We do not consider the “Apostles’ Creed” as inspired–neither in the form used by the Roman Catholic Church, nor in its numerous variations used by Protestant churches. Some claim that the “Apostles’ Creed” is the oldest of all the Christian creeds. It is considered the basis of all other creeds in non-Catholic churches. As fairy tales would have it, some allege that each of the apostles supplied one article to the Creed. This claim is totally without merit. The apostles had nothing to do with formulating this Creed.
In “The Lost Books of the Bible,” the following is explained:
“Mr. Justice Bailey says [in Mr. Justice Bailey’s Common Prayers, 1813]: ‘It is not to be understood that this Creed was framed by the Apostles, or indeed that it existed as a Creed in their time,’ and after giving the Creed as it existed in the year 600… he says, ‘how long this form had existed before the year 600 is not exactly known…’ The most important ‘addition,’ since the year of Christ 600, is that which affirms, that Christ ‘descended into hell.’ This has been proved… to have been an invention… after the time of Eusebius.”
The Cambridge Encyclopedia, Volume 6, explains that the Apostles’ Creed is “a statement of Christian faith widely used in Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches, and recognized by the Orthodox Churches. It stresses the trinitarian nature of God (as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)… In its present form, it dates from the 8th [century] but its origins go back to the 3rd [century].”
The encyclopedia continues:
“Many Lutheran sources label the Apostles’ Creed as ecumenical since the essential tenets of the creed are held in common by all Christians, though its practical use appears to be limited to Churches whose rituals are derived from the Latin rite (i.e. The Apostles’ Creed holds a special place in Roman Catholic tradition as the ‘ancient Baptismal symbol of the Church of Rome’)…
“Many hypotheses exist concerning the date and nature of the origin of the Apostles’ Creed. The earliest known concrete historical evidence of the creed’s existence as it is currently titled (Symbolum Apostolicum) is a letter of the Council of Milan (390) to Pope Siricius…”
In its present form, the Apostles’ Creed, as used by the Roman Catholic Church, reads as follows:
“I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to hell.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit [or Holy Ghost],
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.”
As mentioned, this Creed, as used by the Catholic Church, is not substantially different from the versions of many of the Protestant churches. It is widely used by a number of Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes, most visibly by liturgical Churches of Western tradition, including Lutheranism, the Anglican Communion, and Western Orthodoxy. It is also used by Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and many Baptists.
Most even use the term “catholic” in the phrase, “I believe in the… holy catholic Church,” with the exception of a few Lutheran churches, especially those in Germany, which have replaced the word “catholic” with “Christian.” Those who have maintained the word “catholic” in their version of the Creed claim that it just means “universal.”
The doctrinal problems with the “Apostles’ Creed” are numerous.
First of all, it clearly suggests the belief in the Trinity–a belief which is a human invention and which cannot be found in the Holy Scriptures. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Is God a Trinity?”
It also suggests that Christ went to “hell,” while He was dead and in the grave for three days and three nights, apparently, so it is said, to preach to demons. This concept is false–Christ had NO CONSCIOUSNESS while in the grave, and He did not go anywhere. For more information, please read pages 26-28 of our free booklet, “Do We Have an Immortal Soul?”
Another wrong or at least misleading concept is expressed in the term, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” Those who have died will not be resurrected with the same body they had. THAT body has long decayed. Those in the FIRST resurrection–who died “in Christ”–will be resurrected to immortal spirit life. Their physical body will not be resurrected at all. Those who died without having known and accepted the truth, will be resurrected in the SECOND resurrection to a physical life–but it will not be a resurrection of their physical bodies which they had when they died, and which since that time had long decayed. For more information, please read our Q&A on the resurrection of the body.
The statement that we believe in the resurrection of the body is not in accordance with Biblical teaching. For the exact nature of CHRIST’s resurrection, please read the above-mentioned Q&A on the resurrection.
Rather than following human attempts to create an “Apostolic Creed,” you might want to review our Statement of Beliefs, summarizing the essential doctrines of the Bible which Christians should believe in and adhere to.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link