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Martin Luther’s Comments on the Canon of the Bible

Luther on the Canon of the New Testament

In 1522 Martin Luther wrote a German Translation of the New Testament. He wrote a preface to the epistles. However, he placed four New Testament Books, Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation in a separate index in the back of his translation. He separated them from the rest just as he had done with the Deuterocanonical books (called Apocryphal by Protestants) of the Old Testament Canon.  Below are quotations of Martin Luther taken from the following book:

“Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings”
translated by Ph.D. John Dillenburger, president of Graduate Theological Union in Berekeley. He also taught at Princeton, Columbia and Harvard.......Yes, he is a qualified PROTESTANT source.

“Although it would be possible to SAVE the epistle by a gloss giving it a correct explanation of Justification here ascribed to works, it is impossible to deny that it does refer Moses word in Genesis 15 (which speaks not of Abraham's works but of his faith , just as Paul makes plain in Romans 4) to Abraham's works. This defect proves that the epistle is not of Apostolic provenance.”
Luther, Preface to the Epistle of St. James, German Translation of Bible, 1522

“In sum, he wished to guard against those who depended on faith without going on to works, but he [St. James]  had neither the spirit nor the thought nor the eloquence equal to the task.” 
Luther, 1522, preface of James

He does violence to Scripture and so contradicts Paul and all scripture.
Luther, 1522 German Translation, Preface to James

I therefore refuse him [James] a place among the writers of the true canon of my bible
Luther, 1522 Translation, Preface to James

Hence, although I value the book, yet it is NOT essential to reckon it among the canonical books that lay the foundation of faith.”
Luther, 1522 German Translation, Preface to Jude

 Comparing the Epistles of Paul to the Romans and to Galatians with the Epistle of James, Luther states:

In comparision with these, the Epistle of James is an Epistle full of straw.”
Luther, German Translation of the Bible, 1522, preface to Romans


 On the Book of Revelation :

“Everyone may form his own judgement of this book; as for myself, I feel an aversion to it, and to me this is sufficient reason for rejecting it
Luther, Collected Works, 63, 169-170

 Another source on the Book of Revelation:
“ … to my mind it bears upon it no marks of an apostolic or prophetic character... 
Everyone may form his own judgment of this book; as for myself, I feel an aversion to it, and to me this is sufficient reason for rejecting it.”

(Sammtliche Werke,  63, pp. 169-170, “The Facts About Luther,” O'Hare, TAN Books, 1987, p. 203.)


Quotes from the book entitled,
“The Facts About Luther” by Msgr. Patrick F. O'Hare, LL.D.

Even of the books Luther retained in the Bible, he gave some rather harsh judgments.


Of the Pentateuch he says:
"We have no wish either to see or hear Moses.'...

' Job spoke not as it stands written in his book, but only had such thoughts. It is merely the argument of a fable. It is probable that Solomon wrote and made this book.'

The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe. I am such an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it did not exist, for it Judaizes too much and has in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness.' '

The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible.'  (P. 202)

' Of very little worth is the book of Baruch, whoever the worthy Baruch may be.' ...”


Luther biographer Hartmann Grisar, S.J. (author of a massive six-volume biography), writes:

“His criticism of the Bible proceeds along entirely subjective and arbitrary lines. The value of the sacred writings is measured by the rule of his own doctrine. He treats the venerable canon of Scripture with a liberty which annihilates all certitude. For, while this list has the highest guarantee of sacred tradition and the backing of the Church, Luther makes religious sentiment the criterion by which to decide which books belong to the Bible, which are doubtful, and which are to be excluded. At the same time he practically abandons the concept of inspiration, for he says nothing of a special illuminative activity of God in connection with the writers’ composition of the Sacred Book, notwithstanding that he holds the Bible to be the Word of God because its authors were sent by God . . . . .”  

See Google Books : Bible Conversations: Catholic-Protestant Dialogues on the Bible, Tradition ...  By Dave Armstrong



Now, compare Martin Luther’s position on the Sacred Scriptures of the Bible with the Catholic Church’s position :

Catechism of the Catholic Church  :  136
“God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; he acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach without error his saving truth (cf DV 11).”   136








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Sections :

1.  Deuterocanonical books - what they are
2.  Saint Jerome  updated !
3.  Jews
4.  Encyclopaedia Britannica
5.  Origen
6.  Justin the Martyr
7.  New Catholic Encyclopedia
8.  Protestants
9.  Martin Luther
10.  Protestant scholars
11.  Allusions in the New  Testament to the Deuterocanonical   "apocrypha"   books
12.  True Prophecy in the Deuterocanonical Books
13.  How To Read the Fathers on the Canon.  Easy  guide!

14.  Catholic German Language Bibles Before Luther with Deuterocanonical Bks
15. Bible Canon Uncertainties if No Infallible Church
16. Did Jesus ever quote any OT books that Protestants don’t “believe in”?
17. Canon of the Bible : Determining its Certainty
18.  Did original King James Version of 1611 contain these 7 Books  “So called Apocryphal” by the Protestants, but usually called Deuterocanonical Books by Catholics ?
19.  Bible Codex Amiatinus AD 713 contained the Deuterocanonical Books






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