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date: 19 August 2017

Martin Luther’s Catechisms

Summary and Keywords

The word “catechism” denotes instruction in the basic knowledge of Christianity. It is a Latin version of the term that the Greek Church Fathers employed when teaching converts before allowing them to be baptized and thus become full members of the church. The verb meaning “catechize” is known already in the New Testament (e.g., Acts 18:25; Gal. 6:6). The application of the noun to a specific textbook, however, originates in Martin Luther’s edition of such a book in 1529, Enchiridion: Catechism for simple vicars and preachers.

Luther composed two catechisms in the wake of the Peasants’ War (1524–1525), which also instigated systematic Roman Catholic Church visitations in Saxony, and Luther’s catechisms can be regarded as an integral part in the building up of a new magisterial (“state”) church. At that time, the Reformer had a comprehensive background in catechetical authorship, which had evolved during his more than twenty years as a preacher. His catechisms were the outcome of a preaching campaign on catechetical matters which he undertook in 1528 as a substitute for the vicar in Wittenberg, John Bugenhagen. For a few years he had demanded that a “catechism” (a sermon on the knowledge necessary for children and simple folk) be printed. Not satisfied with the efforts of his fellow reformers, Luther began to publish the basics on tablets intended to be hung on the wall. These tablets became literally worn out from use and are no longer extant, but they formed the basis of the booklet afterwards called “D. Martin Luther's Small Catechism.” Overnight the term “catechismus” became a universal word for a genre of books intended to convey the elements of doctrine to every member of Christian society. When Luther edited his sermons from the same campaign, he named the publication his “German (later ‘Large’) Catechism.”

The outstanding characteristic of Luther’s Enchiridion, or “Small Catechism,” was its verybrevity, which probably reflects the fact that it was conceived as an oral recitation of questions and answers. In using this form, Luther was preceded by a pastor in Schwäbisch Hall, John Brenz, who also produced his “Questions on Christian Faith for the Youth” in 1527, closely related to his preaching. Brenz included, as Luther would later do, the demand that applicants for the Lord’s Supper should first prove their knowledge of the basics of that belief. In a revised edition, Brenz’s catechism became extremely popular and coexisted with Luther’s in the southern parts of the German Reich, even after the latter was formally adopted as part of normative Lutheran doctrine with the publication of the Book of Concord in 1580.

The notion of a catechism as a short collection of formulas was, however, almost immediately superseded by a wider concept covering a wide range of instructions in faith. The short explanations were felt to be unsatisfactory and gave way to large “exposed catechisms.” Moreover, the catechisms soon became vehicles of confessional or even national identity. Both Reformed and Roman Catholic theologians closed in on essential doctrine in elaborate catechisms, most notably in the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563 and the Catechismus Romanus of 1566.

Both rehearsing the catechism and enlarging the text by adding new glosses existed until well into the 19th century, when a combination of new pedagogical ideals and the full and final secularization of the schools gave way to more obvious methods of instruction in both church and school. By the middle of the 20th century, the catechisms were ousted by Bible history. Today the classical catechism is mainly seen as a challenge and a possible inspiration for combining a short text with substantial religious teaching.

Keywords: Martin Luther, instruction, discipline, devotional literature, Lord’s Prayer, Decalogue, Creed, house fathers, vicars, pastoral care, commonplaces

The Lay Folk’s Minimum: Learned Theologians as Agents of a Catechetical Syllabus

Sermons on catechetical “elements” had been prescribed, if not necessarily put in practice, since the early Middle Ages. In 789, Charlemagne issued a capitulary generally known as “Admonitio generalis,” in which he ordered that “The Catholic faith be read diligently by the bishops and priests and preached to the people.”1 Moreover, bishops were ordered to examine the clergy’s understanding of baptism, Mass, and doctrine, as well as their ability to recite the Lord’s Prayer in an understandable way, so that everyone would know how to pray.2 Such admonitions were renewed from time to time.3 They always included the Apostolic Creed (also called the “Layman’s Creed” to distinguish it from the elaborate Nicene Creed, which the clergy sang in the Mass) and the Lord’s Prayer, in this order, because Romans 10:14 indicates that the catechumens must know the God to whom they were praying—knowledge provided through the articles of the Creed—before calling upon him. The Apostolic Creed was used in baptism, and godparents (later, usually the parents themselves)4 were enjoined to teach it to their godchildren together with the prayer. Added to these essential parts were varying forms of ethical instruction. Charlemagne took heed of Saint Paul’s harsh warnings against evil deeds, which would inevitably lead to hell (Gal. 5, 19f). More often than not an admonition to explain the Latin Mass to the people would also be presented, and in the late Middle Ages dire lists of “Mass fruits” flourished.5 The Hail Mary and making the sign of the Cross came into use at the end of the 13th century. At any event, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer stood apart as the core of knowledge designed and needed for salvation.

In the wake of the reforming Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and a preaching renaissance in the Latin church at approximately the same time, bishops all over Europe renewed their admonitions to the clergy in their dioceses to teach their congregations the basic formulas from the ambo at least once or twice a year.6 Moreover, the council’s statute on an obligatory annual confession to one’s own parish priest fostered a growing literature on sin and self-inspection in multiple forms.7 Books of advice to both vicars and lay people on avoiding sin offered several lists of vices. Much of this literature mixed penitential and devotional texts. It was not exclusively intended for confession but also gave instruction in living and dying well. Together with the predominant, originally monastic construction of the seven capital (“deadly”) sins, we find similarly commented lists of virtues, good deeds, and spiritual gifts.8 Under the influence of Augustine, who conceived the Ten Commandments as duly christened only when combined with the so-called Seven Spirits of the Holy Ghost (Es. 9ff), these “gifts” assumed a considerable place as a ladder to perfection. After all, they described the life of man after the bequeathing of the Holy Spirit, or grace. Other groups of seven appeared when the three Christian virtues, faith, hope, and charity, were linked to the four classical virtues of bravery, justice, moderation, and prudence. Even the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer were counted as seven and confronted the seven vices as their remedies.9 Elaborate schemes were worked out for the benefit of spiritual guidance, and in wealthy houses, both religious and worldly, their texts were richly ornamented with illuminations.10

