The Symbol of Faith

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Unlike Confession of Sins, Confession of Faith is a public event, rather than a private one. And so it is of the utmost importance that the Nazarani Church maintain a standard Symbol of Faith by which all of the followers of Yeshue may live and confess publicly. That faith is contained in the Creed. While the Creed is a symbol of Truth, but not the Truth itself; a symbol of the Faith, and not the Faith itself. Instead faith must reside in our hearts and is acquired through our actions; not merely because one is able to stand and recite words that resemble the holiness that is the truth.

Our English word ‘symbol’ as the ‘outward sign’ or ‘expression’ of something comes from the word σύμβολον, which is a singular idiomatic Greek noun meaning "symbol". In ancient times, monarchs were forced to use elaborate methods to assure that messages were sent and received properly; to and from the battlefield, the front, the outlying territories and from their diplomats and spies living in other kingdoms. Because even the regular messenger could become sick or worse, no longer trusted, it was necessary to develop a means by which to identify the messengers themselves as the genuine article. The best way to do this was to break something unique into two halves and have the messenger carry one of them. In Greek, a half-an-object is known as a σύμβολον; and it is this word which only later took on the meaning of “an outward sign of something” in our English word symbol. And so a sumbolon was a unique object which could be sent ahead, so that when the messenger came, the half he carried with him could be ‘matched’ to the half which the king held secure in his own treasury. If the sumbolon matched it would be known that the message itself was (at least likely) the genuine article. Knowing and professing the Nicene Creed, became the "oath of citizenship", as it were, in the new Byzantine Empire.

Council of Nicæa

The Emperor Constantine knew that Christianity would be a terrific asset to his Empire. Previously each pagan god had his or her own priesthood; and each one always jostling for political power, influence and favor caused unnecessary drama and distraction in the royal court, in the government, in the bureaucracies, in the way in which royal patronage was carried out, as royal contracts were awarded, at least in part, based on the religious faith of the contractors. The answer was to embrace an entirely new religion which could be manipulated in order to support the power of the Emperor. Constantine could see the potential for Christianity, men with one God, to become a unifying force in the empire. If only he could get them all to agree on a single creed and ideology. For this purpose, he invited all of the most influential bishops within his domain to Nicæa.

The council of Nicæa met at the lavish Summer palace of the Emperor Constantine, overlooking lake İznik, in modern day Bursa province of western Turkey. This palace was a gem that easily rivaled anything in the new capital, which was only a few miles away - and was by far more beautiful and equipped than the residence of any European king of the period. Constantine’s purpose was to treat his new clergy well.

There is no scholarly consensus as to how many bishops really attended the conference, or what they discussed. There are however a number of traditions, and a few short histories of the council that survive, a short set of 20 canons and a short Synodal Letter addressed to the Church at Alexandria (Coptic Church). One set of Nicæa’s canons is more or less agreed upon but doesn’t mention a Creed being formulated or even discussed.

Because the Creed itself was not entered into the proceedings, letters or canons of either Nicaea or Constantinople, the canons of the Council of Yahbalalha are literally the first record we have revealing what "Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople" really was prior to the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.)which condemned over a million Monophysites to death and exile, when the Creed is first recorded in any western council.

The bishops of Nicaea were themselves so removed from having an understanding of the legitimate New Testament teaching that twenty two of them, calling themselves Arians, questioned whether or not Jesus was even God! The Council itself had been called by the Emperor Constantine in order to settle what was then known as the "Arian Controversy", whereas Arians believed that Jesus was merely a man, chosen by God to represent God on Earth. This idea flies in the face of the legitimate teaching of the church, which is that Jesus is literally God ("MarYAH" / YHVH) in the flesh ("Miltha") as the scriptures say.

One should bear in mind that far from being "ecumenical", the councils of Nicæa (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (360 A.D.) were local synods called by the Byzantine Emperors to settle matters in their own imperial bureaucracy; thus those bishops whose diocese existed beyond the frontiers of the Empire were not invited to attend.

No Evidence for the Earliest Greek versions of the Creed

Because Latins and the Greeks don’t have any original source documents validating the actual text of their Creed, and the Creed itself was not entered into the proceedings, letters or canons of either Nicæa or Constantinople; the oldest written source for what the western churches call the "Nicene Creed" are the canons of the Council of Yahbalaha (420 A.D.). The earliest western source have for the Creed of “Nicæa” is Leo of Rome's official letter to the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.), where he describes the Creed as:

“... that which, all the world over, is uttered by the voices of all applicants for regeneration”[1].

It should be pointed out that the Council of Chalcedon condemned over a million Monophysites to exile and death for refusing to accept the religious changes imposed by the Byzantine Empire on it's citizens. Referred to their Creed as the "Σύμβολον τῆς Πίστεως" or “Symbol of Faith”. Thereafter their "Symbol" was a confirmed way of determining citizenship in the new Byzantine Empire, whose bureaucracy sought a unified "Orthodoxy".

