Nicene Creed

Symbol of Faith (Orthodox)

General Information

The Nicene Creed is the most widely accepted and used brief statements of the Christian Faith. In liturgical churches, it is said every Sunday as part of the Liturgy. It is Common Ground to East Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Calvinists, and many other Christian groups. Many groups that do not have a tradition of using it in their services nevertheless are committed to the doctrines it teaches.

(Someone may ask, "What about the Apostles' Creed?" Traditionally, in the West, the Apostles' Creed is used at Baptisms, and the Nicene Creed at the Eucharist [AKA the Mass, the Liturgy, the Lord's Supper, or the Holy Communion.] The East uses only the Nicene Creed.)

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Nicene Creed

Traditional Wording, used since around 1549

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 his 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 Ghost
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 sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
and he shall come again, with glory,
to judge both 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 proceedeth from the Father [and the Son];
who with the Father and the Son together
is worshipped and glorified;
who spake by the Prophets.
And I believe 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.


Nicene Creed

Modern (Western) Wording

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son].
With the Father and the Son
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. AMEN.


Notes and Comments

When the Apostles' Creed was drawn up, the chief enemy was Gnosticism, which denied that Jesus was truly Man; and the emphases of the Apostles' Creed reflect a concern with repudiating this error.

When the Nicene Creed was drawn up, the chief enemy was Arianism, which denied that Jesus was fully God. Arius was a presbyter (elder) in Alexandria in Egypt, in the early 300's. He taught that the Father, in the beginning, created (or begot) the Son, and that the Son, in conjunction with the Father, then proceeded to create the world. The result of this was to make the Son a created being, and hence not God in any meaningful sense. It was also suspiciously like the theories of those Gnostics and pagans who held that God was too perfect to create something like a material world, and so introduced one or more intermediate beings between God and the world. God created A, who created B, who created C, . . . who created Z, who created the world. Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, sent for Arius and questioned him. Arius stuck to his position, and was finally excommunicated by a council of Egyptian bishops. He went to Nicomedia in Asia, where he wrote letters defending his position to various bishops. Finally, the Emperor Constantine summoned a council of Bishops in Nicea (across the straits from modern Istanbul), and there in 325 the Bishops of the Church, by a decided majority, repudiated Arius and produced the first draft of what is now called the Nicene Creed. A chief spokesman for the full deity of Christ was Athanasius, deacon of Alexandria, assistant (and later successor) to the aging Alexander. The Arian position has been revived in our own day by the Watchtower Society (the JW's), who explicitly hail Arius as a great witness to the truth.

I here print the Creed (modern wording) a second time, with notes inserted.

* We believe in one God,
* the Father, the Almighty,
* maker of heaven and earth,
* of all that is, seen and unseen.

* We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
* the only son of God,

Here and elsewhere (such as John 1:14) where the Greek has MONOGENETOS HUIOS, an English translation may read either "only Son" or "only begotten Son." The Greek is ambiguous. The root GEN is found in words like "genital, genetics, generation," and suggests begetting. However, it is also found in words like "genus" and suggests family or sort or kind. Accordingly, we may take MONOGENETOS to mean either "only begotten" or "one-of-a-kind, only, sole, unique."

* eternally begotten of the Father,

Here the older translation has "begotten of the Father before all worlds." One might suppose that this means, "before the galaxies were formed," or something of the kind. But in fact the English word "world" used to mean something a little different. It is related to "were" (pronounced "weer"), an old word for "man," as in "werewolf" or "weregild." (Compare with Latin VIR.) Hence a "world" was originally a span of time equal to the normal lifespan of a man. Often in the KJV Bible, one finds "world" translating the Greek AION ("eon"), and a better translation today would be "age." (Thus, for example, in Matthew 24:3, the question is one of "the end of the age," which makes it possible to understand what follows as a description of the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70, and of the end of an era in the spiritual history of mankind. But I digress.) So here we have "begotten of the Father before all times, before all ages." Arius was fond of saying, "The Logos is not eternal. God begat him, and before he was begotten, he did not exist." The Athanasians replied that the begetting of the Logos was not an event in time, but an eternal relationship.

