Vocabulary —Catechumen

What does Catechumen mean?

The word “cat­e­chu­men” comes from bib­li­cal Greek and lit­er­al­ly means “one who sounds out some­thing,” or “one in whom word echoes.” Mer­ri­am Web­ster

1a con­vert to Chris­tian­i­ty receiv­ing train­ing in doc­trine and dis­ci­pline before bap­tism
2one receiv­ing instruc­tion in the basic doc­trines of Chris­tian­i­ty before admis­sion to com­mu­ni­cant mem­ber­ship in a church

Images of people on squares arranged like ABC blocks with the words "Catechumens of all ages."


A Cat­e­chu­men is a per­son who receives instruc­tion in the Chris­t­ian reli­gion in order to be bap­tized into the faith. Accord­ing to the New Tes­ta­ment, the apos­tles instruct­ed con­verts after bap­tism (Acts 2:41–42). Also Chris­t­ian instruc­tion was evi­dent­ly giv­en to all con­verts (Luke 1:4, Acts18:25, Gala­tians 6:6). As the num­ber of Gen­tiles in the church increased, instruc­tion became more def­i­nite. In the 4th cen­tu­ry, with the rise of heresy, detailed doc­tri­nal teach­ing was giv­en.

Mountains with lake in front and the words "Holy Baptism" with baptism sinking into the water.

General Baptism

But by this time the post­pone­ment of bap­tism had become gen­er­al. (Con­stan­tine was not bap­tized until he was at the point of death.) There­fore, a large pro­por­tion of Chris­tians belonged to the cat­e­chu­me­nate. Most of them were mere­ly “adher­ents” of the church, while oth­ers were under def­i­nite instruc­tion for bap­tism. As infant bap­tism became gen­er­al, the cat­e­chu­me­nate decreased. The bap­tismal rites now used are adap­ta­tions of rites intend­ed for the recep­tion of adult cat­e­chu­mens.

Relat­ed forms, very sim­ply:

cat­e­ch­esis = instruc­tion

cat­e­chize = to teach

cat­e­chist = teacher

cat­e­chism = text­book

cat­e­chu­men = stu­dent


from Wikipedia:

Luther’s Small Cat­e­chism (Ger­manDer Kleine Kat­e­chis­mus) was writ­ten by Mar­tin Luther and pub­lished in 1529 for the train­ing of chil­dren. Luther’s Small Cat­e­chism reviews the Ten Com­mand­mentsthe Apos­tles’ Creedthe Lord’s Prayerthe Sacra­ment of Holy Bap­tismthe Office of the Keys and Con­fes­sion and the Sacra­ment of the Eucharist. It is includ­ed in the Book of Con­cord as an author­i­ta­tive state­ment of what Luther­ans believe. The Small Cat­e­chism is wide­ly used today in Luther­an church­es as part of youth edu­ca­tion and Con­fir­ma­tion.


Back to top