History Of The Apostles' Creed

The similarity of the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed, as they

stand in the Prayer Book, {95} suggests the reflection that disputes

about the Human and Divine Natures of Jesus caused the enlargement of

those parts which refer to Him: and that similar enlargements were

caused by disputes about the Holy Spirit, and even about the Father.

We cannot certainly say that the Apostles' Creed as it now stands is

older than
the Nicene Creed. But we know that Eusebius brought to the

Nicene Council (A.D. 325) a form simpler than the Nicene Creed; and

that briefer forms were used in the second century by Tertullian (A.D.

200) and Irenaeus (A.D. 170).

Having already considered the various uses of a Creed, we are prepared

to acknowledge that something of the sort was a necessity from the

beginning. Justin Martyr's writings, about the middle of the 2nd

century, record the arguments about the Existence of God, and of Jesus

Christ, which had influenced him and others for many years, inducing

them to live and die for the Faith. (See Just. M. Apol. and Dial.

Trypho, passim.)

The death of S. John the Apostle must have occurred during Justin's

lifetime. We are led therefore to examine the Bible for traces of a

Creed. The following are some of the passages which supply an answer

to our examination.

Eph. iv. 1-6:

One Body--One SPIRIT--one Hope of our calling.

One Faith--One LORD--one Baptism.

One God and FATHER of all,--above all, through all, in all.

Col. i. 4-22 is an exposition of Faith in God through Christ, with a

reference to the Holy Spirit: {96} but especially concerning the Being

of Christ, who is declared to be

v. 15. The Son fully and perfectly.

v. 16. By whom all things were made.

v. 17. Before all things.

v. 18. Begotten before all worlds.

v. 19. In whom by the will of the Father all the fulness dwelleth.

v. 20-22. Who died for our Redemption and Reconciliation.

1 Cor. xv. 3-8. References by a preacher to what he has taught to any

whole congregation must, almost of necessity, be references to what he

was in the habit of teaching. The articles mentioned here are part

of S. Paul's Creed, viz. the articles which he is about to use as the

basis of an argument about Resurrection.

Acts xix. 2, 3. The ignorance about the Holy Spirit displayed by the

12 men at Ephesus revealed to S. Paul that they had not been baptized

as Christians; for (S. Matth. xxviii. 19) that would have involved

Teaching about the Holy Trinity.

Acts viii. 37. This verse, though not now believed to be part of the

original text, was so believed by Irenaeus (A.D. 170).

It therefore shows us that a confession of faith at Baptism was (1)

expected in Irenaeus' time, (2) expected by someone much earlier, who

being accustomed to it, wrote it in the margin, or between the lines of

a copy of the Acts.

2 Tim. i. 13, 14. The form of sound words was a good deposit which

Timothy was to hold fast.

There are other passages which contain references to the Holy Trinity:

suggesting that the earliest Christians, when thinking of the Godhead,

were prone to include the Three Persons, as we by reason of our Creeds

are also disposed to do. Thus our investigation leads us to suppose

that a Creed was early used as a Basis of Teaching, and as a Password

at Baptism: that it soon settled down into a form very like the

Apostles' Creed: that in A.D. 325 the controversy about our Lord's

Divine Nature led to the expansion of those Articles which referred to


To these we may add that in 381 the Council of Chalcedon expanded the

Article I believe in the Holy Ghost, or formally adopted an expansion

which had become usual: and so gave to the Nicene Creed the form which

it now has.

It is difficult to say exactly where the Apostles' Creed is most likely

to have come as a link in the historic chain.

A comparison may be usefully made between: