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The Heidelberg Catechism was composed in Heidelberg at the request of Elector Frederick III, who ruled the Palatinate, an influential German province, from 1559 to 1576. An old tradition credits Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus with being coauthors of the new catechism. Both were certainly involved in its composition, although one of them may have had primary responsibility. All we know for sure is reported by the Elector in his preface of January 19, 1563. It was, he writes, "with the advice and cooperation of our entire theological faculty in this place, and of all superintendents and distinguished servants of the church" that he secured the preparation of the Heidelberg Catechism. The catechism was approved by a synod in Heidelberg in January 1563. A second and third German edition, each with small additions, as well as a Latin translation were published the same year in Heidelberg. Soon the catechism was divided into fifty-two sections so that one Lord's Day could be explained in preaching each Sunday of the year.

The Synod of Dort in 1618-1619 approved the Heidelberg Catechism, and it soon became the most ecumenical of the Reformed catechisms and confessions. The catechism has been translated into many European, Asian, and African languages and is the most widely used and most warmly praised catechism of the Reformation period.

The Christian Reformed Church of North America's 1968 Synod appointed a committee to prepare "a modern and accurate translation ... which will serve as the official text of the Heidelberg Catechism and as a guide for catechism preaching." A translation was adopted by the Synod of 1975, and some editorial revisions were approved by the Synod of 1988.

The English translation follows the first German edition of the catechism except in two instances explained in footnotes to questions 57 and 80. The result of those inclusions is that the translation therefore actually follows the German text of the third edition as it was included in the Palatinate Church Order of November 15, 1563. This is the "received text" used throughout the world.

Biblical passages quoted in the catechism are taken from the New International Version. In the German editions, biblical quotations sometimes include additional words not found in the Greek text and therefore not included in recent translations such as the NIV. The additions from the German are indicated in footnotes in Q & A 4, 71, and 119.

The Heidelberg Catechism

  • Introduction: Lord's Day 1 (Q&A 1-2)

    Lord's Day 1 Q & A 1 Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death? A. That I am not my own,^1 but belong-- body and soul, in life and in death--^2 to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.^3 He has fully paid for all my sins with his

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  • Part I - Human Misery: Lord's Day 2-4 (Q&A 3-11)

    Lord's Day 2 ’  Q & A 3 Q. How do you come to know your misery? A. The law of God tells me.^1 ^1 Rom. 3:20; Rom. 7:7-25   Q & A 4 Q. What does God's law require of us? A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22--

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  • Part II - Deliverance - Lord's Days 5-8 (Q&A 12-25)

    Lord's Day 5 ’  Q & A 12 Q. According to God's righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God's favor? A. God requires that his justice be satisfied.^1 Therefore the claims of his justice must

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  • Part II - Deliverance - God The Father: Lord's Day 9-10 (Q&A 26-28)

    Lord's Day 9 ’  Q & A 26 Q. What do you believe when you say, "I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth"? A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them,^1

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  • Part II - Deliverance - God The Son: Lord's Day 11-19 (Q&A 29-52)

    Lord's Day 11 ’  Q & A 29 Q. Why is the Son of God called "Jesus," meaning "saviour"? A. Because he saves us from our sins.^1 Salvation cannot be found in anyone else; it is futile to look for any salvation elsewhere.^2 ^1Matt. 1:21; Heb. 7:25 ^2Isa. 43:11; John

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  • Part II - Deliverance - God The Holy Spirit: Lord's Day 20-24 (Q&A 53-64)

    Lord's Day 20 ’  Q & A 53 Q. What do you believe concerning "the Holy Spirit"? A. First, he, as well as the Father and the Son, is eternal God.^1 Second, he has been given to me personally,^2 so that, by true faith, he makes me share in Christ and

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  • Part II - The Sacraments: Lord's Day 25 (Q&A 65-68)

    Lord's Day 25 ’  Q & A 65 Q. It is by faith alone that we share in Christ and all his blessings: where then does that faith come from? A. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts^1 by the preaching of the holy gospel,^2 and confirms it through our

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  • Part II - The Sacraments - Baptism: Lord's Day 26-27 (Q&A 69-74)

    Lord's Day 26 ’  Q & A 69 Q. How does baptism remind you and assure you that Christ's one sacrifice on the cross is for you personally? A. In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing^1 and with it gave the promise that, as surely as water washes away the

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  • Part II - The Sacraments - The Lord's Supper: Lord's Day 28-31 (Q&A 75-85)

    Lord's Day 28 ’  Q & A 75 Q. How does the Lord's Supper remind you and assure you that you share in Christ's one sacrifice on the cross and in all his gifts? A. In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat this broken bread and

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  • Part III - Gratitude: Lord's Day 32-33 (Q&A 86-91)

    Lord's Day 32 ’  Q & A 86 Q. We have been delivered from our misery by God's grace alone through Christ and not because we have earned it: why then must we still do good? A. To be sure, Christ has redeemed us by his blood. But we do good

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  • Part III - Gratitude - The Ten Commandments: Lord's Day 34-44 (Q&A 92-115)

    Lord's Day 34 ’  Q & A 92 Q. What does the Lord say in his law? A. God spoke all these words: "The First Commandment" I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before

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  • Part III - Gratitude - The Lord's Prayer: Lord's Day 45-52 (Q&A 116-129)

    Lord's Day 45 ’  Q & A 116 Q. Why do Christians need to pray? A. Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.^1 And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God

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