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I cannot locate where any but the most basic of the 44 assertions made in the Creed of Athanasius are also made in the canonical scriptures. Nor do I see any scriptural references provided within the Creed. And of course, even the word "Trinity" is completely absent from the Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic scriptures.

Has anyone published a book, blog or what have you that contains:

Assertion #1:

  1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;

Same assertion made in the canonical scriptures:

Same Assertion #1:


Assertion #2:

Same assertion made in the canonical scriptures:


Etc. Does such a seemingly important document exist?

IMPORTANT CAVEAT:

I'm NOT looking for something that has inferences from unrelated passages, only explicit assertions. For example, I'm not looking to answer all 44 assertions with "See John 1:1"! It should be painfully obvious that one can prove anything via inference (and people do all the time). Thanks. Here are the assertions:

Athanasian Creed

1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;

  1. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

  2. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

  3. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

  4. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

  5. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

  6. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.

  7. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

  8. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

  9. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

  10. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.

  11. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

  12. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.

  13. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

  14. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

  15. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

  16. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

  17. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

  18. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;

  19. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.

  20. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

  21. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.

  22. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

  23. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

  24. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.

  25. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.

  26. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

  27. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

  28. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  29. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.

  30. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.

  31. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

  32. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.

  33. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.

  34. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.

  35. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.

  36. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;

  37. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;

  38. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;

  39. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

  40. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

  41. and shall give account of their own works.

  42. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

  43. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

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The simple answer to the question, How many statements arise from the Bible? There are NONE. The reason is simple - creeds by their very nature are a summary of conclusions based on (supposedly) Biblical evidence. Therefore, their language will NOT be that of the Bible but of the terminus of theological logic.

There are a very few phrases that arise from Scripture such as "judge the quick and the dead" (2 Tim 4:1, 1 Peter 4:5, Acts 10:42). Another might be, "give account of their own works" (Rom 14:12, 1 Peter 4:5, Matt 12;36, etc), and one or two more. But phrases do not make a sentence nor thought.

But more importantly, there are many unscriptural words such as, "trinity", "uncreated", "unbegotten", "coequal", "almighties", "coeternal", "eternals", etc. This precludes most of the material arising from the Bible.

So let us be quite clear - the Athanasian creed is a creed (summary of belief) and is of dubious and unknown origin; it is a man-made document; it is a summary of some theologian's thoughts and conclusions. It makes only vague references to the Bible. It also makes no pretense at being of direct Biblical origin.

This does not make it right or wrong - it just makes any connection to the Bible rather indirect. Any link a creed has to the Bible will always be logical (ie via logic and reason) rather than lexical and linguistic.

  • "kath' holos" (throughout all [of]) does appear in Acts. "Katholikos" is just the adjectival form of this (universal). Who believes the Church is just local and peculiar to one race, city, bishop, whatever? And if Luke hadn't make the statement 'Christians were first called Christians at Antioch' it wouldn't make calling Christians Christ-ian because they are of Christ false or erroneous either. Also, Ignatius of Antioch (discipled by St. John the Apostle), uses the word "Catholic" of the Church and its faith at the turn of the first century... – Sola Gratia Jan 21 at 15:39
  • Ah yes - thanks @Sola Gratia. I will amend accordingly. – Mac's Musings Jan 21 at 20:00
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As you noted in your question, Scriptures can be adduced to support any number of inferences and doctrines. So it stands to reason that true teaching must consist of more than the mere having or pointing to the Scriptures, but rightly understanding them; it also stands to reason that rightly understanding them consists in more than personal assurance or ability to convince other of one's interpretation—which can in theory be accomplished by heretics (no matter according to whom they would be heretics). Therefore, you must adduce Scripture to prove your case only if your case is demonstrably the Christian faith apart from the Scriptures (else we fall into relying on our private interpretation or the might of our arguing for an interpretation that neither we can be sure is true, nor those convinced): that is, you must be able to demonstrate that you are presenting an interpretation of the Scriptures in line with that "faith" once delivered to the Church, and not something novel.

It's for this reason that St. Athanasius wrote things like:

But, beyond these sayings [of Scripture], let us look at the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached and the Fathers kept.1


But after him and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power.2


But since they allege the divine oracles [Scripture] and force on them a misinterpretation, according to their private sense, it becomes necessary to meet them just so far as to vindicate these passages, and to show that they bear an orthodox sense, and that our opponents are in error ...3

As you can see, the chief defender of orthodoxy at the time (nor anyone at the time, for that matter), was no 'sola scripturist' (find it in the Bible or it's not Christian teaching). When engaging in apologetics using Scripture, you must vindicate the passage against blatant misinterpretation, yet never by doing so implying the truth, and the true meaning, is arrived at purely by a debate between men. We must also appeal to unchangable Tradition to verify and vindicate our own interpretation, not simply cite our own, so proving that it is not at odds with the deposit of faith given by the Apostles.

