1902 Encyclopedia > Creeds

Creeds




CREEDS, or CONFESSIONS OF FAITH, may be defined as authorized formularies of Christian doctrine. The three ancient or, as they are sometimes called, oecumenical creeds are the most important, although the briefest, of such documents, and mainly call for attention in such an article as this. The more detailed confessions since the time of the Reformation will also be enumerated. But their special description belongs to the history of theology, or what the Germans call " Symbolik." Our aim is not to deal with the substance or theological import of the creeds, but only to present to the reader the most recent and satisfactory information as to their origin, history, and acceptance by the church.
Creeds are a gradual growth in the history of the Christian church, but their rudiments may be said to have existed from its first foundation,—from the answer of St Peter to our Lord, when asked " Whom do men say that I am 1" " Thou art the Christ" (Mark viii. 27-29); or the statement of St Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (x. 9), " If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." All subsequent confessions of faith are in fact more or less expanded developments of the original baptismal formula, derived from the commission given by Christ to the apostles in the conclusion of St Matthew's Gospel (xxviii. 19):—"Go ye therefore and teach (make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." From this simple acknowledgment of the threefold Name, possibly from the still simpler acknow-ledgment of Jesus as " the Christ" or Messiah, have sprung all the more elaborate credenda of the Christian church.
I. Writers on the creeds have professed to find in the later writings of the New Testament traces of a more definite summary of belief: as in the allusions of the 2d Epistle to Timothy (i. 13) to a " form of sound words; " and "the deposit," or "good deposit," which was to be kept (1 Tim, vi. 20; 2 Tim. i. 14); also in the "faithful words" or "sayings" enumerated in the first and second of these epistles (1 Tim. i. 15; ii. 1 ; iv. 8, 9; 2 Tim. ii. 11), and a remarkable passage in the opening of the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. But it may be questioned how far any of these passages have anything beyond a general meaning. It must certainly be held doubtful whether, supposing they did point to any articles of faith beyond the original statement of the baptismal formula, they could be held to apply to the first apostolic age. All such inferences are two-edged,—the presumption of arti-culated dogma in any part of the New Testament Scriptures being one of the strongest evidences of the later or non-apostolic origin of these Scriptures.
It is not till a much later age—the age of Irenaeus and Tertullian (175-200)—that we meet with any definite summaries of Christian belief. We may presume, and rightfully presume, that such summaries existed before, and were even rendered to the candidates for baptism under the form of Traditio Symboli ; but no such summaries are traceable in Christian literature before this period. Not to speak of the' doubtful genuineness of the writings appealed to—such as the alleged Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians (c. iv)—it is admitted by those most anxious " to demonstrate that from the earliest times there existed some form of words in the church of the character of a creed," that the passages quoted either from the writings of the Apostolic Fathers or of Justin Martyr " do not seem to have been meant to be used in this way, if we take them in conjunction with their context" (Lumby's History of the Greeds, p. 12). " Some fancy," says Bingham (Origiues, b. x. c. iv), "' that the creed may be found in the writings of Ignatius, Clemens Romanus, Polycarp, and Justin Martyr. But Bishop Pearson has rightly observed that these writers, however they may incidentally mention some articles of faith, do not formally deliver any rule of faith used in their times."
It is not, then, till a good deal more than a century after the death of St Paul and only somewhat less than a

century aiter the death of St John, that we meet with any definite summaries of dogmatic belief in Christian literature, and even then there is no evidence that these summaries had any authoritative character. They expressed, no doubt, the belief of the churches to which the writers belonged ; but half a century after the time of Irenajus (250), it is evident from the statements of Cyprian, then bishop of Carthage, that the baptismal creed of the North African Church, which was at this period more dogmatic in its tendencies than any other church in the East or the West, was of a comparatively brief character. The passage of Cyprian is found in one of his letters (Ep. 76), addressed " to Magnus, his son," on baptizing the Novatians, and implies plainly that the only addition to the original baptismal formula which had then obtained any authority in the Church of Carthage, was a clause as follows—" Dost thou believe in the remission of sins and eternal life through the holy church?" —a clause of interrogation which, he adds, they (the Novatians) could not honestly answer "because they have no church."
The creed which is found in the well-known treatise of Ireneeus against Heresies (Adv. Hcereses) in three different forms (i. 10, iii. 4, iv. 33) is of a far more elaborate character even in its simplest form, which is all that can be quoted here. It particularizes on the part of the true or spiritual disciple a " complete faith (TTLO-TLS OAOKX^POS) in one God Almighty, of whom are all things; and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom are all things, and His dispensations by which the Son of God became man; also a firm trust in the Spirit of God, who hath set forth the dispensations of the Father and the Son, dwelling with each successive race of men, as the Father willed" (iv. 33, § 7). The creed of Tertullian is also found in three several forms in his writings—(1) Be Prcescript. Hceret., c. xiii. ; (2) De Virg. Veland., c. i.; (3) Adv. Prax., c. ii.),—in the first mentioned of these writings in a more detailed form than in the others. The shortest of the three, or the creed in the treatise Be Virgmibus Velandis, may be held to be the most primitive in form. We give it as an abbre-viated specimen of the others. " The rule of faith is indeed altogether one, irremovable, and irreformable—the rule, to wit, of believing in one only God omnipotent, the Maker of the universe, and His Son Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, raised again from the dead on the third day, received in the heavens, sitting now at the right hand of the Father, about to come to judge the quick and the dead through the resurrection of the flesh as well [as of the spirit]."
