Today’s Reading: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead, on the third day, He rose again. He ascended into heaven. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will 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 the life everlasting. Amen.”
The Apostles’ Creed.
Growing up in the Presbyterian Church, I recall first hearing these words when I went through my confirmation class. I was about nine years old at the time, and I remember our pastor giving us our required assignment: to recite, from memory, two important things: 1) the Books of the Bible, in order of course, and 2) The Apostles’ Creed.
To my amazement, I must have completed the job, because I still have in my possession the black RSV Bible with my name written in the front stating that I was, indeed, confirmed in the Presbyterian Church of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, on June 26, 1960.
Over the years, I’ve returned to The Creed, though admittedly, not as much as I’d like. Being a pastor in contemporary, non-denominational church settings for most of my thirty years in pastoral ministry, I often forgot to be intentional with this ancient tradition. Fortunately, along the way, there have been some great men and women of God who have kept The Creed alive for me.
One such saint is John Michael Talbot. I remember when his album The Lord’s Supper was released in 1979. I was managing a Christian bookstore in Evanston, IL at the time and I can still recall playing that album again and again over our store’s sound system. One of my favorites on that album was Talbot’s five-and-a-half-minute version of The Apostles’ Creed, a wonderfully-orchestrated, guitar-driven classic, simply entitled, Creed. Give it a listen! (begins at 9:45 on side 1)
So, what’s the history of The Apostles’ Creed, you might ask?
The earliest mention of a written creed actually dates back to the 4thcentury when the Latin phrase symbolum apostolicum, meaning a symbol or creed of the Apostles, occurs in a letter written in A.D. 390 by Ambrose, from a Council in Milan to Pope Siricius. As legend goes, the early church believed that The Creed was first formed when each of Jesus’ disciples contributed one line to the text. A more likely explanation is that this early form of the creed mentioned in Ambrose’s letter evolved from Matthew 28: 19 (the Great Commission), yet it has been argued that some written form of a creed was actually in place by the late 2nd century!
While many of the statements of belief found within today’s Creed can be found in various writings of early church fathers such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Rufinus, Augustine, and others, the earliest appearance of what we now know as the Apostles’ Creed was in the De singulis libris canonicis scarapsus (Excerpt from Individual Canonical Books) of St. Pirminius, written around A.D. 715. Today, different versions of The Creed are used by various denominations or sects of the Christian faith, yet we all share in the basic beliefs found within these powerful words.
I invite you to join me over the next few weeks as we take a journey into The Apostles’ Creed, contemplating the foundational truths found within this ancient text.
My prayer: Jesus, I thank You for these ancient words that have been preserved for us through the centuries. While not equal to the Scriptures themselves, these words of The Apostles’ Creed are indeed worthy of my study. As I ponder and meditate on these phrases, may You, Holy Spirit, indwell me and empower me to appreciate the presence of God found within this ancient text. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to consider: As I prepare to ponder on the historic truths found within The Apostles’ Creed, what words might I use to describe the core beliefs within my Christian faith? What are the essential truths I must hold on to as I journey with Jesus today?
So, what are you experiencing today as we are Contemplating The Creed?
Over a seven-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at The Apostles Creed. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Contemplating the Creed home page for ease of use.
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!