The Implementation of Creed in the Early Church (70CE-300CE)

The first significant creed that the church implemented along with the crafting of a canonized collection of documents was called the “Apostle’s Creed,” which arose from the “notion that the apostles gathered before beginning their mission and composed this creed [where] each [apostle] suggest[ed] a clause.” What must be understood, first, is that the “Apostle’s Creed” wasn’t put together by the apostles but, rather, that it was probably created in Rome around the year 150 C.E. as a “symbol” or recognition of faith, by which “Christians could distinguish true believers from those who followed the various heresies circulating at the time, particularly Gnosticism and Macionism [so that] any who could confirm [a belief in] this creed were neither Gnostics nor Marcionites.”[1] This creed, undoubtedly, under the guise of an invented link to the historical apostles of Jesus, is directed against Marcion and the Gnostics. The second clause of the creed, specifically, stating that “Jesus is the Son of the God who rules over this world and over all reality,”[2] meant to draw a Christological dividing line between what the Church believed and what Marcion and the Gnostics espoused. Not only does the second clause go further to refute the Marcionite and Gnostic belief that Jesus simply appeared on earth but to explicitly state that Jesus was born to Mary by a virgin birth. Also, within the same second clause, the creed also seeks to deny Docetism by referring to Pontius Pilate as a means date the event of Jesus’ crucifixion and “insist on the fact that [Jesus’ crucifixion] was a historical, datable event.”[3] More importantly, to oppose Docetism further, the Apostle’s Creed proceeds to declare that Jesus “was crucified…and was buried. The third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven; and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost; the Holy Church; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body.”[4]

Another important creed was the Nicene Creed, being developed from the Council of Nicaea held in 325 C.E., is “the most widely accepted Christian creed [and] is acknowledged both by Western churches [such as Roman Catholic and churches created by the Protestant Reformation] and by those of the east –Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and the like.”[5] Not only does the Nicene Creed differ from the Apostle’s Creed due to the latter “[being] Roman in origin [and] known and used only in churches of Western origin,” but in purpose and content. The Nicene Creed, then, as approved by the bishops of Nicea, sought to communicate a “main concern [that] reject[ed] any notion that the Son or Word –Logos –was a creature, or a being less divine than the Father.”[6] The subject of this proclamation is within the concept of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. It is here that the Nicene Creed advances a systematic definition of the relationship in the Trinity through “homoousios,” which “intended to convey that the Son was just as divine as the Father.”[7]

[1] Refer to Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation: Volume 1 (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1984), 63.

[2] Ibid., 64.

[3] Ibid.

[4] This is the old Roman form of the Apostle’s Creed from lines 4-11. Refer to Philip S. Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom: Volume 1: The History of Creeds (New York, NY: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1877), 21-22.

[5] Refer to Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation: Volume 1 (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1984), 165.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Homoousios” is translated as “of one substance.” Refer to William L. Reese, Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion: Eastern and Western Thought (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press Inc., 1980), 231; Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation: Volume 1 (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1984), 166.

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