Resources for Historic Creeds of the Church Bible Study - February 2022

Playlist of all YouTube Intros

Session #1 - February 1, 2021:  Introduction

Watch the recorded intro for this session on YouTube

Full Text of Apostles & Nicene Creed (PDF)
Full Text of Athanasian Creed (PDF)

Opening Prayer:
…You drew us unto You, some through pious parents, others through faithful teachers. When we forsook You, You drew us to You again. You did not desert us and sweep us, like many others into eternity when we were unprepared to meet You; no, You extended the day of grace for us. You sought us as a shepherd seeks his lost lamb, not abandoning the search until You had found us and restored us to faith in Your Son.
(C. F.W.Walther, 1811-1887) From: The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism (Drawn from Holy Scripture, the Church Fathers, and Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation); Concordia Publishing House.

FROM: Rose Book of Bible Charts: Volume 3; Rose Publishing, 2014.

Where did the creeds come from?
As the gospel spread in the first centuries after Jesus’ death and resurrection, people wondered about the beliefs of this new religion. Like today, believers needed quick accessible answers to questions. Early Christians formulated simple creeds that expressed essential Christian beliefs. These creeds served at least three purposes:
1. Explanations of the faith.
2. Training of believers.
3. Identification and correction of false teachings.

Today, the creeds still give us identity as Christians. They tell us the following and much more:

What does it mean to be a Christian?
Why is it important to believe in the Trinity?
Why is it important that Jesus is fully God and fully human?
What unites us as believers?
The Apostle Paul emphasizes, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:2). When we recite the creeds, we agree with them; and this agreement joins us in one Lord-the God of the Bible, revealed to humanity as one God in three persons-and one faith; the confession of our common belief. The creeds identify us as the church, the called-out people of God.

Creeds in the Bible
Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
Romans 10:9
if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

FROM: “The Status of the Nicene Creed as Dogma of the Church,” Theological Consultation between Representatives of the U.S.A. National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation and the Bishops Commission for Ecumenical Affairs held July 6-7, 1965, in Baltimore, Maryland.
The Function of the Creeds: Creeds and confessions have a threefold significance in the Lutheran church:
Doxology: In keeping with the biblical understanding of confession, affirmation of the Nicene Creed is first of all a liturgical act. In its confession of Jesus as Lord and Son of God the church praises God for the deliverance accomplished in the mission of Jesus Christ.
Self-identification: The ecclesiastical and theological disputes of the sixteenth century saw labels distributed generously. In this atmosphere the Lutheran church seeks to identify herself as a church participating in the catholic tradition of the west, as standing in continuity with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
Interpretation of the Gospel: Inasmuch as the Scriptures present formidable problems of interpretation, and can be misunderstood even by men of good will, the confession serves as a guide to the understanding of Scripture by affirming what is sound in the teaching of a given period and rejecting what is skewed. The church of our time thus receives the help of the church of earlier days to aid her to find her way to a true understanding of the Scriptures.

Resources – may be referenced throughout the study
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions: A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord; Concordia Publishing House. (amazon)*
Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine from the Bible to the Present, edited by John H. Leith, Third Edition; John Knox Press, 1982. (amazon)
Journey into Belief: Finding God Through the Creed by Steve McCoy-Thompson; Liguori Publications, 2004. (amazon)
Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978 by Lutheran Church in America, The American Lutheran Church.
Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation; Concordia Publishing House. (online mobile-friendly version)
Rose Book of Bible Charts: Volume 3; Rose Publishing, 2014. (amazon)
Sola Publishing
The Athanasian Creed (Anglican Foundations) by Martin Davie; Latimer Trust, 2019. (amazon)
The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism (Drawn from Holy Scripture, the Church Fathers, and Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation); Concordia Publishing House.
The Lutheran Study Bible; Concordia Publishing House.
The Need for Creeds Today: Confessional Faith in a Faithless Age by J.V. Fesko, Ba (amazon)
“The Status of the Nicene Creed as Dogma of the Church,” Theological Consultation between Representatives of the U.S.A. National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation and the Bishops Commission for Ecumenical Affairs held July 6-7, 1965, in Baltimore, Maryland.
The New Handbook of the Christian Year: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary; Abingdon Press, 1992. (amazon)

