For hundreds of years Christians believed that the twelve apostles were the authors of the widely known creed that bears their name. According to an ancient theory, the twelve composed the creed with each apostle adding a clause to form the whole. Today practically all scholars understand this theory of apostolic composition to be legendary. Nevertheless, many continue to think of the creed as apostolic in nature because its basic teachings are agreeable to the theological formulations of the apostolic age.
The full form in which the creed now appears stems from about 700 AD. However, segments of it are found in Christian writings dating as early as the second century. The most important predecessor of the Apostles’ Creed was the Old Roman Creed, which was probably developed during the second half of the second century.
The additions to the Apostles’ Creed are clearly seen when its present form is compared to the Old Roman version:
I believe in God the Father Almighty. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary; crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father, from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit; the holy Church; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the flesh.
Still earlier fragments of creeds have been discovered which declare simply:
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord. And in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church, the resurrection of the flesh.”
The Apostles’ Creed functioned in many ways in the life of the church. For one thing, it was associated with entrance into the fellowship as a confession of faith for those to be baptized. In addition, catechetical instruction was often based on the major tenets of the creed. In time, a third use developed when the creed became a “rule of faith” to give continuity to Christian teachings from place to place and to clearly separate the true faith from heretical deviations. Indeed, it may well have been that the main factor involved in adding clauses to the Old Roman Creed to develop the Apostles’ Creed was its usefulness in these varied ways in the life of the church. By the sixth or seventh century the creed had come to be accepted as a part of the official liturgy of the Western church. Likewise, it was used by devout individuals along with the Lord’s Prayer as a part of their morning and evening devotions. The churches of the Reformation gladly gave their allegiance to the creed and added it to their doctrinal collections and used it in their worship.
The Trinitarian nature of the Apostles’ Creed is immediately evident. Belief in “God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” is affirmed first. But the heart of the creed is the confession concerning “Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,” with special attention given to the events surrounding his conception, birth, suffering, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and coming judgment. The third section declares belief in the Holy Spirit. To this Trinitarian confession are added clauses related to the holy catholic church, communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.
The polemical nature of the Apostles’ Creed is likewise evident. Emphasizing the unity of God’s fatherhood and sovereignty disputed Marcion’s rejection of the same. The affirmation of the reality of Christ’s humanity and historicity denied the contention of Marcionite and docetic heretics that he was not a fully human person who could be born, suffer, and die. His conception by the Holy Spirit and birth of the Virgin Mary as well as his exaltation after resurrection affirmed Jesus’ deity over against those who denied it. Other clauses may well have been added to deal with particular crises faced by the church. For example, the confession regarding forgiveness of sins may have related to the problem of postbaptismal sins in the third century. Likewise, affirming the holy catholic church may have dealt with the Donatist schism.
The Apostles’ Creed continues to be used today much as it was in the past: as a baptismal confession; as a teaching outline; as a guard and guide against heresy; as a summarization of the faith; as an affirmation in worship. It has maintained in modern times its distinction as the most widely accepted and used creed among Christians.
O G Oliver, Jr.
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)
J N D Kelly, Early Christian Creeds; W Barclay, The Apostles’ Creed for Everyman; S Barr, From the Apostles’ Faith to the Apostles’ Creed; P Fuhrmann, The Great Creeds of the Church; W Pannenberg, The Apostles’ Creed in the Light of Today’s Questions; J Smart, The Creed in Christian Teaching; H B Swete, The Apostles’ Creed; H Thielicke, I Believe: The Christian’s Creed; B F Westcott, The Historic Faith.
“The Old Roman Creed”
I BELIEVE in God almighty [the Father almighty—(Rufinus)]
And in Christ Jesus, his only Son, our Lord
Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried
And the third day rose from the dead
Who ascended into heaven
And sitteth on the right hand of the Father
Whence he cometh to judge the living and the dead.
And in the Holy Spirit
The holy church
The remission of sins
The resurrection of the flesh
The life everlasting. [Rufinus omits this line.]
The Apostles’ Creed
(sixth-century Gallican version)
I BELIEVE in God the Father almighty,
I also believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord,
conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.
suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead and buried; he descended into hell,
rose again the third day,
ascended into heaven,
sat down at the right hand of the Father,
thence he is to come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
the remission of sins,
the resurrection of the flesh and life eternal.
