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|Author(s)||First Council of Nicaea|
The Nicene Creed (Greek: Σύμβολον τῆς Νίκαιας, Latin: Symbolum Nicaenum) is the profession of faith or creed that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It forms the mainstream definition of Christianity for most Christians.
It is called Nicene // because, in its original form (not the form used today), it was adopted in the city of Nicaea (present day Iznik in Turkey) by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.
The Nicene Creed has been normative for the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Church of the East, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Anglican Communion, and Protestant denominations. It forms the mainstream definition of Christianity itself in Nicene Christianity.
The Apostles' Creed (in its present form later than either form of the Nicene Creed, but in its original form earlier than them) is also broadly accepted in the West, but is not used in the Eastern liturgy. One or other of these two creeds is recited in the Roman Rite Mass directly after the homily on all Sundays and solemnities (Tridentine feasts of the first class). In the Roman Catholic Church, the Nicene Creed is part of the profession of faith required of those undertaking important functions within the Church.
In the Byzantine Rite the Nicene Creed is always sung or recited at the Divine Liturgy immediately preceding the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer) and is also recited daily at compline, as well as at sundry other services.
For English translations of the Nicene Creed in current use, see English versions of the Nicene Creed.
There are several designations for the two forms of the Nicene creed, some with overlapping meanings:
The purpose of a creed is to be a doctrinal statement of correct belief, or orthodoxy. 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 (Eng. symbolon), 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 presbyter in Alexandria, had declared that although the Son was divine, he was a created being and therefore not co-essential with the Father, and "there was when he was not," This made Jesus less than the Father, which posed soteriological challenges for the nascent doctrine of the Trinity. Arius's teaching provoked a serious crisis.
The Nicene Creed of 325 explicitly affirms the co-essential divinity of the Son, applying to him the term "consubstantial". 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 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.
|Author(s)||First Council of Nicaea|
The original Nicene Creed was first adopted in 325 at the First Council of Nicaea. At that time, the text ended after the words "We believe in the Holy Spirit", after which an anathema was added. (For other differences, see Comparison between Creed of 325 and Creed of 381, below.)
The Coptic Church has the tradition that the original creed was authored by Pope Athanasius I of Alexandria. F.J.A. Hort and Adolf Harnack argued that the Nicene creed was the local creed of Caesarea (an important center of Early Christianity) brought to the council by Eusebius of Caesarea. J.N.D. Kelly sees as its basis a baptismal creed of the Syro-Phoenician family, related to (but not dependent on) the creed cited by Cyril of Jerusalem and to the creed of Eusebius.
Soon after the Council of Nicaea, new formulae of faith were composed, most of them variations of the Nicene Symbol, to counter new phases of Arianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia identifies at least four before the Council of Sardica (341), where a new form was presented and inserted in the Acts of the Council, though it was not agreed on.
|The Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed|
|Author(s)||First Council of Constantinople|
What is known as the "Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed" or the "Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed" received this name because of a belief that it was adopted at the Second Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople in 381 as a modification of the original Nicene Creed of 325. In that light, it also came to be very commonly known simply as the "Nicene Creed". It is the only authoritative ecumenical statement of the Christian faith accepted by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, and major Protestant denominations. (The Apostles' and Athanasian creeds are not as widely accepted.)
It differs in a number of respects, both by addition and omission, from the creed adopted at the First Council of Nicaea. The most notable difference is the additional section "And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver-of-Life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. And [we believe] in one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, [and] we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen."
Since the end of the 19th century, scholars have questioned the traditional explanation of the origin of this creed, which has been passed down in the name of the council, whose official acts have been lost over time. A local council of Constantinople in 382 and the third ecumenical council (Ephesus, 431) made no mention of it, with the latter affirming the 325 creed of Nicaea as a valid statement of the faith and using it to denounce Nestorianism. Though some scholarship claims that hints of the later creed's existence are discernible in some writings, no extant document gives its text or makes explicit mention of it earlier than the fourth ecumenical council at Chalcedon in 451. Many of the bishops of the 451 council themselves had never heard of it and initially greeted it skeptically, but it was then produced from the episcopal archives of Constantinople, and the council accepted it "not as supplying any omission but as an authentic interpretation of the faith of Nicaea". In spite of the questions raised, it is considered most likely that this creed was in fact adopted at the 381 second ecumenical council.
