This I Believe
By Colin Matthews, on Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Reboots and remakes are in fashion at the moment, with everything from Mad Max to Dad’s Army being remade in the world of film; so it’s not surprising that worship music is following suit. As you might have guessed, ‘This I Believe’ is based on a much older piece of writing, the Apostles Creed.
This statement of faith was originally written as part of the baptism process, designed to be a really simple statement of faith for new Christians who wanted to be baptised. The Creed if full reads:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
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. Amen.
The Apostles Creed gets it’s name from the legend that appears in the 5th and 6th Centuries that it was written by the Twelve Apostles, each of whom contributed a bit to it. When you stop and think about it, that situation is probably quite unlikely.
Instead, we have a shorter, less developed, version of the Creed which dates back to around 140AD, which is not that long after the New Testament was written. Over the next two centuries, this creed has more detail added to it and so when we arrive at the 7th century, we have the creed as we know it today. So when you next hear the song, don’t think ‘I learnt a new song this week’, think ‘I learnt a very, very old song’.
Because the creed was written so long a go, a couple of the statements might sound a bit weird in today’s language. When we say ‘he descended to hell’, the Greek version would use the word ‘hades’ which was the place of the dead, rather than the ‘life everlasting’ mentioned later on. So what the Creed is conveying here is that Jesus really was dead.
The other bit that might sound strange is to believe in the ‘holy catholic church’. When the Creed was originally written, ‘catholic’ meant universal and so we celebrate that the church is bigger than Woodside, bigger than Newfrontiers but is in fact something God is building all over the world. This is perhaps demonstrated as today the creed is still used and sung by most church denominations, including Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists and Lutherans. That means that when we sing This I Believe we are not only singing what has been sung for over 1000 years, but we’re also joining with the wider church in celebrating what we can be united on, rather than what divides us. That’s something to sing about.