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The Nicene Creed (Latin: ) is the creed or profession of faith (Greek: ) that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene ( ) because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaeamarker by the first ecumenical council, which met there in 325. The Nicene Creed has been normative to the Anglican and Roman Catholic Eucharistic rite as well as Eastern and Oriental Orthodox liturgies. The Creed is recited in the Roman Rite Mass directly after the homily on all Sundays and Solemnities (Tridentine Feasts of the First Class), and in the Byzantine Rite Liturgy following the Litany of Supplication on all occasions.

It is given high importance in the Anglican Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Assyrian Church of the East, Oriental Orthodox churches, the Roman Catholic Church including the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Old Catholic Church, and most Protestant denominations.

For current English translations of the Nicene Creed, see English versions of the Nicene Creed in current use.


There are several designations for the two forms of the Nicene creed, some with overlapping meanings:

  • Nicene Creed can refer to the original version adopted at the First Council of Nicaea (325), to the revised version adopted by the First Council of Constantinople (381), to the later Latin version that includes the phrase "Deum de Deo" and "Filioque", and to the Armenian version.
  • Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed can stand for the revised version of Constantinople (381) or to the later Latin and Armenian versions.
  • Icon/Symbol of the Faith is the usual designation for the revised version of Constantinople 381 in the Orthodox churches, where this is the only creed used in the liturgy.
  • Profession of Faith of the 318 Fathers refers specifically to the version of Nicea 325 (traditionally, 318 bishops took part at the First Council of Nicea).
  • Profession of Faith of the 150 Fathers refers specifically to the version of Constantinople 381 (traditionally, 150 bishops took part at the First Council of Constantinople)

In musical settings, particularly when singing in Latin, this Creed is usually referred to by its first word, Credo.


The purpose of a creed is to act as a yardstick of correct belief. The creeds of Christianity have been drawn up at times of conflict about doctrine: acceptance or rejection of a creed served to distinguish believers and deniers of a particular doctrine or set of doctrines. For that reason a creed was called in Greek a σύμβολον, a word that meant half of a broken object which, when placed together with the other half, verified the bearer's identity. The Greek word passed through Latin "symbolum" into English "symbol", which only later took on the meaning of an outward sign of something. The Nicene Creed was adopted in the face of the Arian controversy. Arius, a Libyan preacher, had declared that although Jesus Christ was divine, God had actually created him, and there was a time when he was not. This made Jesus less than the Father and contradicted the doctrine of the Trinity. Arius's teaching provoked a serious crisis.

The Nicene Creed of 325 explicitly affirms the divinity of Jesus, applying to him the term "God". The 381 version speaks of the Holy Spirit as worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son. The Athanasian Creed describes in much greater detail the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Apostles' Creed, not formulated in reaction to Arianism, makes no explicit statements about the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit, but, in the view of many who use it, the doctrine is implicit in it.

The original Nicene Creed of 325

The original Nicene Creed was first adopted in 325 at the First Council of Nicaea. At that time, the text ended after the words "We believe in the Holy Spirit", after which an anathema was added.

The Coptic Church has the tradition that the original creed was authored by Pope Athanasius I of Alexandria. F. J. A. Hort and Adolf Harnack argued that the Nicene creed was the local creed of Caesareamarker (an important center of Early Christianity) brought to the council by Eusebius of Caesarea. J.N.D. Kelly sees as its basis a baptismal creed of the Syro-Phoenician family, related to (but not dependent on) the creed cited by Cyril of Jerusalem and to the creed of Eusebius.

Soon after the Council of Nicaea, new formulae of faith were composed, most of them variations of the Nicene Symbol, to counter new phases of Arianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia identifies at least four before the Council of Sardica (341), where a new form was presented and inserted in the Acts of the Council, though it was not agreed on.

