Friday, October 1, 2010

Jean Calvin:
Greek & Greek-Latin Catechisms /

Ιωάννης Καλβίνος:
Στοιχείωσις της Χριστιανών πίστεως (κατήχηση)

(Στοιχείωσις, 1551, σ. 126)

«After his return from Strasburg Calvin rewrote the Catechism on a larger scale, and arranged in questions and answers: the catechist drawing out the information, and the pupil or child seeming to teach the master. It was prepared in great haste, for the printer demanded copy without giving him time to revise it. He often desired to perfect the book, but found no time. [ftn. So he said himself on his death-bed; see Stähelin, Vol. II. p. 467.] It appeared in French, 1541 or 1542,[ftn. 'Le Catechisme de l’Église de Genève, c’est à dire le Formulaire d’instruire les enfans en la Chrestienté fait en manière de dialogue ou le ministre interrogue et l’enfant respond.' The oldest copy extant was found in the ducal library at Gotha, printed 1545. On other editions, see the Prolegomena to Opera, Vol. VI.] in Latin, 1545, [ftn. 'Catechismus Ecclesiæ Genevensis, hoc est, Formula erudiendi pueros in doctrina Christi. Autore Joanné Calvino.' The Preface to the Latin edition is dated 'Genevæ, 4 Calendas Decembris, 1545.' The Strasburg editors give the French and Latin texts of 1545 in parallel columns, Vol. VI. pp. 8–159. In many editions Calvin's Liturgy is added.] and very often. It was also translated into Italian (1551 and 1556), Spanish (1550), English (1556), German, Dutch, Hungarian, even into Greek and Hebrew. [ftn. Beza, in Vita, ad ann. 1541: 'Scripsit Catechismum Gallice et Latine, ab illo priore minime discrepantem, sed multo auctiorem, et in quæstiones ac responsiones distributum: quem merito nobis liceat admirandum quoddam opus vocare, tantopere plurimis etiam exteris populis probatum, ut non modo vernaculis plurimis linguis, utpote Germanica, Anglica, Scotica, Belgica, Hispanica, sed etiam Hebraice ab Immanuele Tremellio Judæo Christiano, et Græce ab Henrico Stephano legatur elegantissime conversus.' The title of the Greek translation is, Στοιχείωσις τῆς Χριστιανῶν πίστεως, ἠ Κατηχισμὸς, κατὰ τὴν παλαιὰν ὀνομασίαν. Græce et Latine, 1563.] It was used for a long time in Reformed Churches and schools, especially in France and Scotland, and served a good purpose in promoting an intelligent piety and virtue on the solid basis of systematic Biblical instruction. Educational religion, which grows with our growth, is the most substantial, and must ever be the main reliance of the Church.

The object of this work, as explained in the preface, was to restore the catechetical instruction of the ancient Church, so sadly neglected by the Papists, who substituted for it the ceremony of confirmation, and to secure greater unity of faith and doctrine in the scattered Reformed congregations. Calvin showed his churchly tact in making the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer the basis. The leading idea is man's relation to God, and his heavenly destination. The whole is divided into five parts, as follows: 1. Of Faith—an exposition of the Creed (which here, as in the Heidelberg Catechism, precedes the Ten Commandments, while in the earlier Catechism of Calvin the opposite order was observed); [ftn. He made the Apostles' Creed the basis of his 'Catechism' and 'Institutes,' not because he believed it to be literally the product of the Apostles, but because it is a faithful summary of their teaching ('ex eorum scriptis fideliter collecta,' 'tiré de la pure doctrine apostolique'), and a formula which best expresses the common Christian faith ('formula confessionis, quam inter se communem habent Christiani omnes').] 2. Of the Law, or the Ten Commandments; 3. Of Prayer; 4. Of the Word of God; 5. Of the Sacraments. In the French edition the Catechism is divided into fifty-five lessons, for the fifty-two Sundays of the year and the three great festivals—a method followed in the later editions of the Heidelberg Catechism.»

* Philip Schaff,
Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical notes,
Volume I. The History of Creeds,
Harper, 1877,
§ 58. The Catechism of Geneva. A.D. 1536 AND 1541.
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