It was important for Lutherans to be able to read the Bible, and therefore important to be able to read. But it was more important to understand the Bible in the correct evangelical way – i.e. according to the new teachings. According to the reformists, doing so was the only way to ensure salvation. Education was therefore a high priority. And the sermons of pastors in church were important instruments in inculcating the new teachings.
Instructing people in the new faith was a major task. Both Luther and Melanchthon therefore wrote numerous explanatory texts interpreting the Bible in accordance with the new theology. These texts were written for a learned readership as well as the general population. The latter were often illustrated.
Probably the most important of these instructional texts are Luther’s Large Catechism and Small Catechism. The image above is one of the illustrations in the 1527 edition of the Small Catechism illustrating the verse ‘Hallowed be your name’ from the Lord’s Prayer. Under the image is the text das ist / Dein name werde recht erkand / durch rechte lere und glauben / und dadurch gelobet und gepreiset (‘let/ your name be truly understood/through true learning and faith/ and thereby praised and glorified’).
The text is a guide to understanding the verse ‘Hallowed be your name’, which is first and foremost to be understood correctly - as prescribed by the new faith. Only in this way can the name of God be praised. And precisely the correct understanding of God’s name is the theme of the pastor’s sermon. He explains what true faith means in a way that Christ crucified – the very essence of the story – is present and indeed appears before the congregation.
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Reformation Imagery: Schooling and Education