In the preface to Origen's great work Be Principiis there is also a summary of articles of faith professing to have been " clearly delivered in the teaching of the apostles," which, no doubt, fairly represents the faith of the Alexandrian Church in his time. The amplified and explanatory language of the creed, however, bears clearly the trace of Origen's own hand, and gives it even less a character of general authority than those previously mentioned.
Turning to the Church of Rome in the second half of the 3d century, we meet with the fragments of a creed in a treatise of Novatian (Be Trin., Migne, iii. 886) of a more simple and popular character, and corresponding, therefore, more nearly to the form which the creed ultimately assumed in the West. It only requires faith " in God the Father and Lord omnipotent, the most perfect Maker of all things; . . . also in the Son of God, Christ Jesus, our Lord God, but Son of God ; . . . also in the Holy Spirit." Novatian, at first a presbyter of the Church of Rome, was afterwards a schismatic bishop, whose followers, we have seen, were placed by Cyprian beyond the pale of the church, but there seems no reason to doubt that his "Regula Veritatis" (the same form of expression, it deserves to be noticed, as that used by Tertullian) represents the Roman creed of his time.
These may be said to represent all the distinctive authorities in creed literature before the formation of an authorized creed at Nicasa in 325. There is sometimes also quoted a creed of Gregory Thaumaturgus, who was a pupil of Origen at C*sarea in Palestine—a creed both more elaborate and precise in its theological terms than that of his great teacher; but besides that its form is rather oratorical than confessional, this creed cannot be said to present any distinctive features. It is sufficiently evident that "confessions of faith," or "rules or standards of truth," existed in the Ante-Nicene Church from the age of Irenseus, or the last quarter of the 2d century, and there is every reason to conclude that they existed even before this, although we get no trace of them in Christian literature. Candidates for baptism were, no doubt, always required to profess their belief in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. But it is equally evident that there was no rule of faith universally accepted by the church, or authoritatively imposed by any Catholic body up to the time of the Mcene Council. Each church seems to have had its own "regula veritatis,"or " confessio fidei," identical in substance, but varying in form and language, and varying even in the same church in completeness. The simpler, less detailed, or less theological forms are plainly at once the more original and the more generally or popularly accepted forms.
There is further supposed to be a marked distinction between the creeds of the Eastern and the creeds of the Western Church, although the division of Latin or Western Church is only beginning to emerge at the period we have reached. Irenaeus, although a bishop of the West, was an Oriental Greek in language and theology. Hippolytus, who was bishop in or near Rome in the second half of the 3d century, still wrote and taught in Greek. Tertullian and Cyprian of the North African Church are the only representatives of Latin theology. Even thus early, however, I the creeds of the Oriental Church are supposed to show a ten-I dency to theological expansion or dogmatic adaptation which is not observable in the Western—the creed of Novatian, for example, which has been already quoted. " The Eastern creeds, while they have all along retained their characteristic notes, were at first by far the more flexible, readily adapting themselves to meet the exigencies of the church, in her maintenance of the faith once delivered to the saints against the perversions of heretics, with which the East, owing to the genius of its subtle-witted people, was
infested much more than the West The case of the
Western creeds was widely different. With them no council ever interfered. They were left to the custody of tha several churches, while at the same time each church seems to have felt itseF at liberty to make additions or alterations to some extent where occasion required." These remarks of Professor Heurtly in his Barmonia Symbolica (1858) point mainly to a later period than the end of the 3d cen-tury, and to a classification which he himself makes of the creeds into a Western group typified by the " Apostles' Creed, and an Eastern represented by the creed of Nicaea. But the distinction, to some extent, underlies the inchoate creeds of the Ante-Nicene Church as well, and helps us to understand the true historical order of the creeds, which has been disturbed by the traditionary prestige assigned to what is known as the Apostles' Creed. There was no such creed as yet, nor till long afterwards, in the familiar form in which it is now held by the Western churches. In


simplicity of structure and of thought the Apostles' may, indeed, be called the oldest of the creeds. It takes us back to the most primitive stratum of Christian belief. But as a matter of fact and chronology, what is now known as the "Apostles' Creed" is not found in anything like its present form, till four centuries after the faith of the Eastern Church was definitely settled in the Mcene Symbol. It is to this latter creed, therefore, that we must first turn our attention in historical order.
