The Heidelberg Catechism was one of many catechisms that originated during the 16th-century
Reformation. It is also known that the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism made use of existing
catechisms. The content of 16th-century catechisms consisted mainly of the Decalogue, the
Apostolicum and the Lord’s Prayer. The Heidelberg Catechism starts with the famous
introduction, dealing with man’s only comfort, and in three sections with knowledge of our sin
and misery, knowledge of our deliverance, and knowledge of how we should be grateful for
our deliverance. This contribution points out that the threefold structure of the Heidelberg
Catechism is not unique, but appeared in different ways in different catechisms of prominent
16th-century reformers. It is also argued that the Heidelberg Catechism should be read against
Lutheran and Calvinistic backgrounds. Finally, it is shown that the Heidelberg Catechism
articulated the basic Christian faith in such a beautiful and poignant manner that it stood the
test of time as a catechism and confession.
This research is part of the
research project, ‘Ecumenical
creeds and Confessions’,
directed by Dr Wim Dreyer,
Department of Church
History and Church Polity,
Faculty of Theology,
University of Pretoria.
This article is based on research done by A. Janse van Rensburg for the completion of the degree Magister Theologiae, under
supervision of Dr W.A. Dreyer, Department of Church History and Church Polity, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria. The support
of the University of Pretoria and the Johannes a Lasco Institute (Emden, Germany), is hereby acknowledged with gratitude.