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Beliefs by the early Christian church

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The resurrection as expressed in Church creeds:

The historic creeds of the Christian Church discuss the resurrection Jesus in language that is quite consistent: 1

bullet The Apostles' Creed, was written about the 4th century CE by unknown author(s). The church incorrectly attributed its authorship to the Apostles:

"I believe in...Jesus Christ...who was...crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God..."

bullet The Nicene Creed, adopted at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE:

"I believe Lord Jesus Christ...who...was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father."

bullet The Athanasian Creed was written by an unknown author in Gaul about 450 CE:

"...our Lord Jesus Christ...suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again on the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven..."

bullet The Small Catechism of Martin Luther of 1529 CE:

"Jesus Christ...was crucified, died and was buried, descended to Hell, on the third day rose again from the dead, ascended to Heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Almighty Father." 2

bullet The Augsburg Confession This was the first Protestant confession, written by Philip Melanchthon, and presented to Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 CE. Article III states: "Also they teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God...truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried...He also descended into hell, and truly rose again the third day; afterward He ascended into heaven that He might sit on the right hand of the Father..." 1

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Beliefs of Christian groups during the 1st and 2nd centuries CE:

The early Christian church coalesced into three distinct movements:

bullet The Jewish Christians centered in Jerusalem under the leadership of James, the brother of Jesus. Most were killed and scattered after the attack on Jerusalem by the roman Army in 70 CE.
bullet The Gnostic Christians
bullet Those early followers of Christ who wrote the Gospel of Q, starting circa 50 CE, seem to have been unaware of the resurrection of Jesus. The event was not included in their writings.
bullet Gnostics believe that prior to the crucifixion, Jesus swapped bodies with "with an innocent bystander named Simon" 3 This is described in one of their sacred texts, "The Acts of John". It was written about 50 CE; it was widely followed by Christian groups in the early years of the Christian church and is revered by Gnostic Christians today. The document was suppressed by the Church in the 8th century CE. In the Acts, the disciple John flees from the scene of the execution and is amazed to meet Christ on the top of a mountain overlooking the crucifixion scene. The author wrote:

"...we were like men amazed or fast asleep, and we fled this way and that. And so I saw him suffer, and did not wait by his suffering, but fled...and wept at what had come to pass. And when he was hung upon the cross...there came a darkness over the whole earth. And my Lord stood in the middle of the cave and gave light to it and said, 'John, for the people below in Jerusalem I am being crucified and pierced with lances and reeds and given vinegar and gall to drink. But to you I am speaking...I put into your mind to come up to this mountain so that you may hear what a disciple should learn from his teacher and a man from God." 4

Another Gnostic text, The Gospel of Mary described how Mary Magdalene became the first Christian pastor in history. She delivering a passionate sermon to the demoralized disciples of Jesus. The gospel describes how this raised their spirits and inspired them to evangelize the known world.

bullet Followers of the ancient Doceitism heresy believed that Christ was not housed in a human body. He was a phantasm, specter or ghost which merely looked human. Today we might use the term hologram. Thus he was not crucified, did not die and was not resurrected.

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  1. Philip Melanchthon, "Augsburg Confession" (1530 CE) is at:
  2. Martin Luther, "The Small Catechism (1529 CE) is at:
  3. Mather & Nichols, Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult, Zondervan (1993), P. 331-332
  4. The Gnostic view, and quotations from "Acts of John" can be seen at:
  5. William Barnstone, Ed., "The Other Bible", Harper San Francisco, CA, (1984) Page 418-20

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Copyright 1998 to 2003 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Essay last updated: 2003-MAR-30
Written by. B.A. Robinson

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