CREEDS AND CONFESSIONS (AS. erPda, OF., Fr., Prov., Port.. Sp., It. credo, creed, from Lat.. credo, I believe, the first word of the Apos tles' and Nicene creeds). The names given to the authorized expressions of the doctrine of the Church at large, or of the several main sections into which it is divided. Such statements of doctrine sprang up naturally in the course of the Church's progress. As the simple truths taught by Christ in an informal and concrete form be came the subject of thought, of argument, of con troversy, they could not fail to receive a more definite intellectual expression, and to be drawn out into more precise dogmatic statements. Men's minds, could not he exercised on subjects of such vast importance to them without this result: and the great creeds, as they rise in succession before us. and mark the climax of successive contro versial epoehs in the Church, are nothing else than the varying expressions of the Christian consciousness and reason, in their efforts more completely to realize, comprehend, and express the originally simple elements of truth as they are recorded in Scripture. The study of the creeds would be nothing else than the study of theology in its high•st historical development.— in its reflex settlements after the great agitations of Christian thought had run their course.
Corresponding to this view, we find that the creeds of Christendom grow in complexity, in elab ova lc analysis and precision of doctrinal statement. as they succeed ohe another. The first are compara tively brief and simple in sense and form; the last are prolix and largely didactic. From the Apostles' Creed to the decrees of the Council of Trent. or the chapters of the Westminster Con fession of Faith, there is a wide change, during which the Christian consciousness has grown from a childlike faith to a body of comprehensive criti cal opinions.
What has been called the Apostles' Creed has been referred by tradition to the Apostles them selves. The present text may be traced hack to about the year 500, but evidently depends upon a still earlier and simpler form. This earlier form, which is called by scholars 'The Old Roman Symbol.' was in use in the Roman Church be tween the years 150 and 175. and was originally written in Greek. According to McGifi'ert (The postles' Creed, New York, 1902), it ran as fol lows: "1 believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ Jesus His Son, who was born of Mary the Virgin, was crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried: on the third day rose from the dead, ascended into }leaven, sittcth on the right hand of the Father, from whence lie cometh to judge the quick and the dead; and in the Holy Ghost, and resurrection of the flesh." This shorter
Roman symbol appears to be the root from which the later-received Roman text sprang, as well as the numerous other texts which are found, with various differences, greater or smaller, among the other Churches of the Occident. The inter esting question as to its relation with the Oriental texts throws light on its own origin. The dis tinetion must at once be made between various forms of corifession used at baptism, and the proper, much briefer, 'rule of faith,' or creed. Oriental confessions display great variety of form, and great freedom in the choice of matter. The Eastern churches had no tradition, such as was prevalent at Rome, that the Apostles them selves composed the creed, and hence felt at liberty to modify it as was convenient. Thence, historical portions were replaced by dogmatic, additions were made here and there, various heresies were noted. All, therefore, became sub jective, reflective, dogmatic in character, though in different degrees. Yet at the basis of all the forms there lay a single original, which agreed substantially with the shorter Roman text. The two chief forms, Oriental and Occidental, are twin forms, with unessential variations. Carry ing the investigation DOW still further back, by the study of the forms of the baptismal confes sions found in Tremens. Tertullian. Hippolytus, and Cyprian, we find that the earliest creed must have had all three of the members of the present creed, must have been thought of as an enlarge ment of the command in Matthew (xxviii. 19) to baptize all nations, and must have contained the portions as to the 'Church,' the 'resurrec tion of the flesh,' the 'return to judgment,' and the 'crucifixion under Pontius Pilate,' but no anti-gnostic passages. We must put the date back, therefore, to 175. But it must go still earlier, because of the lack I if 'maker of heaven and earth,' etc., which were directed against the heresiarchs who began to come to Rome as early as 110. Hence, we must put the date at least as early as about. 133. That the creed was brought to Rome from the Orient is probable. but not capable of proof., Consult: IIarnaek, in Iler zeg,,Apostolischcs Symbolum ; also his Gest-hit-hie der aiteh•istliehen Litteratar (Leipzig. 1893).