Council of Yahbalaha (420 A.D.)

It was Marutha of Martyropolis (now Silvan, Turkey), who as the Byzantine imperial ambassador to the court of Sasanian Emperor Yazdegerd I (Middle Persian: 𐭩𐭦𐭣𐭪𐭥𐭲𐭩) of Parthia. It was by his persuasion that in 410 A.D. Yazdegerd I promulgated an edict giving the followers of Yeshue within him realm the right to practice their religion freely.[2] ending what had been a long persecution of foreign religions within the Parthian Empire. Ten years later he was instrumental in calling the Council of Yahbalaha (420 A.D.).

Marutha carried with him a letter urging the twelve bishop council of Parthia sitting at Selucia-Çtipon to adopt the twenty canons and Creed of the Council of Nicæa (325 A.D.), which had taken place eighty five years earlier, and to effect certain other reforms to be in line with the Byzantine model. (See: Pro-Oriente, page 3) Marutha presented the Nicene Creed in two distinct versions. The first being the Aramaic creed that Eusebius says he presented to the Council of Nicæa after having adapted from the baptismal creed which was in use in his local church in Caeserea, a city located mid-way between Tel Aviv and Haifa, where Aramaic was the primary spoken language. The second version of the Creed was Marutha's own translation of the Greek version of the Creed as it was used in Constantinople back into Aramaic.

While the twenty canons of the Council of Nicæa were rejected by the Persian bishops, both of the two Aramaic versions of the Nicene Creed were ratified by the Council, and both are still in use today in various forms. (It is of note that the Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) “is not even mentioned in the records of the Persian Church until the Synod of Mar Yausep in 554” [3] a hundred and seventy three years later.)

In the proceeding of this venerable council, the Nicene Creed is referred to as the haymanota after the first word in both versions of the Creed. This same word, haymanota is also used in Ge’ez, the liturgical language of Ethiopia, which is also a Semitic language of very ancient origin. It is of note that the first version includes theological elements from early East Syriac theology, which were combined with the Nicene confession of faith.

Oddly enough, the modern practice of today's Neo-Aramaic (i.e. "modern Syriac") speaking churches is to write the original Aramaic text in their liturgical books, whilst their congregations sing the later Chaldean version which had been translated from the Greek in the 17th Century. Evidence of this can be found not only in the churches themselves, but also posted on Youtube and other Internet forums where the Syriac faithful go to showcase their ancient faith.

How this situation came to be is easy to understand. Before the age of mass printing, it was literally unheard of that the people would have a written book of prayers with which to follow the priest through the service. That's because books were very expensive and difficult to mass produce; and were thus the domain of the Altar and of the priest. Literally the closest that any layman got to them was by approaching the Skintha at the front of the Church from which the Bible was read...

The tradition then was that the ancient Creed, that of Yabaalala was read by the priest in the Altar during his 'secret prayers', and the people sing the Nicene Creed from memory. This led to a situation that by the early 20th Century, when regular folk finally started getting their own service books, they were well accustomed to singing the hymanotha in the Chaldean form for over a thousand years... and Aramaic literacy being what it is nobody (including even most priests) know any better. Because of this quirk of history the ‘double creed’ came into being.

It was the 7th Canon of the Council of Ephesus, (431 A.D.) which decreed:

It is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different (ἑτέραν) Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa. But those who shall dare to compose a different faith, or to introduce or offer it to persons desiring to turn to the acknowledgment of the truth, whether from Heathenism or from Judaism, or from any heresy whatsoever, shall be deposed, if they be bishops or clergymen; bishops from the episcopate and clergymen from the clergy; and if they be laymen, they shall be anathematized.

However, the following eight verses are not attested to in either version of the Creed as it was presented at the Council of Yahbalaha, and thus represent later innovations:

Light of Light
Very God of Very God
Whose Kingdom shall have no end
Who proceedeth from the father
and the son
Who with the father and Son is worshiped and glorified
And who spoke by the Prophets

The Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of life

The fact that the Nazarani use the Creed in it's original Nicene form but the Eastern Orthodox do not is of special interest to those seeking to uncover and understand the underlying truth of our collectively shared faith and history.

Translation

The following version of the heymunaa חימונא as or "Creed of Nicæa" in Aramaic was translated by His Excellency, Hadrian Mar Elijah Bar Israel, and is the official version used by the Nazarani Church. The reader can be fully assured of the antiquity of this version by comparing it with the existing Armenian and Ge’ez versions, both of which have also come directly from the early Semitic sources.

The version which is now in use by the Syriac speaking churches was translated from Greek to Chaldaean Neo-Aramaic in 1681 A.D. [4] as part of their work to adapt their previously ancient rite to the theological position of the Roman Catholic Church.


