20 August 2007

Chemnitz on Ancient Catechesis

The ancient catechetical instruction was such an introduction that by it the catechumens were first persuaded that those things which are contained in the Holy Scripture are true and divinely revealed. And a summary of the things contained in the Scripture was set before the catechumens and explained. And when they answered that they believed this and wanted to observe it, they were admitted to the sacraments. (Examen I:160)


Kletos Sumboulos said...

Let me suggest a new series for your blog: Eine Kline Chemnitz

Christopher Palo said...

As much as I like Chemnitz, even more so than the "Tubingen" theologians, Jacob Andreae and Martin Crucis, I think Chemnitz is very much ignorant of history. I do not necessarily blame him as information about the Eastern World was very much skewed and the West was still in ignorance, not helped by the invasions of the Turks and the anti-Orthodoxy reprsented by many of the Crusaders who took back information to the West.

If one reads Cyril's of Jerusalem "Lectures on the Christian Sacraments" one will find no indication that a catechumen was giving a biblical literacy test. Rather, the catechumens were instructed in the totality of the individual mysteries and on the Divine Liturgy, which he explains section by section. Now, I will grant that this is the approach of only one man, albeit a bishop, but unless Chemnitz names specific witesses, the onus is on him to prove otherwise from what is foun in St. Cyril's work.

William Weedon said...


I think he was specifically reflecting on the way St. Augustine carried out catechesis. I think we would be mistaken indeed to assume that St. Cyril's method was the only one employed in the ancient Church.

Christopher Palo said...

If Chemnitz was detailing Augutinian style catechesis then he was wrong to say it was universal. Augustine comments in many of his letters and treatises that he was somewhat of an anomaly as bishop of Hippo Regius.

I know that there were probably a great deal of methods. However, Chemnitz assumes that this style of catechsis (whether Augustinian or not) was practiced universally. I provided a corrective but you still agree with Chemnitz that catechesis was only rooted in Scripture? IN both East and West, where illiteracy rates were much, much higher following the fall of Rome, I suggest that catechesis was conducted using the Divine Liturgy as a guide.