The great catechism

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The Great Catechism is a textbook written by Martin Luther .


The starting point for the creation of catechisms is the effort to pass on core elements of biblical tradition from generation to generation ( Deut. 6.20 ff  Lut ).

Following church practice in the late Middle Ages, the reformers have been preaching regularly since 1517 on the Ten Commandments , the Apostles' Creed and the Our Father . In 1520 Luther published A Brief Form of the Ten Commandments, a Brief Form of Faith, a Brief Form of the Our Father , where the first three main parts appear for the first time in this order and assignment. From 1525, together with Johannes Bugenhagen , he also placed particular emphasis on the right understanding of the sacraments . The reformers related the statements of the Holy Scriptures to their application in worship and everyday life of believers. What goes beyond that is no longer the subject of teaching; thus all positive references to the Marian prayers, which were particularly emphasized in the medieval church, are omitted.

Elaboration and publication

In 1528 Luther went on visitation trips through Saxon rural communities, which showed him that the Christian faith was only incompletely and distortedly known among the church people. Therefore, in the autumn / winter of 1528, he converted his own sermons on the subject matter of the catechism into a textbook for the pastors. In January 1529 he interrupted his work in order to first publish the Small Catechism (initially in the form of individual plate prints) . In the spring of 1529 he preached again and completed the Great Catechism on the basis of them. A first print in book form was carried out by Georg Rhau in Wittenberg from April 1529 under the title German Catechism . It contained a preface and detailed introductions to the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. From the second printing, in the same year, the Great Catechism included the “admonition to confess”. This edition was adorned with rich illustrations, e.g. T. by Lucas Cranach the Elder . Martin Luther wrote a second preface in 1530 for the third edition; it is also contained in the last edition edited by his hand in 1538.

One of the first translations of the Great Catechism was a Low German version created by Johannes Bugenhagen. The humanist Vincentius Obsopöus arranged for a version in Latin quickly after the publication of the first print, which increased considerably through the incorporation of interpretations and quotations from ancient writers.

Together with the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism was included in the Book of Concords (1580) and is part of the teaching stock of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.


  1. (Long) preface (from 1530)
    (Short) preface (from 1528)
  2. The Ten Commandments of God
  3. The main articles of faith
  4. The prayer or Our Father as Christ taught
  5. From baptism
  6. From the sacrament of the altar ( Last Supper )
  7. A brief admonition to confess

Expenses (selection)


  • Albrecht Peters : Commentary on Luther's Catechisms . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1990/94.
  1. The Ten Commandments. Luther prefaces . 1990, ISBN 3-525-56180-6 .
  2. Belief . 1991, ISBN 3-525-56181-4 .
  3. The Lord's Prayer . 1992, ISBN 3-525-56182-2 .
  4. Baptism, the Lord's Supper . 1993, ISBN 3-525-56183-0 .
  5. The confession, the house table, the grape book, the baptismal book . 1994, ISBN 3-525-56184-9 .

Individual evidence

  1. Johannes Schilling: Catechisms. In: Albrecht Beutel (ed.): Luther Handbook. 2010, p. 307.

Web links