Small Catechism: Memorizing Edition

by Martin Luther, translated by Sarah Hinlicky Wilson

This fresh translation of Martin Luther’s 500-year-old classic is designed for both the eye and the ear. Its lively language and distinctive layout will make committing these words to heart a joy for the faithful at any age.

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About the Book

It all started with a mother and father’s attempt to help their son memorize the Small Catechism, using the translation they happened to have at hand, and wasting a ridiculous amount of time trying to remember “Now is it ‘heavenly Father’ or ‘Father in heaven’ in this one…?”

Before long other impediments to memorization became obvious, like the fact that the list of the Creator’s gifts in the First Article of the Creed and the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer are almost identical… but not quite.

An initial attempt to aid memorization by smoothing out these awkward rephrasings of the same basic idea led to other ideas, like employing rhyme (modestly) and rhythm and alliteration (expansively), and ultimately to a page layout that would be as helpful to visual learners as the changes in wording would help aural learners.

Here are a couple of samples from the Small Catechism: Memorizing Edition.

The Third Commandment

You shall hallow the holy day.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God
so that we do not

neglect or reject
the preaching of His word,

but hold it as holy
and gladly hear it
and learn it.

 

The Eighth Commandment

You shall not tell lies
about your neighbors.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God
so that we do not

desert or deceive,
betray or besmirch
our neighbors,
or wreck their reputations,

but speak up for them,
speak well of them,
and always assume the best about them.

 

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About the Author

Martin Luther (1483–1546) was a monk, priest, pastor, reformer, and writer of catechisms in Wittenberg, Germany, where he lived with his wife and children.

Sarah Hinlicky Wilson (1976– ) is a writer, walker, cook, podcaster, and translator of catechisms in Tokyo, Japan, where she lives with her husband and son. She’s associate pastor at Tokyo Lutheran Church, a Visiting Professor of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France, and an Affiliated Faculty Member at the Johannelund School of Theology in Uppsala, Sweden.

Sign up for Sarah’s quarterly e-newsletter Theology & a Recipe and follow her other work at www.sarahhinlickywilson.com.

Or, have a listen to Sarah’s podcast, Queen of the Sciences: Conversations between a Theologian and Her Dad, with Paul R. Hinlicky.