Apostles Creed vs Nicene Creed

nicene creed vs apostles creed

Apostles Creed vs Nicene Creed | Why the expansion?

My first course this semester was on the Creed. 

I grew up in a church where the Nicene Creed was recited. I spent some time this summer up in Pinetop-Lakeside where a parish recites the Apostle’s Creed. I wanted to know when and why one is used over the other and why the changes?

Background on the Creeds

Here’s a summary of what I learned: 

Immediately after Jesus died, the early Christian church had many divisions. St. Clement of Rome, ordained by Peter and mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:3, wrote “The Epistle to the Corinthians” between 80 and 99 AD. It’s the only authentic writing of St. Clement that exists. The occasion of the letter was a schism in the Church of Corinth. It turns out that a group of lay persons had succeeded in ousting all the higher clergy, the presbyters, an action declared not only unauthorized but unjustified. 

Between the death of Jesus and the 4th century, there were many heresies, but none more significant than Arianism.

Arius posited that because the Son (Jesus) was begotten, he must have had a beginning and, therefore cannot possess the same eternal divinity as God the Father, who is unbegotten and without beginning. Arius viewed Jesus as the supreme creation of God but not divine in the same sense as God the Father.

The controversy and debates surrounding Arianism were one of the main reasons for the convening of the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, called by Emperor Constantine I. The council formulated the Nicene Creed, affirming the full divinity of Jesus Christ and asserting that He is of the same substance (“consubstantial”) with God the Father, directly opposing Arian views. Arianism was condemned as heretical at this council.

Other heretical teachings and differing interpretations about the nature of Jesus Christ, the Trinity, and other theological concepts lead to the formation of various creeds and doctrinal formulations to establish orthodox Christian beliefs.

The Council

The Nicene Creed was formulated at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and revised at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. Sometimes called the Niceno-Constantinople Creed, it reflected the contributions of both ecumenical councils. Ecumenical just means they sought diverse representation from the whole Christian church, not just the Roman Catholic Church. 

Apostle's Creed

Apostles Creed vs Nicene 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 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.

Nicene Creed

nicene creed

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day 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.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Layer the Creeds and What do we find?

When you layer the original Apostles Creed with the Nicene Creed, it’s easy to see which heresies were prominent during the first 300 years of Christianity.

Highlighted in black is the Apostles Creed.

The highlighted red is the Nicene Creed.

Italicized is my thoughts on the changes.

I believe in God, 

I believe in one God,

Some early Christians believed that the Trinity was composed of multiple beings or “God(s)”, the word One was added to clarify the belief in the Trinity.

the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,

Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

We are created in God’s image. No one “created” God. Genesis 1:1 God created the heavens and the earth. The visible realm and the invisible realm, personified by the angels and heaven, so to clarify, “of ALL things visible and invisible.”

and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate and became man  

Some Christians argued over the humanity of Jesus. This expansion begins with Jesus’ divinity and leans into his humanity.

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate,

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,

He suffered for our sake, not just for the sake of suffering, so it was added.

was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead;

he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. 

A reminder of the scriptural foundation of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Luke 24:32-45 

he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

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.

Adding that heaven is everlasting.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

An inclusion of the Holy Spirit into the Trinity and an expansion of the Trinity and where we received the dogma, the prophets.

the holy catholic Church,

I believe in one, 

There were many heresies and divisions among Christians at the time. Ephesians 4:3-5: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. “The Church is one because of her source.” CCC 813

holy,

Jesus, holy of holies, called the Church his bride and endowed her with the Holy Spirit. 

catholic 

katholikos: Greek for universal as it was universal in “keeping with the whole,” and she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race.

and apostolic Church.

The church is Apostolic in that she was built on the “foundation of the Apostles,” Ephesians 2:20 CCC 857

the communion of saints,

I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins

Mark 16:15-16 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead 

1 Corinthians 15:12-14 Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

and life everlasting.

and the life of the world to come.

Amen.

Amen.