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Athanasian Creed, by Emanuel Swedenborg, [1759], tr. by Samuel H. Worcester [1885] at

Athanasian Creed


Preface (Here introduce what the Lord spoke in Matthew, concerning the last time of a church; the words themselves, and their explanation as given in Heaven and Hell, n. 1.)


That that [revelation] is the coming of the Lord, and that it is in consequence of this that the arcana concerning heaven and hell, concerning man's life after death, concerning the Word, concerning the Last Judgment, have been opened by the Lord - this is the doctrine of the church. All these things have been written out in the Latin language, and they have been sent to all the archbishops and bishops of this kingdom [Great Britain], and to some of the nobility; and still not a word has been heard - a sign that they do not interiorly care for the things of heaven and of the church, and that it is now the very end of the church, and indeed that the church is not; for the church is where the Lord is worshiped, and the Word is read with enlightenment, and there are yearly examinations from the assembly. (Summaries of the truth as presented in the little works just referred to, may be seen at the end of this work.)


[ARGUMENTS WHICH ARE TO BE EXPANDED] Because there is one Divine, it is the same Divine (let this be confirmed from the Word); thus not equal to, but the same as the Father.


Who cannot see that there are mere contradictions there, and that are under examination therefrom, and that these are many? Thus that things are to be believed which can never be seen by faith, and comprehended. But they are to some extent excusable, because they are from the sense of the letter of the Word, and the spiritual sense was not yet known, nor did they know that there is a spiritual sense. The spiritual sense has therefore been disclosed, through which it may now be known why the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are named; and that it is because "the Father" signifies the Divine Itself, "the Son" the Divine Human, and "the Holy Spirit" the proceeding Divine.


One who believes in three can in no wise be saved, but they are saved who believe in one God. (Let this be taken from Athanasius.) Why there is not salvation.


If one thinks of the Divine of the Lord in His Human, and not of another Divine which they call the Father, the idea of the thought, and thence the faith, does not fall to the left of the Lord, and thus outside of the Lord, but in the Lord; and with the idea is the perception that no one cometh to the Father except through Him, thus through His Divine Human. Examine yourselves, ye who think of three Persons; do they not think of another Divine than that of the Lord Himself, and thus outside of that when the Father is named?


THE CREED OF ATHANASIUS (First let it be presented in full.)


They saw there that God is one, although they assumed three Persons for their principle. (Show this by quotation, and how cautiously they worked.)


They saw that soul and body are one. (Show this by quotation, etc.)


They saw that His Divine, and not another Divine, assumed the Human.


They made tHis Divine to be altogether the same with the two other Divines.


That they so wrote was of the Lord's Divine Providence, lest they should altogether wander away as to the Lord, and thus no one would be saved.


They made a distinction among the Persons; this was not from the Word; that they made a distinction among three, was from certain passages of the Word, from the sense of its letter not understood; they did not know that in the particular expressions of the Word there is a spiritual sense.


There is therefore a Trinity, or trine, or triunity, in the Lord - the Divine Itself, which is called the Father, the Divine Human which is called the Son, and the proceeding Divine which is called the Holy Spirit.


That they distinguished between the Divine nature and the Human nature was thus because they were in an obscure idea from the sense of the letter of the Word.


The cause of the Lord's saying, "If there be faith, it shall be done," and this in several places, was, that there might first be implanted in their minds that the Lord is God and is omnipotent; because this is the fundamental of all things of the doctrine of the church. Knowledge precedes with everyone; but still this does not become faith before he lives the life of faith, which is charity; what is before this, belongs to knowledge; for the Lord makes faith from the knowledges with man.


The hells were subjugated by the Lord (Luke 10:20).


Father and Son is the Lord alone. He is so called for the reason that He was in the world in the state of union. In the Old Testament also He is called Jehovah and the Holy One of Israel; here are two names, but nevertheless one, namely, the Lord. He is called Jehovah God, he is called Lord, he is called Jehovah and God, also Jehovah and Lord, and also Jehovah Zebaoth. (Let the passages be quoted in which he is called "Jehovah" and "the Holy One of Israel," and in which he is called "Jehovah" and "God.")


