Apostles Creed: and its Early Christian Context

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The Nicene Creed was the first creed composed by an ecumenical council of church leaders, and rather than start from scratch, they built on what was then a commonly confessed statement of faith throughout the world. It is also found in the doxology of the Syria Didascalia, the creed of Aphraates of Persia, and some sermons by Jerome.

Aside from formal creedal statements, the concept itself dates back much further. Martin Luther published his Small Catechism for Christian families in Woe, woe, unto you forever! This day Bible study is a script for parents to use with their kids, walking families through the ideas of the Creed and accompanying Scriptural passages. Following this, he worked as the Educational Resource Manager at Covenant Eyes , a company dedicated to protecting eyes and minds from harmful sexual content online. Be sure to subscribe so we can send you free email updates and resources for raising strong families.

It has some good doctrine in it, but if you are going to read and study it, It really covers nothing about what must I do to be Saved? And also tells us nothing about true Biblical repentance and faith, of which I find missing even in some so called fundamental churches andeven in some brethren assemblies and their outreaches! Plus when it states He descended into Hell it does not qualify that statement, because He certainly did not go into Hell to Pay for our Sins!

I think this is due, more or less, to the fact that the creed was originally a baptismal creed—something confessed by converts who were stating their faith to the church community. It is what the early church said was important to believe in order to be considered a Christian. Your email address will not be published. Are you ready to approach conversations about sex with your kids confidently and biblically? Get FREE instant access to this 3-part video series! Access Now! Shop Now.

More About Us. The creed had originated independently of Scripture--in the early oral teaching and preaching of the apostles; hence its value as a witness to the common faith. But it was not used to supersede Scripture; it was held to corroborate Scripture, where men by their allegorical and other perversions sought to wrest Scripture from its real sense. It was employed as a check on those who sought to allegorize away the Christian faith. The Old Roman Form of the creed was, as said above, certainly in use by the middle of the 2nd century, in Rome; probably a considerable time before.

We have it in both its Greek and Latin forms the Greek being probably the original. The Latin form is given by Rufinus about AD who compares it with the creed of his own church of Aquileia--a very old church. The Greek form is preserved by Marcellus, of Ancyra,in the 4th century. The old shorter form of the creed long maintained itself.

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We find it in England, e. The Received Form of the creed has a much more obscure history. The additional clauses came in at different times, though in themselves some of them are very old. The addition to the first article, e. Another addition, "He descended into hell," meets us first in Rufinus as part of the creed of Aquileia, but is probably also old in that church. It is known that the creed had assumed nearly its present shape perhaps without the above clauses, and that on the communion of saints by the time of Faustus of Reiz, about AD.

Thence it spread, and had reached Ireland apparently before the end of the 7th century. In England it appears a century later, about AD from the court of Charlemagne? The same applies to other countries, so that the Gallican form is now the one in common use. Two significant changes may be noted in the form given to it. In England, whose form we follow, the Reformers substituted for "the resurrection of the flesh" the words, "the resurrection of the body," and in Germany the Lutherans change the word "catholic" to "Christian," in "the holy catholic Church.

It is not only the oldest, but the simplest and least developed of all creeds. It is a simple enumeration, in order, of the great verities which the church was known to have held, and to have handed down from the beginning--which Scripture also taught. Originating from the baptismal confession, it naturally follows the Trinitarian order suggested by the customary formula for baptism. The first article declares belief in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

The second to the seventh articles declare belief in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, and in the great facts embraced in the gospel testimony regarding Him. The eighth article affirms belief in the Holy Ghost, to which are appended the additional clauses, declaring belief in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the flesh body , and the life everlasting.

That He formed His Body by taking portions of it from the substance of the universe, i. In Germany, particularly, quite a fierce controversy broke out in over the refusal of a Lutheran pastor, named Schrempf, to use the creed in the administration of baptism. He did not believe in its articles about the virgin-birth of Christ, the resurrection of the flesh, etc. The offender was deposed, but a great battle ensued, giving rise to an enormous literature. The conflict has been overruled for good in leading to a more thorough examination than ever before of the history and meaning of the creed, but it has given precision also to the attacks made upon it.

A leading part in this controversy was taken by Professor Harnack, of Berlin, whose objections may be regarded as representative. Professor Harnack, and those who think with him, criticize the creed from a twofold point of view:.

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In considering these objections, it is always to be remembered that those who urge them do so from the standpoint of rejection of most that is usually considered essential to Christianity. When it is declared that the virgin-birth is no part of the early Christian tradition, one can only appeal to the evidence of the fact in the Gospels, and recall that no section of the Christian church, except a heretical branch of the Ebionites, and some of the Gnostic sects, is known to have rejected it.

