In January of 1529 when Dr. Martin Luther completed his Small Catechism, he attached the following heading to his newly published work: "As the head of the family should teach it in all simplicity to his household." He saw his book of Christian instruction as more than simply a manual for the church to use in confirming new communicant members. He was interested especially in producing a teaching tool which fathers and mothers could use with their children day by day in the home. Right up to the end of his life, Luther untiringly committed himself to encouraging parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He also encouraged pastors and teachers to instruct the people under their care to train the young in the fear and love of God.

For over 470 years, the Small Catechism has served as the basic instruction book for the church bearing the name of the great Reformer. Its staying power goes beyond love for tradition. The Catechism directs us to clear passages from God's Word. It distinguishes carefully between the two chief teachings of the Bible: the Law and the Gospel. It also points to the only source for spiritual life, the Means of Grace: the Word and the Sacraments. The precision and brevity of the Small Catechism have commended its use for memorization. But more than memorizing is needed. Students of the Catechism should be led to see the importance of the truths from God's Word for their lives and should grow in their deep appreciation for all that the Lord Jesus Christ has done as the Savior.

To help students understand the chief parts set forth in Luther's Small Catechism, a series of questions and answers has been devised in chapter-by-chapter study. The Lutheran Church through the years has called this teaching aid an Explanation. Our Evangelical Lutheran Synod now offers that third edition of An Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther's Small Catechism. The first edition appeared in 1966, and the second was completed in 1981. In this third edition, the reader will find the addition of certain Bible verses, questions and entries. On occasion, questions found in the 1981 edition were combined or incorporated under a new question.


[This version of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod's Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther's Small Catechism has been adapted from the 2001 edition. This version was constructed so that it could be adjusted to any number of different translations because of the recent Zondervan Publishing copyright restrictions placed on the 1984 New International Version and the failings of its newer 2011 translation. Congregations may now employ this online version, choosing as needed from a large number of available translations.]

We express our sincere gratitude to the pastors, the teachers and the members of our synod who have given advice and/or have provided technical assistance in the production of this edition. Many excellent suggestions from outside the committee are reflected in the final work. The ELS Board for Publications especially should be mentioned for supplying valuable input.

Our prayer for every student who uses this book is that the Catechism's summary of Christian doctrine may find a home in the reader's heart and also become one's permanent confession of faith before the world. With the apostle Paul we say,

The Catechism Review Committee