(Download Sesson #1 Information as a PDF)

Session #2 - February 8, 2021:  Apostles' Creed

Watch the recorded intro for this session on YouTube

Opening Prayer:  O eternal Light, shine into our hearts. O eternal Goodness, deliver us from evil. O eternal Power, be our support. Eternal Wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance. Eternal Pity, have mercy upon us. Grant unto us that with all our hearts, and minds, and strength, we may evermore seek Your face; and finally bring us, in Your infinite mercy, to Your Holy presence. So strengthen our weakness that, following in the footsteps of Your blessed
Son, we may obtain Your mercy and enter into Your promised joy. Amen.
(Alcuin of York, 735-804)
The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism (Drawn from Holy Scripture, the Church Fathers, and Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation); Concordia Publishing House.

The Apostles’ Creed, according to legend, was composed by the Apostles on the tenth day after the Ascension under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit ... it was effectively exposed legendary by Lorenzo Vallo and subsequent scholars. ...
The ancestry of the Apostles’ Creed can be traced to a creed that developed at Rome about the end of the second century. The origin of this creed is not clear; but its early form is likely preserved [in the texts of the following early creeds]:
Interrogatory Creed of Hippolytus (c. 215)
Creed of Marcellus (c. 340)
Creed of Rufinus (Aquileia) (c. 404)
Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine from the Bible to the Present, edited by John H. Leith, Third Edition; John Knox Press, 1982.

Why is it called the Apostles’ Creed?
It is called the Apostles’ Creed, not because it was written by the apostles’ themselves, but because it states briefly the doctrine (teaching) that God gave through the apostles in the Bible. The Creed is trinitarian, because the Scriptures reveal God as triune. Christians are baptized in the name of the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19).
Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation; Concordia Publishing House.

Apostles’ Creed with Biblical References
Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation; Concordia Publishing House.
Rose Book of Bible Charts: Volume 3; Rose Publishing, 2014.

I believe in God,
Ps. 31:14; Is. 44:6
the Father almighty,
Matt. 3:17; John 20:17; Mal. 2:10
creator of heaven and earth.
Gen. 1:1; Ps. 33:6, 9; Heb. 11:3; Col. 1:16

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son,
Matt. 1:21; John 17:3; John 3:36
our Lord.
John 20:28; Rom. 10:9; Philip. 2:9-11
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
Luke 1:35; Matt. 1:20; Is. 7:14; Luke 2:7

He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
John 19:1-3; Luke 23:23-25
was crucified, died, and was buried.
John 19:16-18; Matt. 27:46; John 19:19-30; (Mark 15:1-41); 1 Cor. 15:3-4
He descended into hell.
1 Peter 3:18-19
On the third day he rose again.
Acts 10:40-41; 1 Cor. 15:4-8; Acts 3:1
He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Luke 24:51; Eph. 4:10; Eph. 1:20-23; Rom. 8:34; Ps. 110:1
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Acts 1:11; 2 Tim. 4:1; John 5:22; Matt. 25:31-32; 2 Cor. 5:10

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
Gen. 1:2; John 15:26; John 16:7-14; Titus 3:5
the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
Eph. 2:19-22; Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:41,47; Rom. 12:4-5; Eph. 4:3-6; Col. 1:18; Eph. 5:25-27; 1 Pet. 2:5
the forgiveness of sins,
Ps. 130:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:19; Ps. 85:15; John 3:16; Eph. 1:7; 1 John 2:2; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 3:22-24; Rom. 4:25; Luke 24:47; Rom. 1:16; 2 Cor. 5:19
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Job 19:25-27; John 5:28-29; 1 Thess. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:42-43; John 10:27-28

(Download Sesson #2 Information as a PDF)

Session #3 - February 15, 2021:  Nicene Creed

Watch the recorded intro for this session on YouTube

Opening Hymn of Praise:
St. Basil the Great writes in the fourth century: ‘Our ancestors did not think it right to accept the blessings of the lamplight in the evening in silence. The moment it appeared, they would thank God for it. Who the author of this hymn of thanksgiving was we cannot say, but it is very old and the people still sing it.’