The Apostles’ Creed
(as usually recited today)
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 again 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
The Apostles’ Creed vs. Gnosticism
A Creed generally emphasizes the beliefs opposing those errors that the compilers of the creed think most dangerous at the time. The Creed of the Council of Trent, which was drawn up by the Roman Catholics in the 1500’s, emphasized those beliefs that Roman Catholics and Protestants were arguing about most furiously at the time. The Nicene Creed, drawn up in the fourth century, is emphatic in affirming the Deity of Christ, since it is directed against the Arians, who denied that Christ was fully God. The Apostles’ Creed, drawn up in the first or second century, emphasizes the true Humanity, including the material body, of Jesus, since that is the point that the heretics of the time (Gnostics, Marcionites, and later Manicheans) denied. (See 1 John 4:1-3)
Thus the Apostles’ Creed is as follows:
* I believe in God the Father Almighty,
* Maker of Heaven and Earth,
The Gnostics held that the physical universe is evil and that God did not make it.
* And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord,
* Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
* Born of the Virgin Mary,
The Gnostics were agreed that the orthodox Christians were wrong in supposing that God had taken human nature or a human body. Some of them distinguished between Christ, whom they acknowledged to be in some sense divine, and the man Jesus, who was at most an instrument through whom the Christ spoke. They held that the man Jesus did not become the bearer or instrument of the Christ until the Spirit descended upon him at his baptism, and that the Spirit left him before the crucifixion, so that the Spirit had only a brief and tenuous association with matter and humanity. Others affirmed that there was never a man Jesus at all, but only the appearance of a man, through which appearance wise teachings were given to the first disciples. Against this the orthodox Christians affirmed that Jesus was conceived through the action of the Holy Spirit (thus denying the Gnostic position that the Spirit had nothing to do with Jesus until his Baptism), that he was born (which meant that he had a real physical body, and not just an appearance) of a virgin (which implied that he had been special from the first moment of his life, and not just from the baptism on.
* Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
There were many stories then current about gods who died and were resurrected, but they were offered quite frankly as myths, as non-historical stories symbolic of the renewal of the vegetation every spring after the seeming death of winter. If you asked, “When did Adonis die, you would be told either, “Long ago and far away,” or else, “His death is not an event in earthly time.” Jesus, on the other hand, died at a particular time and place in history, under the jurisdiction of Pontius Pilate, Procurator of Judea from 26 to 36 CE, or during the last ten years of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius.
* was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into Hades.
Here the creed hammers home the point that he was really dead. He was not an illusion. He was nailed to a post. He died. He had a real body, a corpse, that was placed in a tomb. He was not merely unconscious — his spirit left his body and went to the realm of the dead. It is a common belief among Christians that on this occasion he took the souls of those who had died trusting in the promises made under the Old Covenant — Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Isaiah, and many others — and brought them out of the realm of the dead and into heavenly glory. But the creed is not concerned with this point. The reference to the descent into Hades (or Hell, or Sheol) is here to make it clear that the death of Jesus was not just a swoon or a coma, but death in every sense of the word.
* The third day he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven,
* and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
* From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
* I believe in the Holy Ghost,
* the holy catholic church,
The Gnostics believed that the most important Christian doctrines were reserved for a select few. The orthodox belief was that the fullness of the Gospel was to be preached to the entire human race. Hence the term “catholic,” or universal, which distinguished them from the Gnostics.
* the communion of saints,
* the forgiveness of sins,
The Gnostics considered that what men needed was not forgiveness, but enlightenment. Ignorance, not sin, was the problem. Some of them, believing the body to be a snare and delusion, led lives of great asceticism. Others, believing the body to be quite separate from the soul, held that it did not matter what the body did, since it was completely foul anyway, and its actions had no effect on the soul. They accordingly led lives that were not ascetic at all. Either way, the notion of forgiveness was alien to them.
* the resurrection of the body,
The chief goal of the Gnostics was to become free forever from the taint of matter and the shackles of the body, and to return to the heavenly realm as Pure Spirit. They totally rejected any idea of the resurrection of the body.
* and the life everlasting. AMEN
A formula containing in brief statements, or “articles,” the fundamental tenets of Christian belief, and having for its authors, according to tradition, the Twelve Apostles.
