History of the Nicene Creed

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At its most basic level of understanding, the Nicene Creed is both a declaration of our faith and a concise statement of our beliefs. In fact, according to Webster’s Dictionary, a creed is “a statement of the basic beliefs of a religion”. It comes from the Latin word credo, which means, “I believe”. For Orthodox Christians, the Nicene Creed is just that – a way for us to not only summarize our beliefs, but to also share it with all who will listen.

Church Heresies

In the early days of the church, there were many heresies. The Orthodox Christian Church has always been devoted to addressing these heresies as a way to preserve the truth that was explained to us by Jesus Christ. When he told his Apostles to “make disciples of all nations” he charged them with teaching others about Christ. Even today, Orthodox Christians can relax knowing that the doctrine is sound.

One notable heresy arose in the 300’s, shortly before the Council of Nicaea met to address it. Arian, a church elder from Libya, shared with his followers false information. He believed that Jesus was “lesser” than the Father. Of course, this isn’t true. Believing that He isn’t as important as God goes against the teachings of the Trinity.

Developing the Creed

In 325 AD, the First Council of Nicaea met to address these heresies. Their solution was to come up with a concise explanation of what Christians should believe. The result was an early draft of the Nicene Creed. Whenever confronted with a heresy, a Christian could state in plain language his beliefs, so that anyone who tried to say otherwise wasn’t able to continue making the false claims. The Creed also gave the church a way to handle these false teachings from a leadership standpoint.

The Nicene Creed was amended in 381 at the Council of Constantinople. This version more closely resembles the one that we recite today. Also, each time the Creed needs to be translated into another language, it takes a massive, official effort to do so in order to be sure aspects of the meaning weren’t lost in translation.

What it Means

At its most basic level, the Nicene Creed tells us what our beliefs as Orthodox Christians are. Here are some of the most basic points:

  • We are monotheistic, meaning that we “believe in one God”.
  • We also believe in the Holy Trinity, which is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
  • Holy Baptism will redeem us from our sins.
  • We await the Second Coming of Christ.
  • Jesus is truly God.

This summary by no means explains the Nicene Creed fully. However, it does touch on some of the major points. The best summary is the Creed itself. The next tie you recite it, pay attention to the words. If you need help understanding certain parts, it’s best to speak with your priest.

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This post was written by Greek Boston