Original Research

Calvin’s exposition of the sixth commandment as a trajectory in his catechetical works

Rudolph M. Britz
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 55, No 1 | a2773 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v55i1.2773 | © 2021 Rudolph M. Britz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 May 2021 | Published: 30 November 2021

About the author(s)

Rudolph M. Britz, Department of Philosophy and Classics, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


In this article is explored the key theological and pedagogical trajectories which shaped Calvin’s teaching of the sixth commandment (‘You shall not kill’) in his catechetical publications. These include the Instruction of 1537/1538, l’Institution Puerile de la Doctrine Chrestienne (1538–1541), the 1542 and 1545 Catechismus, and La Maniere d’Interroguer les Enfans (1551). The overall objective is not only to depict the theological line of argumentation as a development, but also to map out Calvin’s pedagogy and teaching strategies. In Calvin research, this aspect of his teaching is undervalued. This was in particular illustrated by studying the relevant source texts in chronological order. The method employed in which the original texts were read, explicated and compared to contemporary texts (Luther, Jud and Bucer), confirmed that Calvin’s basic argument should indeed by explicated contextually, based on the original language of publication. This approach also provided the opportunity to identify patterns in Calvin’s exposition that normally remain beyond the interests of investigators. One of these was the underpinning pedagogy. The results indicated that Calvin’s teaching of the commandment was ingrained in the understanding and enduring meaning of the Law for the Christian church given in the words of Christ in Matthew 5:21, 22 and 22:39. The practical implications of the Command should not be attributed to the particular use of the Law as a rule of life in the born-again. Calvin’s underpinning pedagogy allowed not only for an envisioned transfer of knowledge, but also for the unpacking of that knowledge content in terms of practical competencies and skills to live a spontaneous Christian life. In this sense, a dynamic educational strategy guided the learner by challenging questions to consider and think, and then to respond independently.

Contribution: This article employed a significant historical-chronological method for studying pre-1551 Calvin texts. An appraisal of the contextual development of his thinking on ‘You shall not kill’ was argued within the framework of teaching and learning. It also created the opportunity to ask new questions to the texts such as the pedagogy that underpinned the catechetical work of Calvin.


Calvin; catechetical instruction; Genevan catechetical footprint; Calvin’s pedagogy; Catechesis during the Reformation; Calvin on the sixth commandment; Calvin’s teaching and learning strategies; Decalogue


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