The history and authority of the Apostles Creed

The origin of the precise text of the Apostle’s Creed is unknown; however, it does not take much research to find that the text is fully supported in the Bible. The Apostle’s Creed is a simplified statement of faith that concisely articulates the basics of the Christian faith. The Apostle’s Creed is the foundation of all modern Christian theology.

To deny any part of the Apostle’s Creed is to be ignorant of the crucial teachings of the Christian church. While the Christian church does not hold that Creeds and Confessions can replace or supplement the Bible itself, it is important to know that the Apostle’s Creed itself is only reiterating what the Apostles themselves taught.

The Origin of the Apostles Creed

The early church had no codified defined creeds as we have today. The Christian teachings were handed down through the preaching of the Saints. The early church taught what is basically in the Apostles creed, yet, they never had a written form of their teaching and called it “The Apostles Creed.” It was not till heresies and divisions in the church that any creeds were established.

The very first established creed that was accepted throughout the church as a whole was the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed was established by the Ecumenical church in 325 A.D.. The Apostles creed was established shortly after.

"The Old Roman Creed"

According to Henry Bettensons book “Documents of the Christian Church,”

From Epiphanius, lxxii. 3 (P.G. xliii. 385 D). The creed of Marcellus, Bishop of Ancyra, delivered to Julius, Bishop of Rome, c. 340. Marcellus had been exiled from his diocese through the Arian influence and spent nearly two years at Rome. On departing he left this statement of his belief.

Rufinus, priest of Aquileia, Exposito in Symbolum, c. 400(P.L. xxi. 335 B), compares the creed of Aquileia with the Roman creed which he believed to be the rule of faith composed by the Apostles at Jerusalem, which had been retained as a baptismal creed in the Roman Catholic Church. This creed differs from that of Marcellus only in small details.

1. I believe in God almighty [Ruf. the Father almighty]
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord
3. Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
4. Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried
5. And on the third day rose from the dead
6. Who ascended into heaven
7. Siteth at the right hand of the Father
8. Whence He cometh to judge the living and the dead
9. The Holy Ghost
10. The Holy Church
11. The remission of sins
12. The resurrection of the flesh
13. The Life everlasting. [Ruf. omits.]
Section II Creeds, Chapter I Apostles Creed, page 23

Henry Bettenson further shows that the modern rendition of the Apostles Creed was not found written till,

“A Gallican Creed of the Sixth Century. [Extracted from a sermon (psuedo-agustinus, 244) of Caesarius, Bishop of Arles, 503-543.]”
Section II Creeds, Chapter I Apostles Creed, page 23

While there is no verifiable written word for word representation of the Apostles Creed prior to 340 A.D., we can be confident that the Apostles Creed is the most accurate representation of the Christian Faith in the form of a creed. The teachings within the Apostles creed can be traced to the Bible itself and through the early church fathers.

The teaching of the Apostles Creed handed down through the Saints

The origin of the Apostles Creed can be traced from the New Testament, the Apostles themselves, and through the early church fathers writings. All quotes from the Early Church Fathers come from “The Early Church Fathers,” by Philip Schaff (1819-1893).

The Apostles Creed in the Bible

The Apostles Creed in a nutshell is the Gospel. It is easy to show that the Apostles taught the Apostles Creed as the Gospel of Christ. Below is a table of the Scripture proofs for the Apostles Creed.

