Christian Creeds and Statements are carefully worded responses to heresies or situations that
challenge orthodox Christianity. They are not new revelations or additions to Scripture, but rather a careful
reflection of doctrine.
The Apostles' Creed, though not directly authored by the Apostles, is the most widely
accepted creed among various denominations of Christianity, because of its proximity to the time of the Apostles
and its reflection of their teachings. During that time, the oral tradition was the main method of teaching.
In response to Gnostics who challenged that Jesus was fully human with a material body, the
Apostles’ Creed was drawn up to emphasize Jesus’ true humanity. However, unlike the Nicene Creed, the
Creed was not written or approved by a single church council at one specific time; instead, it took shape over
some 550 years, from 200 A.D. to 750 A.D.
The controversial phrase "he descended into hell" was not found in any of the early versions
of the Creed. Rufinus of Aquileia (Tyrannius Rufinus or Rufinus Aquileiensis), a translator of Greek patristic
material into Latin, was the only one to include the phrase before 650 A.D. Rather than understanding the phrase
to mean Christ "descended into hell", Rufinus understood it to mean "He descended into the grave." Church
fathers such as Irenaeus and Tertullian did not have this phrase in their writings either.
Without older versions to trace the historical development of the Creed, to determine whether
there was an error of transmission or translation, the addition of this phrase to the Creed will continue to
be a mystery.