The Heidelberg Catechism
The Heidelberg Catechism, the second of our
"Three Forms of Unity,"
(Heidelberg Catechism, Netherlands Confession,
and the Canons of Dordt)
received its name from the place of its origin, Heidelberg, the capital of the
German Electorate of the Palatinate. There, in order that the Reformed faith
might be maintained in his domain, Elector Frederick III commissioned Zacharias
Ursinus, professor at Heidelberg University, and Caspar Olevianus, the court
preacher, to prepare a manual for catechetical instruction. Out of this
initiative came the Catechism, which was approved by the Elector himself and by
the Synod of Heidelberg and first published in 1563. With its comfort motif
and its warm, personal style, the Catechism soon won the love of the people of
God, as is evident from the fact that more editions of the Catechism had to be
printed that same year. While the first edition had 128 questions and answers,
in the second and third editions, at the behest of the Elector, the
eightieth question and answer, which refers to the popish mass as an accursed
idolatry, was added. In the third edition the 129 questions and answers were
divided into 52 "Lord's Days" with a view to the Catechism's being explained in
one of the services on the Lord's Day. That salutary practice is still
maintained today, in harmony with the prescription of the Church Order of
In the Netherlands the Heidelberg Catechism was translated into the
Dutch language as early as 1566, and it soon became widely loved and used in
the churches there. It was adopted by several National Synods during the later
sixteenth century, and finally included by the Synod of Dordrecht, 1618-1619,
"Three Forms of Unity,"
a place which it has to this day.
What is thy only comfort in life and death?
How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die
THE FIRST PART--OF THE MISERY OF MAN
Whence knowest thou thy misery?
What doth the law of God require of us?
Canst thou keep all these things perfectly?
Did God then create man so wicked and perverse?
Whence then proceeds this depravity of human nature?
Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
Doth not God then do injustice to man, by requiring from him in his low, that which he cannot
Will God suffer such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?
Is not God then also merciful?
THE SECOND PART--OF MAN'S DELIVERANCE
Since then, by the righteous judgment of God, we deserved temporal and eternal punishment, is there
no way by which we may escape that punishment, and be again received into favor?
Can we ourselves then make this satisfaction?
Can there be found anywhere, one, who is a mere creature, able to satisfy for us?
What sort of a mediator and deliverer then must we seek for?
Why must he be very man, and also perfectly righteous?
Why must he in one person be also very God?
Who then is that Mediator, who is in one person both very God, and a real righteous man?
Whence knowest thou this?
Are all men then, as they perished in Adam, saved by Christ?
What is then necessary for a christian to believe?
What are these articles?
How are these articles divided?
Since there is but one only divine essence, why speakest thou of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?
OF GOD THE FATHER
What believest thou when thou sayest, "I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and
What dost thou mean by the providence of God?
What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by his providence doth still uphold all
OF GOD THE SON
Why is the Son of God called Jesus, that is a Savior?
Do such then believe in Jesus the only Savior, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, of
themselves, or anywhere else?
Why is he called Christ, that is anointed?
But why art thou called a christian?
Why is Christ called the only begotten Son of God, since we are also the children of God?
Wherefore callest thou him our Lord?
What is the meaning of these words-"He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin
What profit dost thou receive by Christ's holy conception and nativity?
What dost thou understand by the words, "He suffered"?
Why did he suffer under Pontius Pilate, as judge?
Is there anything more in his being crucified, than if he had died some other death?
Why was it necessary for Christ to humble himself even unto death?
Why was he also "buried"?
Since then Christ died for us, why must we also die?
What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross?
Why is there added, "he descended into hell"?
What doth the resurrection of Christ profit us?
How dost thou understand these words, "he ascended into heaven"?
Is not Christ then with us even to the end of the world, as he hath promised?
But if his human nature is not present wherever his Godhead is, are not then these two natures in
Christ separated from one another?
Of what advantage to us is Christ's ascension into heaven?
Why is it added, "and sitteth at the right hand of God"?
What profit is this glory of Christ, our head, unto us?
What comfort is it to thee that "Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead"?
