Early Creeds of the Christian Church
[ME crede, from OE creeda, from Latin credo (“I believe” the first word of the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds), from credere to believe, trust, entrust; akin to OIr cretid “he believes”]
(1) a brief authoritative formula of religious belief
(2) a set of fundamental beliefs
(3) a guiding principle
The Creeds and Confessions produced by the Christian Church over the centuries are not inspired additions to Scripture nor in any way replacements for the words of Christ and his apostles or the prophets which preceded them. Instead these human documents are carefully considered and usually thoughtfully worded responses to various issues, heresies and historical situations that have troubled the Church and the world over the centuries. Creeds are statements of faith that are true and authoritative insofar as they accurately reflect what Scripture teaches. Those linked here have been found useful either by the entire Church or by important segments and/or denominations of it over the ages. They are thus helpful “measuring sticks” for orthodoxy.
1. “Jesus is Lord” (1st century)
O Iisoús eínai o Kýrios – Greek, “Jesus is Lord”; as opposed to: Kaísara eínai o Kýrios – Greek, and Ceasar est Dominus – Latin, “Ceasar is Lord”. “O Iisoús eínai o Kýrios”, i.e., “Jesus is Lord” was the first ‘creed’ of the Christian Church and was a statement which consequently brought upon the Church persecution from the Roman government on the grounds of treason.
2. The Apostles’ Creed (2nd century)
“I believe in God the Father Almighty; Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
About the Apostles’ Creed
The Apostles’ Creed is not in any way considered “inspired” Scripture. Neither is it claimed to have been written by any of the Apostles themselves. It is the earliest form of a Christian “Statement of Faith” ever recorded, and is called “The Apostles’ Creed” because it is believed to reflect the actual teachings of the Apostles when compared to the Book of Acts and the Epistles.
There was a time in the early history of the Christian Church, before the invention of the printing press, when the Holy Bible was not as easily available to believers as it is today. In the early history of the Church, normally, each Christian Church had only one copy of the Scriptures, which was read to the people on Sundays.
The Early Church Fathers, about the 2nd Century, began teaching the people to recite The Apostles’ Creed as a way of maintaining unity of Christian doctrine among the common people who did not have access to the Scriptures.
3. Nicean Creed; Constantinople (381 AD)
“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 sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the Prophets. And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church; 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.”
4. Definition of Chalcedon (451 AD)
“Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanity; truly God and truly man, with a rational soul and a body; consubstantial with the Father according to His deity, and consubstantial with us according to the humanity; like us in all respects, sin only excepted. Before the ages He was begotten of the Father, according to the deity, and in these last days, for us and for our salvation, He was born of Mary the virgin, who is Godbearer according to His humanity; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, to be acknowledge in two natures; without confusing them, without interchanging them, without dividing them, and without separating them; the distinction of natures by no means taken away by the union, but the properties of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one subsistence; not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as from the beginning the prophets have declared concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the symbol of the fathers has handed down to us.”