There are several creeds used in the Catholic Church. The three most important are:  (1) the Nicene Creed, which we recite every Sunday; (2) the Apostles Creed, used exclusively in the Western Church, usually for the education of children; and (3) the Athanasian Creed.  St. Athanasius was one of the four Great Greek Doctors of the Universal Church. St. Athanasius was the bishop of Alexandria, Egypt in the Fourth Century. He was an ardent opponent of the Arian heresy, and produced the list of books that became the accepted canon of the Catholic Bible. This creed, though named after him, is now thought to be of much later origin.  Its attribution to St. Athanasius was probably due to its strong Trinitarian doctrine.    It is probable this Creed was written in the West, perhaps in Rome.  The Athanasian Creed was generally not used in the Eastern Church.  It was used on the certain services of the Roman Church, but has now generally fallen out of use.  

This creed is much more explicit in some of its affirmations than the Nicene Creed, and so is of great spiritual interest.  The comments at the end of the Creed are for understanding only and are written by the editor.  They are not part of the Creed. 

The Athanasian Creed


  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 uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
  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 uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated 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.


Verses 1, 2, 28, 44—Warnings to those who opposed or did not believe the Catholic Faith in its entirety.  A creed is a formulation of essential belief. In order to be Catholic, and therefore to be saved, one needed to believe not just parts of the creed but all of it. Neither the Nicene Creed nor the Apostles Creeds contain such warnings.

Verse 3—Unlike the Nicene or the Apostles Creed, the Athanasian Creed makes explicit mention of the Trinity.

Verse 4- One of the earliest questions in Christianity was whether the Son was of the same “substance” as the Father.  Christianity answered “Yes”.  To be part of the Godhead, one must be of the same “substance” as the Father.

Verses 4, 5—The word “person” is somewhat imprecise. The Greek word is hypostases, meaning a complete and real substance, a complete entity lacking nothing. In Latin, a persona was the mask an actor wore on stage.  It denoted his character.  The Greek word denotes reality.

Verse 5—Explicit mention there are three persons in the Holy Trinity. One heresy held that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were just three different manifestations of the One God.  Christianity rejects that, saying there are three persons in the Godhead.

Verse 6—The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were each eternal, before the ages.

Verse 8—The Arians held the Son was created.  Their slogan was “There was a time when He was not”.  Anything that was created could not be part of the Godhead, as only God is “uncreated”.  The Arian heresy was so pervasive that at one time it threatened to envelope all of the Christian world.

Verse 9—Eastern theology is often described as being apophatic.  It is easier to say what God is NOT, rather than saying what God is.  In this case, the creed is saying we simply cannot comprehend God, the totality of everything. We our limited human beings that attempt to reason about God with our limited human intellect.  The totality simply cannot be understood without faith.

Verse 16—Extremely important in today’s world.  Muslims and Jews believe the Trinity is a heresy.  Both religions emphatically proclaims God is One.  This verse makes the Trinity an explicit part of the Christian Faith but also states God is a Unity.

Verse 20—Forbids Christians to hold there are three Gods.  This is a critical distinction in the modern world.  The Mormons, for instance, believe the Father and the Son are two different Gods.  Therefore, they are not classically Christian as Christians are Trinitarian.  Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, for instance, are not.

Verses 21-26—The Eastern Church has a doctrine called the “Monarchy of the Father”.  This is a poor name for such a vital concept.  The Early Christians had to explain Jesus.  Where did Jesus come from and what was He?  At the same time, they also had to deal with their Jewish Brethren, who believed in a single, unitary God.  The “Monarchy of the Father” states the Father is the source of the Godhead, but not the entire Godhead.   These verses also state another important principle:  The Three Persons in the Trinity can be distinguished.  The Father was unbegotten, the Son begotten, and the Spirit Proceeds.  Why did the Son step into time for our Salvation?

It is because that is in the nature of being the Son.  Therefore, there cannot be three Fathers or Three Sons or Three Holy Spirits.  There must be three separate Persons.

Verse 23—The Eastern Church holds the Son proceeds from the Father solely, in conjunction with the doctrine of the Monarchy of the Father.

Verses 29-41—these verses deal with the two natures of Jesus: God and Man.  They are a more complete explanation of the dual nature than contained in the Nicene Creed.

Verse 31—Affirms the Incarnation.

Verse 34—Affirms the Son was of two natures—human and divine.

Verse 37—The word “reasonable” in this context means able to reason as a human being. This verse affirms that Jesus was a complete man, in mind and body.  One heresy held that Jesus did not have a human will, but was a sort of divine puppet.  It is essential for our faith to believe that Jesus was a complete man.  If He was not, then His sacrifice on the Cross and His resurrection would be meaningless to us.

Verse 42—An affirmation that it is not only our faith (as demonstrated by the belief in the Creed) but by our good works will we be judged at the end of time.