The Nicene Creed (Greek: Σύμβολον τῆς Νικαίας or, τῆς πίστεως, Latin: Symbolum Nicaenum) is a statement of belief widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene /ˈnaɪsiːn/ because it was originally adopted in the city of Nicaea (present day İznik, Turkey) by the First Council of Nicaea in 325.

 

The main significance of the Nicene Creed was that it established much of what is now known as orthodox Christian teaching on the subject of God and the Trinity. It remains the only statement of faith that is accepted by all major parts of the Christian faith.

 

Aside from stating many standard Christian beliefs, the Nicene creed tries to discourage the belief that Jesus was made by God the Father sometime after Creation and is subordinate to God. 

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"Christianity is a creedal religion. You cannot separate Christianity from its ancient creeds. In fact, every true Christian adheres to the ancient creeds of the church, whether he knows it or not . . . . Creeds are concise doctrinal summaries of the doctrines of Scripture, and are subordinate to Scripture as our only infallible rule for faith and life . . . . If we are true Christians who have put our trust in the Christ of the Bible, it is impossible for us not to affirm the church's ancient creedal statements on the Bible's teaching. What's more, we are living in a day when we must not only affirm them but defend them against the onslaught of heretical teachings about the person and work of Jesus Christ."

 

-- Dr. Burk Parsons, Chief Publishing Officer of Ligonier Ministries, and Senior Pastor of Saint Andrews Chapel (Table Talk magazine)

 

"In one of the quirks of church history, the "Nicene Creed" used in church hymnals and liturgies is a different creed from the one accepted at Nicaea. In 381, the Council of Constantinople affirmed the Nicene Creed and condemned heresies that had since arisen against Nicaea. But from later records (preserved at the Council of Chalcedon, 70 years later) we know that another creed was also used, now known as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. This creed is more strictly Trinitarian than the Nicene, describing each member of the Trinity in relation to the other members. The creed of 325 says less about the Father and only mentions the Holy Spirit with no description at all, since the council's attention was fixed on how the Son is no less divine than the Father."

 

-- Dr. D.H. Williams, Professor of Religion in Patristics and Historical Theology, Baylor University. (Christian History magazine, Winter 2005 issue)

 

 

ORIGINAL NICENE CREED (AD 325)

 

We believe in one God, the Father, almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible;

 

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God, begotten from the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the substance of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance from the Father, through Whom all things came into being, things in heaven and things on earth, who because of us men and because of our salvation came down and became incarnate, becoming man, suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended to the heavens, will come to judge the living and the dead.

 

And in the Holy Spirit.

 

But as for those who say, there was when he was not, and, before being born he was not, and he came into existence out of nothing, or who assert that the son of God is a different hypostasis or substance, or is subject to change or alteration--these the Catholic* and Apostolic Church anathematizes.

 

 

The Nicene Creed was revised in the year 381 and is the traditional statement of Christian faith and is affirmed today by Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic churches. The Western version is shown below. The Eastern version doesn't include the phrases in brackets. 

 

 

 

Greek

 

Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα Θεὸν Πατέρα παντοκράτορα
ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων·
καὶ εἰς ἕνα Κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν
τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸν Μονογενῆ,
τὸν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς γεννηθέντα πρὸ πάντων τῶν αἰώνων,
Φῶς ἐκ Φωτός,
Θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ,
γεννηθέντα οὐ ποιηθέντα,
ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί,
δι' οὗ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο·
τὸν δι' ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθόντα ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν,
καὶ σαρκωθέντα ἐκ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου,
καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα,
σταυρωθέντα τε ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου,
καὶ παθόντα, καὶ ταφέντα,
καὶ ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς,
καὶ ἀνελθόντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς,
καὶ καθεζόμενον ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ Πατρὸς,
καὶ πάλιν ἐρχόμενον μετὰ δόξης κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς,
οὗ τῆς βασιλείας οὐκ ἔσται τέλος·
καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, τὸ Κύριον καὶ Ζωοποιόν,
τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον,
τὸ σὺν Πατρὶ καὶ Υἱῷ συμπροσκυνούμενον καὶ συνδοξαζόμενον,
τὸ λαλῆσαν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν·
εἰς μίαν ἁγίαν καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν·
ὁμολογοῦμεν ἓν βάπτισμα εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν·
προσδοκῶμεν ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν,
καὶ ζωὴν τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος. ἀμήν.

