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Martin Luther, the Rule of Faith, and the Bible

December 2nd, 2019 | 29 min read

By Todd Hains

Luther teaches that the catechism holds the entirety of the Christian faith. Even the educated laity and clergy need simple words and short summaries; how much more the simple and uneducated? Actually that’s why Luther thinks the simple need the catechism so badly: the educated have lost or abandoned it. Who will teach it?

Daily I find that there are now only a few preachers who truly and correctly understand the Our Father, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments and who are able to teach them for the poor common people. All the same, they dash into Daniel, Hosea, John’s Apocalypse, and other such difficult books. The poor rabble are drawn in, listen to, and gawk at these jesters with great wonder. And when the year’s through, they still can recite neither the Our Father nor the Creed nor the Ten Commandments. But it is these things that are the ancient, true Christian catechism or common education for Christians![1]

The essentials of the catechism must not be sacrificed to explore the bizarre material of the Bible. Sadly—in Luther’s day as well as our own—it too often is. “No matter how clear and easy the gospel is, it isn’t so for common people. To them nothing is more profitably preached than the catechism.”[2] The catechism is drawn from the Bible as a touchstone or measuring rod of faithful teaching and practice. And that’s what Luther used the rule of faith for.

Five theses summarize Luther’s understanding of the rule of faith, which he usually calls the analogy of faith. (For him the two phrases are synonymous, but he tends to prefer the phrase the analogy of faith because of its roots in Paul’s letter to the Romans chapter twelve: “If someone has the gift of prophecy, let it be according to the faith.”[3])

  1. The analogy of faith is biblical.
  2. The Bible is ruled according to the faith.
  3. To read the Bible according to the faith is to read the Bible according to the Bible.
  4. The faith is master over all tools and resources for reading the Bible.
  5. The faith, as summarized in the catechism, is the beginning and end of the Christian life.

Each thesis will be explained and expanded to recapitulate the argument that Luther read the Bible according to the analogy of faith.

The Analogy of Faith Is Biblical

The analogy of faith contains the entirety of the Bible’s message. “Whatever all of Scripture holds, it is simply expressed in these three [that is, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Our Father].”[4] But more importantly, for Luther, the analogy of faith comes from the Bible itself. The Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Our Father are either Bible passages or a pastiche of Bible passages. While modern readers might balk at the idea of the Apostles’ Creed as a cluster of Bible passages, Luther went further: its composition was the inspired work of the Holy Spirit.

I believe the Creed’s words were arranged by the apostles. Together they made this fine Creed so short and comforting! And it’s the work of the Holy Spirit to describe such things with such brevity, with the most powerful and ornate words. I, Doctor Martin, can’t admire the composition of the Creed enough. These words should be contemplated diligently.[5]

Luther seems to affirm the tradition reported by Rufinus (c. 345–410), that after receiving the Spirit on Pentecost and before they dispersed among the nations, the apostles drafted the Creed by committee as a summary of their teaching.[6] The Holy Spirit superintended and inspired this work. “The Holy Spirit composed the Creed most exactly.”[7] The Creed was gathered from the many flowers of the meadow of Scripture to make the sweetest honey.[8]

Similarly, for Luther, the sacraments are God’s word. Each sacrament has a clear command from Jesus as reported by his most trustworthy witness: the Bible.[9] And so the sacraments too are just Bible passages:

  • Baptism: Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16;
  • Eucharist: 1 Corinthians 11:23–26 (compare with Matt 26:26–28; Mark 14:22–24; Luke 22:19–20);
  • Absolution: John 20:22–23 (compare with Matt 18:18).

Modern readers may find this even more disorienting than Luther’s claims about the inspiration of the Apostles’ Creed. It seems as if Luther claims that the Bible needs no interpretation. To an extent that’s true. Luther teaches that it’s not the Bible that needs interpretation, but humans. Humans are dark; God’s word is light. As light is not impaired by darkness, God’s word is in no way dependent on humans. It accomplishes what it says. It is eternal and unchanging.[10]

Here Luther distinguishes between the substance of God’s word and its use. According to its substance, God’s word is what it is and does what it says apart from any human work. Luther affirms the adage as you believe, so you have. Humans still must learn to use God’s word; the proper use of God’s word is faith. Otherwise humans are like people in a basement who claim that the sun is not shining or inheritors of a great fortune who insist they are poor—it is not actually true, but because they refuse to accept these gifts of sunshine or wealth, it is true. The catechism lays bare the Bible’s inner logic. It is the Bible’s interpretive key for humans: it reveals their sin, inadequacy, and need; it reveals who God is and what he does; it reveals God’s forgiveness and life for humans.