* God from God, Light from Light,

A favorite analogy of the Athanasians was the following: Light is continuously streaming forth from the sun. (In those days, it was generally assumed that light was instantaneous, so that there was no delay at all between the time that a ray of light left the sun and the time it struck the earth.) The rays of light are derived from the sun, and not vice versa. But it is not the case that first the sun existed and afterwards the Light. It is possible to imagine that the sun has always existed, and always emitted light. The Light, then, is derived from the sun, but the Light and the sun exist simultaneously throughout eternity. They are co-eternal. Just so, the Son exists because the Father exists, but there was never a time before the Father produced the Son. The analogy is further appropriate because we can know the sun only through the rays of light that it emits. To see the sunlight is to see the sun. Just so, Jesus says, "He who has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9)

* true God from true God,
* begotten, not made,

This line was inserted by way of repudiating Arius' teaching that the Son was the first thing that the Father created, and that to say that the Father begets the Son is simply another way of saying that the Father has created the Son.

Arius said that if the Father has begotten the Son, then the Son must be inferior to the Father, as a prince is inferior to a king. Athanasius replied that a son is precisely the same sort of being as his father, and that the only son of a king is destined himself to be a king. It is true that an earthly son is younger than his father, and that there is a time when he is not yet what he will be. But God is not in time. Time, like distance, is a relation between physical events, and has meaning only in the context of the physical universe. When we say that the Son is begotten of the Father, we do not refer to an event in the remote past, but to an eternal and timeless relation between the Persons of the Godhead. Thus, while we say of an earthly prince that he may some day hope to become what his father is now, we say of God the Son that He is eternally what God the Father is eternally.

* of one being with the Father.

This line: "of one essence with the Father, of one substance with the Father, consubstantial with the Father," (in Greek, HOMO-OUSIOS TW PATRI) was the crucial one, the acid test. It was the one formula that the Arians could not interpret as meaning what they believed. Without it, they would have continued to teach that the Son is good, and glorious, and holy, and a Mighty Power, and God's chief agent in creating the world, and the means by which God chiefly reveals Himself to us, and therefore deserving in some sense to be called divine. But they would have continued to deny that the Son was God in the same sense in which the Father is God. And they would have pointed out that, since the Council of Nicea had not issued any declaration that they could not accept, it followed that there was room for their position inside the tent of Christian doctrine, as that tent had been defined at Nicea. Arius and his immediate followers would have denied that they were reducing the Son to the position of a high-ranking angel. But their doctrine left no safeguard against it, and if they had triumphed at Nicea, even in the negative sense of having their position acknowledged as a permissible one within the limits of Christian orthodoxy, the damage to the Christian witness to Christ as God made flesh would have been irreparable.

Incidentally, HOMOOUSIOS is generally written without the hyphen. The OU (in Greek as in French) is pronounced as in "soup", "group", and so on, and the word has five syllables HO-mo-OU-si-os, with accents on first and third, as shown. The Greek root HOMO, meaning "same," is found in English words like "homosexual" and "homogenized", and is not to be confused with the Latin word HOMO, meaning "man, human".

The language finally adopted in the East was that the Trinity consists of three HYPOSTASES (singular HYPOSTASIS) united in one OUSIA. The formula used in the West, and going back at least to Tertullian (who wrote around 200, and whose writings are the oldest surviving Christian treatises written in Latin), is that the Trinity consists of three PERSONAE (singular PERSONA) united in one SUBSTANTIA. In English, we say "Three Persons in one Substance." Unfortunately, the Greek HYPO-STASIS and the Latin SUB-STANTIA each consists of an element meaning "under, below" (as in "hypodermic", "hypothermia", etc) followed by an element meaning "stand". Thus it was natural for a Greek-speaker, reading a Latin document that referred to One SUBSTANTIA to substitute mentally a reference to One HYPOSTASIS, and to be very uncomfortable, while a Latin-speaker would have the same problem in reverse. Thus the seeds were sown for a breakdown of communication.

* Through him all things were made.

This is a direct quote from John 1:3. Before the insertion of the HOMO-OUSIOS clause, this line immediately followed "begotten, not made." The two lines go naturally together. The Son is not a created thing. Rather, He is the agent through Whom all created things come to be. Inserting the HOMO-OUSIOS at this point breaks up the flow, and if I had been present at the Council of Nicæa, I would have urged the bishops to insert it one line further down instead. In the older translation, in particular, someone reading the Creed is likely to understand it as referring to "The Father by whom all things were made." The newer translation, by revising the English wording, makes this misreading less likely.

