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The Silence of the Lambs

Posted by on Oct 20, 2010 in church history | 13 comments

The Silence of the Lambs

One of the earliest creeds created by Christians (besides “Jesus is Lord”) is the Apostles’ Creed:

1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.
6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10. the forgiveness of sins,
11. the resurrection of the body,
12. and life everlasting.

Apparently, the earliest (extant) written version of the creed comes from around 390 AD. However, many believe that this creed is much older, perhaps dating to the second century.

Thus, this statement was written and used by many early Christians at a time when the church was discussing and arguing about many different things. Now, one of those arguments concerned the nature of Jesus Christ and his relationship with God, which is covered by the creed.

But, there were other discussions, arguments, and disagreements as well: baptism, communion (eucharist), bishops/pastors/elders/deacons/etc., and on and on. However, these items did not find their way into the earliest of creeds.

Why do you the earliest creeds did not include some of these items? Why do you think they only focused on the few key aspects listed above? Why do you think modern day creeds and confessions go into much more detail?


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  1. 10-20-2010

    I would guess that the early church did not put those other things in the creeds because they are not essential, and the reason subsequent groups have put those things in is to separate them from other groups and control their members.

    But, that’s just a guess. :)

  2. 10-21-2010


    That makes sense to me.


  3. 10-22-2010

    That makes no sense to me. The Creed I recite every day doesn’t mention Bishops, Priests, or Deacons, and I have all three. Absence in the Creed is not absence in the Church. Are there modern creeds which discuss these sorts of things? I’m only aware of the Catholic creeds.

    Look at the earliest writings which deal with ecclesiology from the 2nd century forward and see if you find anything other than Bishops/Priests/Deacons. Also – an interesting challenge (one I took upon myself a few years ago): find someone with your ecclesiology in the early Church who also holds to an orthodox Christology. It seems that an orthodox Christology leads to an orthodox ecclesiology because the person of Christ is the foundation for a proper ecclesiology.

  4. 10-22-2010


    The creed you recite doesn’t mention bishops, priests, deacons, etc., but what about your catechism?

    Besides Peter, Paul, John, etc., I also appreciate the ecclesiology and Christology of the Didache, 1 Clement, and Polycarp just to name a few off the top of my head.


  5. 10-22-2010

    You think 1 Clement, the Didache, Peter, Paul, and John were 2nd century?

    A Catechism isn’t a Creed – and I’d be happy to discuss early Catechisms in regards to ecclesiology.

    Also, notice I said “which deal with ecclesiology” – Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians doesn’t deal with ecclesiology, so obviously we shouldn’t look to it for any debates on ecclesiology in the early Church.

  6. 10-22-2010


    I think that Peter, Paul, and John were 1st century. The Didache and 1 Clement were around the turn of the century, so its hard to place them exactly.

    But, why would I want to limit myself to the 2nd century forward?

    I don’t think I said that a catechism was a creed.

    What about Polycarp to the Philippians 5.3, 6.1, and 11.1 and following? Not about ecclesiology?


  7. 10-22-2010

    You brought up the Catechism in a discussion about the Creed – you made the link, not me. I said, “The Creed I recite every day doesn’t mention…” and you said “…but what about your catechism?” Well, what about it? If this is a discussion about Creeds (ancient and modern), then why bring it up?

    Moving from the 2nd Century forward helps us to see what the earliest Christian communities did with Scripture. Otherwise, we’ll just be locked into a stalemate in our own modern interpretations of the New Testament.

    And what ecclesiological principles does one gain from Polycarp’s mentioning that Deacons should be blameless, that Presbyters should visit widows, or that Valens was once a presbyter but due to some sort of sin, he is no longer one? You’re trying to do too much with too little evidence if your sources do nothing more than mention the offices.

