The Nicene Creed, or Nicaene Creed, is a statement derived from the Christian Scriptures defining the basic beliefs of the Christian Church. The Creed is also referred to as The Symbol of the Faith. The Nicene Creed is included (in variant forms) in the services of the Eastern Orthodox, Orthodox Catholic, Roman Catholic, Protestant and non-denominational churches. The original version, first adopted by the Council of Nicaea in 325 from which its appellation is derived, was revised at the Council of Constantinople in 381 and the last version established within the context of the Seven Ecumenical Councils was set down at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 while later changes were yet to come.
The original Creed was laid down at Nicaea in 325 A.D at The First Ecumenical Council, a congregation of representatives from the Christian Churches extant at that time in the Roman Empire. The Council was called to deal with the disputed nature of the Son. At the center of the dispute was Arius, an Alexandrian priest. Arius maintained that the Son was inferior and was created as opposed to 'begotten'. This was termed ‘heresy’ and the position is known as Arianism, a perspective that still exists today. The wording of the Creed specifically speaks to this ancient dispute and was meant to draw a defined line between those who were Christian (believe that Jesus is both human and divine and consubstantial with God) and those who believe otherwise.
The original version promulgated at that time (from Epistola Eusebii, circa 350 A.D.):
- “We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God from God, Light from Light, Life from Life, Son Only-begotten, first-born of every creature, before all the ages, begotten from the Father, by Whom also all things were made; Who for our salvation was made flesh, and lived among men, and suffered, and rose again the third day, and ascended to the Father, and will come again in glory to judge the quick and dead. And we believe also in One Holy Ghost:”
- “believing each of these to be and to exist, the Father truly Father, and the Son truly Son, and the Holy Ghost truly Holy Ghost, as also our Lord, sending forth His disciples for the preaching, said, “Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost''
This original version of the Creed also contained an anathema at the end:
- "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."
Eusebius of Cæsarea made this comment about the anathema:
- "Concerning whom we confidently
affirm that so we hold, and so we think, and so we have held aforetime, and we maintain this faith unto the death,
anathematizing every godless heresy. That this we have ever thought from our heart and soul, from the time we
recollect ourselves, and now think and say in truth, before God Almighty and our Lord Jesus Christ do we witness,
being able by proofs to show and to convince you, that, even in times past, such has been our belief and
preaching.'Cite error: Invalid
invalid names, e.g. too many
This formula with the Anathema was the authorised form of the Creed till the Council of Chalcedon in 451. However, the issue was revisited at the Council of Constantinople in 381 (also referred to as the Second Ecumenical Council) whereupon the phrase “who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified" as well as the reference to the Christ's crucifixion was added.
The following version was authorised in 451 A.D. at the Council of Chalcedon:Cite error: Invalid
invalid names, e.g. too many
- 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 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; 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 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 again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
- 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.
The primary concerns of the Second Ecumenical Council with regard to the Creed were the concepts of substance or essence, (in Greek, homoousios) and person (in Greek, hypostasis).The Trinitarian doctrine of the Christian Church embraces the concept that God (the Creator and Father), the Son, (Jesus the Christ) and the Holy Spirit are one Essence (or substance-homoousios) and Three Persons (hypostasis) .
Two other primary aspects of this creed are those that incorporate the related concept that Jesus was both human and divine and the concept that the Holy Spirit (also referred to in tradition as the 'Holy Ghost') comes from the Father, not from the Son.
The divine or human nature of the Son has been and still is a subject upon which numerous divergent groups have disputed. 
A phrase occasionally inserted sometime after the First and Second Ecumenical Councils, the Filioque, carried the provision that the Spirit proceeds from the Son. This wording is at the seat of a primary dispute between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Catholic Churches. It was officially added by the Synod of Spain at the Council of Toledo in 589 and later adopted by the Latin Church (Roman Catholic Church). The Orthodox Churches do not accept the Filioque as canonical. At present, there are a great many Protestant churches that do employ the filioque in their version of the creed. The protestant version was adopted from the Roman Catholic version.