* For us and for our salvation

The older translation has, "for us men." Now, while English has in common current usage the one word "man" to do duty both for gender-inclusive ("human") and for gender-specific ("male"), Latin has "homo, homin-" for gender-inclusive and "vir" for gender-specific, while Greek has "anthropos" for gender-inclusive and "aner, andro-" for gender-specific. (Given the demand for a similar distinction in English, I have been arguing for a gender-inclusive use of "man", and the revival of the older word "were" (as in "werewolf" and "weregild") in the gender-specific sense. But so far I have had but scant success.) Where the older translation of the Creed is used, with its "for us men" at this point, a feminist might consider complaining of sexist language. But the Greek and Latin wording here are both gender-inclusive, and so a feminist, reading the Creed in either of those languages, ought to find nothing that will upset him.

* he came down from heaven:
* by the power of the Holy Spirit
* he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
* and was made man.
* For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
* he suffered death and was buried.

You will note that the older translation has here simply, "He suffered and was buried" (Latin, "passus et sepultus est"). Apparently by the time of Nicea, it was no longer necessary to emphasize, to spell out unmistakably, that Christ had really died at Calvary, as it had been spelled out in the Apostles' Creed. And indeed, I have never heard anyone try to argue that the Creed here leaves a loophole for those who want to believe that Jesus merely swooned on the Cross. So apparently the Nicene Fathers were right in supposing that their language would not be misunderstood. However, the framers of the new translation decided to make the meaning unmistakable and to close this particular loophole. And I for one am not sorry.

* On the third day he rose again
* in accordance with the Scriptures;

The wording here is borrowed from 1 Corinthians 15:4. The older translation has "according to the Scriptures," which in terms of modern language is misleading. Today, when we say, "It will rain tomorrow, according to the weatherman," we mean, "The weatherman says that it will rain, but whether he is right is another question." And this is clearly not what either St. Paul or the Nicene Fathers had in mind. The newer translation is an improvement. I would have suggested, "in fulfillment of the Scriptures," which is clearly what is meant.

* he ascended into heaven
* and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
* He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
* and his kingdom will have no end.
*
* We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
* who proceeds from the Father [and the Son].

The words shown in brackets, "and from the Son," are a Western addition to the Creed as it was originally agreed on by a Council representing the whole Church, East and West. They correspond to the Latin word FILIOQUE (FILI = Son, -O = from, -QUE = and; pronounced with accent on the O), and the controversy about them is accordingly known as the Filioque controversy.

If we are looking for a statement that can be taken as common ground by all Christians, East and West alike, it clearly cannot include the FILIOQUE. On the other hand, Western Christians will be unwilling to have it supposed that they are repudiating the statement that the Spirit proceeds jointly from Father and Son. I accordingly suggest that we print the Creed with the FILIOQUE either in brackets or omitted altogether, but with the understanding that, while assenting to the resulting statement does not commit anyone to belief in the Dual Procession of the Spirit, neither does it commit anyone to disbelief in the Dual Procession.

I reserve extensive comments on the Dual Procession, the history of the belief, and the reasons for and against believing in it, for a separate essay, called CREED FILIOQUE.

* With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
* He has spoken through the Prophets.

This line was directed against the view that the Holy Spirit did not exist, or was not active, before Pentecost.

* We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

Many Christians from various backgrounds will want to know, "Precisely what would I be agreeing to if I signed this?" The definition of catholic and catholicity is contained in the introduction to this book.

* We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
* We look for the resurrection of the dead,
* and the life of the world to come. AMEN.

James E. Kiefer


The Nicene Creed, Symbol of Faith (Orthodox)

(This reference is NOT necessarily referring to the Orthodox Church, see below)

Advanced Information

(The following is an excerpt from our presentation on the Second Ecumenical Council, the First Council of Constantinople, of 381 AD)

The Holy Creed Which the 150 Holy Fathers Set Forth, Which is Consonant with the Holy and Great Synod of Nice [206].

(Found in all the Collections in the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon.)

Introductory Note.

The reader should know that Tillemont (Mémoires, t. ix., art. 78 in the treatise on St. Greg. Naz.) broached the theory that the Creed adopted at Constantinople was not a new expansion of the Nicene but rather the adoption of a Creed already in use. Hefele is of the same opinion (Hist. of the Councils, II., p. 349), and the learned Professor of Divinity in the University of Jena, Dr. Lipsius, says, of St. Epiphanius: "Though not himself present at the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, a.d. 381, which ensured the triumph of the Nicene doctrine in the Oriental Churches, his shorter confession of faith, which is found at the end of his Ancoratus, and seems to have been the baptismal creed of the Church of Salamis, agrees almost word for word with the Constantinopolitan formula." (Smith and Wace, Dict. Chr. Biog., s.v. Epiphanius). "The Ancoratus," St. Epiphanius distinctly tells us, was written as early as a.d. 374, and toward the end of chapter cxix., he writes as follows. "The children of the Church have received from the holy fathers, that is from the holy Apostles, the faith to keep, and to hand down, and to teach their children. To these children you belong, and I beg you to receive it and pass it on. And whilst you teach your children these things and such as these from the holy Scriptures, cease not to confirm and strengthen them, and indeed all who hear you: tell them that this is the holy faith of the Holy Catholic Church, as the one holy Virgin of God received it from the holy Apostles of the Lord to keep: and thus every person who is in preparation for the holy laver of baptism must learn it: they must learn it themselves, and teach it expressly, as the one Mother of all, of you and of us, proclaims it, saying." Then follows the Creed as on page 164.

