Rufinus on the Creed. [ca 309]
Credo in Deo Patre omnipotenti invisibili et impassibili.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, invisible and impassible.
Et in Jesu Christo, unico Filio ejus, Domino nostro;
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;
Qui natus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine;
Who was born from the Holy Ghost, of the Virgin Mary;
Crucifixus sub Pontio Pilato, et sepultus;
Was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and buried;
Descendit ad inferna; tertia die resurrexit a mortuis;
He descended to hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead.
Ascendit in coelos; sedet ad dexteram Patris;
He ascended to the heavens; he sitteth at the right hand of the Father;
Inde venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos;
Thence he is to come to judge the quick and the dead.
Et in Spiritu Sancto;
And in the Holy Ghost;
The Holy Church.
The remission of sins.
Hujus carnis resurrectionem.
The resurrection of this flesh.
My mind has as little inclination for writing as sufficiency, most faithful Bishop (Papa) Laurentius, for I well know that it is a matter of no little peril to submit a slender ability to general criticism. But, since in your letter you rashly (forgive my saying so) require me, by Christ's sacraments, which I hold in the greatest reverence, to compose something for you concerning the Faith, in accordance with the traditional and natural meaning of the Creed. although in so doing you impose a burden upon me beyond my strength to bear (for I do not forget the opinion of the wise, which so justly says, that "to speak of God even what is true is perilous"); still, if you will aid with your prayers the necessity which your requisition has laid upon me, I will try to say something, moved rather by a reverential regard for your injunction than by presumptuous confidence in my ability. What I write, however, will hardly seem worthy of the consideration of persons of mature understanding, but suited rather to the capacity of children and young beginners in Christ.
I find, indeed, that some eminent writers have published treatises on these matters piously and briefly written. Moreover, I know that the heretic Photinus has written on the same; but with the object, not of explaining the meaning of the text to his readers. but of wresting things simply and truthfully said in support of his own dogma, while yet the Holy Spirit has taken care that in these words nothing should be set down which is ambiguous or obscure, or inconsistent with other truths: for therein is that prophecy verified, "Finishing and cutting short the word in equity: because a short word will the Lord make upon the earth." It shall be our endeavor, then, first to restore and emphasize the words of the Apostles in their native simplicity; and, secondly, to supply such things as seem to have been omitted by former expositors. But that the scope of this "short word," as we have called it, may be made more plain, we will inquire from the beginning how it came to be given to the Churches.
Our forefathers have handed down to us the tradition, that, after the Lord's ascension, when, through the coming of the Holy Ghost, tongues of flame had settled upon each of the Apostles, that they might speak diverse languages, so that no race however foreign, no tongue however barbarous, might be inaccessible to them and beyond their reach, they were commanded by the Lord to go severally to the several nations to preach the word of God. Being on the eve therefore of departing from one another, they first mutually agreed upon a standard of their future preaching, lest haply, when separated, they might in any instance vary in the statements which they should make to those whom they should invite to believe in Christ. Being all therefore met together, and being filled with the Holy Ghost, they composed, as we have said, this brief formulary of their future preaching, each contributing his several sentence to one common summary: and they ordained that the rule thus framed should be given to those who believe.
To this formulary, for many and most sufficient reasons, they gave the name of Symbol. For Symbol (kumblon) in Greek answers to both "Indicium" (a sign or token) and "Collatio" (a joint contribution made by several) in Latin. For this the Apostles did in these words, each contributing his several sentence. It is called "Indicium" or "Signum," a sign or token, because, at that time, as the Apostle Paul says, and as is related in the Acts of the Apostles, many of the vagabond Jews, pretending to be apostles of Christ, went about preaching for gain's sake or their belly's sake, naming the name of Christ indeed, but not delivering their message according to the exact traditional lines. The Apostles therefore prescribed this formulary as a sign or token by which he who preached Christ truly, according to Apostolic rule, might be recognized. Finally, they say that in civil wars, since the armor of both sides is alike, and the language the same, and the custom and mode of warfare the same, each general, to guard against treachery, is wont to deliver to his soldiers a distinct symbol or watchword-in Latin "signum" or "indicium"-so that if one is met with, of whom it is doubtful to which side he belongs, being asked the symbol (watchword), he discloses whether he is friend or foe. And for this reason, the tradition continues, the Creed is not written on paper or parchment, but is retained in the hearts of the faithful, that it may be certain that no one has learnt it by reading, as is sometimes the case with unbelievers, but by tradition from the Apostles.
