The Apostles’ Creed

The Apostles’ Creed is the oldest of the Christian Creeds. An early written version of the Apostles’ Creed, known as the Old Roman Symbol, is from around A. D. 150.

It was originally a baptismal creed, used as a personal confession of faith, recited by the baptismal candidate. Some traditions have the candidate reciting each article of the creed, “I believe in God, the Father almighty…” followed by a sprinkling of water and the baptizer saying, “I baptize you in the name of the Father.” “I believe in Jesus Christ…” “I baptize you in the name of the Son.” “I believe in the Holy Spirit…” “I baptize you in the name of the Holy Spirit.”

The Apostles’ Creed is used liturgically, sometimes as an alternative for the Nicene Creed if a shorter creed is desired. Roman Catholic usage allows the Apostles’ Creed to be used in Masses for children.

It is used catechetically as the outline for Christian doctrine about God and his work.

The Old Roman Symbol

English Translation

I believe in God, the Father almighty.

And in Christ Jesus, his only Son, our Lord,
who was born of the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary,
who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried,
the third day he rose from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
is seated at the right hand of the Father.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

And in the Holy Spirit,
the holy church,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the flesh,
life everlasting.

Early Latin Version

Credo in deum patrem omnipotentem;
et in Christum Iesum filium eius unicum, dominum nostrum,
qui natus est de Spiritu sancto ex Maria virgine,
qui sub Pontio Pilato crucifixus est et sepultus,
tertia die resurrexit a mortuis,
ascendit in caelos,
sedet ad dexteram patris, unde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos;
et in Spiritum sanctum,
sanctam ecclesiam,
remissionem peccatorum,
carnis resurrectionem.

Early Greek Version

Πιστεύω οὖν εἰς θεòν πατέρα παντοκράτορα·
καὶ εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν, τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ, τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν,
τὸν γεννηθέντα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου,
τὸν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου σταυρωθέντα καὶ ταφέντα
καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρα ἀναστάντα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν,
ἀναβάντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανούς
καὶ καθήμενον ἐν δεξιᾳ τοῦ πατρός, ὅθεν ἔρχεται κρίνειν ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς·
καὶ εἰς τò ἅγιον πνεῦμα,
ἁγίαν ἐκκλησίαν,
ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν,
σαρκὸς ἀνάστασιν,
ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

Latin Original of the Apostles’ Creed

Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem,
Creatorem caeli et terrae,

Et in Iesum Christum, Filium Eius unicum, Dominum nostrum,
qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto,
natus ex Maria Virgine,
passus sub Pontio Pilato,
crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus,
descendit ad inferos,
tertia die resurrexit a mortuis,
ascendit ad caelos,
sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis,
inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos.

Credo in Spiritum Sanctum,
sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam,
sanctorum communionem,
remissionem peccatorum,
carnis resurrectionem,
vitam aeternam.
Amen.

Versions in Current English Use

Book of Common Prayer

I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
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 body:
And the Life everlasting. Amen.

From justus.anglican.org

English Language Liturgical Consultation

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 to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

From www.englishtexts.org

The notable difference between the two versions is the line, “he descended into hell” / “he descended to the dead.” The phrase in the Latin is “descendit ad inferos.” How inferos is translated seems to depend on syntax. Inferos is a masculine plural, and favors a translation, “he descended to the dead” that is, ‘he descended to the people of the lower regions.’ Infera would be the neuter plural, and would favor the translation, “he desended into hell,” more directly, “he descended to the lower regions.”

The Apostles’ Creed has its name because it is based on the writings of the apostles, drawing on the gospels and letters of Peter and Paul. The phrase in question is treated by 1 Peter 3:

Christ also suffered once for sins in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in flesh but was made alive in spirit, 19 in which he also went and made an announcement to the spirits in prison. These spirits disobeyed long ago, when God’s patience was waiting in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In this ark a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. (EHV)

The biblical reference and use of the word “prison” for the realm of the dead favors the translation “he descended into hell.

To Witness for Christ

Grant, O merciful God,
that as your holy apostle St. James,
quickly leaving his father and all that he had,
was obedient to the call of your Son Jesus Christ,
and followed him,
and at last cheerfully laid down his life for his gospel’s sake,
so I, forsaking all worldly and carnal affections,
may always be ready to follow your holy commandments,
and whenever your providence will make it my duty,
may readily and cheerfully embrace death,
though armed with his utmost terror,
rather than forsake or deny you.
Let me rejoice in every happy occasion
to testify the sincerity of my love,
by suffering for your truth,
and let the firm belief of those glorious eternal rewards
which you have prepared for those who lay down their lives for your sake,
support me under all the cruelties of the most merciless persecutors.
Grant this,
O blessed Lord,
who died for me,
and rose again,
and now are seated at the right hand of the Father,
to intercede for me,
and all your faithful disciples. Amen.

Source: Liturgy of St. James, Second Century

Source of this version: Freely modified from Prayers of the Early Church, edited by J. Manning Potts, 1953

 

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Prayer to the Teacher

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Be gracious, O Instructor, to us your children,
Father, Charioteer of Israel, Son and Father, both in One, O Lord.
Grant to us who obey your precepts,
that we may perfect the likeness of the image,
and with all our power know him who is the good God
and not a harsh judge.
And make all of us who live all our lives in your peace,
who have been translated into your commonwealth,
having sailed tranquilly over the waves of sin,
may be blown into calm waters by your Holy Spirit,
by the ineffable wisdom, by night and day to the perfect day.
As we give thanks, may we praise, and praising thank you alone,
Father and Son, Son and Father, the Son, Instructor and Teacher,
with the Holy Spirit, all in One, in whom is all, for whom all is One,
for whom is eternity, whose members we all are,
whose glory endures through the ages;
for the all-good, all-lovely, all-wise, all-just One.
To you be glory both now and forever. Amen.