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 only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, 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 Ghost and 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 sitteth at the Right Hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead. Whose kingdom shall have no end. (I)

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, (II) 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.

Note I.

This clause had already, so far as the meaning is concerned, been added to the Nicene Creed, years before, in correction of the heresy of Marcellus of Ancyra, of whose heresy a statement will be found in the notes on Canon I. of this Council. One of the creeds of the Council of Antioch in Encæniis (a.d. 341) reads: "and he sitteth at the right hand of the Father, and he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead, and he remaineth God and King to all eternity." [207]

Note II.

The word "Holy" is omitted in some texts of this Creed, notably in the Latin version in the collection of Isidore Mercator. Vide Labbe, Conc., II., 960. Cf. Creed in English Prayer-Book.

Notes.

The Creed Found in Epiphanius's Ancoratus (Cap. cxx.) [208]

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 only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, that is of the substance of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father: by whom all things were made, both in heaven and earth: who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, and was made man, was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and on the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father, and from thence he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end. 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 worshipped 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. And those who say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, and before he was begotten he was not, or that he was of things which are not, or that he is of a different hypostasis or substance, or pretend that he is effluent or changeable, these the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes.

Epiphanius thus continues:

"And this faith was delivered from the Holy Apostles and in the Church, the Holy City, from all the Holy Bishops together more than three hundred and ten in number."

"In our generation, that is in the times of Valentinus and Valens, and the ninetieth year from the succession of Diocletian the tyrant, [209] you and we and all the orthodox bishops of the whole Catholic Church together, make this address to those who come to baptism, in order that they may proclaim and say as follows:"

Epiphanius then gives this creed:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things, invisible and visible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, begotten of God the Father, only begotten, that is of the substance of the Father, 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, both which be in heaven and in earth, whether they be visible or invisible. Who for us men and for our salvation came down, and was incarnate, that is to say was conceived perfectly through the Holy Ghost of the holy ever-virgin Mary, and was made man, that is to say a perfect man, receiving a soul, and body, and intellect, and all that make up a man, but without sin, not from human seed, nor [that he dwelt] in a man, but taking flesh to himself into one holy entity; not as he inspired the prophets and spake and worked [in them], but was perfectly made man, for the Word was made flesh; neither did he experience any change, nor did he convert his divine nature into the nature of man, but united it to his one holy perfection and Divinity.

For there is one Lord Jesus Christ, not two, the same is God, the same is Lord, the same is King. He suffered in the flesh, and rose again, and ascended into heaven in the same body, and with glory he sat down at the right hand of the Father, and in the same body he will come in glory to judge both the quick and the dead, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

And we believe in the Holy Ghost, who spake in the Law, and preached in the Prophets, and descended at Jordan, and spake in the Apostles, and indwells the Saints. And thus we believe in him, that he is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the perfect Spirit, the Spirit the Comforter, uncreate, who proceedeth from the Father, receiving of the Son (ek tou Patros ekporeuomenon, kai ek tou Huiou lambanomenon), and believed on. (kai pisteuomenon, which the Latin version gives in quem credimus; and proceeds to insert, Præterea credimus in unam, etc. It certainly looks as if it had read pisteuomen, and had belonged to the following phrase.)

[We believe] in one Catholic and Apostolic Church. And in one baptism of penitence, and in the resurrection of the dead, and the just judgment of souls and bodies, and in the Kingdom of heaven and in life everlasting.

And those who say that there was a time when the Son was not, or when the Holy Ghost was not, or that either was made of that which previously had no being, or that he is of a different nature or substance, and affirm that the Son of God and the Holy Spirit are subject to change and mutation; all such the Catholic and Apostolic Church, the mother both of you and of us, anathematizes. And further we anathematize such as do not confess the resurrection of the dead, as well as all heresies which are not in accord with the true faith.