II. The circumstances in which the Council of Nicsa
was assembled have already been briefly sketched in the
articles ARIUS and ATHANASIUS. The opinions of Arius
promulgated in the commencement of the 4th century
made such commotion in the church as to call forth not
only the admonition of bishops, but the intervention of
the imperial government in the hands of Constantine, who
had professed himself a Christian, and become the patron
of the peace and prosperity of the church. The distractions
of the Donatist schism on the one hand, and of the Arian
heresy on the other, were subjects of grave anxiety to a
prince, one of whose motives in joining the rapidly
increasing influence of the Christian church, as he himself
professes in a letter addressed to Alexander (bishop of Alex-
andria) and Arius jointly, was the establishment through-
out his dominions " of some one definite and complete form
of religious worship." In the same letter he gave some
very good advice on the subject of the prevailing religious
contentions. " My advice," he says, " is neither to ask nor
answer questions which, instead of being scriptural, are the
mere sport of idleness or an exercise of ability ; at best
keep them to yourselves and do not publish them. You
agree in fundamentals (irepl rov Kopvfyawv)." (Euseb.,
Tit. Const, iii. 66). The epistolary efforts of Constantine,
however, had no effect in allaying the theological dis-
sensions of the Church of Alexandria, which, on the
contrary, with the banishment of Arius, spread widely
throughout all the Eastern Churches. The conclusion
was accordingly formed of convoking a general council
of bishops in which the Catholic doctrine should be
formally declared. This the first oecumenical council met
at Nicaea in Bithynia in the summer of the year 325. It
contained about 300 bishops. The traditionary number
is 318 ; but there is no clear evidence of the actual
number, which has been variously estimated from 218 to
320. Besides prelates there was a large number of pres-
byters and attendants. Hosius, bishop of Cordova, the
chief counsellor of Constantine in the Western Church, I
who had been the bearer of his letter to Arius and
Alexander, is supposed to have acted as president, although
others probably shared this office. Eusebius, in speaking
of the presidency, uses the plural number. Among the
most renowned of the assembled bishops may be mentioned
Alexander of Alexandria (attended by his more celebrated
deacon, and subsequently his successor in the Alexandrian
bishopric, Athanasius), Eustathius of Antioch, Eusebius
of Csesarea in Palestine, his namesake, and some suppose
his brother, of Nicomedia, Macarius of Jerusalem. Leontius
of Csesarea in Cappadocia, Cascilian of Carthage, Marcellus
of Ancyra, Spyridion of Cyprus, and other known although
less distinguished names. I
There is no detailed record of the proceedings of the council. Eusebius of Csesarea and Athanasius both wrote about it; but it is impossible to trace out in any continuous form the actual proceedings of the council, from anything that they say. "We know not," Dean Stanley says, " whether it lasted weeks or days " (Eastern Church, p. 129). So far as can be gathered, however, there was much discussion untrammelled by the exercise of any external authority. Arius himself, being only a presbyter, had no seat in the conclave, but he appears to have been frequently called upon or allowed to express Lis opinions, his chief opponent in argument being Athanasius. At first the Arian party seem to have made a bold defence of their opinions, and to have found considerable support in the council; but ultimately they formed but a small mino-rity. After an unsuccessful effort on their part to submit the draft of a creed, which, only called forth violent disapprobation, and was in fact torn in pieces by the excited assemblage, Eusebius of Csesarea produced a con-fession of faith which he had been taught in his youth as the confession of the Church of Palestine. It was favoured by the emperor, and would have been accepted by the Arians. But the very fact that the Arians were disposed to accept the creed introduced by Eusebius, indisposed the orthodox party to its adoption. An expression, used by his namesake of Nicomedia with the view of characterizing unfavourably the extreme orthodox position—the expression Homoousion ('Ofioovu-Lov)—at length became the battle-ground betwixt the parties. The Arians violently condemned it; the Eusebians or semi-Arians also at first strongly disapproved of it; but to the majority it became the very term they were in search of, in order to dis-criminate their view of the relation of the Father and Son from Arianism; and accordingly it was adopted. The assent of the emperor was gained : Hosius of Cordova announced the creed of the church at length settled; and even the two Eusebii after a time gave in their adhesion to the expression, although reluctantly, and in the case of Eusebius of Nicomedia apparently with an amount of reserve which led to future difficulties.
The following are the terms of the creed as issued by the council :—
"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things, both visible and invisible ; and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only begotten, that is to say of the substance of the Father, God of God and Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father (bixooiaiov rui warpi), by whom all things were made, both things in heaven and things on earth ; who, for us men and for our salvation, came down and was made flesh, made man, suffered and rose again on the third day, went up into the heavens, and is to come again to judge the quick and the dead ; and in the Holy Ghost."
Then followed the clauses anathematizing the several assertions of the Arians, that " there was a time when He (Jesus Christ) was not "—" before He was begotten He was not."—" He came into existence from what was not," and that He is of a different " person " or " substance " (tr'seac vKoeTaGiwc i) outr/a;).
This the original form of the Nicene Creed, it will be observed, differs considerably from what is popularly known as the Nicene Creed. Afterwards certain clauses (which we have marked in italics) were omitted, and others; of more importance added, especially the present conclusion of the creed, following the simple statement in the original of belief in the Holy Ghost.
" I believe in the Holy Ghost [the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeded from the Father (and the Son), who with the Father and. the Son are worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknow» ledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come]."
The history of the addition of these clauses is involved in some obscurity. They have been often attributed to the Council of Constantinople which, in 381, followed that of Nicasa, and the existing creed has been consequently called by the special title of the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed. But, on the one hand, the enlarged creed is found in a work written by Epiphanius seven years before the date of this council (Migne, xliii. col. 232), and on the other hand there is nothing said in the canons of the Con-stantinopolitan Council respecting the enlargment of the


creed. On the contrary, it is said in the first canon of the council that " the creed of the 318 bishops assembled at Nicaea shall not be made void, but remain for ever." The probable explanation is that the original Nicene Creed became gradually enlarged in the East, as the dogmatic instinct of the church developed under the pressure of the varying forms of Arian, Apollinarian, and semi-Arian heresy. It was deemed necessary to meet the growth of heretical opinions by additional growths of authoritative Catholic opinion, and as the additions to the creed were really expansions of its implied thought—and not in any sense arbitrary external supplements—they came to be identified with the original creed, and to pass under its name. This view of the matter is favoured by the fact that the third oecumenical council, held at Ephesus in 431, chiefly for the condemnation of the Nestorian heresy, which was supposed to separate not only the natures but the person of Christ, enjoined in its seventh canon " that no person shall be allowed to bring forward, or to write, or to compose any other creed besides that which was settled by the Holy Fathers who were assembled in the city of Nicaea." As the fuller creed was almost certainly well known by this time (it having been already in existence before 381), such a statement seems only consistent with the idea that the two creeds were regarded by the Ephesine fathers as virtually identical. For the first time, at the Council of Chalcedon, which was held twenty years later, or in 451, the enlarged creed is found following the original and simpler form of the creed. It is appended as forming a ratification of "the same faith," and is distinctly attributed to " the 150 fathers who afterwards assembled in the great city of Constantinople" (in 381). The shorter form, or the exposition (JKSISIS) of the 318, is assigned the first place, but the other is added,-,—" that those things also should be maintained which were defined by the 150 Holy Fathers of Constantinople for the talcing away of the heresies which had then sprung tip, and the confirmation of the same, our Catholic and apostolic faith."
