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In interpreting the Apostles’ Creed historically the foregoing observations supply us with the rule that those portions of it which were already a part of the old Roman confession are to be explained from the theology of the later Apostolic and post-Apostolic ages, not simply, as some claim, from the New Testament. This explanation must take note of the fact that the symbol is an elaborated baptismal formula,6767“Amplius aliquid respondentes, quam dominus in evangelio determinavit” (Tertul. De coron. mil. 3). and therefore it must not be regarded in its ancient 85form as in any way an expression of intra-church polemics, but rather as a Christian confession, framed with the object of giving instruction in Christianity, as distinguished from Judaism and Heathenism.6868Upon the use of the symbol as the foundation of catechetical instruction, cp. Zerschwitz, Katechetik, ii. i. S. 73-139. See also the work on the Disciplina Arcani. In the course of history, the theological explanation of the symbol naturally keeps pace, in the main, with the general development of dogmatics and theology. But the distinction between theological rules of faith and a confession serving for Christian instruction is always clear to Western consciousness, and is characteristically reflected in the Explanationes Symboli. As regards the phrases which we find in the Apostles’ Creed but not in the old Roman one, we 86must ascertain when, where, and under what conditions they first appeared. Of most of them it may be said that they are a natural elaboration of the old symbol, that they do not alter its character, that they contain only the common faith of the Church, even of the Church of the second century, and that at the end of the second century they were also known to the churches of the West, even though they had not yet found a stable place in any of the provincial symbols.6969Zerschwitz, op. cit. 116 f. Two only of the additions made cannot be so regarded; these are the phrases “descendit ad inferna” in the second article, and “sanctorum communionem” in the third. “Catholicam” is in a different case.7070Ibid. 118 f.; Caspari, iii. S. 149 f. On the substitution of the predicate “Catholic” for “Christian,” which already appears in the pre-Reformation symbols, see Zerschwitz, p. 127. The 87first phrase appears in the West at the earliest in the symbol of Aquileia as given by Rufinus.7171Cp. the fourth Sirmian formula in Hahn, § 93. The second has been discussed above. At all events. the first is so far in a better position in that there is a clear tradition supporting it, which goes back far into the second century. In Marcion’ s time the “descensus ad inferos” formed a part of the church teaching.7272Caspari, iii. S. 206 f.; Zerschwitz, S. 117 f., 119 f., 125 f. I am therefore disposed to believe that what led to the acceptance of this part of the creed was less any anti-Apollinarian interest, or any definite theory as to the condition of the souls in the kingdom of the dead, than the endeavour to give as complete an account 88as possible of the history of Christ’ s passion and his glory. The oldest interpreters make “descendit” equivalent to “sepultus.” Nevertheless, even from the point of view of comparative criticism, both additions will, on account of their dubious meaning, be allowed to be failures. Even in modern times they are explained quite differently by different parties in the Church.7373On the principal Articles of Faith in the Middle Ages and in the Reformation churches, see Zerschwitz, p. 129 f. On the various attempts from Calixtus and Lessing down to Grundvig and his followers to enhance the authority of the Apostles’ Creed and raise it to a position side by side with, nay, above, the New Testament, whether in a syncretistic, eirenic, antibiblical, or conservative-catholic interest, cp. the literature cited ibid. p. 77 f., and in Kattenbusch, op. cit. i. pp. 1 ff. The latter gives a detailed survey of the entire literature of the subject.
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