Finally, you and your children thus believing and keeping the commandments of this same faith, we trust that you will always pray for us, that we may have a share and lot in that same faith and in the keeping of these same commandments. For us make your intercessions, you and all who believe thus, and keep the commandments of the Lord in our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom, glory be to the Father with the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.


Footnotes

[206] This is the title in the Acts of the IVth Council. Labbe, Conc., iv., 342. [207] Soc., H. E., II., 10; Soz., H. E., III. 5; Athanas., De Synod., C. xxij. [208] I have used Petavius's edition, Cologne, 1682; there are some differences in the various editions about the numbering of the chapters, and this seems to be the origin of the curious mistake Hefele makes in confounding the longer with the shorter creed. [209] This would be the year 374, that is to say seven years before this Second Ecumenical Council which was held at Constantinople in 381.


The Nicene Creed

Catholic Information

As approved in amplified form at the Council of Constantinople (381), it is the profession of the Christian Faith common to the Catholic Church, to all the Eastern Churches separated from Rome, and to most of the Protestant denominations.

Soon after the Council of Nicæa new formulas of faith were composed, most of them variations of the Nicene Symbol, to meet new phases of Arianism. There were at least four before the Council of Sardica in 341, and in that council a new form was presented and inserted in the Acts, though not accepted by the council. The Nicene Symbol, however, continued to be the only one in use among the defenders of the Faith. Gradually it came to be recognized as the proper profession of faith for candidates for baptism. Its alteration into the Nicene-Constantinopolitan formula, the one now in use, in usually ascribed to the Council of Constantinople, since the Council of Chalcedon (451), which designated this symbol as "The Creed of the Council of Constantinople of 381" had it twice read and inserted in its Acts. The historians Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret do not mention this, although they do record that the bishops who remained at the council after the departure of the Macedonians confirmed the Nicene faith. Hefele (II, 9) admits the possibility of our present creed being a condensation of the "Tome" (Greek tomos), i.e. the exposition of the doctrines concerning the Trinity made by the Council of Constantinople; but he prefers the opinion of Rémi Ceillier and Tillemont tracing the new formula to the "Ancoratus" of Epiphanius written in 374. Hort, Caspari, Harnack, and others are of the opinion that the Constantinopolitan form did not originate at the Council of Constantinople, because it is not in the Acts of the council of 381, but was inserted there at a later date; because Gregory Nazianzen who was at the council mentions only the Nicene formula adverting to its incompleteness about the Holy Ghost, showing that he did not know of the Constantinopolitan form which supplies this deficiency; and because the Latin Fathers apparently know nothing of it before the middle of the fifth century.

The following is a literal translation of the Greek text of the Constantinopolitan form, the brackets indicating the words altered or added in the Western liturgical form in present use:

We believe (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, and born of the Father before all ages. (God of God) light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. And was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and was made man; was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, and shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, of whose Kingdom there shall be no end. And (I believe) in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son), who together with the Father and the Son is to be adored and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets. And one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We confess (I confess) one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for (I look for) the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen."

In this form the Nicene article concerning the Holy Ghost is enlarged; several words, notably the two clauses "of the substance of the Father" and "God of God," are omitted as also are the anathemas; ten clauses are added; and in five places the words are differently located. In general the two forms contain what is common to all the baptismal formulas in the early Church. Vossius (1577-1649) was the first to detect the similarity between the creed set forth in the "Ancoratus" and the baptismal formula of the Church at Jerusalem. Hort (1876) held that the symbol is a revision of the Jerusalem formula, in which the most important Nicene statements concerning the Holy Ghost have been inserted. The author of the revision may have been St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386). Various hypotheses are offered to account for the tradition that the Niceno-Constantinopolitan symbol originated with the Council of Constantinople, but none of them is satisfactory. Whatever be its origin, the fact is that the Council of Chalcedon (451) attributed it to the Council of Constantinople, and if it was not actually composed in that council, it was adopted and authorized by the Fathers assembled as a true expression of the Faith. The history of the creed is completed in the article Filioque. (See also: Arius; Eusebius of Cæsarea)

Publication information Written by J. Wilhelm. Transcribed by Fr. Rick Losch. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


Nicene Creed (in English, translated from the Greek)

Orthodox Church Text

I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Creator 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 ages. Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father, through whom all things were made.

For us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and He suffered and was buried.

On the third day He rose according to the Scriptures.

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

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who spoke through the prophets.

In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

I expect the resurrection of the dead.