The Apostles therefore, as we have said, being about to separate in order to preach the Gospel, settled upon this sign or token of their agreement in the faith; and, unlike the sons of Noah, who, when they were about to separate from one another, builded a tower of baked bricks and pitch, whose top might reach to heaven, they raised a monument of faith, which might withstand the enemy, composed of living stones and pearls of the Lord, such that neither winds might overthrow it, nor floods undermine it, nor the force of storms and tempests shake it. Right justly, then, were the former, when, on the eve of separation, they builded a tower of pride, condemned to the confusion of tongues, so that no one might understand his neighbor's speech; while the latter, who were building a tower of faith, were endowed with the knowledge and understanding of all languages; so that the one might prove a sign and token of sin, the other of faith.
But it is time now that we should say something about these same pearls, among which is placed first the fountain and source of all, when it is said,-
I Believe in God the Father Almighty.
But before I begin to discuss the meaning of the words, I think it well to mention that in different Churches some additions are found in this article. This is not the case, however, in the Church of the city of Rome; the reason being, as I suppose, that, on the one hand, no heresy has had its origin there, and, on the other, that the ancient custom is there kept up, that those who are going to be baptized should rehearse the Creed publicly, that is, in the audience of the people; the consequence of which is that the ears of those who are already believers will not admit the addition of a single word. But in other places, as I understand, additions appear to have been made, on account of certain heretics, by means of which it was hoped that novelty in doctrine would be excluded. We, however, follow that order which we received when we were baptized in the Church of Aquileia.
I Believe, therefore, is placed in the forefront, as the Apostle Paul, writing to the Hebrews, says, "He that cometh to God must first of all believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who believe on Him." The Prophet also says, "Except ye believe, ye shall not understand." That the way to understand, therefore, may be open to you, you do rightly first of all, in professing that you believe; for no one embarks upon the sea, and trusts himself to the deep and liquid element, unless he first believes it possible that he will have a safe voyage; neither does the husbandman commit his seed to the furrows and scatter his grain on the earth, but in the belief that the showers will come, together with the sun's warmth, through whose fostering influence, aided by favoring winds, the earth will produce and multiply and ripen its fruits. In fine, nothing in life can be transacted if there be not first a readiness to believe. What wonder then, if, coming to God, we first of all profess that we believe, seeing that, without this, not even common life can be lived. We have premised these remarks at the outset, since the Pagans are wont to object to us that our religion, because it lacks reasons, rests solely on belief. We have shown, therefore, that nothing can possibly be done or remain stable unless belief precede. Finally, marriages are contracted in the belief that children will be born; and children are committed to the care of masters in the belief that the teaching of the masters will be transferred to the pupils; and one man assumes the ensigns of empire, believing that peoples and cities and a well-equipped army also will obey him. But if no one enters upon any one of these several undertakings except in the belief that the results spoken of will follow, must not belief be much more requisite if one would come to the knowledge of God? But let us see what this "short word" of the Creed sets forth.
"I Believe in God the Father Almighty."
The Eastern Churches almost universally deliver the article thus, "I believe in One God the Father Almighty;" and again in the next article, where we say, "And in Christ Jesus, His only Son, our Lord," they deliver it., "And in One (Lord) our Lord Jesus Christ, His only Son;" confessing, that is, "one Gods" and "one Lord," in accordance with the authority of the Apostle Paul. But we shall return to this by-and-by. For the present, let us turn our attention to the words, "In God the Father Almighty."
"God," so far as the human mind can form an idea, is the name of that nature or substance which is above all things. "Father" is a word expressive of a secret and ineffable mystery. When you hear the word "God," you must understand thereby a substance without beginning, without end simple, uncompounded, invisible, incorporeal, ineffable, inappreciable, which has in it nothing which has been either added or created. For He is without cause who is absolutely the cause of all things. When you hear the word "Father," you must understand by this the Father of a Son, which Son is the image of the aforesaid substance. For as no one is called "Lord" unless he have a possession or a servant whose lord he is, and as no one is called "master" unless he have a disciple, so no one can possibly be called "father" unless he have a son. This very name of "Father," therefore, shows plainly that, together with the Father there subsists a Son also.