Source: Clement of Alexandria, Second Century

Source of this version: Freely modified from Prayers of the Early Church, edited by J. Manning Potts, 1953

 

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For Stewardship

O Lord God Almighty,
you have built your Church on the foundation of the Apostles,
under Christ, the head corner-stone,
and to this end you blessed your holy apostle St. Barnabas
with the singular gift of the Holy Spirit;
leave me not destitute, I pray,
of your many gifts and talents,
nor of the grace to make a right use of them
always without any goals to serve self,
but to your honor and glory;
that making a due improvement of all those gifts
you graciously entrust me with,
I may be able to give a good account of my stewardship
when the great Judge will appear;
the Lord Jesus Christ,
who reigns with you and the Eternal Spirit,
one God, blessed forever. Amen.

Source: Attributed to Barnabas, Second Century, most likely from a liturgy commemorating Barnabas.

Source of this version: Freely modified from Prayers of the Early Church, edited by J. Manning Potts, 1953

 

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A Prayer for the Privilege of Martyrdom

In your prayers, ask only this for me,
that the Lord may give me strength
that I may not only be called, but proved to be a Christian.
Then I will be seen faithful when the world no longer sees me,
for nothing that is seen is eternal.
The things perceived are temporal,
but the things not seen are eternal.
I write to the churches and charge you all
that I die willingly for Christ,
if you do not prevent me.
I ask that your love for me be at the right time.
Allow me to be devoured by wild beasts,
through whom I may rise to God.
I am the grain of God ground between the teeth of wild beasts,
that I may be found to be the pure bread of Christ.
Then indeed will I be the true disciple of Christ
when the world will no longer see my body.

Not as Peter and Paul do I command you.
They were apostles,
I am the least of them;
they were free,
but I am a slave even to this day,
but, if you wish,
I will be the freedman of Jesus Christ,
and in him I will rise again and be free. Amen.

Source: Ignatius of Antioch, Second Century

Source of this version: Freely modified from Prayers of the Early Church, edited by J. Manning Potts, 1953

 

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A Dying Prayer of Polycarp, the Martyr

O Father of your well-beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ,
through whom we have known you.
O God of the angels and powers and of every living creature,
and of all sorts of righteous people which live in your presence,
I thank you that you have graciously provided
this day and this hour
to allot me a portion among the number of martyrs,
among the people of Christ
to the resurrection of eternal life,
both of body and soul,
in the incorruption of the Holy Spirit.
Among them I will be received in your sight this day
as a fruitful and acceptable sacrifice,
you have already prepared,
often revealed and now fulfilled.
You are the most faithful God who cannot lie.
For all these things I praise you,
I bless you, I glorify you;
through the eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ,
your well-beloved Son,
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, be all glory,
now and forever. Amen.

Source: Polycarp of Smyrna, Second Century

Source of this version: Freely modified from Prayers of the Early Church, edited by J. Manning Potts, 1953

 

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Intercession

May God the Father,
and the eternal High Priest Jesus Christ,
build us up in faith and truth and love,
and grant us our portion among the saints
with all those who believe on our Lord Jesus Christ.
We pray for all saints,
for kings and rulers,
for the enemies of the Cross of Christ,
and for ourselves,
we pray that our fruit may abound
and that we may be made perfect in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Source: Polycarp of Smyrna, Second Century

Source of this version: Freely modified from Prayers of the Early Church, edited by J. Manning Potts, 1953

 

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Your Words Are Channels of Grace into Our Hearts

Lord,
inspire us to read your Scriptures
and to meditate upon them day and night.
We beg you to give us real understanding of what we need,
that we in turn may put its precepts into practice.
Yet we know that understanding and good intentions are worthless,
unless rooted in your graceful love.
So we ask that the words of Scriptures
may also be not just signs on a page,
but channels of grace into our hearts.

Source: Origen (ca. 185-254)

Source of this version: https://shadowsofaugustine.blogspot.com/2008/11/prayer-before-reading-scripture.html

A Canticle of Christ (2)

Born as a Son,
led forth as a lamb,
sacrificed as a sheep,
buried as a man,
he rose from the dead as a God,
for he was by nature God and man.

He is all things:
he judges, and so he is law;
he teaches, and so he is wisdom;
he saves, and so he is grace;
he is begotten, and so he is Son;
he suffers, and so he is sacrifice;
he is buried, and so he is man;
he rises again, and so he is God.
This is Jesus Christ,
to whom belongs glory for all ages.

Source: Melito of Sardis, d. 189

Modified from http://www.catholicdoors.com/prayers/english/p00395.htm

A line was omitted after “he saves, and so he is grace” because of possible doctrinal confusion.

Let Our Mouths Be Filled with Your Praise

Let our mouths be filled with your praise, O Lord,
that we may sing of your glory,
for you have permitted us to partake
of your holy, divine, immortal and life-giving mysteries.
Preserve us in your holiness,
that we may meditate on your righteousness all the day long.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Source: Liturgy of John Chrysostom and Basil the Great

Source of this version: http://www.orthodoxyork.org/

In the hymn ‘Thy Strong Word‘ by Martin Franzmann, stanza 5 may be based on this prayer.