Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions
IX. The Small and the Large Catechism of Luther.
99. Luther Beginning Work on Catechisms.
Luther first mentioned the plan of publishing a catechism in a letter of February 2, 1525, to Nicolaus Hausmann. He informs him: “Jonas and Eisleben [Agricola] have been instructed to prepare a catechism for children. I am devoting myself to the Postil [last part of the Winter Postil] and to Deuteronomy, where I have sufficient work for the present.” (Enders, 5, 115.) In a letter of March 26, 1525, also to Hausmann, Luther repeats: “The Catechism, as I have written before, has been given to its authors, ist seinen Verfassern aufgetragen worden.” (144.) However, when Jonas and Agricola (who soon moved from Wittenberg to Eisleben) failed,. Luther resolved to undertake the work himself, which, according to his letter of February 2, he had declined merely for the reason that he was already sufficiently burdened. The execution of his plan, however, was deferred. September 27, 1525, he wrote to Hausmann: “I am postponing the Catechism, as I would like to finish everything at one time in one work.” (246.) The same letter shows what Luther meant. For here he speaks of the reformation of the parishes and of the introduction of uniform ceremonies.Evidently, then, he at that time desired to publish the Catechism together with a visitation tract, such as Melanchthon wrote in 1527. Besides, his Prayer-Booklet, containing the “Brief Form,” as well as the Booklet for Laymen and Children, offered a temporary substitute for the contemplated Catechism. The deplorable conditions, however, which the Saxon visitation brought to light would not permit him to tarry any longer.“The deplorable, miserable condition,” says Luther in the Preface to his Small Catechism,“which I discovered lately when I, too, was a visitor, has forced and urged me to prepare this Catechism, or Christian doctrine, in this small, plain, simple form.” (535, 1.) Thus the Small Catechism sprang, as it were, directly from the compassion Luther felt for the churches on account of the sad state of destitution to which they had been brought, and which he felt so keenly during the visitation. However, Luther’s statements in the German Order ofWorship concerning the catechetical procedure in question and answer quoted above show that the thought of such a Catechism did not first occur to him at this time. Still it was the visitation that added the decisive impulse to put the idea into immediate execution. Besides, it was a time in which Luther was entirely engrossed in the Catechism, having preached in 1528 on the five chief parts no less than three times. Thus the harvest was at hand. In January, 1529, according to his own letters, Luther was engaged in this work, having probably begun about the close of 1528. He was able to make rapid progress, since ample material was at his command.
The old moot question which of the two Catechisms appeared first was decided when Buchwald discovered the Stephan Roth letters, which show that the Small Catechism appeared in chart form in January and March, 1529, while the first Wittenberg book edition appeared in May, after the Large Catechism had meanwhile come off the press in April. From the fact that Luther simply called his Large Catechism “German Catechism” one may infer that he began work on this first, and that, when writing the title, he had not yet begun the Small Catechism nor planned it definitely; but not, that Luther completed the Large Catechism first. On the other hand, from the title “Small Catechism” one can only infer that Luther, when he wrote thus, had already begun to write, and was working on, the Large Catechism, but not, that the Small Catechism appeared later than the large. Albrecht:“One may certainly speak of a small book before the appearance of a large book of similar kind, if the latter has been definitely planned, worked out at the same time, and is almost completed.” (W. 30, 1, 569.)
100. Tables Published First.
January 15, 1529, Luther wrote to Martin Goerlitz: “Modo in parando catechismo pro rudibus paganis versor. I am now busy preparing the Catechism for the ignorant heathen” (not “peasants,” for in his German Order of Worship, Luther says: “Catechism is an instruction by means of which heathen who desire to become Christians are taught”). It was formerly asserted that the expression “pro rudibus paganis” showed that Luther here meant the Small Catechism.Appealing to the statement in the Preface to the Large Catechism: “This sermon is designed and undertaken that it might be an instruction for children and the simple-minded,” Koellner was the first one to assert that Luther’s phrase of January 15 referred to the Large Catechism. In this he was followed by Cohrs, Enders, and others. (Enders, 7, 44.) However, according to the usage of the word catechism described above, the statement quoted does not preclude that Luther, when writing thus, was engaged on both Catechisms.And such indeed was the case. For on January 20, 1529, Roerer, the Wittenberg proofreader, wrote to Roth:“Nothing new has appeared. I believe that the Catechism as preached by D. M. for the unlettered and simple will be published for the coming Frankfurt mass. Yet, while writing this, I glance at the wall of my dwelling, and fixed to the wall I behold tables embracing in shortest and simplest form Luther’s Catechism for children and the household, and forthwith I send them to you as a sample, so that by the same messenger they may be brought to you immediately. Iam novi nihil in lucem prodiit; ad nundinas credo Francofurdenses futuras Catechismus per D. M. praedicatus pro rudibus et simplicibus edetur. Hoc vero scribens inspicio parietem aestuarioli mei, affixas parieti video tabulas complecententes brevissime simul et crasse catechismum Lutheri pro pueris et familia, statim mitto pro exemplari, ut eodem tabellario iam ad te perferantur.” (W. 30, I, 428; Enders, 7, 44.)
This letter of January 20 is the first time that both of Luther’s Catechisms are mentioned together and distinguished from each other.By catechism Roerer means the text of the five chief parts which Luther put at the head of his Large Catechism. “Catechismus per D. M. praedicatus” designates the explanation of this text as comprised in Luther’s three series of sermons of 1528 and summed up in the Large Catechism. From this preached and later on so-called Large Catechism, which appeared in April, entitled “German Catechism,“Roerer distinguishes “tables, summing up Luther’s Catechism in shortest and simplest form for children and the household.” He means the series of charts containing the first three chief parts, which Luther considered the Catechism par excellence. And at the time when Roerer spoke of the prospective publication of the Large Catechism for the Frankfurt mass, these tables were already hanging on his wall.
Albrecht comments: “For the moment Roerer had not remembered the very interesting novelty, which had already appeared in the first tables of the later so-called Small Catechism. However, a glance at the wall of his room reminded him of it.And from a letter of his dated March 16 we must infer that they were the three charts containing the Ten Commandments,the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer with Luther’s explanation. These he calls ．tables which in shortest and simplest form embrace Luther’s Catechism for the children and the household,' Thus he wrote in view of the superscription: ．As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household,' without implying a difference between the expression pro pueris et familia and the preceding pro rudibus et simplicibus, since the former are included in the latter. The difference between the two works is rather indicated by the words brevissime simul et crasse. But at the same time their inner connection is asserted, for by sending the tables pro exemplari, he characterizes them as a model or sample of Luther’s manner of treating the Catechism. They are the catechismus Lutheri, that is, the aforementioned catechismus per D. M. praedicatus in its shortest form and draft (conceived as an extract of the sermons or of the Large Catechism). He thought that this sample would indicate what was to be expected from the forthcoming larger work.” (W. 30, 1, 429.)
When, therefore, Luther wrote on January 15: “Modo in parando catechismo pro rudibus paganis versor,” he was engaged on both Catechisms, and had proceeded far enough to enable him to send the first tables of the Small Catechism to the printer. Buchwald remarks regarding the letter of January 20 that Roerer probably had just received the tables from the press. However, Roerer’s letter to Roth of February 12, 1529, shows that already about a month ago he had sent the “tables of the Catechism” (evidently the same to which he referred January 20) to Spalatin. Accordingly, these tables were forwarded about January 12. The following remark in the Church Order for Schoenewald in the district of Schweinitz: “First to pronounce for the people the Ten Commandments, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, thereupon to explain them in the most simple way, as published [each] on a printed table,” takes us back still a few days more. For the visitation in the district of Schweinitz, in which Luther took part, was held January 7 to 9, the time from which also the Schoenewald Church Order dates. At this visitation, therefore, even prior to January 7, Luther himself distributed the first series of tables, comprising the first three chief parts, of his Small Catechism. Cohrs opines that Luther sent this series to the printer about Christmas 1528 at the latest. However, it does not appear why the printing should have consumed three to four weeks Seb. Froeschels however, is mistaken when he declares in his book on the Priesthood of Christ, 1565, that, at a table conversation of 1528, Luther had advised Hans Metsch constantly to have with him a good small catechism, such as the one he had written. Knaake surmises that 1528 is a misprint; it should be 1538. (W. 30, 1, 430f.)
101.Completion of Catechisms Delayed.