The Bible Is Ruled According to the Faith

A story isn’t simply a heap of facts. A story arranges those facts in a certain way. Of course, there are many ways of arranging and emphasizing the parts of a story, but to change the arrangement and emphasis is—almost always—to change the story. And the Bible is such a big and diverse book! How will even the most learned reader understand its unifying story? The wrong unifying story begets heretics. “Just as no one can become a Christian except by Scripture, so also no one can become a heretic but by Scripture.”[11]

The difference is the rule with which heretics and Christians read the Bible. Heretics read the Bible according to a rule crafted out of their own reason; Christians read the Bible according to the rule of faith.[12] That’s why Paul writes that all Scripture must be measured against the faith (Rom 12:6). “Paul sees that it’s not enough to say, ‘I have Scripture,’ etc. Instead, you, lay person, look to the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.”[13] The rule of faith safeguards the faithful transmission of the Bible.

Some object that it’s a logical fallacy to read the Bible according to the analogy of faith.[14] To read this way assumes the conclusion (petitio principii). Luther (and the vast majority of the great tradition) would balk at this accusation. Reason is indeed good (God gave it to us!), but as part of our fallen nature reason does not naturally submit to the Lordship of our God.[15] And so Luther would fling back the accusation of fallacious thinking on his accusers!

To bracket out faith from the interpretive process—even if it’s brought back at the end as a check—is to assume the conclusion (petitio principii). This side of the fall, reason can only do what God meant it to do when it is fully submitted to his Lordship. And this requires faith. Faith—in the objective sense and the subjective sense—reveals the inner logic of the Bible as well as the inner logic of creation and redemption. In this sense the old Latin translation of Paul’s phrase in Romans 12:6 is most fitting: secundum rationem fidei, according to the reasoning of faith. That’s how the Bible is to be read: according to the reasoning of faith. This doesn’t give the reader stock, cookie-cut answers. It requires wrestling with the Bible according to its own nature—as a book penned by the Holy Spirit.[16]

Luther could not have been clearer that the analogy of faith is the sine qua non of Christian readings of the Bible. And he also demonstrated this approach in his own teaching and preaching. He read the entirety of Scripture according to the faith. In practice, he more strongly emphasized certain parts of the faith, in particular, the second and third articles, the first commandment, and the sacraments. He uses the Our Father rarely. But in theory Luther wants to use all of the catechism for reading the Bible. “The catechism—the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer—should be master.”[17]

To Read the Bible According to the Faith Is to Read the Bible According to the Bible

Reading the Bible according to the catechism is not to deny Scripture’s sufficiency and clarity, as if the Bible needs another authority to be understandable. As usual, here Luther opposes those whom he mocks as “Papists” (those devoted to the Roman Church) and “fanatics” (a catchall term that includes the Radicals and Reformed).[18]

Papists like Erasmus argue that another authority is required to interpret the Bible: the Magisterium. Fanatics also agree that biblical interpretation needs another authority, but they disagree about what that authority is: some, like the heavenly prophets, say the special revelation of dreams; others, like Zwingli—while saying that they are just reading the Bible on its terms—require the authority of grammar and human reason. Luther ultimately sees the Papist and fanatic positions as the same. Both positions try to unseat God’s word as master, hoisting human reason to the judgment seat and throne.

Popular perception fixates on Luther’s ridicule of reason: it’s “the devil’s whore.”[19] But this misses Luther’s underlying understanding of reason. He doesn’t reject philosophy’s role in theology; he only demands it remain a servant under the faith’s lordship. Brian Gerrish has shown that Luther distinguishes reason into three domains: reason exercised in temporal matters, reason exercised in spiritual matters, and reason submitted to the word of God and faith.[20]

Luther speaks highly of the first and third domains (temporal and regenerate reason) and fully rejects the second domain (unregenerate reason in spiritual matters). He sees this tripartite distinction as distinguishing the use of reason from its abuse. Reason within its proper domain (the temporal realm) or submitted to faith is a beautiful gift of God. But to judge God’s character and essence according to reason alone is to reject the framework God gives for understanding his word. As Luther puts it: “According to reason we want to be our Lord God’s master and to teach him.”[21]

