Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Sacraments in the Apostles Creed

Hermann Sasse notes in his This Is My Body: Luther's Contention for the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar (1959, 1977), that Zwingli believed that the Real Presence was not part of the articles of faith. He was encouraged in this belief by the absence, or so it seemed, of anything about Holy Communion in the creeds. Sasse argues, however, on pp. 319-323, 353-58, that the Apostle's Creed may well have originally been intended to include a reference to this. In the third article, we confess our belief in "the holy Catholic (~Christian) church," and "the communion of saints (sanctorum communionem)." Now, while the second term has generally been taken (and interpreted into English) as an explanation of the former, Sasse notes that the Apostle's creed contains no other case of such reduplicated phrasing. Moreover, the Latin communio translates Greek koinonia, which never means congregation. He notes that sanctorum can be translated both as "of the holy ones, i.e. saints" but also as "of the holy things, i.e. the body and blood of Christ." Indeed the connection of the two meanings is very close. We find in the Eastern liturgies the phrase "holy things for holy people!" called out by the celebrant just before communion. Although in the Middle Ages (and so by Luther), sanctorum communio was taken as communion of the saints, Sasse found an Old French translations which renders it as la communiun des saintes choses "the communion of the holy things" and a German MS that understands it in the same way.

And what about baptism? The Nicene creed of course has baptism explicitly, but Sasse notes that some medieval manuscripts follow the "forgiveness of sins" directly by "through baptism," or "through baptism or penance." This reference to baptism of course also fits the Nicene Creed. So if we then take forgiveness of sins to include baptism then we have a reference both Holy Communion and baptism in the Apostle's Creed.

Originally posted at Here We Stand