At the same time there is evidence, from what took place at the council, that there was still a large number of bishops who greatly preferred the creed in its original and simpler form, and it appears long to have maintained its ground alongside of the others in the Eastern Churches. In the same churches the clause " God of God," which, appearing in the original, had dropped out of the expanded creed, was restored in course of time, although the real date of the restoration is unknown ; and in addition to this clause the well-known " filioque" clause was added by the Western Churches at the Council of Toledo in the year 589. From this date no changes have been made in the " Nicene" Creed. It has remained, without the "filioque" clause, the oecumenical creed of the Eastern Church ; and with the addition of this clause it has taken its place amongst the three great creeds of the Western Church.
III. What is known as the " Apostles'" Creed claims our notice next as the second of the three oecumenical creeds in chronological order. The growth of this creed is involved in considerable obscurity. The tradition which ascribes it to the apostles themselves, it is needless to say, has no authority, and does not reach beyond the 5th century, if it can be carried back so far. The definite source of the legend is supposed to be two sermons spuriously attributed to St Augustine, and found in the appendix to his works. In point of fact, as we have already seen, the creeds prevalent in the Roman and North African Churches, the original representatives of Latin Christendom, were of the briefest character up to the end of the 3d century. The creeds of Cyprian and Novatian already quoted are specimens. The first example of a more expanded creed after the manner of the "Apostles'" is to be found singularly
EDS 561
enough in a Greek writer, Epiphanius, who in the 72d book of his Treatise on Heresies quotes the confession of faith presented by Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra in Galatia, to Julius, bishop of Rome, as follows—" I believe in God the Father Almighty ; . . . and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord, who was born of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried, and on the third day rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father, whence He is coming to judge the quick and the dead ; and in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Church, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the flesh, everlasting life" (Epiphan., Hcer. 52).
Marcellus had been one of the most active of the orthodox party at the Council of Nicaea, and on his return to his diocese had distinguished himself with such zeal against the Arians that he was accused of having fallen into the opposite error of the Sabellians. He was accord-ingly deposed from his see by a synod held at Constan-tinople in 336, and betook himself to Rome. It was while there, with the view of exhibiting his orthodoxy, that he addressed to Julius the above profession of faith, which he describes as the faith which he " learnt and was taught from the Holy Scriptures." As he was himself a Greek, he pro-bably expressed himself in the Greek language. In any case, it is in Greek that the creed has been preserved to us.
It has been doubted from this circumstance, as well as from the position of Marcellus himself, whether his creed can be taken as representing the Roman creed of the time to which it belongs. It has been supposed too expanded for this, as it is beyond question that " the Roman Church used at baptism, and still uses, a much less elaborate form." It is not improbable, however, that while the earlier and briefer form was retained in the baptismal service, a larger formulary of faith had also grown up from the original simplicity of this form, in obedience to the general growth of the dogmatic sentiment in the West as in the East. It is certain that within half a century from this date, or about the year 390, there is to be found a creed equally detailed—the creed not merely of the Church of Aquileia, of which Rufinus was a presbyter, but of the Church of Rome, with which he compares the other, pointing out the differences betwixt the two. Still in neither of these creed-forms, nor yet in those found in the writings of St Augustine, do we approach the complete detail presented by the Apostles' Creed as now received. The chief clauses awanting are those relating to the descent into hell and the communion of saints. Generally also, the expression descriptive of the church is simply "The Holy Church," instead of the " Holy Catholic Church." " The earliest creed to be met with entirely identical with the present formula occurs in a short treatise published by Mabillon from an ancient manuscript entitled ' Libellus Pirminii de
singulis libris canonicis Scarapsus (scriptis 1)'
The creed occurs twice in Pirminius's treatise. In the first instance the story is repeated of the several articles having been contributed each hy a several apostle, and each article is assigned to its supposed contributor. The other creed, which is identical with the former, is given as it was used in the baptismal service." (Heurtly, Harmonia Symb. pp. 70-71). There is little known of the life of Pirminius, but he seems to have been active as a missionary in France and Germany in the 8th century, and the date of his death is "' about the year 758." Although the " Apostles'" Creed was no doubt substantially in existence long before this, probably from the end of the 4th century, there is no historical evidence of its reception in its completed form till this period, or about the middle of the 8th century, ol more than four centuries later than the original form oi the Nicene Creed.

IV. The history of the " Athanasian " Creed, or the " Symbolum Quicunque," as it is often called, opens up a more doubtful inquiry than that of either of the preceding creeds. The evidence before us is of an entirely different character. " Here," as it is said by a recent writer on the subject (Lumby, in his Hist, of the Greeds, p. 186), " is neither the synodical authority of the former, nor the gradual growth of the latter; but when the composition appears for the first time as a document of authority, it is cited in its completeness, and as the work of the father whose name it has since for the most part borne, although it was not brought to light for many centuries after his death."
