Apostles’ Creed

The Apostles’ Creed (Symbolum Apostolorum or Symbolum Apostolicum), sometimes titled the Apostolic Creed or the 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 Catholic ChurchLutheranism and Anglicanism. It is also used by Presbyterians, Moravians, Methodists and Congregationalists.

The Apostles’ Creed is trinitarian in structure with sections affirming belief in God the FatherGod the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The Apostles’ Creed was based on Christian theological understanding of the canonical gospels, the letters of the New Testament and to a lesser extent the Old Testament. Its basis appears to be the old Roman Creed known also as the Old Roman Symbol.

Because of the early origin of its original form, it does not address some Christological issues defined in the Nicene and other Christian creeds. It thus says nothing explicitly about the divinity of either Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Nor does it address many other theological questions which became objects of dispute centuries later.

The earliest known mention of the expression “Apostles’ Creed” occurs in a letter of AD 390 from a synod in Milan and may have been associated with the belief, widely accepted in the 4th century, that, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, each of the Twelve Apostles contributed an article to the twelve articles of the creed.

Apostles' Creed

Apostles’ Creed

History

The word Symbolum, standing alone, appears around the middle of the third century in the correspondence of St. Cyprian and St. Firmilian, 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.

The title Symbolum Apostolicum (Symbol or Creed of the Apostles) appears for the first time in a letter, probably written by Ambrose, from a Council in Milan to Pope Siricius in about AD 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 7th century.

The account of the origin of this creed, the forerunner and principal source of the Apostles’ Creed, as having 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, part of the Great Commission, and it has been argued that this earlier text was already in written form by the late 2nd century (c. 180).

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, Nicetas, 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. Pirminius (Migne, Patrologia Latina 89, 1029 ff.), written between 710 and 714. Bettenson and Maunder state that it is first from Dicta Abbatis Pirminii de singulis libris canonicis scarapsus (idem quod excarpsus, excerpt), c. 750. 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 Symbol or similar formulas had survived for centuries. It has been argued nonetheless that it dates from the second half of the 5th century, though no earlier.

As can be seen from various creeds all quoted in full below, although the original Greek and Latin creeds both specifically refer to “the resurrection of the flesh” (σαρκὸς ἀνάστασιν and carnis resurrectionem), the versions used by several churches, like the Catholic Church, the Church of England, Lutheran churches and Methodist churches, talk more generally of “the resurrection of the body”.

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”). It is of interest that this phrase first appeared in one of the two versions of Rufinus in AD 390 and then did not appear again in any version of the creed until AD 650. 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.

Text 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 inferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis,
ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Dei 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.

Text in Greek

The Greek text is “not normally used in Greek and Eastern Orthodox churches”.

Πιστεύω εἰς θεòν πατέρα, παντοκράτορα, ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς.
Καὶ (εἰς) Ἰησοῦν Χριστòν, υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τòν μονογενῆ, τòν κύριον ἡμῶν,
τòν συλληφθέντα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου, γεννηθέντα ἐκ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου,
παθόντα ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου, σταυρωθέντα, θανόντα, καὶ ταφέντα,
κατελθόντα εἰς τὰ κατώτατα, τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἀναστάντα ἀπò τῶν νεκρῶν,
ἀνελθόντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανούς, καθεζόμενον ἐν δεξιᾷ θεοῦ πατρὸς παντοδυνάμου,
ἐκεῖθεν ἐρχόμενον κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς.
Πιστεύω εἰς τò πνεῦμα τò ἅγιον, ἁγίαν καθολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν, ἁγίων κοινωνίαν,
ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν, σαρκὸς ἀνάστασιν, ζωὴν αἰώνιον.
Ἀμήν.

English translations

Ecumenical (interdenominational) versions

15th-century Flemish tapestry illustrating the first four articles of the Creed

15th-century Flemish tapestry illustrating the first four articles of the Creed

International Consultation on English Texts

The International Consultation on English Texts (ICET), a first inter-church ecumenical group that undertook the writing of texts for use by English-speaking Christians in common, published Prayers We Have in Common (Fortress Press, 1970,1971,1975). Its version of the Apostles’ Creed was adopted by several churches.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He 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,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

English Language Liturgical Consultation

The English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC), a successor body to the International Consultation on English Texts (ICET), published in 1988 a revised translation of the Apostles’ Creed. It avoided the word “his” in relation to God and spoke of Jesus Christ as “God’s only Son” instead of “his only Son”. In the fourth line, it replaced the personal pronoun “he” with the relative “who”, and changed the punctuation, so as no longer to present the Creed as a series of separate statements. In the same line it removed the words “the power of”. It explained its rationale for making these changes and for preserving other controverted expressions in the 1988 publication Praying Together, with which it presented its new version:

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.

Catholic Church

The initial (1970) English official translation of the Roman Missal of the Catholic Church adopted the ICET version, as did catechetical texts such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In 2008 the Catholic Church published a new English translation of the texts of the Mass of the Roman Rite, use of which came into force at the end of 2011. It included the following translation of the Apostles’ Creed:

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.

Traditional twelve articles of the Creed

In its discussion of the contents of the Creed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church presents it in the traditional division into twelve articles:

  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. Under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, died, and was buried.
  5. He descended to the dead. 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.

The same division into twelve articles is found also in Anabaptist catechesis:

Leonhart: Which of the articles of the creed deal with baptism?
Hans: The ninth and tenth articles, where we confess the universal Christian church, the fellowship of the saints and forgiveness of sins, just as the Lord’s Supper is also included there.

Pelbartus Ladislaus of Temesvár gives a slightly different division, assigning one phrase to each apostle: Peter (No. 1), John (No. 2), James, son of Zebedee (No. 3), Andrew (No. 4), Philip (No. 5a: descendit ad infernos…), Thomas (No. 5b: ascendit ad caelos…), Bartholomew (No. 6), Matthew (No. 7), James, son of Alphaeus (No. 8), Simon (No. 9), Jude (No. 10), Matthias (No. 11–12).

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, 1662

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.
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.

Lutheran Church

Evangelical Lutheran Worship

The publication Evangelical Lutheran Worship published by Augsburg Fortress, is the primary worship resource for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. It presents the official ELCA version, footnoting the phrase “he descended to the dead” to indicate an alternative reading: “or ‘he descended into hell,’ another translation of this text in widespread use”.

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.

Church of Denmark

The Church of Denmark still uses the phrase “We renounce the devil and all his doings and all his beings” as the beginning of this creed, before the line “We believe in God etc.” This is mostly due to the influence of the Danish pastor Grundtvig. See Den apostolske trosbekendelse.

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 No. 881 in the United Methodist Hymnal, one of their most popular hymnals and one with a heritage to brothers John Wesley and Charles Wesley, founders 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, which includes “he descended to the dead.”

The Apostles’ Creed as found in The Methodist Hymnal of 1939 also omits the line “he descended…” The Methodist Hymnal of 1966 has the same version of the creed, but with a note at the bottom of the page stating, “Traditional use of this creed includes these words: ‘He descended into hell.'”

However, when the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in the United States in 1784, John Wesley sent the new American Church a Sunday Service which included the phrase “he descended into hell” in the text of The Apostles’ Creed. It is clear that Wesley intended American Methodists to use the phrase in the recitation of the Creed.

The United Methodist Hymnal of 1989 also contains (at #882) what it terms the “Ecumenical Version” of this creed which is the ecumenically accepted modern translation of the International Committee on English Texts (1975) as amended by the subsequent successor body, the English Language Liturgical Consultation (1987). 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. The word “catholic” is intentionally left lowercase in the sense that the word catholic applies to the universal and ecumenical Christian 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,
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,
is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and will come again 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 Apostles’ Creed is used in its direct form or in interrogative forms by Western Christian communities in several of their liturgical rites, in particular those of baptism and the Eucharist.

