Use of singular echoes Apostles’ Creed


As part of my series on the new Roman Missal, I will devote a number of columns to specific texts — including the Creed — and how they have been re-translated.  However, at this time, I would like to offer a brief correction to the letter written by George Mullally (Nov. 19) and answer the question that John LePeau asks at the end of his letter (this issue).

In his letter, Mr. Mullally claims that the original Nicene Creed was in the first-person singular (“I believe…”) and not the first-person plural (“We believe…”). As Mr. LePeau correctly points out in his letter, the original Greek (not Latin) of the Creed — as first promulgated at Nicaea (AD 325) and reissued, with minor changes, at Constantinople (AD 381) — is in the plural. Liturgical use of the Creed in both Byzantine East and Roman West, however, has preferred the singular form — in Latin, credo. The use of the singular is neither a reference to John 3:16 nor a mistranslation. Instead, the singular reflects baptismal usage and echoes the singular of both the Apostles’ Creed and the interrogatory form of the baptismal profession of faith (answering “I do” to the questions posed by the minister). When the Creed was imported into the Eucharistic liturgy (end of the sixth century in Spain; not until the 11th century in Rome), the singular was maintained.

When the text was translated after Vatican II, although the Latin was in the singular, the plural was used in English; other language groups kept the singular. With the new translation, we will not only share a closer translation with Catholics of other language groups around the world but we will also return to the traditional liturgical usage of the Creed.

Deacon Frank Agnoli


director of liturgy,

Davenport Diocese

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