But God cannot be understood apart from his word—nor can his creation. By speaking God calls forth what was not and accomplishes his purposes (Rom 4:17). Contrary to what we may think, see, and feel, God’s word describes and defines reality. “When you are in death and experience hell, cling to Christ and his word.”[22] “Whoever knows [the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Our Father] is a doctor of Scripture.”[23] Such doctors interpret the Bible according to the catechism, asking the following questions:

  • What is the Bible saying about how you should act? (The Ten Commandments)
  • What is the Bible saying about God’s works? (The Apostles’ Creed)
  • What is the Bible saying about your spiritual and temporal needs? (The Our Father)
  • What is the Bible saying about your status with God? (The sacraments)
  • And do these interpretations square with the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father, and the sacraments?

The analogy of faith is a special case of Scripture interpreting Scripture. God’s word is light; humans are darkness. And so for Luther it is sheer folly to try to read the Bible in any other way than by the light of God’s word. Because all of the catechism is God’s word, to read the Bible according to the analogy of faith is to read light by light.

The catechism illumines dark passages and indicates which passages are light. Without the catechism and the Holy Spirit, how does one determine the light by which the Bible is seen? “And this you should know first of all: no prophecy in the Scriptures happens out of one’s own interpretation. For there’s never been any prophecy produced out of human will, but rather the holy men of God have spoken, moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet 1:20–21).[24]

The Faith Is Master over All Tools and Resources for Reading the Bible

Luther taught that the analogy of faith gives the true content of Scripture and the true posture of its interpreter. And he also gladly used critical reference tools! Luther used critical resources: the latest critical editions of the Bible, Hebrew grammars, technical biblical commentaries, and rabbinic exegesis.[25] Luther had more than a working knowledge of rabbinic sources and Josephus (ad 37–100). He also consulted books like Pliny the Elder’s (ad 23–79) Natural History to identify animals and their behavior.[26] Nevertheless, Luther almost never cites his source—unless he disagrees.

He was adamant that these critical tools are only aids to interpretation, not lords over interpretation. For example, when a Hebraist told the Old Testament translation team at Wittenberg that the rabbis understood a certain verse differently than how these Germans had translated it, Luther asked: “Could you make it so that in grammar and pointing, it fits with the new testament?”[27] The substance determines the meaning; grammar only restricts the possibilities of expression.[28] Luther held critical aspects of interpretation—grammar, literary form and context, history, culture—captive to the whole of Scripture: Christ for us. And so he was pleased to use these various tools when they were helpful.

Luther did not have a set method for reading the Bible. Asking what Luther’s method is like asking for someone’s method for making friends. This isn’t a mechanical process that can be separated from the character of the interpreter and the character of the Bible. Just like making friends, reading the Bible requires a different sequence and combination of tools and approaches.

Sometimes Luther begins reading a passage with critical tools: grammar, history, and culture; these critical readings always lead to a catechetical reading. Other times Luther expands or supports a catechetical reading with critical readings. Luther also knew that the critical tools could not be discarded. For example, the loss of Hebrew and Greek might well cause the loss of the gospel: “We shall have a hard time preserving the gospel without the languages. The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained.”[29] So the Bible requires a knowledge of grammar and history.

But if one is to have one without the other, better to have history (that is, for Luther, the Apostles’ Creed!) without grammar than grammar without history. Luther uses Augustine and Jerome as examples. Augustine didn’t know Hebrew but his interpretations of the Old Testament remained within the rule of faith. Jerome knew Hebrew well but his interpretation of the Old Testament strayed outside the rule of faith.[30] Luther is clear: all readings of the Bible must be according to the faith for the benefit of God’s people.

