is a statement of belief
— usually religious belief
— or faith
often recited as part of a religious service. The word derives from the credo
for I believe
for we believe.
It is sometimes called symbol
(σύμβολο[ν]), signifying a "token" by which persons of like beliefs might recognize each other.
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.
Yet many Christians, including Unitarians, Quakers, Baptist, Messianics, Restorationists and others have rejected the authority of those creeds.
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."
Muslims declare the shahada, "there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet."
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.
Trinitarian Christianity, affirming that God
has become incarnate as the human being Jesus
, has formulated a number of statements of faith that seek to assert this doctrine
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:
- I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
- creator of heaven and earth.
- I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
- He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
- and born of the Virgin Mary.
- He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
- was crucified, died, and was buried.
- He descended to the dead.
- On the third day He rose again.
- He ascended into heaven
- and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
- He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
- I believe in the Holy Spirit,
- the Holy Catholic Church,
- the communion of Saints,
- the forgiveness of sins,
- the resurrection of the body,
- and the life everlasting. AMEN.
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.
The Nicene Creed is the only true "universal creed," accepted by almost all mainstream Christian churches of both the Western and Eastern traditions with the sole difference of the Filioque clause.
A creed as a denial of heresies
In an atmosphere of increasingly complicated theological controversy, orthodox belief might become more complicated in outline. In the decade before 594, Gregory, bishop of Tours
set out to write a ("History of the Franks"). In Gaul, a part of Europe recently beset with both royal Arians
and pagans (until the conversion of Clovis
), Gregory prefaced his history with a declaration of his faith, "so that my reader may have no doubt that I am Catholic for they are (Book I.i). The confession is in many phrases, each of which refutes a specific Christian heresy. Thus Gregory's creed presents, in negative, a virtual litany of heresies:
- I believe, then, in God the Father omnipotent. I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord God, born of the Father, not created. [I believe] that he has always been with the Father, not only since time began but before all time. For the Father could not have been so named unless he had a son; and there could be no son without a father. But as for those who say: "There was a time when he was not", [note: A leading belief of Arian Christology.] I reject them with curses, and call men to witness that they are separated from the church. I believe that the word of the Father by which all things were made was Christ. I believe that this word was made flesh and by its suffering the world was redeemed, and I believe that humanity, not deity, was subject to the suffering. I believe that he rose again on the third day, that he freed sinful man, that he ascended to heaven, that he sits on the right hand of the Father, that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son, that it is not inferior and is not of later origin, but is God, equal and always coeternal with the Father and the Son, consubstantial in its nature, equal in omnipotence, equally eternal in its essence, and that it has never existed apart from the Father and the Son and is not inferior to the Father and the Son. I believe that this holy Trinity exists with separation of persons, and one person is that of the Father, another that the Son, another that of the Holy Spirit. And in this Trinity confess that there is one Deity, one power, one essence. I believe that the blessed Mary was a virgin after the birth as she was a virgin before. I believe that the soul is immortal but that nevertheless it has no part in deity. And I faithfully believe all things that were established at Nicæa by the three hundred and eighteen bishops. But as to the end of the world I hold beliefs which I learned from our forefathers, that Antichrist will come first. An Antichrist will first propose circumcision, asserting that he is Christ; next he will place his statue in the temple at Jerusalem to be worshipped, just as we read that the Lord said: "You shall see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place." But the Lord himself declared that that day is hidden from all men, saying; "But of that day and that hour knoweth no one not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father alone." Moreover we shall here make answer to the heretics [note: the Arians] who attack us, asserting that the Son is inferior to the Father since he is ignorant of this day. Let them learn then that Son here is the name applied to the Christian people, of whom God says: "I shall be to them a father and they shall be to me for sons." For if he had spoken these words of the only begotten Son he would never have given the angels first place. For he uses these words: "Not even the angels in heaven nor the Son", showing that he spoke these words not of the only-begotten but of the people of adoption. But our end is Christ himself, who will graciously bestow eternal life on us if we turn to him." ''
Christians without creeds
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.
The same may be said of the Restoration Movement and its descendants, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Churches of Christ, and the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ.
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."
is creedal in character has generated some controversy.
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.)
creed is the Shahadah
, the proclamation that "I testify that there is no god (ilah)
but God (Allah)
, and I testify that Muhammad
is the messenger of God
Other notable creeds include the: