The first mention of the expression "Apostles' Creed" occurs in a letter of 390 from a synod in Milan and may have been associated with the belief, widely accepted in the 4th century, that, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, each of the Twelve Apostles contributed an article of a creed.
The title, Symbolum Apostolicum (Symbol or Creed of the Apostles), appears for the first time in a letter, probably written by Ambrose, from a Council in Milan to Pope Siricius in about 390: "Let them give credit to the Creed of the Apostles, which the Roman Church has always kept and preserved undefiled". But what existed at that time was not what is now known as the Apostles' Creed but a shorter statement of belief that, for instance, did not include the phrase "maker of heaven and earth", a phrase that may have been inserted only in the 7th century.
This illumination from a 13th-century manuscript shows the apostles writing the Creed, receiving inspiration from the Holy Spirit.
The account of the origin of this creed, the forerunner and principal source of the Apostles' Creed, as having been jointly created by the Apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, with each of the twelve contributing one of the articles, was already current at that time.
While the individual statements of belief that are included in the Apostles' Creed – even those not found in the Old Roman Symbol – are found in various writings by Irenaeus, Tertullian, Novatian, Marcellus, Rufinus, Ambrose, Augustine, Nicetus, and Eusebius Gallus, the earliest appearance of what we know as the Apostles' Creed was in the De singulis libris canonicis scarapsus ("Excerpt from Individual Canonical Books") of St. Pirminius (Migne, Patrologia Latina 89, 1029 ff.), written between 710 and 714. Bettenson and Maunder state that it is first from Dicta Abbatis Pirminii de singulis libris canonicis scarapsus (idem quod excarpsus, excerpt), c.750. This longer Creed seems to have arisen in what is now France and Spain. Charlemagne imposed it throughout his dominions, and it was finally accepted in Rome, where the old Roman Creed or similar formulas had survived for centuries. It has been argued nonetheless that it dates from the second half of the 5th century, though no earlier.
Some have suggested that the Apostles' Creed was spliced together with phrases from the New Testament. For instance, the phrase "descendit ad inferos" ("he descended into hell") echoes Ephesians 4:9, "κατέβη εἰς τὰ κατώτερα μέρη τῆς γῆς" ("he descended into the lower, earthly regions").
This phrase and that on the communion of saints are articles found in the Apostles' Creed, but not in the old Roman Creed nor in the Nicene Creed.
Musical settings of the Symbolum Apostolorum as a motet are rare. The French composer Le Brung published one Latin setting in 1540, the Spanish composer Fernando de las Infantas published two in 1578.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives the following English translation of the Apostles' Creed. In its discussion of the Creed, the Catechism maintains the traditional division into twelve articles, the numbering of which is here added to the text.
The United Methodists commonly incorporate the Apostles' Creed into their worship services. The version which is most often used is located at #881 in the United Methodist Hymnal, one of their most popular hymnals and one with a heritage to John Wesley, founder of Methodism. It is notable for omitting the line "he descended into hell", but is otherwise very similar to the Book of Common Prayer version. The 1989 Hymnal has both the traditional version and the 1988 ecumenical version (see below), which includes "he descended to the dead."
The United Methodist Hymnal also contains (at #882) what it terms the "Ecumenical Version" of this creed which is the ecumenically accepted modern translation of the International Committee on English Texts (1975)as amended by the subsequent successor body, the English Language Liturgical Consultation (1987). This form of the Apostles' Creed can be found incorporated into the Eucharistic and Baptismal Liturgies in the Hymnal and in The United Methodist Book of Worship, and hence it is growing in popularity and use. *The word "catholic" is intentionally left lowercase in the sense that the word catholic applies to the universal and ecumenical Christian church.
Ecumenical version of the English Language Liturgical Consultation
The English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC) is an international ecumenical group whose primary purpose is to provide ecumenically accepted texts for those who use English in their liturgy. In 1988 it produced a translation of the Apostles' Creed, distinguished among other things by its avoidance of the word "his" in relation to God. The text is as follows:
15th-century Flemish tapestry illustrating the first four articles of the Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
An interrogative form of the Apostles' Creed is used in the Rite of Baptism (for both children and adults). The minister of baptism asks the following questions (ICEL, 1974):
Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
To each question, the catechumen, or, in the case of an infant, the parents and sponsor(s) (godparent(s)) in his or her place, answers "I do." Then the celebrant says:
This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And all respond: Amen.
Profession of faith at Mass
Since the 2002 edition, the Apostles' Creed is included in the Roman Missal with the indication, "Instead of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, especially during Lent and Easter time, the baptismal Symbol of the Roman Church, known as the Apostles' Creed, may be used." Previously the Nicene Creed was the only profession of faith that the Missal gave for use at Mass, except in Masses for children; but in some countries use of the Apostles' Creed was already permitted.
The Apostles' Creed is used in the non-Eucharistic services of Matins and Evening Prayer (Evensong). It is invoked after the recitation or singing of the Canticles, and it is the only part of the services in which the congregation traditionally turns to face the altar, if they are seated transversely in the quire.
Episcopal Church (United States)
The Episcopal Church uses the Apostles' Creed as a Baptismal Covenant for those who are to receive the Rite of Baptism. Regardless of age, candidates are to be sponsored by parents and/or godparents. Youths able to understand the significance of the Rite may go through the ritual speaking for themselves. Younger children and infants rely on their sponsors to act upon their behalf.
1. The celebrant calls for the candidates for Baptism to be presented.
2. The catechumen or sponsors state their request for Baptism.
3a. If the catechumen is of age, the celebrant will ask him or her if he or she desires Baptism, to which the catechumen will respond: "I do."
3b. If the candidate relies on sponsors, the celebrant asks them if they will raise the child in "the Christian faith and life" (ECUSA BCP), and will raise the child through "prayers and witness to grow into the full stature of Christ" to which the parents will state to each, "I will, with God's help."
4. A series of questions is then asked, to which the reply is always "I renounce them":
Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
5. The second half of the query is asked, to which the reply is always "I do":
Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?
6. The Apostles' Creed is then recited by candidates, sponsors and congregation, each section of the Creed being an answer to the celebrant's question, 'Do you believe in God the Father (God the Son, God the Holy Spirit)?'
Lutherans, like Roman Catholics, use the Apostles' Creed during the Sacrament of Baptism:
Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting?
Following each question, the candidate answers by saying "Yes, I believe". If the candidate is a child, the godparents are to answer the questions.
Methodists use the Apostles' Creed as part of their baptismal rites in the form of an interrogatory addressed to the candidate(s) for baptism and the whole congregation as a way of professing the faith within the context of the Church's sacramental act. For infants, it is the professing of the faith by the parents, sponsors, and congregation on behalf of the candidate(s); for confirmands, it is the professing of the faith before and among the congregation. For the congregation, it is a reaffirmation of their professed faith.
Do you believe in God?
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ?
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
^Not in the sense that the word "symbol" has in modern English, but in the original meaning of the word, derived from "Latin symbolum, sign, token, from Greek σύμβολον, token for identification (by comparing with its counterpart), from συμβάλλειν, to throw together, compare" (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).