The Faith, As Summarized in the Catechism, Is the Beginning and End of the Christian Life

Christian teaching and life begin with instruction in the catechism. “Every day a new church grows up, and they need the basics. And so we should diligently inculcate the catechism and dole out milk.”[31] As a mother’s milk nourishes her children, so the catechism nourishes the children of God. But the children of God can never be weaned from the milk of the catechism. “These three are the greatest sermons: the Our Father, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments. Yes, although children know them and pray them daily, nevertheless we can’t ever be done learning them.”[32]

There is more than enough in the catechism for a lifetime.[33] One may have mastered the very words of the catechism, but still the catechism has more to teach when one is confronted by difficulties and deep truths of the Bible: If even the disciples doubted Jesus’ resurrection, how does the church still exist? How is the Old Testament useful and profitable for Christians? What are ghosts?[34] The same old catechism shines new light on new questions. That’s why Luther said so often that he might be an old, learned doctor of the Bible, but all the same daily he must humble himself and pray the catechism side-by-side with the little children.[35]

This should not be surprising. For Luther, the catechism is nothing other than the Bible itself. And the Bible is like a mysterious body of water which sheep can wade into and drink, while an elephant can drown in the same water.[36] The Bible might look like any other book, but it cannot be read like any other book. Any other book can eventually be mastered—all of its knowledge and secrets mapped and categorized. But not the Bible! “Christians understand the word of God—they can even talk about it, but they can never be done learning it. ”[37] As the psalmist says: “His wisdom is not to be measured” (Ps 147:5).[38]

Luther used an analogy of the schoolmen to make this point. “God’s word is like a sphere or round ball which lies on the table. It only touches the table at a single point or tiny pinpoint, and nevertheless the entire table holds the ball.”[39] The Bible and the catechism confront human life and concerns, and so they can be learned by humans. But the Bible and catechism cannot be fully grasped, for they address realities that humans cannot access through reason and the senses.

Humans must believe the witness of others about these realities.“Yes, I have studied it diligently, and yet I still haven’t fully understood one word from all of Scripture! That’s why I haven’t yet left the childish teaching. Indeed daily I think about it—I turn it over in my mind and I seek to understand the Ten Commandments, the Creed.”[40] The word of God cannot be mastered; it is the beginning, middle, and end of the Christian life.

Luther the Catholic

Luther is almost always depicted as a father of a movement or era. Although not everyone agrees what new thing Luther fathered, he surely fathered something, right? Some suggest modernity. Others suggest democracy, capitalism, socialism, modern patriarchy, secularism, Lutheranism, and Protestantism. This insistence that Luther brought about something new likely says more about our own time and culture than Luther and his time and culture. New is best. And so in Luther we see an innovator—how else could he be a creative genius?

But Luther abhors innovation in theology.[41] “If anyone brings up a new teaching against the old teaching—even if it could raise the dead—it must not be believed.”[42] The ancient ministry of the word Satan cannot stand. That’s why he always tries to mix something new and exciting into the church’s witness. “Something new now! We’ve heard enough about the resurrection!”[43] This desire for something new distorts human expectations of prophecy: “It’s not new, therefore isn’t it not prophecy?” But prophecy isn’t saying something new, it’s proclaiming God’s word. And God’s word never changes. Luther says that if prophecy has to be new, “it follows that Isaiah wasn’t a prophet—he prophesied the words of Moses; John wasn’t a prophet—he used Isaiah’s words.”[44] Christian preaching isn’t new. The words may change but the substance is always the same.[45] “The catechism is the most perfect teaching.”[46] “We do not invent any new understanding, but we adhere to the analogy of holy Scripture and the faith.”[47]

Luther saw himself as a lot of things, but never as an innovator. This is the man who sent his questions about indulgences to his bishop.[48] This is the man who had invited his accusers at the Diet of Worms (1521) to show him how he was misunderstanding the Bible (or admit he was right).[49] This is the man who reluctantly had pastors ordained by Johannes Bugenhagen—not because he was unwilling to have new candidates for the ministry ordained by Catholic bishops, but because Catholic bishops were unwilling to ordain new candidates for the ministry from Wittenberg.[50] He challenged the abuse and distortion of church teaching, not the church itself.

Luther was Catholic. Over the course of his career he harped on the catechism of the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father, and the sacraments. He taught that the most Catholic way to read the Bible was to read it according to the analogy of faith, the most Catholic way to hear preaching was to hear it according to the analogy of faith, and the most Catholic way to obey the Catholic Church was to obey it according to the analogy of faith. Ultimately the Roman Magisterium saw the fruits of this as too radical a way to read the Bible, hear preaching, and obey the church.