I. ORIGIN OF THE CREED
Throughout the Middle Ages it was generally believed that the Apostles, on the day of Pentecost, while still under the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost, composed our present Creed between them, each of the Apostles contributing one of the twelve articles. This legend dates back to the sixth century (see Pseudo-Augustine in Migne, P.L., XXXIX, 2189, and Pirminius, ibid., LXXXIX, 1034), and it is foreshadowed still earlier in a sermon attributed to St. Ambrose (Migne, P.L., XVII, 671; Kattenbusch, I, 81), which takes notice that the Creed was “pieced together by twelve separate workmen”. About the same date (c. 400) Rufinus (Migne, P.L., XXI, 337) gives a detailed account of the composition of the Creed, which account he professes to have received from earlier ages (tradunt majores nostri). Although he does not explicitly assign each article to the authorship of a separate Apostle, he states that it was the joint work of all, and implies that the deliberation took place on the day of Pentecost. Moreover, he declares that “they for many just reasons decided that this rule of faith should be called the Symbol”, which Greek word he explains to mean both indicium, i.e. a token or password by which Christians might recognize each other, and collatio, that is to say an offering made up of separate contributions. A few years before this (c. 390), the letter addressed to Pope Siricius by the Council of Milan (Migne, P.L., XVI, 1213) supplies the earliest known instance of the combination Symbolum Apostolorum (“Creed of the Apostles”) in these striking words: “If you credit not the teachings of the priests . . . let credit at least be given to the Symbol of the Apostles which the Roman Church always preserves and maintains inviolate.” The word Symbolum in this sense, standing alone, meets us first about the middle of the third century in the correspondence of St. Cyprian and St. Firmilia, the latter in particular speaking of the Creed as the “Symbol of the Trinity”, and recognizing it as an integral part of the rite of baptism (Migne, P.L., III, 1165, 1143). It should be added, moreover, that Kattenbusch (II, p. 80, note) believes that the same use of the words can be traced as far back as Tertullian. Still, in the first two centuries after Christ, though we often find mention of the Creed under other designations (e.g. regula fidei, doctrina, traditio), the name symbolum does not occur. Rufinus was therefore wrong when he declared that the Apostles themselves had “for many just reasons” selected this very term. This fact, joined with the intrinsic improbability of the story, and the surprising silence of the New Testament and of the Ante-Nicene fathers, leaves us no choice but to regard the circumstantial narrative of Rufinus as unhistorical.
Among recent critics, some have assigned to the Creed an origin much later than the Apostolic Age. Harnack, e.g., asserts that in its present form it represents only the baptismal confession of the Church of Southern Gaul, dating at earliest from the second half of the fifth century (Das apostolische Glaubensbekenntniss, 1892, p. 3). Strictly construed, the terms of this statement are accurate enough; though it seems probable that it was not in Gaul, but in Rome, that the Creed really assumed its final shape (see Burn in the “Journal of Theol. Studies”, July, 1902). But the stress laid by Harnack on the lateness of our received text (T) is, to say the least, somewhat misleading. It is certain, as Harnack allows, that another and older form of the Creed (R) had come into existence, in Rome itself, before the middle of the second century. Moreover, as we shall see, the differences between R and T are not very important and it is also probable that R, if not itself drawn up by the Apostles, is at least based upon an outline which dates back to the Apostolic age. Thus, taking the document as a whole, we may say confidently, in the words of a modern Protestant authority, that “in and with our Creed we confess that which since the days of the Apostles has been the faith of united Christendom” (Zahn, Apostles’ Creed, tr., p, 222). The question of the apostolicity of the Creed ought not to be dismissed without due attention being paid to the following five considerations:
(1) There are very suggestive traces in the New Testament of the recognition of a certain “form of doctrine” (typos didaches, Romans 6:17) which moulded, as it were, the faith of new converts to Christ’s law, and which involved not only the word of faith believed in the heart, but “with the mouth confession made unto salvation” (Romans 10:8-10). In close connection with this we must recall the profession of faith in Jesus Christ exacted of the eunuch (Acts 8:37) as a preliminary to baptism (Augustine, “De Fide et Operibus”, cap. ix; Migne, P.L., LVII, 205) and the formula of baptism itself in the name of the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity (Matthew 28:19; and cf. the Didache 7:2, and 9:5). Moreover, as soon as we begin to obtain any sort of detailed description of the ceremonial of baptism we find that, as a preliminary to the actual immersion, a profession of faith was exacted of the convert, which exhibits from the earliest times a clearly divided and separate confession of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, corresponding to the Divine Persons invoked in the formula of baptism. As we do not find in any earlier document the full form of the profession of faith, we cannot be sure that it is identical with our Creed, but, on the other hand, it is certain that nothing has yet been discovered which is inconsistent with such a supposition. See, for example, the “Canons of Hippolytus” (c. 220) or the “Didascalia” (c. 250) in Hahn’s “Bibliothek der Symbole” (8, 14, 35); together with the slighter allusions in Justin Martyr and Cyprian.
