Monday, May 14, 2007

Tampering with Creeds

One thing I really don't like is people tampering with creeds. Creeds are meant to be statements of what the Church as a whole believes. So the church as a whole agreed the Nicene Creed at Nicea (well, actually at Constantinople, but it was based on one they'd agreed at Nicea), then the Pope decided to add the word "filioque" (meaning "and the Son") after "who proceeds from the Father". It caused a big split in the church.

Oh and here's the original form of what is now known as the "Apostles' Creed". This version seems to go back to the 2nd century AD, which is pretty early.

I believe in God the Father almighty;
and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord,
Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried,
on the third day rose again from the dead,
ascended to heaven,
sits at the right hand of the Father,
whence He will come to judge the living and the dead;
and in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Church,
the remission of sins,
the resurrection of the flesh
(the life everlasting).

There's two sources for that, which are word-for-word the same except that they're in different languages. That last line is in one of the sources and not the other one, but otherwise they're identical.

Since then, however, some people have seen fit to add other bits onto it. Some of them (like calling God the Father "creator of heaven and earth") are fine - that line is just taken from the Nicene Creed. Some of them, like "he descended into hell" are debateable, haven't been held by all the church everywhere always and just cause arguments.

What really annoys me about this though is that the Reformation was meant to be largely about rejecting all the bits the Roman Catholics had added to the faith of the apostles, but they kept the creeds as the Romans had them in the 1500s, with all the extra bits added. Grrrr...


Daniel Hill said...

Kelly (p. 378 of _Early Christian Creeds_) says that the clause about the descent first occurs in the Aquileian version of the Apostles’ Creed, which Grudem dates at 390. Kelly adds that its first creedal appearance in any form is in ‘the Fourth Formula of Sirmium’ of 359.

My guess is that the Reformers kept the then-current version of the Creed to show that they were the true heirs of Patristic Christianity. That said, I did read somewhere that Calvin at some point refused to say the creeds, even though he defends the Apostles' Creed (including a certain interpretation of the descent into Hell) in his _Institutes_.

John said...

And, as I recall, the early editions of Institutes were essentially an exposition of the Apostles' Creed.

Simon said...

I never liked the "descent" clause, because it reads like the guy who was told "today you will be with me in Paradise" was on the wrong end of some very black humour.

John said...

The Sirmium councils weren't orthodox - were generally opposed to Nicea, although many of the people involved ended up back in orthodoxy by the council of Constantinople in 381.

So they really really weren't binding. My point was that the Apostles' Creed as it now stands was first approved by a council at Trent, which was explicitly anti-Reformation.