The Councils/Creeds of Christendom are divided into four classes:

 

(1) The Ecumenical Councils: of the Ancient Catholic (Universal) Church (the orthodox doctrine of God and of Christ and the fundamental dogmas of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation.)

 

(2) The Symbols of the Greek or Oriental Church: The Greek faith is set forth in distinction from Roman Catholic and the Evangelical Protestant Churches. They differ from Roman Creeds in the doctrines of the procession of the Holy Spirit and the papacy. They are in agreement over the rules of faith such as justification by faith, the church and the sacraments, worship of saints and relics, and the hierarchy and the monastic system.

 

(3) The Creeds of the Roman Catholic Church: The distinctive doctrines of Romanism which were opposed by the Reformers are from the Council of Trent 1549 (Ecumenical Council Nineteen: Exhibit B) to the Vatican Council in 1870.

 

(4) The Creeds of the Evangelical Protestant Churches: Most of them date from the Reformation and agree with the Ancient Catholic creeds but ingraft the Augustinian doctrines of sin and grace, and several doctrines in anthropology and soteriology (justification and atonement) which had never been previously settled by the Church in an exclusive way. The Protestant Creeds are either Lutheran or Reformed. The Lutheran were all made in Germany from AD 1530 to 1577, the Reformed arose in different countries: Germany, Switzerland, France, Holland, Hungary, Poland, England, Scotland and wherever the influence of Calvin and Zwingli extended. They both agree almost entirely in their theology, christology, anthropology, soteriology, and eschatology, but they differ in the doctrines of divine decrees and of the nature and efficacy of the sacraments, especially the mode of Christ's presence in the Lord's Supper. Later Evangelical denominations: Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers, Arminians and Methodists acknowledge the leading doctrines of the Reformation, but differ from Lutheranism and Calvinism in a number of articles such as anthropology, the Church, the sacraments, and especially on Church polity and discipline. Their creeds are modifications and abridgments rather than enlargements of the old Protestant, Reformed Creeds. Many Churches today have only the creed of the particular pastor in the pulpit.

 

 

Early Ecumenical Christian Church Councils

 

The following Councils (EXHIBIT B) were responsible for fighting off various heresiesí, which threatened to divide and destroy the Church, and their decisions gave the theological tenets most Christians believe about God and Christ today. Most of these councils were held in the eastern part of the empire and the attendee's were primarily eastern. 

First Eight Ecumenical Councils

1) 325 A.D. Council of Nicea
2) 381 A.D. First Council of Constantinople
3) 431 A.D. Council of Ephesus
4) 451 A.D. Council of Chalcedon
5) 553 A.D. Second Council of Constantinople
6) 680 A.D. Third Council of Constantinople

7) 787 A.D. Second Council of Nicea
8) 869 A.D. Constantinople

 

1st) 325 A.D. Council of Nicea

The First Ecumenical, or Council of Nicea (325)- lasted two months and twelve days. Three hundred eighteen bishops were present. This Council was held in Bithynia in Asia Minor and overseen by the Roman Emperor Constantine; it proclaimed the true manhood and true divinity of Jesus Christ and decreed the concept of the Trinity. It was from this Council that the Nicean Creed   was formulated. The Council was held to counter the heresy of Arius who denied the divinity of Jesus. Athanasius was Ariusí opponent at this council, where he prevailed Athanasius Creed. This council was also responsible for the fixing of the date for keeping Easter (against the Quartodecimans).

2nd) 381 A.D. First Council of Constantinople
The Second Ecumenical, or First General Council of Constantinople (381)- under Pope Damscus and the Emperor Theodosius I, was attended by one hundred fifty bishops. Belief in the Holy Spirit was added to the above mentioned Nicene creed, it added the clauses referring to the Holy Ghost and defined His deity.   

3rd) 431 A.D. Council of Ephesus
The Third Ecumenical, or Council of Ephesus (431)- more than two hundred bishops, presided over by Cyril of Alexandria representing Pope Celestine I. It defined the true personal unity of Christ, declared Mary the Mother of God against Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, and renewed the condemnation of Pelagius. The Council of Ephesus was held to counter the heresy of Nestorius. This Council reaffirmed the Church's doctrine of incarnation and its position that the Word of God was made man. Where Nestorius taught that in Jesus there were two separate persons, the Council decreed that in Jesus there was one person with two natures. Nestorius also taught that Mary was the mother of Christ, but not the mother of God. The Council rejected this idea and upheld the Church's position that Mary was, indeed, the mother of God.