(2) Whatever difficulties may be raised regarding the existence of the Disciplina Arcani in early times (Kattenbusch, II, 97 sqq.), there can be no question that in Cyril of Jerusalem, Hilary, Augustine, Leo, the Gelasian Sacramentary, and many other sources of the fourth and fifth centuries the idea is greatly insisted upon; that according to ancient tradition the Creed was to be learned by heart, and never to be consigned to writing. This undoubtedly provides a plausible explanation of the fact that in the case of no primitive creed is the text preserved to us complete or in a continuous form. What we know of these formulae in their earliest state is derived from what we can piece together from the quotations, more or less scattered, which are found in such writers, for example, as Irenaeus and Tertullian.
(3) Though no uniform type of Creed can be surely recognized among the earlier Eastern writers before the Council of Nicaea, an argument which has been considered by many to disprove the existence of any Apostolic formula, it is a striking fact that the Eastern Churches in the fourth century are found in possession of a Creed which reproduces with variations the old Roman type. This fact is full admitted by such Protestant authorities as Harnack (in Hauck’s Realencyclopädie, I, 747) and Kattenbusch (I, 380 sq.; II, 194 sqq., and 737 sq.). It is obvious that these data would harmonize very well with the theory that a primitive Creed had been delivered to the Christian community of Rome, either by Sts. Peter and Paul themselves or by their immediate successors, and in the course of time had spread throughout the world.
(4) Furthermore note that towards the end of the second century we can extract from the writings of St. Irenæus in southern Gaul and of Tertullian in far-off Africa two almost complete Creeds (Transc. Note: hyperlink to Acreed2.gif) agreeing closely both with the old Roman Creed (R), as we know it from Rufinus, and with one another. It will be useful to translate from Burn (Introduction to the Creeds, pp. 50, 51) his tabular presentation of the evidence in the case of Tertullian. (Cf. MacDonald in “Ecclesiastical Review”, February, 1903):
THE OLD ROMAN CREED
AS QUOTED BY TERTULLIAN (c. 200)
De Virg. Vel.
1De Praecept. 13
1De Praecept. 26
|(1) Believing in one God Almighty, maker of the world||(1) We believe one only God||(1) I believe in one God, maker of the world|
|(2) and His Son, Jesus Christ||(2) and the son of God Jesus Christ||(2) the Word, called His Son, Jesus Christ|
|(3) born of the Virgin Mary||(3) born of the Virgin||(3) by the Spirit and power of God the Father made flesh in Mary’s womb, and born of her|
|(4) crucified under Pontius Pilate||(4) Him suffered died, and buried||(4) fastened to a cross.|
|(5) on the third day brought to life from the dead||(5) brought back to life||(5) He rose the third day|
|(6) received in heaven||(6) taken again into heaven||(6) was caught up into heaven|
|(7) sitting now at the right hand of the Father||(7) sits at the right hand of the Father||(7) set at the right hand of the Father|
|(8) will come to judge the living and the dead||(8) will come to judge the living and the dead||(8) will come with glory to take the good into life eternal, and condemn the wicked to perpetual fire|
|(9) who has sent from the Father the Holy Ghost.||(9) sent the vicarious power of His Holy Spirit|
|(10) to govern believers||(In this passage articles 9 and 10 precede 8)|
|(12) through resurrection of the flesh.||(12) restoration of the flesh.|
Such a table serves admirably to show how incomplete is the evidence provided by mere quotations of the Creed and how cautiously it must be dealt with. Had we possessed only the “De Virginibus Velandis” we might have said that the article concerning the Holy Ghost did not form part of Tertullian’s Creed. Had the “De Virginibus Velandis” been destroyed, we should have declared that Tertullian knew nothing of the clause “suffered under Pontius Pilate”. And so forth.
