herbs for heresy, and that of a consecrated altar for the bishop and the apostolic ordinances.53
The early church had no official creedal formulabefore the Council ofNicaea in 325, and even then there is little evidence for the Nicene Creed displacing local forms of baptismal confession.54 However, short summaries of the faith occurred in various contexts from the time when the New Testament was written.55 Later, often against heretics, Irenaeus would rehearse summaries of 'the faith', 'the proclamation', 'the rule of truth', with no consistent wording though in substantially similar terms. Such malleable summaries are found also in Tertullian, Hippolytus and Origen during the decades following Irenaeus, and are generally referred to in modern scholarship as 'the rule of faith'.56 It always involves confession of God as Father and creator, of Jesus and his life on earth, and usually something about the Holy Spirit, the church and the coming judgement. Some such summary appears to have been deployed by the presbyters (bishops?) who tried Noetus for heresy late in the second century.57 If so, that is a primitive occurrence of the 'conciliar creed' often met the next centuries as a way of settling doctrinal disputes.
Creeds as such emerged in the context of preparation for baptism, and gradually became incorporated into the liturgies. Their threefold shape is owing to the three questions (noted earlier) associated with the three washings. Prior to baptism, it became customary for the candidate to confess the faith by reciting the creed received during instruction. The eucharistic prayer became another occasion for summarising the faith of the church. The ancient practice of the eastern churches, as it comes down to us in later documents such as The Liturgy of St James and The Apostolic Constitutions,58 celebrates the history of God's dealings with his people from the creation, through the patriarchs and prophets, to the coming of Christ and his saving death and exaltation. So creeds and summaries of the faith were not primarily deployed as tests of orthodoxy - they had their natural locus in doxology and confession of the faith in worship. This bears out the view that church leaders were concerned with the liturgical and moral life of the congregation as much as orthodoxy, if not more.
53 Ign. Trail. 6-7. For the interpretation of Ign. Eph. 20.2, see Schoedel, Ignatius ofAntioch, 95-9; Wehr, Arznei der Unsterblichkeit, 106-11.
55 Classic presentation in Dodd, Apostolic preaching; see also Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, 6-29.
56 Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, 68-99.
58 Prex eucharistica, Hanggi and Pahl (eds.), 82-95, 244-61.
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