What is source criticism in Christianity

The Importance of Luther's Catechisms in Teaching the Christian Faith during the Reformation


1 Introduction

2. Source analysis: The Great Catechism (1529)
2.1. External source criticism
2.2. Inner source criticism

3. The Catechism of Luther
3.1. Development of the Catechism
3.2. Historical context: The Great Catechism (1529)
3.3. Source interpretation: The Great Catechism (1529)

4. The meaning of Luther's Great Catechism

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

1 Introduction

Are you raised to believe, or do you receive faith through baptism?

For believers, baptism is one of the first steps to a fulfilled Christian life, but the question arises, why did one become a believer?

Was it baptism that poured out the faith through the covenant entered into between God and man, or is one only brought up to be a Christian after baptism?

By being accepted into a Christian community through baptism, this topic does not lose its relevance for the present. Many Christians encounter the question of faith and the relevance of the act of baptism in their life and they begin to grapple with faith and their upbringing to become believing Christians.

Especially when you are in the situation of having your own child baptized or the request to take over a sponsorship has to decide, you ask yourself the questions about receiving your faith, why you are called a believer yourself and how this came about.

The importance of Christian education and the method of this are the focus of this work and should be discussed on the basis of a source.

In order to answer the question posed above, a source from Martin Luther was used, which is first analyzed and critically examined. In the next step, the development of the catechism and its significance for education should be worked out in order to finally clarify whether faith in God is received through baptism or is instilled after baptism.

Not least because Luther wrote two of the most important catechisms, one of these is used as a source in this work.

2. Source analysis: The Great Catechism (1529)

2.1. External source criticism

The source excerpt from the source "Luther, Martin: Deudsch Catechismus (The Great Catechism) 1529. In: WA 30 1,212-238." Deals with baptism. This source excerpt has been chosen with regard to the original meaning of the word catechism and represents a primary source with regard to the chosen topic, since the source is not based on a tradition, but only flows into the author's text. Because of its structure and content, the source is also a document from the area of ​​the remains[1].

There is no manuscript, but the text from the Weimar edition is based on the original. It is noteworthy that the exhortation to penance the source was added to a later print[2]The first print was made in Wittenberg around the beginning to the middle of April 1529. The Great Catechism arose from the catechism sermon of 1528[3] ; The foundation stone for this idea of ​​collecting teaching pieces for the people, however, is already expressed in 1525, which is indicated by the letters to Hausmann[4] be occupied.

The Great Catechism was published in the Weimar edition before the Small Catechism, which is probably based on the fact that the editor assumes that the catechisms were created in this order[5].

The period of origin can be located with the catechism sermons of the year 1528, even if the basic idea was already given, but the author had started to deal with the topic publicly at this time.

The author of the original text is, although not named, Martin Luther; Nevertheless, he proves to be the author of the catechism sermons and since these were the cornerstone for the writing, Martin Luther is undisputedly assigned as the author. The choice of words and usage in comparison with other clearly assigned sources also indicate the same[6].

The source can be identified as a catechism, since in a catechism something is to be taught in a kind of question-and-answer game, which is done in this form in the present source. The authenticity of the source can also be confirmed by the fact that the author is also the author, even if there are no manuscripts, but rather just a copy of the original. The original print, however, must have been almost identical to an existing manuscript, since the object was created with the idea of ​​a later publication in mind[7].

The catechism reflects an instructive character, entirely in keeping with Luther's intention, which in the period after the great Reformation events in 1529 was intended to give people support again and at the same time to point the way of faith[8]. With this work, which is primarily addressed to pastors, a guideline for working with people in relation to the Christian faith should be given.

2.2. Inner source criticism

As already mentioned, the style and vocabulary of the source Martin Luther can be clearly assigned, which can thus be clearly assigned to the corresponding time. The syntactic prerequisites can underline the named tendency. The cultural and historical conditions at that time correspond to the author's ideas, so that there is also agreement on the semantic level.

In the source passage, the main focus is clearly on the word that gives rise to the sign of water and thus the act of baptism, i.e. the sacrament[9].

Luther goes directly to adversaries in the source and can thereby establish a reference to the scriptures and the current situation. This shows that ways of thinking and epochal assignment coincide, that the source is correctly assigned in terms of tradition.

From an editorial point of view, the peculiarity should be noted that various reprints use different text versions and so in the original print there is no "A brief description of the confession"[10] is included, but has been added below.

The source was written on current occasions and not looking back over many years, so that the relationship between author and reality remains carefree. The idea of ​​a written catechism arose as early as 1525, but the first sermons were written in 1528, the year before the creation of the Great Catechism, so that the content itself is still very relevant.


[1] Cf. Markschies, Christoph: Arbeitsbuch Kirchengeschichte. Tübingen 1995, pages 22-28.

[2] See Luther, Martin: Deudsch Catechismus (The Great Catechism) 1529. In: WA 30 1. Weimar 1887., p.233.

[3] See Luther: Deudsch Catechismus, p.129.

[4] Cf. Peters, Albrecht: Commentary on Luther's Catechisms. Vol. 1. The ten commandments. Göttingen 1990, p.17.

[5] See Luther: Deudsch Catechismus, p.132.

[6] See for example Luther, Martin: Der kleine Catechismus 1529. In: WA 301. Weimar 1887, p.346-402.

[7] See Luther: Deudsch Catechismus, p.125.

[8] Cf. Moeller, Bernd: History of Christianity in Fundamentals. Göttingen9 2008, 240-265.

[9] See Luther: Deudsch Catechismus, pp.213-215.

[10] See Luther: Deudsch Catechismus, p.219f.

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