The Athanasian Creed

Posted: January 24, 2016 in Athanasius, Christian History, Christology, Creeds, Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit, The Trinity, Theology, Worship
Athanasius (circa 293-373AD)

Athanasius (circa 293-373AD)

Introduction: The greatest exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity is the Athanasian Creed. Unfortunately, many modern readers often feel overwhelmed and confused by it. Perhaps this is due to the fact that good modern translations of the creed can be hard to find. The translation below is both modern and breaks the creed into paragraphs by theme – thereby making it more legible and easier to digest. If you will read it slowly, considering each line and paragraph before proceeding to the next one, we suspect that you will find it not only easy to comprehend but will come away with a fuller, richer understanding of the Trinity. Finally, please note that the term “catholic faith” in this translation is correct meaning, “on the whole, according to the whole or in general”, or more simply, “universal”. It is not referring to the Roman Catholic Church – which didn’t appear for hundreds of years, long after this creed was written. — Editor

Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith.

Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.

Now this is the catholic faith:

That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,
neither blending their persons
nor dividing their essence.
For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
the person of the Son is another,
and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.

What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.
The Father is uncreated,
the Son is uncreated,
the Holy Spirit is uncreated.

The Father is immeasurable,
the Son is immeasurable,
the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.

The Father is eternal,
the Son is eternal,
the Holy Spirit is eternal.

And yet there are not three eternal beings;
there is but one eternal being.
So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings;
there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.

Similarly, the Father is almighty,
the Son is almighty,
the Holy Spirit is almighty.
Yet there are not three almighty beings;
there is but one almighty being.

Thus the Father is God,
the Son is God,
the Holy Spirit is God.
Yet there are not three gods;
there is but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord,
the Son is Lord,
the Holy Spirit is Lord.
Yet there are not three lords;
there is but one Lord.

Just as Christian truth compels us
to confess each person individually
as both God and Lord,
so catholic religion forbids us
to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone.
The Son was neither made nor created;
he was begotten from the Father alone.
The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten;
he proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers;
there is one Son, not three sons;
there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.

Nothing in this trinity is before or after,
nothing is greater or smaller;
in their entirety the three persons
are coeternal and coequal with each other.

So in everything, as was said earlier,
we must worship their trinity in their unity
and their unity in their trinity.

Anyone then who desires to be saved
should think thus about the trinity.

But it is necessary for eternal salvation
that one also believe in the incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.

Now this is the true faith:

That we believe and confess
that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son,
is both God and human, equally.

He is God from the essence of the Father,
begotten before time;
and he is human from the essence of his mother,
born in time;
completely God, completely human,
with a rational soul and human flesh;
equal to the Father as regards divinity,
less than the Father as regards humanity.

Although he is God and human,
yet Christ is not two, but one.
He is one, however,
not by his divinity being turned into flesh,
but by God’s taking humanity to himself.
He is one,
certainly not by the blending of his essence,
but by the unity of his person.
For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh,
so too the one Christ is both God and human.

He suffered for our salvation;
he descended to hell;
he arose from the dead;
he ascended to heaven;
he is seated at the Father’s right hand;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

At his coming all people will arise bodily
and give an accounting of their own deeds.
Those who have done good will enter eternal life,
and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith:
one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.

Athanasius_the_Confessor_of_Constantinople_(Menologion_of_Basil_II)

Athanasius the Confessor of Constantinople
(from Menologion of Basileiou an 11th century illuminated byzantine manuscript with 430 miniatures, now in the Vatican library)

BACKGROUND
This creed is named after Athanasius (A.D. 293-373), the champion of orthodoxy against Arian attacks on the doctrine of the trinity. Although Athanasius did not write this creed and it is improperly named after him, the name persists because until the seventeenth century it was commonly ascribed to him. It is not from Greek (Eastern), but from Latin (Western) origin, and is not recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Church today. Apart from the opening and closing sentences, this creed consists of two parts, the first setting forth the orthodox doctrine of the trinity, and the second dealing chiefly with the incarnation and the two-natures doctrine. The translation above was adopted by the CRC Synod of 1988. 

© 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. www.crcna.org. Reprinted with permission.

Comments
  1. Ron Den Boer says:

    “equal to the Father as regards divinity,
    less than the Father as regards humanity.”

    Mormons normally attack this Creed by saying ” Jesus said the Father was greater than I ” They
    haven’t read the above quote that says he was less than Father because of these passages, below.

    Jesus Stripped his equality with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit and humbled himself to the form of a slave.

    ”Who although being essentially one with God and in the Form of God {possessing the fullness of the attributes which make GOD GOD} did not think this equality with God was a thing to be grasped or retained.” Philippians 2:6 Amplified version

    “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” 2 Cor. 8:9

    Hebrews 12
    1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

    In the original language “for the joy” means “he exchanged Joy for Shame”.

    Thank you Jesus for coming down from your throne in heaven where you were the Almighty God, “EL SHADDAI”, The Great I AM creator of all things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, thrones, dominions, and principalities and powers . You were rich yet you became poor. You were Almighty yet you emptied yourself and became a humble slave, you exchanged joy for sorrow , sorrow by dying a shameful death on a cross as a criminal even thou you had no sin . Thank you Jesus

    Like

  2. […] always has been, as it’s defined in the Bible and summarized in the (circa 4th Century AD) Athanasian Creed. The doctrine, in a nutshell, is as follows: God is one eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, […]

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