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Dennis Fitzgerald wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • When the changes were made to both the Nicene and the Apostles Creeds, why was the phrase descended into Hell, added to one Creed and not the other yet both Creeds are used?

It seems to be an important phrase.

I am a Roman Catholic and I believe the Nicene Creed was adopted when the Church was being organized.

Thank you for listening

Dennis F.

  { Why was the phrase descended into Hell added to one Creed and not to the other Creed? }

Mike replied:

Hi Dennis,

You said:

  • When the changes were made to both the Nicene and the Apostles Creeds, why was the phrase descended into Hell, added to one Creed and not the other yet both Creeds are used?

I'm not a historian and the focus of our work is to answer questions on issues of faith and morals, not history, but I'll do the best I can to answer your question.

First, let's make a few clarifications. The Church created the Nicene Creed, the very first official Creed of the Catholic Church in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea. There was nothing added.

I think you will find the articles below very helpful. The Apostles Creed developed more as an Oral Tradition that has been passed down to us from the Apostles, rather than an official Creed. I've added text from two articles on the Apostles Creed that I thought were relevant to your question.

The second to last paragraph in the Wikipedia text on the Apostles Creed directly addresses your question.

What Creeds are used by the Church, when; is simply a matter of the Church's prudence based on an array of issues. She obviously would not purposely hide the doctrine of Hell.

While on this teaching, it's important to remember God does not send people to Hell, rather people send themselves to Hell through their free will choices. This is why regular sacramental Confession is so important because even when we are tempted and drawn into sin, regular Confession gives us the chance to say No and return with our broken bodies to the Lord.

The Nicene Creed

The Apostles 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.

The earlier text evolved from simpler texts based on Matthew 28:19, part of the Great Commission, and it has been argued that it was already in written form by the late 2nd century (c. 180).

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, ("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. (more)

Throughout the Middle Ages it was generally believed that the Apostles, on the day of Pentecost, while still under the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost, composed our present Creed between them, each of the Apostles contributing one of the twelve articles. This legend dates back to the sixth century (see Pseudo-Augustine in Migne, P.L., XXXIX, 2189, and Pirminius, ibid., LXXXIX, 1034), and it is foreshadowed still earlier in a sermon attributed to St. Ambrose (Migne, P.L., XVII, 671; Kattenbusch, I, 81), which takes notice that the Creed was "pieced together by twelve separate workmen". About the same date (c. 400) Rufinus (Migne, P.L., XXI, 337) gives a detailed account of the composition of the Creed, which account he professes to have received from earlier ages (tradunt majores nostri). Although he does not explicitly assign each article to the authorship of a separate Apostle, he states that it was the joint work of all, and implies that the deliberation took place on the day of Pentecost. Moreover, he declares that "they for many just reasons decided that this rule of faith should be called the Symbol", which Greek word he explains to mean both indicium, i.e. a token or password by which Christians might recognize each other, and collatio, that is to say an offering made up of separate contributions. (more)

I hope this helps,


Dennis replied:

Thank you Mike,

I think I should have phrased the question differently. I have read some of the earlier texts but the changes I was referring to were made just a couple of years ago and I know I was away from going to Mass for a while but the changes were maybe three years ago and there were changes made in both Creeds redefining certain words and passages.

Neither Creed had the phrase descended into Hell in it until this recent change. He was crucified died and was buried and on the third day rose from the dead. I recently asked a priest about this and his response was the Apostles Creed was believed to be used earlier and that we are not in Nicea. That may be true but both prayers are still said during Mass and Nicea was technically the First Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church.

Thank you for the dialogue; it's uplifting.


Mike replied:

Hi Dennis,

Any changes you are referring to, that were a few years ago, were changes make to the Catholic liturgy here in the United States in order to bring it line with the rest of the world.

This is one of many big things Pope Emeritus Benedict should go down in history for besides allowing a more permissive use of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in the Church. Not that there was anything invalid with the previous liturgy but the new translation was a better translation from the Latin of the liturgical text.

Like I said in my previous answer: What Creeds are used by the Church, when; is simply a matter of the Church's prudence based on an array of issues.

You said:
I recently asked a priest about this and his response was the Apostles Creed was believed to be used earlier and that we are not in Nicea.

I agree that the Apostles Creed was probably an earlier Creed but the fact we are not in Nicaea is irrelevant. The word Catholic means universal, meaning everywhere one. Whether one is in the United States, Spain, Mexico, Communist China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Germany, or whatever country, when we go to Mass we enter into that one Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and receive the blessings and graces from that One Sacrifice throughout our earthly pilgrimage as often as we renew our Sunday Covenant by going to Mass.

For some this can be hard to grasp because we tend to think only in finite, human terms and natures.

Yes, Jesus was a man like us in all things but sin, but He was a Divine, not human, person. Because He was a Divine Person, His one Sacrifice of Calvary [was/is] perpetuated down throughout history.

Take care!

Glad I could help.


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