It was almost two months after the first table-series had appeared before the second was published. This delay is accounted for by Luther’s illness and his being burdened with other work, especially with his book against the Turk.March 3 he wrote to Hausmann: “By reason of Satan’s afflictions I am almost constantly compelled to be a sick well man (als Gesunder krank zu sein), hence I am much hindered in writing and other work.” (Enders, 7, 61.) However, in the same letter Luther informed his impatiently waiting friend: “The Catechism is not completed,my dear Hausmann, but it will be completed shortly.” Enders remarks that this refers to the Large Catechism. However, it harmonizes best with Luther’s usage and with the facts if the words are understood as referring to both Catechisms. “Shortly,” Luther had written, and on March 16 Roerer, according to his letter of this date, forwarded “the tables of Confession, the German Litany, the tables of the Sacrament of Baptism and of the blood of Christ.” Roerer calls them a novelty, recens excussa, recently printed, from which it appears that the tabulae catechismum Lutheri brevissime simul et crasse complectentes, to which he referred on January 20, did not contain the Sacraments. Thus, then, the five chief parts, Decalog, Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, and Lord’s Supper were completed by March 16, 1529. Buchwald and Cohrs surmise, but without further ground for their assumption, that the table with the Benedicite and the Gratias was issued together with the first series in January. At the latest, however, the prayers appeared with the second series. For March 7, 1529, Levin Metzsch wrote to Roth, evidently referring to Luther’s tables: “I am herewith also sending to you the Benedicite and the Gratias, also the Morning and Evening Prayers, together with the Vice of Drunkenness.” (W. 30, 1, 432.) The exact time when Luther composed the Table of Duties is not known. And the first evidence we have of the Small Catechism’s appearing in book form is Roerer’s letter of May 16, 1529, saying that he is sending two copies of the Small Catechism, the price of which, together with other books, is two groschen. (432.) The necessary data are lacking to determine how long Luther’s manuscript was ready before it was printed, and before the printed copies were distributed.
As to the large Catechism, it was not completed when the second table series appeared in March. In a letter, the date of which must probably be fixed about the end of March, Roerer says: “The Turk is not yet entirely struck off; neither the Catechism.” April 23, however, the Large Catechism was on the market, for on this day Roerer wrote: “I am sending three copies of the Catechism.” It was the Large Catechism; for the price of each copy was two groschen, whereas on May 16, 1529, Roerer had sent two copies of the Small Catechism and other books for two groschen. (432.) The Large Catechism probably had appeared several weeks before April 23. Albrecht: “Even if all [of Luther’s] sermons from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday, 1529, are considered preliminary works, according to which the last paragraphs of the Large Catechism were elaborated,we can assume that its appearance in the beginning or the first half of April, 1529, was possible. To be sure, the printing must then have been advanced so far before Holy Week that the rest could be finished speedily on the basis of the manuscript delivered immediately after the sermons of Monday and Maundy Thursday had been preached.”
This theory fits in with the facts that John Lonicer ofMarburg had already completed his Latin translation on May 15, 1529 (although, according to the title-page, it first appeared in September), and that Roerer in a letter of April 23 merely mentions the Large Catechism in passing,without designating it as an important novelty. Stephen Roth, the recipient of the letter, spent some time at Wittenberg during April, and probably purchased his first copy there; so Roerer refers to copies which were ordered subsequently. (482.) While thus the Small Catechism in chart form was completed and published before the Large Catechism, the former succeeded the latter in book form.However, though completed after the Small Catechism, it can be shown that the beginning and perhaps even part of the printing of the Large Catechism dates back to 1528, thus preceding in this respect even the Charts of January 9. If the short Preface to the Large Catechism, as well as the exhortation at the beginning:“Let the young people also come to the preaching, that they hear it explained and learn to understand it,” etc., had been written after the 9th of January, Luther would probably have mentioned the Tables, just as he refers to the Large Catechism in the Preface to the Small Catechism, which was written about the end of April or the beginning of May. (535, 17.) Since, however, Luther makes no such indication, these paragraphs of the Large Catechism were, no doubt, composed before January, 1529. (575,1; 579, 26.) The same inference may be drawn from the fact that, in the explanation of the First Commandment, the wording of the conclusion of the Ten Commandments shows a number of variations from its wording in the Small Catechism, whereas its wording at the close of the explanation of the commandments is in conformity with it. (589, 30; 672, 320.)
102. Similarity and Purpose of Catechisms.
As great as is the dissimilarity between Luther’s two Catechisms, on the one hand, so great, on the other, is the similarity. If one did not know that the Large Catechism was begun before the Small, and that both originated in the sermons of 1528, he might either view the Large Catechism as a subsequent expansion of the Small, or the latter as a summary of the former.Yet neither the one nor the other is the case. If the Large Catechism influenced the Small, so also the latter the former. Albrecht says: “It is more probable that the Small Catechism influenced the Large Catechism than vice versa.” (W. 30, 1, 558.) At all events, the second table-series could not have been extracted from the Large Catechism as such, since the latter was only completed after March 25, whereas these tables were published already on March 16. The Small Catechism has been characterized as “a small basketful of ripe fruit gathered from that tree” [the Large Catechism]. In substance that is true, since both originate from the same source, the sermons of 1528. Already Roerer calls attention to this similarity, when in the aforementioned letter, he designates the Large Catechism as “Catechismus per D. M. praedicatus,” and then describes the Small Catechism as “tabulae complectentes brevisissime simul et crasse catechismum Lutheri pro pueris et familia.” Both treat of the same five chief parts; the explanation of both presupposes the knowledge of the text of these parts, both owe their origin to the doctrinal ignorance,uncovered particularly in the Saxon visitation; and the purpose of both is the instruction of the plain people and the young. Indeed, it was not for scholars, but for the people that Luther lived, labored, and contended.“For,” says he in his German Mass, “the paramount thing is to teach and lead the people.” (W. 19, 97.)
Above all, Luther endeavored to acquaint the “dear youth"with the saving truths, not merely for their own sakes, but in the interest of future generations as well. He desired to make them mature Christians, able to confess their faith and to impart instruction to their children later on. In particular, the two Catechisms were to serve the purpose of properly preparing the children and the unlearned for the Holy Eucharist, as appears from the Preface to the Small Catechism and from the last paragraphs of the Large (536, 21ff.; 760, 39ff.); for both end in admonitions diligently to partake of the Lord’s Supper. The Sacrament of the Altar, in Luther’s estimation, is the goal of all catechetical instruction. For this reason he added to the ancient chief parts those of Baptism, Confession, and the Lord’s Supper.
Accordingly, both Catechisms, though in various respects, are intended for all: people, youth, parents, preachers, and teachers. It is not correct to say that Luther wrote his Large Catechism only for scholars, and the other only for the unlearned.He desired to instruct all, and, at the same time, enable parents and pastors to teach. According to Luther, it is the duty of every Christian to learn constantly, in order also to be able to teach others in turn. If any one, said he, really no longer needed the Catechism for himself, he should study it nevertheless for the sake of the ignorant.Nor did Luther exempt himself from such study. In the Long Preface to the Large Catechism we read: “But for myself I say this: I am also a doctor and preacher, yea, as learned and experienced as all those may be who have such presumption and security; yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism, and every morning, and whenever I have time, I read and say, word for word the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, etc.And I must still read and study daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and am glad so to remain."(569, 7.)
April 18, 1530, Luther repeated this in a sermon as follows: “Whoever is able to read, let him, in the morning, take a psalm or some other chapter in the Bible and study it for a while. For that is what I do.When I rise in the morning, I pray the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and also a psalm with the children. I do so because I wish to remain familiar with it, and not have it overgrown with mildew, so that I know it.” (W. 32, 65.) In a sermon of November 27, of the same year, Luther warns: “Beware lest you become presumptuous, as though, because you have heard it often, you knew enough of the Catechism. For this knowledge ever desires us to be its students.We shall never finish learning it, since it does not consist in speech, but in life … For I also,D. M., doctor and preacher, am compelled day by day to pray and to recite the words of the Decalog, the Symbol, and the Lord’s Prayer as children are wont to do. Hence you need not be ashamed; for much fruit will result.” (209.)
103. Particular Purpose of Large Catechism.
In his sermons of 1529 Luther declared repeatedly that his purpose was to instruct the plain people and the children in those things which he regarded as the minimum every Christian ought to know. (30, 1, 2. 27. 57.) And he did not abandon this purpose when he condensed his sermons into the Large Catechism. Accordingly, he begins it with the words: “This sermon is designed and undertaken that it might be an instruction for children and the simple-minded.” (575, 1.) Again: “For the reason, why we exercise such diligence in preaching the Catechism so often is that it may be inculcated on our youth, not in a high and subtile manner, but briefly and with the greatest simplicity, so as to enter the mind readily and be fixed in the memory.” (581, 27.) Hence Roerer also characterized the Large Catechism as “Catechismus per D. M. praedicatus pro rudibus et simplicibus.” Many expressions of the Large Catechism also point to the fact that everything was here intended for the young and the common people. For example:“All this I say that it may be well impressed upon the young.” (621, 140.) “But now for young scholars let it suffice to indicate the most necessary points.” (681, 12.) “But to explain all these single points separately belongs not to brief sermons for children, but rather to the ampler sermons that extend throughout the entire year.” (687, 32.) Thus Luther aimed to serve the people and the children also by his Large Catechism. Not, indeed, that it was to be given into the hands of the children (the Sm justification. Indeed, also ___________________________teachers, and parents were to use it with a view to teaching them by example how to expound the articles of the Christian doctrine for the simple-minded.
In particular, the Large Catechism was to enable the less educated pastors in the villages and in the country to do justice to their sacred duty.The instructions of the visitors called for regular Catechism-sermons. For this purpose Luther sought to furnish the preachers with material. From the Large Catechism they were to learn how to deliver simple, plain sermons on the five chief parts. In the longer Preface Luther therefore directs his admonition “to all Christians, but especially to all pastors and preachers, that they should daily exercise themselves in the Catechism, which is a short summary and epitome of the entire Holy Scriptures, and that they may always teach the same.“And why? Luther explains: “We have no slight reasons for treating the Catechism so constantly, and for both desiring and beseeching others to teach it, since we see to our sorrow that many pastors and preachers are very negligent in this, and slight both their office and this teaching; some from great and high art, but others from sheer laziness and care for their paunches,” etc. (567.)
