As a Christian educator I’m interested in methods and tools that can be utilized to help students learn the truths of Scripture, whether the students happen to be my children or even college students. One method for training persons in the Christian faith that I was exposed to over the past couple of years was the use of a catechism. After doing a bit more reading on the subject, I thought I would share some of what I have found through a series of blog posts. In this post I simply want to look at some of the terminology used with respect to catechesis and the derivation for this terminology.
First of all, the term catechesis is derived from the Greek New Testament term katēcheō, which was used in the sense of reporting something to another or to instruct someone. The verb katēcheō occurs only a handful of times in the NT. Luke, the author of the Gospel according to Luke and the book of Acts uses the term four times, utilizing both senses of the verb (Luke 1:4; Acts 18:25; 21:21, 24). Paul uses katēcheō the remaining four times in the NT and uses it exclusively to refer to instructing someone in the Christian faith (1 Cor 14:19; Gal 6:6 [2x]; Rom 2:18) (Verbrugge, “katēcheō,” NIDNTT, 297). By the 2nd century AD the verb began to be used as a technical term for the process of preparing someone for Christian baptism, which included intense instruction in the basics of the faith.
Additional terms used with respect to catechesis include (adapted from Packer & Parrett, Grounded in the Gospel, 27–28):
- Catechize: This verb refers to the process of teaching with a catechism.
- Catechism: This refers to the content of instruction, particularly used in a question-and-answer format.
- Catechist: This is the person responsible for instructing others in the catechism.
- Catechumen: This is the person who is being catechized, the student.
- Catechumenate: This usually pertains to a formal method of instructing new believers as they prepare for Christian baptism and full integration into the life of the local church (i.e., church membership).
- Catechetical: This is an adjective that is sometimes used for schools of Christian higher education that developed during the second and third century AD.
- Catechetics: This pertains to the study and art of catechesis. This is similar to how homeletics is the study and art of sermon preparation and delivery.
So there you have it, a brief and succinct introduction to catechesis. In future post we’ll tackle the history and development of catechesis in the church.