The Nicene–Constantinopolitan Creed of 381

The second Ecumenical Council in 381 added the section that follows the words "We believe in the Holy Spirit" (without the words "and the Son" relative to the procession of the Spirit); hence the name "Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed", referring to the Creed as modified in Constantinople. This is the received text of the Eastern Orthodox Church, with the exception that in its liturgy it changes verbs from the plural by which the Fathers of the Council collectively professed their faith to the singular of the individual Christian's profession of faith. Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic Churches use exactly the same form of the Creed, since the Catholic Church teaches that it is wrong to add "and the Son" to the Greek verb "ἐκπορευόμενον", but correct to add it to the Latin "qui procedit", which does not have precisely the same meaning.

The third Ecumenical Council (Council of Ephesus of 431) reaffirmed the 325 version of the Nicene Creed and declared that "it is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different ( ) Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa"(i.e. the 325 version) This statement has been interpreted as a prohibition against changing this creed or composing others, but not all accept this interpretation. This question must be considered against the background of long and continuous controversy in the Church concerning the nature of the Trinity, and of Jesus in particular; and the debate over whether a creed proclaimed by an Ecumenical Council is definitive or subject to change.

Comparison between Creed of 325 and Creed of 381

The following table juxtaposes the earlier (325 AD) and later (381 AD) forms of this Creed in the English translation given in Schaff's work, Creeds of Christendom, which indicates by [square brackets] the portions of the 325 text that were omitted or moved in 381, and uses italics to indicate what phrases, absent in the 325 text, were added in 381.

First Council of Nicea (325) First Council of Constantinople (381)
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. We 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, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; by whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead;
whose kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Ghost. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.
In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
[But those who say: 'There was a time when he was not;' and 'He was not before he was made;' and 'He was made out of nothing,' or 'He is of another substance' or 'essence,' or 'The Son of God is created,' or 'changeable,' or 'alterable'—they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]

Filioque controversy

In the late sixth century, the Latin-speaking churches of Western Europe added the words "and the Son" (Filioque) to the description of the procession of the Holy Spirit, in what Easterners have argued is a violation of Canon VII of the Third Ecumenical Council, since the words were not included in the text by either the Council of Nicaea or that of Constantinople.The Vatican has recently argued that while these words would indeed be heretical if associated with the Greek verb ἐκπορεύεσθαι of the text adopted by the Council of Constantinople, they are not heretical when associated with the Latin verb procedere, which corresponds instead to the Greek verb προιέναι, with which some of the Greek Fathers also associated the same words.

Views on the importance of this creed

The Nicene Creed has been regarded as a touchstone of true Christian faith, though not a complete expression of it. When the word "symbol" meant a "token for identification (by comparison with a counterpart)", the Nicene Creed was given, in Greek and Latin, the name "symbol of faith", a name still used even in languages in which "symbol" no longer has that meaning.

In the Roman Rite Mass, the Latin text of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, with "Deum verum de Deo vero" (true God from true God) and "Filioque" (and from the Son), phrases absent in the original text, was previously the only form used for the "profession of faith". The Roman Missal now refers to it jointly with the Apostles' Creed as "the Symbol or Profession of Faith or Creed", describing the second as "the baptismal Symbol of the Roman Church, known as the Apostles' Creed". Use of the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, which contains only the Latin text of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, is still permitted, with certain limitations on its public use. The liturgies of the ancient Churches of Eastern Christianity (Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, Assyrian Church of the East) and the Eastern Catholic Churches), use the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, never the Western Apostles' Creed.

While not necessarily rejecting the Nicene Creed as erroneous, some evangelical and other Christians, on the basis of their sola scriptura view, consider it as in no way authoritative because it is not part of the Bible, and do not recite it in their services.

The Church of the New Jerusalem, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and similar groups, accept the Christian Scriptures in whole or in part, but reject post-Apostolic statements such as the Nicene Creed. They consider themselves Christians, an identification contested by others who consider acceptance of the Nicene Creed a key part of Christian orthodoxy.

Ancient liturgical versions

All differ at least to some small extent from the text adopted by the First Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople. The Creed was originally written in Greek, owing to the location of the two councils. But though the councils' texts have " " (we believe ... confess ... await), the Creed that the Churches of Byzantine tradition use in their liturgy has " " (I believe ... confess ... await), accentuating the personal nature of recitation of the Creed. The Latin text, as well as using the singular, has two additions: "Deum verum de Deo vero" (true God from true God) and "Filioque" (and from the Son). The Armenian text has many more additions.

