«Den wahren Gott recht erkennen und anrufen»

Der Schaffhauser Reformator Johann Konrad Ulmer arbeitete jahrzehntelang an seinem Katechismus und schuf damit ein theologisch und pädagogisch herausragendes Werk: klar aufgebaut, theologisch sauber durchdacht und inhaltlich auf das Wesentlichste konzentriert. Im Zentrum des Buchs stehen die Edition einer bisher unbekannten Abendmahlskatechese, der unedierten Erstfassung des Katechismus (1568) und der gedruckten Fassung von 1569. Für die Kommentierung wurde auch nahezu unbekanntes Archivmaterial verwendet. Untersucht werden ausserdem sprachliche Probleme, die verschiedenen Auflagen und die Verwendung von Liedern im Katechismus, die analog zu den Fragen und Antworten gedruckt wurden.

Erich Bryner makes available to modern readers an edition of the Schaffhausen Catechism including a historical introduction by Jan-Andrea Bernhard (who describes the Catechism as the ‘Protestant Lay Bible’); an examination of the historical circumstances of the Catechism’s origin and author; three Catechetical texts and commentary on those texts; the strife provoked by the appearance of the Catechism; and discussion of the editions of the Catechism from 1568 and 1569, along with subsequent editions from 1579, 1591, and 1596.

The final chapter discusses the problems of the Catechism’s language and the volume ends with concluding observations.

The Catechism’s language is original to the period.  Readers, as a consequence, are privileged to be seeing on the page what the original audience of the Catechism saw on their page (though naturally the font and paper were different).

The benefit of such a work is that it allows modern researchers and scholars the opportunity to interact with materials which are historically significant.  It reminds readers of our era that the possession of an entire Bible was a rarity in the 16th century and rather than having the option of opening up and reading the Bible for themselves, many, many Christians instead had to make use of Catechetical materials designed specifically for the purpose of communicating core materials and ideas briefly yet accurately.

These Catechisms often contained the only Scripture many would own, and as a consequence of necessity had to be carefully crafted. And Bryner’s volume illuminates precisely these important facts.

This brief book of 197 pages is both stimulating and useful; and it makes clear that even today the Schaffhausen Catechism is instructive for the Christian Faith.