By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
Acts makes a deacon named Nicholas into a saint, and Revelation condemns a group—the Nicholaitans—that Nicholas supposedly founded. St. Nicholas vs. the Book of Revelation—both canonized. Couldn't have Jesus hating the priests of the Roman church, so . . . rebranding time.
In the 8th century, they invented a hagiography about a fictional, gift-bearing 4th-century Bishop of Myra (a town a few miles down the coast from the Nicholaitan hotbed Ephesus) named "Nicholas," and they had him do many good things . . . as well as some bad. To lose the Nicholaitan baggage, they dropped this Bishop St. Nick into the First Council of Nicaea convened in 325 A.D. by the Roman Emperor Constantine I, who was putting the finishing touches on his Roman church. His Nicholaitan priesthood securely in place, he now needed his God.
The hagiographers have Nicholas becoming best buds with the emperor, and then assaulting Arius, the North African bishop who almost singlehandedly derailed Constantine's plans for his church by arguing that Jesus could not possibly be God the Father's co-equal because Jesus had been born and thus exists in time and so is not eternal (like You-Know-Who). For this, Arius got his bitch-slapping from Nicholas. The bishops took a vote and elected Jesus, born on Dec. 25, to a seat in heaven, with Constantine's new Roman church at his side. Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the Roman empire's official state religion, and just a year before the emperor's death, Western Christians celebrated the first Christmas on Dec. 25, 336 A.D.
Result: Roman church open for business. Nicholas, safely de-Nicholaitanized, plays with children as Santa Claus. Priest and pitchman glare at each other across the divide. . . . It's old, this Christmas War story.