In one opinion all investigators are now agreed,—that the so-called " Athanasian " Creed is not the production of the famous father of the 4th century whose name it bears. The conclusive reasons against this supposition may be stated as follows :—(1) There is no trace of such a creed in any of the older MSS. of the works of Athanasius; (2) Athanasius himself (Ep. ad Antioch, i. 2.), in consis-tency with the prevailing church sentiment of his time, expressly disclaims as superfluous the use of any creed except the Nicene; (3) the original language of the " Athanasian " symbol is clearly Latin and not Greek ; (4) the symbol was entirely unknown to the Greek Church up to the year 1000; and (5) there is no evidence of its exist-ence even in the Latin Church before the end of the 8th or the commencement of the 9th century.
This last and all-important fact has been completely established by recent investigations. Dr Swainson particularly, in his elaborate volume on the Creeds (1875), has exhausted all the historical evidence on the subject, and, while not venturing to assign the creed to a definite author, has proved in the most conclusive manner that the existence of the creed cannot be traced before the age of Charlemagne, and that its origin is almost certainly to be ascribed to the demand then existing for a more detailed exposition of the faith than was to be found in the Apostles' Creed. Nor does he hesitate to ascribe its origin to a deliberate purpose of imposture similar to that which led in the same age to the forgery of the famous "false Decretals," and the equally famous " Donation of Constantine. " He expresses himself as follows :—" We have four or five independent lines of witnesses agreeing in bringing forward the Quicunque into notice within five and twenty years before or after the death of Charlemagne :—i. the testimony of quotation; ii. testimony of canons; hi. testimony of literary collections of creeds or rules of faith ; iv. testimony of psalters; v. testimony of versions .... That the production of this work under the name of Athanasius was an intentional and deliberate attempt to deceive, no reasonable person can question. It was analogous to the production of the forged Decretals. And it is doubtless to the skill with which the imposture was wrought out that we owe the difficulty that has been felt in discovering the author" (Swainson, pp. 380-381). Other writers, such as the Eev. E. S. Ffoulkes (On, the Atlcanasian Greed), and Mr Lumby, whose compact and interesting volume on The History of the Greeds has been already quoted, come virtually to the same conclusion as to the date of the Athanasian symbol. Mr Ffoulkes has formed, indeed, a peculiar theory as to its authorship by Paulinus, bishop of Aquileia, in the end of the 8th century,—a conclusion which is repudiated by Dr Swainson. They agree, however, that there is no evidence of its existence before this time. It may be useful to give a brief summary of the reasons for this con-clusion.
And first a distinction must be made. What these writers, of course, mean is that there is no satisfactory evidence of the existence of the Athanasian symbol as
EDS
constituting a distinct creed before the time to which they refer its origin. Many of the dogmatic expressions or formulas of the creed by themselves must be admitted to have been in existence long before. The expressions were, in fact, current in the schools of the Western Church, more or less from the time of Augustine, to whose famous treatise De Trinitate, not a few of them have been specially attributed. This is the real explanation of the supposed traces of the Athanasian symbol in these earlier times. Language, similar to that which it ultimately embodied, had been accumulating for centuries as the natural result of the study of Augustine and the increasing pressure of Arian modes of thought from many quarters. This process of theological definition had been advanced by such men as Hilary, bishop of Aries (429), Vincentius of Lerius (434), and Vigilius of Thapsus (500), to whom severally the authorship of the Quicunque has been ascribed. The ascription rests in each case on certain plausibilities arising, among other things, out of a common stratum of dogmatic phraseology. But such phraseology had really become a common property of the church of that time, and is to be found in the confessions of synods and collections of sermons and books of devotion from the 5th century down-wards. Nothing definite as to the authorship of the Quicunque can be rested on such resemblances, or even on the use of the name of Athanasius. The fact remains that during all this time, and long afterwards, there is no evidence of such a creed being in existence or having any authority.
The first traces of such a creed are reached in the 8th century. Then in distinct quarters there come before us the two parts of the creed now in use. The first part, down to the end of the 26th clause, which specially deals with the doctrine of the Trinity, seems then to have existed by itself und'er the general title of " Fides Sanctaa Trinitatis," and " Fides Catholica Sanctae Trinitatis." The second part, which treats of the incarnation of our Lord, is in a similar manner found by itself in a MS. known as the Colbertiue MS., which cannot be placed earlier than 730. But the two parts are not as yet found in combina-tion, nor as claiming any distinctive symbolic authority. They seem rather put forward as expositions or explana-tions of the original Nicene doctrine than as new creeds having any authority by themselves. The two documents not only exist apart, but they are evidently regarded by those who use them as separately independent and com-plete.
That there was no authoritative " Athanasian Creed, such as we now have, even at the end of the 8th century, is held to be clearly proved by what occurred at the several councils of the church, which were held both in the East and the West at this time. In 787 there was held once more at Nicasa what is reckoned by the Church of Borne the seventh oecumenical council. At this council there were recited three several confessions amplifying in several details what is known as the Niceno-Constantiuopolitan Creed. These amplified confessions, attributed to different bishops, all indicate the prevailing need that was felt for some more detailed exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity ; but the fact, not only that the " Athanasian " symbol does not make its appearance amongst them, but that, when the synod at last comes to recite its own belief, it does so in a form quite distinct from the " Athanasian," and finally falls back upon the old Creed of Constantinople, to which it refuses to make any addition, plainly serves to show that this symbol or exposition could not even have been known to the Eastern Church at this time, and still less have acquired any authority.
