I was looking up a reference for another question on this site and stumbled across something Martin Luther wrote which struck me as odd:

In the Apostolic Creed we confess: "I believe in the holy Christian Church."

Commentary on Galatians - Martin Luther

I had always heard even Protestants said (begrudgingly and with great explanation of their meaning) "holy catholic Church" with a little c catholic (even in the Big-C Catholic translation).

Was the Apostles Creed something that the Reformers tried to reform or did this have some older source?

  • In German protestantism no one says "katholische Kirche". Catholics try to explain, why this would be better ["little c" etc.], but the only used protestant form is "christliche Kirche" (Christian Church). – K-HB Oct 21 '19 at 7:01

The only reference I could find to the expression "the holy Christian Church" was this:

Lutherans following the Lutheran Service Book, like Roman Catholics, use the Apostles' Creed during the Sacrament of Baptism: Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, 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 the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting?

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostles%27_Creed#Lutheran_Church

No indication as to when this expression was adopted, only that the Lutheran Church uses it. The earliest known mention of the expression "Apostles' Creed" occurs in a letter of AD 390 from a synod in Milan. This Wiki article also explores the Creed in Latin, Greek and English: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostles%27_Creed

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In the Greek, "catholic" means according to the whole. In other words, the entire church.

In our time, Catholic has come to mean specifically the Christian church aligned under the Pope in Rome. Therefore, for Lutherans, and other creedal Christians, "Catholic" doesn't necessarily carry the same force as the words in the original creed. What is it, then, that can convey the meaning of the original? Generally speaking, the word "Christian" carries the same force as "the whole" church that believes in Jesus as its Lord and Savior.

While "catholic" can still be used- and is still used in some Lutheran churches- confessing "I believe in the Holy Christian church" is more accurate for us today.

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  • Hi, welcome to the site, I hope you contribute on some of the tougher quandries here, we could use more legit pastors hanging around and answering questions (which I'm guessing you are by the moniker!) You said it's used in "some Lutheran churches" do you mean Evangelical Lutheran vs Missouri Synod or something like that (I'm not entirely up on my modern Lutheranism, so I don't know what all the Churches are) – Peter Turner Oct 25 '19 at 13:58
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    Thanks for the feedback! It depends more upon which hymnal is used by those congregations. Hymnals in the LCMS allow for both readings. Interestingly enough, there is a bent back toward Roman Catholicism in some of the more "conservative" (read liturgically and worship-style conservatism) congregations. So, at the end of the day, it probably comes down to which hymnal is being used. – revethanluhman Nov 4 '19 at 18:29

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