selected a very learned man to make decisions. If the Church was right in selecting him Bishop, then they are right about the Bible as well. This would knock out the logic expressed by the Protestants They can't be right in one thing and wrong in the other. Another thing that is neglected to be mentioned is the fact that a Bishop is the Bishop when he is speaking for the Church but when not speaking for the Church, he is just a regular person subject to problems of a regular person. By upholding Bishop Athanasius' selection as a great thing on the part of the Church, the Protestant who are arguing that the Bishop is going against the Church are not realizing that are only proving the point of the success of the Church.
By arguing the fact that you shouldn't add to his Epistle, Protestants exclaim that Athanasius words represents the judgment of the Church Catholic in the fourth century on the question, What Books are to be received as Canonical, i.e. as Divinely-inspired Scripture? And it justifies the course taken by the Church of England in this fundamental matter, in opposition to the Church of Rome, which in the fourth Session of the Council of Trent, on the 8th of April, 1546, affirmed that such books as Judith, Tobit, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Maccabees I and II are to be received as Canonical. Thus some Protestants claim that the Church of Rome does what Athanasius forbade, when he said, “Let no man add to these Canonical Books, or take anything from them.”
Maybe Athanasius was exactly right when he said let no man. Note that he was referring to a single person. The Church has judged what was or should be in the Bible since Ptolemy II when he called on the 70 Scholars to translate the Holy Scriptures down to conferences of the Church today. One thing to note here is to realize that the Bible is a product of the Church not the other way around. The Church existed before the Bible and Jesus existed before the Church. We are almost getting into an Arius controversy if you think that Jesus did not exist before the Church. Without Jesus we would have no Church and without the Church we would have no Bible. God throughout the Old and New Testament has worked through his Church and people.