The Roman Catholic Church has elucidated its variant which includes the filioque as both consistent with the Nicene-Constatinople revision and the concept of the substance of the Father alone from which the Spirit takes his origin in an attempt to allay the dispute with the eastern churches which is held to be a misunderstanding of the use of the phrase that implicity states the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Eastern Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware has also recognised that the filioque variant may be more semantical than doctrinaire. 
The Creed (in English) as it is read in the Eastern Orthodox Churches: 
- 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 only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men, and for our salvation, came down from the heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and became man; and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; and suffered, and was buried; and arose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures; And ascended into the heavens, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life; Who procedeeth from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the prophets. In One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We confess one baptism for the remission of sins; We look for the resurrection of the dead, And the life of the age to come. Amen.
The Creed with variations as used in The Roman Catholic Church and other churches is explained below: 
The phrase "and the Son" was not in the Council's original text, but was added to the Latin liturgy in 1014 (in some localities earlier) and as such predates the Reformation in the 16th century. It is omitted from most Eastern liturgies (including Eastern-rite Catholic). Most Protestant churches that retain the creed at all use the Latin form.
Another version of the Creed was composed by the Synod at Nicaea in 325. 
- The Ecthesis of the Synod at Nicaea.
- We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, 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 which be in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion--all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.
Versions currently in use
There are currently seven different versions in use in different churches:
- Western: used in the Latin rite (the great majority) of the Roman Catholic Church, and in many Protestant churches
- Greek/Byzantine: used in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Byzantine/Melchite rites of the Roman Catholic Church
- Jacobite/West Syrian
- Assyrian/Chaldaean/Nestorian/East Syrian
The Eastern rites of the Roman Catholic Church generally use the forms used in the corresponding eastern churches independent of Rome.
The Western version will be given here (as the majority version), clause by clause, with notes on differences.
"I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible."
- Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian and Assyrian say "We" instead of "I". In the Jacobite liturgy the priest says "We" and the congregation say "I". Assyrian has the shorter form "... Maker of all ..."
"And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God"
- Armenian omits "only-begotten" here (see next clause). Syrian rites say "only Son". Ethiopic has "only Son of the Father".
"begotten of the Father before all ages"
- Armenian has "only-begotten" in place of "before all ages". Ethiopic reads "who was with him before the world was created". Assyrian prefixes "the first-born of every creature" and adds "and not made".
"God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made"
- Only Western and Armenian include "God of God". Assyrian omits "Light of Light". Ethiopic reads "God of true God".
"of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made"
- "whom" here refers to the Son, not the Father. Jacobite version reads "of equal essence". Ethiopic "equal in His Godhead". Armenian adds (to "things") "in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible". Ethiopic "but without him was not anything made in heaven or in earth". Assyrian "by whom the worlds were framed and all things were created".
"Who, for us men, and for our salvation, came down from the heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and became man"
- Armenian "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". Jacobite adds "Mother of God". Assyrian "was incarnate of the Holy Spirit, and was made man, and was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary".
"and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; and suffered, and was buried"
- Armenian "who having suffered, having been crucified and buried". Jacobite and Ethiopic "... suffered, and died, and ...". Assyrian "... suffered and was crucified ... Pilate; and was buried".
"and arose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures; And ascended into the heavens, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end"
- Jacobite "... day as he willed ...". Armenian omits "according to the Scriptures". Ethiopic "ascended with glory". Armenian "... into heaven with the same body ... cometh again in the same body in the glory of the Father ...". Assyrian omits "with glory".
"And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life"
- Armenian "Holy Spirit, uncreated and perfect". Assyrian "one Hoy Spirit, the Spirit of truth".
"Who procedeeth from the Father and the Son; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the prophets"
- In the first clause, "and the Son" appears only in the Western rite, and is a later addition to the creed, regarded as heretical by many or most eastern Christians. Jacobite has "apostles and prophets". Armenian "in the law and prophets and gospels, who came down upon the Jordan, preached in the apostles and dwelt in the saints". Assyrian "Who procedeeth from the Father; the Spirit, the Giver of Life".
"In One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins; I look for the resurrection of the dead, And the life of the age to come. Amen.
