An Overview of the Seven Ścumenical Councils
of the Eastern Orthodox Church

(based on an information chart by Johann Sprenger, a student at St. Tikhon's Theological Seminary,
South Canaan, Pennsylvania; revised and expanded by Nikita Simmons, 2008)

(Apostolic Canons – 85 canons)

1) Nicea I

Year (convened): 325 A.D.
Key Figures Involved:
Ruler (convoked):
Emperor Constantine the Great
Protagonists: Alexander of Alexandria; Eusebius of Nicomedia; Hosius; Athanasius
Antagonists: Arius
Number of Canons (promulgated): 20

Major Decisions:
1) Declared the Son of one essence (homoousios) with the Father.
2) Condemned Arianism (the Son of God is a created being, less than fully Divine).
3) Drafted the original form of the Nicene Creed.

2) Constantinople I

Year: 381 A.D.
Key Figures Involved:
Ruler:
Emperor Theodosius the Great
Protagonists: Meletius; Gregory the Theologian; Gregory of Nyssa; writings of St. Basil the Great "On the Holy Spirit"
Antagonists: X
Number of Canons: 7

Major Decisions:
1) Confirmed canons of Nicene Council, thus condemning Semi-Arianism (Christ is homoiousios with the Father).
2) Condemned Macedonianism (Pneumatomachianism: the Holy Spirit is a created being, less than fully Divine).
3) Affirmed the deity of the Holy Spirit.
4) Condemned Apollinarianism (Christ had a human body and soul, but His mind was that of the Logos).
5) Added a paragraph regarding the Holy Spirit to the Nicene Creed.

3) Ephesus

Year: 431 A.D.
Key Figures Involved:
Ruler:
Emperor Theodosius II
Protagonists: Cyril; Nestorius
Antagonists: X
Number of Canons: 8

Major Decisions:
1) Condemned Nestorianism (Christ had both a human and divine hypostasis).
2) Affirmed Alexandrian Christology (there is One Divine hypostasis, the Logos).
3) Condemned Pelagianism (the denial of the original sin of Adam).
4) Affirmed the term "Theotokos" (God-bearer, or Mother of God) for the Virgin Mary.

4) Chalcedon

Year: 451 A.D.
Key Figures Involved:
Ruler:
Emperor Marcian (and Empress Pulcheria)
Protagonists: Leo I's "Tome"; Dioscoros; Eutyches
Antagonists: X
Number of Canons: 30

Major Decisions:
1) Condemned Eutychianism (Christ's humanity is different from ours).
2) Affirmed Christ as homoousios with the Father acvcording to His divinity, and homoousios with man according to our humanity.
3) Affirmed Christ's two natures unmixed, unchanged, undivided and inseparable.

5) Constantinople II

Year: 553 A.D.
Key Figures Involved:
Ruler:
Emperor Justinian (and Empress Theodora)
Protagonists: Justinian; Pope Vigilius; Eutychius
Antagonists: X
Number of Canons: none

Major Decisions:
1) Convened in hope of reconciling the Monophysites (Monophysitism is the teaching that Christ's divinity was so strong that it obliterated His humanity).
2) Condemned the "Three Chapters" (Theodore of Mopsuestia - in person and writings, Theodore of Cyrus and Ibas of Edessa - his writings against the decisions of the Council of Ephesus) to gain the support of the Monophysites.
3) Condemned Origen and Origenism (the extreme use of allegory to interpret literal statements in Scripture).
4) Affirmed the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon along Cyrillian lines (One of the Trinity suffered and died).

6) Constantinople III

Year: 680-681 A.D.
Key Figures Involved:
Ruler:
Emperor Constantine IV
Protagonists: Pope Agatho; writings of St. Maximos the Confessor
Antagonists: X
Number of Canons: 102

Major Decisions:
1) Condemned Monothelitism (Christ has two natures, but only one Divine Will).
2) Affirmed that Christ has both a divine and human will.
3) Condemned Pope Honorius and four Patriarchs of Constantinople beginning with Sergios who accepted Monothelitism.

7) Nicea II

Year: 787 A.D.
Key Figures Involved:
Ruler:
Empress Irene (regent for Constantine VI)
Protagonists: writings of St. John of Damascus
Antagonists: X
Number of Canons: 22

Major Decisions:
1) Condemned Iconoclasm (but also condemned worship of images as idolatry)
2) Affirmed veneration (proskynesis) of holy images, while affirming that absolute adoration (latreia) is due to God alone. Icons of Christ affirm the truth of His Incarnation.