Q: #335. What is The Apostles' Creed?
A: First off, let’s define what a “creed” is. A creed (Latin = “credo” meaning “I believe”) is basically a doctrinal statement or a “statement of faith,” based upon scripture, which summarizes what a religious group believes. In Christianity, there are quite a few creeds, but by far the two most used are “The Apostles’ Creed” and “The Nicene Creed.” Historically, creeds were often written to combat heresy and false teaching that was going on the time.
The time that the Apostles’ Creed was written is not known for sure, but a majority seem to believe it was somewhere around the 3rd or 4th century. There is a tradition out there which says that it got its name because it was actually written by the apostles, in part because it can be broken down into 12 separate statements (it is believed each apostle contributed one line). However, the evidence clearly goes against this. Instead, it is better to say that it is a summary of what they taught and believed.
Historically, this creed has often been associated with, and used during baptism. The person being baptized would read it before being baptized as a statement of their faith. If the one being baptized was too young to do it (i.e. an infant), then a parent or godparent would read it in their stead. There are also many churches that read it weekly as a part of their worship service. Some more prominent denominations that use this are: Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Anglicans.
There are a number of versions of The Apostles’ Creed, but most are the same with just a few word variations.
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten 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 sits at 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:
I believe in the holy catholic church:
The communion of saints:
The forgiveness of sins:
The resurrection of the body:
And the life everlasting. Amen.
There are two small controversies that arise with this creed. One is where it says that “He (Jesus) descended into Hell” after His death on the cross. Some believe this did happen, while others do not. For this reason, some leave this statement out when reading it. (I speak about this here.) The other controversy comes with using the word “catholic.” However, this does not mean Catholic (capital “c”) as in the Roman Catholic Church, but rather, “catholic” means “universal,” as in the one true church comprised of all believer’s in Jesus Christ.
This creed is not read in many churches today, especially in newer non-denominational ones, which are not affiliated with the denominations mentioned above. However, this creed does contain some great truths upon which all Christians should agree.