The status of the Decalogue as a penitential questionnaire seems to have wavered somewhat, but it did serve as a point of departure for a formidable number of sermons, even before it was firmly integrated with the confessional literature.11 The theological reason for this was that it was to supposed to show a secure way to heaven to the common lay people, who for obvious reasons could not embark on the life of perfection as practiced by religious orders. Jesus had said (Matth. 19:17), “If you would enter life, keep the commandments,” before going on to perfection (19:21). This theology of the lay folk’s obligations was especially developed by theologians from the mendicant orders, who became prevalent in the universities from the mid-13th century on.12

The scholastic theologians were by their very profession preoccupied with investigating the aspects of tradition required to enable the secular clergy to provide due pastoral care. It must be kept in mind that the Latin world had faced a major challenge in the more or less heretical awakenings that spread around the Mediterranean world with an outspoken appeal to people to acquire religious and theological competence for themselves. One answer to this was to emphasize the importance of religious instruction at all levels of the church. In Peter Lombard’s Four Books of Sentences, which became the mandatory textbook of the theological faculties, all known catechetical elements were subjected to close scrutiny. The Sentences would again be commented on in lengthy lectures by all those becoming “doctors” as a prerequisite to an academic theological career. It was the task of the bishops and their staffs to disseminate the standards of this curriculum to ordinary parish priests through diocesan synods and constitutions,13 and so to ensure that every parishioner got a chance to acquire his or her prescribed minimum of knowledge. This would often be summarized as in the following:

Three (items) are necessary for salvation: (1) knowledge of what to believe; (2) knowledge of what to desire, and (3) knowledge how to act. The first is taught in the Symbol, in which the knowledge of the articles of faith is handed over; the second in the Lord’s Prayer; and the third in the law.14

Luther started his career in exactly this prescribed way, as a lecturer on the Sentences. As a follower of the “modern way” and of Nominalism, he used as his aid the commentary of Gabriel Biel.15 His lecture notes show that he came as far as to the Decalogue before he was sent to Rome to deal with the affairs of his order.16 On the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, he noted that the biblical scholar Nicolaus von Lyra had reduced their number to six on philological grounds. In his catechism, he retained the concept of gifts in his interpretation of the work of the Holy Spirit, but without numbering them.17

In his more than thirty years as a preacher and publisher, Luther was thus able to draw on a deep familiarity with the catechetical traditions of the Latin church, which he had acquired from his academic training. This helps to explain why he, though eager to emphasize his roots in peasant stock, was so taken aback by learning of the conditions in rural Saxony after the Peasants’ War.

The university training aimed, of course, at creating an ideal world and thereby contributed to the complaint often vented in the Reformation process that the bishops had neglected their duty, with the result that the parish priests no longer provided the necessary instruction. In fact, such complaints were being issued long before the Reformation, notably in Archbishop John Peckham’s famous address “Ignorantia sacerdotum” in his Lambeth constitutions from 1281.18

In additional training to become a confessor, Luther furthermore perused a major work on oral confession—the very same one that was thrown into his bonfire together with the papal bull and the canon law in 1520.19

Preaching and Printing the Rudiments of Faith: Luther’s Catechetical Efforts, 1514–1525

At roughly the same time as Luther was appointed professor of biblical exegesis at the University of Wittenberg (1512), he was also called as a preacher to the city church by the town magistrate. This meant that he took on the obligation to preach and to hear confession from an ordinary lay congregation, not just from fellow Augustinians in the cloister. The catechetical activity of the new pastor can be traced back to the very beginning of this career. As was customary at that time, he concentrated his efforts on Lenten sermons, preparing the congregation for the annual confession and communion. At the same time, he (or his audience) undertook initiatives to publish his sermons. This was not uncommon, since printed sermons had become widely read among late medieval towns’ people.20 Some listeners skilled in writing fast would take notes and publish them, with or without permission from the preacher. Luther, whose sermons were soon viewed as an eminently saleable product, often felt obliged to protest against the process and to take charge of it himself.

In a Latin sermon fragment on the Lord’s Prayer from 1514,21 Luther appeals to his audience not to be content with the “sterile” sound of their voices (when reciting the prayer) but instead to inquire about the sense of each singular word in their hearts by asking, “Why has He wanted it to be said in this way?” Why is God called upon as a “Father,” and not as a “Lord,” “king” or “judge?” The short text indicates that the intention is to make the audience realize that they are God’s children, but that they are actually not acting as if they were. In this way, the preacher lets the recognition of sin slip into each clause of the seven petitions. We may readily suppose that the sermon was held in the fasting period, when the congregation was traditionally preparing for the annual confession. The sense of prayer is retained in the addition of requests for divine support in fighting against the disobedience, which is disclosed in pondering on the distinct formulations of the Lord.

Luther moreover promised the audience “a short explanation” of the Lord’s Prayer, which they might have ready at hand—in other words, a printed “enchiridion”—so that they might deepen their meditation on the prayer. In 1519, he edited his pastoral advice on the Lord’s Prayer in his “Short Form to understand and to pray the Paternoster for the young children in Christian faith,” stating in his foreword as his reason for doing so that many were so simpleminded that they did not know the meaning of the words in the prayer and were therefore “left cold and without fruit when saying it.” At the same time, he edited his sermons in a more comprehensive form aimed at the adult devotional reader, in order to correct some pirated editions.22 The work was summed up in a dialogue between God and the soul on its shortcomings in relation to God.23

Insistence on the precise language as a starting point for disclosing the intention of the divine word is also emphasized in the expositions on the Decalogue. In the Vulgate, the first commandment, “Thou shall not have other gods,” is formulated in the future indicative tense.24 Luther asks, as schoolmen had asked before him, why God is speaking in a negative, not positive, form. Why not use a simple imperative, such as “You must have only one God—me?” That would be the natural way to issue a law. But God’s speech is not so much directed against future trespasses as it is a statement of past and actual sinful conditions. This assertion is corroborated by quotations from Romans on the law as the “revealing letter,” which brings man to recognize that he is a sinner, because he does not trust in God alone, which is faith.

Luther’s sermons on the commandments partly coincide with his lectures on Romans. His preoccupation with the Pauline text in this period has clearly had an essential bearing on his understanding of the law, and accordingly on the way in which he presents its role in the basics of Christianity a couple of years later. This will be discussed in detail below.