CONCERNING THE CREED OF ATHANASIUS The whole Creed of Athanasius can be harmonized, when one is acknowledged; that is, one only Divine; and if the one only Divine is acknowledged which the Lord calls His Father, and which is His own Divine.


The whole, also, can be harmonized that it may be perceived altogether according to the very expression used in the Creed of Athanasius, which is the Creed of England; namely, that they adore the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity; for the Trinity in Unity is then adored, when it is in one, or in one Person; and the Unity in Trinity is then adored, or one Person in whom is a trine.


That the Lord is called "the Lord Jehovih," may be seen Isa. 40:10; 52:4; 61:2; (that he is called "Jehovah,") Ps. 96:2, 13, and throughout the psalm.


Who can conceive that the Divine Itself, in body, can be simultaneously in the human from the mother, which thence is infirm? Cannot anyone see that the Divine, which is life Itself, made the human an image of Itself, and thus also Divine? And that it did this by successive steps, as it glorified it through temptations? If this were not so, would not the corporeal idea be that the Lord's Divine was as it were outside of the human and not within it, and as one with the human? As indeed the Creed of Athanasius teaches, that they are not two, but one Person, and that they are united as soul and body. How then can one think separately of the soul of any man, and of the body, that is, to separate them in the idea of thought? Would not this be thinking of a human body without the life, as of a corpse?


Isaiah 7:14, 15; "Immanuel": That this is plainly said of His Human, may be seen explained in Apocalypse Explained (n. 619).


That the Son was born of the Father from eternity, is such a paradox that the human understanding, or even the angelic understanding in the third heaven, can by no means be so enlightened as to have any perception of it; for what is it to be born from eternity?


And further, it is said that the three Persons are one substance or essence, when yet they are made distinct as to attributes; as it is taught that the Father created, that the Son redeemed, and that the Holy Spirit teaches. Those attributes are Divine; and when they are made distinct, it follows that the substance or essence Itself, which is called one, is made distinct, by specific attributes, into three essences.


An arcanum in heaven and in the world, is this, namely, that things were so created that every good conjoined to truth clothes Itself with forms; principally with the human form, since the Divine good and the Divine truth proceed from the Divine Human of the Lord and from every part of the body. The putting on of form, which is everywhere in the atmospheres, is an arcanum of which no one yet has knowledge; and it is an essential of the atmosphere, both the spiritual and the natural. Hence insects are born, each according to its spiritual genius; and hence affection everywhere clothes Itself with a body; hence there are so many great and small; that there are also things of the vegetable kingdom is for the reason that their first substances are in nature, and that thus they are destitute of life, etc. etc.; and that they have relation to the human, etc., etc.


These things have been presented, that some idea may be acquired concerning the Divine Human from the Father, namely, that the Divine clothed Itself with the Human, according to Divine order, from firsts to lasts; and therefore in the Divine Human was Divine order; consequently, that thus it fills all things, or is omnipresent everywhere.


That the Divine truth, which is the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of truth, is from the Lord alone, is evident from the passages in which it is said that the Holy Spirit is from Him; the Holy Spirit is the Divine truth. (See John 7:39, and other places.)


That the Human is Divine, is manifest in Isaiah, where it is said that: A virgin shall bring forth a son, whose name is God with us (Isa. 7:14); and in another passage: A Son and Boy shall be born, whose name shall be God, Father of eternity (Isa. 9:6). It is also said that: Of David shall One be born who shall be called Jehovah, our Justice (Jer. 23:6; 33:15-16). In these and other passages, is meant the Lord as to the Human; which therefore is called "God," "Father of eternity," "Jehovah."


