Martin Luther on Scripture


“We are obliged to yield many things to the Papists (Catholics)–that they possess the Word of God which we received from them, otherwise we should have known nothing at all about it.” Martin Luther–Commentary on St. John, ch. 16

Historically, the Catholic Church used the authority given to her by Christ to infallibly determine which books would be included in the canon of Sacred Scripture. The canon of scripture was not officially recognized until 400 years after the birth Jesus. To put that in perspective, it has been 400 years since the Pilgrims landed in America. So, for nearly 400 years the Christian Church evangelized the known world. And, all this was done without a complete canonized Bible.

And, due to the fact that there were no printing presses (until 1440 A.D.) most Churches did not probably even own all four gospels let alone all of the epistles. Even if each church had most of what eventually was canonized as sacred scripture, most people could not read and so faith and the pursuit of holiness could not possibly have been dependent upon personal Bible study. If Martin Luther, born in 1483, had been born 50 years earlier, long before the proliferation of printing presses, his theories of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide would never have gotten any traction.

The Gospel has always been proclaimed, from the earliest times until now, by those ordained to the Apostolic Succession of the Diciples of Jesus. The celebration of Holy Mass teaches through every word and action about the holiness of God, the sacrifice of Christ and our calling to worship God, repentence, forgiveness of sin and the pursuit of holiness. And, precisely because most of the faithful could not read scripture for themselves, it was read to them at every mass.

Christian liturgy draws our souls to Christ through all five senses. Because, in addition, to hearing, the faithful see the stories of the Old Testament and the life of Christ depicted in sacred art in the churches. We also smell the incense and best of all touch and taste the Body of Christ in Holy Communion.
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6 Responses to Martin Luther on Scripture

  1. Donna says:

    I like this write up. Very precious and clear. Can I use this as a response to people debating Sola Scriptura?

  2. martha says:

    romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

    Now where is it about the smelling and seeing — Word = hearing. . .the Holy Spirit generates faith through hearing. . .get this — the Scriptures were read in LATIN. . .so the illiterate DID NOT even understand the Scriptures read at mass. . .

    the epistles and the Gospels were well known throughout the early New Testament before they were canonized in the 4th century NOT 400 years after Christ. . .

  3. bfhu says:

    Dear Martha,

    Let me ask you, where is it that all that is to be believed is contained is Scripture?

    The liturgy was in Latin but the scriptures and homily in vernacular.

    Yes the epistles and Gospels were written and passed around as sacred writing but there were also other writings used in liturgy that later were not canonized and others that were suspect that were later canonized. So, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura would not have worked or even been dreamed up for the 400 years before the NT was canonized. Sola Scriptura is a doctrine recently invented, without scriptural authority. It is a tradition of men.

  4. Constantine says:

    The Catholic Church was never given an infallible authority to define the Canon of Scripture. To wit, the books added by Rome have many grievous historical and theological errors. Given those errors then, either God makes mistakes or Rome is wrong. The latter is the only option.

    Your assertion that the lack of printing presses was the reason for the shortage of Bibles in churches is also mistaken. We know from history that the Alexandrian Jews in 300 B.C. had no trouble distributing their Scriptures. The synagogues of Jesus’ time had no shortage of copies of Scripture thanks to the work of the Scribes. The early Christian churches (i.e. Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Rome, etc) were able to copy and distribute not only the Old Testament but also all of the Apostles’ letters – and all without printing presses. What is interesting to note from your claim is, that if the Catholic Church did, in fact define the Canon in 400 A.D. and then the Scriptures were poorly distributed for a 1,000 years thereafter (as you further claim), it must have been the centralized bureaucracy of Rome that prevented the dissemination of God’s word. The Scriptures were freely distributed both before and after.

    Your allegation that during this period the Scriptures were “read at every mass” is also misleading. According to Fr. Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D., the Missale Romanum in use by Catholics at the time of the Reformation contained “…only about 22% of the NT Gospels, 11% of the NT Epistles, and only 0.8% of the OT (not counting the Psalms).” So what was read at “every mass” was not the Scriptures but a severely edited version that neglected as much as 99% of certain sections of the Bible. And those were the sections used by Jesus Himself to teach His apostles!

    So it is not surprising that you write and believe, “Christian liturgy draws our souls to Christ through all five senses.” Christ says in the Bible that only God the Father draws His people to Himself. (“”No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…”) John 6:44. But when you rely on less than half the Bible, I suppose that could be missed.

    And your bigotry regarding Sola Fide is really shocking. Sola Fide was a doctrine of the early and medieval church proclaimed by saints and popes! Pope Clement wrote an entire chapter in his Epistle to the Corinthians on the topic. Other “catholic” proponents of Sola Fide include: St. Robert Bellarmine, Origen, Hillary of Poitiers, Basil, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, St. Bernard, Thomas Aquinas and Augustine. (The Catholic scholar, Joseph Fitzmyer documents all this.) Apparently “Luther’s theory of Sola Fide” was not really his at all! It is a Biblical doctrine, historically professed by saints and popes but unknown in medieval and modern Catholicism because Rome turned away from the Bible! And you try to pin it on Luther! The irony is just too rich!

    Peace.

  5. bfhu says:

    Constantine,
    Thanks for your opinion. But I reject them all.

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