What Is the Apostles’ Creed?

ZA Blog on September 21st, 2018. Tagged under ,,.

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Apostles Creed

The Apostles’ creed is the oldest statement of faith in the Christian church, written sometime in the second century AD. The creed defines core Christian beliefs about God, Jesus, the church, salvation, and other theological topics.

By the fourth century, it was widely believed that each of the twelve apostles contributed one article to the creed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church still traditionally attributes each article of the creed to a specific apostle.

In this video, Michael Bird, instructor of the online course on the Apostles Creed from Zondervan, explains:

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Unlike the Nicene Creed from the fourth century, the Apostles’ Creed doesn’t explicitly state the nature of Jesus’ divinity or define the relationship between members of the Trinity, which left room for heresies to slip into Christian churches. But it did play an important role in understanding baptism in the early church, and helped Christians establish orthodoxy.

Today, numerous denominations still use some form of the Apostles’ Creed as their statement of faith, including:

  • Catholics
  • Lutherans
  • Anglicans
  • Methodists
  • Presbyterians
  • Congregationalists

What does the Apostles’ Creed say?

There are several forms of the creed circulated in English-speaking churches, but most are only slight variations that include, edit, or omit phrases that appear to have been added to the creed later (such as “he descended into hell”) or that could create confusion (such as “holy catholic church”).

Ecumenical version

The ecumenical version of the creed was translated in 1988, and was intended to serve as a translation all English-speaking churches could use.

“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.”

Roman Catholic version

The Catholic church uses the Apostles’ Creed in Mass, and traditionally attributes each article to one of the twelve apostles.

“I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator 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;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there 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 life everlasting.
Amen.”

Historical background of the creed

The Apostles’ Creed probably developed in ancient Rome, in the last half of the second century—a very tumultuous time for the Roman Church. Christians faced the constant threat of persecution. Heresies sprouted and flourished in pockets throughout the church.

There was also a lot of schisms between bishops, who supported different Christian leaders and disagreed about who was the rightful bishop of Rome. And yet, in this context of external threat, internal division, and danger of heresy, the Roman church devised this unified creed for new converts to profess at baptism. And this creed became their symbol of the Christian fight, a way of stating Christian beliefs that every Christian could profess.

The significance of the Apostles’ Creed

The Apostles’ Creed is one of the most universally recognized summaries of the Christian faith. It’s a concise explanation of the Bible’s key message, formulated and agreed upon by some of Jesus’ earliest followers.

What we believe about God, Jesus, and salvation has a direct impact on how we live out and express our faith. The creed ensures that Christians develop an accurate understanding of the hope the gospel offers, and that we have a shared belief system.

Studying the Apostle’s Creed forces us to go in-depth into central Christian doctrines, to know where they came from, what they are, and what their implications are.

A universal Christian belief

While Protestants and Catholics have many differences, almost all major Christian churches can agree on the Apostles’ Creed. It expresses core beliefs the global church can stand behind together, and unites us under the umbrella of Christianity established by the earliest Christ followers.

Learn more about the Apostles Creed in Michael Bird’s online course, What Christians Ought to Believe.

  • Marius Mateescu 3 months ago

    Does the Orthodox church follow the Catholic creed or the universal creed?

  • Richard A. Bjorklund 2 months ago

    The Orthodox church would follow the untranslated Greek language original.

  • Henry Platsky 2 months ago

    What is the ancient authority giving authorship of the creed to the Apostles?