Reading The Word of God – Week 43

 

That Luther was not ready to admit that there were errors even in the numerical statements of the Bible we see in his exposition of Genesis 11:27, 28: “ is passage is among the most obscure statements of the Old Testament that has caused us many questions, which a diligent reader will encounter here and there in the older and more recent writers.— There is added another fault, that vain spirits hold it very praiseworthy if they can pass unrestricted judgments concerning the difficult and dark statements of Scripture and then can obstinately maintain their opinions. is is a disease of our nature against which an exegete of Holy Scripture should carefully guard himself.” Then he discusses the question as to what, in his opinion, makes these passages so difficult: “The second question is still more difficult, though neither Lyra nor the other teachers have paid attention to it. That in connection with Abraham sixty years are lost for us. For the reckoning the text brings with itself is easy. Terah was seventy years when he begot Abraham, now Abraham, when he was seventy five years old, left Haran, where Terah had died. If you add these together you will have 145 years. But when the account reckons together the years of Terah, it shows clearly that when he died he had lived 205 years. The question is, therefore, as to how we can account for these years. It would be unfitting to follow the example of audacious people who, when they arrive at such difficulties, immediately dare to correct books written by others. For my part I do not know how I should correctly solve the questions though I have carefully reckoned together the years of the world. So with a humble and proper confession of ignorance (for it is the Holy Ghost who alone knows and understands all things) I conclude that God, because of a certain plan of His own, caused seventy years to be lost out of Abraham’s life so that no one would venture from the exact computation of the years of the world to presume to predict something certain concerning the end of the world.” This hypothesis (because Luther does not express his opinion) may appear even absurd to us moderns, but it will not seem so absurd if we recall that at that time it was customary to place the age of the world at six thousand years, but Luther risks this hypothetical reckoning rather than to admit an error in the Biblical figure. He does not even consider the possibility of such an error. (52)

 

*For additional information, source material, and details, please visit:  Reading the Word of God – Introduction 

 

Reading The Word of God – Week 42

 

[Luther] had previously expressed himself in a similar fashion in his sermons on Genesis of the year 1527. In these he said: “I have often said that anyone who wishes to study Holy Scripture shall see to it that he sticks to the simple meaning of the words, as far as possible, and does not depart from them unless he be compelled to do so by some article of the faith that would demand another meaning than the literal one. For we must be sure that there is no plainer speech on earth than that which God has spoken. Therefore, when Moses writes that God in six days created heaven and earth and all that therein is, let it so remain that there were six days, and you dare not find an explanation that six days were one day. Give the Holy Ghost the honor of being wiser that yourself, for you should so deal with Scripture that you believe that God Himself is speaking. Since it is God who is speaking, it is not fitting frivolously to twist His words to mean what you want them to mean, unless necessity should compel a departure from their literal meaning, namely when faith does not permit the literal meaning.” (51)

 

*For additional information, source material, and details, please visit:  Reading the Word of God – Introduction 

 

Reading The Word of God – Week 41

 

Even in the introduction [to his lectures on Galatians delivered between 1535 and 1545] Luther discussed how the six days of creation are to be understood. He recalls that Hilary and Augustine, these two great lights of the church, were of the opinion that the world was created suddenly and not gradually in the course of six days. Then he opposes this view and writes: “Because we are not sufficiently able to understand how these days occurred nor why God wished to observe such distinctions of times, we shall rather admit our ignorance than attempt to twist the words unnecessarily into an unnatural meaning. As far, therefore, as St. Augustine’s opinion is concerned, we hold that Moses spoke literally not allegorically or figuratively, that is, the world and all its creatures was created within the six days as the words declare. Because we are not able to comprehend we shall remain disciples and leave the instructorship to the Holy Ghost.” (51)

 

*For additional information, source material, and details, please visit:  Reading the Word of God – Introduction 

 

Reading The Word of God – Week 40

 

In the passage cited above, that is taken from the Exposition of the First and Second Chapter of John, 1537 and 1538, there is the statement: “But these are questions that remain questions which I will not solve and that do not give me much concern, only there are people so sly and keen that they raise all kinds of questions for which they want to have answers. If one, however, has a correct understanding of Scripture and possesses the true statement of our faith that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has su ered and died for us, it will not be a serious defect if we are not able to answer them.” And following this: “When discrepancies occur in Holy Scripture (namely concerning such chronological questions as these: how many years Jesus taught openly, how the account of the Temple cleansing in John agrees with Matthew, and similar questions) and
we cannot harmonize them, let it pass, it does not endanger the article of the Christian faith.” In these statements Luther does not say that it is a matter of indi erence to him whether they contain errors or not but only that his faith would not be endangered, if, in spite of his best efforts, he would be unable
to solve the apparent contradictions or to prove the inconsequence of all skeptical questions. He dismisses the matter if he cannot prove it conclusively, but his inability to do so neither commits him to the opinion that these passages really contain error, nor is his faith in salvation thereby imperiled. (49–50)

 

*For additional information, source material, and details, please visit:  Reading the Word of God – Introduction 

 

Reading The Word of God – Week 39

 

In his Exposition of the Prophet Zechariah, of 1527, in the explanation of the passage 11:12 ., Luther raises the question, “Why does Matthew (27:9) attribute the text of the thirty pieces of silver to the prophet Jeremiah when it appears here in Zechariah?” He answers: “It is true, this and similar questions do not mean much to me since they are of no particular profit, and Matthew has done enough when he has cited a genuine text even if he does not have the correct name, just as in other places he cites texts but does not give them in the exact words of Scripture; we can pass that by, and it does no harm that he does not use the exact words, for the sense has been preserved, and so here, what does it matter if he does not give the name exactly, because more depends on the words than on the name. And that is the manner of all apostles who do the same thing, citing the statements of Scripture without such meticulous care concerning the text. Wherefore it would be much harder to question their procedure than to question Matthew here about the name of Jeremiah. Let anyone who loves idle questions ask on. He will find more to question than he can answer.” (49)