חימונא יואה באלהא יחד Heymuna iwah B’Illaha D’Achat We trust in the one God

אבא יחיד כל Aba yachid kal The father of everything

דבריא דכלאי Debraya D’Kulai Creator of all things

אני דכא שפא חזיא Ani D’Kha Shepa Chazia Of that which is visible

ודלן שפא חזיא U’D’Lan Shepa Chazia And of that which is hidden

ובחדא מריה U’B’Chada MarYah And in one Lord and God

ישוע משיחא Ishue Meshicha Yeshue the anointed

ברומא דאלהא Baruna D’Illaha Son of God

יחדייא Ihidaya In complete unity

בוקרא דכלי דבריתא Bukira D’Kulay D’B’ritha The firstborn of creation

הוו דמן באבוהי Huw D’Man B’Abuhi Who from within His Father

עגנתא יחידא Egentha Ichida Existing apart

מקדם לכלי עולמאנותא M’Qdam L’Kulai Alamanutha Before all worlds

ולן מתעגן בבריא U’Lan Mit’Egen B’Baria Not existing from within creation

אלהא איטוא דמן Illaha Ayatuwa God’s essence

אלהא איט D’Min Ilaha Ayat From within God’s essence

ברא דמן לאביהי Bara D’Min L’Abuhi Son that is from the Father

דבידותהי D’B’Yadthuhi That by His hands

יתכניא כל עולמא Yit’Konea Kal Alama All worlds receive existence

ועגנת בבריא כל מנדיא U’Egeneth B’Bria Kal Mendi And who knows everything in creation

הוו דמתפרק אנש מדין Hu D’Mit’Pareq Anash Me’Din He, to save humanity from judgement

ובפרק פורקמן U’B’Pareq Purqanan To save us from damnation

ישאבת מן שמיא Ishabet Min Shamia He descended from the heavens

מנא ביתו Mina Bayth’O rained down the Holy Spirit

ולאשכמאהוו ד’בר אנש U’L’Askima’Huw D’Bar’Anash And He took the form of the Son of Man

ועגנתא בגו U’Egentha B’Go He existed inside

וילידא מן מירים בתולתא U’Yalida Min Miryam Bethultha born from within Mary the maiden

וקבלאהוו כיטא U’Qibla’Huw Chita And accepted upon himself sin

ועגנתא זקיפא U’Egentha ZaQipa and dwelt on the cross

ביומנא דפומטיוס פילעטוס BaYumna D’Pontios Pilatus In the days of Pontius Pilate

ועגנתא קבירע U’Egentha Qabira He dwelt in the grave

וקיימלא ליומא דתלתא U’Qayimla L’Yuma D’Tlatha And was resurrected on the third day

אייק דילא כתיבתא Ayikh Dila Ktibta according to what was written

ועסקלא לשמיא W’Asqala L’Shamia And He rose up into the heavens

וסמיכא מן ימינא דאבוהא U’Samikha Min Ymina D’Abuha And is seated on the father’s right

ומתפנא יטב בשביחא U’Mit’Pena Ytab B’Shbicha He will return again in splendor

לדימא למיתא ולחיא L’Dina L’Mitha U’L’Chia To judge both the living and the dead

ובחד רוחא דקודשא U’B’Chad Rucha D’Qudsha And in the one spirit of holiness

יתרוחא מחינא YitRucha M’China Who breathes life

ובחדא עידותא קדישתא U’B’chada Edutha Qadishtha And in the one Holy Church and witness

ושלחיתא קתולקי U’Shlchitha Qthuliqi Coming down from the Apostles

ולתקיימת מלמותא U’Lit’Qayyimath Mi’L’Mutha And a resurrection of the dead

לשבקא דכטיתא L’Shabqa D’Chatitha And forgiveness of sins

ולעומדים דטיבין U’L’Omdim D’Tayabin Baptism for repentance of sins

ובחיא דלעולמא לעולמין U’Bchia D’L’Alma L’Almayin And life from this world unto eternity

אמן Amin Amen.

Bibliography

  • Norman Tanner . New short history of the Catholic Church (Rev. ed. ed.). New York: Burns & Oates 2011, ISBN 978-0-86012-455-9, pp. 68–69
  • Wilhelm, J. (1911). The Nicene Creed. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved October 27, 2012 from New Advent

References

  1. Philippe Labbe, Gabriel Cossart, Nicolò Coleti, Giovan Domenico Mansi, Sacrosancta Concilia ad Regiam editionem exacta, Tom. IV., col. 343
  2. J.P. Asmussen, "Christians in Iran", Cambridge History of Iran (Cambridge University Press, 1983), Chapter 25, pages 924-948
  3. (Pro-Oriente, page 3)
  4. Pro-Oriente Consultation, Is the Theology of the Church of the East Nestorian?, Assyrian Church of the East Commission on Inter-Church Relations and Education Development, 2002