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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

Creed, Apostles'

Is a formula or summary of the Christian faith, drawn up, according to Ruffinus, by the apostles themselves; who, during their stay at Jerusalem, soon after our Lord's ascension, agreed upon this creed as a rule of faith. Baronius and others conjecture that they did not compose it till the second year of Claudius, a little before their dispersion; but there are many reasons which induce us to question whether the apostles composed any such creed. For, 1. Neither St. Luke, nor any other writer before the fifth century, make any mention of an assembly of the apostles for composing a creed.

2. The fathers of the first three centuries, in disputing against the heretics, endeavour to prove that the doctrine contained in this creed was the same which the apostles taught; but they never pretend that the apostles composed it.

3. If the apostles had made this creed, it would have been the same in all churches and in all ages; and all authors would have cited it after the same manner. But the case is quite otherwise. In the second and third ages of the church there were as many creeds as authors; and the same authors sets down the creed after a different manner in several places of his works; which is an evidence, that there was not, as that time, any creed reputed to be the apostles'. In the fourth century, Ruffinus compares together the three ancient creeds of the churches of Aquileia, Rome, and the East, which differ very considerably. Besides, these creeds differed not only in the terms and expressions, but even in the articles, some of which were omitted in one or other of them; such as those of the descent into hell, the communion of the saints, and the life everlasting.

From all which it may be gathered, that though this creed may be said to be that of the apostles, in regard to the doctrines contained therein, yet it cannot be referred to them as the authors of it. Its great antiquity, however, may be inferred from hence, that the whole form, as it now stands in the English liturgy, is to be found in the works of St. Ambrose and Ruffinus; the former of whom flourished in the third, and the latter in the fourth century. The primitive Christians did not publicly recite the creed, except at baptisms, which, unless in cases of necessity, were only at Easter and Whitsuntide. The constant repeating of it was not introduced into the church till the end of the fifth century; about which time Peter Gnaphius, bishop of Antioch, prescribed the recital of it every time divine service was performed.

See King's History of the Apostles' Creed; and Barrow's Exposition of it in his Works, vol. 2:

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Creed, Apostles''. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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