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The fact that the Roman Church in the period between 250 and 460 A.D., and partly also later,1818Vide Gregory the Great. used a symbol in its religious services which was held in very great honour and to which no additions were permitted, has been well known ever since Usher’ s investigations,1919Usher, op. cit. but was more particularly proved by Caspari’ s researches. At Rome this symbol was believed to have been obtained from the Apostles in the form in which it was used, and this led to the supposition that Peter brought it to Rome. The idea of its Apostolic origin did not arise later than the fourth century. We find this symbol, the older, shorter Roman creed, existing complete in a number of texts,2020A few of the more important of these texts may be here named: a Greek text in the Epistle of Marcellus of Ancyra to the Roman bishop, Julius, about the year 337 or 338 A.D. (Epiphan. Panar. haer. 52 (72), Opp. T. i. p. 836, ed. Petav.; Hahn, ibid. § 15; Caspari, op. cit. iii. S. 4 f., S. 28-161), and also in a MS. of the Biblioth. Cottoniana, the so-called Psalterium Aethelstani, saec. ix. (Hahn, § 16; Caspari, iii. S. 5 f., S. 161-203). The Latin text is in the Codex Laudianus 35, in the Bodleian Library, belonging to the sixth or seventh century (Caspari, iii. S. 162 f.; Hahn, § 17); also in a MS. in the British Museum, 2 A, xx., of about the eighth century (Swainson, The Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds, 1875, p. 161 f.); in the Esplanatio Symboli ad initiandos, attributed to Ambrose or, as the case may be, to Maximus of Turin (A. Mai, Script. Vet. Nova Coll. T. vii. p. 156 f. 1883), B. Brunus, Maximi Tur. Opp. p. 30 f., 1784; Hahn, § 20; Caspari, ii. S. 48 ff., who makes it probable that the treatise came from Ambrose. Against this view Kattenbusch urges some weighty considerations, which, however, do not seem to me conclusive; cf. also in Rufin. Expos. in Symb. Apost. in Opp. Cypr. Append. ed. Fell, p. 17 f. 1682; see Hahn, 14; and also the so-called Florentine Symbol; Caspari, iv. S. 290 ff.; and some statements in the 24th epist. of Leo the Great (Hahn, § 18). quite independently of the sources from which it could be at least partially reconstructed.
The Greek text must be regarded as the original, for at Rome the symbol was for a long time used only in Greek.2121See the reconstruction of the text in my treatise upon the old Roman Symbol (Patr. Apost. Opp. 2 edit. 1, 2, 1878), and more especially in Kattenbusch’s programme, Beitr. z. Gesch. des altkirchl. Taufsymbols, Giessen, 1892; also his Apost. Symbol. S. 59 ff., where a recension of the Latin text is also given. The best authorities are the Psalterium Aethelstani on the one side, and the Codex Laudianus on the other. It was not until long after the Greek text was in use that the Latin text was adopted as a parallel form. What happened here, then, is just the opposite of what happened in the case of the longer symbol.2222On the use of Greek in the Roman Church, cf. Caspari, iii. S. 267-466; upon the liturgical use of the Greek text in the West during the early Middle Ages, cf. ibid. passim, and iii. 466-510. The following is the text of the shorter or Greek form: Πιστεύω εἰς θεὸν πατέρα παντοκράτορα καὶ εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν (τὸν) υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ, τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν, τὸν γεννηθέντα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου, τὸν ἐπὶ Ποντίον Πιλάτου σταυρωθέντα καὶ ταφέντα, τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ· ἀναστάντα ἐκ (τῶν) νεκρῶν, ἀναβάντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανούς, καθήμενον ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ πατρὸς ὅθεν ἔρχεται κρῖναι ζώντας καὶ νεκρούς, καὶ εἰς πνεῦμα ἅγιον, ἅγιαν ἐκκλησίαν, ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν, σαρκὸς ἀνάστασιν.
