The Nicene Creed in Hippo 393 / Carthage 397

In the Breviarium Hipponense, the summary of the canons of the council of Hippo in 393, prepared at the start of the council of Carthage in 397, there is a version of the Nicene creed.  I thought it might be interesting to look at.  The text is from Munier, CCSL149, p.30, but I have added punctuation (extra commas!) from Mansi at points.  There are quite a few variants in the various manuscripts, which I shall ignore.

Nicaeni concilii professio fidei recitata et confirmata est quae ita se habet.**

Credimus in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, uisibilium et inuisibilium factorem, et in unum Dominum Iesum Christum Filium Dei, natum de Patre unigenitum, hoc est, de substantia Patris, Deum <de> Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum uerum de Deo uero, natum non factum, unius substantiae cum Patre, (quod Graeci dicunt omousion); per quem omnia facta sunt siue quae in caelo siue quae in terra; <qui> propter homines et propter nostram salutem descendit, et incarnatus est, homo factus per Virginem Mariam; passus est et resurrexit tertia die, ascendit in caelos, uenturus iudicare uiuos et mortuos ; in Spiritum sanctum.

Eos etiam qui dicunt : Erat quando non erat, et : Quia ex nullis existentibus factus est, uel ex alia substantia, dicentes mutabilem Filium Dei: hos anathematizat ecclesia catholica, et apostolica disciplina.


The profession of faith of the council of Nicaea was read and confirmed which is as follows:**

We believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, born of the Father, only-begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father, God <from> God, light from light, true God from true God, born not made, of one substance with the Father (which the Greeks call “homousion”); through whom all things were made, whether in heaven or on earth; <who> on account of men and on account of our salvation descended and was incarnate, made man through the Virgin Mary; he died and rose again on the third day, he ascended into the heavens, he will come again to judge the living and the dead; in the Holy Spirit.

Those also who say, “There was when he was not,” and “That*** he was made out of nothing existing, or from another substance,” saying the Son of God is mutable, these the catholic church and the apostolic teaching anathematise.

A couple of notes.

First I was not sure about “quae ita se habet” – “which (quae) thus (ita) se (it) habet (it considers, holds)”.  Google translate unhesitatingly gives “and is as follows”, suggesting an idiom.

In fact I find precisely the same usage in the Institutes of Justinian, book 3, title 11, introducing a quotation with this sentence: “Verba rescripti ita se habent:”, clearly meaning “the words of the rescript are as follows”.  Looking in Livy book 22, Cicero De legibus 1, Frontinus, and others, I conclude:

  • ita se habere  = to be as follows, to stand so.
  • res ita se habet = the matter stands so.

Similarly, I think we have here the late / medieval use of “quia” to mean “that” rather than “because”.

We don’t think of the Nicene creed as having anathemas on the end, but clearly it was understood to do so in Carthage at this period.  The anathemas are directed at the Arians, of course.

It is also interesting that they explicitly refer, in this Latin version, to the Greek word “homoousion” as well (in Latin letters).


6 thoughts on “The Nicene Creed in Hippo 393 / Carthage 397

  1. Thank you for your translation work. It was interesting that the Carthage recollection of Nicaea had the added anathema. Since the official Nicene documents never ended up preserving that anathema, it seems to me to suggest it may be been discussed and rejected at Nicene officially, but the Carthage bishops felt it should have been included and wanted to “pretend” that it was.

  2. Hi Brian,

    I was under the impression that the anathema was included in the official version. Eusebius of Caesarea included it in his letter regarding the Council, for example. What are the sources that exclude it?

  3. Thank you Tom for the correction. I don’t know why I had forgotten that anathema at the end of the Nicene Creed and had in my “head” that anathemas started in later ecumenical councils.

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