Luthers (Two) Catechisms

Luther's (Two) Catechisms By way of supplement to the article Luther (q.v.), we add that both these catechisms, the larger one in the form of a continuous exposition, and the smaller one arranged in questions and answers, appeared in 1529, although the preparatory work dates back to the very beginning of Luther's reformatory activity. In 1518 Johann Schneider collected and published the various expositions of the Lord's Prayer which Luther had given in his sermons and lectures. This induced Luther to publish his exposition in an authentic form. In the same year he published a Latin exposition of the Ten Commandments, and in 1520 these sporadic efforts came to a preliminary consummation in his Eyn Kurcz form des zehnen Gepoth: Eyn Kurcz form des Glaubens: Eyn Kurcz form des Vatter Unsers. After 1524 Luther's attention was very strongly drawn to the school. His An die Radherrn aller Stedle deutsches Lands: dass sie christliche Schulen auffrichten und hallten sollen caused many evangelical schools to be founded, and the necessity arose for a trustworthy handbook in the elements of true Christianity. This necessity was the more felt by Luther himself, when, in his tour of visitation through Saxony in 1528, he saw how sorely both the ministers and congregations stood in need of such a book, and thus, in 1529, both the larger and smaller catechisms appeared. Luther's catechisms, however, are not the first attempts of the kind. There existed such works by Brenz, Althammer, and Lammer, but Luther's catechisms soon took the lead, and were immediately translated into Latin.

The smaller catechism, which soon became an almost symbolical book in the Lutheran churches, consists of, I. The Ten Commandments; II. The Creed; III. The Lord's Prayer; IV. The Sacrament of Baptism; V. The Sacrament of the Altar; to which is added, in the editions since 1564, a sixth part, Confession and Absolution, or the Power of the Keys. Considering the smaller catechism as a whole, it is indeed the ripe fruit of many exertions, the full expression after many trials. Wherever Lutherans are found, this catechism too is used. See Plitt-Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v. (B.P.)

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