English

 

 

We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only begotten Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages, 
light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten not made,
of one substance with the Father,
through Whom all things came into existence,
Who because of us men and because of our salvation came down from the heavens,
and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became man,
and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate,
and suffered and was buried,
and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures
and ascended to heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father,
and will come again with glory to judge living and dead,
of Whose kingdom there will be no end;
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and life-giver,
Who proceeds from the Father,
Who with the Father and the Son is together worshipped and together glorified,
Who spoke through the prophets;
in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We confess one baptism to the remission of sins;
we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen

Latin

 

Credimus in unum Deum,
Patrem omnipotentem,
factorem coeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium,
et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum,
Filium Dei unicum,
de Patre natum ante omnia saecula;
Deum verum de Deo vero;
natum, non factum;
ejusdemque substantiae qua Pater est;
per quem omnia facta sunt;
qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit,
incarnatus est de Spiritu sancto, in Maria virgine homo factus,
crucifixus pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato, sepultus,
resurrexit tertia die,
ascendit ad coelos,
sedet ad dexteram Patris;
inde venturus est cum gloria judicare vivos ac mortuos,
cujus regni non erit finis.
Et in Spiritum sanctum, Dominum ac vivificatorem
a Patre procedentem,
qui cum Patre et Filio adoratur et glorificatur,
qui locutus est per Prophetas;
in unam catholicam atque apostolicam Ecclesiam.
Confitemur unum baptismum in remissionem peccatorum;
speramus resurrectionem mortuorum,
vitam futuri saeculi. Amen.

 

 

Excerpt of Article by Dr. Justin S. Holcomb, of Reformed Theological Seminary

 

Because it is recited in many churches every Sunday, the Nicene Creed is familiar to many Christians.

Like the Apostles’ Creed, it encapsulates the entire good news of the gospel into a short and rich summary. It describes the triune God, who turns toward humanity in the person of Jesus, the God-man who suffered, died, rose again, and ascended. Additionally, the creed goes on to express our future hope, the purpose of living the Christian life.

However, it is the Nicene Creed, not the Apostles’ Creed, that describes the minimum of Christian belief.

By sad experience, the leaders of the church found that there were areas in the “rule of faith” that left too much open to personal interpretation. The fact that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are just as much God as the Father is a nonnegotiable part of Christianity. 

 

It is not that Christians are expected to have a perfectly precise Trinitarian theology to be considered orthodox, but since questions about the relationship between Jesus and God the Father are inevitable, they needed to be answered well.

 

The Nicene Creed encapsulates what Scripture says about that relationship and acknowledges the mystery of it. If Christianity had agreed with Arius that Jesus could be a lesser god—if it had failed to defend monotheism, if it had fallen into the trench of professing three unrelated deities—it may have dissolved into the religion of Rome and its pantheons of false gods.

If the early Christians had lost their nerve and conceded the “lesser divinity” of Jesus, whatever that might mean, then the work of God in Christ for our salvation would have been rendered meaningless. No mere man, nor half god, could possibly intervene to save fallen and sinful humanity, let alone restore all of creation. Only the Creator can enter creation to fix its brokenness and redeem its original, latent purpose.

Athanasius explored this truth in On the Incarnation, defending the claim that the Father and the Son share one common substance (homoousios). Only the Creator can recreate. Only the Maker can remake. Only God can save us from our sins. 

 

Because the Father and the Son are one substance, we can also be assured that we actually know God in Jesus Christ. After all, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb. 1:3), and so when we look on Jesus, we look on God. Without confidence that Jesus is God, united in substance with the Father, we could not be sure that Jesus can speak for God, forgive sins for God, declare righteousness for God, or do anything to make us children of the Father.

 

 

The Apostles' Creed

The origin of the Apostles' Creed is less clear than that of the Nicene Creed. The most common view is that it was originally developed in the first or second century and was influenced later by the Nicene Creed. The earliest historical evidence of the creed's existence is in a letter written by the Council of Milan in 390 A.D.

Almost every denomination has a slightly different version of the Apostles' Creed. Below is the ecumenical version of the English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC).

Apostles' Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.


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