Ministers, according to Luther, were to study the Catechism for their own instruction and edification as well as in the interest of their office.Hence he concludes his Preface, saying: “Therefore I again implore all Christians, especially pastors and preachers, not to be doctors too soon, and imagine that they know everything (for imagination and cloth unshrunk fall far short of the measure), but that they daily exercise themselves well in these studies and constantly treat them; moreover, that they guard with all care and diligence against the poisonous infection of such security and vain imagination, but steadily keep on reading, teaching, learning, pondering, and meditating, and do not cease until they have made a test and are sure that they have taught the devil to death, and have become more learned than God Himself and all His saints.” (573, 19; 535, 17.) From the Large Catechism, therefore, pastors were to learn how to preach the fundamental Christian truths.“To be sure,” says Albrecht,“Luther did not make it as easy for the pastors as was later done by Osiander and Sleupner in the Nuernberg Children’s Sermons, where the individual sermons are exactly marked off, the form of address to the children is retained, and, in each instance, a short explanation, to be memorized, is added to the longer explanation."(W. 30, 1,478.)–That it was Luther’s purpose to have his Large Catechism serve also parents appears from the instructions at the beginning and the end of it. (573, 17; 772, 87.)
104. Special Purpose of Small Catechism.
The Large Catechism was to serve all; the same applies to the Small Catechism.But above all it was to be placed into the hands of the children, who were to use and to memorize it at home, and to bring it with them for instruction in the church. Buchwald and Cohrs surmise that Luther published the second table series during Lent with special reference to “grown people.” However, Luther was accustomed to direct his admonition to partake of the Lord’s Supper diligently also to children, and that, too, to children of comparatively tender years. In his sermon of March 25, 1529, he says: “This exhortation ought not only to move us older ones, but also the young and the children. Therefore you parents ought to instruct and educate them in the doctrine of the Lord: the Decalog, the Creed, the Prayer, and the Sacraments. Such children ought also to be admitted to the Table that they may be partakers” [of the Lord’s Supper]. (W. 30, 1, 233.) In his sermon of December 19, 1528, we read: “Hence, you parents and heads of families, invite your subordinates to this Sacrament, and we shall demand an account of you if you neglect it. If you will not go yourselves, let the young go; we are much concerned about them. When they come, we shall learn, by examining them how you instruct them in the Word as prescribed. Hence, do come more frequently to the Sacrament, and also admonish your children to do so when they have reached the age of discretion. For in this way we want to learn who are Christians, and who not. If you will not do so, we shall speak to you on the subject. For even though you older people insist on going to the devil,we shall still inquire about your children. Necessity: because sin, the devil, and death are ever present. Benefit: because the remission of sins and the Holy Spirit are received.” (121f.) The tender age at which the young were held to partake of the Lord’s Supper appears from Bugenhagen’s preface to the Danish edition of the Enchiridion of 1538,where he says “that after this confession is made, also the little children of about eight years or less should be admitted to the table of Him who says: ．Suffer the little children to come unto Me,' “(433.) The conjecture, therefore, that the tables of Confession and the Sacraments were not intended for children, but specifically for adults, is without foundation. In all its parts the Small Catechism was intended to serve the children .
When the first table appeared, it bore the superscription: “The Ten Commandments, as the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.” Similar to this were the titles of the remaining charts. And these superscriptions were permitted to stand when Luther published the Enchiridion in book form. The book edition, therefore, as well as the chart edition, was to render services also to parents, who were to take upon themselves a large part of the work in teaching the young. But how were they to do it, in view of the fact that many of them did not know the Catechism themselves? This had occurred also to Luther. He realized that, besides the Large Catechism, parents were in need of a text-book containing questions and answers, adapted for catechizing the children on the meaning of each part of the Catechism. This, too, was the reason why the Small Catechism was rapidly completed before the Large, which had been begun first. Luther intended parents to use it first of all for their own instruction and edification, but also for the purpose of enabling them to discharge their duty by their children and household.
105. Small Catechism Intended Also for Pastors.
That Luther intended his Small Catechism as a help also for pastors was, in so many words, stated on the title-page of the first book edition. For, surprising as it may seem, here he mentions neither the parents nor the children, but solely the “ordinary pastors and preachers.” The Preface also is addressed to “all faithful, pious pastors and preachers,” and it shows in detail how they were to make use of the book. Evidently, then, the book edition was intended to render special services also to preachers. The reason, however, was not, as has been surmised, because it embodied the booklet on Marriage (the booklet on Baptism was added in the second edition); for the Preface, which is addressed to the preachers, does not even mention it. The pastors, moreover, were especially designated on the title-page as the recipients of the Enchiridion, inasmuch as they were to employ it in their religious instruction and catechetical sermons, in order to imbue the young with its contents. The expression “ordinary pastors and preachers” referred primarily to the plain preachers in the villages, where no properly regulated school system existed, and where, at best, the sexton might assist the pastor in seeing to it that the Catechism was memorized. Albrecht: “When Luther prepared both Catechisms at the same time and with reference to each other, he evidently desired their simultaneous use, especially on the part of the plain pastors, who in the Small Catechism possessed the leading thoughts which were to be memorized, and in the Large Catechism their clear and popular explanation.” (W. 30, 1, 548.)
Luther’s intention was to make the Small Catechism the basis of instruction in the church as well as in the homes; for uniform instruction was required to insure results. Having, therefore, placed the Catechism into the hands of the parents, Luther could but urge that it be introduced in the churches, too. He also showed them how to use it. On June 11, 1529, for instance, he expounded the First Article after he had read the text and the explanation of the Small Catechism. (549.) This the pastors were to imitate, a plan which was also carried out. The charts were suspended in the churches; the people and children were wont to bring the book edition with them to church; the preachers read the text, expounded it, and had it recited. The Schoenewald Church Order prescribed that the pastor “first pronounce for the people” the text of the chief parts, and then expound it as on Luther’s charts. (549.)
106. A Book Also for Schools and Teachers.
When planning and writing his Small Catechism, Luther self-evidently did not overlook the schools and the schoolteachers. The first booklet of the charts for the Latin schools of the Middle Ages contained the abc; the second, the first reading-material, viz., the Paternoster, Ave Maria, and the Credo; the third, the Benedicite, Gratias, and similar prayers. Albrecht writes: “We may surmise that Luther, when composing the German tables and combining them in a book, had in mind the old chart-booklets. This view is supported by the fact that in it he embodied the prayers, the Benedicite and Gratias, and probably also by the title Enchiridion, which, besides the titles ．Handbooklet' or ．The Children’s Handbooklet' was applied to such elementary books.” (W. 30, 1, 546.) In the Instruction for the Visitors we read: “A certain day, either Saturday or Wednesday, shall be set aside for imparting to the children Christian instruction … Hereupon the schoolteacher shall simply and correctly expound at one time the Lord’s Prayer, at another the Creed, at another the Ten Commandments, etc.” (W. 26, 238.) In these schools Luther’s Small Catechism served as text-book;. From 1529 until the beginning of the eighteenth century Sauermann’s Latin translation (Parvus Catechismus pro Pueris in Schola) was employed in the Latin schools of Saxony. In the German schools the German Enchiridion was used as the First Reader. Hence, the Marburg reprint of the first Wittenberg edition of the Catechism begins with the alphabet, and makes it a point to mention this fact on its title-page.
Down to the present day no other book has become and remained a schoolbook for religious instruction to such an extent as Luther’s Small Catechism. And rightly so; for even Bible History must be regarded as subordinate to it. The assertion of modern educators that instruction in Bible History must precede instruction in Luther’s Catechism rests on the false assumption that Luther’s Catechism teaches doctrines only. But the truth is that it contains all the essential facts of salvation as well, though in briefest form, as appears particularly from the Second Article, which enumerates historical facts only.The Small Catechism is “the Laymen’s Bible, der Laien Biblia,” as Luther called it in a sermon of September 14, 1528, an expression adopted also by the Formula of Concord. (777, 5.)
Luther’s Enchiridion presents both the facts of salvation and their divine interpretation. The picture for which the Small Catechism furnishes the frame is Christ, the historical Christ, as glorified by the Holy Spirit particularly in the writings of the Apostle Paul. In the Lutheran Church the Small Catechism, therefore, deserves to be and always to remain what it became from the first moment of its publication: the book of religious instruction for home, school, and church; for parents, children, teachers, and preachers, just as Luther had planned and desired.
107. Titles of Large Catechism.
“Deutsche Katechismus, German Catechism,” was the title under which the Large Catechism first appeared, and which Luther never changed. In the Preface to the Small Catechism he used the expression “Large Catechism,” having in mind his own Catechism, though not exclusively, as the context shows. (535, 17.) Yet this was the natural title since the shorter Catechism was from the beginning known as the “Small Catechism.“And before long it was universally in vogue. The Church Order for Brueck, of 1530, designates the Large Catechism as “the Long Catechism.” In the catalog of his writings of 1533, which Luther prefaced, but did not compile, it is called “Large Catechism, Catechismus Gross.” Likewise in the Corpus Doctrinae Pomeranicum. The Articles of the Visitors in Meiszen, 1533, first employed the designation “The Large and Small Catechisms.” The Church Order for Gera of the same year also distinguishes:“The Large Catechism and the Small Catechism.“The Eisfeld Order of 1554 distinguishes: “The Small Catechism of Luther” and “The Large Catechism of Luther.” In his treatise on the Large Catechism of 1541, Spangenberg first employed the new form as a title: “The Large Catechism and Children’s Instruction of Dr.M. Luther.”
