Do the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed agree? How do they compare with each other? Why two?
Two creeds from the fourth-Century, the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, state the primary beliefs of Christianity. Despite the many different Christian sects around the world, these beliefs are held by the vast majority. A comparison of these creeds reveals a remarkable similarity. Both are structured on God’s triune (three-in-one) nature – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; both follow the description of God with a description of the Church. The Nicene Creed is about twice the length, detailing a little more about the Father as Creator and much more about Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Their descriptions about the Church are nearly the same, differing only slightly in phrases about the saints and Apostles.
I highlight here with italics the differences in the text.
The Apostles Creed: speaks of Jesus Christ as conceived, speaks of the Church as the communion of saints, and speaks of life after death as everlasting.
The Nicene Creed: speaks of one God and one Lord. It speaks of the Father as maker of all that it, seen and unseen. It speaks of Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father. It says: Through Him all things were made for us and for our salvation. He came down from heaven and became Incarnate and was made man. It speaks of His crucifixion as for our sake and his resurrection as in accordance with the Scriptures. It speaks of His coming in glory as well as and his kingdom will have no end. It speaks of the Holy Spirit as the Lord the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified, he has spoken to the prophets. It speaks of the Church as apostolic and of one baptism for the forgiveness of sin. It says: We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
Of the two, the Nicene Creed has more essential content about the triune God and explains why Jesus came for human salvation. The Apostles Creed appeared late in the fourth Century and is used in many Western churches, both Roman Catholic and Protestant of different denominations. Its authorship is uncertain. The Nicene Creed was the result of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. and was revised at the Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D; it was jointly authored by some or many of the participating Bishops at the two councils. With the exception of the six words immediately following “proceeds,” it is agreed-to by churches throughout the world.
The Apostles Creed seems to be a general statement of Christian belief, while the Nicene Creed, with its detail on Jesus Christ, was formulated to refute the heretical statements of the followers of Arius, a fourth-Century teacher. Although Roman Emperor Constantine presided over the 325 A.D. Council, contrary to some mistaken accusations, he did not edict or dictate the wording of the Nicene Creed. Because of similarity of the two and the additional detail in the Nicene Creed, I will use the Nicene Creed in references as we discuss the unity or oneness of the Church in future blogs.