The notion that the apostles gathered before beginning their mission and composed this creed, each suggesting a clause, is pure fiction. The truth is that its basic text was put together, probably in Rome, around the year 150. Due to its use in Rome, the ancient form of the Apostles’ Creed is called “R” by scholars. At the time, however, it was called “the symbol of the faith.” The word symbol in this context did not mean what it does to us today; rather, it meant “a means of recognition,” such as a token that a general gave to a messenger, so that the recipient could recognize a true messenger. Likewise, the “symbol” put together in Rome was a means whereby Christians could distinguish true believers from those who followed the various heresies circulating at the time, particularly Gnosticism and Marcionism. Any who could affirm this creed were neither Gnostics nor Marcionites.
One of the main uses of this “symbol” was in baptism,...
In many Gnostic circles women had a prominence they did not have in society at large. Part of the reason for this was that, since it is the spirit and not the body that is important, the shape of one’s body has little to do with eternal realities.
The angels are above us only provisionally. When the divine purpose is fulfilled in the human creature, we shall be above the angels; for our communion with God will be closer than theirs. The function of angels is similar to that of a tutor guiding the first steps of a prince. Although the tutor is temporarily in charge of the prince, eventually the prince will rule even the tutor.
...one must take care not to exaggerate the opposition of Jesus and the early Christians to the Pharisees. A great deal of the friction between Christians and Pharisees was due to the similarity of their views, rather than to their difference.
...Christians gathered every week to celebrate what they called a “love feast.” This was done in private, and only the initiates (those who had been baptized) were admitted. Furthermore, Christians called each other “brother” and “sister,” and there were many who spoke of their spouses as their “sister” or “brother.” Joining these known facts, non-Christians imagined Christian worship as an orgiastic celebration filled with Christians eating and drinking to excess, then extinguishing the candles, and venting their lusts in indiscriminate and even incestuous unions.
Communion also gave rise to another rumor. Since Christians spoke of being nourished by the body and blood of Christ, and since they also spoke of him as a little child, some came to the conclusion that, as an initiation rite, Christians concealed a newborn in a loaf of bread, and then ordered the neophyte to cut the loaf. When this was done, they all joined in eating the warm flesh of the infant. The new initiate, who had unwittingly become the main perpetrator of the crime, was thus forced to remain silent. Such rumors were made more credible because it was commonly known that when Christians found an abandoned infant they would pick it up and take it home with them.
Some even claimed that Christians worshiped an ass. This was an old rumor about Judaism that was now extended to include Christians, and make them an object of mockery.