Creeds: Third Century

Cyprian, Bishop of Catharge, writing about 250, stated his creed as this:

I believe in God the Father,
In His Son Jesus Christ,
In the Holy Spirit.
I believe in the forgiveness of sins,
And Eternal Life
Through the Holy Church

It is found Epistle to Magnus (Ep. 69, al. 76), the other in his synodical Epistle to Januarius and other Numidian bishops (Ep. 70). Both are in form interrogative, in answer to the question Credis? put to the baptismal candidate. ‘No salvation outside the church’, or in Latin, ‘Nullus salus extra ecclesiam’, is the doctrine accredited to Cyprian. It should be understand, however, that at this time, Cyprian was seeing fractions develop around him, generally associated with the lapsed of the persecutions and other heretics.

Cyprian’s counterpart, Novatian a schismatic of Rome, writing about the same time, writes,

The rule of truth demands that, first of all,
we believe in God the Father and Almighty Lord,
that is, the most perfect Maker of all things.…
The same rule of truth teaches us to believe, after the Father,
also in the Son of God, Christ Jesus,
our Lord God, but the Son of God.…
Moreover, the order of reason and the authority of faith, in due consideration of the words and Scriptures of the Lord, admonishes us, after this, to believe also
in the Holy Ghost
promised of old to the Church, but granted in the appointed and fitting time.

It is found in his writings (De Trinitate s. De Regula Fidei (Bibl. PP. ed. Gallandi, Tom. III. pp. 287 sqq.), but we have to note that Novatian was another of the long lines of schismatics that would later be called upon to support developed doctrine.

Immediately, we see Novatian, unlike Cyprian places the title of Lord God on the Son as well as the Father, calling Him the Son of God (as of yet, the phrase God the Son has not been found). Also seen is Novatian, unlike the others that preceded him, and many that came after him, actually gave more diligence to the holy Spirit. It was during this, it must be remembered, that Montanism was raging which focused more securely on the Spirit than it did anything else. The Spirit, for the followers of Montanus, was just now being given to the Church. Here, the echoes that doctrine is seen in Novatian.

Writings 20 years from Cyprian of Catharge and Novatian of Rome was Origen of Alexandria.His creed is preserved for us by Rufinius

The form of those things which are manifestly delivered by the preaching of the Apostles is this:

First, that there is one God, who created and framed every thing, and who, when nothing was, brought all things into being,—God from the first creation and forming of the world, the God of all the just—Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Enoch, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve Patriarchs, Moses, and the Prophets: and that this God, in the last days, as he had before promised through his Prophets, sent our Lord Jesus Christ, to all Israel first, and then, after the unbelief of Israel, also to the Gentiles. This just and good God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, himself gave the Law and the Prophets and the Gospels, and he also is the God of the Apostles, and of the Old and New Testaments.

Then, secondly, that Jesus Christ himself, who came, was born of the Father before all creation. And when in the formation of all things he had served the Father (for by him all things were made), in these last times, emptying himself, he became man incarnate, while he was God, and though made man, remained God as he was before. He took a body like our body, differing in this point only, that it was born of the Virgin and the Holy Ghost. And since this Jesus Christ was born and suffered in truth, and not in appearance, he bore the death common to all men and truly died; for he truly rose from the dead, and after his resurrection, having conversed with his disciples, he was taken up.

They also delivered that the Holy Ghost was associated in honor and dignity with the Father and the Son.

Schaff writes,

Origen then goes on to say that ‘such questions, as to whether the Holy Spirit was born or unborn ( natus an innatus), whether he was also to be regarded as a Son of God or not, are left for inquiry and investigation out of the holy Scriptures, according to the best of our ability; but it was most clearly preached in the churches that the Holy Spirit inspired every one of the saints and prophets and apostles, and that there was not one Spirit given to the ancients and another to the Christians.’ Then he mentions (§ 5) as part of apostolic preaching ( ecclesiastica prædicatio) the future resurrection and judgment, the freedom of will ( omnem animam rationabilem esse liberi arbitrii et voluntatis), the struggle of the soul with the devil and his angels, the inspiration of the Scriptures, and their deeper meaning known only to those to whom the Holy Spirit gives wisdom and understanding.

Throughout this passage Origen makes an important distinction between ecclesiastical preaching and theological science, and confines the former to fundamental facts, while to the latter belongs the investigation of the why and wherefore, and the deeper mysteries.

Origen speaks plainly – Christ was not eternal, but a creature of the creation by the Father. Further, while Origen could not assign the same statements to the Spirit, he thought that the Spirit was associated with the Father and Son a symphonia of wills.

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