CONCERNING THE CREED OF ATHANASIUS This is altogether in harmony, if only one God is acknowledged, so that one does not think of three Persons; and then if the Creed of Athanasius is read in accordance therewith, and no other idea is suffered to enter, full harmony is effected. (1) No one denies that the Divine which took upon Itself the Human was His Divine; thus that the Lord Himself suffered Himself to be born. Hence it follows that this is the Divine of which He was conceived, concerning which we read in Matthew and in Luke; and that this is the very Divine, and no other besides it, which He called His Father; nor was there any other; according to what is said in Matthew, that Joseph "touched her not"; and in Luke, when Mary said that she "knew not a man"; and when Joseph "found that she was with child," and on that account wished to put her away. (2) The Divine of the Lord took upon Itself the Human; and if the Divine is one, it follows that the Divine Itself, which is one, took it upon Itself. Nor does the idea that the Divine which created the universe put on the Human, make anything against this; for it is said in the Creed that the Divine of the one Person and the Divine of the other Person are altogether equal, in these words: As the Father is infinite, eternal, uncreate, omnipotent, God, Lord, so likewise is the Son; for no one is first or last, greatest or least; but they are altogether equal. What then does it matter whether I think that the Divine of the Lord or the Divine of the Father took it upon Itself, since in either case there exists a similar idea? For when it is said that the Divine of the Father put on the Human, the idea which at the present day exists in the Christian world stands in opposition; when nevertheless this statement is altogether like the other, since the one Divine is altogether the equal of the other. (3) It is said that the Lord was perfect God and perfect Man; or it is said concerning the Human that He was perfect Man, consisting of a rational soul and a perfect body; and afterwards, that He was Man from the nature of the mother. No one who thinks on this subject from the Divine order that is known to everyone, can still bring it into his faith; for this would be saying that the Lord can exist a rational Man, or a perfect Man, from the mother alone. Was He not from the Father? And are not life and the first of life from the father, and its additions from the mother? To believe that the Lord was perfect Man from the mother alone, is wholly contrary to all order, and contrary to what is stated. Is not the image of the father in his children as much as that of the mother? The very love or the ruling affection of a father stands out clearly in grandchildren and in families. In a word, there must be father and mother, that a man may be a perfect man. How then is it to be believed that He was perfect Man from the mother? And does it not thence follow that the Divine was in the Lord from conception, as is the soul with every man? (5) This was clearly seen by Athanasius, when he said that God and Man are one Christ, and not two but a united Person, like soul and body. From these things it is evident that according to the faith of our Creed the Divine and the Human in the Lord are together in one Person, and not that the Divine is outside of the Human, as many insanely hold in the idea of their thought. (6) And still further, it is said that the two natures were not commixed, but that the Divine took to Itself the Human. Neither are soul and body commixed, with any man; but with everyone the soul clothes Itself with the body, and thus takes to Itself that which is called the human. In this likewise there is agreement. (7) And when the Divine takes to Itself the Human, and unites Itself with it as soul and body, so that there is one united person, then also the human becomes a partaker of the Divine; that is to say, by unition. From this, likewise, it may be manifest that the human also is Divine. (8) This, likewise, is confirmed in the Word; as in the Old Testament, where it said that a "Son" was born, whose name shall be called "God," "Father of eternity"; whose name is "God-with-us"; whose name is "Jehovah our justice"; these things are said concerning the Human of the Lord, for it is said that the "Son" shall so be called (Isa. 9:6). And this is also confirmed elsewhere, particularly in Revelation, where such things are said concerning "the Son of man"; by which name, also, the Divine Human of the Lord is meant.


(Let these things first be set forth briefly, or in the form of summaries, in a few words; and let them afterwards be clearly explained.)


Think, my reader, what kind of an idea you are able to have of a Son born from eternity. Is it not such an idea that it at once puts itself to flight, and consequently becomes null? So that when there is no idea there is sound only, with which no thought has anything in common? And is God to be thought of so? But if there be thought from the idea which has now been presented, then the idea becomes comprehensible; and in such alone can there be faith.


The learned, according to their idea, place the Divine of the Lord outside of Himself, for the reason that they think of the Divine of the Father, and think only of the Human of the Lord separate from the Divine, and do not think of the Divine of the Lord Himself in the Human. Nor do they attend to the last words in the Creed of Athanasius, which they do not at all weigh; but they abide solely in the idea of the two natures, and these they separate, contrary to the words of the Creed.