The sermons on the Decalogue were disseminated in various forms: translated into Latin for the benefit of other preachers; edited and presented to the learned public as a “Praeceptorium,” a well-known genre25; and translated back into German for the benefit of the common people and advertised as “secure way to Heaven,” thereby indicating the traditional claim of the Decalogue to be a lay people’s guide to right living.26

Troubled in the meantime by fundamental doubts about the capacity and will of the institutionalized Roman church to instruct the people soundly, Luther embarked on a new phase of common enlightenment. No longer satisfied with printed versions of the oral instruction, he composed small German pamphlets on any urgent matter within Christian religion.27 Even though he used the title “sermon” for most of them, they were not based on oral preaching but written directly for a reading public. It should be noted that, in doing so, he was extremely sensitive to the fact that his explanations were mediated by typography rather than by the spoken word. In a bold account on the Lord’s Supper (1520), he employed large letters in rendering the instituting words, which had until then been whispered in Latin in the “secret Mass.”28 Not only a provocation to this practice, this choice also points toward his adoption of the sacraments as parts of the catechism.

The Catechism’s Theology of Order

During this period Luther composed what has been called his “first catechism,” because it exhibits the same structure and content as his catechisms from 1528/1529. Not yet organized in the specific questioning form that he advocated a few years later, it was shortly afterward enlarged by several prayers and sermons and thus developed into the conglomerate typical of medieval prayerbooks, and became widely known as “Betbüchlein.”29 In the original booklet, however, he collected three “short forms” of the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. This suggests that he was intent on writing a real catechism and not just another devotional book. Remarkable, and the subject of endless discussions in Lutheran scholarship, was the arrangement of the three indispensable parts, which Luther thereby pointed out as constituting the sum of Christianity. In his foreword he asserts that these three parts, and notably, in the prescribed order, represent no less than a perpetual divine order:

It has not come to pass apart from a particular Divine order that the Ten Commandments, the Creed and the Our Father have been ordained to be learned and known by the common Christian, who cannot read the Scripture. These three parts contain everything, which is in Scripture and which may ever be preached, also everything which is necessary [for salvation] for a Christian to know.30

Three things a person must know in order to be saved. First, he must know what to do and what to leave undone. Second, when he realizes that he cannot measure up to what he should do or leave undone, he needs to know where to go to find the strength he requires. Third, he must know how to seek and obtain that strength. It is just like a sick person who first has to determine the nature of his sickness, then find out what to do or to leave undone. After that he has to know where to get the medicine which will help him do or leave undone what is right for a healthy person. Then he has to desire to search for this medicine and to obtain it or have it brought to him. Thus the Commandments teach man to recognize his sickness, enabling him to perceive what he must do or refrain from doing, consent to or refuse, and so he will recognize himself to be a sinful and wicked person. The Creed will teach and show him where to find the medicine—grace—which will help him to become devout and keep the Commandments. The Creed points him to God and his mercy, given and made plain to him in Christ. Finally, the Lord’s Prayer teaches all this, namely, through the fulfillment of God’s Commandments everything will be given him. In these three are the essentials of the entire Bible.31

The emphasis on the order is heavy from the very outset of the foreword. It is not a random choice of words that leads him to repeat it in the verb. It echoes Saint Augustine’s classification of salvation history as God’s “dispensatione temporum ordinatissima, sicut deus novit cuncta disponere,” an extremely ordered plan in dealing with humanity.32 This plan advanced through stages of comprehension. By issuing the law in the old dispensation, God revealed his will, but did not offer any help in doing it; in contrast, God’s grace was poured out on the believer as gifts of the Holy Spirit in the new covenant. The duality of divine action made the sinner realize that he needed God’s grace. From it grew the right humility, which manifested itself in the humble prayer for help. This three-step movement in the Augustinian presentation of salvation became Luther’s framework. In the Preface to his Latin Works (1545), he describes how he fought, “meditating day and night,” to understand the term “justice of God” in Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans, until it finally dawned on him that justification is by faith alone. He also recalls that he found himself in company with Augustine of Hippo in his refutation of the Pelagian assertion that man can keep the commandments without God’s help.33 We can retrace his breakthrough to the “discovery” in his lectures on Romans (1515–1516). They leave us with a clear impression of the impact that Augustine’s “On the letter and the Spirit” (412) had on Luther’s new insights. Commenting on Romans 3:20 “through the law comes knowledge of sin,” he simply replaced his own exegesis with long quotations from Augustine:

Blessed Augustine in the 13th chapter of his On the Spirit and the Letter says: What the law of works commands … this the law of faith accomplishes by believing … through this law of works God says: ‘Do what I command.’ But by the law of faith we say to God in humble prayer: ‘Give me what thou commandest.’ For the law commands in such a way that it tells faith what to do … so that if the one who is commanded cannot as yet fulfill the command he may know what he should ask.34

Luther reproduced this order by attributing the three functions described by Augustine to the three parts of the syllabus: Decalogue, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer. He took it for granted that no one could keep the commandments, because he interpreted them according to the Sermon on the Mount, where, for instance, killing includes the inner movement of anger.35 This left him with salvation through faith in Christ, as stated in the Creed. He underscored the scholastic differentiation between “believe” and “believe in,” where the latter covers the full and personal trust, and the former only an acceptance of facts.36 The obvious division of the Apostolicum into three parts according to the three divine persons, which he introduced here, was not invented by Luther, even though the popular tradition of dividing it into twelve articles, one delivered by each disciple, had long prevailed. It is known from, for example, Alexander of Hales’s comprehensive summa.37 In Luther’s exposition, the Christological articles are one by one subsumed under the “Lutheran” “for us,” thus indicating the essence of Luther’s evangelical preaching. As for the seven petitions ofthe Lord’s Prayer, they were coordinated one by one with the commandments as devices helping to keep them.

