This work is a comprehensive study of both the well- and the lesser-known creeds. J. N. D. Kelly presents the rise, development, and use of formularies in the creative centuries of the Church’s history. The book opens with an examination of creedal elements in the New Testament and continues with an enquiry into the relation of creeds to the rite of baptism. Kelly then studies the evidence for ‘the rule of faith’ in the second century, discusses the old Roman Creed, and finally, considers the creeds of the Eastern Church and their relation to Western creeds and to those propounded by the fourth-century councils. He pays particular attention to the Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed. In addition, there is a lengthy and largely original reconstruction of the expansion of the Roman Creed and its acceptance throughout Europe as the present Apostle’s Creed. This valuable work emphasizes the liturgical setting of ancient creeds and elucidates theirs theology as it was understood by those who framed them.
“The descent of the Roman creed can be traced with some degree of confidence to the second century, at any rate to its closing decades.” (Page 101)
“Nevertheless the Trinitarian ground-plan obtrudes itself obstinately throughout, and its presence is all the more striking because more often than not there is nothing in the context to necessitate it. The impression inevitably conveyed is that the conception of the threefold manifestation of the Godhead was embedded deeply in Christian thinking from the start, and provided a ready-to-hand mould in which the ideas of the apostolic writers took shape. If Trinitarian creeds are rare, the Trinitarian pattern which was to dominate all later creeds was already part and parcel of the Christian tradition of doctrine.” (Page 23)
“And this leads us to a further point underlining the secondary role of declaratory creeds. They were not really part of the baptism itself at all. By right they belonged rather to the catechetical preparation preceding the sacrament: their recitation logically formed its concluding stage.” (Pages 39–40)
“It cannot be too often repeated that, in the proper sense of the terms, no creed, confession or formula of faith can be discovered in the New Testament, with the possible exception of such curt slogans as Kurios Iēsous. What is manifest on every page is a common body of doctrine, definite in outline and regarded by everyone as the possession of no individual but of the Church as a whole. At the New Testament stage this corpus of teaching was beginning to crystallize into more or less conventional patterns and forms, and sometimes set types of verbal expression were becoming current. Generally, though the underlying structure was hardening, the language still remained fairly fluid.” (Pages 23–24)