The Heidelberg Catechism

What the symbols mean

The Regal Red and Gold – A tribute to the rule of Frederick III, who ordered the writing of the Catechism for followers of John Calvin in Germany.
The Crown of Thorns, The “German” Cross and the Tablets–Symbols of Misery, Redemption and Thankfulness—the three basic themes of the Catechism.  The tablets stand for the Ten Commandments, which appear in the Catechism where it teaches that obedience is the proper form of thankfulness.)


The Two Lights and The Fire–The Trinity–with the Hebrew name of God on the left orb, the Greek monogram for Jesus on the right orb, and the flame standing for the Holy Spirit.  There is a long discussion of the Trinity in the Catechism.











The History of The Heidelberg Catechism

The Heidelberg Catechism opens with two questions concerning our comfort in life and death.   The knowledge that our only comfort is Jesus Christ frames the remainder of the catechism. Each of its three parts corresponds to a line of Romans 7:24–25 (NRSV), where Paul cries: “Wretched man that I am; Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord;” Thus, questions 3–11 deal with our sin and guilt, questions 12–85 with the way in which God in Jesus Christ frees us, and questions 86–129 with the manner in which we express gratitude to God for redemption.

Each question of the catechism is personal, addressed to “you.” Each answer draws as much as possible on biblical language. The catechism’s tone is irenic, showing nothing of the controversy that called it forth. Its theology is both catholic, universal in appeal, and evangelical, setting forth the gospel of Jesus Christ. Providing a basis for peaceful coexistence between Lutheran and Reformed Christians, the catechism denied that the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ but affirmed that “by this visible sign and pledge . . . we come to share in his true body and blood through the working of the Holy Spirit . . .” (paragraph 4.079).

The influence of the Heidelberg Catechism in the church’s preaching and teaching continues to be felt in Germany, Austria, Holland, Hungary, parts of Eastern Europe, Scotland, Canada, and the United States.
(historical synopsis taken from The Book of Confessions)