Catechesis in the New Testament: St. Paul

In the last post I laid out the four uses of the word katekeo by Luke. Here I'll look at Paul's four uses.

The first is Romans 2:18:

Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law (κατηχούμενος ἐκ τοῦ νόμου); if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
— Rom. 2:17–24


Here Paul uses the word to refer to Jews “instructed by the Law.” Again, there's just a general sense of the term instruction, but what's important to note is that instruction is not necessarily a good thing! Being instructed in the Law is not the same as actually living it out. Here Paul is railing against instruction that amounts to hypocrisy: teaching others but not teaching oneself; preaching against stealing but going ahead and stealing yourself. The Pauline scholars can say much more about Paul's arguments,  interlocuters, etc. But for our purposes it's pretty clear that instruction in the Law is worthless if it's used as something to boast about, rather than manifesting in fruits of righteousness.


The next use is 1 Corinthians 14:19: 

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
— 1 Cor. 14:18–19


In the context of talking about organized and edifying worship, Paul uses the word here to stress the value of clear teaching. Speaking in tongues are great, but only if someone can interpret them. 


The final passage is from Galatians 6:6, where Paul uses the word twice: 

Let the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Κοινωνείτω δὲ ὁ κατηχούμενος τὸν λόγον τῷ κατηχοῦντι ἐν πᾶσινἀγαθοῖς
— Gal. 6:6

An (overly) literal reading would be: “Let the catechumen in the word share all good things with the catechist.” While that’s not the best translation for the first-century context, it does, I think, capture the teacher-student relationship in view here.

Looking back over the eight NT uses of the word katekeo, we've seen that it's more or less a general word for teaching or instruction, with hints that it implies a more specific meaning. We obviously can't build a theology of catechesis based on word usage in the NT. But we can appreciate that the NT church was a teaching church, and that instruction was a necessary component to their way of life.