Exegesis: Is it Biblical to say that I believe in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church when reciting the Apostles’ Creed?

Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, especially of the Bible ( source ). Let's look at the Protestant perspective that was posted on Facebook and then we'll look at the Catholic perspective.

Note: Shortly after I told my sister that I was converting to Catholicism, she sent me the question and answer below from something that she found on Facebook. Her intention was not to take the position of what was being said. She simply sent it to me because I had recently read the Nicene Creed to her over the phone and she thought I'd be interested in seeing the question and answer below. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

QUESTION: Is it Biblical to say that I believe in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church when reciting the Apostles’ Creed?

PROTESTANT ANSWER:

First of all, the words “Apostolic Church” are NOT found in the Apostles’ Creed. The Apostles’ Creed reads as follows:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived of 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 arose from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”

Regarding “the holy catholic church,” this does NOT refer to the “Roman Catholic Church.” The word “catholic” means “universal” and thus when one says, “I believe in…the holy catholic church” they are expressing their belief in the truth that “all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ are members of the ‘universal church,’ which is the ‘body of Christ.’ Jesus spoke of this universal church in Matthew 16:18, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH.” Peter had just confessed that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (in verse 16) and this belief in Christ IS THE ROCK upon which the church is being built. In Acts chapter two the church was born when the Holy Spirit came down from heaven to form all believers in Jesus Christ into the church. Since then every time one believes on Christ for salvation they are instantly added to the universal church. We see this truth in Acts 2:47, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” So, “the holy catholic church” had its beginning on the Day of Pentecost and is continuing to grow as sinners are being saved.

Before we end this meditation, I feel compelled to address an error that is found in the Apostles’ Creed. I capitalized the words that form this error, for it is NOT true that Jesus “descended into hell” between the time He died and arose from the dead. Scripture is clear that Jesus’ BODY went into the grave of Joseph of Arimathea (see John 19:38-42) and His SPIRIT went to Paradise to be with His Father (see Luke 23:43-46). Three days later the body of Jesus rose from the dead (and was reunited with His spirit) and 40 days later He ascended into heaven (see 1st Corinthians 15:3-4 and Acts 1:1-11).

This teaches us that we need to be extremely careful in adopting a creed, which is a “statement of faith” (a list of what one believes to be the most important doctrines of the Christian faith). One had best be absolutely certain that his “creed” is based on the truth of Scripture, for if there is but one error contained in their creed it casts doubt on the whole, and at the very least it can lead a soul into confusion and to misinterpreting other portions of Scripture.
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Note: I'm connected to some well known Catholic's that do various things like speak at conferences, speak on the radio, do apologetics, write books, etc. The answer below is from a very well known Catholic apologist who replied to me after I sent the Protestant version above.

I'm only tweaking portions that are "not directly" relevant to the exegesis portion plus I'm adding hyperlinks to make it easier to find some of the scripture references, etc. Other than this, the CORE FOCAL POINTS of all this is in tact as I received the reply.

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QUESTION: Is it Biblical to say that I believe in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church when reciting the Apostles’ Creed?

CATHOLIC ANSWER:

In answer to the question, the answer is "yes," it is entirely biblical to recite the Apostles' Creed as there is nothing in the Creed that is contrary to Scripture. In fact, everything it states is in agreement with Sacred Scripture.

Second, it is true that "Apostolic Church" is not found in the Apostles' Creed, but it is found in the Nicene Creed that developed at and after the Councils of Nicaea in AD 325, and Constantinople in AD 381. This is the Creed recited generally in Masses on Sunday throughout the world:

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and APOSTOLIC CHURCH.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Third, "the Holy Catholic Church" technically does not refer to the "Roman" Catholic Church because the term "Roman" really refers to one Rite within the Holy Catholic Church. More properly, it is called the "Latin Rite." There are 8 major Rites and 22 "churches" within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Churches. However, "the holy Catholic Church" does refer to all of those who are in communion with the Bishop of Rome. That is an historical fact. Thus, the "catholic" Church referred to in the Apostle's Creed is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Fourth, the idea of an "invisible" Church that consists of an unknowable "invisible" number who "express their belief in the truth that all who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ are members" of that Church, is both unbiblical and unhistorical. Jesus commanded all to submit to the visible Church he established in Matt. 18:15-18. He made baptism necessary to the equation here in Mark 16:16, as did St. Paul in Romans 6:3-4, and St. Peter in Acts 2:38-39 and I Peter 3:21. And this is not to mention all the rest of texts of Scripture that make the Eucharist essential for the experience of Christ's divine life (John 6:53; I Cor. 10:15-18), obedience to Christ and his Church (Heb. 5:8-9; Acts 5:32; Romans 6:16; Acts 15:24-28 and 16:1-4; Rev. 2:6-14), perseverance in Christ (Acts 13:43; II Cor. 6:1-2; Matt. 10:22; Rev. 2:10), etc. Most especially, one must believe properly in order to be a member of the Church as we see in the case of Apollos and new believers in Ephesis in Acts 18:24 and 19:7.

Also, while the term "Catholic" does mean "universal," it means more than just that. The term comes from two Greek words that mean "according to the whole"- "kata" (according to) "holocos" (the whole). Thus, St. Paul describes the Church as "the body of Christ, the fullness of him who fills all in all" in Eph. 1:22-23. The Church is Christ extended into the world in a visible way, which means it has a head (visible head in the Pope) and body (visible body is the entire Church). And that Church subsists in the Catholic Church in union with the Bishop of Rome.

Fifth, Matt. 16:18-19. Read these two articles ( My quick note: the two articles get into a lot of scripture and are very informative. ):

Peter is the Rock

The Papacy in Scripture - More Than Matthew 16

The person responding is not seeing the obvious here. Yes, Peter confessed the truth that Jesus is the Son of God, but many others had already done the same (see articles above). The response is missing the fact that as a result of this confession, he gave Peter a unique authority over the entire Church!

Sixth, the response is correct that Jesus' body was buried in the tomb of St. Joseph of Arimathea, and that his human soul went to "Paradise." And she is right that he also raised himself from the dead after 3 days (see John 2:19). But she omitted another fact. I Peter 3:19 declares Jesus also and immediately descended into "phulake" (prison) or the "holding place" (in Hebrew "sheol," Greek "hades") of the righteous dead after his death so that he could proclaim the truth to them and lead them to heaven. That is what the Creed means by him descending into "hell." In Hebrew that would be "sheol" or the holding place of the dead, both the righteous and the unrighteous, before the time of Christ. Jesus refers to it as "Abraham's Bosom" in Luke 16.

Thus, the Creed is entirely correct and biblical. The responder has an incomplete picture.

This is why we have to be very careful when we consider accepting alleged "truths of the Bible" that are actually coming from individuals' private interpretation of Scripture. That is why St. Peter condemns "private interpretation of Scripture" in II Peter 1:20-21. Because individual Christians, even with the best of intentions, will always end up in error, whereas those who follow those who are "sent" by the proper authority of the Church will never lead us astray (see Romans 10:14; Acts 15:24-28). That is because the true Church is infallible and cannot lead anyone astray when she "binds or looses" something on earth (see I Thess. 2:13; I John 4:6; Matt. 16:18-19; Matt. 18:15-18).
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Well, there you go. Two views. Both using scripture. Which one is right? Why?

Check out two articles that I wrote that may provide additional insight:

“WHERE IS THAT IN THE BIBLE?” – THE PROTESTANTS “SOLA” PREDICAMENT

and

THE CHURCH – VISIBLE NOT INVISIBLE: ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC