On The Descent Of Christ Into Hell -- By: Joseph Muenscher
BSac 16:62 (April 1859) p. 309
On The Descent Of Christ Into Hell
“He Descended Into Hell”— The Apostles’ Creed
That formulary of Christian faith which has been handed down to our times under the name of the Apostles’ Creed, has rightfully obtained, from its antiquity, scripturalness, simplicity, perspicuity, brevity, and comprehensiveness, the assent and veneration of the Universal Church. With respect to its author or the time of its composition, we possess no very satisfactory information. Its title and a general tradition of early date, would lead us to assign its authorship to the apostles themselves. Thus Ambrose in the fourth century declares, that “the twelve apostles as skilful artificers assembled together, and made a key by their common devices, i.e. the Creed.” Rufinus, in the same century, asserts, that the Christians of the period in which he lived, “had received by tradition from the Fathers that, after the ascension of our Saviour, and the effusion of the Holy Spirit, but before the apostles separated from each
BSac 16:62 (April 1859) p. 310
other to go into the habitable parts of the world to preach the Gospel, they settled among themselves the rule of their future preaching in order to prevent their teaching different doctrines during their separation, unto those whom they should unite to the Christian faith. Whereupon they assembled together, and being full of the Holy Spirit, they composed the Creed, each one inserting what he thought convenient, and ordered it to be a test of their future sermons, and a rule to be given to the faithful.” Not content with attributing the authorship of the Creed in general to the apostles, some of the Fathers alleged that each member of the apostolic College inserted a particular article, and hence the name symbolum which it received.1 Now it is historically certain, that several articles attributed by these writers to the apostles, e. g. “the descent into hell,” ascribed to St. Thomas, and “the Communion of Saints,” imputed to Simon Zelotes, formed no part of any creed during the first three centuries. It is manifest, therefore, that the Creed, as it stands in its present form, could not have been composed by the apostles in the manner alleged. The silence of Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, and the silence of ecclesiastical writers generally, for above three centuries, furnishes the strongest evidence that the Creed as such did not proceed in any form from the hands of the apostles themselves. But although no reliance can be placed on the tradition of the apostolic authorship of this Creed, it cannot be denied that the Creed itself, with the exception of a very few articles, originated in the earlier ages of Christia...
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