But the Councils of Frankfort (794) and of Friuli (796) are still more decisive. FQH here in the West and in the

centres of ecclesiastical activity which marked the age of Charlemagne, the Quicunque, if known anywhere, may be supposed to have been known and recognized. All the prominent characters of Western Christendom—the Emperor Charles himself, and his two chief counsellors Alcuin and Paulinus of Aquileia—took part more or less in these councils. Paulinus was "the episcopal soul of the Council of Frankfort, and president as well as soul of that of Friuli. No movement could have taken place in Italy, France, or Germany in matters ecclesiastic, nor any document have been set forth of such importance as the Quicunque, that could have escaped the knowledge of Paulinus and Alcuin." In these circumstances the absence of all allusion to the Quicunque in the records of these councils is fatal to the idea of its authoritative acceptance as a creed at that time. Not only so, but a form of faith which is found in the records of the Council of Frankfort, and which is supposed to have been composed either by Paulinus himself or under his guidance, shows by its language that he could not have been familiar with any such document as the Quicunque, for the obvious reason that it would have served his purpose better than the form which he uses. In this document " he deals both with the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation, and puts his expressions on one occasion into the exact language used in the Athanasian Creed, which language was, no doubt, current in a separate form long before ; but he never attains to anything like the precision which is exhibited in the creed, and which, had it been known to him, must have commended that work to his use. And there is not to be found the slightest notice of Athanasius in the whole proceedings of the council." From a further document of the same council, a synodical letter which the bishops of Gaul and Germany addressed to those of Spain, it is also evident that they were equally with Paulinus ignorant of any such authoritative exposition of the Catholic faith as the Quicunque. And to complete the evidence on the subject there is a letter of Charlemagne himself to the bishops of Spain, which indicates with equal clearness that, while his mind v/as full of many expressions similar to those in the creed, he yet had no knowledge of such an authoritative document to which he could appeal in advising them as to the details of the Trinitarian doctrine.
In summing up the subject we cannot do better than quote the words of Mr Lumby, whom we have already so far quoted :—_
"The evidence which presents itself two years later seems to make it more clear that the Quicunque was unknown to the great minds of the West. The council of Friuli met 796 A.D., and, as we have before said, its assembly was for the discussion of the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. The president and snmmoner of the council was Paulinus, and it is with his speech that we are concerned. After some preamble, in which he observes that his first idea is to set forth ' the very text of the creed' as a law and rule for the direction of their proceedings, he goes on to consider whatthe next step is to be. And he would first clear away some objec-tions. ' For I believe,' says he,' that in the records of some synods it is laid down . . . that no one may lawfully teach or frame another symbol of our faith. Far be it from us, as far be it from every faithful heart, to frame or teach another symbol or faith, or in another manner than they (the holy fathers of Nicsea) appointed. But according to their meaning ive have decreed to deliver in exposi-tion these matters which haply on account of the brief statement of the truth are less understood by the simple and unlearned than they ought to be.'
Here then is the definite confession of a want which the Quicunque would have supplied. The symbol by itself is too com-pendious—it needs exposition—the unlearned and simple do not sufficiently understand it; and for their sakes a longer and more explanatory treatise is to be prepared, adhering to the meaning of the fathers, who put forth the full creed. In half a century or tittle more after these words were uttered, it can be shown that our form of the Athanasian Creed was known and used and looked upon as a most satisfactory exposition of the ductri >,* in debate at Friuli.
Can it be believed, that if it had been known to Paulinus and the fathers there assembled, they would not have welcomed it as a most excellent comment on the Trinity and the Incarnation, and as the most opportune solution of all their difficulties ? "
The address or exposition with which Paulinus followed up his announcement is then given. It is too long to insert here, but it lays down the lines on which the Quicunque may be said to have been fashioned. " Many attributes and qualities are predicated of the Father, then a repetition of the same, and their predication of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,—not indeed in the detached way in which each separate predication is dealt with in the Quicunque, but yet evidently a step in the direction of that greater elaboration and distinctness."
The results, therefore, of the most recent investiga-tions into the subject may be stated as follows. In the very end of the 8th century the Quicunque is unknown as a creed-document. It is nowhere men-tioned at synods whose special business was to discuss the subject matter which it afterwards sets forth with such elaborate and authoritative detail. But during this century there are found in separate forms two documents which, when combined, constitute the framework of our present creed. The discussions of the time had a tendency to bring forward all contributions towards the explanation or fuller settlement of the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Addresses like those of Paulinus, and the correspondence betwixt him and Alcuin and Charlemagne himself, all point to the necessity of some authoritative exposition of the old and simpler creed. The demand seems to have created the supply; and accordingly, before the end of the following century, in its third quarter there is evidence of the existence of the Athanasian symbol in the very words as nearly as possible which are now used. This evidence is found in a prayer-book of Charles the Bald, written about 870. "The Quicunque then had not only been compiled, but had by this time made itself reputation enough to be included in the service-book. If twenty years be allowed for the gaining of acceptance, the date is carried back to the middle of the century, or 850 A.D." But there are two earlier MSS., showing more variations from the present form than is presented by the copy in the prayer-book of Charles the Bald. These point to an earlier stage of growth in the document, and the limits of the period during which the two parts of the Quicunque, previously, as we have seen, in separate existence, were probably combined and moulded into a creed claiming general acceptance, may be therefore carried back to the first quarter of the century, 800-825. The creed, in short, appears to have been the response of the Christian consciousness of the age immediately follow-ing that of Charlemagne to the necessity for such an authoritative exposition of the faith to which this age everywhere testifies. So far, of course, there is no question of imposture in its origin. Imposture is not the name to give to such a natural and inevitable result of the working of the mind of the Western Church towards a more elaborate and detailed confession of its Trinitarian faith. The imposture consists not in the rise of the creed, nor yet in the acceptance of its ambitious formulae, but in the ascription of it, probably not without the concurrence of the heads of the church, to a name with which it must have been known to have nothing to do. This was done, no doubt, with the view of securing to it credit and authority, and was supposed to be justified by its special doctrinal import, but it was none the less an assumption, the fictitious character of which could hardly have been unknown to those who first used the creed and gave it currency in the church.
