Appreciating the Christian creeds
THE CREED IN SCRIPTURE
By Stephen J. Binz
(Our Sunday Visitor, PB 189pp, ISBN 978-1-59276-832-5. Price: $19.90. Available from Freedom Books)
Written as part of the Lectio Divina Bible Study Series, the Creed in Scripture is both an analysis of the biblical foundations of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, and an introduction to the purpose of the creeds and their development.
Stephen Binz is a Catholic biblical scholar, psychotherapist, popular speaker, and award-winning author of more than thirty books on the Bible and biblical spirituality.
Following graduate studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he has developed Bible studies in the church for over two decades.
The Creeds, in their present form, are not part of scripture, but were developed by the early Christian Church to summarise the deposit of faith in easily-remembered words, and to help Christians to differentiate their own beliefs from others, including heretical views which were held in some quarters from the early years of the Christian era.
Most scholars accept that the epistles of Paul contain credal summaries of early Christian beliefs which possibly date as early as 35-40AD The general nature of these creeds includes assertions that Jesus Christ was God, and that he died and rose on the third day. Some of this material is found in Acts, while some is found in the letters of Paul.
We also have the statement of Jesus at the end of one of the earliest Gospels, that of Matthew, in which Jesus, after his resurrection, gave his apostles three tasks: “to make disciples of all nations”, to “baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, and “to teach them to obey everything I have commanded.”
To do this, the apostles (and by inference the church) had to formulate Jesus’ teachings in concise, accessible forms, which could be easily understood, and easily affirmed.
Perhaps the earliest creedal material that we have is found in one of St Paul’s earliest letters, his first to the Corinthians.
Later, more elaborate summaries of church teaching were developed, the best known of which are the Apostles’ Creed, and in the 4th century, the Nicene Creed.
This book does not spend much time looking at the rather primitive credal formulations contained in scripture, but rather examines the scriptural basis of the later creeds.
Stephen Binz unpacks the two main creeds, a phrase at a time, showing us how each statement in the creeds is a summation of what is contained in scripture, and sometimes, a development of it, as for example, in the statement, “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church”, and the communion of saints.
He also explains the meaning of each phrase, as it was understood by Christians at the time, and its relevance today.
He then encourages readers to reflect, pray and act on each of these statements, in our own lives, to bring the kingdom of God to our neighbours and to the world.
This book is a very helpful guide to Christian belief and practice, based upon foundational creeds of Christianity.
Christianity is, of course, more than a set of doctrinal propositions. Beyond those asserted in the creeds, it includes a personal relationship with Jesus and for Catholics, his Blessed Mother, as well as those models of Christian belief which the Church has canonised by declaring them saints.
It also includes an acceptance of the great commands which Jesus gave his disciples: love God and love your neighbour as yourself; and a willingness to accept the teaching authority which Jesus handed on to his apostles, and from them, to the church.
The Creed in Scripture helps us to deepen our relationship with both Jesus as Lord, and with the church, our faithful guide.