Magazine article U.S. Catholic

How Did We Get a Creed?

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

How Did We Get a Creed?

Article excerpt


Christianity has always emphasized faith as a person's life-defining response to Jesus Christ. Early Christians put their deepest convictions about God, creation, and salvation into set forms known as "creeds" that served as badges of identity.

The word creed comes from the Latin word credo, "I believe." Christian faith is more than a set of"beliefs." It is the energy that binds a believer to the God who revealed himself in Christ. The Gospel of John stresses faith's dynamism by using the action word "believe" nearly a hundred times, usually with an emphasis on believing "in" God or Christ; it never talks about "having beliefs."

The earliest writings of the New Testament contain short confessions of faith, such as "Jesus is Lord" (1 Cot. 12:3). One confession, "For us there is one God ... and one Lord" (1 Cor. 8:6), may be a Christianized form of the Shema, the ancient biblical formula still confessed by devout Jews: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone!" (Deut. 6:5). Christians added a narration of the events of Christ's death, burial, and Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-5).

Ancient peoples ascribed more power to the spoken than to the written word, and ancient creeds are based on oral baptismal confessions spoken in the presence of the Christian community. The earliest written records date from earlythird-century Rome, but the practice is certainly much older.

A series of questions addressed to candidates for Baptism began with God, the Father Almighty. …

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