(5) It must not be forgotten that while no explicit statement of the composition of a formula of faith by the Apostles is forthcoming before the close of the fourth century, earlier Fathers such as Tertullian and St. Irenæus insist in a very emphatic way that the “rule of faith” is part of the apostolic tradition. Tertullian in particular in his “De Praescriptione”, after showing that by this rule (regula doctrinoe) he understands something practically identical with our Creed, insists that the rule was instituted by Christ and delivered to us (tradita) as from Christ by the Apostles (Migne. P.L., II, 26, 27, 33, 50). As a conclusion from this evidence the present writer, agreeing on the whole with such authorities as Semeria and Batiffol that we cannot safely affirm the Apostolic composition of the Creed, considers at the same time that to deny the possibility of such origin is to go further than our data at present warrant. A more pronouncedly conservative view is urged by MacDonald in the “Ecclesiastical Review”, January to July, 1903.
II. THE OLD ROMAN CREED
The Catechism of the Council of Trent apparently assumes the Apostolic origin of our existing Creed, but such a pronouncement has no dogmatic force and leaves opinion free. Modern apologists, in defending the claim to apostolicity, extend it only to the old Roman form (R), and are somewhat hampered by the objection that if R had been really held to be the inspired utterance of the Apostles, it would not have been modified at pleasure by various local churches (Rufinus, for example, testifies to such expansion in the case of the Church of Aquileia), and in particular would never have been entirely supplanted by T, our existing form. The difference between the two will best be seen by printing them side by side (Creeds R and T):
Old Roman Creed (R)
Existing Modern Creed (T)
|(1) I believe in God the Father Almighty;||(1) I believe in God the Father Almighty Creator of Heaven and earth|
|(2) And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;||(2) And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;|
|(3) Who was born of (de) the Holy Ghost and of (ex) the Virgin Mary;||(3) Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,|
|(4) Crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried;||(4) Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried;|
|(5) The third day He rose again from the dead,||(5) He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;|
|(6) He ascended into Heaven,||(6) He ascended into Heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;|
|(7) Sitteth at the right hand of the Father,||(7) From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.|
|(8) Whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.||(8) I believe in the Holy Ghost,|
|(9) And in the Holy Ghost,||(9) The Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints|
|(10) The Holy Church,||(10) The forgiveness of sins,|
|(11) The forgiveness of sins;||(11) The resurrection of the body, and|
|(12) The resurrection of the body.||(12) life everlasting.|
Neglecting minor points of difference, which indeed for their adequate discussion would require a study of the Latin text, we may note that R does not contain the clauses “Creator of heaven and earth”, “descended into hell”, “the communion of saints”, “life everlasting”, nor the words “conceived”, “suffered”, “died”, and “Catholic”. Many of these additions, but not quite all, were probably known to St. Jerome in Palestine (c. 380.–See Morin in Revue Benedictine, January, 1904) and about the same date to the Dalmatian, Niceta (Burn, Niceta of Remesiana, 1905). Further additions appear in the creeds of southern Gaul at the beginning of the next century, but T probably assumed its final shape in Rome itself some time before A.D. 700 (Burn, Introduction, 239; and Journal of Theol. Studies, July, 1902). We know nothing certain as to the reasons which led to the adoption of T in preference to R.
III. ARTICLES OF THE CREED
Although T really contains more than twelve articles, it has always been customary to maintain the twelvefold division which originated with, and more strictly applies to, R. A few of the more debated items call for some brief comment. The first article of R presents a difficulty. From the language of Tertullian it is contended that R originally omitted the word Father and added the word one; thus, “I believe in one God Almighty”. Hence Zahn infers an underlying Greek original still partly surviving in the Nicene Creed, and holds that the first article of the Creed suffered modification to counteract the teachings of the Monarchian heresy. It must suffice to say here that although the original language of R may possibly be Greek, Zahn’s premises regarding the wording of the first article are not accepted by such authorities as Kattenbusch and Harnack.