The title of the Low German edition of 1541 runs: “De Grote Katechismus Duedesch.” The Latin translation by Obsopoeus of 1544 is entitled “Catechismus Maior.” The Index of the Wittenberg complete edition of Luther’s Works of 1553 has “Der grosse Katechismus,” while the Catechism itself still bears the original title, “Deutscher Katechismus.” The Jena edition of 1556 also has the original title, but paraphrases in the Index: “Zweierlei Vorrede gross und klein, D. M. L, auf den Katechismum, von ihm gepredigt Anno 1529. Two Prefaces, large and small, of Dr. M. L. to the Catechism, preached by him in the year 1529.” Since 1570, the Corpora Doctrinae give the title, “The Large Catechism, German. Der Grosse Katechismus, deutsch.” So also the Book of Concord of 1580. In the Leipzig edition and in Walch’s the word “deutsch” is omitted. (W. 30, 1, 474f.)
“German Catechism,” corresponding to the title “German Mass,“means German preaching for children, German instruction in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. Luther wrote “German Mass” in order to distinguish it from the Latin, which was retained for many years at Wittenberg beside the German service (this is also what Wolfgang Musculus meant when he reported in 1536 that in Wittenberg services were conducted predominantly in papistic fashion, ad morem papisticum). So also “German Catechism” is in contrast to the Latin instruction in the churches and especially in the schools. Concerning the latter we read, e.g., in the instruction of the visitors: “The boys shall also be induced to speak Latin, and the schoolteachers shall, as far as possible, speak nothing but Latin with them.” (26, 240.) Ever since the early part of the Middle Ages the Latin Credo, Paternoster, etc., had been regarded and memorized as sacred formulas, the vernacular being permitted only rarely, and reluctantly at that. Also in the Lutheran Church the Latin language was not immediately abolished. A number of Evangelical catechisms, antedating Luther’s,were written in, and presuppose the use of, the Latin language, for example,Melanchthon’s Enchiridion, Urerius’s Paedagogia, Agricola’s Elementa Pietatis, etc. The Brunswick Liturgy of 1528, drafted by Bugenhagen, prescribed that on Saturday evening and early on Sunday morning the chief parts of the Catechism be read in Latin in the churches “on both galleries, slowly, without chanting (sine tono), alternately (ummeschicht).” The Wittenberg Liturgy provided: “Before the early sermon on Sundays or on festival-days the boys in the choir, on both sides, shall read the entire Catechism in Latin, verse by verse, without ornamental tone (sine tono distincto).” (477.) Accordingly, when Luther began to preach on the chief parts in German,he was said to conduct “German Catechism.” And since German services with German instruction were instituted by Luther in the interest of the unlearned and such as were unable to attend the Latin schools, the term “German Catechism” was equivalent to popular instruction in religion. That Luther’s Catechism, also in point of racy language, was German to the core, appears from the frequent use of German words and expressions which, in part, have since become obsolete. (Mueller, Symb. Buecher, 857–860.)
108. Editions of Large Catechism.
The first edition (quarto) of the Large Catechism, of which Roerer forwarded copies on April 23, 1529, contains, as text, the Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the words of institution of the Sacraments. The text is preceded by a Brief Preface, which, however, Luther, considering it a part of the Catechism, did not designate and superscribe as such. Some instructions and admonitions are inserted between the Catechism-text, which is followed by the detailed explanation. Such is the form in which the Large Catechism first appeared, and which, in the main, it also retained. The second edition (also in quarto and from the year 1529) reveals numerous textual corrections and adds a longer section to the Lord’s Prayer, viz., paragraphs 9 to 11: “at the risk of God’s wrath…. seek His grace.” (699.) This addition, though not found in the German Book of Concord of 1580, was received into the official Latin Concordia of 1584. Furthermore, the second edition of 1529 adds the “Short Admonition to Confession;“hence the sub-title: “Increased by a New Instruction and Admonition to Confession.“This addition, however, was embodied in neither the German nor the Latin Concordia. In the Seventh Commandment the second edition of 1529 omits the words “with whom [arch-thieves] lords and princes keep company” (644, 230), which, according to Albrecht, was due to a timid proof-reader. Numerous marginal notes, briefly summarizing the contents, were also added to this edition and retained in the Latin Concordia of 1584. Furthermore, it contained 24 woodcuts, the first three of which were already used in Melanchthon’s fragmentary Catechism sermons of 1528, for which book probably also the remaining cuts were originally intended. Albrecht remarks:“Let it remain undecided whether the cuts, which Melanchthon probably was first to select for his catechism sermons of 1528, were received into the edition of 1529 (which Luther corrected) upon a suggestion of the printer Rhau, or Bugenhagen, or Luther himself .” (W. 30, 1, 493.)
Two Latin as well as a Low German translation (by Bugenhagen) also appeared in 1529. The Low German edition, printed by Rhau, seems to have paved the way in using the aforementioned pictures. Of the Latin translations, one was prepared by Lonicer and printed at Marburg, while the other, by Vicentius Obsopoeus, rector of the school at Ansbach, was printed at Hagenau. After making some changes, which were not always improvements, Selneccer embodied the latter in the Latin Concordia, adding the longer Preface from the Frankfurt edition of 1544. In the Large Catechism this new Preface is found for the first time in Rhau’s quarto edition of 1530. Literal allusions to Luther’s letter of June 30, 1530, to J. Jonas have given rise to the assumption that it was written at Castle Coburg. (Enders, 8, 47. 37.) In the Jena edition of Luther’s Works, the Dresden edition of the Book of Concord of 1580, the Magdeburg edition of 1580, the Heidelberg folio edition of 1582, and the Latin edition of 1580, this longer Preface follows the shorter. However, since the shorter Preface forms part of the Catechism itself, the longer Preface ought to precede it, as is the case in the official Latin Concordia of 1584. In the Low German edition of 1531 Bugenhagen defends the expressions, criticized by some: I believe “an Gott, an Christum” in the Low German edition of 1529, instead of “in Gott, in Christum.” (W. 30, 1, 493.) In Rhau’s edition of 1532 and 1535 the morning and evening prayers are added, probably only as fillers.The changes in Rhau’s edition of 1538, styling itself, “newly corrected and improved,” consist in linguistic improvements and some additions and omissions. Albrecht believes that most, but not all, of these changes were made by Luther himself, and that the omissions are mostly due to inadvertence.
109. Title of Small Catechism.
Luther seems to have published the chart catechism of January, 1529, without any special title, though Roerer, from the very first, calls it a catechism. In the first Wittenberg book edition, however, one finds inserted, between the Preface and the Decalog, the superscription: “Ein kleiner Katechismus oder christliche Zucht. A Small Catechism or Christian Discipline.” This may have been the title of the charts, since it would hardly have been introduced for the book edition, where it was entirely superfluous, the titlepage designating it as “The Small Catechism for the Ordinary Pastors and Preachers.” Likewise it cannot be proved that the opening word on the title-page of this first book edition was “Enchiridion,” since this edition has disappeared without a trace, and the only remaining direct reprint does not contain the word “Enchiridion.“All subsequent editions however, have it.
The word “Enchiridion” is already found in the writings ofAugustine, and later became common.In his Glossary, Du Cange remarks:“This name [Enchiridion] St. Augustine gave to a most excellent little work on faith, hope, and charity, which could easily be carried in the hand, or, rather, ought continually to be so carried, since it contained the things most necessary for salvation.” (3, 265.) The Erfurt Hymn-Booklet of 1524 was called “Enchiridion or Handbooklet, very profitable for every Christian to have with him for constant use and meditation.” In 1531 Luther praised the Psalter, saying: “It may be called a little Bible, wherein all that is found in the entire Bible is most beautifully and briefly summed up and has been made and prepared to be a splendid Enchiridion, or Handbook.” (E. 63, 28.) The Instruction for Visitors calls the primer “the handbooklet of the children, containing the alphabet, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and other prayers.” In 1523 Melanchthon had published such a book, entitled “Enchiridion.” Thus Enchiridion denotes a book of pithy brevity, an elementary book. The various Church Orders employ the word in a similar sense. (W. 30, 1, 540.)
110. Editions of Small Catechism.
At Wittenberg, George Rhau printed the Large Catechism and Michel Schirlentz the Small Catechism (the chart impressions of which must be considered the first edition) . In the Preface to the Small Catechism, Luther speaks of “these tables” and “the form of these tables,” thus referring to the chief parts, which were already printed on placards.However, since “table” also denotes a list, the term could be applied also to the chief parts in book form. It was nothing new to employ tables (“Zeddeln,” i.e., placards printed on one side) in order to spread the parts of the Catechism in churches, homes, and schools. In 1518 Luther published his “Ten Commandments with a brief exposition of their fulfilment and transgression,” on placards. Of the charts of the Small Catechism only a Low German copy has as yet been discovered. It contains Luther’s Morning and Evening Prayers, a reduced reproduction of which is found in the Weimar Edition of Luther’s Works. (30, 1, 241.) The book editions soon took their place beside the charts. It seems (but here the traces are rather indefinable) that the first three tables were summed up into a booklet as early as January or February, 1529. At Hamburg, Bugenhagen published the charts, which he had received till then, as a booklet, in Low German. It contained the five chief parts and the Benedicite and Gratias. Shortly after the first Wittenberg book edition had reached him Bugenhagen translated the Preface and had it printed as a supplement.