    But, again, the question is about the Creed: I mentioned the fact that the Creed I recite every day has no mention of Bishops, Priests, or Deacons. If someone 2000 years from today were to only know the Creed I say, would they be able to tell what the ecclesiological structure of my Church is? Of course not. However, it would be absurd for them to assume that because the Creed doesn’t mention any them, they don’t exist.

  8. 10-22-2010


    I brought it up because there is a connection between the creeds and catechisms (and confessions). Why did the earliest Christians not include as much information in the creeds as you now have in your catechism? (Actually, I think that’s the question that I asked in this post.)

    So, what do we do when the 2nd century and forward Christians did more than what we find in Scripture? Simply accept it because we don’t want to stalemate on our own modern interpretations?

    Seems like you mentioned several aspects of ecclesiology in your question. In fact, those aspects seem very similar to what we read in the NT.

    “However, it would be absurd for them to assume that because the Creed doesn’t mention any them, they don’t exist.” I agree they did exist in some form. In fact, from place to place, it seems they existed in different forms. The creeds do not specify a form for all of those aspects of ecclesiology. Why not? (Again, my question from the original post.)


  9. 10-22-2010

    Your question seems to confuse categories – since Creeds are not Catechisms, why would any Christian put the information relevant to a Catechism into a Creed? Creeds aren’t meant to be Catechisms (though they certainly help to teach the faith). It would take quite awhile to recite the entire Catechism every day at Mass. We still don’t put everything from the Catechism into the Creed – why would we? And why would the early Christians? When they talk about ecclesiology, they discuss a Church that looks rather Catholic. Isn’t that sufficient evidence?

    Nobody would deny that Catholics have a Pope, but we don’t mention him in the Creed. By your standards, you should assume modern Catholics do not believe in a universal pastor.

    On what to do with early Christian exegesis: I suppose this is why Christ gave us a Church with teaching authority. The Fathers as a whole bear witness to the faith of the earliest Christian communities. If you, in your private interpretation of the Bible disagree with them, then so be it. I wouldn’t ask that you give up what your conscience compels you to believe, only that you would consider the historical position of the Church. I think the Scriptures teach exactly what I believe. Take John 6 or Matt. 26.26 – we can both read it, but we both believe wildly different things about it. If you’re reading the Scriptures outside of the faith community for whom they are intended, then of course you’re not going to come to the same conclusions as the community for whom they were written. That’s why I think the historical position of the Church is important – I can look back through history and find a Eucharistic faith throughout the ages which informs my beliefs about John 6 and Matt 26.26.

    And sure, what I showed from Polycarp was that there are Deacons and Presbyters. I agree. I’m not sure what else one can really draw from Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians concerning ecclesiology.

    Saying that the Creed lacks an in-depth ecclesiological component is true – but it’s misleading. It sort of reminds me of Ehrman’s statements in ‘Misquoting Jesus.’ Sure, there are more textual variants than there are words in the NT. That statement alone, however, is insufficient in describing the state of NT manuscripts and could lead one to draw wrong conclusions. Likewise, simply saying the Creed lacks an in-depth ecclesiological component without pointing to the fact that the Creed was drawn up and used in a hierarchical and Eucharistic Church is misleading.


  10. 10-22-2010

    Also – I’m not meaning to be a gadfly here. These are just issues that are near and dear to my heart.

  11. 10-22-2010


    I don’t think of you as a gadfly. I’m glad that you commented.

    What does it mean to you that I accept the Apostles Creed, but not the Catholic Catechism? :)


  12. 10-23-2010

    I think there’s very little in the Creed that most Protestants would find objectionable. I don’t believe you can mean the same thing when you say ‘one, holy, Catholic Church’ that Catholics for 2000 years have meant, nor do think you believe in the same ‘communion of saints’, though I imagine you can find a way to explain what that really means within your own Protestant framework.

  13. 10-23-2010


    Perhaps the biggest difference is that I do not think either the Roman Catholic understanding or the Protestant understanding of “communion of saints” is necessarily correct or important. I’m not chasing either.