With the adoption of the " Athanasian" symbol the creed-

formations of the early and mediaeval church terminate. Nor is it to be forgotten of the three so-called " Catholic " creeds, that only one of them is in the broadest sense " Catholic " or " (Ecumenical." Neither the " Apostles' " nor the " Athanasiau " Creed is known to the Greek or Oriental Church, which remained faithful to the faith " settled by the Holy Fathers " at Nicaea, or at least to the faith as subsequently enlarged to its present form (with the exception of the " filioque" clause). No doubt, in the East as well there were in circulation many expositions of the Nicene doctrine, called forth by the same doctrinal necessities as prevailed in the West. The proceedings of the Second Council of Nicaea (787), to which we have already adverted, sufficiently show this. But none of these expositions attained to any general acceptance, or rose as in the West to the same authoritative level as the ancient creed. It remained alone in its eminence, protected by the denunications which the third council, which assembled at Ephesus in 431, directed against clergymen or laymen " who shall dare to compose any other creed." Of all Christian creeds, therefore, the Nicene or Niceno-Constan-tinopolitan is the only really " Catholic" or oecumenical creed, deliberately discussed and adopted by the represen-tatives of the universal church. The two others associated with it in the services of the Western Church have not only never had acceptance beyond the range of that church, but are very gradual growths within it, without any definite parentage or deliberate and consultative authority. They emerge gradually during many centuries from the confusions and variations of Christian opinion, slowly crystallizing into definite shape; and such authority as belongs to them is neither primitive nor patristic. It is the reflected assent of the later church in the West, and the.uncritical patronage of a comparatively ignorant age, which have alone elevated them to the same position as the faith defined at Nicaea, which is the only truly Catholic or universal symbol of the universal church.
V. After the Reformation a new era of creed-formations, or confessions of faith, set in. The process of exposition out of which we have seen the " Athanasian" symbol to have gradually risen, became once more urgent, not only in the disrupted branches of the church, which were called into existence by the activity of the several Reformers, but also in the Roman Church, from which the churches of the Reformation were broken off. As we said at the outset, we cannot do more here than present a summary of the many confessions which then sprung up. And here, as in the previous part of this article, the best principle of arrangement will be the chronological, not merely because this order is most suitable to our plan, but because it really sheds most light on the formation of the several documents, and alone brings them into rightly intelligent relation to one another. We will hardly be able to do more than enumerate the titles and the dates of the multiplied confessions of the Reformed churches. But even this will be more than the English reader can readily find elsewhere in a complete form.
1. The confessions of the Lutheran Church claim the first attention in chronological order. The first of these is the Gonfessio Augustana, or Confession of Augsburg, compiled by Melanchthon, and presented in German and Latin to the Emperor Charles V., in 1530, in the name of the evangelical states of Germany. It consists of twenty-one articles, beginning (1) De Deo ; (2) De Peccato Originis ; (3) De Filio Dei ; (4) De Justificatione, &c. ; and ending (21) De Cultu Sanctorum. The articles are terse and sig-nificant, and express with clearness and brevity the doctrinal position of the Lutheran Church. In addition to the twenty-one more positive articles, there are seven of a more controversial character, treating of the ecclesiastical abuses which Lutheranism had corrected, or, as they are called, Abusus mutatos, viz., (1) De Utraque Specie ; (2) De Con-jugio Sacerdotum ; (3) De Missa; (4) De Confessione; (5) De Discrimine Ciborum; (C) De Votis Monachorum; and (7) De Potestate Ecclesiastica. Secondly, immediately following the Confession of Augsburg appeared the Apologia Confessionis Augustana, also prepared by Melanchthon, in reply to a professed confutation of the original document by certain Roman Catholic divines. The Apology follows the order of the confession, but sometimes several articles are grouped together when referring to one main topic ; and the Apology is thus divided into only sixteen sections, although greatly more extended, nearly five times larger, in fact, than the Confession itself. To these two primary documents were afterwards added, thirdly, the Articles of Smalkald— Articula Smalcaldici—prepared by Luther himself in 1536, and signed at Smalkald by an assembly of evan-gelical theologians, and, fourthly, the Formula Concordia, composed in 1576 after considerable doctrinal divisions had broken out in Lutheranism. This latter document was not so universally accepted as the others by the Lutheran churches, but it has always been reckoned along with them as of confessional authority. To these remain to be added Luther's two catechisms, which have also a confessional position among the Lutherans. The Catechismus Major and the Catechismus Minor were both issued in 1529, and take their place in the list of symbolic books betwixt the Smalkald Articles and the Formula Concordiae. The collective documents are issued as a Concordia, or Liber Concordia, printed with the three older creeds in advance, and together they sum up the confessional theology of Lutheranism.