Shortly after the completion of the Large Catechism Luther made arrangements to have the Small Catechism appear in book form.May 16 Roerer sent two copies of the Catechismus Minor. But, as stated above, all copies of this edition were completely used up. The edition has been preserved in three reprints only, two of which appeared at Erfurt and one at Marburg.Th.Harnack published the one Erfurt and the Marburg reprint, and H. Hartung the other Erfurt reprint in separate facsimile editions. Evidently these reprints appeared before the second Wittenberg edition of June, 1529, was known at Erfurt and Marburg. In estimating their value, however, modern scholars are not agreed as to whether they represent three direct or one direct and two indirect reprints. Albrecht is of the opinion that only one of the three may be looked upon as a direct reprint. Judging from these reprints, the original edition was entitled: “Der kleine Katechismus fuer die gemeinen Pfarrherrn und Prediger. The Small Catechism for Ordinary Pastors and Preachers.” Aside from the five chief parts, it contained the Preface, the Morning and Evening Prayers, the Table of Duties, and the Marriage Booklet. On the other hand, these reprints omit not only the word Enchiridion, but also the question,” How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?” together with its answer. Now, in case all three should be direct reprints, the omitted question and answer evidently were not contained in the first Wittenberg edition either. On the other hand, if only one of them is a direct reprint, the mistake must be charged to the original Wittenberg impression or to the reprint. That the omission is an error, probably due to the printer, appears from the fact that the omitted question and answer were already found on the charts; for the Hamburg book edition of the charts in Low German has them, as also Stifel’s written copies of the charts. (W. 30, 1, 573.)
Of the Wittenberg editions which followed the editio princeps, those of 1529, 1531, and 1542 deserve special mention. The first appeared under the title: “Enchiridion. The Small Catechism for the Ordinary Pastors and Preachers, enlarged and improved.” On the 13th of June this edition was completed, for Roerer reports on this date:“Parvus Catechismus sub iucudem iam tertio revocatus est et in ista postrema editione adauctus."(Kolde l. c., 60.) Roerer designates this edition as the third, probably because two imprints had been made of the editio princeps. According to a defective copy, the only one preserved, this edition adds to the contents of the editio princeps the word Enchiridion in the title, the Booklet of Baptism, A Brief Form of Confessing to the Priest, for the Simple, and the Litany. The fifth chief part has the question: “How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?” In the Lord’s Prayer, however, the explanation of the introduction is still lacking.This emended edition of 1529 furthermore had the pictures, for the first time as it seems. The booklets on Marriage and Baptism were retained, as additions, in all editions of the Small Catechism published during the life of Luther, and in many later editions as well. As yet,however, it has not been proved directly that such was intended and arranged for by Luther himself.
Also in the succeeding editions Luther made various material and linguistic changes. In the edition of 1531 he omitted the Litany, and for the “Short Form of Confession"he substituted an instruction in confession, which he inserted between the fourth and fifth chief parts, under the caption, “How the Unlearned Shall be Taught to Confess.” The Lord’s Prayer was complemented by the addition of the Introduction and its explanation, and the number of cuts was increased to 23. This edition of 1531, of which but one copy (found in the Bodleiana of Oxford) is in existence, shows essentially the form in which the Enchiridion was henceforth regularly printed during and after Luther’s life. (W. 30, 1, 608.) The editions of 1537 reveal several changes in language, especially in the Bible-verses, which are made to conform to Luther’s translation. In the edition of 1542 the promise of the Fourth Commandment appears for the first time, and the Table of Duties is expanded. The Bible-verses referring to the relation of congregations to their pastors were added, and the verses setting forth the relation of subjects to their government were considerably augmented. Hence the title: “Newly revised and prepared, aufs neue uebersehen und zugerichtet.” Probably the last edition to appear during Luther’s life was the one of 1543, which, however, was essentially a reprint of the edition of 1542.
Knaake declared that all the editions which we possess “must be attributed to the enterprise of the book dealers,” and that one cannot speak of a direct influence of Luther on any of these editions. In opposition to this extreme skepticism, Albrecht points out that, for instance, the insertion of the explanation of the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer and the new form of confession, as well as its insertion between Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, could not have taken place “without the direct cooperation of Luther.”
111. Translations and Elaborations of Small Catechism.
Two of the Latin translations of the Small Catechism date back to 1529. The first was inserted in the Enchiridion Piarum Precationum, the Latin translation of Luther’s Prayer-Booklet, which appeared toward the end of August, 1529. Roerer met with great difficulties in editing the book. August, 1529, he wrote: “You may not believe me if I tell you how much trouble I am having with the Latin Prayer-Booklet which is now being printed. Somebody else, it is true, translated it from German into Latin, but I spent much more labor in this work than he did."(W. 30, 1, 588.) We do not know who the translator was to whom Roerer refers. It certainly was not Lonicer, the versatile Humanist of Marburg who at that time had completed the Large Catechism with a Preface dated May 15, 1529. Kawerau surmises that it was probably G.Major. Evidently Luther himself had nothing to do with this translation. This Catechism is entitled: Simplicissima et Brevissima Catechismi Expositio. Almost throughout the question form was abandoned. In 1532 a revised form of this translation appeared, entitled:Nova Catechismi Brevioris Translatio. From these facts the theory (advocated also by v. Zezschwitz and Knaake) has been spun that the Small Catechism sprang from a still shorter one, which was not throughout cast in questions and answers, and offered texts as well as explanations in a briefer form. This would necessitate the further inference that the Preface to the Small Catechism was originally written in Latin. All of these suppositions, however, founder on the fact that the charts as we have them in the handwriting of Stifel are in the form of questions and answers. The Prayer-Booklet discarded the form of questions and answers, because its object was merely to reproduce the contents of Luther’s Catechism for such as were unacquainted with German.
The second Latin translation of 1529 was furnished by John Sauermann, not (as v. Zezschwitz and Cohrs, 1901, in Herzog’s R. E., 10, 135, assume) the Canon of Breslau, who died 1510, but probably Johannes Sauermann of Bambergen, who matriculated at Wittenberg in the winter semester of 1518. (W. 30, 1, 601.) Sauermann’s translation was intended as a school edition of the Small Catechism. First came the alphabet, then followed the texts: Decalog, Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper. Luther’s Preface, the Litany, and the Booklets of Marriage and Baptism were omitted as not adapted for school use. The chapter on Confession, from the second Wittenberg book edition was inserted between the fourth and fifth chief parts. The note to the Benedicite was put into the text with the superscription “Scholion” (instead of the incorrect “Scholia"of the German edition, found also in the Book of Concord).“Paedagogus” was substituted for “head of the family (Hausvater).” The word “Haustafel” remained untranslated. The words of the Third Petition, “so uns den Namen Gottes nicht heiligen und sein Reich nicht kommen lassen wollen,” are rendered: “quae nobis nomen Dei non sanctificent regnumque eius ad nos pervenire non sinant.”
In the Preface, dated September 19, 1529,” Johannes Sauromannus” writes: “Every one is of the opinion that it is clearly the best thing from early youth carefully and diligently to instruct the boys in the principles of Christian piety. And since I believe that of all the elementary books of the theologians of this age none are better adapted for this purpose than those of Dr.Martin Luther, I have rendered into Latin the booklet of this man which is called the Small Catechism, hoping that it might be given to the boys to be learned as soon as they enter the Latin school.“At the same time Sauermann declares that his translation was published “by the advice and order (consilio ac iussu) of the author [Luther] himself.” (30, 1, 673.) One cannot doubt, therefore, that Sauermann’s translation received Luther’s approval. And being in entire conformity with the Instruction for Visitors, of 1528, for the Latin city schools, the book was soon in general use. In 1556 Michael Neander speaks of it as “the common Latin version, hitherto used in all schools.” (603.) The Latin Concordia of 1584 contains Sauermann’s version, essentially, though not literally. The Preface, which Sauermann had not translated, is taken over from the Prayer-Booklet. The part On Confession was newly translated from the German edition of the Catechism of 1531. The textual changes which were made in Sauermann’s translation for the Concordia of 1584 “show that he was careful and usually felicitous, and are partly to be explained as combinations of the first and second Latin translations.” (604.)
When, in 1539, Justus Jonas translated the Nuernberg Sermons for Children, he made a third Latin translation of the Small Catechism. He calls it “this my Latin translation, not carefully finished indeed, but nevertheless rendered in good faith.” (627.) This Latin text obtained special importance since it was immediately done into English, Polish, and Icelandic. In 1560 Job Magdeburg furnished a fourth Latin version. Concerning the translations into Greek, Hebrew, and other languages see Weimar Edition of Luther’s Complete Works (10, 1, 718f.)