Greek text

Latin version

Credo in unum Deum,
Patrem omnipoténtem,
Factórem cæli et terræ,
Visibílium ómnium et invisibílium.
Et in unum Dóminum Iesum Christum,
Fílium Dei Unigénitum,
Et ex Patre natum ante ómnia sæcula.
Deum de Deo, lumen de lúmine, Deum verum de Deo vero,
Génitum, non factum, consubstantiálem Patri:
Per quem ómnia facta sunt.
Qui propter nos hómines et propter nostram salútem
Descéndit de cælis.
Et incarnátus est de Spíritu Sancto
Ex María Vírgine, et homo factus est.
Crucifíxus étiam pro nobis sub Póntio Piláto;
Passus, et sepúltus est,
Et resurréxit tértia die, secúndum Scriptúras,
Et ascéndit in cælum, sedet ad déxteram Patris.
Et íterum ventúrus est cum glória,
Iudicáre vivos et mórtuos,
Cuius regni non erit finis.
Et in Spíritum Sanctum, Dóminum et vivificántem:
Qui ex Patre Filióque procédit.
Qui cum Patre et Fílio simul adorátur et conglorificátur:
Qui locútus est per prophétas.
Et unam, sanctam, cathólicam et apostólicam Ecclésiam.
Confíteor unum baptísma in remissiónem peccatorum.
Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum,
Et vitam ventúri sæculi. Amen.

The Latin text adds "Deum de Deo" and "Filioque" to the Greek. On the latter see The Filioque Controversy above. Inevitably also, the overtones of the terms used, such as " " (pantokratora) and "omnipotentem" differ ("pantokratora" meaning Ruler of all; "omnipotentem" meaning omnipotent, Almighty). The implications of this for the interpretation of " " and "qui ... procedit" was the object of the study The Greek and the Latin Traditions regarding the Procession of the Holy Spirit published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 1996. Again, the terms " " and "consubstantialem", translated as "of one being" or "consubstantial", have different overtones, being based respectively on Greek (stable being, immutable reality, substance, essence, true nature),[3431] and Latin substantia (that of which a thing consists, the being, essence, contents, material, substance). [3432]

"Credo", which in classical Latin is used with the accusative case of the thing held to be true (and with the dative of the person to whom credence is given), is here used three times with the preposition "in", a literal translation of the Greek " " (in unum Deum ..., in unum Dominum ..., in Spiritum Sanctum ...), and once in the classical preposition-less construction (unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam).

English translation of the Armenian version

We believe in One God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only begotten, that is of the substance of the Father. God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten and not made; Himself of the nature of the Father, by whom all things came into being in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate, was made man, was born perfectly of the Holy Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. By whom he took body, soul and mind, and everything that is in man, truly and not in semblance. He suffered and was crucified, and was buried and rose again on the third day and ascended into heaven with the same body and sat at the right hand of the Father. He is to come with the same body, and with the glory of the Father to judge the quick and the dead, of Whose kingdom there is no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the uncreated and the perfect, who spoke in the law and the prophets and the Gospel, Who came down upon the Jordan, preached to the Apostles and dwelt in the saints. We believe also in only one, catholic, and apostolic, holy Church, in one baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; in the resurrection of the dead, and in the everlasting judgement of souls and bodies, in the kingdom of heaven and in the life eternal."Armenian Church Divine Liturgy." Web: Nov. 9. 2009. />

Church Slavonic Version

Church Slavonic text Transliteration into modern Russian alphabet
Верую во единаго Бога Отца, Вседержителя, Творца небу и земли, видимым же всем и невидимым. И во единаго Господа Иисуса Христа, Сына Божия, Единороднаго, Иже от Отца рожденнаго прежде всех век; Света от Света, Бога истинна от Бога истинна, рожденна, несотворенна, единосущна Отцу, Имже вся быша. Нас ради человек и нашего ради спасения сшедшаго с небес и воплотившагося от Духа Свята и Марии Девы, и вочеловечшася. Распятаго же за ны при Понтийстем Пилате, и страдавша, и погребена. И воскресшаго в третий день по Писанием. И возшедшаго на небеса, и седяща одесную Отца. И паки грядущаго со славою судити живым и мертвым, Егоже Царствию не будет конца. И в Духа Святаго, Господа животворящаго, Иже от Отца исходящаго, Иже со Отцем и Сыном спокланяема и сславима, глаголавшего пророки. Во едину Святую, Соборную и Апостольскую Церковь. Исповедую едино крещение во оставление грехов. Чаю воскресения мертвых, и жизни будущаго века. Аминь.