And because they separate the Divine from the Human, and place the Divine outside of His Human in the idea of their thought, it follows that they think that the Human with the rational soul and the perfect body existed from the mother alone. That to think thus is contrary to all that is rational in man, anyone may see.


If, therefore, there be a Trinity or a trine of the Lord, namely, the Divine from conception which is the Father, the Divine Human which is the Son, and the proceeding Divine which is the Holy Spirit, then all things and every particular fall distinctly into thought, and there can also be a comprehension of God.


This likewise can be deduced from the Creed of Athanasius. And let it be explained: (1) That as the one, so the other, is infinite, eternal, uncreate, omnipotent, God and Lord, yet still there are not three infinites but one; this can then be comprehended. (2) That there is one God; and there is no need of saying with Athanasius that, although each Person is God, nevertheless according to the Christian faith He is to be called one God - from which there is the appearance of his having said, that, although there are three Gods, nevertheless he was only able to say one God. (3) Then that no one is greatest or least, first or last, but that they are altogether equal; this, too, can be comprehended. (4) And likewise that they are not two, but one Christ; and that the Divine and the Human of the Lord are one Person. (5) That they were not commixed, but that the Divine took to Itself the Human. (6) That they are one as soul and body. (7) Also that it is then known that the Lord was gifted with a rational soul and a perfect body, not from the mother alone, but from the Father and the mother; this, also, may then be comprehended. (8) Then likewise may be comprehended all things that are said in the Word concerning the Lord - as that the Father and He are one; that the Father is in Him and He in the Father; also many other passages. (9) Only let it be understood that the Divine took to Itself the Human successively while He was in the world (of which in its own place).


In a word, all things of the Creed of Athanasius may thus be comprehended, as consistent. But if this be not known and received, nothing whatever in the whole Creed can be comprehended, when yet this Creed is the most essential thing of the church.


That the Human of the Lord is the Son of God, and that it is the Holy, is plainly said in Luke: Wherefore the Holy One that is born of thee, shall be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).


The way to heaven is to the Lord; for He says: I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one cometh to the Father but by Me (John 14:6). The same is likewise meant where it is said: Ye shall ask the Father in My name (John 14:13; 15:16). (And He says, Hereafter ye shall not pray the Father, but Me; also, "I will give to you." Find where this is said, and let it be explained. See Matt. 11:28; John 14:14; 16:26; Rev. 2:10, 17, 23, 28; 21:6.)


That is called saving faith, which is from confidence that the Father loves for the sake of the Son; but by this no one is saved. The Father never hears you, but the Lord; and by this faith no one is saved. They pass the Lord by, and pray to the Father; which is altogether contrary to the Lord's commandment; and besides, no one hath seen the Father, nor heard His voice.


Authority over heaven and earth belongs to the Lord (Dan. 7:14; Rev. 11:15).


That the Human of the Lord is equal to His Divine, may be seen in John: The Jews sought to kill Jesus, because He said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. Jesus saith, Verily, verily, I say unto you what things soever the Father hath done, these also doeth the Son likewise. As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will (John 5:18 to the end). (Add the passages which follow, and deduce from them that the Human of the Lord is Divine: Zech. 3:8; Micah, 5:2. There are many passages in Revelation, which may be read before, also the Prophets of the Old Testament, and the Gospels gathered therefrom.)


CONCERNING ATHANASIUS It was granted me to speak with Athanasius; and because he had confirmed himself in the faith of three Gods, he vacillated among the three; nor was he able to acknowledge one God; and from this it has come to pass that he is in error in regard to all things; nor can he know anything of the truth of faith. So, also, is it with others who have confirmed themselves in the faith of three Gods. But they who have not confirmed themselves in that faith, but who have merely heard it and retained it, and still with the faith of one God, come into heaven; for as they did not confirm themselves in it, they reject the idea of three Gods, and preserve the idea of one God.