Among the earliest elaborations of the Small Catechism was the Catechism of Justus Menius, 1532, and the Nuernberg Children’s Sermons of 1533. Both exploit Luther’s explanations without mentioning his name. At the same time some changing, abbreviating, polishing, etc., was done, as Luther’s text was considered difficult to memorize. Albrecht says of Menius’s emendations: “Some of his formal changes are not bad; most of them, however are unnecessary. The entire book finally serves the purpose of bringing to light the surpassing merit of the real Luther-Catechism.” (617.) The same verdict will probably be passed on all the substitute catechisms which have hitherto appeared. John Spangenberg’s Small Catechism of 1541, which was widely used, is, as he himself says, composed “from the Catechism of our beloved father, Dr.Martin, and those of others.” It contains Luther’s Catechism mainly as changed by Menius.The Nuernberg Children’s Sermons, which embodied also the pictures of Luther’s Catechism and received a wide circulation, were written by Osiander and Sleupner in 1532, and printed at Nuernberg, 1533. They contain almost complete the five chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism as concluding sentences of the individual sermons, but in original minting, with abbreviations, additions, and other changes, which, however, are not nearly as marked as those ofMenius. These changes were also made to facilitate memorizing. Between Baptism and the Lord’s Supper was found the doctrinal part on the Office of the Keys, which in this or a similar form was, after Luther’s death, appended to or inserted in, the Small Catechism as the sixth or fifth chief part, respectively.
112. The Part “Of Confession.”
The Small Catechism did not spring from Luther’s mind finished and complete at one sitting.Originally he considered the first three chief parts as constituting the Catechism. Before long, however, he added the parts of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These five parts are for the first time mentioned in the German Order of Worship, and printed together in the Booklet for Laymen and Children. The Introduction to the Large Catechism also offers no more.The chart and book editions added as real parts of the Catechism (the Booklets of Marriage and of Baptism cannot be viewed as such) the Benedicite and Gratias, the Morning and Evening Prayers, the Table of Duties, and Confession. It is the last of these parts which played a peculiar role in the history of the Small Catechism. Albrecht writes: “In the textual history of the Small Catechism,Confession (besides the Table of Duties) is the most restless and movable part. In the Low German editions since 1531 and 1534 it is found after the Lord’s Supper as a sort of sixth chief part, In individual instances it is entirely omitted. On the other hand, in elaborations of the Catechism, notably in the Nuernberg Catechism-sermons, it is supplanted by the Office of the Keys, and in later prints also combined with it or otherwise recast.” (W. 30, 1, 607.)
As for Luther, evidently, as soon as he began to work on the Catechism, he planned to include also a part on Confession. Among the charts there were already those which dealt with Confession. In fact, Luther must have here treated this part at comparative length. For Roerer reports that the price of the Confession charts was three pfennige, whereas the price of the Sacrament charts was two pfennige. Yet nothing of Confession was embodied in the first book edition of the Small Catechism. The first edition also of the Large Catechism had no part treating of Confession. But the second Wittenberg edition, of 1529 appeared “augmented with a new instruction and admonition concerning Confession.” Likewise the “augmented and improved” Small Catechism of 1529, superscribed, “Enchiridion,” contained a “Short Form how the Unlearned shall Confess to the Priest. Eine kurze Weise zu beichten fuer die Einfaeltigen, dem Priester.” This Form was not to serve the pastor in admonishing, etc., but Christians when going to confession. Possibly it was one of the charts which Roerer,March 16, mentioned as novelties. The addition of this part was, no doubt, caused by Luther himself. This is supported by the fact that Sauermann’s translation, which appeared by Luther’s “advice and order,” also contained it.And while in the German book edition it was found in the Appendix, following the Booklet on Baptism, Sauermann inserted it between Baptism and the Lord’s Supper with the superscription: “How schoolmasters ought in simplest manner to teach their boys a brief form of confession. Quo pacto paedagogi suos pueros brevem confitendi rationem simplicissime docere debeant.” Evidently this, too, was done with Luther’s approval (auctoris consilio et iussu). “Thus Luther at that time already,” says Albrecht, “selected this place for Confession and retained it later on, when [ 1531 he furnished another form of confession for the Catechism which to him seemed more appropriate.” The gradual insertion of a new chief part (of Confession and Absolution) between Baptism and the Lord’s Supper was therefore entirely according to Luther’s mind; indeed, it had virtually been carried out by him as early as 1529.
The original part Of Confession, however, was no catechetical and doctrinal part in the proper sense of the word, but purely a liturgical formula of Confession, even the Absolution being omitted. It merely contained two confessions similar to the forms found in the Book of Concord, page 552, sections 21 to 23. Hence Luther, in the edition of 1531, replaced it with a catecheticoliturgical form entitled,“How the Unlearned Should be Taught to Confess.” It is identical with the one found in the Book of Concord of 1580, save only that the original contained the words,“What is Confession? Answer,” which are omitted in the German Concordia. Luther placed the part Of Confession between Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, thereby actually making this the fifth and the Lord’s Supper the sixth chief part. And when later on (for in Luther’s editions the chief parts are not numbered) the figures were added, Confession could but receive the number 5, and the Lord’s Supper, 6. Thus, then, the sequence of the six parts, as found in the Book of Concord, was, in a way, chosen by Luther himself.
113. Office of the Keys and Christian Questions.
The three questions on the Office of the Keys in the fifth chief part form the most important and independent addition to Luther’s Small Catechism. However, they are not only in complete agreement with Luther’s doctrine of Absolution, but, in substance, also contained in what he himself offered in the part Of Confession.For what Luther says in paragraphs 26 to 28 in a liturgical form is expressed and explained in the three questions on the Office of the Keys in a doctrinal and catechetical form. Not being formulated by Luther, however, they were not received into the Book of Concord. In the Nuernberg Text-Booklet of 1531 they are placed before Baptism. Thence they were taken over into the Nuernberg Children’s Sermons of 1533 as a substitute for Luther’s form of Confession. Andrew Osiander, in the draft of his Church Order of 1531, in the article on “Catechism and the Instruction of Children,” added as sixth to the five chief parts: “Of the Keys of the Church,or the Power to Bind and to Unbind from Sins,” quoting as Bible-verse the passage: “The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples,“etc.Brenz, though not, as frequently assumed, the author of the Nuernberg Catechism, also contributed toward introducing and popularizing this part of the Catechism. In his Questions of 1535 and 1536, which appeared in the Appendix to the Latin translation of Luther’s Large Catechism, he offered an original treatment to the Keys of Heaven, as the sixth chief part, on the basis of Matt. 16, 19; Luke 19, 16; John 20, 22f. Thirty-six years after the first publication of Luther’s Catechisms,Mathesius, in his Sermons on the Life of Luther, also speaks of six chief parts of catechetical instruction; but he enumerates Absolution as the part between Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, hence as the fifth chief part of the Catechism.
As to the Christian Questions for Those Who Intend to Go to the Sacrament, it was claimed very early that Luther was the author. They were first published in 1549, and a number of separate impressions followed. After 1558 they are usually found in the appendix to the Small Catechism. The Note, “These questions and answers,” etc., designating Luther as the author, first appeared in an edition of 1551. Together with this note, the Questions are found in an undated Wittenberg edition of the Small Catechism, which appeared about 1560, containing pictures dated 1551. Referring to this edition, the Wittenberg proof-reader, Christopher Walther, in a polemical writing (1566) against Aurifaber, asserted that the Questions were not written by Luther, but by John Lang of Erfurt (. 1548) The question at issue has not yet been decided. For while the contents of the Questions reproduce, from beginning to end, Luther’s thoughts, and the last answers are almost literally taken from the Large Catechism, we have no evidence that Luther compiled them; but, on the other hand, also no convincing proof against this. Claus Harms and Koellner asserted that Luther is the author of the Questions, while Kliefoth and Loehe declared it as probable.–The Introduction to the Ten Commandments, “I the Lord, thy God,” and the Doxology, at the close of the Lord’s Prayer, were added after Luther’s death.
114. The Table of Duties–Haustafel.
The eighth and last chart of the Catechism differed from the preceding ones in that it was superscribed: “Table of Duties (Haustafel), Consisting of Certain Passages of Scripture for Various Holy Orders and Stations.Whereby These are to be Admonished, as by a Special Lesson, Regarding Their Office and Service.” The exact time when Luther drew up this Table is not known. The latest date to which its composition can be assigned is the end of April or the beginning of May, 1529. It may, however, be questioned whether it was published at all as a placard. The two groups of passages: “What the Hearers Owe to Their Pastors,” and: “What Subjects Owe to Their Government,” are probably not from Luther. Following are the grounds supporting this view: 1. They are not contained in the German editions but appeared for the first time in the Latin translation. 2. Their superscriptions differ in form from those of the other groups. 3. They adduce quite a number of Bibleverses, and repeat some already quoted, e.g., 1 Tim. 2, 1, Rom. 13, 1. The German Book of Concord omitted these passages, while the Latin Concordia of 1580 and 1584 embodied them. Albrecht writes: “The Table of Duties is an original part of the Catechism, bearing a true Lutheran stamp. But it was old material worked over, as is the case almost throughout the Small Catechism.” “The oft-repeated assertion, however, that the Table of Duties was borrowed from the catechism of the Waldensians or Bohemian Brethren, is not correct. For this Table is not found in the Catechism of the Brethren of 1522, with which Luther was acquainted, but first in Gyrick’s Catechism of 1554, in which Lutheran material is embodied also in other places."(W. 30, 1, 645.)
