WHAT’S THE USE OF A PROFESSION OF FAITH? In order to understand the progressive formation of the Apostles’ Creed, it would be useful to answer this question. A profession of faith is born within a precise historical context, and is conditioned by it, as can be verified case by case. However, every profession of faith, even those that were not widely transmitted in the history of the Church, tends to “perpetuate” itself. In other words, each symbol or profession of faith is affected by the dynamics of the development of dogma, i.e., a historically determined factor provokes a definition of a dogma of faith that then becomes the patrimony of the Church for all ages.
The profession of faith we know as the Apostles’ Creed has been attributed to the Apostles themselves since the end of the 4th century. It is Trinitarian in structure with sections affirming belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit and was based on Christian theological understanding of the canonical Gospels, the letters of the New Testament and to a lesser extent in the Old Testament. Its basis appears to be the old Roman creed known also as the Ancient Roman Symbol.
The earliest known mention of the expression “Apostles’ Creed” occurs in a letter of AD 390 from a synod in Milan and may have been associated with the belief, widely accepted at the time, that, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, each of the Twelve Apostles contributed an article to the twelve articles of the creed.
We could say that this Symbol was slowly formed from the profession of faith proclaimed in the baptismal liturgies of the Roman Church. These formulas were in use throughout time and were finally set down as we know them in the High Middle Ages. The text of the Apostles’ Creed that we know goes back to the Textus receptus (the text accepted in the West) of Saint Pirminus of Murbach (†753).
Adapted from article by Francesco Vermigly, Professor of Dogmatic Theology, Theological University of Central Italy, in es.aleteia.org, July 8, 2019.