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Date 343
Council Serdica
CPG 8560
Greek Text Hahn, Bibliothek der Symbole und Glaubensregeln der Alten Kirche (Breslau: E. Morgenstern, 1897), 188-90.
Ancient Source Theodoret, HE 2.8.37-52
Note Scholars debate whether this creed was given official approval by the council. It was probably composed by Ossius of Cordova and Protogenes of Serdica, but was strongly rejected by Athanasius. As an apology of the creed, Ossius and Protogenes had sent a letter to Pope Julius, assuring him that the intention of the formula was not to replace that of Nicaea, but to provide a more thorough explanation. See J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds3 (New York: Longman Inc., 1972), 277-9 and Victor De Clercq, Ossius of Cordova: A Contribution to the History of the Constantinian Period (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1954), 362-76.

We declare those men excommunicate from the catholic church who say that Christ is God, but not the true God; that He is the Son, but not the true Son; and that He is both begotten and made; for such persons acknowledge that they understand by the term ‘begotten,’ that which has been made; and because, although the Son of God existed before all ages, they attribute to Him, who exists not in time but before all time, a beginning and an end.

Valens and Ursacius have, like two vipers brought forth by an asp, proceeded from the Arian heresy. For they boastingly declare themselves to be undoubted Christians, and yet affirm that the Word and the Holy Ghost were both crucified and slain, and that they died and rose again; and they persistently maintain, like the heretics, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are of diverse and distinct essences. We have been taught, and we hold the catholic and apostolic tradition and faith and confession which teach that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost have one essence, which is termed substance by the heretics. If it is asked, ‘What is the essence of the Son?’ we confess, that it is that which is acknowledged to be that of the Father alone; for the Father has never been, nor could ever be, without the Son, or the Son without the Father. It is most absurd to affirm that the Father ever existed without the Son, for that this could never be so has been testified by the Son himself, who said, ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in me’ (John 14:10) and ‘I and my Father are one’ (John 10:30). None of us denied that He was begotten; but we say that He was begotten before all things, whether visible or invisible; and that He is the creator of archangels and angels, and of the world, and of the human race. It is written, ‘Wisdom, which is the worker of all things, taught me’ (Wisdom of Solomon 7:22), and again, ‘All things were made by Him’ (John 1:3).

He could not have existed always if He had had a beginning, for the everlasting Word has no beginning, and God will never have an end. We do not say that the Father is Son, or that the Son is Father; but that the Father is Father, and the Son of the Father Son. We confess that the Son is Power of the Father. We confess that the Word is Word of God the Father, and that beside Him there is no other. We believe the Word to be the true God, and Wisdom and Power. We affirm that He is truly the Son, yet not in the way in which others are said to be sons: for they are either gods by reason of their regeneration, or are called sons of God on account of their merit, and not on account of their being of one essence, as is the case with the Father and the Son. We confess an only-begotten and a firstborn; but that the Word is only-begotten, who ever was and is in the Father. We use the word firstborn with respect to His human nature. But He is superior (to man) in the new creation (of the Resurrection), inasmuch as He is the firstborn from the dead.

We confess that God is; we confess the divinity of the Father and of the Son to be one. No one denies that the Father is greater than the Son: not on account of another essence, nor yet on account of their difference, but simply from the very name of the father being greater than that of the Son. The words uttered by our Lord, ‘I and my Father are one,’ are by those men explained as referring to the concord and harmony which prevail between the Father and the Son; but this is a blasphemous and perverse interpretation. We as Catholics, unanimously condemned this foolish and lamentable opinion: for just as mortal men on a difference having arisen between them quarrel and afterwards are reconciled, so do such interpreters say that disputes and dissention are liable to arise between God the Father Almighty and His Son; a supposition which is altogether absurd and unjustified. But we believe and maintain that those holy words, ‘I and my Father are one,’ point out the oneness of essence which is one and the same in the Father and in the Son.

We also believe that the Son reigns with the Father, that His reign has neither beginning nor end, and that it is not bounded by time, nor can ever cease: for that which always exists never begins to be, and can never cease.

We believe in and we receive the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, whom the Lord both promised and sent. We believe in it as sent.

It was not the Holy Ghost who suffered, but the manhood with which He clothed Himself; which he took from the Virgin Mary, which being man was capable of suffering; for man is mortal, whereas God is immortal. We believe that on the third day He rose, the man in God, not God in the man; and that He brought as a gift to His Father the manhood which He had delivered from sin and corruption.

We believe that, at a proper and fixed time, He Himself will judge all men and all their deeds.

So great is the ignorance and mental darkness of those whom we have mentioned, that they are unable to see the light of truth. They cannot comprehend the meaning of the words: ‘that they may be one in us’ (John 17:21). It is obvious why the word ‘one’ was used; it was because the apostles received the Holy Spirit of God, and yet there were none amongst them who were the Spirit, neither was there anyone of them who was Word, Wisdom, Power, or Only-begotten. ‘As you,’ He said, ‘and I are one, that they may be one in us,’ are strictly accurate: for the Lord did not say, ‘one in the same way that I and the Father are one,’ but He said, ‘that the disciples, being knit together and united, may be one in faith and in confession, and so in the grace and piety of God the Father, and by the indulgence and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, may be able to become one.’

Translation from Theodoret HE 2.8.37-52 (NPNF2 vol. 3, chapter 6, pp. 71-2)

Adapted by SMT

Last updated: 2-28-2012

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