Apostles Creed

APOSTLES’ CREED

A brief statement of faith, used only in the Western church, based upon belief in the Holy Trinity as expressed in the New Testament. There is no definite evidence to support the claim of RUFINUS, who wrote a commentary on it (Kelly, 1972, p. 1), that every apostle contributed a section to it, although statements of faith laid down by the apostles in their various epistles were incorporated into the formulation of the Apostles’ Creed.

An eighth-century writer, Pirminius, was the first to cite it in its present form, but baptismal formularies in use at Rome and in other Western churches in the fourth century bear a strong resemblance to it. Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra (c. 340), transcribed it in Greek, which shows that it was in use before the middle of the third century, when Greek was still the language of the liturgy in Rome.

Since the beginning of Christianity, the apostles had laid down a formula to be repeated by catechumens at baptism (e.g., Rom. 1:3-5; 1 Cor. 15:3-5; 1 Pt. 3:18-22). When the Apostle Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch who had gone to Jerusalem, the latter said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). Paul also reminds his disciple Timothy, “You made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tm. 6:12), which confession is believed to have been made at his baptism.

Such statements expressing belief in the Holy Trinity came to be known later as the Apostles’ Creed and, originally including only nine clauses, was expanded at successive stages in the generations that followed. In his treatise on the APOSTOLIC TRADITION, HIPPOLYTUS mentions a terse expression of faith, in the form of three questions dealing with belief in the Holy Trinity that were asked by priests during baptism.

In Eastern churches other statements of faith were common, such as the formula still in use by the Coptic church for baptism: “I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, and His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit, the Life-giver, and in the Resurrection of the body. I believe in the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church, Amen.” Other formulas were used by the churches of Punt, Jerusalem, Caesarea (Palestine), and Antioch.

Before Nicaea (see NICAEA, COUNCIL OF), two statements of faith were in use, one Eastern and the other Western, that were similar in substance though different in wording. Of the two, the Eastern one was abandoned after the adoption of the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed in all services and liturgies.

In the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican church, the Apostles’ Creed is used daily in the services of matins and evensong, except on the thirteen days in the year in which the Athanasian Creed is used in its place at matins. Here is the text in its latest form: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • ‘Abd al-Masih al-Mas‘udi. Kitab al-Ma‘mudiyyah al-Muqaddasah. Cairo, 1896.
  • Asad Rustum. Kasnisat Madinat Allah Antakiyah al-Uzma, 3 vols. Beirut, 1958.
  • Burn, A. E. An Introduction to the Creeds. London, 1899.
  •  . The Apostles’ Creed. Oxford Church Text Books, 1906. Carpenter, H. J. Creeds and Baptismal Rites in the First Four
  • Centuries. Journal of Theological Studies 44. Oxford, 1943.
  • Creha, J. H. Early Christian Baptism and the Creed. London, 1950.
  • Ghellinck, J. “Histoire du symbole des apôtres à propos d’un texte d’Eusèbe.” Recherches de science religieuse 16 (1928):118-25.
  • Kelly, J. N. D. Early Christian Creeds. Oxford, 1950; 3rd ed., 1972. Kirullus Maqar. Al-Wad‘ al-Ilahi fi Ta’sis al-Kanisah, 3 vols. Cairo, 1925.
  • Lietzmann, H. Symbole der alten Kirche. Berlin, 1931.

ARCHBISHOP BASILIOS

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