On the basis of evidence both internal and external to the text, it has been argued that this creed originated not as an editing of the original Creed proposed at Nicaea in 325, but as an independent creed (probably an older baptismal creed) modified to make it more like the Nicene Creed. Some scholars have argued that the creed may have been presented at Chalcedon as "a precedent for drawing up new creeds and definitions to supplement the Creed of Nicaea, as a way of getting round the ban on new creeds in Canon 7 of Ephesus". It is generally agreed that the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed is not simply an expansion of the Creed of Nicaea, and was probably based on another traditional creed independent of the one from Nicaea.
The third Ecumenical Council (Council of Ephesus of 431) reaffirmed the original 325 version of the Nicene Creed and declared that "it is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different (ἑτέραν – more accurately translated as used by the Council to mean “different,” “contradictory,” and not “another”) faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicaea" (i.e. the 325 creed) This statement has been interpreted as a prohibition against changing this creed or composing others, but not all accept this interpretation. This question is connected with the controversy whether a creed proclaimed by an Ecumenical Council is definitive in excluding not only excisions from its text but also additions to it.
In one respect, the Eastern Orthodox Church's received text of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed differs from the earliest text, which is included in the acts of the Council of Chalcedon of 451: The Eastern Orthodox Church uses the singular forms of verbs such as "I believe", in place of the plural form ("we believe") used by the council. Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic Churches use exactly the same form of the Creed, since the Catholic Church teaches that it is wrong to add "and the Son" to the Greek verb "ἐκπορευόμενον", though correct to add it to the Latin "qui procedit", which does not have precisely the same meaning. The form generally used in Western churches does add "and the Son" and also the phrase "God from God", which is found in the original 325 Creed.
The following table, which indicates by [square brackets] the portions of the 325 text that were omitted or moved in 381, and uses italics to indicate what phrases, absent in the 325 text, were added in 381, juxtaposes the earlier (325 AD) and later (381 AD) forms of this Creed in the English translation given in Schaff's work, Creeds of Christendom.
|First Council of Nicea (325)||First Council of Constantinople (381)|
|We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.||We 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 Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;||And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;|
|By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth];||by whom all things were made;|
|Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;||who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;|
|He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;||he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;|
|From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.||from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead;|
|whose kingdom shall have no end.|
|And in the Holy Ghost.||And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.|
|In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.|
|[But those who say: 'There was a time when he was not;' and 'He was not before he was made;' and 'He was made out of nothing,' or 'He is of another substance' or 'essence,' or 'The Son of God is created,' or 'changeable,' or 'alterable'—they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]|
The texts in Greek, as given on the Web site Symbolum Nicaeno-Constantinopolitanum – Greek, can be presented in a similar way, as follows:
|First Council of Nicaea (325)||First Council of Constantinople (381)|
|Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα θεὸν Πατέρα παντοκράτορα, πάντων ὁρατῶν τε και ἀοράτων ποιητήν.||Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα θεὸν Πατέρα παντοκράτορα, ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς, ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων.|
|Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, γεννηθέντα ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς μονογενῆ, τοὐτέστιν ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας τοῦ Πατρός, θεὸν ἐκ θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα, οὐ ποιηθέντα, ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί||Καὶ εἰς ἕνα κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, 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, τά τε ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς||δι' οὗ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο·|
|τὸν δι' ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθόντα καὶ σαρκωθέντα καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα,||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,|
|παθόντα, καὶ ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ, καὶ ἀνελθόντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανούς,|
σταυρωθέντα τε ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου, καὶ παθόντα καὶ ταφέντα, καὶ ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρα κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, καὶ ἀνελθόντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανούς, καὶ καθεζόμενον ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ Πατρός,
|καὶ ἐρχόμενον κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς.||καὶ πάλιν ἐρχόμενον μετὰ δόξης κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς·|
|οὗ τῆς βασιλείας οὐκ ἔσται τέλος.|
|Καὶ εἰς τὸ Ἅγιον Πνεῦμα.||Καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, τὸ κύριον, (καὶ) τὸ ζῳοποιόν, 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· προσδοκοῦμεν ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν, καὶ ζωὴν τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος. Ἀμήν.|
|Τοὺς δὲ λέγοντας, ὅτι ἦν ποτε ὅτε οὐκ ἦν, καὶ πρὶν γεννηθῆναι οὐκ ἦν, καὶ ὅτι ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων ἐγένετο, ἢ ἐξ ἑτέρας ὑποστάσεως ἢ οὐσίας φάσκοντας εἶναι, [ἢ κτιστόν,] τρεπτὸν ἢ ἀλλοιωτὸν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, [τούτους] ἀναθεματίζει ἡ καθολικὴ [καὶ ἀποστολικὴ] ἐκκλησία.|
In the late 6th century, some Latin-speaking churches added the words "and from the Son" (Filioque) to the description of the procession of the Holy Spirit, in what many Eastern Orthodox Christians have at a later stage argued is a violation of Canon VII of the Third Ecumenical Council, since the words were not included in the text by either the Council of Nicaea or that of Constantinople.
