Commentary on the Nicene Creed - By Archbishop Zareh Aznavorian - English translation by Dn. Shant Kazanjian
Reviewed by Michael B. Papazian
The Nicene Creed (Havadamk) is the foundational confession of Christian faith accepted and proclaimed by all the apostolic churches. Its original formulation was adopted in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical council. The 318 Church Fathers gathered at the council convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine to address the threat of the heresy of Arianism. Arius of Alexandria taught that the Son of God was a created being that was not equal to God the Father. The Nicene fathers, one of who was Aristakes, the son of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, rejected Arius’ teaching and recognized that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is of the same nature or essence as the Father. After disputes arose among Christians about the nature of the Holy Spirit, the second ecumenical council was held in 381 in Constantinople, where the Holy Spirit was declared to be the third person of the Triune God. The Nicene Creed as it has come down to us today is the summation of the theology that was expressed at these two councils.
Given the Creed’s importance in the life of the Christian faithful and in the liturgies of the Church, one would expect the members of the Church to have a basic understanding of its meaning and significance. Unfortunately, due to both unfamiliarity with its terminology and our historical distance from the theological issues that originally motivated it, many do not possess this understanding. We should therefore be extremely grateful for this book containing the commentary in Armenian by Archbishop Zareh Aznavorian followed by its translation into clear and accessible English by Deacon Shant Kazanjian. The reader will learn much here about the biblical sources of the creed’s teachings, the theological reasons and justifications for the different parts of the creed, and explanations of some of the differences between the version of the creed used by the Armenian Apostolic Church and those of other churches.
For example, the reader learns why in the first sentence of the creed God the Father is identified as the Creator of heaven and earth. This was not simply a statement of an accepted and undisputed fact, but a deliberate repudiation of the teachings of Gnostic heretics who denied that the true God was the creator of the world. Since Gnosticism and other heresies continue to exist in various guises in today’s popular culture, the creed continues to have relevance for Christian believers today.
The book also includes concise justifications of practices such as infant baptism and prayers for the dead. In sum, the commentary serves as a comprehensive but also concise presentation of the orthodox faith of the Armenian Apostolic Church. As such, it will benefit both the faithful and all who wish to know more about the teachings of the Church.
Commentary on the Nicene Creed, published by the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, is based on a series of lectures given by Archbishop Zareh Aznavorian. Archbishop Zareh, a gifted biblical scholar, died in 2004 at age 57. This bilingual edition is a valuable addition to the study of the orthodox Christian faith to which the Armenian Church has remained faithful.
Michael Papazian is Professor of Philosophy at Berry College, Rome, Georgia.