Where did the Apostles’ Creed come from? Legend suggests that each of the twelve apostles of Jesus wrote one line of the Apostles’ Creed. Although the Apostles’ Creed is the oldest formal statement of Christian beliefs, it’s not actually that old.
The Apostles’ Creed originated as a Roman creed used as early as the second century. Later, a fourth century letter first referenced a version of that Roman creed as “The Apostles’ Creed.” The rendition of the creed we recite today first appeared in the year 753 AD in a handbook for pastors, written by a man named Pirminius from England.
What does the Apostles’ Creed say? The Apostles’ Creed summarizes the teaching of the Bible, and more specifically, the New Testament. The Creed concisely states the Bible’s teachings about God existing as three Persons in one being: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the Trinity). It also explains the life and work of God the Son, Jesus Christ.
The creed includes two controversial and misunderstood statements:
First, “He descended into hell,” which is based on Bible passages like 1 Peter 3:18-20, that state that at some point between Christ’s death and resurrection he preached good news to “the spirits in prison.” While people still debate the interpretation, many consider hell here to mean the grave.
Second, “catholic church” does not refer to what is known today as the Roman Catholic Church. The word catholic means universal and refers to past, present, and future believers in Jesus Christ in every region of the world.
What is the Apostles’ Creed used for? Today, many Christian traditions accept and recite the Apostles’ Creed as a reliable statement of biblical beliefs. Ultimately, the creed is valuable insofar as it reflects the teachings of the Bible. According to the Church over the last 17 centuries, it has done this job well.