Luther subordinated person, office, and authority to God’s word and the analogy of faith. The chief question was always whether what someone said and did fit the analogy of faith—no matter how important, holy, or powerful they might be. And so Luther wanted simple children and common, unlearned men and women to carefully test carefully their pastor’s teaching against the catechism. Does it fit? “If not, say: ‘That the devil preached!’ ”[51] If it’s not according to the analogy of faith, it doesn’t matter if the preacher is Peter, Mary, or even Jesus himself, it’s Satan speaking. “The Holy Spirit says that he reveals himself this way: that it fits with the faith.’ ”[52] On the other hand, if it is according to the analogy of faith, it doesn’t matter if the preacher is Judas or Caiaphas, it’s God speaking. The Spirit by the faith and word makes good readers and interpreters of the Bible.[53]

This is true for the youngest child to the oldest grandparent, for the most learned scholar to the simplest plebe. As Luther impressed on his students, “They are wise who know the rule and analogy of faith”[54]

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  1. Preface to Commentary on Zechariah (1527), WA 23:485.28–486.1 (LW 20:156). Also: “The holy fathers or apostles arranged [the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Our Father] this way, so that they would embrace the chief parts of Christian teaching for common people” (Sermon on May 18, 1528, WA 30,1:2.21–23).
  2. WATR 2:482.1–3, no. 2482.
  3. This is my English translation of Luther’s translation. See WADB 7:67. Compare with Novum Testamentum omne, ed. Desiderius Erasmus (Basel: Froben, 1519), 343: ἔιτε προφητείαν κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογΐαν τῆς πίστεως. For a general treatment of the analogy of faith, see Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017), 25; Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725, 4 vols., 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 2:493–97. For a brief treatment of Luther and the analogy of faith, see Otto Hof, “Luther’s Exegetical Principle of the Analogy of Faith,” Concordia Theological Monthly 38, no. 4 (1967), 242–57. For a summary of the term’s history and evolution, see Bernhard Gertz, “Was ist analogia fidei?: Klarstellungen zu einem Kontrovers-Thema,” Catholica 26, no. 4 (1972): 309–24.
  4. Sermon on May 18, 1528, WA 30,1:2.20–21. Luther inconsistently numbers the parts of the catechism as three or four, depending on whether he calls out the sacraments or leaves them implied under the second and third articles of the Apostles’ Creed.
  5. WATR 4:230.6–11, no. 4334 (compare with p. 230.14–20).
  6. Rufinus, A Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 2 (NPNF2 3:542–43; PL 21:337–39)
  7. WATR 3:685.7–9; compare with lines 18–21. Luther here connects the three main parts of the catechism with the three Persons of the Trinity: “God himself gave the Ten Commandments; Christ himself formed the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer; the Holy Spirit composed the Creed most exactly.”
  8. Sermon on Trinity Sunday (1535), WA 41:275.29–34. See also Gospel on Trinity Sunday (House Postil, 1544), WA 52:342.8–343.7.
  9. On the requirements of a sacrament, see Against the Thirty-Two Articles of the Louvain Theologists (1545), LW 34:354–60 (WA 54:425.1–430.18). On the Bible as Jesus’ most trustworthy witness see, for example, Afternoon Sermon on Easter Monday (April 18, 1530), WA 32:57.1–3, 58.6–8.
  10. For example, “Faith must change, not the word or work of God—that remains forever” (WATR 2:315.14–15, no. 2083A); “A child has not believed, therefore is baptism not efficacious? That’d be like if I said: Twenty years ago I didn’t believe the gospel, therefore the gospel is nothing” (WATR 2:316.3–5, no. 2083B). See also WATR 2:349–50, no. 2.178; Large Catechism (1529), WA 30,1:223.16–17 (BoC 1959, 447).
