1 The Nicene Creed, beginning, "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 … ." It is usually described as a revision by the First Council of Constantinople (381) of the creed adopted at Nicaea in 325. In the Western Church since the 9th cent. it has differed from the original by the addition of the Filioque clause: "And in the Holy Ghost … Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son … ." ("qui ex Patre Filioque procedit … ."). Over this addition there has been a long controversy between the Orthodox Eastern and Roman Catholic churches. The Nicene Creed is a traditionally authoritative creed of Orthodox Eastern, Roman Catholic, and some Protestant churches.
2 The Athanasian Creed was probably composed, not by Athanasius himself, but by an unknown author(s) in the fifth cent. It is a partial statement of doctrine dealing especially with the Trinity and the Incarnation.
3 The Apostles' Creed, beginning, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ … ." It does not appear in its present form before 650, but its predecessors probably arose in Rome in the 2d or 3d cent. It has two material differences from the Nicene Creed: the phrase, "He descended into hell," is omitted in the Nicene, and the words "resurrection of the body" are changed to "resurrection of the dead" in the Nicene. It is used by Roman Catholics at various daily services and at baptism; it is also much used by Protestants.
4 The Augsburg Confession (1530), the official statement of the Lutheran churches. It was mainly the work of Philip Melanchthon and was endorsed by Martin Luther for the Diet of Augsburg.
5 The Thirty-nine Articles, which are official in the Church of England. They date in their present form from Elizabeth I's reign, when they were written by a group of bishops. They are Calvinistic in theological emphasis and enounce clearly the royal supremacy in the Church of England. They are included, with occasional modifications, in the prayer books of other churches of the Anglican Communion, including that of the Episcopal Church of the United States.
6 The Westminster Confession (1645-47), the most celebrated pronouncement of English-speaking Calvinism. It is official in the Church of Scotland, with occasional changes in most of its daughter churches (usually Presbyterian) and among Congregationalists.
See J. H. Leith, Creeds of the Churches (1963, repr. 1973); J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds (1981); W. H. C. Frend, ed., Creeds, Councils and Controversies (1989).
The most definitive creed in Christianity is the Nicene Creed, formulated in AD 325 at the first of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Affirmation of this creed, which describes the Trinity, is generally taken as a fundamental test of orthodoxy. The Apostle's Creed is also broadly accepted.
Whether Judaism is creedal has been a point of some controversy. Though some Judaism is noncreedal in nature, others say it recognizes a single creed, the Shmah. "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One."
The terms "creed" and "faith" are sometimes used to mean religion. Where "creed" appears alongside "religion" or "faith" it can also refer to a person's political or social beliefs.
There are two kinds of creeds: Baptismal and conciliar. The Baptismal creed teaches catechumens, who are new believers, and is a basic confession of faith. The conciliar creeds are official doctrines of the church as agreed at councils. The earlier creeds are mainly baptismal. The most famous of these early creeds is the Apostles' Creed.
Creeds served an important role in stabilizing the early Christian church. Initially used to teach beliefs to new converts, they soon served other purposes, such as showing the boundaries between real believers and those who adhered to false teachings. Questions were used to prepare believers for baptism. In addition, the creeds guarded against heresy by clearly stating the church's beliefs. The earliest creed is generally considered to be .
Another early statement of Christian faith is "Jesus is Lord", which appears in St Paul's epistle to the . For Trinitarians, the meaning and importance of this creed comes from its affirmation that in Jesus Christ the fullness of the deity of the God Yahweh of Israel is made incarnate a doctrine thought impossible and, indeed, blasphemous by the rest of the Jewish community, such as the Jewish Christians. The name "Lord" (Hebrew, "adonai") was read for the tetragrammaton in the Hebrew Scriptures, and it (Greek, "κυριος") was the translation of the tetragrammaton in the Septuagint.
As Christianity wrestled with the implications of this doctrine, its developing theology required more complex formulations.
Pope Paul VII. has given the last creed Sollemni hac liturgia on June 30, 1968.
It is likely that the earliest creed of Christianity that deserves the title in full is the Apostles Creed. Christians attribute this creed to all twelve Apostles as a joint composition, and assigns one phrase of the creed to each Apostle. This attribution is unlikely, but the creed itself is quite old; it seems to have developed from a catechism used in the baptism of adults, and in that form can be traced as far back as the second century (see Old Roman Symbol). The Apostles' Creed seems to have been formulated to resist Docetism and similar ideas associated with Gnosticism; it emphasizes the birth, physical death, and bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Although the Apostles' Creed is accepted by most Western churches, it is not used by the Eastern Orthodox Church.
A Roman Catholic translation of this creed reads:
The Nicene Creed is clearly derived from the Apostles' Creed, and equally obviously represents an elaboration of its basic themes. The most salient additions to this creed are much more elaborate statements concerning Christology and the Trinity. These reflect the concerns of the First Council of Nicaea in 325, and have their chief purpose the rejection of Arianism, which the church judged a heresy. In the Catholic, and Orthodox liturgy the Nicene Creed is repeated during each Mass on Sundays and High Days.
Many Christian churches, and particularly those descending from the Radical Reformation, have little use for creeds.
Unitarian Christians have long rejected creedal tests, recalling how the early creeds were formulated in the fourth century following the union of Church and State under Constantine, and were employed thereafter to persecute Unitarians for deviating from the Trinitarian orthodoxy that the creeds established. Michael Servetus, for example, was burnt at the stake in 1553 for deviating from the Trinitarian doctrines expressed in the Nicene and Athanasian creeds. In England, the Trinitarian creeds produced anti-Unitarian penal statutes that remained on the books until 1813.
The Quakers, formally known as the Religious Society of Friends, find no need for creedal formulations of faith.
Many evangelical Protestants similarly reject creeds as definitive statements faith, even while agreeing with some creeds' substance. The Baptists, for example, have no formal creed and do not empower the church to define one. Even so, they are generally in agreement with the Nicene Creed's substance.
Some religious leaders have come to question the utility of creeds. Bishop John Shelby Spong, who in the year 2000 retired as the Episcopal Bishop of Newark, has written that dogmas and creeds were merely "a stage in our development" and "part of our religious childhood." In his book Sins of the Scripture Spong suggested that "Jesus seemed to understand that no one can finally fit the holy God into his or her creeds or doctrines. That is idolatry."
Rabbi Milton Steinberg wrote that "By its nature Judaism is averse to formal creeds which of necessity limit and restrain thought" and asserted in his book Basic Judaism (1947) that "Judaism has never arrived at a creed." The 1976 Centenary Platform of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, an organization of Reform Jewish rabbis agrees that "Judaism emphasizes action rather than creed as the primary expression of a religious life."
Others, however, characterize the Shema Yisrael as creedal statement of faith in strict, monolithic monotheism embodied in a single prayer to be recited twice daily: "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One" (Hebrew: שמע ישראל אדני אלהינו אדני אחד; transliterated Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.)