Hence, Athanasius doesn't make it simply a back and forth of 'who has the best interpretation' but rather is famous for the statement, "how many Fathers can ye assign to your phrases [i.e. novel interpretations of Scripture]?"4

Therefore the standard that all true expounding on the meaning and true sense of Scripture must be yet another Scripture ("I cannot locate where any of the 44 assertions made in the Creed of Athanasius are also made in the canonical scriptures") is not only virtually impossible, but not the mode of the Church—and never has been. Ironically, such a doctrine itself is not found in any Scripture passage!

Rather, the orthodox sense of Scripture is enumerated in various Creeds, each having a different focus and purpose (e.g. the Nicene as useful in combating Arianism, the Constantinopolitan as useful in combating the Macedonian heresy, the Athanasian against misrepresentations of the Trinity, etc.) by their being the true teaching of Scripture.

That said, there are of course Scriptural proofs for each one, if not single 'proof texts.' (What you can prove from Scripture is only as good as your ability to prove your interpretation is infallibly what was handed on and intended by the Apostles.) But since you said you are not interested in such, I'll omit them.


1 To Serapion 1:28 (after citing biblical passages concerning the deity of the Holy Spirit)

2 Festal Letter 2:6

3 Discourse Against the Arians 1:37

3 De Decretis 27

  • Thanks, but that is not what I said. I tried to be very clear that an assertion from scripture is enough to convert me and I should hope any others that believe the scriptures because the assertions of scripture are clear and finite while inferences are endless and without rigor. So, and not to put words in your mouth, is your answer to the question, "No, no such assertions are made in scripture, it is all based on/inferred from unrelated passages and Catholic tradition?" – Ruminator Jan 20 at 23:36
  • "'sola scripturist' (find it in the Bible or it's not Christian teaching)" That's not what sola scriptura means. Also the sentence is missing a "not". – curiousdannii Jan 20 at 23:37
  • @Ruminator "I tried to be very clear that an assertion from scripture is enough to convert me" An assertion of what kind? 'the Trinity is the true doctrine concerning God?' As I said, such a standard is at its core fallacious—and anti-biblical, not only non-biblical. I'd be happy to lay out the Scriptural evidence of the triune nature of God, but that goes back to the fact that anyone can interpret them for the Trinity or against it and have gotten nowhere objective—without the anchor of Tradition. – Sola Gratia Jan 20 at 23:45
  • So, and not to put words in your mouth, is your answer to the question, "No, no such assertions are made in scripture, it is all based on/inferred from unrelated passages and Catholic tradition?" Or perhaps, "it is all based on Catholic tradition"? – Ruminator Jan 20 at 23:47
  • You seem to have missed my whole point altogether. My point is that whatever is 'taught' in Scripture ('such assertions are made in Scripture') is subjective and grasping at wind unless you have some pillar to anchor your interpretation on. For example, I believe that the Baptismal Formula teaches the Trinity, yet you simply claim it is unoriginal and doesn't belong in the Bible. If you didn't deny its authenticity, then you would have another interpretation. Understand what I mean now? If one text wasn't sufficient, neither would many be, since they can be reconciled in various ways. – Sola Gratia Jan 20 at 23:52
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I question the whole assumption of the OP. It's simply not possible to limit any statement of belief to the text alone. It never has been. This is not a criticism of statements of belief. They can be true, and useful. But by simple definition they must stand outside the Biblical text because they are answering the question, "This is what I believe about the Bible's text."

To put it another way, for any text there is a difference between the text and its meaning. They are not the same thing. The moment two people have differences of opinion about the meaning of a text, the text by itself becomes insufficient to resolve the difference. We need to go beyond the bare text to the question of interpretation.

Consider the classic example of John 1.1, as quoted in the OP. One person may say, "The Word was God." Another person may say, "The Word was a god." Both people have accepted the truth of John 1.1. But at the same time the text of John 1.1 means different things to each of them. How do we decide which is more correct? Answer: by offering evidence from outside that single verse to support our view. We can't just quote the verse as evidence of the meaning of the verse; that would be a circular argument.

So we can ask of the Athanasian creed, why did its framers believe those statements to be true? That is a valid historical question. And you can ask, is its content a consistent and reasonable interpretation of the Biblical text? That's a valid theological question. But you can't ask, why didn't they just quote the Bible verses? If that were possible, we would have had those verses in the creed from the beginning.

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