Heidelberg Catechism

Introduction

The Heidelberg Catechism, the second of our doctrinal standards, was written in Heidelberg at the request of Elector Frederick III, ruler of the most influential German province, the Palatinate, from 1559 to 1576. This pious Christian prince commissioned Zacharius Ursinus, twenty-eight years of age and professor of theology at the Heidelberg University, and Caspar Olevianus, twenty-six years old and Frederick's court preacher, to prepare a catechism for instructing the youth and for guiding pastors and teachers. Frederick obtained the advice and cooperation of the entire theological faculty in the preparation of the Catechism. The Heidelberg Catechism was adopted by a Synod in Heidelberg and published in German with a preface by Frederick III, dated January 19, 1563. A second and third German edition, each with some small additions, as well as a Latin translation were published in Heidelberg in the same year. The Catechism was soon divided into fifty-two sections, so that a section of the Catechism could be explained to the churches each Sunday of the year.  In the Netherlands this Heidelberg Catechism became generally and favourably known almost as soon as it came from the press, mainly through the efforts of Petrus Dathenus, who translated it into the Dutch language and added this translation to his Dutch rendering of the Genevan Psalter, which was published in 1566. In the same year Peter Gabriel set the example of explaining this catechism to his congregation at Amsterdam in his Sunday afternoon sermons. The National Synods of the sixteenth century adopted it as one of the Three Forms of Unity, requiring office-bearers to subscribe to it and ministers to explain it to the churches. These requirements were strongly emphasized by the great Synod of Dort in 1618-19.  The Heidelberg Catechism has been translated into many languages and is the most influential and the most generally accepted of the several catechisms of Reformation times. 

Lord's Day 1

  1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

    A. That I am not my own,1 but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death,2 to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.3 He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood,4 and has set me free from all the power of the devil.5 He also preserves me in such a way6 that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head;7 indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.8 Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life9 and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.10
  2. Q. What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

    A. First, how great my sins and misery are;1 second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery;2 third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance.3
  3. The First Part - Our Sin and Misery

    Lord's Day 2

  4. Q. From where do you know your sins and misery?~A. From the law of God.1