Creed, Apostles

Creed, Apostles an early summary of the Christian faith, in which all Christian churches, Greek, Roman, and Protestant, agree. Augustine calls it regula fidei brevis et grandis; brevis numero verborum, grandis pondere sententiarum. "The antiquity of this compendium of Christian doctrine, and the veneration in which it has been held in the Church of Christ, are circumstances which deservedly entitle it to be publicly pronounced from time to time in our assemblies as containing the great outline of the faith we profess, and to be committed to the memory of our children, for the perpetuation of that faith from age to age" (R. Watson, Works, 7:493). It is as follows, Latin and English:

Symbolumn Apostolicum. Latin.

Credo in Deum, Patrem om nipotentem, Creatorem celi et terre. Et in Jesum Christum, filium ejus unicum, dominum nostrum; qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto; natus ex Maria virgine; passus sub Pilato; crucifixus, mortuus et sepultus; descendit ad infer na; tertia die resurrexit a mor tuis; ascendit ad caelos; sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omni- potentis; inde venturus est judicare vivos et mortnos. Credo in Spiritum Sanctum; sanctam ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem; remissionem peccatorum; carnis resurrectionem; et vitam aeternam. Amen.


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.

1. It is held by many writers of the Church of Rome that this creed was composed by the apostles themselves, who, during their stay at Jerusalem soon after our Lord's ascension, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, agreed upon it as a rule of faith and as a mark of distinction, by which they were to know friends from foes. Rufinus says (about A.D. 400, in his Exposit. Symboli): "There was an ancient tradition that the apostles, being about to depart from Jerusalem, first settled a rule for their future preaching, lest, after they were separated from each other, they should expound different doctrines to those whom they invited to the Christian faith. Wherefore, being all assembled together and filled with the Holy Ghost, they composed this short rule of their preaching, each one contributing his sentence, and left it as a rule: to be given to all believers" (Harvey, Eccl. Angl. Vindex, 1:565; Bingham, Orig. Eccl. bk. 10, ch. 3).

2. A writer under the name of Augustine pretends to tell us what article was contributed by each apostle. Peter said, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty." John, "Maker of heaven and earth." James, "And in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord." Andrew, "Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary." Philip, "Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried." Thomas, "He descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead." Bartholomew, "He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty." Matthew, "From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." James, the son of Alphneus, added, "I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic Church." Simon Zelotes, "The communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins." Jude, the brother of James, 'The resurrection of the body." Matthias, "The life everlasting." And accordingly the creed was called Symbolum Apostolicum, as being made up of sentences jointly contributed after the manner of persons paying each their shot or share of the reckoning. But this derivation obviously confounds the word σύμβολον with συμβολή.

3. It is now generally admitted that the creed, in its present form at least, is not of earlier date than the fourth century. a. Neither Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, nor any ecclesiastical writer before the fifth century, makes mention of an assembly of the apostles for the purpose of forming a creed. b. The fathers of the first three centuries, in disputing against heretics, endeavor to prove that the doctrines contained in this creed were taught by the apostles, but they never pretend that the apostles composed it. c. Had the apostles composed it, it would have been the same in all churches and ages. But it is quite otherwise. Many creeds were extant in the fourth century, which differed not only in the terms, but also in the articles; some omitted in one were inserted in others, such as the "descent into hell," the "communion of saints," and "the life everlasting."

4. It is almost impossible now to ascertain the authorship of this creed; its antiquity may, however, be inferred from the fact that the whole, as it now stands, with the exception of "he descended into hell," may be found in the works of Ambrose and Rufinus, the former of whom flourished in the third century and the latter in the fourth.

5. In early ages it was not admitted into the Liturgy, though catechumens were required to subscribe it before they were admitted to baptism. The use of it in public worship was first instituted in the Greek Church at Antioch, and introduced into the Roman Church in the eleventh century, whence it passed into the service of the Church of England at the Reformation. "The Westminster divines subjoined it, along with the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer, to their catechisms, accompanied with this explanatory statement: 'It is here annexed, not as though it were composed by the apostles, or ought to be esteemed as canonical Scriptures, as the Ten Commandments and Lord's Prayer, but because it is a brief sum of the Christian faith, agreeable to the Word of God, and anciently received in the churches of Christ' "(Cunningham, Historical Theology, 1, chap. 3, 80). It finds its place, with the Decalogue and the Lord's Prayer, in the catechisms of the Methodist Episcopal and Presbyterian churches. It is used in the baptismal confession in the Greek, Roman, English, Reformed, Lutheran, Methodist Episcopal, and Protestant Episcopal churches. The phrase "he descended into hell" is omitted in some forms of the creed used in Protestant churches; in the Protestant Episcopal Church it is optional to use it or "he went into the place of departed spirits." It is to be noted that no other creed than the Apostles' is used in baptism by any Church.

6. Many histories and expositions of the Apostles' Creed have been written; the most valuable are, King, History of the Apostles' Creed (Lond. 1702, 8vo); Barrow, Exposition of the Creed, Works, vol. 2; Pearson, Exposition of the Creed (many editions; the best are Dobson's, Lond. 1840, 8vo, with an appendix containing the principal Greek and Latin creeds; and Burton's, Oxford, 1847, 2 vols. 8vo); Witsius, De Symbolo Apostolico (Basil. 1739, 4to; translated by Fraser, Glasgow, 1823, 2 vols. 8vo); Leighton, Works, vol. 2.

A thorough investigation on the Roman Catholic side may be found in Meyers, De Symboli Apostolici titulo, origine, etc. (Trevir. 1849, 8vo). Dr. Nevin furnishes an able discussion in the Mercersburgh Review, 1849, three articles; also 1858, p. 395 sq. 'here is an elaborate article by Proudfit, Princeton Review, Ootober, 1852, which opposes not only the Tridentine theory of the origin of the creed, but also the modern mystico- philosophical theory of Mohler and Newman. Apart from these questions, nearly all the churches of Christendom agree in reverence for this ancient formula as a beautiful, true, and comprehensive statement of the great fundamental facts of Christianity; admitting, with Dr. Schaff, that, though it is "not in form the production of the apostles, it is a faithful compend of their doctrines, and comprehends the leading articles of the faith in the triune God and his revelation, from the creation to the life everlasting, in sublime simplicity, in unsurpassable brevity, in the most beautiful order, and with liturgical solemnity and to this day it is the common bond of Greek, Roman, and evangelical Christendom" (Schaff, History of the Apostolic Church, § 142, p. 568). See also Hinds, Early Christianity, pt. 3, ch. 6; Procter, On Common Prayer, p. 227; Harvey, The Hist. etc., of the Three Creeds; Guericke, A hg. christl. Symbolik, § 12; Bingham, Orig. Eccl. bk. 10, ch. 3; Goode, Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, ch. 4; Cunningham, Historical Theology, ch. 3; Peck, Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 207 sq.; Princeton Review, Oct. 1852, art. 4; Shedd, History of Doctrines, bk. 7, ch. 1, § 2; Martensen, Dogmatics (Clark's Library), § 23.

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