And the life of the age to come. Amen.


The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed

Orthodox Information

This article forms part of the series on the Divine Liturgy

Liturgy of the Preparation

Proskomedia Liturgical objects - Vestments

Liturgy of the Word

Great Litany

Antiphons - Little Entrance

Troparion - Thrice-Holy Hymn

Epistle

Gospel

Homily

Litany of Fervent Supplication

Litany for the Departed

Litany of the Catechumens

Liturgy of the Eucharist

Cherubic Hymn

Great Entrance

Litany of the Completion

Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed

Anaphora

Epiclesis

Megalynarion

Lord's Prayer

Communion

Dismissal

Antidoron

The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (also called the Nicene Creed, the Symbol of Faith, the Pistevo, or simply the Creed) is that creed formulated at the First and Second Ecumenical Councils. It was defined by the Holy Fathers of those first two councils (held in Nicea and Constantinople, respectively) to combat various heresies: notably Arianism, Apollinarianism, Macedonianism (also called Pneumatomachianism), and Chiliasm.

Some scholars believe that the Creed promulgated by the First Ecumenical Council was based on an earlier baptismal creed used in Palestine (the Apostles' Creed), while others regard its more likely origin as being a creed issued early in 325 A.D. in Antioch, a so-called "Syrian Creed."

The Creed as it now stands was formed in two stages, and the one in use today in the Orthodox Church reflects the revisions and additions made at the Second Ecumenical Council. Some centuries later, the Roman Catholic Church attempted a unilateral revision of the Creed by the addition of the Filioque, thus being one of the causes of the Great Schism between Rome and the rest of the Church.

The Coptic church has a tradition that the Nicene Creed was authored by St. Athanasius of Alexandria, whose theology was instrumental at the Nicene council, despite his being only a deacon at the time.

The Creed of Nicea (325 A.D.)

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 essence of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one essence with 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, and will come again to judge the living and the dead;

And in the Holy Spirit.

The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381 A.D.)

In English:

We believe in one Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made:

Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man;

And was crucified also 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 at the right hand of the Father;

And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets;

And we believe 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.


Editor's Question

I have highlighted a critical phrase in both of these ORIGINAL forms of the Creed, regarding Jesus COMING DOWN FROM HEAVEN. My question is that with BOTH Catholic and Orthodox leaders knowing this statement was in the Creed, how could EITHER of them later become so distressed that the Catholics chose to add a Filioque statement to it? They destroyed the Church over this argument, in the Great Schism! I do not see how EITHER of them could possibly claim the higher ground (Whether Jesus was Born FROM the Father or whether Jesus was Born from the Father and Spirit) as clearly NEITHER claim could have the slightest validity! Jesus CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN! Both Churches seemed to choose to give Mary an enormous importance, enough to be willing to destroy the Church, but as long as Jesus CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN then the physical Birth of Jesus seems to be a NECESSARY part of Jesus joining human society. Mary did NOT go up into Heaven to GET Jesus, did she? It was Jesus' Choice to COME DOWN, and in order to do that, Mary became a necessary component.

I am NOT trying to damage the respect or importance of Mary. In fact, Jesus clearly had to CHOOSE a woman, and the fact that He CHOSE Mary suggests that she was the most perfect woman on Earth! There could be no higher praise or honor than tho be CHOSEN BY JESUS to be the birth mother! I am merely trying to point out here that the Nicene Creed itself makes clear that Jesus came down from Heaven, and therefore did NOT "come into Existence" in Mary's womb. WHY do two enormous Churches STILL disrespect each other and perpetually fight over this issue which could never have been a valid problem in the first place, the Filioque Controversy?


The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381 A.D.)

In Greek

Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα Θεόν, Πατέρα, Παντοκράτορα, ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς, ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων.

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.

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 ἡμέρα κατὰ τὰς Γραφάς.

Καὶ ἀνελθόντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς καὶ καθεζόμενον ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ Πατρός.

Καὶ πάλιν ἐρχόμενον μετὰ δόξης κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς, οὗ τῆς βασιλείας οὐκ ἔσται τέλος.

Καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, τὸ κύριον, τὸ 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.

Ὁμολογῶ ἓν βάπτισμα εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν.

Προσδοκῶ ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν.

Καὶ ζωὴν τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος.

Ἀμήν.


Note: The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed as it is recited in Orthodox worship today uses the first person ("I believe..."/"Πιστεύω") rather than the first person plural as it was enacted at the councils.


Also, see:
Council of Nicaea


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