Athanasian Creed: Wikis

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Athanasius of Alexandria was traditionally thought to be the author of the Athanasian Creed, and gives his name to its common title.

The Athanasian Creed (Quicumque vult) is a Christian statement of belief, focusing on Trinitarian doctrine and Christology. The Latin name of the creed, Quicumque vult, is taken from the opening words "Whosoever wishes." The Athanasian Creed has been used by Christian churches since the sixth century of the common era. It is the first creed in which the equality of the three persons of the Trinity is explicitly stated, and differs from the Nicene-Constantinopolitan and Apostles' Creeds in the inclusion of anathemas, or condemnations of those who disagree with the Creed.

Widely accepted among Western Christians, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and most liturgical Protestant denominations, the Athanasian Creed has been used in public worship less and less frequently in recent years. The creed has never gained much acceptance among Eastern Christians.

Contents

Origin

The Shield of the Trinity, a visual representation of the doctrine of the Trinity, derived from the Athanasian Creed. The Latin reads: "The Father is God, The Son is God, The Holy Spirit is God; God is the Father, God is the Son, God is the Holy Spirit; The Father is not the Son, The Son is not the Father, The Father is not the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit is not the Father, The Son is not the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit is not the Son."

A medieval account credited Athanasius of Alexandria, the famous defender of Nicene theology, as the author of the Creed. According to this account, Athanasius composed it during his exile in Rome, and presented it to Pope Julius as a witness to his orthodoxy.[1] This traditional attribution of the Creed to Athanasius was first called into question in 1642 by Dutch Protestant theologian G.J. Voss,[2] and it has since been widely accepted by modern scholars that the creed was not authored by Athanasius.[3] Athanasius' name seems to have become attached to the creed as a sign of its strong declaration of Trinitarian faith. The reasoning for rejecting Athanasius as the author usually relies on a combination of the following:

  1. The creed originally was most likely written in Latin, while Athanasius composed in Greek.
  2. Neither Athanasius nor his contemporaries ever mention the Creed.
  3. It is not mentioned in any records of the ecumenical councils.
  4. It appears to address theological concerns that developed after Athanasius died (including the filioque).
  5. It was most widely circulated among Western Christians.[2][4]

The use of the Creed in a sermon by Caesarius of Arles, as well as a theological resemblance to works by Vincent of Lérins, point to Southern Gaul as its origin.[3] The most likely time frame is in the late fifth or early sixth century of the common era - at least 100 years after Athanasius. The theology of the creed is firmly rooted in the Augustinian tradition, using exact terminology of Augustine's On the Trinity (published 415 A.D.).[5] In the late 19th century, there was a great deal of speculation about who might have authored the creed, with suggestions including Ambrose of Milan, Venantius Fortunatus, and Hilary of Poitiers, among others.[6] The 1940 discovery of a lost work by Vincent of Lérins, which bears a striking similarity to much of the language of the Athanasian Creed, have led many to conclude that the creed originated either with Vincent or with his students.[7] For example, in the authoritative modern monograph about the creed, J.N.D. Kelly asserts that Vincent of Lérin was not its author, but that it may have come from the same milieu, namely the area of Lérins in southern Gaul.[8] The oldest surviving manuscripts of the Athanasian Creed date from the late 8th century.[9]

Content

The Athanasian Creed is usually divided into two sections: lines 1-28 addressing the doctrine of the Trinity, and lines 29-44 addressing the doctrine of Christology.[10] Enumerating the three persons of the Trinity (i.e., Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), the first section of the creed ascribes the divine attributes to each individually. Thus, each person of the Trinity is described as uncreated (increatus), limitless (Immensus), eternal (æternus), and omnipotent (omnipotens).[11] While ascribing the divine attributes and divinity to each person of the Trinity, thus avoiding subordinationism, the first half of the Athanasian Creed also stresses the unity of the three persons in the one Godhead, thus avoiding a theology of tritheism. Furthermore, although one God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct from each other. For the Father is neither made nor begotten; the Son is not made but is begotten from the Father; the Holy Spirit is neither made nor begotten but proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque).

