Celebrating 450 Years with the Heidelberg Catechism

2013. április 23., kedd

It was 450 years ago that the Heidelberg Catechism was first published. From 1653 onward this booklet saw rapid growth, and in 2013 it is still being used by millions of people belonging to the Reformed tradition.

For the Hungarian Reformed Church the Heidelberg Catechism has become by far the most important confessional text. It fulfills several functions in the congregations. For example:

  • In the church service it is read occasionally, or the sermon is based on an excerpt from the creed, and sometimes in this way the whole text is covered in a series of sermons (Catehetical Sundays).
  • The Catechism serves in many congregations as a guideline for Bible classes.
  • In confirmation classes it serves as the elementary instruction of faith. The traditional question and answer format is followed that encourages memorization.
  • For the pastor it is the doctrinal norm subordinated to the Bible.

To mark the 450th anniversary of the appearance of the Heidelberg Catechism, the Reformed Church in Hungary has prepared the following:

  • A new translation is being prepared which will serve as textus receptus for the whole Hungarian Reformed Church. The new translation will primarily serve the accommodation of the Catechism into the liturgical text.
  • A new interpretation will be published, which will look at all 129 questions and answers from a theological and didactical perspective. The aim is to have an up to date explanation for today's generation.
  • The four church districts of the Reformed Church in Hungary will mark the anniversary also by individual events, for example Dávid Huszár and the first translation of the Catechism into Hungarian (1577) will be remembered in Pápa.
  • The use and emphasis of the Catechism for the life of the congregations is highlighted in this year's pastoral trainings and post gradual courses for pastors.
  • The annual symposium of the "Collegium Doctorum" – an academic circle of Hungarian Reformed theologians – will have the Heidelberg Catechism as its central theme. The confession will be looked at from a biblical, practical and systematical theological perspective.
  • Together with our partner churches, conferences and international symposiums have or will be organized. For example, last October an international symposium took place in Berefürdő, Hungary as part of the "Oberwart-Konferenz" and "Donau Kirchen Konsultation." Here more than 20 participants from over 10 countries examined the influence and weight of the Catechism in today's congregational life.

Celebrating the Catechism's 450th anniversary will surely put an emphasis on not just the importance of the Heidelberg Catechism, but church confession in general, for confession is an important and integral part of Christian life.


Endre Iszlai

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We encourage you to read our  former GM intern Kearstin Bailey's blog about her time, spent in Hungary.