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Apostles' Creed

The Apostles' Creed (Latin: Symbolum Apostolorum or Symbolum Apostolicum), sometimes titled Symbol of the Apostles, is an early statement of Christian belief, a creed or "symbol". It is widely used by a number of Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes, most visibly by liturgical Churches of Western tradition, including the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, Lutheranism, the Anglican Communion, and Western Orthodoxy. It is also used by Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and many Baptists.

The theological specifics of this creed appear to have been originally formulated as a refutation of Gnosticism, an early heresy. This can be seen in almost every phrase. For example, the creed states that Christ, Jesus, was born, suffered, and died on the cross. This seems to be a statement directly against the heretical teaching that Christ only appeared to become man and that he did not truly suffer and die but only appeared to do so. The Apostles' Creed, as well as other baptismal creeds, is esteemed as an example of the apostles' teachings and a defense of the Gospel of Christ.

The name of the Creed comes from the probably fifth-century legend that, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, each of the Twelve Apostles dictated part of it. It is traditionally divided into twelve articles.

Because of its early origin, it does not address some Christological issues defined in the later Nicene and other Christian Creeds. It thus says nothing explicitly about the divinity of either Jesus or of the Holy Spirit. This makes it acceptable to many Arians and Unitarians. Nor does it address many other theological questions that became objects of dispute centuries later.

Origin of the Creed

Many hypotheses exist concerning the date and nature of the origin of the Apostles' Creed.

Throughout the Middle Ages it was believed to have been created directly by the Apostles while under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, with each of the twelve apostles contributing one of the articles. Around this same time Rufinus describes an account of the creation of the Creed that he claims to have received from earlier times. Rufinus claims that the Creed was a joint effort by the twelve apostles; however, more modern views and research regarding the origin of the Creed label these accounts as highly unlikely.

While modern versions of the Apostles' Creed are similar to the baptismal confessions of the Church of Southern Gaul, most scholars believe it developed from what scholars have identified as "the Old Roman Symbol" of the first or second century and that it was influenced by the Nicene Creed (325/381). Some historians date the origin of the Apostles' Creed as late as 5th century Gaul. The earliest known concrete historical evidence of this creed's existence as it is currently titled (Symbolum Apostolicum) is a letter of the Council of Milan (390) to Pope Siricius (here in English):

"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 earliest appearance of the present Latin text was in the De singulis libris canonicis scarapsus ("Excerpt from Individual Canonical Books") of St. Priminius (Migne, Patrologia Latina 89, 1029 ff.), written between 710 and 714.

The actual origin, at least in its oldest form, of the Old Roman Symbol, on which the Apostles' Creed was based, is thought by some to be much older than any official documentation of its presence. A major aspect in many churches is an emphasis on memorizing the creed, rather than simply reading it, a tradition that would make official documentation regarding the earliest forms scarce.

A Greek text of the Apostles' Creed, a modified version of Marcellus of Ancyra's Greek text of the Old Roman Symbol, is available in F. Bente's Historical Introductions to the Book of Concord. As concerns its source, many have often suggested the Apostles' Creed was spliced together from phrases out of the New Testament. That certainly fits with the phrase on the Descent into Hell, which in Greek is almost a direct quote of the Greek text of Ephesians 4:9.

Text of the Creed in Latin

Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae,
et in Iesum Christum, Filium Eius unicum, Dominum nostrum,
qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine,
passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus,
descendit ad ínferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis,
ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Patris omnipotentis,
inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos.
Credo in Spiritum Sanctum,
sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem,
remissionem peccatorum,
carnis resurrectionem,
vitam aeternam.
Amen.

English translations

The Roman Catholic Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives the following English translation of the Apostles' Creed. In its discussion of the Creed, the Catechism maintains the traditional division into twelve articles, the numbering of which is here added to the text.

1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.
6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins,
11. the resurrection of the body,
12. and the life everlasting.
Amen.

The Church of England

In the Church of England there are currently two authorized forms of the creed: that of the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and that of Common Worship (2000). Book of Common Prayer

  • 1. :I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
  • 2. :And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
  • 3. :Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary:
  • 4. :Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
  • 5. :Was crucified, dead, and buried, He descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead:
  • 6. :He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
  • 7. :From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
  • 8. :I believe in the Holy Ghost:
  • 9. :The holy Catholick Church; The Communion of Saints:
  • 10. :The Forgiveness of sins:
  • 11. :The Resurrection of the body,
  • 12. :And the Life everlasting.

Amen.
Common Worship
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.


I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.


I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

The Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian Church uses the same text as is in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, but with the modernized spelling "catholic" and some changes from upper to lowercase letters.