Now, as the sun sets in the west, soft lamplight glows as evening starts;
thus light from light, God’s Son all blest comes from the immortal Father’s heart;

We therefore sing our joyful songs to Father, Holy Spirit, Son,
to whom in every age belongs by right all praise from every tongue.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, from you all life, all joy come forth this night;
the world, and each soft glowing hue, reflect the glory of your light.

Phos Hilaron [ancient Christian hymn: “Hail Gladdening Light,” translation of Koine Greek] (possibly second century) translation by Michael Counsell; 2000 Years of Prayer, complied by Michael Counsell; Morehouse Publishing, 1999.
See also The Service of Light in Evening Prayer (Vespers) in the Lutheran Book of Worship. 
YouTube video of this song as a Chant

Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only 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; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the virgin Mary and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

The greatest doctrinal challenge to the church arose internally. Arius, a priest in Alexandria, suggested that if God begat Jesus, then Jesus had an origin. As such, Jesus did not share the same divine essence with the Father. Therefore, Jesus was a lesser god. In AD 325, Constantine called the leaders of the church to participate in a council – that is, and assembly of bishops. They met in the city of Nicaea, in present-day Turkey. The Council of Nicaea, made up of about 300 participants, overwhelmingly voted against Arian teachings – ancient documents suggest that only 3 bishops refused to sign their agreement. The council expressed its views about God, Jesus, and the church in the Nicene Creed.
From: Rose Book of Bible Charts: Volume 3; Rose Publishing, 2014.

What the Nicene Creed says about the relationship between Jesus and the Father
The main difference between this creed and the Apostles’ Creed, however, is a new, expanded section on the relationship between Jesus and the Father, since the chief concern of the council was to defend the true divinity of the Son against Arius. The creed asserts this by professing the “Lord Jesus Christ” to be the “Son of God,” “begotten of the Father,” “only-begotten.” These are biblical assertions (Mark 1:1 and 1 John 4:15 call Jesus the Son of God; Acts 13:33 and Heb. 5:5 speak of him as begotten of the Father; John 1:14 and 3:18 both use the Greek word monogenous, which means “only-begotten”). Jesus, they claim, is God: “God from God.”

If you need an analogy, the next phrase serves. It’s like light. How can you separate light from light? You can’t. (This was a traditional example in early Christian writings, usually concerning the ray of the sun and the sun itself.) Neither can the Father and the Son be separated. Then it repeats for emphasis that Jesus is “very God of very God”; he is not made or created or a product of the true God. Jesus is the true God. Athanasius was at the council as a deacon in the service of Alexander. He later recounted that up to this point, the Arians were still on board. In fact, they were winking and snickering at one another, as if to say, “This is fine. We can still get around this.”

Something more had to be added to defend orthodoxy, even if it could not be stated using only biblical terminology. Something was needed that would settle once and for all that the divinity of Jesus is the divinity of the Father, one and the same. It was agreed to make it clear that this Jesus is forever and eternally “of one substance with the Father.” By insisting that the Son is “of one substance” with the Father, the Arian view was rejected and the council affirmed that the Father is not “more God” than the Son. God is God, in trinity.

Adapted from material found in the Know the Creeds and Councils online course, taught by Justin Holcomb.

(Download Sesson #3 Information as a PDF)

Session #4 - February 22, 2021:  Athanasian Creed

Watch the recorded intro for this session on YouTube

Opening Prayer:
Anyone who wishes to understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse his own life, and approach the saints by copying their deeds. Thus united to them in the fellowship of life, he will both understand the things revealed to them by God and, thenceforth escaping the peril that threatens sinners in the judgment, will receive that which is laid up for the saints in the kingdom of heaven. Of that reward it is written: ‘Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man the things that God hath prepared’ for them to live a godly life and love God and the Father in Christ Jesus our Lord, through whom and with whom be the Father himself, with the Son himself, in the Holy Spirit, honour and might and glory to ages of ages of ages.
- Athanasius (c. 296-373)
2000 Years of Prayer, complied by Michael Counsell; Morehouse Publishing, 1999.

