Baclay, William. The Apostle’s Creed. Westminster John Knox Press. 1998.
W.B.- popular Scottish interpreter of the New Testament. Former Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at Glasgow University.
Dr. Barclay has been a great contributor of helpful information about Scripture through his commentaries, especially about the New Testament. In this resource he tackles a ‘document’ that has become a classic statement summarizing the Christian faith, the Apostle’s Creed. A quote from the last chapter puts his contribution into perspective. “The Church had a creed long before it had the Apostle’s Creed; ‘JESUS CHRIST IS LORD’. So long as we are certain of the lordship of Jesus Christ, we can rethink and reinterpret all statements about the Christian faith, and in the Apostle’s Creed we have a symbolic statement of faith which in the light of the lordship of Jesus Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is dynamically expandable in every age.” (324) In as much as this is a commentary my ‘review’ will be more like an outline only.
The introduction is actually an interesting history of the creed. The format of discussion is line (chapter) by line (chapter).
“I believe in God.” (15) Biblical writers do not attempt to prove the existence of God. It is a self-evident fact. Modern man wants ‘proof’. There are many arguments for the existence of God.
“I believe in God the Father Almighty.” (26) This is the Christian conception of God, the “fatherhood of God”. (31) It goes beyond the Old Testament of God and certainly different from the Greek concept of God the Father. He is Almighty in love.
“Maker of Heaven and Earthy.” (37) The Christian view of creation is theism, not pantheism or deism. “The idea of an evolutionary process has lent a glory to the task of creation which it never had before, for it means that God has made man his fellow-worker in the making of the world.” (43) (interesting!)
“And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” (45) There are four relationships targeted in this designation. “Jesus in the relation to the fullness of his manhood. Christ (Messiah), the anointed one. (45) His only Son- relationship to God. (46) Lord- the relationship of Jesus to us. (51)” “Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.” (55) Barclay acknowledges the controversies that surround this element of the decree.
“Suffered under Pontius Pilate.” (69) There is some interesting history surrounding Pilate as a player in this drama. “Was crucified”. (77) The gospel writers give very few details about this common method of execution. The cross has become a significant symbol of Christianity. “Dead and Buried.” (94) This was a crucial part of the gospel presentation of the early church. “He descended into Hell.” (97) This truth reinforces his death.
“The third day he rose again from the dead.”(110) This claim “is either the greatest single fact in history, or if it is not true, is the greatest deception in history.” (110) “He ascended into heaven.” (134) There is not much preaching on this element. “And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” (144) Christ entered “His regal office as King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. (156)
“From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” (48) Paul was a strong proponent of the teaching of the second coming of Christ. Some conclude from John’s gospel that the second coming has to do with Pentecost and Christ’s presence with and in all believers. Is the truth of this element symbolic or literal? That depends on the type of eschatology that is followed. Judgment is part of Christian doctrine. There are many different interpretations of this element (doctrine).
“I believe in the Holy Ghost.” (201) This element brings in the doctrine of the Trinity which is very difficult to explain. Neither person of the Trinity can be explained but it can be experienced.
“In the Holy Catholic Church.” (215) “It is within the church that the story of Jesus and the Christian faith are preserved.” (210) “In the communion of the Saints.” (245) (koinonia). “In the forgiveness of sins.” (252) This is central to the Christian gospel message. Even with saints there will come times for the need of mercy and repentance. “In the resurrection of the body.” (280) This is difficult to explain. “In the life everlasting.” 9293) This is a fitting climax to the declaration of the Christian belief.