The Lutheran Church

The text of the Apostles' Creed used by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a major Lutheran religious denomination:

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 Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States, uses the ELLC ecumenical version. The phrase "he descended to the dead" is footnoted to indicate the alternate reading: "or 'he descended into hell,' another translation of this text in widespread use". It does not alter the phrase "the holy catholic church". The ELLC version is also used in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship, which is the primary worship resource for the ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

The Danish National Church still uses the phrase "I renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways" as the beginning of this creed, before the line "I believe in God etc.". This is mostly due to the influence of Grundtvig. See Den apostolske trosbekendelse.

The United Methodist Church

The United Methodists commonly incorporate the Apostles' Creed into their worship services. The version which is most often used is located at #881 in the United Methodist Hymnal, one of their most popular hymnals and one with a heritage to John Wesley, founder of Methodism It is notable for omitting the line "he descended into hell", but is otherwise very similar to the Book of Common Prayer version. The 1989 Hymnal has both the traditional version and the 1988 ecumenical version (see below), which includes "he descended to the dead."

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 Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at 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 Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

The United Methodist Hymnal also contains (at #882) what it terms the "Ecumenical Version" of this creed -- a version which is identical to that found in the Episcopal Church's current Book of Common Prayer. This form of the Apostles' Creed can be found incorporated into the Eucharistic and Baptismal Liturgies in the Hymnal and in The United Methodist Book of Worship, and hence it is growing in popularity and use.

Ecumenical version of the English Language Liturgical Consultation

The English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC) is an international ecumenical group whose primary purpose is to provide ecumenically accepted texts for those who use English in their liturgy. In 1988 it produced a translation of the Apostles' Creed, distinguished among other things by its avoidance of the word "his" in relation to God. The text is as follows:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Liturgical use in Western Christianity

The liturgical communities in western Christianity that derive their rituals from the Roman Missal, including those particular communities which use the Roman Missal itself (Roman Catholics), the Book of Common Prayer (Anglicans / Episcopalians), the Lutheran Book of Worship (ELCA Lutherans), Lutheran Service Book (Missouri-Synod Lutherans), use the Apostles' Creed and interrogative forms of it in their rites of Baptism, which they consider to be the first sacrament of initiation into the Church.

Roman Catholic Rite of Baptism

An interrogative form of the Apostles' Creed is used in the Rite of Baptism (for both children and adults). The minister of baptism asks the following questions (ICEL, 1974):
Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

To each question, the catechumen, or, in the case of an infant, the parents and sponsor(s) (godparent(s)) in his or her place, answers "I do." Then the celebrant says:

This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And all respond: Amen.

Roman Catholic Profession of Faith at Mass

The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed is given first place in the text of the Roman Missal; but "the baptismal symbol of the Church of Rome, called the Apostles' Creed" may be used in its place, "especially in Lent and Eastertide" (Ordinary of the Mass, 19). The latter Creed is generally preferred also at Masses for children.

Today, the Apostle's Creed is the official profession of Faith in the Philippines as decreed by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

Church of England

The Apostles' Creed is used in the non-Eucharistic services of Matins and Evening Prayer (Evensong). It is invoked after the recitation or singing of the Canticles, and it is the only part of the services in which the congregation is required to turn and face the High Altar, if they are seated transversely in the quire.

Episcopal Church (USA)

The Episcopal Church uses the Apostles' Creed as a Baptismal Covenant for those who are to receive the Rite of Baptism. Regardless of age, candidates are to be sponsored by parents and/or godparents. Youths able to understand the significance of the Rite may go through the ritual speaking for themselves. Younger children and infants rely on their sponsors to act upon their behalf.

1. The celebrant calls for the candidates for Baptism to be presented.

2. The catechumen or sponsors state their request for Baptism.

3a. If the catechumen is of age, the celebrant will ask him or her if he or she desires Baptism, which the catechumen will state he or she says "I do."

3b. If the candidate relies on sponsors, the celebrant asks them if they will raise the child in "the Christian faith and life" (ECUSA BCP), and will raise the child through "prayers and witness to grow into the full stature of Christ" to which the parents will state to each, "I will, with God's help."

4. A series of questions are then asked, to which the reply is always "I renounce them":

Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?

5. The second half of the query is asked, to which the reply is always "I do":

Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?

6. The Apostle's Creed is then recited, in which is divided into three parts; the celebrant asks whether they believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to which the Creed is stated in its three divisions in respect to the Three Persons of the Trinity.

Chinese language Protestant churches

The vast majority of the Chinese language Protestant churches under China Christian Council or underground in China, or overseas in various denominations, use the Chinese Union Version of the Bible translated in the 1910s, the Lord's Prayer as it is written in the Chinese Union Version and the Apostles' Creed in the weekly services. The Nicene Creed is rarely used, if any.

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