Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Reformed Irenicism

What Is Catechesis?

Before moving on to the loci proper, of which the first is “On God” (de Deo), Chytraeus sets about defining “catechesis.” In some, though not all, editions of this work, there is a question at the very beginning concerning what catechesis is.1 But he goes to greater lengths and answers in more detail here. Catechesis is a type of discourse that proceeds by question and answer through material that is systematically ordered. It consists of both speaking and listening, and is to be conducted viva voce.

Quid vocatur Catechesis & unde est appellatio?

CATECHESIS in genere significat formam institutionis, in qua viva voce auditoribus initia alicuius doctrinae, in certos locos methodice distributae, traduntur: & auditores ea, quae ipsis tradita sunt, & quae didicerunt, vicissim reddere & recitare coguntur, a verbo κατηχεῖν, quod significat audire, sonum ab alio accipere, docendo dictata reposcere, behören.

What is [this thing] called “catechesis” and where does the name come from?

Catechesis in general signifies a form of instruction in which the elements of some doctrine, arranged systematically into their proper places, are passed on to the listeners viva voce; and the listeners are compelled in turn to repeat and recite those things which have been passed on to  them and which they have learned. [It comes] from the [Greek] word κατηχεῖν [katechein], which signifies “to hear,” “to receive sound from another person,” “to ask for a repetition of the things dictated by teaching,” [what we call in German] “behören.”

  1. E.g. it is not found in the Berlin ed. of 1587.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.