Bethlehem, Council of

Bethlehem, Council of held at Bethlehem in March, 1672, but commonly named the Council of Jerusalem. It seems to have been brought about by French influence, with the aim of procuring from the Greeks a confession of the doctrine of transubstantiation (Covel, Greek Church, p. 146). Dionysius, patriarch of Constantinople, at the suggestion of Dositheus, patriarch of Jerusalem, in January, 1672, prepared an encyclical letter, which was sent round to the various prelates for the approval of those who should be unable to attend the council. It asserts, in the first place, the seven sacraments, and declares an unequivocal belief that the living body of our Lord Jesus Christ is invisibly present with a real presence in the blessed Eucharist, and that the bread is really, and truly, and properly changed into the very body of our Savior Christ, and that it, the holy Eucharist, is offered up as a sacrifice for all Christians, both quick and dead. It then asserts the doctrine of baptism; denies the doctrine of final perseverance, maintains the necessity of episcopacy to a church, the superiority of virginity to matrimony, the infallibility of the Catholic Church, the invocation of saints, the use of images, and the necessity of fasting. This letter received the signatures of forty-six metropolitans and bishops, including that of Dionysius. In March the council assembled at Bethlehem, Dositheus of Jerusalem presiding. The first act of the council was an ineffectual attempt to exculpate Cyril Lucar from the charge of Calvinism brought against him, and to deny the authenticity of the confession attributed to him. They then proceed to declare that the confession, whoever was its author, was never that of the Greek Church, and they repeat and authenticate the synods of Constantinople and Jassy, concluding with a confession of faith founded on that of Peter Mogilas, though in many respects differing from it. Its contents are:

Art. 1. On the Trinity and the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father alone.

2. On the authority of the Church to interpret Holy Scriptures.

3. Against the doctrine of irrespective predestination.

4. Against those who call God the author of evil.

5. On the same; and on Divine Providence in turning evil into good.

6. On original sin.

7. On the incarnation and passion.

8. That there is but one Mediator, Jesus Christ; nevertheless, that the Church may and ought to have recourse to the intercession of the blessed Virgin and other saints.

9. That faith working by love, i.e. by the fulfillment of the commandments, justifies.

10. That there is a visible Catholic Church; that episcopacy is essential to it, and that it is an order entirely distinct from the priesthood.

11. Of members of the church living in sin.

12. Of the teaching of the Holy Ghost by the fathers and by the ecumenical Church.

13. Of good works.

14. Of free will.

15. That there are seven sacraments.

16. Of the necessity of regeneration in baptism.

17. Of the Holy Eucharist; asserts the doctrine of transubstantiation, and condemns consubstantiation.

18. Clearly admits the Latin doctrine of purgatory. As to the canon of Scripture, the council admitted the title of the apocryphal books to be considered as canonical. It assented to the doctrine of the second Council of Nicaea with regard to images. The acts are signed by Dositheus, the patriarch of Jerusalem, Nectarius, the ex-patriarch, seven other prelates, and the proxy of one absent; also by sixty-one other ecclesiastics; ten signed in Arabic, the rest in Greek; the date is March 20, 1672. — Neale, History of the Oriental Church; Landon, Manual of Councils, p. 8G sq.; Palmer, Dissertations on the Orthodox Communion (Lond. 1853); Christian Remembrancer, July, 1853, p. 90.

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