The Apostles' Creed – What is it?The Apostles' Creed is an early Christian statement of faith used by a wide variety of Christian groups, including Roman Catholics, many Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Church, and many Protestant churches.
Despite its name, the Apostles' Creed was not written by the biblical apostles, but originated after the lives of the apostles. A shortened form of the creed was used as a baptismal confession by the mid-second century and was written down by Rufinus in 390. The full version used today came even later, likely sometime in the fifth century.
Originally in Latin, the English translation reads:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of 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 arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall 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.
The origin of the Apostles' Creed is often shrouded in myth and legend. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia notes, "The legend was that the creed took shape at the dictation of the Twelve Apostles, each of whom contributed a special article. Thus, Peter, it was alleged, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, commenced, 'I believe in God the Father Almighty'; Andrew (or according to others, John) continued, 'And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord'; James the elder went on, 'Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,' etc. This legend is not older than the 5th or 6th centuries, and is absurd on the face of it."
Despite its interesting history, the Apostles' Creed forms an important creedal statement covering many areas of Christian theology. Two concerns continue to exist, however. First, there is much dispute regarding the phrase that Jesus "descended into hell." Second, the holy catholic church is only biblical in the sense of the universal church, including all believers in Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church as an institution was not the intended original reference of this creed. "Catholic" is another term for "universal." All Christians are called to believe in the one universal church or body of Christ consisting of all people who have come to faith in Jesus Christ.
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