The Kerygma and the Creeds

There are six discourses in Acts of the Apostles (5 by Peter and 1 by Paul) which are summaries of the basic teachings of the first century church. In I Cor 15:11, Paul refers to the apostolic teaching on the death and resurrection of Jesus as "the preaching" or "proclamation" hence modern scholars coined the word "Kerygma" (Greek for "proclamation") to describe this basic teaching. These discourses occur in Acts 2:14-36, 3:12-26, 4:8- 12, 5:29-32, 10:34-43, 13:16-41.

Scholars note these common themes in the Kerygma:

1. This is the final, messianic age foretold by the prophets.

2. This final age was inaugurated by Jesus who preached and performed miracles during his ministry on earth.

3. Jesus was born of the royal line of David.

4. Jesus suffered and died as foretold in the scriptures.

5. Jesus was buried.

6. Jesus was raised from the dead.

7. Jesus was exalted in heaven and sits at God's right hand.

8. The Holy Spirit is present in the church during this final age as a sign of Christ's power and glory.

9. Jesus will come again marking the end of this messianic age.

10. Call for repentance coupled with an offer of forgiveness.

Noticeably absent are the assertions of Jesus' divinity and pre-existence which are asserted elsewhere in the New Testament.

One will note the similarities between this list and the creeds developed by the later church.

The Apostles Creed

According to a rather dubious tradition each of the twelve statements in the creed was from a different Apostle.

1. Peter: "I believe in God the Father Almighty"

2. John: "Maker of heaven and earth"

3. James: "And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord"

4. Andrew: "Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary"

5. Philip: "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried"

6. Thomas: "He descended into hell, the third day he rose again from the dead"

7. Bartholomew: "He ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty"

8. Matthew: "From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead"

9. James son of Alpheus: "I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Catholic Church"

10. Simon the Zealot: "The communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins"

11. Jude the brother of James: "The resurrection of the body"

12. Matthias: "Life everlasting. Amen"

The Nicene Creed

After Emperor Constantine had legalized Christianity. He eventually called the Christian leaders together to codify an official definition of the religion in order to quell the various splinter groups of Christians which had developed during the three hundred years the church had been underground. This council was held in Nicaea near Constantinople in 325 A.D. and laid down the famous Nicene Creed (which was actually completed during the council of I Constantinople in 381 and is officially known as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed). It is sometimes called the "symbolum" or symbol of our faith.

"We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried.

On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son].

With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.

He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and Apostolic church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead, and life in the world to come. Amen."

Note: the Filioque clause ("and the Son" in brackets above) was added much later and has a very controversial history of its own.

The assertion of Christ's divinity, which was missing in the Kerygma, is painstakingly defined here. The relationship of Jesus' humanity and his divinity was a difficult question in the early centuries of the church so that once it had been resolved it was important to keep it that way. 

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