By John A. Huffman Jr.
Monday, March 01, 2004
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
Tell me, who do you think wrote The Apostles' Creed?
At first blush, the answer seems quite apparent. Obviously, the apostles wrote The Apostles' Creed. If one does not stop to think more deeply on this, and research its origins, one could quickly buy into this idea.
According to an attractive legend that emerges in several versions, it happened something like this particular version, written several hundred years after the account described:
On the tenth day after the Ascension, the disciples composed the creed.
Peter said, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth."
And Andrew said, "and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord."
James added, "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried."
And Thomas said, "He descended into hell and on the third day rose again from the dead."
And James said, "And he ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father Almighty."
And Philip added, "Thence he will come to judge the living and the dead."
Bartholomew said, "I believe in the Holy Spirit."
And Matthew added, "the holy catholic church, the communion of saints."
And Simon said, "the remission of sins."
And Thaddeus, "the resurrection of the flesh."
And Matthias concluded, "with the life everlasting."
Wait a second. It is not that easy. It simply didn't happen that way.
The apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had a significant part in conveying to us Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments as we know them now. They believed the contents that we confess in The Apostles' Creed, but they are not the ones that developed this simple liturgical formulation that we so often recite.
In its generic form, it emerged from a simple, Trinitarian, baptismal declaration of belief in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, into this more specific credal statement. Although every part of what we declare in it was held as belief by the early church, what we now call The Apostles' Creed evolved through the early centuries, along with other, similar credal statements. By the eighth century, this became the most common expression of individual and corporate faith.
As we now embark on this phrase-by-phrase study, I ask for your prayers. Large, complicated books of theology have been written on each of these phrases, or on the subpoints implied by these phrases. Scholars, much more intellectually gifted and more knowledgeable than I, have dedicated their lives to detailed reflection on these themes. My very sincere effort is to help acquaint you with this historic confession, which embodies the essence of our faith and helps us be better grounded as contemporary disciples of Jesus, to live more aware of the truths of our faith in the relativistic era that marks our existence.