OF GOD THE HOLY GHOST
What dost thou believe concerning the Holy Ghost?
What believest thou concerning the "holy catholic church" of Christ?
What do you understand by "the communion of saints"?
What believest thou concerning "the forgiveness of sins"?
What comfort doth the "resurrection of the body" afford thee?
What comfort takest thou from the article of "life everlasting"?
But what doth is profit thee now that thou believest all this?
How are thou righteous before God?
Why sayest thou, that thou art righteous by faith only?
But why cannot our good works be the whole, or part of our righteousness before God?
What! do not our good works merit, which yet God will reward in this and in a future life?
But doth not this doctrine make men careless and profane?
OF THE SACRAMENTS
Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all his benefits by faith only, whence doth this faith
What are the sacraments?
Are both word and sacraments, then, ordained and appointed for this end, that they may direct our
faith to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, as the only ground of our salvation?
How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the new covenant, or testament?
OF HOLY BAPTISM
How art thou admonished and assured by holy baptism, that the one sacrifice of Christ upon the
cross is of real advantage to thee?
What is it to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?
Where has Christ promised us, that he will as certainly wash us by his blood and Spirit, as we are
washed with the water of baptism?
Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?
Why then doth the Holy Ghost call baptism "the washing of regeneration," and "the washing away of
Are infants also to be baptized?
OF THE HOLY SUPPER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
XXVIII. Lord's Day
How are thou admonished and assured in the Lord's Supper, that thou are a partaker of that one
sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross, and of all his benefits?
What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ?
Where has Christ promised that he will as certainly feed and nourish believers with his body and
blood, as they eat of this broken bread, and drink of this cup?
Do then the bread and win become the very body and blood of Christ?
Why then doth Christ call the bread his body, and the cup his blood, or the new covenant in his
blood; and Paul the "communion of the body and blood of Christ"?
What difference is there between the Lord's supper and the popish mass?
For whom is the Lord's supper instituted?
Are they also to be admitted to this supper, who, by confession and life, declare themselves
unbelieving and ungodly?
THE THIRD PART--OF THANKFULNESS
What are the keys of the kingdom of heaven?
How is the kingdom of heaven opened and shut by the preaching of the holy gospel?
How is the kingdom of heaven shut and opened by christian discipline?
Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of
ours, why must we still do good works?
Cannot they then be saved, who, continuing in their wicked and ungrateful lives, are not converted to
Of how many parts doth the true conversion of man consist?
What is the mortification of the old man?
What is the quickening of the new man?
But what are good works?
What is the law of God?
How are these commandments divided?
What doth God enjoin in the first commandment?
What doth God require in the second commandment?
Are images then not at all to be made?
But may not images be tolerated in the churches, as books to the laity?
What is required in the third commandment?
Is then the profaning of God's name, by swearing and cursing, so heinous a sin, that his wrath is
kindled against those who do not endeavor, as much as in them lies, to prevent and forbid such cursing and
May we then swear religiously by the name of God?
May we also swear by saints or any other creatures?
What doth God require in the fourth commandment?
What doth God require in the fifth commandment?
What doth God require in the sixth commandment?
But this commandment seems only to speak of murder?
But is it enough that we do not kill any man in the manner mentioned above?
What doth the seventh commandment teach us?
Doth God forbid in this commandment, only adultery, and such like gross sins?
What doth God forbid in the eighth commandment?
But what doth God require in this commandment?
What is required in the ninth commandment?
What doth the tenth commandment require of us?
But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments?
Why will God then have the ten commandments so strictly preached, since no man in this life can
Why is prayer necessary for christians?
What are the requisites of that prayer, which is acceptable to God, and which he will hear?
What hath God commanded us to ask of him?
What are the words of that prayer?
Why hath Christ commanded us to address God thus: "Our Father"?
Why is it here added, "Which art in heaven"?
Which is the first petition?
Which is the second petition?
Which is the third petition?
Which is the fourth petition?
Which is the fifth petition?
Which is the sixth petition?
How dost thou conclude thy prayer?
What doth the word "Amen" signify?
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Last modified, 12-Jan-1997