The confession books of the Middle Ages, however, which classified sins according to the social estates, and especially John Gerson’s tract (De Modo Vivendi Omnium Fidelium reprinted at Wittenberg 1513), which treated of the offices of all sorts of lay-people in every station of life,may have prompted Luther to draw up this Table.But, says Albrecht,“it certainly grew under his hand into something new and characteristic. The old material is thoroughly shortened, sifted, supplemented, newly arranged, recast. While Gerson’s tract throughout bears the stamp of the Middle Ages, Luther’s Table of Duties,with its appeal to the Scriptures alone, its knowledge of what is a ．holy estate,' its teaching that, as divine ordinances, civil government and the household (when embraced by the common order of Christian love) are equally as holy as the priesthood, reveals the characteristic marks of the Reformer’s new ideal of life, which, rooting in his faith, and opposed to the hierarchy and monkery of the Middle Ages, as well as to the fanaticism of the Anabaptists, became of farreaching importance for the entire moral thought of the succeeding centuries.” (647.)
Grimm’s Lexicon defines “Haustafel” as “der Abschnitt des Katechismus, der ueber die Pflichten des Hausstandes handelt, that section of the Catechism which treats of the duties of the household.“This verbal definition, suggested by the term, is too narrow, since Luther’s “Haustafel” is designed “for various holy orders and estates,” magistrates and pastors included. Still, the term is not on this account inappropriate. Table (Tafel, tabula) signifies in general a roster, a list, or index of leading points, with or without reference to the chart form. And such a table suspended in the home and employed in the instruction of the home congregation, is properly termed “Haustafel.” Agreeably to this, Andreas Fabricius, in 1569, called the “Haustafel” a domestic table of works, tabula operum domestica. Daniel Kauzmann, in his Handbook (16 sermons on the Catechism) of 1569, says: “It is called ．Haustafel' of the Christians because every Christian should daily view it and call to mind therefrom his calling, as from a table which portrays and presents to every one what pertains to him. It teaches all the people who may be in a house what each one ought to do or to leave undone in his calling.” (642.)
In his Catechismus Lutheri of 1600 Polycarp Leyser offers the following explanation: “Why are these pas- sages called a table? Beyond doubt this is due to the fact that, from of old, good ordinances have been written and graven on tables. So did God, who prescribed His Law to the Jews in ten commandments on two tables. Similarly Solon wrote the laws of Athens on tables. the Romans also had their law of twelve tables brought from Athens. And so, when the government to-day issues certain commands, it is customary to suspend them on tables, as also princes and lords suspend on tables their court rules. But why is it called ．Haustafel' when it also treats of preachers and the government? The reason for this is given by St. Paul, I Tim. 3, where he calls the Church a house of the living God. For as the housefather in a large house summons his servants and prescribes to each one what he is to do, so God is also wont to call into certain stations those who have been received into His house by Holy Baptism, and to prescribe to them in this table how each one in his calling shall conduct himself.” (641.)
Concerning the purpose of the Table of Duties, Albrecht remarks: “If I am correct, Luther, by these additions, would especially inculcate that Christianity, the essence of which is set forth in the preceding chief parts,must daily be practised.“That is certainly correct, for the Catechism must not only be learned, but lived. And the Table of Duties emphasizes the great truth, brought to light again by Luther, that Christianity does not consist in any peculiar form of life; as Romish priests, monks, and nuns held, who separated themselves from the world outwardly, but that it is essentially faith of the heart, which, however, is not to flee into cloisters and solitudes but courageously and cheerfully to plunge into practical life with its natural forms and relations as ordained by Creation, there to be tried as well as glorified. In his Admonition to the Clergy, 1530, Luther says: “Furthermore, by such abominable doctrine all truly good works which God appointed and ordained were despised and utterly set at naught [by the Papists]. For instance, lord, subject, father, mother, son, daughter, servant, maid were not regarded as good works, but were called worldliness, dangerous estates, and lost works.” (W. 30, 2, 291.) The Table of Duties is a protest against such perverted views. For here Luther considers not only the calling of preachers and teachers, but also all those of government and subjects, of fathers, mothers, and children, of masters and servants, of mistresses and maids, of employees and employers, as “holy orders and estates,” in which a Christian may live with a good conscience, and all of which the Catechism is to permeate with its truths. “Out into the stream of life with the Catechism you have learned!“Such, then, is the admonition which, in particular, the Table of Duties adds to the preceding parts of the Catechism.
115. Symbolical Authority of Catechisms.
The symbolical authority of Luther’s Catechisms must be distinguished from the practical use to which they were put in church, school, and home. As to his doctrine, Luther knew it to be the pure truth of the divine Word. Hence he could not but demand that every one acknowledge it. Self-evidently this applies also to the doctrinal contents of the Catechisms. Luther, however, did not insist that his Catechisms be made the books of instruction in church, school, and home; he only desired and counseled it. If for the purpose of instruction the form of his Small Catechism did not suit any one, let him, said Luther, choose another. In the Preface to the Small Catechism he declared: “Hence, choose whatever form you think best, and adhere to it forever.” Again, “Take the form of these tables or some other short, fixed form of your choice, and adhere to it without the change of a single syllable.” Self-evidently Luther is here not speaking of the doctrine of the Catechism, but of the form to be used for instruction. And with respect to the latter he makes no demands whatever.However, the contents of these books and the name of the author sufficed to procure for them the widest circulation and the most extensive use. Everywhere the doors of churches, schools, and homes were opened to the writings of Luther.
The tables had hardly been published when catechism instruction already generally was given according to Luther’s Explanation. The church regulations, first in Saxony, then also in other lands, provided that Luther’s Small Catechism be memorized word for word, and that preaching be according to the Large Catechism. The Church Order of Henry the Pious, 1539, declares: “There shall not be taught a different catechism in every locality, but one and the same form, as presented by Dr. Martin Luther at Wittenberg, shall be observed everywhere.” In 1533 the ministers of Allstaedt were ordered “to preach according to Luther’s Large Catechism.” (Kolde, 63.) The authority of the Catechisms grew during the controversies after Luther’s death, when the faithful Lutherans appealed to the Smalcald Articles and especially to Luther’s Catechisms. The Lueneburg Articles of 1561 designate them, together with the Smalcald Articles, as the correct “explication and explanation” of the true sense of the Augustana. The Corpus Doctrinae Pomeranicum of 1564 declares that “the sum of Christian and evangelical doctrine is purely and correctly contained in Luther’s Catechisms.” Their authority as a genuinely Lutheran norm of doctrine increased when the Reformed of Germany, in 1563, made the Heidelberg Catechism their particular confession.
Like the Smalcald Articles, Luther’s Catechisms achieved their symbolical authority by themselves, without resolutions of princes estates, and theologians. The Thorough Declaration of the Formula of Concord is merely chronicling actual facts when it adopts the Catechisms for this reason: “because they have been unanimously approved and received by all churches adhering to the Augsburg Confession, and have been publicly used in churches, schools, and homes, and, moreover, because the Christian doctrine from God’s Word is comprised in them in the most correct and simple way, and, in like manner, is explained, as far as necessary for simple laymen.” (853, 8.) The Epitome adds: “And because such matters concern also the laity and the salvation of their souls, we also confess the Small and Large Catechisms of Dr. Luther as they are included in Luther’s works, 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.” (777, 5.)
116. Enemies and Friends of Small Catechism.
In recent times liberal German theologians, pastors, and teachers have endeavored to dislodge Luther’s Small Catechism from its position in church, school, and home. As a rule, these attacks were made in the name of pedagogy; the real cause, however, were their liberal dogmatical views. The form was mentioned and assailed, but the contents were meant. As a sample of this hostility we quote the pedagog, philologian, and historian Dr. Ludwig Gurlitt (Die Zukunft, Vol. 17, No. 6, p. 222):“At the beginning of the sixteenth century,“he says, “a monk eloped from a cloister and wrote a religious book of instruction for the German children. At the time it was a bold innovation, the delight of all freethinkers and men of progress, of all who desired to serve the future. This book, which will soon celebrate its five- [four-]hundredth anniversary, is still the chief book of instruction for German children. True, its contents already are so antiquated that parents reject almost every sentence of it for themselves; true, the man of today understands its language only with difficulty– what of it, the children must gulp down the moldy, musty food. How we would scoff and jeer if a similar report were made about the school system of China! To this Lutheran Catechism, which I would best like to see in state libraries only, are added many antiquated hymns ofmystical turgidity, which a simple youth, even with the best will does not know how to use. All outlived! Faith in the Bible owes its existence only to the tough power and law of inertia. It is purely mechanical thinking and speaking which the schoolmaster preaches to them and pounds into them. We continue thus because we are too indolent to fight, or because we fear an enlightened people.”
The best refutation of such and similar aspersions is a reference to the enormous circulation which Luther’s Small Catechism has enjoyed, to its countless editions, translations, elaborations, and its universal use in church, school, and home for four centuries. Thirtyseven years after the publication of Luther’s Catechisms, Mathesius wrote:“Praise God it is said that in our times over one hundred thousand copies have been printed and used in great numbers in all kinds of languages in foreign lands and in all Latin and German schools.“And since then, down to the present day, millions and millions of hands have been stretched forth to receive Luther’s catechetical classic.While during the last four centuries hundreds of catechisms have gone under, Luther’s Enchiridion is afloat to-day and is just as seaworthy as when it was first launched. A person, however, endowed with an average measure of common sense will hardly be able to believe that the entire Lutheran Church has, for four centuries, been so stupid as would have been the case if men of Dr.Gurlitt’s stripe had spoken only half the truth in their criticisms.
