Happy Birthday to the Christian Church! Just the Tiniest of History Lessons

Happy Birthday to the Christian Church! Just the Tiniest of History Lessons June 19, 2018


No, not Pentecost.

Nope, not Easter.

And, no, not even Christmas.

It was on this day in the year 325 that the first version of the Nicene Creed was promulgated by the First Council at Nicaea (present day Iznik in Turkey). The council had been called by the tyrant Constantine I, who was very concerned that there be one God, one Church, and, of course, one Emperor.

And the bishops did as they were told.

There would be various editing jobs until the final version by the First Council of Constantinople in 381, which is officially called the Niceno-Constantinoplitan Creed, or more briefly and popularly, if not quite accurately, the Nicene Creed.

That said, in case you’re interested, here’s the original version. (English from Philip Schaff by way of Wikipedia)

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.

By whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth;

Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;

He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

With this a normative Christianity was established and the version which would be imposed upon what until then was a pretty wild crowd. Sadly, including some of the most interesting among the followers of Jesus.

There have been other tweaks along the way. The choice of saying it first person singular rather than plural has become normative among the Orthodox and Catholics. The so-called Oriental Orthodox preserve the original Nicene Creed and the plural form. They also use the 325 version without the various subsequent edits. Anglicans and Protestants have until recent times preserved the first person form, although these days sometimes use the plural.

As a footnote in late 6th century, the Catholic Church, in the section regarding the procession of the spirit from the father added in the term “and from the son,” “filoque.” This was a presenting issue for the eventual great schism of 1054.

And, just because I can, we will conclude with a video clip of the final version of the Niceno-Constantinoplitan version in the English and chant style of the Anglican Church. As you can see & hear the first draft shifted a fair amount to become what we now hear.

And back to the first point. Fondest wishes for a happy one thousand, six hundred, and ninety-third birthday to the Christian church…

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