The Apostles Creed Scripture Proofs
I believe in God the Father almighty, Isa 63:16, Mat 6:9, Mat 23:9, Luk 11:2
The creator of heaven and earth. Psa 89:11-13, Gen 2:4, Exo 31:17, Act 4:24, 14:15, Eph 3:9
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. Psa 2:7, Joh 1:1-4, 14, 3:16, 16:28, Act 13:33, Heb 5:5, 1John 4:9
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. Isa 7:14, Mat 1:20-23, Luk 1:30-35, Joh 1:14, Gal 4:4, 1Jo 4:2
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. Isa 53:4-5, Joh 19:18, Acts 4:10, 27, 1Ti 6:13,
He descended to hell. Psa 16:10, Act 2:24, 27, 13:33-37, Eph 4:8-10, 1Pe 3:19
On the third day he rose again. Mat 27:40, 67, Mark 8:31, 10:36, Joh 20:19-20, 25-29, Act 2:32, 3:15, 4:33, 1Co 15:12-22, Gal 1:1
He ascended into heaven Luk 24:51, Act 1:9-11, Eph 4:8-10, Heb 4:14, 9:24 
And sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Psa 110:1, Mark 16:19, Act 2:33, 5:31, 7:55-56, Heb 12:2, Heb 8:1 , 1Pe 3:21-22
Whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. Joh 5:22-23, Act 10:42, Rom 14:10,  2Co 5:10, 2Ti 4:1, 1Pe 4:4-5
I believe in the Holy Spirit, Eze 39:29, Joh 14:26, Act 2:17, 13:2, 1Co 2:10-11, 12:13, Heb 3:7-9
The holy catholic Church, Act 9:31, 1Co 1:1-2, 2Co 1:1, 1Ti 3:15, Heb 12:22-25, 1Pe 1:1
The communion of saints, Act 2:42, Rom 12:4-13, 15:26-27, 1Co 1:9, 2Co 8:3-4, Phi 2:1-4 , 1Jo 1:3
The forgiveness of sins, Neh 9:17, Mark 11:26, Mat 6:12-15; Luk 6:37-38 Col 1:13-14, 2:13-14, Eph 1:7
The resurrection of the body, Ecc 12:7, Mat 22:31-32, Mark 12:18-27; Luk 20:27-37, Rom 8:23, 1Co 15:38-56, 2Co 4:14,
And the life everlasting. Amen Dan 12:2, Mat 25:31-33, Luk 16:22-23, Joh 5:28-29, Rom 6:22-23, Gal 6:7-8, Tit 3:5-7

We can see from studying the Apostles Creed, that the Creed was derived from the Bible itself. Not only is the Creed derived from the Bible, this Creed gives an accurate basis for the development of all Christian Theology. Christology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, and Eschatology, which is the basis of all Systematic Theology that we know today. The Apostles Creed formulates the “argument” for the Christian/Catholic Faith giving a firm foundation to build your philosophy of life on.

The Apostles Creed led to the development of other solid statements of faith from years of Apologetics (the defending of the faith). The Westminster Confession of Faith and virtually all Confessions and creeds are rooted in the Apostles Creed. Apologetics is a core part of the Christian/Catholic Faith. In the beginning of the Church, the Apostles spent much of their time counteracting divers views that were opposed to the Apostles original meaning. The Apostle Paul writes,

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!”
Gal 1:8 NASB

The Apostle Paul was constantly having to explain the gospel over again because of people spreading contrary views. The Apostles Creed developed through arguments against those who do not adhere to the original Apostolic teaching. All the Saints who followed the Apostles Biblical teaching stood firm in their faith in keeping that teaching which is found in the Apostle’s Creed.

The Rule of faith or truth

The Saints taught what they called "The Rule of Faith" which is essentially the Apostles Creed. The basics of Christianity and the gospel is the Rule of Faith which is found in the Apostles Creed.

Apostle Peter

A major part of the Apostles creed is found in the Apostle Peters sermon in Acts.

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know– this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. “And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. “For David says of Him, ‘I was always beholding the Lord in my presence; For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. ‘Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; Moreover my flesh also will abide in hope; Because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, Nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. ‘Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence.’ “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. “And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.”‘ “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ– this Jesus whom you crucified.
Acts 2:22-36 NAS

Saint Ignatius of Antioch

Saint Ignatius of Antiochs teachings contained the essential parts of the Apostles creed within them. His Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians was written during the first century. Ignatius said,

These things [I address to you], my beloved, not that I know any of you to be in such a state; but, as less than any of you, I desire to guard you beforehand, that ye fall not upon the hooks of vain doctrine, but that you may rather attain to a full assurance in Christ, who was begotten by the Father before all ages, but was afterwards born of the Virgin Mary without any intercourse with man. He also lived a holy life, and healed every kind of sickness and disease among the people, and wrought signs and wonders for the benefit of men; and to those who had fallen into the error of polytheism He made known the one and only true God, His Father, and underwent the passion, and endured the cross at the hands of the Christ-killing Jews, under Pontius Pilate the governor and Herod the king. He also died, and rose again, and ascended into the heavens to Him that sent Him, and is sat down at His right hand, and shall come at the end of the world, with His Father’s glory, to judge the living and the dead, and to render to every one according to his works. He who knows these things with a full assurance, and believes them, is happy; even as ye are now the lovers of God and of Christ, in the full assurance of our hope, from which may no one of us ever be turned aside!
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter XI.—I

Saint Irenaeus

Irenaeus explains how the teaching of the gospel (found in the Apostles Creed) is preserving the ancient tradition in his writing Against Heresies between a.d. 182 and a.d. 188.

