FOUR MARKS OF THE CHURCH? It’s common to quote th…


It’s common to quote the Creed and say there are four “marks” of the Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The Orthodox Church IS one and holy, but I’m not sure that’s what the Creed wants to address.

Ancient Greek didn’t use commas, just “ands.” And there’s only one “and” in that phrase, the one between catholic and apostolic. Therefore, what the Creed says is, “I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.” IOW, the Church is catholic and apostolic; they’re the key adjectives. One is just a number, and holy describes the Catholic-and-Apostolic Church.

For an example of this kind of talk, see the heading of the website of (non-Orthodox) “the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East” (no commas). There’s a long name! My point is, a Western skeptic might call it ‘pious language.’ Another example is when some make reference to “the Holy Roman Church,” or even “Holy Mother the Church.” (Can you tell I used to be Catholic?!) The Creed could just as easily have said, “I believe in the catholic, apostolic Church.” But the Holy Council Fathers (another ‘pious’ phrase) weren’t concise Westerns, they were, well, holy, so they talked this way, but it had real meaning to them and their listeners. So they say the Church is “holy,” and they refer to the “one…Church” for emphasis, to distinguish it from breakaway sects and cults.

I’m not doing a good job of this, but I hope something of my meaning is getting through!