4th) 451 A.D. Council of Chalcedon
The Fourth Ecumencial, or Council of Chalcedon (451) held in Bythinia in Asia Minor - one hundred fifty bishops under Pope Leo the Great and the Emperor Marcian defined the two natures (divine and human) in Christ against Eutyches, who was excommunicated. The Council of Chalcedon was held to counter the Monophysite doctrines (which argued against the two natures of Christ) as well as to reaffirm the Church's position in opposing the Nestorians. This Council defined the final elements in the Trinitarian formula by declaring that Christ existed in two natures, without mixture or change, without division or separation, but that His two natures were held in union in one person without losing the separate distinction of either nature.  

5th) 553 A.D. Second Council of Constantinople

The Fifth Ecumencial, or Second General Council of Constantinople (553)- was attended by one hundred sixty five bishops under Pope Vigilius and Emperor Justinian I. It further confirmed the first four general councils, especially that of Chalcedon whose authority was contested by heretics such as the Nestorians. Moreover, the Second Council of Constantinople was called to resolve certain questions that were raised by the Definition of Chalcedon, the most important of which had to do with the unity of the two natures, God and man, is Jesus Christ.  The Second Council of Constantinople confirmed the Definition of Chalcedon, while emphasizing that Jesus Christ does not just embody God the Son, He _is_ God the Son. 

 

6th) 680 A.D. Third Council of Constantinople

The Sixth Ecumenical, or Third Council of Constantinople (680)- under Pope Agatho and the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus, was attended by the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch, one hundred seventy four bishops, and the emperor. It put an end to Monothelitism by defining two wills in Christ, the Divine and the human, as two distinct principles of operation. This council further clarified the Definition of Chalcedon, dealing with the question of whether the two natures of Jesus Christ (God and man) had two separate wills as well.  The issue was important because of the existence of the Monophysite (one nature) heresy, which maintained that Jesus Christ has only one nature, truncating to some degree His humanity in favor of His divinity.  Some taught that not-withstanding Jesus' two natures, He had only one will.  The Third Council of Constantinople rejected this view as being too close to the teaching of the Monophysites.  The statement is an effort to tread the line between the Monophysite and the Nestorian heresies

 

7th) Second Council of Nicea 787 A.D.

The Seventh Ecumencial, or Second Council of Nicea (787)- was convoked by Emperor Constantine VI and his mother Irene, under Pope Adrian I, was presided over by the legates of Pope Adrian. It regulated the veneration of holy images.

 

8th) 869 A.D. The split between the Western and Eastern Churches.

In 869 A.D. a fourth Council of Constantinople was held to try to avert a schizm which had developed between the western and eastern churches over a western decision to place the phrase 'and from the son' into the Nicaen Creed regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit. The Greeks felt that the Holy Spirit came only from the Father. The Western Church, bowing to centuries of pressure, finally inserted into the creed the Church's official position that the Holy Spirit came to us through both the Father and the Son.   The ensuing controversy split the western and eastern churches into two opposing camps, where they have remained ever since.

 

 

 

 

 

Athanasian Creed (320 A.D.?) 

1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;
2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
8. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Spirit uncreate.
9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
12. As also there are not three untreated nor three incomprehensible, but one untreated and one incomprehensible.
13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.
14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord
.
19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;
20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.
21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.
23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.
26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.

27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. 28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
30. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.
31. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.
32. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
33. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.
34. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.
35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.
36. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;
38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;
40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
42. and shall give account of their own works.
43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
44. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved
.
 

The Nicene Creed (or Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed)

The Nicene Creed was written by the early Church and adopted (in a slightly different version) by the Church Council at Nicśa in AD 325 and appears in its present form by the Council at Chalcedon in AD 451. It has remained in use since that time. The Nicene Creed appears to be a smaller version of Athanasiusís Creed. After Athanasius won the Council at Nicae in 325 A.D. he was apparently able to promote his doctrine.

 

The Nicene Creed (325 A.D.)

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,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
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],
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who 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. Amen.

 

Reference:

1: Site 1

2: Site 2

3: Site 3