“1689 års katekes av Olaus Swebilius” is a very narrow product I bought mostly because it was temporarily sold cheaper than usual. The book is in Swedish, so most of this blog´s readers won´t be able to read it. In fact, I found it difficult to read, too, despite Swedish being my de facto first language. The reason? The bulk of the material is in 17th century Swedish. Brace yourself for some *very* weird (and weirdly inconsistent) spelling and a decidedly old fashioned grammar. Still, it seems the denizens of the 17th century were even worse off, since the original “1689 Catechism” contained frequent typing, or perhaps we should say setting, errors – including in the Biblical references…
Clearly, the good Lord wanted to test the faith of poor Olaus Swebilius, his trusted servant!
So who was Olaus Swebilius (or Olof Svebilius)? I admit I never heard of the man before buying this slender volume, but it seems he was quite the personality in his time. Swebilius was the Archbishop of Uppsala from 1681 to 1700, and hence the effective leader of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, at the time the only legal church in the Swedish kingdom (which was much larger than today). At this time, the clergy were represented in the Swedish Parliament, and as archbishop, Swebilius was the speaker of the clerical estate. He was a confidante of Karl XI, one of the most powerful kings in Swedish history. After Karl XI´s death, Swebilius crowned Karl XII king of Sweden – according to legend, the rash youth grabbed the crown from the hands of the archbishop and placed it on his head himself!
The 1689 Catechism had official status and contained the archbishop´s expositions on Martin Luther´s Small Catechism. The Swebilian Catechism is an expression of the Lutheran confessionalist orthodoxy (or perhaps supposed orthodoxy) dominant within the Church of Sweden at the time. I´m obviously no expert on Lutheran theology, orthodox or otherwise, since I frequently gasped when reading it. Thus, I had no idea that Lutherans believed Mary was ever virgin, but there it is. Nor does the Catechims deny the existence of saints, on earth or in heaven. It simply calls on the believer not to pray to them or worship them, since this dignity belongs to God only. I was also struck by the “high church” view of priestly authority and the strong sacramentalism. Swebilius expounds at some length on the need and necessity of confession before a priest.
I *did* know that Lutherans believed the flesh and blood of Christ is really present in the bread and wine consumed during communion (indeed, Luther´s position on the question is more logical if you have a Chalcedonian Christology than the Catholic one, which sounds Monophysite). The Apocrypha are referenced alongside the OT and the NT. The political perspective is strongly hierarchical and calls on servants to obey their masters, and everyone to obey the worldly establishment. Under Karl XI and Karl XII, royal absolutism in Sweden reached its apogee.
On a funnier note, the Catechism attacks certain folk beliefs and folk traditions. Thus, we are sternly admonished not to seek the aid of “tomtegubbar” (gnomes) or “skogzråå” (a female spirit and shape-shifter associated with the forest, today spelled “skogsrå”). This is idolatry and hence verboten.
We can´t say we haven´t been warned.