Monday, January 3, 2011

There is Absolutely No Question the '318 Bishops' Said to Have Attended the Council of Nicaea Was Developed from a Mystical Interest in Name 'Eliezer'

We have been discussing the idea that the 'Lazarus' who rests in the bosom of Abraham must have been the Eliezer of Genesis 14.4.  The early interest in Eliezer's name having a value of 318 in writers like the author of the Epistle of Barnabas and Clement of Alexandria is one thing, but the 'mystical' identification of there being exactly 318 bishops at Nicaea is another.  There certainly weren't 318 bishops at the council which established Christian orthodoxy.  Voltaire notes that their number can clearly be demonstrated to have augmented over time and ultimately settled at 318.  The reason for this choice of number was certainly related to the kabbalistic interest in the person of Eliezer, the slave of Abraham.  On the number of attendees, Voltaire writes:

Eusebius reckons only two hundred and fifty; Eustatius of Antioch, cited by Theodoret, two hundred and seventy ; St. Athanasius, in his epistle to the Solitaries, three hundred, like Constantine; while, in his letter to the Africans he speaks of three hundred and eighteen.  Yet these four authors were eyewitnesses, and worthy of great faith. This number 318, which pope St. Leo calls 'mysterious' has been adopted by most of the fathers of the church. St. Ambrose assures us that the number of three hundred and eighteen bishops was a proof of the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in his council of Nicea; because the cross designates three hundred, and the name of Jesus eighteen.  St. Hilary, in his defence of the word consubstantial, approved in the council of Nice though condemned fifty-five years before in the council of Antioch, reasons thus: — "Eighty bishops rejected the word consubstantial, but three hundred and eighteen have received it.  Now this latter number seems to me a sacred number; for it is that of the men who accompanied Abraham, when, after his victory over the impious kings, he was blessed by him who is the type of the eternal priesthood." [Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, Section on 'Councils']

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