The Vatican stated in 1995 that, while the words καὶ τοῦ Υἱοῦ ("and the Son") would indeed be heretical if used with the Greek verb ἐκπορεύομαι — which is one of the terms used by St. Gregory Nazianzen and the one adopted by the Council of Constantinople — the word Filioque is not heretical when associated with the Latin verb procedo and the related word processio. Whereas the verb ἐκπόρευμαι (from ἐκ, "out of" and πορεύομαι "to come or go") in Gregory and other Fathers necessarily means "to originate from a cause or principle," the Latin term procedo (from pro, "forward;" and cedo, "to go") has no such connotation and simply denotes the communication of the Divine Essence or Substance. In this sense, processio is similar in meaning to the Greek term προϊέναι, used by the Fathers from Alexandria (especially Cyril of Alexandria) as well as others. Partly due to the influence of the Latin translations of the New Testament (especially of John 15:16), the term ἐκπορευόμενον (the present participle of ἐκπορεύομαι) in the creed was translated into Latin as procedentem. In time, the Latin version of the Creed came to be interpreted in the West in the light of the Western concept of processio, which required the affirmation of the Filioque to avoid the heresy of Arianism.
The view that the Nicene Creed can serve as a touchstone of true Christian faith is reflected in the name "symbol of faith", which was given to it in Greek and Latin, when in those languages the word "symbol" meant a "token for identification (by comparison with a counterpart)", and which continues in use even in languages in which "symbol" no longer has that meaning.
In the Roman Rite Mass, the Latin text of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, with "Deum de Deo" (God from God) and "Filioque" (and from the Son), phrases absent in the original text, was previously the only form used for the "profession of faith". The Roman Missal now refers to it jointly with the Apostles' Creed as "the Symbol or Profession of Faith or Creed", describing the second as "the baptismal Symbol of the Roman Church, known as the Apostles' Creed".
The liturgies of the ancient Churches of Eastern Christianity (Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, Assyrian Church of the East and the Eastern Catholic Churches), use the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, never the Western Apostles' Creed.
While in certain places where the Byzantine Rite is used, the choir or congregation sings the Creed at the Divine Liturgy, in many places the Creed is typically recited by the cantor, who in this capacity represents the whole congregation although many, and sometimes all, members of the congregation may join in rhythmic recitation. Where the latter is the practice, it is customary to invite, as a token of honor, any prominent lay member of the congregation who happens to be present, e.g., royalty, a visiting dignitary, the Mayor, etc., to recite the Creed in lieu of the cantor. This practice stems from the tradition that the prerogative to recite the Creed belonged to the Emperor, speaking for his populace.
Some evangelical and other Christians consider the Nicene Creed helpful and to a certain extent authoritative, but not infallibly so in view of their belief that only Scripture is truly authoritative. Other groups, such as the Church of the New Jerusalem, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Jehovah's Witnesses explicitly reject some of the statements in the Creed.
This section is not meant to collect the texts of all liturgical versions of the Nicene Creed, and provides only three, the Greek, the Latin, and the Armenian, of special interest. Others are mentioned separately, but without the texts. All ancient liturgical versions, even the Greek, differ at least to some small extent from the text adopted by the First Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople. The Creed was originally written in Greek, owing to the location of the two councils.
But though the councils' texts have "Πιστεύομεν ... ὁμολογοῦμεν ... προσδοκοῦμεν" (we believe ... confess ... await), the Creed that the Churches of Byzantine tradition use in their liturgy has "Πιστεύω ... ὁμολογῶ ... προσδοκῶ" (I believe ... confess ... await), accentuating the personal nature of recitation of the Creed. The Latin text, as well as using the singular, has two additions: "Deum de Deo" (God from God) and "Filioque" (and from the Son). The Armenian text has many more additions, and is included as showing how that ancient church has chosen to recite the Creed with these numerous elaborations of its contents.
An English translation of the Armenian text is added; English translations of the Greek and Latin liturgical texts are given at English versions of the Nicene Creed in current use.
