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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, and Congregationalists.
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 Apostles’ Creed
The title, Symbolum Apostolicum (Symbol or Creed of the Apostles), appears for the first time in a letter from a Council in Milan (probably written by Ambrose himself) to Pope Siricius in about 390: “Let them give credit to the Creed of the Apostles, which the Roman Church has always kept and preserved undefiled”. But what existed at that time was not what is now known as the Apostles’ Creed but a shorter statement of belief that, for instance, did not include the phrase “maker of heaven and earth”, a phrase that may have been inserted only in the seventh century.
The legend that this creed, the forerunner and principal source of the Apostles’ Creed、 had been jointly created by the Apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, with each of the twelve contributing one of the articles, was already current at that time.
The earlier text evolved from simpler texts based on Matthew 28:19. and it has been argued that it was already in written form by the late second century (circa 180 AD)
While the individual statements of belief that are included in the Apostles’ Creed – even those not found in the Old Roman Symbol – are found in various writings by Irenaeus, Tertullian, Novatian, Marcellus, Rufinus, Ambrose, Augustine, Nicetus, and Eusebius Gallus the earliest appearance of what we know as the Apostles’ Creed 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。 This longer Creed seems to have arisen in what is now France and Spain. Charlemagne imposed it throughout his dominions, and it was finally accepted in Rome, where the Old Roman Creed or similar formulas had survived for centuries. It has been argued nonetheless that it dates from the second half of the fifth century, though no earlier
Some have suggested that the Apostles’ Creed was spliced together with phrases from the New Testament. For instance, the phrase “descendit ad inferos” (“he descended into hell”) echoes Ephesians 4:9, “κατέβη εἰς τὰ κατώτερα μέρη τῆς γῆς” (“he descended into the lower, earthly regions”).
This phrase and that on the communion of saints are articles found in the Apostles’ Creed, but not in the Old Roman Symbol nor in the Nicene Creed.
The 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 life everlasting.
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
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 Catholick Church;
The Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.
The Lutheran Church
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,
and born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
who was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
and on the third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of the Father.
From thence 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