The text of the Athanasian Creed is as follows:

in Latin English translation[12]

Quicunque vult salvus esse, ante omnia opus est, ut teneat catholicam fidem: Quam nisi quisque integram inviolatamque servaverit, absque dubio in aeternum peribit. Fides autem catholica haec est: ut unum Deum in Trinitate, et Trinitatem in unitate veneremur. Neque confundentes personas, neque substantiam seperantes. Alia est enim persona Patris alia Filii, alia Spiritus Sancti: Sed Patris, et Fili, et Spiritus Sancti una est divinitas, aequalis gloria, coeterna maiestas. Qualis Pater, talis Filius, talis [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Increatus Pater, increatus Filius, increatus [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Immensus Pater, immensus Filius, immensus [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Aeternus Pater, aeternus Filius, aeternus [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres aeterni, sed unus aeternus. Sicut non tres increati, nec tres immensi, sed unus increatus, et unus immensus. Similiter omnipotens Pater, omnipotens Filius, omnipotens [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres omnipotentes, sed unus omnipotens. Ita Deus Pater, Deus Filius, Deus [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres dii, sed unus est Deus. Ita Dominus Pater, Dominus Filius, Dominus [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres Domini, sed unus [est] Dominus. Quia, sicut singillatim unamquamque personam Deum ac Dominum confiteri christiana veritate compelimur: Ita tres Deos aut [tres] Dominos dicere catholica religione prohibemur. Pater a nullo est factus: nec creatus, nec genitus. Filius a Patre solo est: non factus, nec creatus, sed genitus. Spiritus Sanctus a Patre et Filio: non factus, nec creatus, nec genitus, sed procedens. Unus ergo Pater, non tres Patres: unus Filius, non tres Filii: unus Spiritus Sanctus, non tres Spiritus Sancti. Et in hac Trinitate nihil prius aut posterius, nihil maius aut minus: Sed totae tres personae coaeternae sibi sunt et coaequales. Ita, ut per omnia, sicut iam supra dictum est, et unitas in Trinitate, et Trinitas in unitate veneranda sit. Qui vult ergo salvus esse, ita de Trinitate sentiat.

Sed necessarium est ad aeternam salutem, ut incarnationem quoque Domini nostri Iesu Christi fideliter credat. Est ergo fides recta ut credamus et confiteamur, quia Dominus noster Iesus Christus, Dei Filius, Deus [pariter] et homo est. Deus [est] ex substantia Patris ante saecula genitus: et homo est ex substantia matris in saeculo natus. Perfectus Deus, perfectus homo: ex anima rationali et humana carne subsistens. Aequalis Patri secundum divinitatem: minor Patre secundum humanitatem. Qui licet Deus sit et homo, non duo tamen, sed unus est Christus. Unus autem non conversione divinitatis in carnem, sed assumptione humanitatis in Deum. Unus omnino, non confusione substantiae, sed unitate personae. Nam sicut anima rationalis et caro unus est homo: ita Deus et homo unus est Christus. Qui passus est pro salute nostra: descendit ad inferos: tertia die resurrexit a mortuis. Ascendit ad [in] caelos, sedet ad dexteram [Dei] Patris [omnipotentis]. Inde venturus [est] judicare vivos et mortuos. Ad cujus adventum omnes homines resurgere habent cum corporibus suis; Et reddituri sunt de factis propriis rationem. Et qui bona egerunt, ibunt in vitam aeternam: qui vero mala, in ignem aeternum. Haec est fides catholica, quam nisi quisque fideliter firmiterque crediderit, salvus esse non poterit.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal. As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be both God and Lord, So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion, to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another; But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of his Mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood; Who, although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ; One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

Didactic as its content appears to contemporary readers, its opening sets out the essential principle that the Catholic faith does not consist in the first place in assent to propositions, but 'that we worship One God in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity'. All else flows from that orientation.

The Christology of the second section is more detailed than that of the Nicene Creed, and reflects the teaching of the First Council of Ephesus (431) and the definition of the Council of Chalcedon (451). The 'Athanasian' Creed boldly uses the key Nicene term homoousios ('one substance', 'one in Being') not only with respect to the relation of the Son to the Father according to his divine nature, but that the Son is homoousios with his mother Mary, according to his human nature.

The Creed's wording thus excludes not only Sabellianism and Arianism, but the Christological heresies of Nestorianism and Eutychianism. A need for a clear confession against Arianism arose in western Europe when the Ostrogoths and Visigoths, who had Arian beliefs, invaded at the beginning of the 5th century.

The final section of this Creed also moved beyond the Nicene (and Apostles') Creeds in making negative statements about the people's fate: "They that have done good shall go into life everlasting: and they that have done evil into everlasting fire." This caused considerable debate in England in the mid-nineteenth century, centred around the teaching of Frederic Denison Maurice.

Uses

Detail of a manuscript illustration depicting a knight carrying the "Shield of the Trinity."

Composed of 44 rhythmic lines, the Athanasian Creed appears to have been intended as a liturgical document - that is, the original purpose of the creed was to be spoken or sung as a part of worship.[1] The creed itself uses the language of public worship, speaking of the worship of God rather than the language of belief ("Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God"). Among medieval European Christian churches, this creed was recited following the Sunday sermon or at the Sunday Office of Prime.[13 ] The creed was often set to music and used in the place of a Psalm.

Early Protestants inherited the late medieval devotion to the Athanasian Creed, and it was considered to be authoritative in many Protestant churches. The statements of Protestant belief (confessional documents) of various Reformers commend the Athanasian Creed to their followers, including the Augsburg Confession, the Formula of Concord, the Second Helvetic Confession, the Belgic Confession, the Bohemian Confession and the Thirty-nine Articles.[14] Among modern Lutheran and Reformed churches adherence to the Athanasian Creed is prescribed by the earlier confessional documents, but the creed does not receive much attention outside of occasional use - especially on Trinity Sunday.[13 ][15]

In Reformed circles, it is included (for example) in the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia's Book of Forms (publ. 1991). That said, it is rarely recited in public worship.

In the successive Books of Common Prayer of the reformed Church of England from 1549 to 1662, its recitation was provided for on 19 occasions each year, a practice which continued until the nineteenth century, when vigorous controversy regarding its statement about 'eternal damnation' saw its use gradually decline. It remains one of the three Creeds approved in the Thirty-Nine Articles, and is printed in several current Anglican prayer books (e.g. A Prayer Book for Australia (1995)). As with Roman Catholic practice, its use is now generally only on Trinity Sunday or its octave.

In Roman Catholic churches, it was traditionally said at Prime on Sundays after Epiphany and Pentecost, except when a Double feast or day within an octave occurred, and on Trinity Sunday. In the 1960 reforms, it was reduced to once a year on Trinity Sunday. It has been effectively dropped from the Catholic liturgy since Vatican II, although it is retained in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. It is however maintained in the Forma Extraordinaria, per the decree Summorum Pontificum, and also in the rite of exorcism, both in the Forma Ordinaria and the Forma Extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.

In Lutheranism, the Athanasian Creed is—along with the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds—one of the three ecumenical creeds placed at the beginning of the 1580 Book of Concord, the historic collection of authoritative doctrinal statements (confessions) of the Lutheran church. It is still used in the liturgy on Trinity Sunday.

A common visualisation of the first half of the Creed is the Shield of the Trinity.

References

  1. ^ a b Phillip Schaff, The Creeds of Chistendom, (Harper Brothers, 1877) 1.4.5; available online (retrieved May 4, 2009).
  2. ^ a b Michael O'Carroll, "Athanasian Creed" in Trinitas, (Wilmington, Delaware:Michael Glazier, 1987).
  3. ^ a b Frederick W. Norris, "Athanasian Creed" in Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, 2nd edition, ed. Everett Fergusen (New York:Garland, 1997).
  4. ^ Concordia Triglotta, Historical Introductions to the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 13.
  5. ^ Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 3 (Charles Scribner, 1910) available online (retrieved May 7, 2009).
  6. ^ See Samuel Macauley Jackson, et. al. eds., The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religion, (1914) "Athanasian Creed," (online) for examples of various theories of authorship.
  7. ^ Athanasian Creed. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May 07, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/40585/Athanasian-Creed.
  8. ^ J.N.D. Kelly, The Athanasian Creed, NY: Harper and Row, 1964.
  9. ^ Celia Chazelle (October 1997). "Archbishops Ebo and Hincmar of Reims and the Utrecht Psalter". Speculum 72 (4): 1056.  
  10. ^ Philip Schaff uses this classic division in his consideration of the Creed: The Creeds of Chistendom, (Harper Brothers, 1877) 1.4.5; available online (retrieved May 4, 2009).
  11. ^ Athanasian Creed, lines 8,9,10, and 13, respectively. See the side by side English and Latin in vol. 2 of Shaff's The Creeds of Christendom, online)
  12. ^ Book of Common Prayer. The Episcopal Church. 1979. pp. 864–865.  
  13. ^ a b Philip Pfatteicher, Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship, (Minneapolis:Augsburg, 1990), p. 444
  14. ^ Augusburg Confession, art. 1 references the Nicene Creed, but uses the language of the Athanasian: e.g., "There are three persons, coeternal and of the same essence and power." Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Summary 2. Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter 11. Belgic Confession, Article 9. 39 Articles, article 8. Bohemian Confession (1575), Article of faith 2.
  15. ^ For example: the congregational constitution guidelines (pdf) for the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, and the beliefs of the Reformed Church in America (both retrieved May 6, 2009)

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Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Athanasian Creed
See also The Athanasian Creed in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913).

Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith.

Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.

Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.

For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.

But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.

What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit.

Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit.

The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite.

Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit:

And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal;

as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited.

Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit:

And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty.

Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God:

And yet there are not three gods, but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord:

And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord.

As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten;

the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father;

the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.

And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other;

but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons.

Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity.

It is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe that our Lord Jesus Christ became flesh.

For this is the true faith that we believe and confess: That our Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, is both God and man.

He is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father, and he is man, born in the world from the being of his mother --

existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body;

equal to the Father in divinity, subordinate to the Father in humanity.

Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ.

He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity.

He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures.

For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man.

He suffered death for our salvation.

He descended into hell and rose again from the dead.

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.

At his coming all people shall rise bodily to give an account of their own deeds.

Those who have done good will enter eternal life,

those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith.

One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

One of the symbols of the Faith approved by the Church and given a place in her liturgy, is a short, clear exposition of the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, with a passing reference to several other dogmas. Unlike most of the other creeds, or symbols, it deals almost exclusively with these two fundamental truths, which it states and restates in terse and varied forms so as to bring out unmistakably the trinity of the Persons of God, and the twofold nature in the one Divine Person of Jesus Christ. At various points the author calls attention to the penalty incurred by those who refuse to accept any of the articles therein set down. The following is the Marquess of Bute's English translation of the text of the Creed:
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Etneral and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Uncomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity is Trinity, and the Trinity is Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity. Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting Salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man. God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born into the world. Perfect God and Perfect Man, of a reasonable Soul and human Flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but One Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into Flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by Unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one Man, so God and Man is one Christ. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into Hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.
For the past two hundred years the authorship of this summary of Catholic Faith and the time of its appearance have furnished an interesting problem to ecclesiastical antiquarians. Until the seventeenth century, the "Quicunque vult", as it is sometimes called, from its opening words, was thought to be the composition of the great Archbishop of Alexandria whose name it bears. In the year 1644, Gerard Voss, in his "De Tribus Symbolis", gave weighty probability to the opinion that St. Athanasius was not its author. His reasons may be reduced to the two following:
  • firstly, no early writer of authority speaks of it as the work of this doctor; and
  • secondly, its language and structure point to a Western, rather than to an Alexandrian, origin. Most modern scholars agree in admitting the strength of these reasons, and hence this view is the one generally received today. Whether the Creed can be ascribed to St. Athanasius or not, and most probably it cannot, it undoubtedly owes it existence to Athanasian influences, for the expressions and doctrinal colouring exhibit too marked a correspondence, in subject-matter and in phraseology, with the literature of the latter half of the fourth century and especially with the writings of the saint, to be merely accidental. These internal evidences seem to justify the conclusion that it grew out of several provincial synods, chiefly that of Alexandria, held about the year 361, and presided over by St. Athanasius. It should be said, however, that these arguments have failed to shake the conviction of some Catholic authors, who refuse to give it an earlier origin than the fifth century.

An elaborate attempt was made in England, in 1871, by E.C. Ffoulkes to assign the Creed to the ninth century. From a passing remark in a letter written by Alcuin he constructed the following remarkable piece of fiction. The Emperor Charlemagne, he says, wished to consolidate the Western Empire by a religious, as well as a political, separation from the East. To this end he suppressed the Nicene Creed, dear to the Oriental Church, and substituted a formulary composed by Paulinus of Aquileia, with whose approval and that of Alcuin, a distinguished scholar of the time, he ensured its ready acceptance by the people, by affixing to it the name of St. Athanasius. This gratuitous attack upon the reputation of men whom every worthy historian regards as incapable of such a fraud, added to the undoubted proofs of the Creed's having been in use long before the ninth century, leaves this theory without any foundation.

