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A creed is a statement or confession of belief — usually religious belief — or faith. The word derives from the Latin: credo for I believe. It is sometimes called symbol (Greek: σύμβολο), signifying a "token" by which persons of like beliefs might recognize each other.
There are two kinds of creeds: Baptismal and conciliar. The Baptismal creed teaches catechumens, who are new believers, and is a basic confession of faith. The conciliar creeds are official doctrines of the church as agreed at councils. The earlier creeds are mainly baptismal. The most famous of these early creeds is the Apostles' Creed.
Creeds served an important role in stabilizing the early Christian church. Initially used to teach beliefs to new converts, they soon served other purposes, such as showing the boundaries between real believers and those who adhered to false teachings. By the 200's, believers would be asked questions at their baptisms that went "Do you believe in God the Father almighty? Do you believe in Jesus Christ?", and so on. These questions were used to prepare the believers for baptism. In addition, the creeds guarded against heresy by clearly stating the church's beliefs. The earliest creed is generally considered to be 1 Cor 15:1-9.
It is likely that the earliest creed of Christianity that deserves the title in full is the Apostles' Creed. Christian mythology attributes this creed to all twelve Apostles as a joint composition, and assigns one phrase of the creed to each Apostle. This attribution is unlikely, but the creed itself is quite old; it seems to have developed from a catechism used in the baptism of adults, and in that form can be traced as far back as the second century (see Old Roman Symbol). The Apostles' Creed seems to have been formulated to resist Docetism and similar ideas associated with Gnosticism; it emphasizes the birth, physical death, and bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ. A Roman Catholic translation of this creed reads:I believe in God, the Father Almighty,creator of heaven and earth.I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spiritand born of the Virgin Mary.He suffered under Pontius Pilate,was crucified, died, and was buried.He descended into hell.On the third day He rose again.He ascended into heavenand is seated at the right hand of the Father.He will come again to judge the living and the dead.I believe in the Holy Spirit,the Holy Catholic Church,the communion of Saints,the forgiveness of sins,the resurrection of the body,and the life everlasting. AMEN.
The Nicene Creed is clearly derived from the Apostles' Creed, and equally obviously represents an elaboration of its basic themes. The most salient additions to this creed are much more elaborate statements concerning Christology and the Trinity. These reflect the concerns of the First Council of Nicaea in 325, and have their chief purpose the rejection of Arianism, which the church adjudged a heresy. In the Catholic, and Orthodox liturgy the Nicene Creed is repeated during each Mass on Sundays and High Days.
Other notable creeds include the:
- Athanasian Creed
- Chalcedonian Creed
- Social Creed (Methodist)
- Masai Creed
- Bodhisattva vows (Buddhism)
- International Creed for Peace