The legend of the symbol having been composed by the Apostles appears as early as the above-mentioned Explanatio Symboli of Ambrose. The fact that the writer was aware of its being divided into twelve articles perhaps indicates that the legend of each Apostle having contributed one of them was already known. The twelve articles were arranged in three groups of four, or three tetrads. The division into tetrads, however, appears nowhere else. It arose, in my opinion, from the third article and the second half of the second appearing as though composed of four members each. Kattenbusch in his Programme thinks otherwise, but in his chief work2323S. 81 ff. his statements on the point are modified. I cannot, however, convince myself that twelve divisions were originally intended.2424Cf. Loofs, I. d. GgA. 1894, S. 675. No one who wanted to construct a creed with twelve articles in three main divisions would have been so clumsy as to divide it into 1 + 7 + 4, or, rather, 2 + 6 + 4. At all events the legend did not originate in connexion with the later and Ionger Roman creed, that is, the South Gallican or our present Apostles’ Creed, for it already appears in the manuscript of the shorter symbol which Swainson first published, and is also proved elsewhere to apply to this creed. Rufinus, however, who wrote later, knows nothing about it;2525According to Kattenbusch, Rufinus wrote somewhat earlier than the author of the Explanatio. See also Expos. in Symbol. Apost. Praef. all that he knows is the common composition of the Roman symbol by the Apostles soon after Pentecost and before. the separation. But he refers this legend to a traditio maiorum. It was doubtless, therefore, in existence from the beginning of the fourth century. Both Ambrose and Rufinus testify, moreover, that the Roman Church preserved the exact words of the Apostles’ Creed with the most scrupulous fidelity.2626Rufin. l.c. p. 17: “Verum priusquam incipiam de ipsis sermonum virtutibus disputare, illud non importune commonendum puto, quod in diversis ecclesiis aliqua in his verbis inveniuntur adiecta. In ecclesia tamen urbis Romae hoc non deprehenditur factum, quod ego propterea esse arbitror, quod neque haeresis ulla illic sumpsit exordium, et mos ibi servatus antiquus, eos, qui gratiam baptismi suscepturi sunt, publice, id est, fidelium populo audiente, symbolum reddere (see Augustine, Confess. viii. c. 2); et utique adiectionem unius saltem sermonis eorum, qui praecesserunt in fide, non admittit auditus.” Ambrose, Ep. 42 ad Siric. P. n. 5 (Opp. T. ii. P. i. p. 1125, ed Migne): Credatur symbolo apostolorum, quod ecclesia Romana intemeratum semper custodit et servat.” Ambrose, Explanat. Symb. in Caspari, ii. S. 56, according to a quotation from Rev. 22. 18 ff.: “Si unius apostoli scripturis nihil est detrahendum, nihil addendum, quemadmodum nos symbolo, quod accepimus ab apostolis traditum atque compositum, nihil debemus detrahere, nihil adiungere. Hoc autem est symbolum, quod Romana ecclesia tenet, ubi primus apostolorum Petrus sedit, et communem sententiam eo detulit.” The Apostolic origin of this symbol is independently asserted by Jerome,2727Ep. ad Pammach. de errorib. Joannis Hierosol. n. 28 (Opp. T. ii. p. 386, ed. Migne). by the Roman bishops Celestin I. (422-431), Sixtus III. (431-440), Leo I. (440-461), by Vigilius of Thapsus, and in the Sacramentarium Gelasianum.2828References in Caspari, ii. S. 108 f. n. 78; cf. iii. S. 94 f.; Hahn, 46, n. 163. The belief in the Apostolic origin of the creed must therefore be regarded as originating in the Roman Church. Finally, it may be added that Augustine must also be claimed as a witness for this shorter Roman symbol. Although he was first a presbyter and then a bishop in a provincial church, in which the recognised and official symbol was one which varied considerably from the Roman, yet as a pupil of Ambrose, and as one who was baptized in the church at Milan, he held to the Roman symbol, with which, according to the Explanatio Symboli, the Milanese symbol was identical. In the eight expositions of the creed which we have from him2929Caspari, ii. S. 264 f.; Hahn, § 21. he follows the Milanese form almost exclusively, and he follows it in all essential points. In view of these facts there can be no doubt that in the fourth and the first half of the fifth century the Roman Church made extensive use in the Redditio of a symbol, and a symbol, too, identical with the one mentioned above, and allowed of absolutely no additions to it. Ambrose was certainly not the only one3030Cf. Celestin’s position in the Nestorian controversy. who expressly protested against any anti-heretical additions. He regarded it as an attack upon the Saints to take account of contemporary difficulties in the creed, however pressing these might be. “He attributed to the creed the very highest authority, higher even than that of Apostolic writings composed by individual Apostles.” The epistle of Marcellus to Julius shows us that between the years 330-340 A.D., this symbol was the official one in use in Rome; but other testimonies, which still require to be criticised and sifted, take us back with a sufficient degree of certainty to the middle of the third century. Among these the most important are Novatian’s tractate De Trinitate,3131Hahn, § 7. and the fragments from the epistles and writings of Bishop Dionysius of Rome.3232Cf. e.g. Athan. De decretis synodi Nic. c. 26.
That the shorter Roman symbol as represented in the Epistle of Marcellus and in the Psalterium Aethelstani was as early as about the year 250 the predominant one in Rome, must be regarded as one of the most positive results of historical investigation. Here, however, a series of questions arises, the answers to which involve very complicated investigations and the combination of different facts. The most important of these questions are as follow:
1. How is the shorter Roman symbol related to the Western symbols which were used, between the years 250 and 500 (800), in the religious services of the provincial churches until they were driven out by the (Gallican) Symbolum Apostolicum and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan?
2. How is the shorter Roman symbol related to the longer, that is to say, to the Apostles’ Creed as we know it from the time of Caesarius, and why was it displaced by the latter?
3. When and where did the shorter symbol originate?
4. How is the shorter Roman symbol related to the Eastern pre-Constantinopolitan symbols?
5. How is the shorter Roman symbol related to the different forms of the Rules of Faith with which we are familiar in the first three centuries?
These five questions can be separated only in abstracto. As a matter of fact they are so closely interwoven, each with the others, that a definite and separate answer to every one of them is impossible. In what follows these questions will be discussed together and a general answer attempted.
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