Original Research

Compilation of the Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism

Rudolph M. Britz, Marius D. Meijer
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 58, No 1 | a3024 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v58i1.3024 | © 2024 Rudolph M. Britz, Marius D. Meijer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 October 2023 | Published: 15 March 2024

About the author(s)

Rudolph M. Britz, Department of Philosophy and Classics, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Marius D. Meijer, Reformed Church Bloemburg, Bloemfontein, South Africa, South Africa


The renowned Schatboek [Commentary] on the Heidelberg Catechism is one of the most influential early expositions of the Heidelberg Catechism. It has been commonly and wrongfully attributed to the exclusive legacy of Zacharias Ursinus (1534–1583). However, the content of the Commentary has been shaped by the influences of theologians from different places, times, and contexts. Editors like Simon Goulart (1543–1628), Johann Jungnitz (1540–1588), and David Pareus (1548–1622) played a significant role in the compilation of the different imprints, by utilising student’s class notes, originally written during Ursinus’ lectures on the Heidelberg Catechism in Heidelberg or Neustadt. These notes were not the most reliable and the editors, being students of Ursinus themselves, critically used the transcripts, containing lecture material from different time periods. Their content fluctuated between differentiated theological arguments and perspectives. The three editors had experience of the process that produced the manuscripts. They acknowledged and addressed the inadequacies and limitations in terms of the reliability of these primary sources – unfortunately, the editors’ own preferences were not prevented. The Latin editions of Goulart, Jungnitz, and Pareus served as the foundation for subsequent translations, including their own editorial craftmanship. To responsibly account for the content of the Commentary, it is crucial to consider the source’s Sitz im Leben and editorial history. The current research is limited to the Latin editions of Goulart, Jungnitz, and Pareus. A bibliographic-historical approach is followed, presenting the development of the Commentary from primary sources themselves. The selected editions’ title pages and prefaces reveal a clear narrative of how the source came into being. In the final analysis, the titles and prefaces give unequivocal evidence that editors compared, corrected, revised, and even rewrote the notes to align them with Ursinus’ theology in general. This article concludes that, based on the editors’ use and engagement with identified sources, as well as personal editorial work, the Commentary can be characterised as the thorough work of a second generation of reformed theologians, disseminating the theological significance of the Heidelberg Catechism.

Contribution: In analysing the title pages and prefaces of the first Latin editions of the Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, this article identifies differentiated sources and how these were used by the editors. This constitutes a significant contribution to the still unknown bibliographic history of the Commentary. Based on the literature analysis outcomes, this article paves the way towards further historical-theological examination of the Commentary’s content as expression of second generation reformed theology.



Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism; David Pareus; Heidelberg; Heidelberg Catechism; Johann Jungnitz; Neustadt; reformed theology; Schatboek; Simon Goulart; Zacharias Ursinus

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