Thursday, October 06, 2005

What's the difference between the Apostle's Creed and Nicene Creed (Asked by Anna M., SE-7)

The Nicene Creed is essentially the Apostles Creed further articulated. See below:

Apostle's Creed:

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 wasburied. Hee 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

Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Legend has it that the Apostles wrote the "Apostles Creed." Well, this is simply a legend. There is some research that indicates that St. Ambrose of 4th century coined the term "Apostle's Creed" to refer to the 12 articles of the Christian faith upon which the Apostles (who originally numbered 12) preached and baptized.

However, we do not know who exactly wrote the Apostle's Creed. We also do not know when exactly it was written, but we know that chunks of the Creed were being quoted as early as the 2nd century.

We also know that the early Christians required some form of declaration of faith prior to baptism. Some of these declarations, or creeds, consisted of one sentence, e.g. "I acknowledge Jesus" or "I choose to follow Jesus." Later on, the creeds developed to contain more and more doctrines as these became clearer to the early Church theologians.

During the early Christians, we could not avoid controversies regarding many aspects of our faith. You and I are clear now about many of our Catholic doctrines, e.g. that "Jesus is both human and divine." But early theologians struggled with this concept and developed different theories about the nature of Jesus.

One such person is Arius, who postulated that God is Father and at a certain moment, He begot the Son, and therefore the Son was created and is subordinate to the Father. Jesus is not divine or "less divine" than the Father. This heresy was known as Arianism.

To combat this heresy, the Council of Nicea was convened in 325 and the Nicene Creed was developed. You will understand therefore why the Nicene Creed contains the words: We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.

Why do some churches say one or the other or both?

We can only attribute the profession of either the Apostle's Creed or Nicene Creed by the different churches according to tradition. Apostle's Creed still remains as the most common profession of the Christian faith in the world, especially in the Roman Catholic Churches. On the other hand, the Nicene Creed is used by the Eastern Orthodox Churches, as well as some Catholic churches in the United States. (Eastern Orthodox Churches follow many of the basic doctrines of a Roman Catholic, e.g. seven sacraments, but have their own authorities which do not recognize the Roman Pope).

How important is the creed in my life today?

Whether we profess the Apostle's Creed or Nicene Creed, we are essentially professing the Catholic Christian Creed. However, the Creed must eventually be engraved in our hearts. The Creed becomes the expression of our relationship with God and others. What we believe, we should live. If you believe in God, then we should live God-centered lives. If we believe in love and forgiveness as preached by Jesus, then we should receive, give and live love and forgiveness.

- Written by Chris Mallion, edited by Manny Blas II

The Bible (NAB) 1969.
Hardon, S.J., John A. Pocket Catholic Catechism: a concise contemporary guide to the essentials of the faith. New York: Image Books. 1989, pp. 11-12.
Neuner, S.J. J. and J. Dupuis, S.J. The Christian Faith. Bangalore: Theological Publications in India. pp.3-9Barclay, William. The ApostlesÂ’ Creed. Great Britain: Guernsey Press Ltd., pp. 2, 6-7,14.