Learning the Catechism

In the view of his followers and friends, Luther suffered from an undue tardiness in creating a German evangelical Mass and thus going through with the Reformation in regard to one of its most crucial points. At the end of 1525, he finally released his order of Mass, but in doing so he gave way to some of the scruples that had made him hesitate. There were grave impediments to the reinvention of original Christian worship as presented in the New Testament. In this regard, a reoccurring issue for Luther was the church discipline as prescribed in Matthew 18 and the question of its practicability in a church that included almost the whole of society. In Easter 1523 he announced from the pulpit that every Christian who wished to attend the Lord’s Supper should be interrogated in advance in order to prove his knowledge and understanding of its benefit according to the words of institution.38 In wishful utopian thinking he played with the idea of “a small church” of truly dedicated Christians, but for the present he recommended two public forms of service: one aimed mostly at schoolboys and the clergy, who would also, later on, practice singing in Latin, and one for the common people gathered in the church. The latter was to form the framework of the all-important cause of catechization:

In the meanwhile the two above-mentioned orders of service must suffice. And to train the young and to call and attract others to faith, I shall—besides preaching—help to further such public services for the people …

On then, in the name of God.

First, the German service needs a plain and simple, fair and square catechism. Catechism means the instruction in which the heathen who want to be Christians are taught and guided in what they should believe, know, do, and leave undone, according to the Christian faith. This is why the candidates who had been admitted for such instruction and learned the Creed before their baptism used to be called catechumenos. This instruction or catechization I cannot put better or more plainly than has been done from the beginning of Christendom and retained till now, i.e., in these three parts, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Our Father. These three plainly and briefly contain exactly everything that a Christian needs to know.

This instruction must be given … from the pulpit at stated times or daily as may be needed, and repeated or read aloud evenings and mornings in the homes for the children and servants, in order to train them as Christians. Nor should they only learn to say the words by rote. But they should be questioned point by point and give answer what each part means and how they understand it. … If parents and guardians won’t take the trouble to do this, either themselves or through others, there never will be a catechism, except a separate congregation be organized as stated above.39

Even with this elaborate strategy and with the explicit involvement of both church and home, Luther had not exhausted the subject, but exemplified further how the questioning was to be formed in order to secure right understanding. In doing so, he developed the form of “Children’s questions” employed in the Small Catechism:

In this manner they should be questioned: What do you pray? Answer: The Our Father. What is meant when you say: Our Father in Heaven? Answer: That God is not an earthly, but a heavenly Father who would make us rich and blessed in heaven. —What is meant by: Hallowed be thy name? Answer: That we should honor his name and keep it from being profaned. —How do we profane or dishonor his name? Answer: When we, who should be his children, live evil lives and teach and believe what is wrong. And so on …40

The implementation of all these suggestions became a reality with the catechisms of 1529. In the foreword to the Small Catechism, Luther insisted that no member of society should be allowed to be ignorant of the “children’s learning.”

The hierarchy of authorities whom he counted on to impose this discipline is clear. In the Small Catechism, the specific lines of instruction aim at the house fathers. Each point of learning is preceded by the heading “as a house father should teach his household.” House father and house wife constituted the basic authorities in the society of early modern Europe. They ruled their children and servants in the order of oeconomia, and it was their prerogative to deny disobedient subjects food and other privileges until they submitted. Their authority was politically defined through institutions such as magistrates, or princes and kings in the order of politia. It was also political demand that the subjects know the catechism, as Christianity was included in the foundation of secular power, and so Luther could extend the power of the heads of households by letting them indicate to their subjects that the political powers could exile them for not subscribing to the rules of society. Finally, the church authorities were still, together with the school staff on all levels, responsible for the practical supervision of the instruction in the order of ecclesia.41 Consequently, and in accordance with the title of the book, the catechism is directed to the common pastors and preachers, whose task it is to administer instruction to their parishioners, especially “in the hamlets,” and to see to it that the schools and homes fulfill their duties in this regard. The interrelation of these authorities varied with local conditions.42

Set Formulations and Spirituality

Luther’s forewords to his catechisms indicate a fixed order of learning for young children. Rehearsal of the bare words, which should be learned by heart, is followed up with explanation. Without this, the enterprise would be utterly meaningless. We observe this attitude to learning from his very first sermons, but in the actual “situation of need” he was more intent than ever on producing short formulas that might be easily memorized,43 since even his explanations, as far as possible, had to be learned by heart. For the advanced reader to deepen his understanding, he recommended his Large Catechism, which also includes the polemics against Catholics and Spirituals, which he tried to ban from the plain children’s schooling.

Among the emphatic mnemonic formulas Luther created are undoubtedly the repeated headings of the explanations of the commandments (the reception of which a famous author of children’s books, Astrid Lindgren, made immortal in a description of an “overhearing” (recitation) of the catechism in a remote part of Sweden in the beginning of the 19th century): “We should fear and love God that we may …”

On closer inspection, such formulas contain an abundance of theological reflection, which the contemporary learned reader would decipher without effort, and which might motivate further reflection.

In scholastic theology, fear and love define two limits in the sinner’s relation to God: the fear of being punished, and the love kindled by the gospel of redemption. But fear of God was at the same time the starting point of the relationship. Over the centuries theologians had analyzed all kinds of fear. Luther was well acquainted with this discourse, and in an early sermon he announced that the proper Christian relation to God consists in combining these two extremes and not experiencing them as opposites (thus creating a God of wrath and a God of love).44 The phrase, which embraces the explanation of the commandments, spans a full spectrum in the human reception of God.

Luther, who preferred to use the word “trust” above all when talking about the faith, often emphasized that the first commandment included all the others, because its content was faith, which was the fulfillment of the law. This is shown by another detail in the arrangement in his set formulas:

We should above all things fear, love and trust God.

We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.

We should fear and love God that we may not, etc.

Following this predominant role of the first commandment, the articles of the Creed confirm the work of the Trinity in creation, redemption, and sanctification.

Three into Five: The Enlargement of the Catechetical Syllabus and Beyond

After dealing with “the three chief parts of the common Christian doctrine,” Luther found it right to add an introduction to the two sacraments, baptism and Lord’s Supper, which he could still accept as genuine, because they were based on an unequivocal demand by the Lord. As these acts were likewise necessary for salvation, they must be regarded as indispensable parts of full instruction on Christianity. The words of institution served him as his basic text, but it was also imperative to account for the material part of the divine act in the form of the “elements” of water, bread, and wine. In the Large Catechism he gives a comprehensive explanation of this further step, which is clearly motivated by some Spiritualists’ derision of the material representation of a spiritual reality.

