Posted by: Johnold Strey | June 24, 2008

Luther on Biblical Interpretation

Luther portraitI’m in the midst of reading Luther’s “Babylonian Captivity of the Church.” Luther wrote this significant work in 1520 as a testimony against the abuses in the medieval Roman Catholic sacramental system. In the midst of his arguments concerning the Mass (Holy Communion) and transubstantiation, he makes the following statement about biblical interpretation. Luther is promoting the method of interpreting Scripture that today is called the “historical-grammatical method.” Let Scripture speak for itself. Don’t deny the miraculous just because you don’t think such-and-such is possible. Don’t import philosophy to explain what we cannot fully comprehend. Allow the eyewitnesses to relate what they saw and heard instead of assuming a hidden message. I could wax on about this for a long time, but for now I think I’ll let Luther’s quote speak for itself and leave you with some food for thought as you open the Scriptures:

“No violence is to be done to the words of God, whether by man or angel. They are to be retained in their simplest meaning as far as possible. Unless the context manifestly compels is, they are not to be understood apart from their grammatical and proper sense, lest we give our adversaries occasion to make a mockery of all the Scriptures” (Luther’s Works, American Edition, Vol. 36, p. 30).

A refreshing and badly-needed approach to Scripture in the 21st century, methinks.



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