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catechism (kătˈəkĭzəm) [Gr.,=oral instruction], originally oral instruction in religion, later written instruction. Catechisms are usually written in the form of questions and answers. Almost as old as Christianity, they were used especially for the instruction of converts and children. Catechisms were popular in the later Middle Ages and assumed even greater significance in the Reformation through Martin Luther's emphasis on the religious education of children. His Small Catechism (1529) is still the standard book of the Lutheran church. The greatest Calvinist catechism was the Heidelberg Catechism (1563). It was revised at Dort (1619) and was used in Dutch and German Reformed churches; other catechisms are the Longer and Shorter Catechisms of 1647 and 1648, drawn up to supplement the Westminster Confession; they are used in Presbyterian churches. The catechism for the Anglican Communion is included in the Book of Common Prayer.

A catechism long in use in the Roman Catholic church was that prepared by the Jesuit Peter Canisius, which appeared in 1555. The catechism of the Council of Trent, a document of high authority issued in 1566, was essentially a manual of instruction for use by the clergy in combating the Protestant Reformation; nonetheless it remained influential for over four centuries. The best-known Catholic catechism in England for many years was the Penny Catechism, adopted by the bishops of England and Wales; that in the United States was the Baltimore Catechism. The first new universal catechism of the Catholic church since that of the Council of Trent was released in French in 1992 and in English in 1994. The book forgoes the traditional question-and-answer format, instead providing a compendium of Roman Catholic teaching and belief. A summary of the catechism that employs a question-and-answer formate was released in 2005.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) A handbook containing the basic principles of Christian doctrine. During the first centuries of Christianity, the catechism was the oral instruction of those about to be baptized as Christians. Beginning with the 16th century the catechism became a book, a manual of instruction, which popularly set forth (usually in the form of questions and answers) the teachings of the Christian church. The Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches each have their own catechism.

(2) In the figurative sense, a catechism is a work written in theform of questions and answers.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


instruction by a series of questions and answers, esp a book containing such instruction on the religious doctrine of a Christian Church
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
In 11 papers from a May 2014 conference, scholars of church history look at cultural translation, missionary linguistics, and Catholic catechisms in the early modern age; translating Christian terms; translated Christian practices; and translating the Christian faith with pictures.
This translation, the fourth volume (out of five) of Albrecht Peters' (1924-1987) theological commentary on Luther's catechisms, deals with Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Often these national catechisms were in a question-and-answer format, bringing to life the very meaning of
This Catechism abandoned the Question and Answer memorization process of previous Catechisms, replacing it with well-written discursive topics for adults.
Approved and authorized for publication by the full body of The United States Conference of Bishops, United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is an in-depth reference text written especially to aid in the instruction of Catholic doctrine in general, and the preparation of catechisms in particular.
The last century has seen changes in wording and emphasis in American catechisms. Illustrating this is the perennial question, "Why did God make you/us?"
"Depending on how they are used, I believe catechisms can be a helpful tool in providing Christians of all ages with the words and concepts they need to articulate their faith," she says.
But it is only now with the publication of Dr Green's monumental and admirable study of catechizing and catechisms that the most obvious point of contact between clerical teaching and popular belief has been properly investigated.
A shared sense that knowledge might come through vision, images, liturgy, and nature was replaced, she says, by a shared sense that knowledge of Christianity began with texts printed on a page, that the experiences of the liturgy--and in some traditions images--were now to be read through lenses learned in codicil catechisms: words were to frame experience.
Atonement critics don't deny that this theology has been part of the church's history, scripture, liturgy, creeds, and catechisms. They just insist that it is just one of several ways the church has tried to understand Jesus' life, death, and Resurrection.
This essay examines one small piece of Luther's wide-ranging commentary on the Ten Commandments within his catechisms in the hopes of gaining more clarity on Luther's interpretation of the commandments and the role they played in his overall theology.