  11. Gospel for Epiphany (Church Postil, 1522, 1544), LW 76:85 (WA 10,1.1:582.13–15; E2 10:352; compare with LW 52:176). “Rightly is it said that the Bible is a book of heresies” (Sermon on the Fourth Sunday in Advent 1526, WA 20:588.34); see also Sermons on Exodus 32 (The Fourth Sunday in Advent 1526), WA 16:624.9.
  12. On heretics and reason, see, for example, Afternoon Sermon on Easter Monday (April 18, 1530), WA 32:59.10–12; Sermon on Easter Monday (April 6, 1534), WA 37:364.1–7; Gospel for Easter Monday (Church Postil, 1544), LW 77:51–52 (WA 21:230.21–231.10). Luther’s reasoning is reminiscent of Irenaeus’s lovely analogy of a mosaic and its key, see Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.8.1.
  13. Sermon on the Second Sunday after Epiphany” (January 16, 1536), WA 41:511.28–29.
  14. For example, see Walter C. Kaiser Jr., “Evangelical Hermeneutics: Restatement, Advance or Retreat from the Reformation,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 46, no. 2–3 (1982), 176–77; D. A. Carson, “Unity and Diversity: The Possibility of Systematic Theology,” in Scripture and Truth, ed. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), 90–93.
  15. See B. A. Gerrish, Grace and Reason: A Study in the Theology of Luther (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), esp. 10–27.
  16. Ironically Vatican II’s Dei Verbum may represent Luther better than most modern Protestant exegetes: “Holy Scripture must be read and interpreted in the sacred Spirit in which it was written” (12.3).
  17. WATR 1:489.22–23, no. 966.
  18. Modern historians restrict “fanatics” to the Radicals, but Luther makes no such distinction between the Radicals and the Reformed. Carl R. Trueman points this out in “Remembering the Reformation But Celebrating What?,” First Things (web edition, September 29, 2016): See further Amy Nelson Burnett, “Luther and the Schwärmer,” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, ed. Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 511–13, 521.
  19. Against the Heavenly Prophets (1525), LW 40:175 (WA 18:164.25–26).
  20. Gerrish, Grace and Reason, esp. 10–27, 161–66, 168–71.
  21. See Afternoon Sermon on Easter Monday (April 18, 1530), WA 32:62.24–25.
  22. Sermon on Reminiscere Sunday (1523), WA 11:44.29.
  23. Sermon on the Ave Maria (March 11, 1523), WA 11:60.1.
  24. WADB 7:319. Luther’s base text is different here than that of modern English versions. For the end of verse 21, Erasmus has ὁι ἅγίοι θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι rather than ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι. See Novum Instrumentum omne, 172; Novum Testamentum omne, 512.
  25. See Novum Instrumentum omne, ed. Erasmus; Novum Testamentum omne, ed. Erasmus; Biblia Hebraica (Brescia: Gershom Soncino, 1494); Biblia Hebraica, 2 vols. (Venice: Daniel Bomberg, 1511, 1518); Johannes Reuchlin, De Rudimentis Hebraicis (Pforzheim: Thomas Anselm, 1506); Sebastian Münster, Miqdaš YHWH, 2 vols. (Basel: Michael Insinginius und Henricus Petrus, 1534–1535, 1546); Biblia Sacra cum Glossa ordinaria. See also Luther’s letter to Georg Spalatin (January 18, 1518) on resources for Bible reading, Martin Luther, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, trans. Theodore G. Tappert, Library of Christian Classics 18 (Philadelphia: The Wesminster Press, 1960; reprint, Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2003), 111–13 (WABr 2:132–34). Luther said if he could relearn Hebrew all over again, he would only use the best grammarians, David Kimchi and Moses Kimchi, see WATR 1:525.37–39, no. 1040.
  26. For example, see Luther’s gloss on the superscription to Psalm 22 (1513–1516), WA 3:134.24–31 (RCS OT 7:168n7).
  27. WATR 5:218.26–27, no. 5533 (1542–1543); for an example, of such a case, see Luther’s comments on Ps 22:16, WA 5:633–34 (compare with Herman J. Selderhuis, ed., Psalms 1–72, Reformation Commentary on Scripture Old Testament [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015], 7:177–78). By das neue testament Luther does not always mean merely the books of the New Testament; he can also mean “new covenant” and “the Eucharist”—even Jesus Christ (“We Christians have the meaning and import of the Bible because we have the New Testament, that is, Jesus Christ,” Last Words of David, 1543, LW 15:268; WA 54:29.3–4).