The Latin text adds "Deum de Deo" and "Filioque" to the Greek. On the latter see The Filioque Controversy above. Inevitably also, the overtones of the terms used, such as "παντοκράτορα" (pantokratora) and "omnipotentem" differ ("pantokratora" meaning Ruler of all; "omnipotentem" meaning omnipotent, Almighty). The implications of this for the interpretation of "ἐκπορευόμενον" and "qui ... procedit" was the object of the study The Greek and the Latin Traditions regarding the Procession of the Holy Spirit published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 1996.
Again, the terms "ὁμοούσιον" and "consubstantialem", translated as "of one being" or "consubstantial", have different overtones, being based respectively on Greek οὐσία (stable being, immutable reality, substance, essence, true nature), and Latin substantia (that of which a thing consists, the being, essence, contents, material, substance).
"Credo", which in classical Latin is used with the accusative case of the thing held to be true (and with the dative of the person to whom credence is given), is here used three times with the preposition "in", a literal translation of the Greek "εἰς" (in unum Deum ..., in unum Dominum ..., in Spiritum Sanctum ...), and once in the classical preposition-less construction (unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam).
Հավատում ենք մեկ Աստծո` ամենակալ Հորը, երկնքի և երկրի, երևելիների և աներևույթների Արարչին: Եւ մեկ Տիրոջ` Հիսուս Քրիստոսին, Աստծո Որդուն, ծնված Հայր Աստծուց Միածին, այսինքն` Հոր էությունից: Աստված` Աստծուց, լույս` լույսից, ճշմարիտ Աստված` ճշմարիտ Աստծուց, ծնունդ և ոչ թե` արարած: Նույն ինքը` Հոր բնությունից, որի միջոցով ստեղծվեց ամեն ինչ երկնքում և երկրի վրա` երևելիներն ու անևերույթները: Որ հանուն մեզ` մարդկանց ու մեր փրկության համար` իջավ երկնքից, մարմնացավ, մարդացավ, ծնվեց կատարելապես Ս. Կույս Մարիամից Ս. Հոգով: Որով` ճշմարտապես, և ոչ կարծեցյալ կերպով առավ մարմին, հոգի և միտք և այն ամենը, որ կա մարդու մեջ: Չարչարվեց, խաչվեց, թաղվեց, երրորդ օրը Հարություն առավ, նույն մարմնով բարձրացավ երկինք, նստեց Հոր աջ կողմում: Գալու է նույն մարմնով և Հոր փառքով` դատելու ողջերին և մահացածներին: Նրա թագավորությունը չունի վախճան: Հավատում ենք նաև Սուրբ Հոգուն` անեղ և կատարյալ, որը խոսեց Օրենքի, մարգարեների և ավետարանների միջոցով: Որն իջավ Հորդանանի վրա, քարոզեց առաքյալների միջոցով և բնակություն հաստատեց սրբերի մեջ: Հավատում ենք նաև մեկ, ընդհանրական և առաքելական եկեղեցու, մի մկրտության, ապաշխարության, մեղքերի քավության և թողության: Մեռելների հարության, հոգիների և մարմինների հավիտենական դատաստանի, երկնքի արքայության և հավիտենական կյանքի:
English translation of the Armenian version
This version is used also by some Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic Churches. Although the Union of Brest excluded addition of the Filioque, this was sometimes added by Ruthenian Catholics, whose liturgical books now give the phrase in brackets, and by Ukrainian Catholics. Writing in 1971, the Ruthenian Scholar Fr. Casimir Kucharek noted, "In Eastern Catholic Churches, the Filioque may be omitted except when scandal would ensue. Most of the Eastern Catholic Rites use it." However, in the decades that followed 1971 it has come to be used more rarely.
The version found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is still commonly used by some English speakers, but more modern translations are now more common.
The International Consultation on English Texts published an English translation of the Nicene Creed, first in 1970 and then in successive revisions in 1971 and 1975. These texts were adopted by several churches.
The Roman Catholic Church in the United States, which adopted the 1971 version in 1973, and the Catholic Church in other English-speaking countries, which in 1975 adopted the version published in that year, continued to use them until 2011 upon the introduction of the Roman Missal third edition.
The 1975 version was included in the 1979 Episcopal Church (United States) Book of Common Prayer, though with one variation: in the line "For us men and for our salvation", it omitted the word "men".
For the text of the Nicene Creed published in 1988 by the English Language Liturgical Consultation, the successor body of the International Consultation on English Texts, see their website. For the text as recited in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, see the website of the Australian National Catholic Education Commission or Youcat, section 29.