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Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition.

Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition. By Jaroslav Pelikan. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2003. liv + 609 pp. $37.50 cloth.

Not only in the U.S. but also in Europe, people in recent years have been producing new editions of important confessions (for example, Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, the Edition reformierter Bekenntnisschriften [Neukirchen-Vluyn]). In the U.S. it became more and more clear that the monumental opus of Philipp Schaff, Bibliotheca Symbolica Ecclesiae Universalis: The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes (New York, 1877), which is also in use in Europe, no longer was sufficient for modern and Scientific demands. So work on a "new Schaff" began. Jaroslav Pelikan is one of a very small company of scholars who would attempt such a task. The new edition, Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition, comprises three volumes of documents, but the editors have wisely added a fourth, Credo, a remarkable study of the role of creeds over the whole history of Christianity.

Credo stands as an independent reference work devoted to what creeds and confessions are and what their role in history has been. The narrative essays comprise four major sections: "Definition of Creed and Confession" (1-121), "The Genesis of Creeds and Confessions" (123-244), "The Authority of Creeds and Confessions" (245-364), "The History of Creeds and Confessions" (365-515).

According to Pelikan, it is the nature of Christendom that the development of theological reflection defines the formal character of confessions of faith. Based on the "Schema Israel" (Deuteronomy 6:4), the Old Church of necessity developed the classical creeds of the early church and the theological developments that supported the first confessions of faith.

At the same time, Pelikan shows in his studies not only the formal character of confessions of faith but also the historical and political temporality of Christian creeds. Pelikan distinctly calls by name the conflicts about the authority and tradition of creeds and calls into question the roles of church and politics, which existed in medieval times (in both East and West), during the Reformation, and in the modern era. Between these poles--on one side, the formal necessity of a Christian creed, on the other, its political and ecclesiastical temporality, Pelikan unfolds his historical considerations. The result of his reflections is as historically sobering as theologically encouraging: creeds were and are a historical matter of dispute. At the same time, they have a theological necessity because they articulate Christian beliefs in their time and bring up anew what is theologically essential. In this way, they do justice to the biblical idea that belief together has to be belief that forms the life of men.

Pelikan's study Credo is especially worthy because the author's thoughts are founded on many references to the creeds and confessions of many churches. We only can thank the author that in three other major sections he makes it possible for the reader to work on the texts as well as he does. First, an important "Abbreviations of Creeds and Confessions" (xvii-xliv); second, an extensive bibliography dates titles in the area of Christian history and the creeds (517-36); and third, several indexes to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition and to the present volume Credo.

Andreas Muhling

University of Bonn, Germany, and University of Lucerne, Switzerland
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Author:Muhling, Andreas
Publication:Church History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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