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 The Principles of Theology - Article 8

by W.H.Griffith Thomas


<< Introduction

Part 1. The Creeds

The word “Creed” comes from the Latin credo, with which both the Apostles’ and the Nicene Creed commence. The Athanasian Creed does not begin in this way because it was not originally a personal confession, but a declaratory and expository statement of the true belief.

1. The Latin equivalent for “Creed” is Symbolum, σύμβολον. The suggestion that the word was symbolé, συμβολή, meaning a collection, the Creed being the work of the Apostles, one sentence to each man, is manifestly incorrect both etymologically and historically, for symbolé, συμβολή, was never used for the Creed. The word almost certainly meant “watchword,” or “badge,” referring to the oath or password required before an initiation. The best illustration of the term is the Early Church custom of repeating the Creed to the Catechumen orally on the eve of baptism, which was called Traditio symboli, and then requiring the repetition of it before the actual baptism, which was called Redditio symboli.

2. The number is three, and the order of enumeration is of some interest. The Nicene Creed probably comes first because it was used at Holy Communion; the Athanasian comes next perhaps because it was used daily at Prime; while the Apostles’ is mentioned last because connected with ordinary use. And yet in the Articles of 1536 and in the Reformatio Legum the order is Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian.

3. The names of the Creeds are, of course, those by which they are usually known, for “as the Apostles’ Creed was not composed by the Apostles, and the Nicene Creed is not the Creed of Nicæa, so the Athanasian Creed is not the work of Athanasius.” [1] To the same effect are the words of Burnet: “None of them are named with any exactness.” [2]


>> Part 2. The Acceptance of The Creeds



[1] Gibson, The Thirty-nine Articles, p. 329.

[2] Burnet, On the Articles, p. 126.




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The Principles of Theology

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Article 8

>> Introduction

>> The Creeds

>> The Acceptance of The Creeds

>> The Ground of Acceptance

>> The History of The Creeds

>> The Use of Creeds

Content of The Principles

>> Index

>> Preface by J I Packer

>> Introduction

>> 1 - Trinity

>> 2 - Christ

>> 3 - Descent into Hell

>> 4 - Resurrection

>> 5 - Holy Spirit

>> 6 - Holy Scripture

>> 7 - The Old Testament

>> 8 - The Three Creeds

>> 9 - Of Original or Birth Sin

>> 10 - Of Free Will

>> 11 - Of the Justifcation of Man




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