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forced to go to Egypt because of the famine, they encountered their brother in a high official position, and they were afraid in consequence of their evil act. And Joseph said unto them, "Now it was not you that brought me hither, but God." What would the verdict of the "man on the street" be, when, knowing the circumstances, he was confronted with this statement? To his mind it would seem as plain as daylight that Joseph was guilty of falsehood in denying what was a simple matter of fact. But in Joseph's mind, the matter of fact had faded away into legend or myth or unreality, and only the spiritual reality behind the fact remained.
INTERPRETATION OF THE VIRGIN-BIRTH IN
"THE truth of a Creed," said Coleridge, "must be tried by the Holy Scripture; but the sense of the Creed by the known sentiments and inferred intentions of its compilers." It is not with its truth, then, as tested by Holy Scripture, but with its sense, that we are concerned, as we come to the clause "born of the Virgin Mary." The apparent meaning may not have been the original purpose and intention. There is evidence tending to show that the primary object in alluding to the birth of Christ was to maintain the reality of His human birth, His birth of a woman whose name is given, just as in the case of His death the name of Pontius Pilate is mentioned in order to verify the fact. The Creed is chiefly concerned at this point with the assertion of the full humanity of Christ, not of His divinity. In a later age when the controversies of the second century had been forgotten, another interpretation was placed upon this
clause, which put the stress upon the Virginbirth. But meantime great changes had passed over the Church, and in consequence of them the original sense of the Creed had been lost.
In the earliest form of the Apostles' Creed,1 which is known among students of the creeds as the Old Roman Creed, originating in Rome, it is thought, about the middle of the second century, the clause had not yet been inserted "conceived by the Holy Ghost." That may have been added a generation or more later. The related clauses of the Creed then ran in the earliest form:
"Born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, and buried, rose again from the dead on the third day."
Birth, death, and resurrection as actual and historic facts are thus grouped together. Here
1 The best book of reference for the ancient creeds and rules of faith is Hahn, "Bibliothek der Symbole," 1897. As it is not intended here to make any special study of the creeds, the reader may be referred for the bibliography to Dr. McGiffert, "The Apostles' Creed," pp. 3-5. Caspari's exhaustive studies, covering many years, have been succeeded by the very important work of Kattenbusch, "Das Apostolische Symbol," Bd. i, 1894; Bd. ii, 1900. Among works from the Anglican point of view may be mentioned: Heurtley, "Harmonia Symbolica" and "De fide et Symbolo"; Swainson, "The Nicene and Apostles' Creeds"; also Schaff's "Creeds of Christendom."
may be noted the position of the early Catholic Church as compared with the preaching of the Apostolic Age, that it added the birth of Christ to His passion and resurrection, giving to it an equal place. According to the emphatic declaration of St. Paul, the “rule of faith" included only the passion and the resurrection: —
"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again according to the Scriptures." 1
The early apostolic preaching was chiefly concerned with the significance of the death of Christ. But in the old Roman Creed it is the fact of the death that is important, and no interpretation is offered. And to the fact of the death is added the fact of the birth of Christ, as together constituting the assertion of His actual humanity, and the reality of His earthly life. The outlook had changed for the Church when it began to take possession of the Roman Empire. The emphasis of St. Paul was no longer
1 Cf. also 2 Tim. ii. 8, for what Zahn thinks belonged to a formula of St. Paul: "Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel."
the emphasis required by the Church for the successful prosecution of its work. The Catholic Church was encountering dreams and imaginations, fantasies of religious creation, myths, a whole world of unrealities. The religious faith of the heathens reposed in beings who were fictions only, and had never existed; the religious imagination of the time was most prolific; but what the world needed and wanted was reality. Of none of these deities whom men were vainly worshipping could it be said they had actually existed.
Here lay the opportunity and motive of the Church as it began its conquest of the empire to assert that the Son of God had actually and truly been born into the world of human life as a man, and had actually suffered and died on the cross. The interpretation of these facts was simple and intelligible enough, if the facts only were established and accepted.
But not only was the need of reality the most urgent need of the heathen world, but within the Church itself there was a pressing demand for the actual historic fact, in order to overcome the vicious tendency of the religious imagination, taken over from the heathen world, to get rid of facts, in order to give the imagination a chance to soar. Hence the chief danger to the Church