Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Nicene Creed on the Divinity of Christ

The “Nicene Creed” is widely regarded as the basis of orthodox Christianity in both the eastern and western churches. Although its focus is Christological, its importance relates to its function as a “rule of faith” within the churches. As part of its polemic against the Arians, the Council of Nicea (June 325) formulated a short statement of faith, based on a baptismal creed used at Jerusalem. This Creed was intended to affirm the full divinity of Christ against the Arian understanding of his creaturely status, and includes four explicit condemnations of Arian views, as well as its three articles of faith.

As the full details of the proceeding of Nicea are now lost, we are obligated to rely on secondary sources (such as ecclesiastical historians, and writers such as Athanasius and Basil of Caesarea) for the text of this creed. Note that the translation provided here is of the Greek original, rather than of the Latin version of Hilary of Poitiers. Note also that the term “Nicene Creed” is often used as a shorter way of referring to the “Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed”, which has a significantly longer discussion of the person of Christ, and also makes statements concerning the church, forgiveness, and eternal life.

We believe in one God, the Father, the almighty, the maker of all things seen and unseen.

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 with the Father; through whom all things in heaven and on earth came into being; who on account of us human beings and our salvation came down and took flesh, becoming a human being; he suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended into the heavens; and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

And in the Holy Spirit.

As for those who say that ‘there was when he was not’, and ‘before being born he was not’, and ‘he came into existence out of nothing’ or who declare that the  Son of God is of different substance or nature, or is subject to alteration or change – the catholic and apostolic church condemns these.”


1) H. Denzinger (ed.), Enchiridion Symbolorum, 24-5 edn (Barcelona: Herder, 1948), pp. 29-30.
2) The Christian Theology Reader, edited by Alister E. McGrath (Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1995), pp. 7

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