Spread The Word Ministries                                                            Home
  Noteworthy Catechisms of the Reformation Era



A catechism (from the Greek word: ka'tim~eiv, meaning "to teach by word of mouth"), is a compendium of instruction (particularly of religious instruction) arranged in the form of questions and answers. The custom of catechizing, common to all civilized antiquity, was also followed in the schools of Judaism and in the Early Church.

The catechism as we know it is intended primarily for children, and uneducated persons. Its aim is to instruct, and it differs ‘from a creed or confession in not being in the first instance an act of worship or a public profession of belief. The first regular catechisms seem to have been compiled in the 8th and 9th centuries. But it is not until the first stirrings of revolt against the hierarchy, which preceded the Reformation, that they became at all widespread or numerous.

The age of the Reformation gave great stimulus to the production of catechisms. This was but natural at a time when the invention of printing had thrown the Bible open to all, and carried the war of religious opinion from the schools into the streets. The adherents of the “old” and the “new” religions alike had to justify their views to the unlearned as well as to the learned, and to give in simple formulas their reasons for the faith that was in them. Moreover, in the universal unrest and oversetting of all authority, Christianity itself was in danger of perishing, not only as the result of the cultured paganism of the Renaissance, but also through the brutish ignorance of the common folk, deprived now of their traditional religious restraints. To the urgency of this peril the reformers were fully alive; and they sought its remedy in education. “Let the people be taught,” said Luther, “let schools be opened for the poor, let the truth reach them in simple words in their own mother tongue, and they will believe.”

    Lutheran Catechisms

       Luther's Large Catechism (1529)
Luther's Small Catechism (1529)

    Reformed Catechisms

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563)

    Presbyterian Catechisms

       The Westminster Larger Catechism (1648)
The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1648)


Home | Top

Spread-The-Word Ministries