Creed, Athanasian

Creed, Athanasian, one of the three great creeds. It was at one time supposed to have been drawn up by Athanasius in the fourth century. It is also called, from its opening words, the symbol Quicunque vult. It is as follows:

Symbolumn Athanasii. English.

Whoever will be saved, fore all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith, except every one 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 founding 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 coeternal. 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 comprehensible, 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 there are not three almightys, but one almighty. So the Father is God, the son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet there 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 and 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 coeternal together, and coequal. 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 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, he cannot be saved. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen


Quicunque vult salvus esse, beante omnia opus est ut teneat catholicam fidem. Quam nisi quisque integram, inviolatam que servaverit: absque dubio in oeternumperibit. Fides au tem catholict haec est, ut unum aeum in Trinitate; et Trinitatem in Unitate veneremur; neque confundentes personas: conneque substantiam separantes. Alia est enim persona Patris; alia Filii: alia Spiritus Sancti. Sed Patris, et Fiiii, et Spiritus Sancti. una est Divinitas; eeqnalis glorin, coseterna majestas. Qualis Pater, talis Filius, talis Spiritus Sanctus. Increatus Pater, increatus Filius, increatus Spiritus Sanctus. Immensus Pater, immensuis Filius, immensus Spiritus Sanetus. AEternus Pater, aeternus Filius, seternus Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres seterinni, sed unus teternus. Sicut non tres increati, nec tres immensi, sed unus increatus, et unus immensus. Similiter omnipotens Pater, omnipotens. Filius omnipotens Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres omnipotentes, sed unus omnipotens. Ita Deus Pater, Deus Filius, Deus Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres Dii, sed unus est Deus. Ita Dominus Pater, Dominus Filius, Dominus Spiritus Sanctus. Et tatamen non tres Domini, sed unus est Dominus. Quia sicut singillatim unamquamque Personam Deum et Dominum confiteri Christiana veritate compellimur, ita tres Deos aut 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 eigo 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 majus aut minus. Sed totse tres personae coseterna sibi sunt, et cosequales. Ita ut per omnia (sicut jam 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 seternam salutem, ut incarnationem' quoque Domini nostri Jesu Christi fideliter credat. Est ergo fides recta, ut credamus, et confiteamur, quia Dominus noster Jesus Christus, Dei Filius, Deus et homo est. Delus est ex substantia Patris ante saecula genitus; et homo eat ex substantia matris in Laecnlo 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, Eed unus est Christus. Unus autem non conversione Divinitatis in carnem, sed assumptione humanitatis in Deum. Unus omnino, non confusione substantie, sed unitate personae. Nam sicut anima rationalis et'caro unus eat homo, ita Deus et homo unus est Christus. Qui passus eat pro salute nostra, descendit ad inferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortulis. Ascendit ad coelos, 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 seternam, qui vero mala in ignem seternum Haec est fides catholica, quam nisi quisque fideliter firmiterque crediderit, salvus esse non poterit. Gloria Patri. et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in secula saeculorum.

1. That this creed was not composed by Athanasius is clear on the following, among other grounds:

(a) Athanasius himself does not mention it, nor do any of his contemporaries, or of the writers of the following century, ascribe it to him.

(b) The contents show that it could not have been written by him. The word ὁμοούσιος, consubstantial, which, in the time of Athanasius, was the token of distinction between the Catholics and the Arians, does not occur in the creed, an omission which would be inexplicable in any confession composed by this father. It so plainly rejects the errors of the Nestorians, Eutychians, and Monothelites, that it must have been written after the promulgation of those heresies. The doctrine concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son as well as from the Father, distinctly asserted in this creed, is one which, however scriptural and true, was not held by the Eastern Church in the time of Athanasius.

(c) The style is that of a Latin, not of a Greek writer.

2. Vossius, Quesnel, and others ascribe this creed to Vigilius, bishop of Thapsus, in Africa; others to Vincentius of Lerins (5th century), and again others to Venantius Fortunatus, a French bishop of the 6th century. Waterland ascribes it to Hilary, bishop of Aries, for the following reasons:

(1.) Because Honoratus of Marseilles, the writer of his life, tells us that he composed an "Exposition of the Creed," a more proper title for the Athanasian than that of "Creed" simply, which it now bears.