Though no longer counting penance as a sacrament, Luther inserted an instruction on the confession “in a simple way for lay people” in his catechetical explanations of the sacraments. This was largely a practical arrangement, as it helped people take communion in an orderly way. In the course of time, it became common that Luther’s small directions on wedding and baptism, as well, were published together with the catechisms.

After dealing with the elements that were connected to church and service, Luther added some prayers for morning and evening and benedictions at meals—in short, what one might call a “liturgy of daily life,” thus sanctioning everyday doings. This was consistent with his view of Christian life and calling in the carrying out of secular duties in the given order of society. He also added a list of specified duties and dangers according to the stratification of society, as indicated above.

Catechism and Literacy

The connection between catechism and basic literacy is obvious from the mere fact that Luther first published his catechism on tablets to be hung up. This indicates a deliberate assimilation to teaching the letters and syllables. The employment of wooden boards in the first reading lessons can be traced back to the high Middle Ages, and so can the custom of combining this learning with the acquisition of the “first prayers” both in Latin and in the developing vernaculars.45 Various illustrations show such boards with a hand grip, but children also needed to have their own books. The “primers” (a word used only in England) would start with a short invocation (“Speed me God” or “Speed me the cross of Christ”) and go on with the letters and syllables followed by prayers. As some of them were protected by a layer of horn, they were also called “horn books.”

In 1523, Melanchthon joined ranks and applied this apparently universal method of learning to a Latin abecedary and textbook, the Enchiridion elementorum puerilium, which was instantly translated into German and was widely used as a “catechism” until superseded by Luther’s. It opened with a short prayer, followed by the alphabet, the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Creed, the Decalogue, and some added Bible quotations and prayers.46

It is also evident that the Reformer, in his mention of the basics, returned to the order of training in the home as it had been passed on from generation to generation, and did not change with the Reformation. Even in the Lutheran countries, children would still, according to custom, start with the Lord’s Prayer. In Lutheran countries the Small Catechism would thus be the child’s second textbook, following the acquisition of basic reading skills. This practice is expressly stated in the Danish Church Order:

The first lesson is for those who are taught the ABC and learning to spell … The ABCD-pupils should learn to read from those ABCD-books which contain their Paternoster, Credo and x Commandments, together with the words which are pronounced at Baptism, the Keys and the Lord's Supper, with other such children’s prayers …47

The correlation between basic catechetical instruction and reading letters from boards hung up in visible places reenters the scene in some of Luther’s later sermons, where he employs the metaphor of writing important words in bold letters. This demand is closely connected with words of catechetical importance, such as “Christ has risen” in the Creed or, in its exposition, “[this has happened] for our sakes.”48

The metaphorical use of this correlation between alphabet training and catechism is also present when Luther refers to himself as a “young learner of the alphabet” when underscoring the need for even a doctor to reach back to the basics every day instead of seeking novelties, as, in his opinion, the Spirituals did. In a sermon from 1529 he announces:

… if you want to be a Christian, you must embrace the word of Christ and know that you will never be finished with learning it. And you will be forced to admit that you still do not know the ABC. If it is about bragging, I would also be able to boast, as I am dealing with this study day and night, but it is necessary that I remain a disciple in this learning. I start daily as a pupil in the elementary school.49

The transition of catechetical teaching from oral tradition to printed textbooks seems to have generated interest in furthering general literacy among the common people. In Lutheran Sweden and Finland, where the school system was poorly developed, church authorities began to organize annual “overhearings” or recitations of reading and catechetical competence of the family members in each parish, resulting in a marked improvement over the generations.50 In the 17th century, a Swedish pastor in Delaware even created the first Native American alphabetic writing system in connection with a translation of Luther’s Small Catechism—the first book translated into a Native American language.51 Likewise, the combination of literacy and training in Christian basics spread to other continents under both Catholic and Protestant missions.

The Issue of Images: Use of the Senses

In rendering the text of the Ten Commandments, Luther retained a traditional Augustinian arrangement uncritically and not according to the strict biblical text, contrary to some of his fellow reformers, who in this matter preferred to stand by scripture. Luther did not explicitly vouch for his conservatism here, but it may well have turned out, in the long term, to be an obvious pedagogical advantage.

Augustine had distributed the “Ten Words” on the two tablets of Moses into three commandments regarding the adoration of God, and seven on relations between men. The two tablets corresponded to the double commandment to love God and one’s neighbor. With masterly mathematical skill, he moreover succeeded in relating the three commandments on the first tablet to each of the three persons in the Trinity. An unintended outcome of this project was the elimination of the ban on images as a separate commandment. It simply vanished into the subordinated details concerning the adoration of the one God. To maintain the number ten, he had to divide the last commandment (on concupiscence) into two. Luther replicated this scheme without any alteration. He did not apply the first tablet to the Trinity, but employed a widespread scholastic scheme according to which the threefold adoration of God relates to heart, word, and deed. The ethical instructions on the second tablet were thus preceded by prescriptions for the “right behavior” in the divine relation, which was in short, faith, praise, and attendance at service.

The maintenance of the Latin tradition is hardly the cause of the rich exploitation of senses in Lutheran worship, but it may have removed impediments to it. The question of images was not raised until some violent incidents of iconoclasm occurred in Wittenberg. Karlstadt, who was subsequently made responsible, accused Luther of inconsistency in regard to the commandments because he allowed the blasphemous adoration of “idols” in the church, while upholding strict obedience to the ethical commandments of the second tablet.52 Luther addressed the question rather reluctantly. He saw it as a controversy which had reached past church history and to which there was no clear biblical answer. During his controversy with Karlstadt over images, however, he seems to have become aware of the usefulness of pictures for memorizing. He extended his alertness to material representation during his lifelong fights against the Spiritualists in the Reform movement.

