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An Introduction to the Heidelberg Catechism: Sources, History, and Theology
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An Introduction to the Heidelberg Catechism: Sources, History, and Theology

by 4 authors

Baker Academic 2005

Runs on Windows, Mac and mobile.


One of the most influential of the Reformed catechisms is the Heidelberg Catechism (also known as the Palatinate Catechism). Combining the best of Lutheran and Reformed teaching, and counteracting the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, it is an instructional manual on the basics of the Protestant Christian faith. The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into 52 sections (called Lord’s Days), and includes 129 questions on the faith, divided into three parts: The Misery of Man; The Redemption of Man; and The Gratitude Due from Man.

This work examines key aspects of the development of the Heidelberg Catechism, including historical background, socio-political origins, purpose, authorship, sources, and theology. The book includes the first ever English translations of two major sources of the Heidelberg Catechism—Ursinus’ Smaller and Larger Catechisms—and a bibliography of research on the document since 1900. Students of the Reformed tradition and the Protestant Reformation will value this resource.

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Scripture citations link directly to English translations, and important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Key Features

  • Delves into several different aspects of the origins of the Heidelberg Catechism
  • Offers early translations of works that influenced the catechism
  • Provides information perfect for those interested in the formation of this influential Protestant text


  • Part I: Historical Introduction
    • The Reformation of the Palatinate and the Origins of the Heidelberg Catechism, 1500–1562
    • The Purpose and Authorship of the Heidelberg Catechism
    • The Sources and Theological Orientation of the Heidelberg Catechism
    • Early Editions and Translations of the Heidelberg Catechism
    • Bibliography of Research on the Heidelberg Catechism Since 1900
  • Part II: Translations of Ursinus’s Catechisms
    • Introduction
    • The Smaller Catechism
    • The Larger Catechism

Praise for the Print Edition

An Introduction to the Heidelberg Catechism is a valuable addition to studies on the magisterial catechism ratified at Heidelberg. First, it summarizes and updates scholarly research on the purpose and authorship of the Catechism. Second, it breaks new ground on the historical origins and the theological sources and orientation of the Catechism. Third, it offers a helpful summary and bibliography of the early editions and translations of the Catechism as well as a thorough bibliography of studies on the Catechism since 1900. Finally, and most importantly, it provides the first English translations of Zacharias Ursinus’ Smaller Catechism and Larger Catechism, from which so much of the Heidelberg Catechism was drawn.

Joel R. Beeke, president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary

This multifaceted volume contains invaluable resources for understanding the Heidelberg Catechism. The various authors make distinctive contributions toward understanding the background and theology of the catechism with the centerpiece being the translations of Ursinus’ two catechisms, which provide fascinating parallels to the Heidelberg Catechism itself. Anyone interested in the Heidelberg Catechism will have their understanding and appreciation enriched by these studies.

I. John Hesselink, Albertus Van Raalte Professor of Theology, emeritus, Western Theological Seminary

Everyone who cherishes the Heidelberg Catechism will want to read this book, for Bierma and the contributors he has assembled have made this warm and precise statement of the faith even more accessible. This book will leave those unfamiliar with the Heidelberg Catechism wondering how they could have missed a theological gem of such brilliance. Rarely does a book about a classic text do justice to the original. This one comes close.

—Darryl Hart, director of fellowship programs and scholar-in-residence, Intercollegiate Studies Institute

This excellent study of the background to the Heidelberg Catechism is a splendid addition to the growing number of studies in Reformation and post-Reformation thought. Scholars and students will welcome its attention to detail, bibliographical references, and measured judgments. This is also a book for all Christians who love the Heidelberg Catechism. These pages are a treasure store of information on one of the truly great documents of the Reformed church.

Sinclair B. Ferguson, professor of systematic theology, Westminster Theological Seminary

This valuable book provides a fresh examination of the Heidelberg Catechism, and of the German Reformation which was its setting and gave it birth. . . . The book provides an indispensable research tool for the study of a document which not only has considerable historical significance, but continues to have importance in Reformed Churches with a German or Dutch origin.

Ecclesiastical History

Have you understood that Casper Olevianus and Zacharius Ursinus wrote the Heidelberg Catechism? If so, this is a book you need to read. . . . [The] bibliography could be of great service to those who want to do modern research. If you preach out of the Heidelberg Catechism, if you study the Heidelberg Catechism, if you for any reason are interested in the Heidelberg Catechism, this book is an indispensable tool for you to own.


The translations into English of Ursinus’ Larger and Smaller Catechisms are a valuable contribution to the field of Reformation studies. . . . This introduction to the Heidelberg Catechism is an outstanding compilation. It provides its readers with a background to the Heidelberg Catechism and complements other existing works on the same topic. It is written in a style that would allow it to be used as a textbook for colleges and seminaries in the years to come.

Sixteenth Century Journal

Product Details

About the Authors

Lyle D. Bierma is the Jean and Kenneth Baker Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary.

Charles D. Gunnoe Jr. is associate professor of history at Aquinas College.

Karin Maag is the director of the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies in Grand Rapids. She has authored and edited three other volumes on the Reformation.

Paul W. Fields is theological librarian and curator of the Meeter Center at Calvin College.