*For additional information, source material, and details, please visit:  Reading the Word of God – Introduction 

 

Reading The Word of God – Week 38

 

Here we might add what Luther said in 1528 in his Vom Abendmahl Christi, Bekenntnis … “So we must say that Matthew and Mark have placed after the New Supper what took place after the old Supper and is to be located there. For they were not greatly concerned about the order but were satisfied if they wrote history and truth. Luke, however, who wrote after them, states that the reason for his writing was that many others had written such accounts without regard to the order of events, and that he, therefore, had resolved to write them in proper order.” (47–48)

*For additional information, source material, and details, please visit:  Reading the Word of God – Introduction 

 

Reading The Word of God – Week 37

 

[Luther continues in his exposition of John chapters 1 and 2]: “But we have to reckon, as all the histories do, that Christ was baptized in the thirtieth year of His life, that He began to preach a er His baptism and preached for three full years. e remaining time that followed the third year and was the beginning of the fourth, beginning with either the Festival of the Circumcision or Epiphany Day and continuing until Easter (which can be reckoned as almost a half year), He continued to preach, because He preached three and a half years (though it fell a little short of that time). So it could easily have been that when Christ was thirty years old and after He had been baptized, that in the first year of His activity and at the first Easter [Passover] of that period He did this, but it is a matter of no importance. When discrepancies occur in the Holy Scriptures and we cannot harmonize them, let it pass, it does not endanger the article of the Christian faith, because all the evangelists agree in this that Christ died for our sins. As for the rest, concerning His acts and miracles they observe no particular order, because they often place what took place later at an earlier date.” (46)

*For additional information, source material, and details, please visit:  Reading the Word of God – Introduction 

 

Reading The Word of God – Week 36

 

In his exposition of the rst and the second chapters of St. John, which was written during 1537 and 1538, Luther discusses the questions as to how this account of the cleansing of the Temple is related to that given by the Synoptists. He says: “The first question is as to how the two evangelists, Matthew and John, agree with each other; for Matthew states that it happened on Palm Sunday when the Lord entered Jerusalem, while here in John it is placed some- where in the Easter [Passover] season, soon after the baptism of Christ, just as the miracle in which Christ turned water into wine took place about Easter, after which He journeyed to Capernaum. For He was baptized at Epiphany and he may easily have tarried a short time in Capernaum until Easter and began to preach and did what John here narrates about Easter. But these are questions that remain questions which I will not solve and that do not give me much concern, only there are people so sly and keen that they raise all kinds of questions for which they want to have answers. If one, however, has a correct understanding of Scripture and possesses the true statement of our faith that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has suffered and died for us, it will not be a serious defect if we are not able to answer them. The evangelists do not observe the same order, and what one places first another on occasion places last, just as Mark places the account of this event on the day following Palm Sunday. It is quite possible that the Lord did this more than once, and that John describes the first time and Matthew the second. Let that be as it may, it was before or after; it happened once or twice, in no case does it detract anything from our faith.” (45–46)

*For additional information, source material, and details, please visit:  Reading the Word of God – Introduction 

 

Reading The Word of God – Week 35

 

Luther was not unaware of the difficulties that arise when parallel passages in the Gospels are compared with each other. So in the Lenten Postil, of 1525, he discusses the order of time in the three temptations of our Lord. He makes this statement: “The order in which these temptations came to Christ cannot be determined with certainty, for the evangelists do not agree. What Matthew places in the middle, Luke places at the end, and what he places in the middle, Matthew places at the end, as though he  placed little importance on the order. If we want to preach about it or discuss it, the order of Luke would be the best, for it makes a fine sequence that the devil first attacks through need and misfortune and, when this does not bring results, follows with fortune and honor. Finally, when this is all in vain, he strikes out with all force with errors, lies, and other spiritual deceits. But because they do not occur thus in our daily experience, but, as it happens, a Christian is tempted now with the last, now with the first, Matthew did not pay much attention to the order, as would be fitting for a preacher. And perhaps Christ was so tempted during the forty days that the devil did not observe any particular order but came today with the one temptation, tomorrow with the other, after ten days again with the first and so on as it happened to take place.” (45)

*For additional information, source material, and details, please visit:  Reading the Word of God – Introduction 

 

Reading The Word of God – Week 34

 

In his Enarratio Capitis Noni Esaiae, of 1543-44 (printed 1546), [Luther] confesses: “ I am much displeased with myself and I hate myself because I know that all that Scripture says concerning Christ is true, that there is nothing besides it that can be greater, more important, sweeter or joyful, and that it should intoxicate me with the highest joy because I see that Scripture is consonant in all and through all and agrees with itself in such a measure that it is impossible to doubt the truth and certainty of such a weighty matter in any detail—and yet I am hindered by the malice of my esh and I am ‘bound by the law of sin’ that I cannot let this favor permeate into all my limbs and bones and even into my marrow as I should like.”

On January 17, 1546, Luther preached his last sermon in Wittenberg. It is necessary to read that sermon, in which he speaks more disparagingly of reason than ever before, to see how at the very end of his life he clung to the literalness of Scripture as the only authority in matters of faith. (37)

*For additional information, source material, and details, please visit:  Reading the Word of God – Introduction