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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Creed, Nicene and Constantinopolitan

a creed adopted at the Council of Nice A.D. 325, and enlarged at the second Council of Constantinople A.D. 381, by which the faith of the Church with regard to the person of Christ was set forth in opposition to certain errors, especially Arianism. (See ARIUS); (See CHRISTOLOGY NICE, COUNCIL OF).

1. The Nicene Creed "is found, together with the similar Eusebian (Palestinian) confession, in the well-known Epistle of Eusebius of Caesarea to his diocese (Epist. ad suce parochiae homines), which is given by Athanasius at the close of his Epist. de decretis Niiccenz Synodi (Opera, 1:239, and in Thilo's Bibl. 1:84 sq.); also, though with some variations, by Theodoret, H. E. 1:12, and Socrates, H. E. 1:8. Sozomen omitted it (H. E. 1:10) from respect to the disciplina arcani. The Symbolum Nicaenum is given also, with unessential variations, by Athanasius, in his letter to the emperor Jovian, c. 3, and by Gelasius Cyzic., Lib. Synod. de Concil. Nicceno, 2:35. On the unimportant variations in the text, comp.Walch, Bibl. Symbol. p. 75 sq., and A. Hahn, Bibliothek der Symbole (1842). Comp. also the parallel creeds of the Nicene age in the Appendix to Pearson's Exposition of the Creed." (Schaff, Hist. of the Christian Church, § 129; see also Dorner, Person of Christ [Edinb. transl.], 2:247, 497.)

We give the Nicene Creed, Greek and English, in parallel columns. [The parts omitted at Constantinople are put in brackets in the Greek text.]


Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα Θεὸν, χατέρα παντοκράτορα, πάντων ὁρατῶν το καὶ ἀοράτων ποιητην· καὶ εἰς ἕνα κύριον Ι᾿ησοῦν Χριστὸν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, γεννηθέντα ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς ῾μονογενῆ, τουτέστιν ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας τοῦ πατρὸς, Θεὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ], φῶς ἐκ φωτὸς, Θεὸν άληθινὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα οὐ ποιηθέντα, ὁμοούσιον τῷ πατρὶ, δἰ ο῏υ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο ῾τά το ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ καὶ τὰ ἐν τῇ γῇ ], τὸν δἰ ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθόντα καὶ σαρκωθέντα καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα, παθόντα καὶ ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾷ· ἀνελθόντα εὶς τούς ὁὐρανους, καὶ ἐρχόμενον κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς . Καὶ εἰς τὸ ἃγιον πνεῦμα . ῾Τοὺς δὲ λέγοντας, ὅτι ῏ην ποτε ὅτε οὐκ ῏ην, καὶ πρὶν γεννηθῆναι οὐκ ῏ην, καὶ ὅτι ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων ἐγένετο, κτιστὸν ἐξ ἑτέρας ὑποστάσεως τρεπτὸν αλλοιωτὸν τὸν υίὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, ὰναθεματίζει ἁγία καθολικὴ καὶ ἀποστολικὴ ἐκκλησία .]

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 of 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; of the same substance with the Father; by whom all things were made, both things in heaven and things in earth; who for us men and our salvation descended and became flesh, was made man, suffered, and rose again the third day. He ascended into heaven; he cometh to judge the quick and dead. And in the Holy Ghost. But those that say there was a time when he was not; or that he was not before he was begotten; or that he was made from that which had no being; or who affirm the Son of God to be of any other substance or essence, or created, or variable, or mutable, such persons doth the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematize.

It was established by this creed that the Son is of the same essence (ὁμοούσιος ) with the Father.

2. The Nicoeno-Constantinopolitan Creed. The doctrine of the Person of Christ, as settled at Nice (A.D. 325), was disputed, especially as to the use of the term ὁμοούσιος by the Semi-Arians and Eusebians (see Gieseler, Ch. History, 1, § 81, 82). Moreover, not only the Semi-Arians, but even many of the Nicenians (followers of the Nicene Creed), held, with the Arians, and especially the Macedonians (q.v.), that the Holy Spirit was created by the Father (Gieseler, 1. c.). After ineffectual attempts, at several synods, to agree upon a formula, the Nicene symbol, with certain additions, was adopted at the second (Ecumenical Council of Constantinople A.D. 381. The creed thus adopted is given below, in Greek and English (the form in the English Prayer-book differing somewhat from the Greek). The parts added at Constantinople are put in brackets.

