Two books of religious instruction written by Luther for old and young. In 1516 he preached a series of sermons on the Ten Commandments; 1517 he preached and wrote on the Lord's Prayer, 1518 on the Ten Commandments, and in the next 10 yrs. issued many studies on the Catechism and related subjects. Visiting Saxon chs. 1528, Luther found the people sunk in superstition and the pastors in ignorance and immorality. He preached a series of sermons on the 5 chief parts of Christian doctrine (May, September, November, December 1528; March 1529). These sermons provided background for the Deutsch Katechismus (later called Der grosse Katechismus), which he began to write in the fall of 1528. He began on the Enchiridion: Der kleine Katechismus in December 1528; it appeared on large charts January 1529 and in booklet form ca. the middle of May 1529. The Deutsch Katechismus appeared in book form April 1529. The Enchiridion in the form we have it dates from 1531 to 1542. The parts on the Office of the Keys and Confession were added later. The Christian Questions were added after Luther's death; though often ascribed to him, there is no evidence of his authorship of them.
The Christian faith is not only to be learned, but also to be lived; how it is to be lived in various walks and stations of life is plainly shown in the Table of Duties, probably suggested by J. de Gerson's* Tractatus de modo vivendi omnium fidelium, reprinted 1513 at Wittenberg. Probably Luther did not write What the Hearers Owe to Their Pastors and What Subjects Owe to the Magistrates.
The transcendent merits of both catechisms gave them instant entrance into home, school, and ch.; they were soon confessed as the Bible of the laity, wherein everything is comprised which is treated at greater length in Holy Scripture, and is necessary for a Christian man to know for his salvation (FC Ep Summary 5). The Small Catechism has been called the greatest book of instruction ever written and the explanation of the Second Article the greatest sentence from a pen not inspired. It is a confession of faith and can be prayed. It was soon tr. into other languages and for over 400 yrs. has been in constant use to train the young. Some claim that it has wider circulation than any other book except the Bible.
The Large Catechism was written to aid pastors and fathers in teaching. It is practical, popular, and, at the same time, theologically developed. In the Decalog we come to the knowledge of our sins, in the Creed to justification by faith in Christ, and in the Lord's Prayer is manifested the new life in the Spirit.
K. Bornhäuser, Der Ursinn des Kleinen Katechismus D. Martin Luthers (Gütersloh, 1933); J. Meyer, Historischer Kommentar zu Luthers Kleinem Katechismus (Gütersloh, 1929); see also references under Catechetics.
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission
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