Brief Biography of Athanasius:
Athanasius was born in Alexandria in Egypt and became its bishop. He believed that the teaching of Arius, that Jesus was only of a similar substance to the Father, destroyed the possibility of our redemption, for Christ cannot reconcile humans with God unless he is truly God and truly human. He defended the decision of the Council of Nicea in 325 that Jesus is of the same substance as the Father, and for this he was driven from his diocese into exile...
2000 Years of Prayer, complied by Michael Counsell; Morehouse Publishing, 1999.

Athanasius died in 373 a.d., and the epithet that appeared on his tombstone is now famous, as it captures the essence of his life and ministry. It read simply, “Athanasius contra mundum,” that is, “Athanasius against the world.” This great Christian leader suffered several exiles during the embittered Arian controversy because of the steadfast profession of faith he maintained in Trinitarian orthodoxy.

A History of the Athanasian Creed
Though the name “Athanasius” was given to the creed over the centuries, modern scholars are convinced that the Athanasian Creed was written after the death of Athanasius. Certainly, Athanasius’ theological influence is embedded in the creed, but in all likelihood he was not its author. The present title, Quicumque Vult, follows the custom in the Roman Catholic Church that is used for encyclicals and creedal statements. These ecclesiastical affirmations get their name from the first word or words of the Latin text. The Athanasian Creed begins with the words quicumque vult, which means “whoever wishes” or “whosoever wishes,” inasmuch as this phrase introduces the first assertion of the Athanasian Creed. That assertion is this: “Whosoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the catholic faith.” The Athanasian Creed seeks to set forth in summary version those essential doctrines for salvation affirmed by the church with specific reference to the Trinity.

With respect to the history of the origins of the Athanasian Creed, it is generally thought now that the creed was first written in the fifth century — though the seventh century is also given its due, since the creed does not show up in the annals of history until 633 at the fourth council of Toledo. It was written in Latin and not in Greek. If written in the fifth century, several possible authors have been mentioned because of the influence of their thought including Ambrose of Milan and Augustine of Hippo, but it likely was the French saint, Vincent of Lérins.

The Athanasian Creed in the Twentieth Century:
... during the course of the twentieth century there was a radical, though unofficial, change in the status of the Creed in the Church of England... it became the neglected creed, the creed that was increasingly simply not used in the Church’s public worship.
In the absence of any detailed research on the topic, we cannot precisely say why this change took place. However, six reasons seem likely. First, during this period any notion of eternal damnation became increasingly contested and for this reason, the damnatory clauses have continued to be a stumbling block preventing people from accepting or using the Creed...
Fourthly, during this period there was an increasing emphasis on the importance of ecumenism and the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, rather than the Athanasian Creed, came to be seen as the two key ecumenical statements of faith which the churches should employ...
The Athanasian Creed (Anglican Foundations) by Martin Davie; Latimer Trust, 2019.

Biblical References for Selected Lines of the Athanasian Creed
Compiled by
The above blog lists Scripture references for the entire Creed. The Bible verses are ESV translation.

1) Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith.
John 14:6
- Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Acts 4:12- And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Romans 3:23- for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 10:13- For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Hebrews 11:6- And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

2) Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.
Matthew 25:46
- And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Mark 9:43- And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.
Romans 2:6–8 - He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:18- For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
2 Thessalonians 1:9- They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
Revelation 21:8- But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

29) Those who have done good will enter eternal life; those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.
Matthew 16:27
- For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.
Matthew 25:31-46
John 5:28-29
- Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
2 Corinthians 5:10- For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
Revelation 20:12- And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.

30) This is the catholic faith: One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.
John 3:18
- Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Galatians 1:8- But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
2 Thessalonians 2:15- So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
Jude 3- Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

(Download Sesson #4 Information as a PDF)

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