Additional Learning through the “Loci” Method

So far, Luther’s suggestions have assumed a conservative ecclesiastical stance. He sticks to the baptismal teaching of the ancient church, and he revitalizes the efforts of the medieval reforming synods to engage both (god-)parents and parish priests in frequent practice of “the lay people's syllabus” under the threat of exclusion from the Lord’s Supper. He was, however, open to other methods. Especially where older children were concerned, he was intent on nudging them on to more comprehensive knowledge. Consequently he suggested the “modern” school method of loci communes (“commonplaces”), which was at that time praised by humanists and practiced in schools and even religious houses. The method consisted in collecting sayings thematically under a “head.” Luther suggests that children collect such sayings during the service and reproduce them at home over meals

until the heart may grasp the whole sum of Christian truth under two headings or, as it were, in two pouches, namely, faith and love. Faith’s pouch may have two pockets. Into one pocket we put the part [of faith] that believes that through the sin of Adam we are all corrupt, sinners, and under condemnation, Romans 5 [:12], Psalm [:5]. Into the other we put the part [of faith that trusts] that through Jesus Christ we all are redeemed from this corruption, sin, and condemnation, Romans 5 [:15–21], John 3 [:16–18].…

And let no one think himself too wise for such child’s play. … Would to God such child’s play were widely practiced. In a short time we would have a wealth of Christian people whose souls would be so enriched in Scripture and in the knowledge of God that of their own accord they would add more pockets, just as the loci communes [commonplaces], and comprehend all Scripture in them …53

It is striking that Luther had used exactly this method in the dialogical sermons he delivered to check the popular reform movement in Wittenberg in 1522. Here, he listed the three or four necessary items of knowledge on Christian faith, which everybody should be able to reproduce for himself on his deathbed, adding a few selected Bible quotations to remember them by.54

Review of the Literature

Modern historical research on Luther’s catechisms was from its beginning linked to the theological question of normative catechetical practice. Pioneers in the field were church historians and practical theologians, who reacted against the criticism of the Enlightenment55 and tried to rehabilitate the religious teaching as it materialized in the catechisms without getting trapped in a theology of regression.56 The new political reality in a united Germany demanded loosening of local traditions and even confessional barriers. In the second half of the 19th century, scholars therefore joined in efforts to identify the essence and the historical genetics of Luther’s catechetical work. Their results have had a lasting impact on the outlines of further study in this area. A comprehensive historiography, which also includes this early scholarship, is provided in Albrecht Peters’s (1991–1994) posthumously edited commentaries on the Small Catechism in five volumes. But Peters’s work is in itself an addition to this solid German scholarship, which had found a classical form in Johannes Meyer’s Historical Commentary on the Small Catechism.57 As a standard work of reference and exegesis, Peters has recently (2011) been translated into English.

Modern scholarship inherited in particular two points of focus from this during one and a half centuries of an almost unbroken line of research. One of them is a preoccupation with the Decalogue, which Luther had given a disproportionately dominant position in religious instruction. It was commonly assumed that the commandments were a late addition to the Christian catechesis, and that they had been introduced as an extension of the oral confession in the late Middle Ages. This assertion was often reproduced on the basis of the first edited sources on medieval instruction, Johannes Geffcken’s “Bildercatechismus” (1855), which only offered excerpts of the material and therefore distorted the overall view of late medieval usage. With the exception of one Swedish scholar,58 the Decalogue was exclusively treated as the outcome of a confessional culture, with no hint of its being the rule of life for lay people, which it had occupied in academic textbooks and sermons. Insufficient material was also the basis of constructions of a more social-historical character, such as John Bossy’s assessment that the Seven Sins were superseded by the commandments as a natural consequence of changing social relations,59 or Stephen Ozment’s suggestion that the oral confession had become even more unpopular during the adoption of the Decalogue, which helped explain why people supported behind Luther’s protests against the administration of penance.60.

The other focal point was Luther’s placement of the Decalogue as the gateway to Christianity. This debate is still ongoing. The issue was of special interest to the Erlangen theologians, who found support in Luther’s catechism for advocating a renewed interest in the usus theologicus of the law. Quite a few maintain that the order was more random, as Luther also often employed the “order of the ABC.”

More notable are the contributions by secular historians on literacy and children’s reading in early modern Europe. Gerard Strauss first addressed this question using German material, but much of the work has been done on vernacular sources and published in the language in question. Egil Johansson launched the phrase “literacy campaign in early modern Europe” to describe Swedish realities adequately. Also in Denmark, substantial work has been done on the dissemination of literature and reading ability in the centuries following the Reformation and drawing impulses from it.

Suggestions for Further Research

Obviously, religious upbringing in early modern Europe was not limited to mastering the catechetical syllabus in the classical form presented here. In Luther’s own time and with his assistance, efforts were made to preserve the transfer of Christian memory in a broad cultural context. In this connection, Lutheran postils (homily books) constitute a neglected field. Luther’s contemporary Johannes Spangenberg, among others, composed a textbook for Christian youth, Knaben und Megdelein, which covered the entire liturgical year. Here questions and answers to the gospel texts replaced the regular sermons. This book was more often found on the shelves of Danish families than even Luther’s house postil. Not a few church orders in Germany moreover stressed the catechetical importance of diligent preaching on the gospel texts on Christ’s feast days, especially in the countryside, where pastoral attendance was scarce. Studies of this literature would add considerably to our knowledge of Lutheran culture and education.

Further Reading

Adam, Bernd. Katechetische Vaterunserauslegungen: Texte und Untersuchungen zu deutschsprachigen Auslegungen des 14. und 15. Jahrhunderts. Munich: Artemis, 1976.Find this resource:

d’Avry, D. L.The Preaching of the Friars: Sermons Diffused from Paris before 1300. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988.Find this resource:

Bloomfield, Morton W.The Seven Deadly Sins: An Introduction to the History of a Religious Concept with Special Reference to Medieval English Literature. East Lansing: Michigan State College Press, 1952.Find this resource:

Bossy, John. “Moral Arithmetic: Seven Sins into Ten Commandments.” In Conscience and Casuistry in Early Modern Europe. Edited by Edmund Leites, 214–334. Paris: Édition de la Maison des Science de l’Homme, 1988.Find this resource:

Délumeau, Jean. Le péché et la peur: La culpabilisation en Occident (XIIIe–XVIIIe siècles). Paris: Fayard, 1983.Find this resource:

Ebeling, Gerhard. Luthers Seelsorge: Theologie der Vielfalt der Lebenssituationen an seinen Briefen dargestellt. Tübingen: Mohr, 1997.Find this resource:

Geffcken, Johannes. Der Bildercatechismus des funfzehnten Jahrhunderts (und die catechetischen Hauptstücke in dieser Zeit bis auf Luther) I. Leipzig: T. O. Weigel, 1855.Find this resource:

Gordon, James D. “The Articles of the Creed and the Apostles.” Speculum 40 (1965): 634–640.Find this resource:

Grane, Leif. Martinus noster: Luther in the Reform Movement 1518–1521. Mainz: von Zabern, 1994.Find this resource:

Haustein, Jörg. Martin Luthers Stellung zum Zauber- und Hexenwesen. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1990.Find this resource:

Johansson, Egil. “Seven Articles by Egil Johansson.” In Alphabeta varia: Orality, Reading and Writing in the History of Literacy. Festschrift in honour of Professor Egil Johansson. Edited by Daniel Lindmark, 57–169. Umeå: Umeå Universitet, 1998.Find this resource:

Kilström, Bengt Ingmar. Den kateketiska undervisningen i Sverige under Medeltiden. Lund: Gleerup, 1958.Find this resource:

Leppin, Volker. “Katechismen im späten Mittelalter.” TARF Dokumentation, 2012 Frankfurt am Main.Find this resource:

Meyer, Johannes. Historischer Kommentar zu Luthers Kleinem Katechismus. Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1929.Find this resource:

Murphy, Lawrence F. “Martin Luther, Commentator on the Sentences of Peter Lombard: Theological Method and Selected Theological Problems.” PhD diss., Marquette University, 1970.Find this resource:

Ohst, Martin. Pflichtbeichte: Untersuchungen zum Busswesen im Hohen und Späten Mittelalter. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1995.Find this resource:

Orme, Nicholas. Medieval Children. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Peters, Albrecht. Kommentar zu Luthers Katechismen. Edited by Gottfried Seebass. 4 vols. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990–1994. English trans., 2011.Find this resource:

Schwarz, Reinhard. “Luther als Erzieher des Volkes: Die Institutionalisering der Verkündigung.” Luther-Jahrbuch 57 (1990): 114–127.Find this resource:

Strauss, Gerald. Luther’s House of Learning: Indoctrination of the Young in the German Reformation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.Find this resource:

Strauss, Gerald. “The Social Function of Schools in the Lutheran Reformation in Germany.” History of Education Quarterly 28. 2 (1988): 191–206.Find this resource:

Walter, Peter. “Der Catechismus Romanus—Seine Entstehung und seine Stellung im Rahmen der Katechismen des 16. Jahrhunderts.” TARF Dokumentation 39/2012, Frankfurt/M, pp. 28–36.Find this resource:

Wandel, Lee Palmer. Reading Catechisms, Teaching Religion. Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History 250. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2016.Find this resource:

Weissmann, Christoph. “Welches Glaubens bist du?—Der Katechismus des Johannes Brenz zwischen Wittenberg und Heidelberg.” TARF Dokumentation 39/2012, Frankfurt/M, pp. 42–49.Find this resource:

Wengert, Timothy J.Martin Luther’s Catechisms: Forming the Faith. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009.Find this resource:


(1.) MGH Capitularia regum Francorum I, 53–69, point 63.

(2.) Ibid., point 70.

(3.) Pierre Riché, Instruction et vie réligieuse dans la Haut Moyen Age (London: Variorum Reprints, 1981), 245.

(4.) Edith Ennen, Frauen im Mittelalter (3d ed., Munich: Beck, 1987), 134.

(5.) Günther Franz, Die Messe im deutschen Mittelalter (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1963).

(6.) Norman P. Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1 (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1990), 230.

(7.) Cf. Jean Délumeau, Le péché et la peur: La culpabilisation en Occident (XIII–XVIIIe siècles) (Paris: Fayard, 1983).

(8.) Morton W. Bloomfield, The Seven Deadly Sins: An Introduction to the History of a Religious Concept (East Lansing: Michigan State College Press, 1952).

(9.) Otto Zöckler, Die Tugendlehre des Christentums geschichtlic dargestellt in der Entwicklung ihrer Lehrformen, mit besonderer Rücksicht auf deren zahlensymbolische Einkleidung (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1904); and cf. Robert Grosseteste, Templum Dei, eds. J. W. Goering and F. A. C. Mantello (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1984).

(10.) E.g., Somme le Roy: An Illuminated Manuscript of la Somme le Roy Attributed to the Paris Miniaturist Honoré, ed. Erig G. Millar (Oxford: Roxburghe Club, 1953).

(11.) The material is enormous. Cf. Johannes Baptist Schneyer, Repertorium der lateinischen Sermones des Mittelalters für die Zeit 1150–1350 (Münster: Aschendorff, 1974). An example from each phase of the period in question (1250–1500) must suffice: Berthold von Regensburg, Vollständige Ausgabe seiner Predigten mit Anmerkungen von Franz Pfeiffer (2 vols., Berlin: de Gruyter, 1965), vol. 1, 274; and Arthur Fillon, Sermons des commendemens de dieu: que pourront faire le cures ou vicaires a leurs parrochiens cacun dimenche. Si vis ad vitam ingredi serva mandata. Math. XIX (Paris, 1501).

(12.) Sancti Bonaventurae Collationes de decem praeceptis, in Opera omnia, ed. Collegium S. Bonaventurae (Quarracchi, 1892–1902), vol. 5, 507; and Prolegomena, xlii.

(13.) Marion Gibbs and Jane Lang, Bishops and Reform 1215–1272 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1934).

(14.) S. Thomas Aquinatis Opera Omnia vol. 6: Reportationes: Opusculae dubiae authenticitatis (Stuttgart and Bad Cannstadt, 1980), 29.

(15.) Leif Grane, Contra Gabrielem: Luthers Auseinandersetzung mit Gabriel Biel in der Disputatio contra Scholasticam Theologiam 1517 (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1962), 188.

(16.) WA 9:93. L. F. Murphy, “Martin Luther, Commentator on the Sentences of Peter Lombard: Theological Method and Selected Theological Problems” (PhD diss., Marquette University, 1970), 24–31.

(17.) The Third Article: “I believe that … the Holy Ghost has … enlightened me with his gifts …” Small Catechism.

(18.) F. M. Powicke and C. R. Cheney, Councils and Synods with Other Documents Relating to the English Church (2 vols., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964), vol. 2, Part 1, 890; Gustaf Holmstedt, ed., Speculum Christiani: A Middle English Religious Treatise of the 14th Century (London: Oxford University Press, 1933); and Leonard E. Boyle, “The Oculus sacerdotis and Other Works of William of Pagula,” in Pastoral Care, Clerical Education and Canon Law 1200–1400, ed. Leonard E. Boyle (London: Variorum Reprints, 1981), 81.

