Table of contents
In this sense, perhaps the earliest statement of Christian faith is the slogan affirming that Jesus is LORD, which appears in St Paul's Epistle to the Romans 10:9. The meaning and importance of this slogan comes from its affirmation that Jesus Christ is the full revelation of the God Yahweh of Judaism made incarnate, a doctrine thought impossible and indeed blasphemous by the rest of the Jewish community.
As Christianity wrestled with the implications of this statement, its developing theology required more complex formulations.
It is likely that the earliest creed of Christianity that deserves the title in full is the Apostles' Creed. Christian mythology attributes this creed to all twelve Apostles as a joint composition, and assigns one phrase of the creed to each Apostle. This attribution is unlikely, but the creed itself is quite old; it seems to have developed from a catechism used in the baptism of adults, and in that form can be traced as far back as the second century. The Apostles' Creed seems to have been formulated to resist Docetism and similar ideas associated with Gnosticism; it emphasizes the birth, physical death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Nicene Creed clearly derives from the Apostles' Creed, and equally obviously represents an elaboration of its basic themes. The most salient additions to this creed are much more elaborate statements concerning Christology and the Trinity. These reflect the concerns of the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A. D., and have their chief purpose the rejection of Arianism, which the church adjudged a heresy. In the Roman Catholic liturgy the Nicene Creed is repeated during each Mass.
Christians today probably use the Nicene Creed most widely, followed by the Apostles Creed.
A creed as a catalogue of heresies
In an atmosphere of increasingly complicated theological controversy, orthodox belief might become more complicated in outline. In the decade before 594, Gregory, bishop of Tours set out to write a Historia Francorum ("History of the Franks"). In Gaul, a part of Europe recently beset with both royal Arians and royal pagans (until the conversion of Clovis), Gregory prefaced his history with a declaration of his faith, "so that my reader may have no doubt that I am Catholic" (Book I.i). The confession is in many phrases, each of which refutes a specific Christian heresy. Thus Gregory's creed presents, in negative, a virtual catalogue of heresies:
- I believe, then, in God the Father omnipotent. I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord God, born of the Father, not created. [I believe] that he has always been with the Father, not only since time began but before all time. For the Father could not have been so named unless he had a son; and there could be no son without a father. But as for those who say: "There was a time when he was not," [note: A leading belief of Arian Christology.] I reject them with curses, and call men to witness that they are separated from the church. I believe that the word of the Father by which all things were made was Christ. I believe that this word was made fresh and by its suffering the world was redeemed, and I believe that humanity, not deity, was subject to the suffering. I believe that he rose again on the third day, that he freed sinful man, that he ascended to heaven, that he sits on the right hand of the Father, that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe that the holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son, that it is not inferior and is not of later origin, but is God, equal and always coeternal with the Father and the Son, consubstantial in its nature, equal in omnipotence, equally eternal in its essence, and that it has never existed apart from the Father and the Son and is not inferior to the Father and the Son. I believe that this holy Trinity exists with separation of persons, and one person is that of the Father, another that the Son, another that of the Holy Spirit. And in this Trinity confess that there is one Deity, one power, one essence. I believe that the blessed Mary was a virgin after the birth as she was a virgin before. I believe that the soul is immortal but that nevertheless it has no part in deity. And I faithfully believe all things that were established at Nicæa by the three hundred and eighteen bishops. But as to the end of the world I hold beliefs which I learned from our forefathers, that Antichrist will come first. An Antichrist will first propose circumcision, asserting that he is Christ; next he will place his statue in the temple at Jerusalem to be worshipped, just as we read that the Lord said: "You shall see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place." But the Lord himself declared that that day is hidden from all men, saying; "But of that day and that hour knoweth no one not even the anger in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father alone." Moreover we shall here make answer to the heretics [note: the Arians] who attack us, asserting that the Son is inferior to the Father since he is ignorant of this day. Let them learn then that Son here is the name applied to the Christian people, of whom God says: "I shall be to them a father and they shall be to me for sons." For if he had spoken these words of the onlybegotten Son he would never have given the angels first place. For he uses these words: "Not even the angels in heaven nor the Son," showing that he spoke these words not of the only-begotten but of the people of adoption. But our end is Christ himself, who will graciously bestow eternal life on us if we turn to him." 
Other notable creeds include the:
- Athanasian Creed
- Chalcedonian Creed
- The Masai Creed is a creed composed in about 1960 by Western Christian missionaries for the Masai people of East Africa. The missionaries were from the Congregation of the Holy Ghost. The creed attempts to express the essentials of the Christian faith within the Masai culture.
- Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition. Edited by Jaroslav Pelikan and Valerie Hotchkiss. Published by Yale University Press in 2003.