Another textual difficulty turns upon the inclusion of the word only in the second article; but a more serious question is raised by Harnack’s refusal to recognize, either in the first or second article of R, any acknowledgment of a pre-existent or eternal relation of Sonship and Fatherhood of the Divine Persons. The Trinitarian theology of later ages, he declares, has read into the text a meaning which it did not possess for its framers. And he says, again, with regard to the ninth article, that the writer of the Creed did not conceive the Holy Ghost as a Person, but as a power and gift. “No proof can be shown that about the middle of the second century the Holy Ghost was believed in as a Person.” It is impossible to do more here than direct the reader to such Catholic answers as those of Baumer and Blume; and among Anglicans to the very convenient volume of Swete. To quote but one illustration of early patristic teaching, St. Ignatius at the end of the first century repeatedly refers to a Sonship which lies beyond the limits of time: “Jesus Christ . . . came forth from one Father”, “was with the Father before the world was” (Magn., 6 and 7). While, with regard to the Holy Ghost, St. Clement of Rome at a still earlier date writes: “As God lives, and the Lord Jesus Christ lives, and the Holy Spirit, the faith and hope of the elect” (cap. lviii). This and other like passages clearly indicate the consciousness of a distinction between God and the Spirit of God analogous to that recognized to exist between God and the Logos. A similar appeal to early writers must be made in connection with the third article, that affirming the Virgin Birth. Harnack admits that the words “conceived of the Holy Ghost” (T), really add nothing to the “born of the Holy Ghost” (R). He admits consequently that “at the beginning of the second century the belief in the miraculous conception had become an established part of Church tradition”. But he denies that the doctrine formed part of the earliest Gospel preaching, and he thinks it consequently impossible that the article could have been formulated in the first century. We can only answer here that the burden of proof rests with him, and that the teaching of the Apostolic Fathers, as quoted by Swete and others, points to a very different conclusion.
Rufinus (c. 400) explicitly states that the words descended into hell were not in the Roman Creed, but existed in that of Aquileia. They are also in some Greek Creeds and in that of St. Jerome, lately recovered by Morin. It was no doubt a remembrance of I Peter, iii, 19, as interpreted by Irenaeus and others, which caused their insertion. The clause, “communion of saints”, which appears first in Niceta and St. Jerome, should unquestionably be regarded as a mere expansion of the article “holy Church”. Saints, as used here, originally meant no more than the living members of the Church (see the article by Morin in Revue d’histoire et de litterature ecclesiastique. May, 1904, and the monograph of J. P. Kirsch, Die Lehre von der Gemeinschaft der Heiligen, 1900). For the rest we can only note that the word “Catholic”, which appears first in Niceta, is dealt with separately; and that “forgiveness of sins” is probably to be understood primarily of baptism and should be compared with the “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins” of the Nicene Creed.
IV. USE AND AUTHORITY OF THE CREED
As already indicated, we must turn to the ritual of Baptism for the most primitive and important use of the Apostles’ Creed. It is highly probable that the Creed was originally nothing else than a profession of faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost of the baptismal formula. The fully developed ceremonial which we find in the seventh Roman Ordo, and the Gelasian Sacramentary, and which probably represented the practice of the fifth century, assigns a special day of “scrutiny”, for the imparting of the Creed (traditio symboli), and another, immediately before the actual administration of the Sacrament, for the redditio symboli, when the neophyte gave proof of his proficiency by reciting the Creed aloud. An imposing address accompanied the traditio and in an important article, Dom de Puniet (Revue d’Histoire Ecclesiastique, October, 1904) has recently shown that this address is almost certainly the composition of St. Leo the Great. Further, three questions (interrogationes) were put to the candidate in the very act of baptism, which questions are themselves only a summary of the oldest form of the Creed. Both the recitation of the Creed and the questions are still retained in the Ordo baptizandi of our actual Roman ritual; while the Creed in an interrogative form appears also in the Baptismal Service of the Anglican “Book of Common Prayer”. Outside of the administration of baptism the Apostles’ Creed is recited daily in the Church, not only at the beginning of Matins and Prime and the end of Compline, but also ferially in the course of Prime and Compline. Many medieval synods enjoin that it must be learnt by all the faithful, and there is a great deal of evidence to show that, even in such countries as England and France, it was formerly learnt in Latin. As a result of this intimate association with the liturgy and teaching of the Church, the Apostles’ Creed has always been held to have the authority of an ex cathedra utterance. It is commonly taught that all points of doctrine contained in it are part of the Catholic Faith, and cannot be called in question under pain of heresy (St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, II-II:1:9). Hence Catholics have generally been content to accept the Creed in the form, and in the sense, in which it has been authoritatively expounded by the living voice of the Church. For the Protestants who accept it only in so far as it represents the evangelical teaching of the Apostolic Age, it became a matter of supreme importance to investigate its original form and meaning. This explains the preponderating amount of research devoted to this subject by Protestant scholars as compared with the contributions of their Catholic rivals.
Publication information Written by Herbert Thurston. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. Dedicated to Jack and Kathy Graham, faithful friends in the Church Universal The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York