To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition, believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent. Those who, in the absence of written documents, have believed this faith, are barbarians, so far as regards our language; but as regards doctrine, manner, and tenor of life, they are, because of faith, very wise indeed; and they do please God, ordering their conversation in all righteousness, chastity, and wisdom.
Against Heresies: Book III Chapter IV.—2

Tertullian

Tertullian, in around a.d. 208, wrote “The Prescription Against Heretics”, where he puts forth the basics of what is found in the Apostles Creed or “The Rule of Faith.”

Now, with regard to this rule of faith—that we may from this point acknowledge what it is which we defend—it is, you must know, that which prescribes the belief that there is one only God, and that He is none other than the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through His own Word, first of all sent forth; that this Word is called His Son, and, under the name of God, was seen “in diverse manners” by the patriarchs, heard at all times in the prophets, at last brought down by the Spirit and Power of the Father into the Virgin Mary, was made flesh in her womb, and, being born of her, went forth as Jesus Christ; thenceforth He preached the new law and the new promise of the kingdom of heaven, worked miracles; having been crucified, He rose again the third day; (then) having ascended into the heavens, He sat at the right hand of the Father; sent instead of Himself the Power of the Holy Ghost to lead such as believe; will come with glory to take the saints to the enjoyment of everlasting life and of the heavenly promises, and to condemn the wicked to everlasting fire, after the resurrection of both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and raises amongst ourselves no other questions than those which heresies introduce, and which make men heretics
I. The Prescription Against Heretics. Chapter XIII

Novatian, a Roman Presbyter

Novatian writing after the heresy of Sabellius, which appeared 256 a.d., wrote “A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity.” This treatise contains the defense of the trinity and the basics of the Apostles Creed.

The Rule of truth requires that we should first of all things believe on God the Father and Lord Omnipotent; that is, the absolutely perfect Founder of all things, who has suspended the heavens in lofty sublimity, has established the earth with its lower mass, has diffused the seas with their fluent moisture, and has distributed all these things, both adorned and supplied with their appropriate and fitting instruments.
Chapter I

For John says: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us;” so that, reasonably, our body should be in Him, because indeed the Word took on Him our flesh. And for this reason blood flowed forth from His hands and feet, and from His very side, so that He might be proved to be a sharer in our body by dying according to the laws of our dissolution. And that He was raised again in the same bodily substance in which He died, is proved by the wounds of that very body, and thus He showed the laws of our resurrection in His flesh, in that He restored the same body in His resurrection which He had from us.
Chapter X

For in the same way as Isaiah says, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and ye shall call His name Emmanuel, which is, interpreted, God with us;” so Christ Himself says, “Lo, I am with you, even to the consummation of the world.”
Chapter XII

Or that He should sit at the right hand of the Father: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I shall place Thine enemies as the stool of Thy feet.” Or when He is set forth as possessor of all things: “Ask of me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the boundaries of the earth for Thy possession.” Or when He is shown as Judge of all: “O God, give the King Thy judgment, and Thy righteousness to the King’s Son.”. Chapter IX

Eusebius of Cæsarea

Eusebius of Cæsarea shared with the council of Nice his churches creed they used in a.d. 325.

The Creed of Eusebius of Cæsarea, which he presented to the council, and which some suppose to have suggested the creed finally adopted.

(Found in his Epistle to his diocese; vide: St. Athanasius and Theodoret.)

We believe in one only God, Father Almighty, Creator of things visible and invisible; and in the Lord Jesus Christ, for he is the Word of God, God of God, Light of Light, life of life, his only Son, the first-born of all creatures, begotten of the Father before all time, by whom also everything was created, who became flesh for our redemption, who lived and suffered amongst men, rose again the third day, returned to the Father, and will come again one day in his glory to judge the quick and the dead. We believe also in the Holy Ghost. We believe that each of these three is and subsists; the Father truly as Father, the Son truly as Son, the Holy Ghost truly as Holy Ghost; as our Lord also said, when he sent his disciples to preach: Go and teach all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
The First Ecumenical Council. The First Council of Nice. The Nicene Creed

Saint Jerome

In about the year 398 or 399 Saint Jerome says,

“In the symbol of our faith and hope, which was delivered by the Apostles, and is not written with paper and ink, but on fleshy tables of the heart, after the confession of the Trinity and the unity of the Church, the whole symbol of Christian dogma concludes with the resurrection of the flesh.’ 
To Pammachius Against John of Jerusalem, Paragraph 28

The teachings in the Apostles Creed are historically accurate to the Apostles teaching and contains the very gospel itself.


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