A Brief History

Return to contents

It is important to recognise what the articles are and what they are not.

  1. The articles are not creeds.
    1. That the articles are not creeds is made clear from the title: 'Articles whereupon it was agreed by the Archbishops and Bishops of both provinces and the whole clergy in the Convocations holden at London in the year of our Lord God 1562...'. The articles therefore have only local and temporal import, while the three creeds (Apostolic, Nicene and Athanasian) have universal and permanent authority.
    2. The creeds are formularies of faith. They are for learners. The baptismal candidate recites the creed at his baptism and no further statement is required of him or by him for his salvation. The articles on the other hand, are formularies for teachers. They deal with consent, not with belief or the province of faith. They mark out the lines along which official teaching is to proceed, and set the limits which it is not to overstep. Thus they are negative and exclusive of error, where the creeds are positive and inclusive of truth.
  2. The articles are constitutional, not doctrinal. In its development, it followed the direction of the Crown and laity; and though each decisive step was formally taken by divines, it was taken, as a rule, in the direction previously indicated by statesmen.

1536: The Ten Articles

The first five articles relate to doctrine:
  1. The principal Articles concerning our Faith.
  2. The Sacrament of Baptism.
  3. The Sacrament of Penance.
  4. The Sacrament of the Altar.
  5. Justification.
The second five concern "the laudable ceremonies used in the church"
  1. And first of Images.
  2. Of honouring of Saints.
  3. Of praying to Saints.
  4. Of Rites and Ceremonies.
  5. Of Purgatory.

1537: The Bishop's Book

The Episcopate issued a formulary they titled, The Institution of a Christian Man, but this became popularly known as "The Bishop's Book".

The book never received the sanction of Convocation of Parliament. Henry VIII himself disliked the book and submitted it to a careful revision.

1543: The King's Book

The revised formulary was titled, A Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any Christian Man but became known as "The King's Book". It was the same book in substance and arrangement, but its coherence and learning were much improved.

1539: The Statute of Six Articles

(31 Henry VIII. c. 14) Enforced under penalties the very doctrines and practices which the Lutherans had fastened on as abuses.

1538: The Thirteen Articles

The Augsberg Confession. A Book containing divers Articles They never had any authority; but they are of great interest as the connecting link between the English articles and the Augsberg Confession.
1. De Unitate Dei et Trinitate Personarum. [On One God and Three Persons.]
taken verbatim from Augsb. 1 and includes No. 1 of the Forty-two Articles.
2. De Peccato Originali. [On Original Sin.]
corresponds with Augsb. 2 and transmits certain of its phrases to No. 8 of the Forty-two.
3. De Duabus Christi Naturis. [On the Two Natures of Christ.]
taken verbatim from Augsb. 3 and includes No. 2 of the Forty-two.
4. De Justificatione. [On Justification.]
condensed from Augsb. 4, 5, 6 and 20. It contributed nothing to the later formularies.
5. De Ecclesia. [On the Church.]
takes some expressions from Augsb. 7 and 8. Includes Nos. 33 and 27 of the Forty-two.
6. De Baptismo. [On Baptism.]
a fuller statement of Augsb. 9. Made no contribution to the later formularies.
7. De Eucharistia. [On the Eucharist.]
an expansion of Augsb. 10. It did not contribute to the later formularies.
8. De Penitentia. [On Penitence.]
an expansion of Augsb. 11 and 12. It did not contribute to the later formularies.
9. De Sacramentorum Usu. [On the Use of the Sacraments.]
a lengthier reproduction of Augsb. 14. Contributed to No. 26 of the Forty-two.
10. De Ministris Ecclesiae. [On the Ministry of the Church.]
based upon Augbs. 14. Contributed to No. 24 of the Forty-two.
11. De Ritibus Ecclesiasticis. [On the Rites of the Church]
agrees with Augsb. 15. It did not contribute to the later formularies.
12. De Rebus Civilibus. [On Issues Political]
agrees with Augsb. 16. It did not contribute to the later formularies.
13. De Corporum Resurrectione et Judicio Extremo. [On the Resurrection of the Body and the Last Judgement.]
agrees with Augsb. 17. It did not contribute to the later formularies.

The King died on July 6, 1553


We do not know whether the Forty-two Articles ever received the sanction of Convocation, since its records were burnt in the Great Fire of London. The Convocation sat from 22 March to 1 April, 1553.

Return to contents

Please mail your comments and corrections to Gavin Koh at <gavvie@bigfoot.com>