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Catechist, Catechumen

See also Catechist

CATECHIST, CATECHUMEN kăt’ ĕ kĭst, kăt’-ĕ k(y) u mĕn, generally understood in the Early Church as respectively a person giving and a person receiving elementary Christian instruction, esp. prior to baptism. Neither word occurs in the NT. The verb from which both are derived, κατηχέω, G2994, is used in Acts 21:21 (where it clearly means simply “inform”), Romans 2:18 (where it refers to instruction in the Jewish law), 1 Corinthians 14:19 and Galatians 6:6 (where it refers to more or less formal teaching given in or in relation to the church), Acts 18:25 (where Apollos’ Christian instruction is accurate but rudimentary) and Luke 1:4. The meaning given to the last depends on, but does not determine, whether Theophilus is an official or interested outsider who has been “informed” about the outlines of Christian preaching, or a convert who has been “instructed” in them.

In the earliest period baptism apparently followed close on profession of faith (e.g. Acts 2:38-41; 8:13, 38; 9:18; 10:47; 16:15). Most baptisms so recorded are of Jews, proselytes or “Godfearers,” already instructed in monotheistic worship and the perils of idolatry and immorality; but this is hardly likely of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:33). As, however, the proportion of doctrinally and ethically instructed inquirers declined, it would not be surprising if Christians adapted the Jewish custom of pre-baptismal instruction of converts.

Bibliography P. Carrington, The Primitive Christian Catechism (1940); E. G. Selwyn, I Peter (1946), 18ff.; A. M. Hunter, Paul and his Predecessors (2 ed., 1961), 24-64; C. F. D. Moule, The Birth of the NT (1962), esp. ch. 8.