English translations

For English translations of the Nicene Creed, which of necessity are not as ancient as the original Greek and the Latin and Armenian versions, see English versions of the Nicene Creed in current use.


  1. Jeffrey, David L. A Dictionary of biblical tradition in English literature. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1992. ISBN 0802836348
  2. Symbol. c.1434, "creed, summary, religious belief," from L.L. symbolum "creed, token, mark," from Gk. symbolon "token, watchword" (applied c.250 by Cyprian of Carthage to the Apostles' Creed, on the notion of the "mark" that distinguishes Christians from pagans), from syn- "together" + stem of ballein "to throw." The sense evolution is from "throwing things together" to "contrasting" to "comparing" to "token used in comparisons to determine if something is genuine." Hence, "outward sign" of something. The meaning "something which stands for something else" first recorded 1590 (in "Faerie Queene"). Symbolic is attested from 1680. ( symbol. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. Accessed: 24 March 2008).
  3. Collins. M, The Story of Christianity, Dorling Kindersley, 1999, p60
  4. cf. Philip Schaff's The Seven Ecumenical Councils - The Nicene Creed and Creeds of Christendom: § 8. The Nicene Creed
  5. cf. Schaff's Seven Ecumenical Councils: Second Ecumenical: The Holy Creed Which the 150 Holy Fathers Set Forth...
  6. Schaff's Creeds: Forma Recepta Ecclesiæ Orientalis. A.D. 381, Schaff's Creeds: Forma Recepta, Ecclesiæ Occidentalis
  7. The Father as the Source of the Whole Trinity
  8. It was the original 325 version, not that of 381, that was recited at the Council of Ephesus ( The Third Ecumenical Council. The Council of Ephesus, p. 202).
  9. Canon VII of the Council of Ephesus
  10. Excursus on the Words
  11. The following table presents in the same way the texts of the two Councils, as given in the original Greek language on the Web site Symbolum Nicaeno-Constantinopolitanum - Greek: {| class="wikitable" |- Valign=top ! First Council of Nicea (325) ! First Council of Constantinople (381) |- | || |- | || |- | || |- | || |- | || |- | || |- | || |- | || |- | || |- |}
  12. For a different view, see e.g. Excursus on the Words πίστιν ἑτέραν
  13. The Roman Catholic Church does not permit the addition of these words to the Creed recited in Greek and so with the word ἐκπορευόμενον
  14. Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: The Greek and the Latin Traditions regading the Procession of the Holy Spirit (scanned image of the English translation on L'Osservatore Romano of 20 September 1995); also text with Greek letters transliterated and text omitting two sentences at the start of the paragraph that it presents as beginning with "The Western tradition expresses first ..."
  15. See etymology given in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000
  16. Ordo Missae, 18-19
  17. In Let Us Pray: A Guide to the Rubrics of Sunday Mass Paul Turner says that "the Apostles' Creed may be said on some occasions", citing the Ordo Missae, 19, which instead says: "Instead of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, especially during Lent and Easter time, the baptismal Symbol of the Roman Church, known as the A[ostles' Creed, may be used" (emphasis added).
  18. Are Mormons Christians? Are Mormons Christian? Are Mormons Christians?
  19. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America: Liturgical Texts. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
  20. Η ΘΕΙΑ ΛΕΙΤΟΥΡΓΙΑ. Church of Greece.
  21. Missale Romanum
  22. Lewis & Short

See also


  • A. E. Burn, The Council of Nicaea (1925)
  • G. Forell, Understanding the Nicene Creed (1965)

External links

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