Symbolum Niceno-Constantinopolitanum.


Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα θεὸν, πατέρα παντοκράτορα ῾ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς ], ὁρατῶν το πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων· καὶ εἰς ἕνα κύριον Ι᾿ησοῦν Χριστὸν, τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ ῾τὸν μονογενῆ ], τὸν ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς γεννηθέντα ῾πρὸ πάντων τῶν αἰώνων ], φῶς ἐκ φωτὸς, Θεὸν ἀληθινόν έκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα οὐ ποιηθέντα ὁμοούσιον τῷ πατρὶ δἰ οῦ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο . Τὸν δἰ ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτερίαν κατελθόντα ῾ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν ]. καὶ σαρκωθένρα ῾ἐκ πνεύματος ὰγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου ], καί ἐνανθρωπήσαντα· ῾σταυρωθέντα το ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου ], καὶ παθόντα ῾καί ταφέντα ] καὶ ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾷ ῾κατὰ τὰς γραφάς ]· καί ἀνελθόντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανούς· ῾καὶ καθεζόμενον ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ πατρὸς ], καὶ πάλιν ἐρχόμενον ῾μετὰ δόξης ] κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς· ῾τὸ κύριον, τὸ ζωοποιὸν, τὸ ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον, τὸ σὺυ πατρὶ καὶ υἱῷ συμπροσκυνούμενον, καὶ συνδοξαζόμενον, τὸ λαλῆσαν διὰ τῶν προφντῶν . Εἰς μίαν ἁγίαν καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν· ὁμολογοῦμεν ἕν βάπτισμα εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν· προσδοκῶμεν ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν καὶ ζωὴν τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος ] Ἀμὴν .

(1) I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker [of heaven and earth], and of all things visible and invisible; (2) And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-beggoten Son of God, begotten of all 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; (3) 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]

The words "and from the Son" (Lat. "filioque") were not added till the fifth century. The first copies of this creed, in the Council of Constantinople, and the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, have only the words "proceeding from the Father," without any mention of the Son. This addition to the creed of the Western Church first appears in the acts of an assembly of bishops at Braga (412) "procedentem a Patre et Verbo" (Concil. Bracar. i; Mansi, 4:287) and in the third Council of Toledo (589), according to some copies (Mansi, 9:981). Mabillon (De Lit. Gallic. 1:3) says of it, "quod a Caroli M. tempore exordium ducit." It was then (circ. 800) of old standing. Very probably it is due to the Spanish Church in the middle of the fifth century (Harvey, Hist. of the Creeds, p. 452 sq.; Hardwick, Middle Age, p. 61, n. 4; Browne, Exposition of the Articles, p. 114 sq.). Procter, On Common Prayer, p. 234. (See FILIOQUE). Among the Syriac MSS. discovered some years ago, now in the British Museum, is a version of the original Nicene Creed, and also the Nicaeno- Constantinopolitan, of which Mr. B. Harris Cowper has printed translations. The differences between this Syrian version and the received text of both creeds are very slight.

The Nicene Creed is held to be of authority in the Greek and Roman churches, and is admitted by most Protestant churches. It was adopted, with the Apostles' and Athanasian creeds, by the Protestants after the Reformation, and was introduced into the Formula Concordioe (q.v.) of the Lutherans and into the English Prayer-book. On its value in theology, see Shedd, History of Doctrines, bk. 3, ch. 3; Schaff, History of the Christian Church, § 127-131; Cunningham, Historical Theology, ch. 9; Dorner, Doctrine of the Person of Christ, div. 1, vol. 2; Neander, History of Dogmas (Ryland's transl.), 1:291-294; Stanley, Eastern Church (Lect. 4.); Browne, On the 39 Articles, 223 sq.; Waterland, Works, vol. 3; Bull, Defensio Fidei Nicence (transl. in Lib. of Anglo-Catholic Theology, Oxford, 1851, 2 vols.). See also Forbes, Short Explanation of the Nicene Creed (Lond. 1854); Palmer, Origines Liturgicoe, 2:56; Procter, On Common Prayer, p. 234; Harvey, On the three Creeds; Harvey, Eccl. Anglic. Vindex, 1:553 sq.; Bingham, Orig. Eccl. bk. 10, ch. 4; Amer. Quart. Church Review, April, 1868, art. 5.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Creed, Nicene and Constantinopolitan'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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