They say that it is not allowable to enter with the understanding also into the things which concern the Trinity, because this is from certain passages of the Word in the external sense. But while this faith reigns, and while this is required and confirmed, there is then no room for the understanding to be enlightened. Such faith closes the way of access for the light, and indeed for the understanding of the Word in the spiritual sense; when yet if one believes that the Divine is in the Lord alone, the understanding can be enlightened from many passages in the Word, which passages are not otherwise seen or understood; as, that He is one with the Father; and others besides. I heard certain spirits reasoning concerning the three Persons, and yet one God; and they reasoned from the words in the Creed, that they are of one substance or one essence, and thus that the three are one; or, as is there said, that Trinity is in Unity and Unity in Trinity; thus believing that still there is one Divine; and in this manner they confirmed themselves with the lips that they are one trine and thus that it is difficult for them to believe in a unanimous trine. However, it was then said to them that they are able to say such things, and can persuade others who attend to nothing but the words that such is the case; but it was said, "Think of one, consisting of three Persons, each of whom is God"-and it was asked whether they were then able to say or utter, one God; but they could not. It was thence evident that those things were mere words; but that every one of them thought no otherwise than of three Gods. And it was said further that such things are in the Athanasian faith, for the reason that they were able in no other way to connect one with the other; knowing from interior thought, and from the Word also, that God is one, and consequently that there is only one Person.


The Lord liberated and liberates from hell all who are in truths from good, and thus those who receive Him thereby; thus He subjugated the hells and glorified His Human. (See many passages concerning redemption in Apocalypse Explained; and others besides in the Gospels, especially the prophecies concerning Him, as given in Luke 1-2, and in Matthew 1:21.)


In the Creed of Athanasius they assume that His Human consists of a rational soul and a body; and thus, as if the soul of every man were from the mother; but the soul of everyone is from the father, and its clothing from the mother; wherefore in those words Athanasius is in error. The soul of the Lord was the Divine Itself, as is plainly shown in Matthew and Luke; consequently it is plain that His soul was His own Divine Itself. And whereas the body is not the man, without the soul, (indeed, whatever belongs to the body, even to its least particle, lives from the soul) consequently such as the soul is, such is the body; and the body is formed to the likeness of the soul; hence to such likeness are formed the young of animals, eggs, and also grafts, as is well known. And so they make three parts in the Lord, when yet there are two, the Divine and the Human; and these two are one only Person.


As soul and body make one man, so the Divine and the Human is one Christ; and this is in accordance with the Creed of Athanasius.


First it is said that He is Man from the rational soul and the body, and thus that the soul is from the mother; it is afterwards said that as soul and body are one man, so the Divine and the Human is one Christ. This is a manifest contradiction.


THINGS TO BE NOTED Let the conclusion be drawn, as clearly as possible, that the Divine could not subjugate the hells, and restore to order all things in the heavens and on the earth, except from the Divine by the assumed Human; because every Divine operation passes through all order from firsts to lasts [ultima] and there operates, for in lasts are all things simultaneously; on which account it has been shown that in lasts is strength, not from themselves, but from those things which are in lasts from firsts; hence, also there is strength in the sense of the letter of the Word. It is for this reason that the Lord so often said that it is the Father in Him that doeth the works; but in other places, that He Himself doeth the works. Hence it may be manifest that the Divine would not have been able to do such a work, if it had not assumed the Human; thus that it could no longer do it through its own Divine in the human race; for when the Lord came into the world, the human race had so removed itself, and was therefore so remote, that not even with a single one was there natural good from a spiritual origin; and thus it was consummated; which also is confirmed from various things in Daniel, and wherever in the Word we read of consummation and decision, and wherever we read of the end that should come; and from other passages also. And it may perhaps also be told that that Last Judgment which is described by the flood, was accomplished from the Divine that yet remained in the human race; thus that the Divine effected it from its own therein, and thus also from firsts by ultimates; the ultimate was then the Divine that yet remained in the human race. And when this ceased, in order that the human race might be saved, the Divine Itself willed to make Itself (the last), in the Human which it assumed, and which at the same time it made Divine, so that it can forever operate from firsts by lasts.


(Let those things be quoted which have been said and shown in Arcana Coelestia, concerning the ultimate; also those which are in Heaven and Hell, and in other works.)

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