  28. “Indeed grammar is necessary for declining words, conjugating verbs, and construing syntax, but for the proclamation of the meaning and the consideration of the subject matter, grammar is not needed. For grammar should not reign over the meaning.” WATR 3:619.28–30, no. 3794 (1538); quoted in RCS OT 7:119.
  29. To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That they Establish and Maintain Christian Schools (1524), WA 15:38.7–9 (What Luther Says, 2:731, no. 2273; compare with LW 45:360). See also The Adoration of the Sacrament (1523), WA 11:455.27–456.3 (LW 36:304); WATR 3:243, no. 3271a.
  30. See “Prohoemium in lectionem Esaiae Prophetae” (1534), WA 25:87.37–88.42.
  31. WATR 3:310.6–8, no. 3421.
  32. A House Sermon on the Articles of the Faith (February 11, 1537), WA 45:12.7–9 (compare with LW 57:244).
  33. Sermon on September 22, 1528, WA 30,1:46.27–29; Sermon on September 24, 1528, WA 30,1:51.15; Large Catechism (1529), BoC 1959, 441–42 (WA 30,1:216.15–19); A Sermon on Jesus Christ, Preached at Court in Torgau (April 16–17, 1533), WA 37:47.11–14 (LW 57:109); A House Sermon on the Articles of the Creed (1537), WA 45:17.16 (LW 57:247).
  34. For a brief article on Luther and ghosts, see Todd R. Hains, “Martin Luther Is Not Afraid of Ghosts,” Bible Study Magazine (September–October 2019): 8–10
  35. For example, Sermon on the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity (1530), WA 32:131.5–15; Afternoon Sermon on First Sunday in Advent (1530), WA 32:209.36–38, 210.13–18; Sermon on First Sunday in Advent (1531), WA 34,2:449.20–30; A Sermon on Jesus Christ, Preached at Court in Torgau (1533), WA 37:47.22–25 (LW 57:109); WATR 1:30.26–31.2, no. 81; WATR 3:685.4–23, no. 3883.
  36. Sermon on Easter Monday (April 6, 1534), WA 37:366.36–39. Luther is paraphrasing Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, Epistle 4 (PL 75:515). Luther was fond of this saying, see also Second Lecture on Psalm 21 (1519–1521), WA 5:598.3–4; Preface to the Lectures on Genesis (1535–1545), WA 42:2.6–7; Sermon after the Third Sunday in Easter (Jubilate; May, 1542), WA 49:256.8–9; WATR 5:168.18–19, no. 5468.
  37. WATR 2:303.1–2, no. 2047. Compare with WATR 1:28.25–27, no. 76; 1:30.22–24, no. 81.
  38. WATR 1:28.24. Compare with WADB 10,1:580–81.
  39. WATR 1:28.25–30 (here 28–30), no. 76. Compare with WATR 1:30.22–26, no. 81; WATR 2:303.1–4, no. 2047.
  40. WATR 2:303.5–8, no. 2047.
  41. See his discussion of “new song” in Psalm 33:3, Lecture on Psalm 33, LW 10:154 (WA 3:182.24–183.2).
  42. Sermon on the Second Day of Christmas (1528), WA 27:511.8–9.
  43. Afternoon Sermon on the First Feast Day of Easter (April 1, 1526), WA 20:317.27–28.
  44. Afternoon Sermon on Pentecost Tuesday (1529), WA 29:377.20–378.2, here p. 377.28–31.
  45. WATR 1:488.26–27, no. 965; WATR 2:438.1–6, no. 2378a (compare with WATR 2:438.8–10).
  46. WATR 1:504.24, no. 1002. See also WATR 2:522, no. 2554a–b.
  47. Lectures on Genesis 6:3, LW 2:16 (WA 42:272.1–2).
  48. See Martin Brecht, Martin Luther, 3 vols., trans. James L. Schaaf (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985–1993), 1:200–202; Erwin Iserloh, The Theses Were Not Posted: Luther Between Reform and Reformation, trans. Jared Wicks (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968).
  49. Brecht, Martin Luther, 1:246–65; Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, trans. Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), 195–97.
  50. See H. G. Haile, Luther: An Experiment in Biography (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979), 28–29.
  51. Sermon on the Second Sunday after Epiphany 1531, WA 34,1:107.8–9.
  52. Sermon on the Second Sunday after Epiphany 1531, WA 34,1:107.9–10.
  53. “Whoever wants to be a master of interpreting Scripture [must interpret according to the analogy of the faith].” Afternoon Sermon on Cantate Sunday (May 7, 1531), WA 34,1:374.10;
  54. Lectures on Isaiah 29:14, 1527–1530 (WA 31,2:178.23–24).