Who, then, is the author? The results of recent inquiry make it highly probable that the Creed first saw the light in the fourth century, during the life of the great Eastern patriarch, or shortly after his death. It has been attributed by different writers variously to St. Hilary, to St. Vincent of Lérins, to Eusebius of Vercelli, to Vigilius, and to others. It is not easy to avoid the force of the objections to all of these views, however, as they were men of world-wide reputation, and hence any document, especially one of such importance as a profession of faith, coming from them would have met with almost immediate recognition. Now, no allusions to the authorship of the Creed, and few even to its existence, are to be found in the literature of the Church for over two hundred years after their time. We have referred to a like silence in proof of non-Athanasian authorship. It seems to be similarly available in the case of any of the great names mentioned above. In the opinion of Father Sidney Smith, S.J., which the evidence just indicated renders plausible, the author of this Creed must have been some obscure bishop or theologian whose composed it, in the first instance, for purely local use in some provincial diocese. Not coming from an author of wide reputation, it would have attracted little attention. As it became better known, it would have been more widely adopted, and the compactness and lucidity of its statements would have contributed to make it highly prized wherever it was known. Then would follow speculation as to its author, and what wonder, if, from the subject-matter of the Creed, which occupied the great Athanasius so much, his name was first affixed to it and, unchallenged, remained.

The "damnatory", or "minatory clauses", are the pronouncements contained in the symbol, of the penalties which follow the rejection of what is there proposed for our belief. It opens with one of them: "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith". The same is expressed in the verses beginning: "Furthermore, it is necessary" etc., and "For the right Faith is" etc., and finally in the concluding verse: "This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved". Just as the Creed states in a very plain and precise way what the Catholic Faith is concerning the important doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, so it asserts with equal plainness and precision what will happen to those who do not faithfully and steadfastly believe in these revealed truths. They are but the credal equivalent of Our Lord's words: "He that believeth not shall be condemned", and apply, as is evident, only to the culpable and wilful rejection of Christ's words and teachings. The absolute necessity of accepting the revealed word of God, under the stern penalties here threatened, is so intolerable to a powerful class in the Anglican church, that frequent attempts have been made to eliminate the Creed from the public services of that Church. The Upper House of Convocation of Canterbury has already affirmed that these clauses, in their prima facie meaning, go beyond what is warranted by Holy Scripture. In view of the words of Our Lord quoted above, there should be nothing startling in the statement of our duty to believe what we know is the testimony and teaching of Christ, nor in the serious sin we commit in wilfully refusing to accept it, nor, finally, in the punishments that will be inflicted on those who culpably persist in their sin. It is just this last that the damnatory clauses proclaim. From a dogmatic standpoint, the merely historical question of the authorship of the Creed, or of the time it made its appearance, is of secondary consideration. The fact alone that it is approved by the Church as expressing its mind on the fundament truths with which it deals, is all we need to know.

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|240px|Diagram of Trinity relationships, based on the first half of the Athanasian Creed.]] The Athanasian Creed is a Christian statement of faith. It is also often referred to as Quicumque vult (can be translated as Whoever wants, the first two words of the statement). It is the first known creed to talk about trinity. It has been in use since the 6th century, mainly in the western part of the Church. It is not used very much today, the Nicene Creed has largely replaced it.

From about the 9th century people thought that St. Athanasius had written it. Athanasus lived in the 4th century in Egypt. Today, this view is largely seen as false. This is because of the following:

  1. The original text is in Latin. Athanasius wrote mainly in Greek.
  2. Neither Athanasius nor other people who lived at the same time as him mention it.
  3. It talks about problems that were only discovered after Athanasius' death.[1]

Today, most people think it came from Gaul around the year 500. Its positions are similar to those taken by St. Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo or Vincent of Lérins. J.N.D. Kelly, a contemporary patristics scholar, believes that St. Vincent of Lérins was not its author, but suggests that it may have come from the same bacground, namely the area of Lerins in southern Gaul.[2] Caesarius of Arles is one of the possible authors.

The oldest surviving manuscripts of the Athanasian creed date from the late 8th century.[3]

Martin Luther said there were three statements of faith, the Nicene Creed (Credo in unum deum, I believe in one god..), the Te Deum (Te Deum Laudamus,..., Thee, O Lord, we praise), and the Athanasian Creed.

The creed starts:

Quicumque vult salvus esse, ante omnia opus est, ut teneat catholicam fidem: quam nisi quisque integram inviolatamque servaverit, absque dubio in aeternum peribit.
Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith. Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.

It explains Trinity, in such a way to stand against positions such as Arianism. It has the filioque.

It ends

Haec est fides catholica; quam nisi quisque fideliter firmiterque crediderit, salvus esse non poterit.
This is the catholic faith. One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.

References

  1. Concordia Triglotta, Historical Introduction, St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 13.
  2. J.N.D. Kelly, The Athanasian Creed, NY: Harper and Row, 1964.
  3. Celia Chazelle (October 1997). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Archbishops Ebo and Hincmar of Reims and the Utrecht Psalter"]. Speculum 72 (4): 1056. 

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