Moreover, the number of detractors disappears in the great host of friends who down to the present day have not tired of praising the Catechisms, especially the Enchiridion. They admire its artistic and perfect form; its harmonious grouping, as of the petals of a flower, the melody and rhythm of its language, notably in the explanation of the Second Article, its clarity, perspicuity, and popularity; its simplicity, coupled with depth and richness of thought; the absence of polemics and of theological terminology, etc. However, with all this and many other things which have been and might be said in praise of the Catechism, the feature which made it what it truly was, a Great Deed of the Reformation, has not as yet been pointed out. Luther Paulinized, Evangelicalized, the Catechism by properly setting forth in his explanations the finis historiae, the blessed meaning of the great deeds of God, the doctrine of_____________________________Luther’s Catechism is, in more than one way, conditioned by its times, but in its kernel, in its doctrine, it contains, as Albrecht puts it, “timeless, never-aging material. For in it pulsates the heartbeat of the primitive Christian faith, as witnessed by the apostles, and experienced anew by the Reformer.” (648.) This, too, is the reason why Luther’s Enchiridion is, indeed, as G. v. Zezschwitz remarks, “a booklet which a theologian never finishes learning, and a Christian never finishes living.”
117. Evaluation of Small Catechism.
Luther himself reckoned his Catechisms among his most important books. In his letter to Wolfgang Capito, July 9, 1537, he writes: “I am quite cold and indifferent about arranging my books, for, incited by a Saturnine hunger, I would much rather have them all devoured, eo quod Saturnina fame percitus magis cuperem eos omnes devoratos. For none do I acknowledge as really my books, except perhaps De Servo Arbitrio and the Catechism.” (Enders, 11, 247.) Justus Jonas declares: “The Catechism is but a small booklet, which can be purchased for six pfennige but six thousand worlds could not pay for it.” He believed that the Holy Ghost inspired the blessed Luther to write it.Mathesius says “If in his career Luther had produced and done no other good thing than to give his two Catechisms to homes, schools, and pulpits, the entire world could never sufficiently thank or repay him for it.” J. Fr. Mayer: “Tot res quot verba. Tot utilitates, quot apices complectens. Pagellis brevis, sed rerum theologicarum amplitudine incomparabilis. As many thoughts as words; as many uses as there are characters in the book. Brief in pages, but incomparable in amplitude of theological thoughts.” In his dedicatory epistle of 1591, to Chemnitz’s Loci, Polycarp Leyser says: “That sainted man, Martin Luther, never took greater pains than when he drew up into a brief sum those prolix expositions which he taught most energetically in his various books…. Therefore he composed the Short Catechism, which is more precious than gold or gems, in which the pure doctrine of the prophets and apostles (prophetica et apostolica doctrinae puritas) is summed up into one integral doctrinal body, and set forth in such clear words that it may justly be considered worthy of the Canon (for everything has been drawn from the canonical Scriptures). I can truthfully affirm that this very small book contains such a wealth of so many and so great things that, if all faithful preachers of the Gospel during their entire lives would do nothing else in their sermons than explain aright to the common people the secret wisdom of God comprised in those few words and set forth from the divine Scriptures the solid ground upon which each word is built they could never exhaust this immense abyss.”
Leopold von Ranke, in his German History of the Time of the Reformation, 1839, declares:“The Catechism which Luther published in 1529, and of which he said that he, old Doctor though he was, prayed it, is as childlike as it is deep, as comprehensible as it is unfathomable, simple, and sublime. Blessed is the man who nourishes his soul with it, who adheres to it! He has imperishable comfort in every moment: under a thin shell the kernel of truth, which satisfies the wisest of the wise.”
Loehe, another enthusiastic panegyrist of Luther, declares: “The Small Lutheran Catechism can be read and spoken throughout with a praying heart; in short, it can be prayed.This can be said of no other catechism. It contains the most definitive doctrine, resisting every perversion, and still it is not polemical–it exhales the purest air of peace. In it is expressed the manliest and most developed knowledge, and yet it admits of the most blissful contemplation the soul may wish for. It is a confession of the Church, and of all, the best known, the most universal, in which God’s children most frequently meet in conscious faith, and still this universal confession speaks in a most pleasing personal tone. Warm, hearty, childlike, yet it is so manly, so courageous, so free the individual confessor speaks here. Of all the confessions comprised in the Concordia of 1580, this is the most youthful, the clearest, and the most penetrating note in the harmonious chime, and, withal, as rounded and finished as any. One may say that in it the firmest objectiveness appears in the garb of the most pleasing subjectiveness.”
Schmauk writes: “The Small Catechism is the real epitome of Lutheranism in the simplest, the most practical, the most modern and living, and, at the same time, the most radical form. It steers clear of all obscure historical allusions; it contains no condemnatory articles, it is based on the shortest and the oldest of the ecumenical symbols. It is not a work for theologians, but for every Lutheran; and it is not nearly as large as the Augsburg Confession.” (Conf. Prin., 696.)
McGiffert says: “In 1529 appeared his [Luther’s] Large and Small Catechisms, the latter containing a most beautiful summary of Christian faith and duty, wholly devoid of polemics of every kind, and so simple and concise as to be easily understood and memorized by every child. It has formed the basis of the religious education of German youth ever since. Though preceded by other catechisms from the pen of this and that colleague or disciple, it speedily displaced them all, not simply because of its authorship, but because of its superlative merit, and has alone maintained itself in general use. The versatility of the Reformer in adapting himself with such success to the needs of the young and immature is no less than extraordinary. Such a little book as this it is that reveals most clearly the genius of the man.” (Life of Luther, 316.)
O. Albrecht writes: “Reverently adhering to the churchly tradition and permeating it with the new understanding of the Gospel, such are the characteristics of Luther’s Catechisms, especially the Small Catechism.” “On every page new and original features appear beside the traditional elements.” “The essential doctrinal content of the booklet is thoroughly original; in it Luther offered a carefully digested presentation of the essence of Christianity, according to his own understanding as the Reformer, in a manner adapted to the comprehension of children–a simple, pithy description of his own personal Christian piety, without polemics and systematization, but with the convincing power of experienced truth.” (W. 30, 1, 647.)–Similar testimonies might easily be multiplied and have been collected and published repeatedly.
The best praise, however, comes from the enemy in the form of imitation or even verbal appropriation. Albrecht says: “Old Catholic catechetes, and not the worst, have not hesitated to draw on Luther’s Large Catechism. If one peruses the widely spread catechism of the Dominican monk John Dietenberger, of 1537 (reprinted by Maufang in his work on the Catholic Catechisms of the sixteenth century, 1881), one is frequently edified and delighted by the diligence with which, besides older material, Luther’s Large and Small Catechisms, as well as the Nuernberg Catechism-sermons of 1533, have been exploited “(W. 30, 1, 497.)
118. Literary Merit of Small Catechism.
Moenckeberg remarks: The Small Catechism betrays “the imperfection of the haste in which it had to be finished.” As a matter of fact, however, Luther, the master of German, paid much attention also to its language in order, by pithy brevity and simple, attractive form, to make its glorious truths the permanent property of the children and unlearned who memorized it. In his publication “Zur Sprache und Geschichte des Kleinen Katechismus Luthers, Concerning the Language and History of Luther’s Small Catechism,” 1909, J. Gillhoff writes: “Here, if ever, arose a master of language, who expressed the deepest mysteries in sounds most simple. Here, if ever, there was created in the German language and spirit, and in brief compass, a work of art of German prose. If ever the gods blessed a man to create, consciously or unconsciously, on the soil of the people and their needs, a perfect work of popular art in the spirit of the people and in the terms of their speech, to the weal of the people and their youth throughout the centuries, it was here. The explanation of the Second Article is one of the chief creations of the home art of German poetry. And such it is, not for the reason that it rises from desert surroundings, drawing attention to itself alone, but because it sums up and crowns the character of the book throughout.” (16.)
Speaking in particular of the Second Article, Bang, in 1909, said in his lecture “Luthers Kleiner Katechismus, ein Kleinod der Volksschule–Luther’s Small Catechism, a Jewel of the Public Schools”: “The Catechism is precious also for the reason that Luther in the explanations strikes a personal, subjective, confessional note.When at home I read the text of the Second Article in silence,and then read Luther’s explanation aloud, it seems to me as if a hymn rushing heavenward arises from the lapidary record of facts. It is no longer the language of the word, but of the sound as well.The text reports objectively, like the language of a Roman, writing tables of law. The explanation witnesses and confesses subjectively. It is Christianity transformed into flesh and blood. It sounds like an oath of allegiance to the flag. In its ravishing tone we perceive the marching tread of the myriads of believers of nineteen centuries; we see them moving onward under the fluttering banner of the cross in war, victory, and peace. And we, too, by a power which cannot be expressed in words, are drawn into the great, blessed experience of our ancestors and champions. Who would dare to lay his impious hands on this consecrated, inherited jewel, and rob the coming generations of it?!” (20.)