CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Our Adult Education program is preparing to teach a class on the Apostles Creed. Long recognized as a credal statement of the church, the Apostles Creed has been adopted by the CADRE as its statement of Christianity. As it formerly said on our website (which will return in the future), all members of the CADRE hold to the Apostles Creed (as understood by their church tradition) as a statement of the beliefs necessary to be Christian. If a person does not hold to one or more of the clauses of the creed, then the CADRE long ago agreed that person should not be part of a group arguing for the truth of Christianity because he/she is denying one of the basic tenets of Christianity.

I have been selected to teach an introductory session about the Apostles Creed - what it is and when it was written. Surprisingly I have found a lot of contradictory material about the origin of the Creed. For example, I found that there is a tradition that the various parts of the creed were written by the Apostles and that various older documents have specifically attributed parts of the creed to individual Apostles.

An interesting article by Curt F. Bühler published in Speculum Vol. 28, No. 2 (1953) pp. 335-339 he discusses the fact that each of the Apostles is credited with writing a particular clause of the Apostles Creed. He notes that Montague Rhodes James discusses this attribution in a work written in 1930 entitled "Suffolk and Norfolk" where James notes:

In the relics of painted windows we find a somewhat different treatment, namely, when each Apostle bears a sentence from the Creed. A legend grew up (how early I do not know, but it was being used in the twelfth century) that after Pentecost the Apostles composed the Creed which goes by their name, each contributing a clause. Peter begins: Credo in deum Patrem, and Matthias ends: Et vitam aeternam Amen. Paul is, of course, excluded from this series: he was not yet a Christian . . . the division of the Creed among the Apostles is fairly well fixed.
Curt Bühler then puts up a chart which actually shows that James' claim that the division of the creed "among the Apostles is fairly well fixed" isn't entirely accurate. I have reproduced the chart here, only changing the language of the creeds to English from Latin. As you can see, while there are several clauses that are attributed to the same apostles across the written traditions, there are many variations between the various traditions.

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, born of the Virgin Mary
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried
He descended into hell;

the third day He rose again from the dead
He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost

the holy catholic* Church
the communion of saints;

the forgiveness of sins
The resurrection of the dead
And life everlasting
Peter
John
James
Andrew
Phillip
Thomas
Bartholomew
Matthew
James (less)
Simon
Jude
Matthias
Peter
Peter
Andrew
James
John
Thomas
James (less)
Phillip
Bartholomew/
Matthew
Matthew/ Simon
Jude
Matthias
Peter
Peter
Andrew
James
John
Phillip/ Thomas
Bartholomew
Matthew
James (less)
James/ Simon
Jude
Matthias
Peter
Peter
Andrew
James
John
Phillip/ Thomas
Bartholomew
Matthew
James (less)
Simon
Jude
Matthias
Peter
Peter
Andrew
James
John
Phillip/ Thomas
Bartholomew
Matthew
James/Simon
Simon/ Jude
Matthias
Matthias
Peter
Peter
Andrew
James
John
Phillip
Bartholomew
Thomas
Matthew/
James
James/ Simon
Jude
Matthias
Peter
Peter
Andrew
James
John
Thomas
James (less)
Phillip
Bartholomew/
Matthew
Simon
Jude
Matthias
Peter
Peter
Andrew
James
John
John/  Thomas
James (less)
Phillip
Bartholomew/
Matthew
Simon
Jude
Matthias
Peter
Peter
Andrew
John
James
Thomas
James (less)
Phillip
Bartholomew/
Matthew
Simon
Jude
Matthias
Peter
Peter
Andrew
John
James
Thomas
James (less)
Phillip
Bartholomew/
Matthew
Matthew/ Simon
Jude
Matthias
Peter
Peter
Andrew
John
James
Thomas
James (less)
Phillip
Bartholomew/ Jude
Jude/ Simon
Matthew
Matthias
Peter
Peter
Andrew
John
James
Thomas
James
Phillip
Bartholomew/
Matthew
Simon/ Jude
Matthias
Matthias
Peter
Peter
John
James
Andrew
Phillip/ Thomas
Bartholomew
Matthew
James/Simon
Simon/ Jude
Matthias
Matthias
Peter
Andrew
Andrew
James
John
Thomas
James (less)
Phillip
Bartholomew/
Matthew
Thomas/ Simon
Jude
Matthias