See Virgin Birth. The most important contributions are those of Harnack Das apostolische Glaubensbekenntniss, also English Translation ; Kattenbusch, and Cremer.

The descent into Hades or Hell is an article in the doctrinal tradition of the entire Christian Church. It is strange, however, that few doctrinal statements have had more research and less clarity of understanding than this single statement. Not only are the sources of tradition blurred, but Scripture passages alleged to throw light on the doctrine are denied by some authorities as source material, and those which are used as support create problems in exegesis even to every single word. This particular expression does not appear in the early Rom.

Symbol but makes its first appearance in the Symbol of Aquileia by Rufinus cf.

Confessions of Faith and Sound Theology

It appeared in the Fourth Sirmian Formula in a. Its appearance in these creedal statements, however, reflected an earlier tradition, as it had already been mentioned by Clement of Alexandria , Tertullian, Justin Martyr , and Irenaeus. Thus there is a clear tracing to the apostolic period.


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The question still remains what was understood during the patristic period and in the early creedal statements. Was the descent for the deliverance of the OT saints? Was it an offer of the Gospel to those who had not heard it? Was it a victorious battle with Satan who tried to restrain Christ? None of these questions is clearly answered, and in some such form they still remain. According to the climate of opinion of the day, Christ went to Hades the abode of the dead precisely because He was dead and buried.

What, then, was He like there, and what did He do there? As far as can be known now, the beginnings of this doctrine of the Church rest more in tradition, for which there are now no clear answers, than in Biblical interpretation which seems to have been a later development used to justify the tradition. The basic text used in support of the Descensus is 1 Peter , with the wider context of 1 Peter Rendall Harris, for example, insists that the Scripture contains a textual error in which the name of Enoch has been dropped out, and that there is, therefore, another reference to the apocryphal Enoch relating to Gen with scriptural authority equal to that of Jude Peter was trying to give support to Christians under the pressure of evil men, and reading Jude from the sixth v.

The relevant passage is in 1 Enoch and esp. Peter and St. The simplest meaning, although still an unsatisfactory one, is that the Lord, between His death and resurrection, descended into Hades, although Peter does not say so Hades or Sheol could be in this case a place of punishment or bliss or some such intermediate state and preached to certain spirits in prison there.

Possibly, judging from the context in 1 Peter, they could have been the fallen angels spoken of in Genesis or, more likely, the spirits of that rebellious generation who perished in the flood Gen ff. Christ descended into hell in the interval between His death and resurrection in the soul, and not in the body. The scene of the Descent is the forecourt of hell, the limbus patrum.

The purpose of the Descent was to show His power and glory even in the underworld and to comfort and deliver the souls of the just held captive there, i. Although this is the official position, the theologians of the church are still left with many unsolved problems: 1 If Jesus promised Paradise to the thief on the cross, what is the relationship of Paradise to His time in hell, or is one to assume that Paradise is wherever Christ is?

In other words, where was He when He was not manifested to His followers?

Creedal Christians: The Apostle's Creed | That Ancient Faith

If so, what was His nature when only His spirit descended into hell while His body lay in the grave? The Lutheran problem is intensified by the apparent discrepancies between the theological position and the popular discourses. Luther seems to give a definition in his Easter sermon of 13 April Earl. Here there is a complete abandonment of Roman Catholic dogma. What matters is that Christ really died: vere mortuus est.

He died and was buried and therefore went to Hades, the abode of the dead. He really died. Calvin thought that the Roman Catholic idea that the souls of the dead are confined in a prison is a fabula. With Augustine and Aquinas, Calvin looked upon the Petrine passage as referring to the agonies of the soul in death, what Jesus was experiencing during the hours of His death.

He did not attribute the Petrine passage to the Descensus at all. The possibility that there is preaching to the dead and an offer of salvation after death has no basis in Scripture nor in any sound tradition of the Church in Reformed doctrine. Furthermore, it is one more way of saying what the Creed already said; men are to reach a climax in the building up of phrases: crucified, dead, buried, descended into hell.

Confessions of Faith and Sound Theology

Hell is the existence of the man who is alone with himself with no way of access either to God or to his fellow man. The descent into hell, then, is Christ with man in hell, what no man could expect, what no man could deserve; the love of God reaching across the abyss that sin has made, bearing the pain and darkness of hell with man in order to deliver him to the brightness and joy of life with God See Sheol. Calvin, The Institutes , ed.

Strong, Systematic Theology , , esp.