Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 47

The Symbol (Creed) of Athanasian

In our last post, we examined the third Creed of the Kehillah ~ The Symbol (Creed) of Chalcedon. In this post, we begin to examine the fourth Creed of the Kehillah ~ Athanasian Creed.

Whosoever will be saved, before 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 confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord; And yet they are 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 are 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 Spirit 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 Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as 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 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 is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that 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 sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty; From thence 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 of 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. [1]

The origin of the Athanasian Creed is involved in obscurity, like that of the Apostles’ Creed, the Gloria in Excelsis, and the Te Deum. It furnishes one of the most remarkable examples of the extraordinary influence which works of unknown or doubtful authorship have exerted. Since the ninth century, it has been ascribed to Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, the chief defender of the divinity of Yeshua, and the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity (d. 373). The great name of ‘the father of orthodoxy’ secured for it an almost ecumenical authority, notwithstanding the solemn prohibition of the third and fourth ecumenical Councils to compose or publish any other creed than the Nicene.

Since the middle of the seventeenth century, the Athanasian authorship has been abandoned by learned Catholics as well as Protestants. The evidence against it is conclusive. The Symbol is nowhere found in the genuine writings of Athanasius or his contemporaries and eulogists. The General Synods of Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451) make no allusion to it whatever. It seems to presuppose the doctrinal controversies of the fifth century concerning the constitution of Yeshua’s person; at least it teaches substantially the Chalcedonian Christology. And, lastly, it makes its first appearance in the Latin Churches of Gaul, North Africa, and Spain: while the Greeks did not know it till the eleventh century, and afterward rejected or modified it on account of the Occidental clause on the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. The Greek texts, moreover, differ widely, and betray, by strange words and constructions, the hands of unskilled translators. [2]

In my next post, we begin to explore the Epistle of Ya’akov (James).

Click here for the PDF version.

 

[1] Historic Creeds and Confessions. (1997). Lexham Press.

[2] Schaff, P. (1878). The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The History of Creeds (Vol. 1, pp. 35–36). New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers.

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