(2.) Hilary was a great admirer and follower of Augustine, and the whole composition of this creed is in a manner on Augustine's plan, both with respect to the Trinity and incarnation.

(3.) It is agreeable to the style of Hilary, as far as we can judge from the little that is left of his works. The proofs in support of his opinion are far from clear and satisfactory.

3. About A.D. 570 this creed became so famous as to be the subject of comment; but, for several years after, it had not acquired the title of Athanasian, but was simply styled "the Catholic faith." The title of Athanasian probably became attached to it during the Arian controversy in Gaul, as being an exposition of the system of doctrine which was opposed to the Arian system, and which would naturally be called Athanasian from its chief propounder. Many expositors of this creed, and evenlishops of the Church of England, while holding the doctrine of the Athanasian Creed and approving its terms, strongly object to the damnatory clauses. Archbishop Tillotson, bishop Taylor, and bishop Tomline, all concur in regret that assertions of so peremptory a nature (referring to the damnatory clauses), unexplained and unqualified, should have been used in any human composition. On the other hand, Waterland (Critical History of the Athanasian Creed; Works, Oxford, 1843, vol. 3) says: 'The use of it will hardly be thought superfluous so long as there are any Arians, Photinians, Sabellians, Macedonians, Apollinarians, Nestorians, or Eutychians in these parts.' (See articles under these heads.) With respect to what are called the 'damnatory clauses' (the clauses, namely, 'Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly;' and, 'This is the Catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved'), the churches which adopt the creed do not mean by them to imprecate curses, but to declare, as a logical sequence of a true faith being necessary to salvation, that those who do not hold the true faith are in danger of perishing; as it is said, Mr 16:16, 'He that believeth not shall be damned.' These clauses are also held to apply to those who deny the substance of the Christian religion, and not infallibly to every person who may be in error as to any one particular article. A rubric to this effect was drawn up by the commissioners appointed in 1689 for the review of the English Common Prayer-book, but none of their suggestions took effect. Compare also the 18th Article of the Church of England with these clauses" (Chambers, s.v.). The creed is received in the Greek, Roman, and English churches, but is left out of the service of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America. The Convention of 1785 passed an act expunging both the Athanasian and Nicene creeds from the proposed Book of Common Prayer; but when the book was placed before the English bishops they required the restoration of both creeds before they would consent to consecrate the American bishops. The archbishops of Canterbury and York, in the spring of 1786, wrote to the Church committee to that effect, whereupon another Convention was held in Wilmington, Delaware, October, 1786. Bishop White relates that "the Nicene Creed was restored without debate or difficulty, but the Convention wholly refused to restore the Athanasian Creed,' and that the members from New England and bishop Seabury yielded their consent to leave it out with great reluctance. Had it been retained, bishop White declared his intention never to read it in his church (Christian Times, March, 1866). Many in the Church of England desire its omission from their book; thus the Church of England Quarterly (April, 1855, p. 19): "The Athanasian Creed finds few real lovers as a portion of a public service. No one supposes that it was the work of Athanasius; no one is now, at least among us, in any danger from the errors it denounces; no one believes in his heart the damnatory clauses; for no one believes that all the members of the Greek Church are necessarily consigned to everlasting damnation; and thus, every time the creed is read, the officiating minister has solemnly to enunciate what neither he nor any of his hearers believe. It is true that, by distinguishing between the creed itself and the damnatory clauses he may save himself, mentally, from declaring a falsehood; but surely this is reason enough for the removal of the creed from our Liturgy. We have had too much in our Church of mental reservations. So far as the doctrine of the Trinity is concerned, it is abundantly insisted on in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds." See, besides the authorities already cited, Bingham, Orig. Eccl. bk. 10, ch. 4, § 18; Mosheim, Ch. Hist. 1:240; Vossius, D'iss. de Symbolo Athanasiano (Opp. 6:616); Palmer, Orig. Liturg. 1:234; Radcliffs, Athanasian Creed illustrated (Lond. 1844, 8vo); Schaff, in Amer. Presb. Rev. 1866, 584 sq.; also in his Hist. of the Christ. Church, § 132; Fletcher, Works (N. Y. ed.), 3, 210; Browne, On the Thirty-nine Articles, art. 8, § 4.

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