2. The course of the Reformation, as is well known, evoked not only the ecclesiastical but the dogmatic activity of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Council of Trent, reckoned by that church as the eighteenth oecumenical council, was summoned in the end of 1545, in order to formulate more distinctly the doctrinal position of Roman Catholicism, in opposition to Protestantism. This council sat at intervals for eighteen years, from the 13th December 1545 to the 4th December 1563, sometimes at Bologna, but chiefly at Trent. Its results are arranged in the forms of twenty-five sessions, each session generally dealing with an important head of doctrine in the shape of a "decretum," followed, but not always, by a series of " canons," " ut omnes sciant, non solum quid tenere et sequi, sed etiam quid vitare et fugere debeaut." Henea the title under which the results of the synod are known—-" Cañones et Decreta Sacrosancti Gicumenici Concilii Tridentini." The Professio Fidei Tridentina, which was drawn up under Pius IV. (1564), and the Catechismus Romanus, published under the authority of his successor Pius V. (1566), are considered by the Roman Catholic Church as symbolical writings of the second rank,
3. Passing to the confessions of the Reformed churches, we encounter more symbolic documents than there are churches. Niemeyer's Collectio Confessionumin Ecclesiis Reformatis Publicataruni contains twenty-eight confessions, the most important of which may be classified as follows :—(a) Pre-Calvinian: the Confessio Tetrapolitana, or the confession of the four cities,—Strasburg, Constance, Meiningen, and Landau,—composed by Martin Bucer in twenty-three articles, and presented to the Emperor Charles V. in 1530, the same year as the Augsburg Confession was presented; the Confessio Basiliensis, supposed to be drawn up by Myconius at Basel in 1534; and the Con-fessio Helvetica, prepared in the same city by a company of theologians, amongst whom were Bullinger and My-conius, and presented to the Lutheran divines assembled at Smalkald in 1537 ; and (b) Post-Calvinian: the

Consensus Tigurinus, and the Confessiones Gallicana, Bélgica, and Helvetica II. The Consensus Tigurinus, or " Consensio nmtua" in re sacramentaría ministrorum Tigurinae Ecclesiie et D. J. Calvini" was intended, as its title bears, to mediate betwixt the Zwinglian and the Genevese or Calvinian doctrine of the Sacraments. It was drawn up in 1549, and consisted of twenty-six articles. The Confessio Gallicana has been attributed, although doubtfully, to Calvin himself. It was accepted by a Reformed synod in France in 1559, and presented in the following year to Francis II. It was confirmed at a synod in Rochelle in 1571, and remained up to modern times the confession of the French Reformed Church. The Confessio Bélgica is said to have been composed originally as a private document by Guido of Bres in 1562. First printed in French, it soon appeared in Dutch, and gradually gained such general acceptance among the con-gregations in the Netherlands that it was confirmed at the Synod of Dort, 1618, as the confession of the Dutch Reformed Church. The Confessio Helvetica II. was drawn up by Bullingerin 1564, and held in great esteem not only by the Swiss churches but by the Reformed congregations of Poland, Hungary, and Scotland. The well-known Becrees of the Synod of Dort, printed in 1619, also claim to be added to the series, and a host of Catechisms, which also possessed more or less confessioual authority—the famous Heidelberg Catechism and the Genevese Catechism, amongst others. The Arminians had their Confessio or Beclaratio, composed by Simon Episcopius about 1622, and the Socinians their Racovian Catechism, adopted, as the name bears, at Racow in Poland in 1605.
4. To this long series of Protestant confessions there remain to be added the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, and the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is the doctriual standard, not only of the Church of Scotland, but of the chief Presbyterian churches both in Britain and in America. The former were gradually prepared, chiefly it is said by Cranmer, and passed through various phases, beginning with the ten articles of 1536, and attaining the number of forty-two in 1552, till they were finally settled as thirty-nine (1562-1571). To this series of confessional documents also belong what are known as the Lambeth Articles, composed by Archbishop Whitgift in 1575, but which were never accepted as authoritative, and the Lrish Articles, supposed to have been chiefly composed by Archbishop Ussher in 1615.
The Irish Articles form an appropriate transition to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is said to have borrowed from the former some of its special phraseology. The Westminster document was the outcome of the great Puritan agitation of the 17 th century, and as it is the last, so it is one of the most elaborate and finished of the long series of Protestant confessions. The Westminster Assembly met in the autumn of 1643, and sat for upwards of five years. The Confession of Faith was completed in the third year oí j its existence in 1646, and laid before the English Parlia- j ment in the same year. It never attained to any position of legal authority in England. But in Scotland it was accepted in the year following its composition by the General Assembly of the Kirk, as " agreeable to the Word of God, and in nothing contrary to the received doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of this Kirk," and two years afterwards, on the 7th February 1649, it was ratified and approved by the Estates of the Scottish Parliament. The Westminster Confession thus took the place in Scotland of the old Scoticana Confessio Fidei of John Knox. It retained this position of authority in 1690, when Presby-terianism was finally established in Scotland, and possesses, as we have said, symbolical authority, not only for Scottish
Presbyterianism, but for the large Presbyterian churches in America and Australia which have sprung from it or own connection with it. The Confession of Faith extends to thirty-three chapters, ranging over the most abstruse topics of theology; and along with it are generally printed the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, which have also been approved by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, but which do not possess the legal or statutory authority of the Confession,
The study of creeds and confessions in their theological
import is known as the study of symbolical theology, a
name familiar to all students of German theological litera-
ture. Winer's Confessions of Christendom (translated in
Clark's Foreign Theological Library, 1873) and Matthe.-
Comparative Symbolik (Leipsic, 1853) are specimens of
this branch of theological study. For the literature of the
creeds with which the article has chiefly dealt, the student
may be recommended to Lumby's History, more than once
quoted, but above all to Dr Swainson's elaborate volume,
to which we have also referred. A forthcoming work by
Dr Schaff, in three volumes, entitled The Creeds of
Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes, will
probably contain the most exhaustive discussion of the
subject in English literature. (j. T.)


Footnote

Credis remissionem peccatorum et vitam ajternam per sanctam ecclesiam ?







Search the Encyclopedia:



About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Sitemaps
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us



© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries