Sunday, 17 February 2008

Nicene Creed

I believe:[1]

In one God, Father, Ruler of All, Maker of Heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.[2]

And in one Lord,[3] Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-Begotten;[4] Him Who was born from the Father before all the Ages;[5] Light out of Light; true God out of true God; begotten, not made;[6] of the same substance with the Father;[7] through Whom all things came to be.[8]

Him[9] Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven and Who was made flesh out of the Holy Spirit and Mary the Virgin, and Who put on man’s nature;[10]

Who was crucified on our behalf during the reign of Pontius Pilate[11] and Who suffered[12] and Who was buried;

And Who rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures;[13]

And Who ascended into the Heavens and Who sits on the right hand of the Father;[14]

And Who is coming again with glory to judge the living and the dead; of Whose Kingdom there shall be no end.[15]

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord; Him Who makes alive;[16] Him Who proceeds out of the Father;[17] Him Who is worshipped together and glorified together with the Father and the Son; Him Who spoke through the Prophets.[18]

In one Holy, Universal [or, “Catholic”][19] and Apostolic Church.

I confess one baptism for the remission of sins.

I expect the resurrection of the dead[20] and the life of the world to come.


[1] The Nicene is a personal and not a corporate confession of faith: we confess our faith individually as responsible persons standing before and in the presence of God; we do not confess our faith as members of a faceless crowd, as members of a mob, as members of a religious ideology. It is true that we recite the confession together in Church, but there is no sense that the Church is a mass movement: to enter the Orthodox Church we must on the one hand confess the Nicene Creed as individuals; we must on the other hand make a conscious decision as responsible persons to accept the Creed. Note that the role of the sponsor in child baptism is to fulfil the requirement in baptism of a conscious, mature confession of faith. It is the sponsor who recites the Nicene Creed on behalf of the child being baptized. (These footnotes are not meant to exhaust the content or meaning of the Creed. If anyone thinks that we have made a mistake in the interpretation of the Creed please let us know. If anyone has any questions, please let us know.) However, see the comment below and the discussion of the number of the verb ‘I believe’ in the Creed in the post Neophyte Monk.

[2] In the Orthodox Church, in contradistinction to the Roman Catholic Church, and as shown by the structure of the Nicene Creed (written in the East first in a suburb of Constantinople and then in Constantinople), the principle of the Godhead, the principle of the unity of the Godhead, is the Father from whom the Son is begotten and from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds. The Roman Catholic formulation which begins from the substance of the Godhead was unknown in the East and has never been received in the Orthodox Church.

[3] ‘Lord’ is a title reserved for God. To confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ—something that St Paul says is only possible by the grace of the Holy Spirit—is to confess the Divinity of Jesus Christ, as defined here in the Creed.

[4] In contradistinction with Hinduism, there is in Christianity recognized only one Son of God, Jesus Christ, only one ‘avatar’ of God come down from Heaven.

[5] Before the existence of time and space and the ‘ensemble of cosmic duration’, outside of time and space, the Word of God is begotten of the Father, by a relation of begetting which is iconically described by the human relationship of a father begetting a son.

[6] This of course is against the Arians, who taught that the Word of God was created by the Father.

[7] This again is against the Arians. It should be noted that although the formulation does not explicitly deal with the notion of ‘subordinationism’—the notion that although the Word of God was God, the Word was in some sense inferior to or lower than the Father—the formulation actually does exclude ‘subordinationism’ by its emphasis on the equality of substance of the Son with the Father.

[8] This last phrase is a little confusing. What it is referring to is Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God. The phrase is not referring to the Father. Recall the prologue of John’s Gospel as it refers to the Word—‘and all things came to be through him’. What the phrase means is that the Father is the ‘Maker of Heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible’, but in every case through the Word, who was incarnated into human flesh as Jesus Christ.

[9] We have followed the syntax of the original Greek quite closely although the construction is awkward in modern English.

[10] We have preferred to use a literal rendition of the word translated ‘put on man’s nature’, based on Liddell-Scott. There is no suggestion on our part that this putting on was anything other than what was understood in Chalcedon: the Word was true God and when it took on human flesh it became true man and true God in an ineffable union.

[11] The Passion did not occur somewhere in a mythical time and place, in a mythical frame of reference, in a mythical world. There was a fellow who ruled Judea named Pontius Pilate. We have a pretty good idea when he ruled Judea from the historical records of the Roman Empire. During his rule a fellow was put to death. This is an insistence on the historicity of the Passion.

[12] In the original, there is no word ‘died’. The idea seems to be subsumed in ‘suffered’. There is no sense, however, that the crucifixion was a charade and that Christ was alive in the tomb. We once heard of an Indian yogi who spent three days in a tomb to show that Christ was alive when buried. The only thing we can remark is: well first get yourself crucified after flagellation, then have someone pierce your side with a lance so that blood and water come out—then have yourself put in a tomb for three days and we’ll see how well you’ve done.

[13] ‘In accordance with the Scriptures’. What this means is ‘in fulfilment of the Old Testament’. In other words, Jesus Christ’s crucifixion was not a ‘big accident’, a big mistake. What it was the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Scriptures—the fulfilment of the prophecies of what we Christians call the Old Testament. This is a very important point which the Early Fathers greatly emphasize: the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are in fulfilment of the promises of the Old Testament.

[14] Since the Divine Nature of Jesus Christ is always in Heaven united to the Father, this refers to the human nature of Jesus Christ. But recall that there is only one person: it is the person Jesus Christ, whose personhood is the Word of God but who took on human nature, who after the resurrection has ascended to the Heavens where he sits at the right hand of the Father. This is another way of saying that there is no other name under Heaven by which we can be saved.

[15] Note that the Nicene Creed rebuts anyone who interprets Scripture to the effect that the Kingdom of Christ has an end, when Jesus surrenders the Kingdom to the Father. See Question 607 by St Barsanuphios for an interpretation of the Scriptural passage.

[16] The Holy Spirit is He Who makes alive, Who vivifies, Who quickens. This has not only a spiritual sense, but seems to refer even to the common phenomena of life.

[17] As is well-known, the Orthodox Church has never accepted the Roman Catholic addition to the Nicene Creed, due to St Augustine of Hippo’s Trinitarian theology, which would make the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father and from the Son. All attempts, for example at the Councils of Lyons and Florence, to get the Church to accept this modification to the original form of the Nicene Creed failed.

[18] It is a very important element of our faith that the Prophets of the Old Testament—these are the ‘Prophets’ that are being referred to here—spoke inspired by the same Holy Spirit that descended on Jesus in his Baptism, the same Holy Spirit that descended on the Apostles at Pentecost, the same Holy Spirit that we receive in our own baptism, the same Holy Spirit whose presence in us is necessary for us to confess—believe, admit truthfully—that Jesus is Lord.

[19] The Greek word means ‘universal’.

[20] The Church has never taught reincarnation. Question 607 of St Barsanuphios discusses the resurrection and many of the issues in this part of the Nicene Creed.


  1. dear neophyte monk:

    please correct. "We believe" is corporate and is the original creed, so you are teaching innovation

    maybe get some education and read original in greek

    it NEVER said "i believe"

    you must be a convert from protestantism cause your lack of theology is blinding

  2. We have responded to this comment in our post, Neophyte Monk.

    Orthodox Monk

  3. Dear Father Monk,

    Forgive me if I am mistaken, but weren't the followers of Arius called "Arians", and "Aryans" are the name of a mythical Nordic race?

  4. Thanks, Adrian. You are correct about the spelling of the followers of Arius, the Fourth-Century Alexandrian deacon. There was a time when we knew how to spell. We have corrected the footnotes above.

    We lifted these excerpts from the Oxford Reference Dictionary from the Internet--saves us some legwork--as to who the Aryans were:

    Aryan... adj. 1. of the Indo-European family of languages 2. of the ancient inhabitants of the Iranian plateau speaking a language of this family. — n. 1. a member of the Aryan peoples (not to be regarded as a race; see below) 2. (in Nazi Germany) a non-Jewish European, a person of Nordic racial type. f. Skr. Aryas noble, earlier used as a national name.

    And this is what the ‘see below’ part says:

    The idea current in the 19th c. of an Aryan race corresponding to a definite Aryan language was taken up by nationalistic, historical and romantic writers. It was given especial currency by M. A. de Gobineau, who linked it with the theory of the essential inferiority of certain races. The term ‘Aryan race’ was later revived and used for purposes of political propaganda in Nazi Germany.

    Thanks again.