In my old church we used to recite the Nicene Creed, and sometimes the Apostles' Creed. Does the Apostles' Creed really go all the way back to the time of the apostles?
The Nicene Creed is the classic statement of the Christian faith. There is not a single statement in it that I would take exception to, even though it was written down in its present form in the 300s. Here is the text of the Creed you are asking about:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy universal church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. AMEN.
The so-called Apostles' Creed is also very ancient, though there is no direct evidence it was composed by any of the apostles. This claim can be traced back to the sixth century. It should be acknowledged, however, that most of it can be reconstructed through quotations from Irenaeus and Tertullian, two Christian leaders and intellectuals who wrote in the late second century.
The creed also has one curious clause not present in the Nicene Creed, about Jesus' descent into Hades. This, sadly, is an ancient Christian doctrine forgotten by most modern believers. (Incidentally, I comment at length on this doctrine in lesson 4 of my audio series What Happens After We Die?)
I think we are on pretty solid ground when we admit the Apostles' Creed preserves first century doctrines, even if was (perhaps) not written down until the second century.
Why don't we take a little time -- tomorrow! -- and consider a few further comments on the historic Apostles' Creed.
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