But I would not have you discuss how God the Father begat the Son, nor intrude too curiously into the profound mystery, lest haply, by prying too eagerly into the brightness of light inaccessible, you should lose the faint glimpse which, by the gift of God, has been vouchsafed to mortals. Or, if you suppose that this is a subject to be investigated with all possible scrutiny, first propose to yourself questions which concern ourselves, and then, if you are able to deal satisfactorily with them, speed on from earthly things to heavenly, from visible to invisible. Determine first, if you can, how the mind, which is within you, generates a word, and what is the spirit of the memory which is in it; and how these, though diverse in reality and in operation, are yet one in substance or nature; and though they proceed from the mind, yet are never separated from it. And if these, though they are in us and in the substance of our own soul, yet seem to be hidden from us in proportion as they are invisible to our bodily sight, let us take for our enquiry things which are more open to view. How does a spring generate a river from itself? By what spirit is it borne into a rapidly flowing stream? How happens it that, while the river and the spring are one and inseparable, yet neither can the river be understood to be, or can be called, the spring, nor the spring the river, and yet he who has seen the river has seen the spring also? Exercise yourself first in explaining these, and explain, if you are able, things which you have trader your hands; and then you may come to loftier matters. Do not think, however, that I would have you ascend all at once from the earth above the heavens: I would first, with your leave, draw your attention to this firmament which our eyes behold, and ask you to explain, if you can, the nature of this visible luminary,-how that celestial fire generates from itself the brightness of light, how it also produces heat; and though these are three in reality, how they are yet one in substance. And if you are capable of investigating each of these, even then you must acknowledge that the mystery of the Divine generation is by so much the more diverse and the more transcendent as the Creator is more powerful than the creatures, as the artificer is more excellent than his work, as He who ever is more noble than that which had its beginning out of nothing.
That God then is the Father of His only Son our Lord is to be believed, not discussed; for it is not lawful for a servant to dispute about the nativity of his lord. The Father hath borne witness from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased: hear Him." The Father saith that He is His Son and bids us hear Him. The Son saith, "He who seeth Me seeth the Father also," and "I and the Father are one," and "I came forth from God and am come into the world." Where is the man who can thrust himself as a disputant between these words of Father and Son, who cart divide the Godhead, separate its volition, break asunder the substance, cut the spirit in parts, and deny that what the Truth speaks is true? God then is a true Father as the Father of the Truth, not begetting extrinsically, but generating the Son from that which Himself is; that is, as the All-wise He generates Wisdom, as the Just Justice, as the Everlasting the Everlasting, as the Immortal Immortality, as the Invisible the Invisible; because He is Light, He generates Brightness, because He is Mind, He generates the Word.
Now whereas we said that the Eastern Churches, in their delivery. of the Creed, say, "In one God the Father Almighty," and "in one Lord," the "one" is not to be understood numerically but absolutely. For example, if one should say, "one man" or "one horse," here "one" is used numerically. For there may be a second man and a third, or a second horse and a third. But where a second or a third cannot be added, if we say "one" we mean one not numerically but absolutely. For example, if we say, "one Sun," here the meaning is that a second or a third cannot be added, for there is but one Sun. Much more then is God, when He is said to be "one," called "one," not numerically but absolutely, that is, He is therefore said to be one because there is no other. In like manner, also, it is to be understood of the Lord, that He is one Lord, Jesus Christ, by or through Whom God the Father possesses dominion over all, whence also, in the next clause, God is called "Almighty."
God is called Almighty because He possesses rule and dominion over all things. But the Father possesses all things by His Son, as the Apostle says, "By Him were created all things, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers." And again, writing to the Hebrews, he says, "By Him also He made the worlds," and "He appointed Him heir of all things." By "appointed" we are to understand "generated." Now if the Father made the worlds by Him, and all things were created by Him, and He is heir of all things, then by Him He possesses rule also over all things. Because, as light is born of light, and truth of truth, so. Almighty is born of Almighty. As it is written of the Seraphim in the Revelation of John, "And they have no rest day and night, crying Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth, which was and which is and which is to come, the Almighty." He then who "is to come" is called "Almighty." And what other is there who "is to come" but Christ, the Son of God?
To the foregoing is added "Invisible and Impassible." I should mention that these two words are not in the Creed of the Roman Church. They were added in our Church, as is well known, on account of the Sabellian heresy, called by us "the Patripassian," that, namely, which says that the Father Himself was born of the Virgin and became visible, or affirms that He suffered in the flesh. To exclude such impiety, therefore, concerning the Father, our forefathers seem to have added these words, calling the Father "invisible and impassible." For it is evident that the Son, not the Father, became incarnate and was born in the flesh, and that from that nativity in the flesh the Son became "visible and passible." Yet so far as regards that immortal substance of the Godhead, which He possesses, and which is one and the same with that of the Father, we must believe that neither the Father, nor the Son, nor the Holy Ghost is "visible or passible." But the Son, in that He condescended to assume flesh, was both seen and also suffered in the flesh. Which also the Prophet foretold when he said, "This is our God: none shall be accounted of in comparison of Him. He hath found out all the way of knowledge, and hath given it unto Jacob His servant and to Israel His beloved. Afterward He showed Himself upon the earth, and conversed with men."