(19.) Angelo Clavassio, Summa angelica (Berlin, inc. 4739); and cf. Martin Ohst, Pflichtbeichte (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1970).

(20.) A typical title would read like this: “Hie hbt sich an das aller nützlichst buoch … durch eyn hochgelerten doctor bruder Johannes Nider prediger ordens zu Nurenberg also geprediget. Unnd durch pet und liebe ersamer burgeren da selbst in ein teütsch buoch ordenlich zuo samen geschriben seind” (1505).

(21.) WA 1:90.

(22.) LW 43:1, 19.

(23.) LW 43:l, 77–81.

(24.) WA 1:391, “Non habebis …”

(25.) Jörg Haustein, Martin Luthers Stellung zum Zauber- und Hexenwesen (Münchener kirchenhistoriscen Studien; Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1990).

(26.) “Do fint … kurts yederman/wie er den weg gan sol (das dann die. x, gebott sind) der zu dem ewigen Leben führt” (“Here everybody will find the way (which are the Ten Commandments) which he has to go to eternal life”), in Der.x. gebot ein nutzliche erklerung Durch den hochgelerten D. Martin Luther …, trans. Sebastian Münster, 1520. Edition: Michael Basse, Martin Luthers Dekalogpredigten in der Übersetzung von Sebastian Münster (Archiv zur Weimarer Ausgabe 10; Cologne: Böhlau, 2011).

(27.) Leif Grane, Martinus noster: Luther in the German Reform Movement 1518–1521 (Mainz: von Zabern, 1994), 116.

(28.) LW 35:82 prints the institution’s words in cursive like an ordinary quotation, which does not convey the expression of the very large letters Luther employs (The typography is very clear in the photographic reproduction from the 1523 publication).

(29.) LW 43:2, “Devotional Writings” translates the editions of Betbüchlein from 1522 under the title “Personal Prayerbook,” probably to distinguish it from the English liturgical concept of a common prayerbook.

(30.) WA 7 (translation by author).

(31.) LW 43:2, 13–14 (emphasis in bold added).

(32.) Augustine, De spiritu et littera XV.27; Latin–German in Geist und Buchstabe, ed. C. J. Perl (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1968), 54.

(33.) WA 54:185–186.

(34.) LW 25:243.

(35.) LW 51:22.

(36.) LW 43:2, 24–25.

(37.) Alexandri de Hales Summa Theologica (Florence: Quarrachi, 1948), vol. 4.

(38.) Reinhard Schwarz, “Luther als Erzieher des Volkes: Die Institutionalisiering der Verkündigung,” Luther-Jahrbuch 57 (1990): 115.

(39.) LW 53:64.

(41.) Egil Johansson, “The History of Literacy in Sweden,” in Alphabeta varia: Orality, Reading and Writing in the History of Literacy, ed. Daniel Lindmark (Umeå: Umeå Universitet, 1998), 156–162.

(42.) Schwarz, Luthers als Erzieher, 121.

(43.) Ebeling employed the expression “memorierbare Glaubenssätze” (“devotional sentences easy to memorize”). Gerhard Ebeling, Luther als Seelsorger: Theologie der Vielfalt der Lebenssituationen, an seinen Briefen dargestellt (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1991).

(44.) WA 1:115–117.

(45.) Nicholas Orme, Medieval Children (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), chap. 7, “Learning To Read.”

(46.) Philipp Melanchthon, Elementa puerilia (1524). Bayerische Staatsbibliothek digital.

(47.) Martin Schwarz Lausten, Kirkeordinansen 1537/39 (Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 1989), 76.

(48.) WA 27:493B; WA 36:161. Cf. also Ninna Jørgensen, “‘Sed manet articulus’: Pastoral Care and Catechetical Training in three Sermons by the Later Luther,” Studia Theologica 59.1 (2005).

(49.) Predigt Erfurt 1529.

(50.) Egil Johansson, “Alphabeta varia: Some Roots of Literacy in Various Countries,” in Alphabeta varia: Festschrift in honour of Professor Egil Johansson on the occasion of his 65th birthday March 24, 1998, ed. Daniel Lindmark (Umeå: Umeå Universitet, 1998), 122.

(51.) John Campanius’ Lutheran Catechism in Delaware Language, ed. Nils Magnus Holmer (Uppsala: Lundequist, 1946).

(52.) Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, Ob man gemach faren/und ergernüssen der schwachen verschonen soll/in sachen so gottis willen angehn (1524), ed. Erich Hertzsch, Karlstadts Schriften aus den Jahren 1523–1525 (Halle (Saale): Niemeyer, 1956), 74. English translation in E. J. Furcha, ed. and trans., The Essential Carlstadt (Waterloo, ON: Herald, 1995), 247.

(53.) LW 54:64.

(54.) LW 51:70–71.

(55.) Johann Schmitt, Der Kampf um den Katechismus in der Aufklärungsperiode Deutschlands (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1935); and Eugen Paul, Geschichte der christlichen Erziehung (2 vols., Freiburg: Herder, 1993).

(56.) Gerhard von Zezschwitz, System der christlich-kirchlichen Katechetik (2 vols.; Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1863–1864); and Theodosius Harnack, Katechetik und Erklärung des Kleinen Katechismus Dr. Martin Luthers (Erlangen: A. Deichert, 1882). Karl Barth describes this all-important theological generation as uniting impulses from Schleiermacher, the Awakening, Confessionalism, and Biblicism (Die protestantische Theologie im 19. Jahrhundert, 1947).

(57.) Johannes Meyer, Historische Kommentar zu Luthers Kleinem Katechismus (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1929).

(58.) Bengt Ingmar Kilström, Den kateketiska undervisningen in Sverige under medeltidan (Uppsala: Gleerup, 1968), 236: “It is an obvious mistake to connect, as in earlier scholarship, the predominance of the Decalogue in the instruction of the church directly with the preoccupation with oral confession” (translation, abridged, by author).

(59.) John Bossy, Christianity in the West 1400–1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).

(60.) Steven Ozment, The Reformation in the Cities: The Appeal of Protestantism to Sixteenth-Century Germany and Switzerland (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975).