Rite of Baptism

The Apostles’ Creed, whose present form is similar to the baptismal creed used in Rome in the third and fourth centuries, actually developed from questions addressed to those seeking baptism. The Catholic Church still today uses an interrogative form of it in the Rite of Baptism (for both children and adults). In the official English translation (ICEL, 1974) the minister of baptism asks:

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.

The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand uses the Apostles’ Creed in its baptism rite in spite of the reservations of some of its members regarding the phrase “born of the virgin Mary”.

The Episcopal Church in the United States of America uses the Apostles’ Creed as part of a Baptismal Covenant for those who are to receive the Rite of Baptism. The Apostles’ Creed is recited by candidates, sponsors and congregation, each section of the Creed being an answer to the celebrant’s question, “Do you believe in God the Father (God the Son, God the Holy Spirit)?” It is also used in an interrogative form at the Easter Vigil in The Renewal of Baptismal Vows.

The Church of England likewise asks the candidates, sponsors and congregation to recite the Apostles’ Creed in answer to similar interrogations, in which it avoids using the word “God” of the Son and the Holy Spirit, asking instead: “Do you believe and trust in his Son Jesus Christ?”, and “Do you believe and trust in the Holy Spirit?” Moreover, “where there are strong pastoral reasons”, it allows use of an alternative formula in which the interrogations, while speaking of “God the Son” and “God the Holy Spirit”, are more elaborate but are not based on the Apostles’ Creed, and the response in each case is: “I believe and trust in him.” The Book of Common Prayer may also be used, which in its rite of baptism has the minister recite the Apostles’ Creed in interrogative form. asking the godparents or, in the case “of such as are of Riper Years”, the candidate: “Dost thou believe in God the Father …” The response is: “All this I stedfastly believe.”

Lutherans following the Lutheran Service Book (Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church–Canada), like Catholics and Anglicans, use the Apostles’ Creed during the Sacrament of Baptism:

Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth?
Do you 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 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?
Do you 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?

Following each question, the candidate answers: “Yes, I believe”. If the candidates are unable to answer for themselves, the sponsors are to answer the questions.

For ELCA Lutherans who use the Evangelical Lutheran Worship book, the Apostles’ Creed appears during the Sacrament of Holy Baptism Rite on p. 229 of the hardcover pew edition.

Methodists use the Apostles’ Creed as part of their baptismal rites in the form of an interrogatory addressed to the candidate(s) for baptism and the whole congregation as a way of professing the faith within the context of the Church’s sacramental act. For infants, it is the professing of the faith by the parents, sponsors, and congregation on behalf of the candidate(s); for confirmands, it is the professing of the faith before and among the congregation. For the congregation, it is a reaffirmation of their professed faith.

Do you believe in God?
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ?
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, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?
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.

Eucharistic Rite

Since the 2002 edition, the Apostles’ Creed is included in the Roman Missal as an alternative, with the indication, “Instead of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, especially during Lent and Easter time, the baptismal Symbol of the Roman Church, known as the Apostles’ Creed, may be used.” Previously the Nicene Creed was the only profession of faith that the Missal gave for use at Mass, except in Masses for children; but in some countries use of the Apostles’ Creed was already permitted.

Liturgy of the Hours

The Apostles’ Creed is used in Anglican services of Matins and Evening Prayer (Evensong). It is invoked after the recitation or singing of the Canticles, and is the only part of the services in which the congregation traditionally turns to face the altar, if they are seated transversely in the quire.

The Episcopal Church (United States) uses the Apostles’ Creed in Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.

Before the 1955 simplification of the rubrics of the Roman Breviary by Pope Pius XII, the Apostles’ Creed was recited at the beginning of matins and prime, at the end of compline, and in some preces (a series of versicles and responses preceded by Kyrie, eleison (“Lord, have mercy”) and the Our Father) of prime and compline on certain days during Advent and Lent.
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See also

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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