Athanasian Creed, a symbol chiefly composed of precise theological definitions of the doctrines of the Trinity and incarnation. The first notices of it are from the 7th century, and do not mention the author. It made its appearance first in France, in the Latin language, became generally known throughout the West, and was adopted last of all in the East. The Greek writers immediately succeeding St. Ath-anasius make no mention of it. In the MS. editions of his works it is usually not found at all, or, if it is, with the remark, "commonly" or "incorrectly ascribed to St. Athanasius." Subsequently, however, it was ascribed to him by all ecclesiastical writers. Durandus (1287) states that it was composed by St. Athanasius at Treves during his exile in the West, and Mayer thinks this account not improbable. Modern critics generally suppose that it was drawn up as a summary of the doctrine of St. Athanasius, from which circumstance it obtained the name of Athanasian creed, and in process of time was attributed to the great Alexandrian doctor. It has been attributed, on conjectural grounds, to Hilary of Aries and Venantius Fortunatus, to Vincent of Lerins, and to Vigilius, bishop of Thapsus in Africa. This creed is an authoritative formulary of faith in the Roman and Greek churches.
Its authority does not rest on the presumption that it was composed by St. Athanasius, but on its general acceptance as a correct enunciation of Catholic faith. In the Roman Catholic church it is recited at the office of prime on Sundays, when the office is dominical. In the church of England it is accepted as of equal authority with the Apostles' and Nicene creeds, and ordered to be recited on certain festivals at the morning prayer. In the 39 articles of the Protestant Episcopal church of the United States all mention of it is omitted, and the creed itself has no place in the prayer book.