The Creeds Explained — Part 4

After a an unconscionably long delay, I’m returning to the running series in which I’m attempt to explicate The Apostles’ Creed and The Nicene Creed, this time in reference to the creeds’ affirmations about Jesus Christ.

As in its first clause, The Apostles’ Creed is brief:

 I Believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,”

The United Methodist Hymnal, 882.

While once again, The Nicene Creed goes into greater detail:

 “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.”

The United Methodist Hymnal, 880.

Again, because of their complementary structure, both Creeds are expressing the same essential truth: Jesus was and is divine (that is, he was and is God). The Apostles’ Creed does this with one word: Lord. Allow me to explain. Because one of the Ten Commandments insists that the Israelites not take the divine name (YHWH) in vain, the Israelites avoided using the name at all and often replaced it with the title “Lord” instead. For this reason, to assert (as both creeds do) that Jesus is Lord, is to confess that YHWH and Jesus are one and that Jesus is God.

The Nicene Creed expands on The Apostles’ Creed’s brief statement with highly technical language (language that is even more technical in the original Greek). It begins by using the term “Lord” in the same way as The Apostles’ Creed.  It then explicitly affirms Jesus’ unique status as “the only Son of God.” By saying that Jesus was “begotten, not made,” it affirms Jesus’ status above the rest of creation. By stating that he was eternally begotten of the Father it affirms (in the face of gnostic opposition) that there was not a time when Jesus did not exist. The phrases, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God” and “of one Being with the Father” all reinforce, in the most technical ways possible, the statement of Jesus’ divinity found in the word Lord.

Hopefully, I’ll have more next week.