I am convinced that this inconsistency between attributions across the various traditions is what led, in part, Christian History for Everyman in its entry on the Apostles Creed to write: " It's given in 12 lines because there's a medieval myth that each one of the apostles contributed one line to the creed." Unlike the author of Christian History for Everyman, I am not certain that such a blanket of dismissal is warranted. Bühler doesn't agree with that statement, largely because of the Commentary on the Apostles Creed written by Rufinas. Bühler comments:
The tradition that each Apostle contributed one section of the Creed is found as early as the fourth century. This belief is certainly implied by Rufinus in his Expositio in symbolum apostolorum (Oxford, Rood, '1468' [i.e. 14781, sig. a2), and his observations were repeated by St Augustine, Sermo de symbolo (Migne, PL, XL, 1189-90). In two sermons printed among the supposititious works of St Augustine (Migne, PL, xxxix, 92188-91) are found what appear to be the earliest definite attributions, at least so far as I am aware.
The aforementioned Rufinas makes it clear in his writings that he believes that each of the Apostles wrote parts of the Creed when his Commentaries notes:
Our forefathers have handed down to us the tradition, that, after the Lord's ascension, when, through the coming of the Holy Ghost, tongues of flame had settled upon each of the Apostles, that they might speak diverse languages, so that no race however foreign, no tongue however barbarous, might be inaccessible to them and beyond their reach, they were commanded by the Lord to go severally to the several nations to preach the word of God. Being on the eve therefore of departing from one another, they first mutually agreed upon a standard of their future preaching, lest haply, when separated, they might in any instance vary in the statements which they should make to those whom they should invite to believe in Christ. Being all therefore met together, and being filled with the Holy Ghost, they composed, as we have said, this brief formulary of their future preaching, each contributing his several sentence to one common summary: and they ordained that the rule thus framed should be given to those who believe. To this formulary, for many and most sufficient reasons, they gave the name or Symbol. For Symbol (κύμβολον) in Greek answers to both Indicium (a sign or token) and Collatio (a joint contribution made by several) in Latin. For this the Apostles did in these words, each contributing his several sentence. (Emphasis added)
Now, Bühler makes the point that Rufinas Commentaries were written in the 4th Century AD. But what isn't clear by the mention of the Fourth Century is that Rufinias wrote this commentary very early in that century, i.e., scholars estimate that it was written around 307-309 AD. Now, the generally accepted date for the Medieval era begins in the Fifth Century - not the Fourth, and certainly not 309 AD.

It is certainly true that Christians cannot produce a copy of the original Apostles Creed as proof that the Apostles wrote the creed personally. But, at the same time, to the best of my knowledge Rufinas is the earliest writing about the Apostles Creed, and his writing has both the complete Creed (albeit not identical to the Creed used today) and accredits it to the Apostles. Moreover, just because there is no fixed or agreed upon attribution of each of the clauses to a particular Apostles doesn't mean that the original teaching that each Apostle contributed a sentence is untrue. It is simply that the attributions are based on reasonable guesses, but just because the attributions could be wrong doesn't mean that the Apostles didn't each write a part of the Creed

In conclusion, I believe it is reasonable to teach (with appropriate skepticism) that the Apostles did participate in the writing of the Apostles Creed, and it is reasonable to teach that it is not merely a Medieval legend that they Apostles each wrote a clause of the Creed.

7 comments:

first I apologize for not seeing this,I was working on a post for today which I did not Finnish.

Sorry Bill but I think we said the Nicene creed is the standard for CADRE. It's ok Apostle's creed is great too. in fact AP goes a little more latitude so iot;s ok with me,I still think we said Nciene.

I also commend you on your scholarship in researching the article, good article Bill!

You're absolutely right, Joe. I forgot that we used the Nicene Creed. And, of course, the Nicene Creed is based upon the Apostles Creed (or the Creed of Rome which is basically the Apostles Creed with a couple of the clauses missing) when the Nicene Creed was written in or about 325 AD which also gives legitimacy to the claim that it is very ancient.

Thanks for correcting me. Lord knows I'm not perfect.

I am less stuck om the idea that each one contributed a line then I am the idea that all agreed to it. not saying you are stick though. But there, nevertheless, is an argument to be made that why would anyone make that up> for romance? Either way they were all behind it.

I think your concern is warranted. However, I know that there have been times when I have asked people to draft particular sections of a longer document and then we meld it altogether. There has to be an overall editor, but each team member can think through how best to word their section. That's what might have happened. But unless new evidence comes to light, we'll never know for certain.

that's a lot diofferent than going

John :we believe in

Peter one God

Andrwe maker

James of heaven

thadius and earth

Obviously, if you read the chart it wasn't broken down that much, but I hear what you are saying.

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