- For "I" and "We" see above. Armenian "... in one baptism, in repentance, in propitiation and forgiveness of sins, in the resurrection of the dead, in the everlasting judgment of souls and bodies, in the kingdom of heaven, and in life everlasting", and adds anathemas against certain heresies and an undertaking to glorify God.
The specific statements of the Creed as used (in English translation) by the Eastern Orthodox Churches are grounded in the New Testament and Old Testament as such:
- I believe in one God, the Father Almighty ...Gen. 17:1-8; Deut. 6:4; Matthew 6:9
- Maker of heaven and earth ...Gen. 1:1-31; Job 38:1-30
- And of all things visible and invisible ...Col. 1:15-16; John 1:3
- And in one Lord Jesus Christ ...John 20:28; Acts 16:31; John 3:16
- The Only-begotten Son of God ...Psalm 2:7; Matthew 3:17; John 1:1
- Begotten of the Father before all ages ...John 1:1-2, 8:58; Col. 1:16; Phil. 2:6
- Light of Light ...John 1:1-9
- True God of true God ...John 16:27-28; John 1:1-2
- Begotten, not made ...John 1:1-2, 16:28
- Of one essence with the Father ...John 14:10-11, 17:22-23
- By Whom all things were made ...John 1:3-10, Col. 1:16
- Who for us men and our salvation ...Luke 2:30; John 3:16; 1 John 4:14; 1 Tim. 2:5-6
- Came down from heaven ...John 3:13, 31; John 6:12-38
- And was incarnate of the Holy Spirit ...Luke 1:35
- And the Virgin Mary ...Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:35-46
- And became man ...John 1:14; Phil. 2:6-8, Heb. 2:14-17
- He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate ...Matthew 27:24-31
- And suffered and was buried ...Mark 15:16-46
- He arose again on the third day according to the Scriptures ...1 Cor. 15:3-4; Luke 24:1-12; Matthew 12:38-40; Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:16-19
- And ascended into heaven ...Luke 24:50-53; Mark 16:16-19
- And sits at the right hand of the Father ...Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20
- And shall come again with glory ...Psalm 72:9-19; Isaiah 40:5
- To judge the living and the dead ...Rev. 20:11-15; Acts 10:42
- Whose Kingdom shall have no end ...Psalm 145:13; John 3:16; John 6:40-47
- And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord ...Gen. 1:2; Matthew 3:16; Acts 2:1-4
- The Giver of Life ...John 15:26; John 14:16-17; Rom. 8:2; Gal. 6:8
- Who proceeds from the Father ...John 15:26
- Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified ...Luke 10:22; Matthew 3:17; John 4:24
- Who spoke by the prophets ...Acts 2 17:18; 2 Peter 1:21
- I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church ...1 Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 2:19-22; 4:11-16; 2 Thess. 2:15; 1 Tim. 3:1-15
- I confess one baptism for the remission of sins ...Matthew 3:16; John 3:5; Acts 2:38, 8:36-40; Eph. 4:5
- I look for the resurrection of the dead ...1 Cor. 15:12-58
- And the life of the world to come ...Rom. 8:17-25; Phil. 3:20-21; 2 Peter 3:13
- Introduction to the Coptic Orthodox Church
- The Nicene Creed and the Filioque: A Lutheran Approach Webber, David Jay,(1999). Lutheran Theology Website This essay was published in Logia, Vol. VIII, No. 4 (Reformation 1999), pp. 45-52. Reverend Webber is currently Pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Scottsdale AZ. Accessed 16 November, 2008; The Need for Creeds Jaroslav Pelikan; Nicene Creed Jaroslav Pelikan, Speaking of Faith Public Radio; Symbolum Nicaeno-Constantinopolitanum - Greek The original Nicene Creed written in Greek established in 325, and the revisions made at the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 in Constantinople and adopted in the Third Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451. Site maintained by Rev. Michael H. Anderson, M.Div., Th.B., B.A.; Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), St Mary's Presbyterian Church, St. Mary's, West Virginia. Retrieved 8 December, 2008
- Leo, D. Davis (1983) The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787): Their History and Theology. Collegeville Minnesota, Liturgical Press
- Letter of Eusebius of Cæsarea to the people of his Diocese Schaff, Philip (1819-1893) (Translator) in "Athanasius: Select Works and Letters" New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892. Source: Logos Inc.. Rights: Public Domain. Reprinted by Calvin College, Christian Classics Etheral Library, 3201 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546 USA
- and for that reason is also referred to as the Symbolum Nicæno-Constantinopolitanum, or Symbol of Nicea and Constantinople today. See for example Schaff & Wace, (1890) pages 16-17
- This English version, while different lexically from the somewhat more modern Eastern Orthodox English version given below, reflects the lexicon of the late 19th Century U.S.A. and the differences are not substantial.
- Timothy Ware “Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia” (1963) The Orthodox Church. (pages 22-23) London. Penguin Books
- Introduction to the Coptic Orthodox Church
- The Father as the Source of the Whole Trinity The Procession of the Holy Spirit in Greek and Latin Traditions Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (1996) Catholic International magazine (volume 7, no. 1: January, 1996; pp 36-49).
- Variations in vocabulary are the norm while the doctrinaire consistency remains, for example, the use of "spake" as opposed to "spoke", "rose" versus "ascended", "sitteth" or "sit", "Maker" or "Creator", "Very God of Very God" or "True God of True God"
- Prayer Book (1986). Jordanville, New York: Holy Trinity Monastery (page 125) 4th edition; The Symbol of Faith of Orthodox Christians (Nicene Creed) St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas; Nicene Creed The Orthodox Church in America; Nicene Creed Greek Archdiocese of America; The Nicene Creed sung by Orthodox Church Choir A Recording on You Tube of the Creed sung by Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross in Medford, New Jersey with some lexical variants
- see for example: The Nicene Creed Wilhelm, Joseph. "The Nicene Creed." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 16 Nov. 2008;Nicene Creed Anglicans Online, Society of Archbishop Justus; Nicene Creed Christian Classics Ethereal Library;Symbolum Nicæno-Constantinopolitanum. E. Percival, Ed., Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical notes. Volume II. The History of Creeds. Retrieved from Christian Classics Ethereal Library. This site provides and extensive reproduction of many of the creeds of the ancient Christian church; Nicene Creed Christian Reformed Church In North America; Nicene Creed Archbishop’s Council of the Church of England; Nicene Creed from the Common Book of Prayer, Church Society, Church of England;Symbol of the Faith Catholic Church Byzantine-Ruthenian Rite; The Nicene Creed Collins, Ken. Rev., Christian Church Disciples of Christ
- Reformation Europe Fordham University Internet Modern History Sourcebook. This site offers and excellent timeline and of the Reformation and documents and essays on the topic of the Reformation
- Creed The Seven Ecumenical Councils, ed. H. Percival, in the Library of Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 2nd series (New York: Charles Scribners, 1990), Vol XIV, 3. From the Medieval Sourcebook. Fordham University. The text of Percival's "Seven Ecumenical Councils" is in public Domain
- Creed of the Armenian Church and Nicene Creed St. James of Nisibis. The Armenian Church accepts the wordings of the first three Ecumenical Councils and not the Fourth at Chalcedon. Their Creed reflects these variations. The Creed is given here in Armenian and in English. Retrieved 7 December, 2008; Nicene Creed St. Leon Armenian Church, Fair Lawn, New Jersey. The creed of the Armenian Church with some modern lexical variations in the text. Retrieved 7 December, 2008; Compare also here Nicene Creed Armenian Apostolic Church On-line. Version in Armenian, Romanisation (written in the Latin alphabet) and translation in English. Retrieved 7 December, 2008
- The Coptic Orthodox Church: Our Creed St. Mary and Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States; Coptic Liturgy: The Orthodox Creed Coptic Orthodox Church Centre, United Kingdom; Nicene Creed Coptic Orthodox church, Diocese of Sydney and Affiliated Regions (pages 4 & 5)
- Nicene Creed Nine Saints Ethiopian Orthodox Monastery
- Fr. George Grube (2004) The Orthodox Church A to Z (pp. 5-7). Holy Cross Bookstore