HED:The Apostles' Creed
By John Armistead
The word "creed" is derived from credo, the first word of the Latin version of the Apostle's Creed. Credo in Latin means "I believe."
Probably the first creed used by Christians was the simple statement "Jesus is Lord," which is found in the New Testament.
The Apostles' Creed is one of the earliest creeds developed after the New Testament period. The creed itself dates back to the 200s, although possibly an earlier form was used in the mid-100s.
Like most creeds, the Apostles' Creed was used to combat heresy, and, at the same time, to teach new converts the rudiments of the faith. Then, as candidates for baptism, converts would recite the creed as an affirmation of their faith.
The earliest form of the Apostles' Creed was in Greek and was attributed to the Twelve Apostles themselves (perhaps in an attempt to "authenticate" the doctrines stated), but reached its present form in Latin during the Middle Ages.
The English translation of the creed is as follows:
"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, dead, and buried, descended into hell, on the third day rose again from the dead, ascended to the heavens, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty, from thence will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the flesh, and eternal life."
The earliest known form of the creed doesn't include the phrases "creator or heaven and earth," "catholic" (which means "universal"), "descended into hell," or "communion of saints." Each phrase was probably added in an attempt to combat a particular heresy.
In regard to the phrase "communion of saints" (sanctorum communionem), the emphasis in all likelihood was an attempt to expand the idea of church. Christians were to have a consciousness that all believers of all time were included in the phrase. Undergirding the concept were passages such as Paul's "seeing we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witness" (Hebrews 12:1), a specific reference to many people of faith from the beginning of time.
The Apostles' Creed is used in worship in Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches and in many Protestant churches, such as Methodist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran.
Churches which came out of the 17th century English Separatist movement, such as Baptists and Congregationalists, usually reject creeds, fearing such statements might infringe upon the autonomy of the local congregation and the individual believer in matters of faith and practice.