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Archive for the ‘Creeds & Confessions’ Category

About the Creed:  This creed is of uncertain origin. It was supposedly prepared in the time of Athanasius, the great theologian of the fourth century, but many scholars have theorized that it seems more likely that it dates from the fifth or sixth centuries because of its Western character. It communicates two essential points of Bible teaching: that God’s Son and the Holy Spirit are of one being with the Father; and that Jesus Christ is true God and true man in one person. Traditionally it is considered the “Trinitarian Creed.” In many congregations it is read aloud in corporate worship on Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after Pentecost.

Athanasian Creed

Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith.

Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.

Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.

For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.

But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.

What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit.

Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit.

The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite.

Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit: And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal; as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited.

Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit: And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty.

Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God: And yet there are not three gods, but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord: And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord.

As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten; the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father; the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.

And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons.

Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity.

It is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe that our Lord Jesus Christ became flesh.

For this is the true faith that we believe and confess: That our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and man.

He is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father, and he is man, born in the world from the being of his mother — existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body; equal to the Father in divinity, subordinate to the Father in humanity.

Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ.

He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity.

He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures.

For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man.

He suffered death for our salvation. He descended into hell and rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

At his coming all people shall rise bodily to give an account of their own deeds.

Those who have done good will enter eternal life, those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith.

One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.

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The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

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The Nicene Creed (Latin: Symbolum Nicaenum) is the creed or profession of faith (Greek: Σύμβολον τῆς Πίστεως*) that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene (pronounced /ˈnaɪsiːn/) because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in 325. The Nicene Creed has been normative to the Anglican and Roman Catholic Eucharistic rite as well as Eastern and Oriental Orthodox liturgies.

The purpose of a creed is to act as a yardstick of correct belief. The creeds of Christianity have been drawn up at times of conflict about doctrine: acceptance or rejection of a creed served to distinguish believers and deniers of a particular doctrine or set of doctrines. For that reason a creed was called in Greek a σύμβολον**, a word that meant half of a broken object which, when placed together with the other half, verified the bearer’s identity. The Greek word passed through Latin “symbolum” into English “symbol”, which only later took on the meaning of an outward sign of something. The Nicene Creed was adopted in the face of the Arian controversy. Arius, a Libyan preacher, had declared that although Jesus Christ was divine, God had actually created him, and there was a time when he was not. This made Jesus less than the Father and contradicted the doctrine of the Trinity.  Arius’s teaching provoked a serious crisis.

The Nicene Creed of 325 explicitly affirms the divinity of Jesus, applying to him the term “God”. The 381 version speaks of the Holy Spirit as worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son. The Athanasian Creed describes in much greater detail the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Apostles’ Creed, not formulated in reaction to Arianism, makes no explicit statements about the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit, but, in the view of many who use it, the doctrine is implicit in it.

 

*sumbolon tes pisteous 

** sumbolon: symbol; identifying token

 

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For hundreds of years Christians believed that the twelve apostles were the authors of the widely known creed that bears their name. According to an ancient theory, the twelve composed the creed with each apostle adding a clause to form the whole. Today practically all scholars understand this theory of apostolic composition to be legendary. Nevertheless, many continue to think of the creed as apostolic in nature because its basic teachings are agreeable to the theological formulations of the apostolic age.

The full form in which the creed now appears stems from about 700 AD. However, segments of it are found in Christian writings dating as early as the second century. The most important predecessor of the Apostles’ Creed was the Old Roman Creed, which was probably developed during the second half of the second century.

The additions to the Apostles’ Creed are clearly seen when its present form is compared to the Old Roman version: 

I believe in God the Father Almighty. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary; crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father, from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit; the holy Church; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the flesh.

Still earlier fragments of creeds have been discovered which declare simply:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord. And in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church, the resurrection of the flesh.”

The Apostles’ Creed functioned in many ways in the life of the church. For one thing, it was associated with entrance into the fellowship as a confession of faith for those to be baptized. In addition, catechetical instruction was often based on the major tenets of the creed. In time, a third use developed when the creed became a “rule of faith” to give continuity to Christian teachings from place to place and to clearly separate the true faith from heretical deviations. Indeed, it may well have been that the main factor involved in adding clauses to the Old Roman Creed to develop the Apostles’ Creed was its usefulness in these varied ways in the life of the church. By the sixth or seventh century the creed had come to be accepted as a part of the official liturgy of the Western church. Likewise, it was used by devout individuals along with the Lord’s Prayer as a part of their morning and evening devotions. The churches of the Reformation gladly gave their allegiance to the creed and added it to their doctrinal collections and used it in their worship.

The Trinitarian nature of the Apostles’ Creed is immediately evident. Belief in “God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” is affirmed first. But the heart of the creed is the confession concerning “Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,” with special attention given to the events surrounding his conception, birth, suffering, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and coming judgment. The third section declares belief in the Holy Spirit. To this Trinitarian confession are added clauses related to the holy catholic church, communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

The polemical nature of the Apostles’ Creed is likewise evident. Emphasizing the unity of God’s fatherhood and sovereignty disputed Marcion’s rejection of the same. The affirmation of the reality of Christ’s humanity and historicity denied the contention of Marcionite and docetic heretics that he was not a fully human person who could be born, suffer, and die. His conception by the Holy Spirit and birth of the Virgin Mary as well as his exaltation after resurrection affirmed Jesus’ deity over against those who denied it. Other clauses may well have been added to deal with particular crises faced by the church. For example, the confession regarding forgiveness of sins may have related to the problem of postbaptismal sins in the third century. Likewise, affirming the holy catholic church may have dealt with the Donatist schism.

The Apostles’ Creed continues to be used today much as it was in the past: as a baptismal confession; as a teaching outline; as a guard and guide against heresy; as a summarization of the faith; as an affirmation in worship. It has maintained in modern times its distinction as the most widely accepted and used creed among Christians.

 

Apostles’ Creed – “The Old Roman Creed”

I BELIEVE in God almighty [the Father almighty—(Rufinus)] And in Christ Jesus, his only Son, our Lord Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried And the third day rose from the dead Who ascended into heaven And sitteth on the right hand of the Father Whence he cometh to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit The holy church The remission of sins The resurrection of the flesh The life everlasting. [Rufinus omits this line.]

 

The Apostles’ Creed (sixth-century Gallican version)

I BELIEVE in God the Father almighty, I also believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead and buried; he descended into hell, rose again the third day, ascended into heaven, sat down at the right hand of the Father, thence he is to come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the flesh and life eternal.

 

Sources:  O G Oliver, Jr. (Elwell Evangelical Dictionary) Bibliography J N D Kelly, Early Christian Creeds; W Barclay, The Apostles’ Creed for Everyman; S Barr, From the Apostles’ Faith to the Apostles’ Creed; P Fuhrmann, The Great Creeds of the Church; W Pannenberg, The Apostles’ Creed in the Light of Today’s Questions; J Smart, The Creed in Christian Teaching; H B Swete, The Apostles’ Creed; H Thielicke, I Believe: The Christian’s Creed; B F Westcott, The Historic Faith.

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