The question of biblical interpretation has returned to the centre of theological discussion today. Hermeneutics is no longer relegated to a backroom. It is one of the most prominent preoccupations of the present hour. And in this renascence the name of Martin Luther is much mentioned, for it is being recognized afresh that in a very real sense he is the father of Protestant interpretation. His influence has been widespread and profound. As Professor Kurt Aland has reminded us in a lecture delivered recently at the St. Andrews School of Theology in Scotland, Luther’s interpretation of Scripture has not only left its mark on the theologians and churches of the Lutheran confession for more than four centuries, but is of no less decisive importance for all Protestant communions. In considering Luther’s principles of biblical hermeneutics we are handling one of the vital issues of the hour.
The Bible, of course, was central in the reforming policy of Luther. “As a theologian,” wrote Professor Henry E. Jacobs, “Luther’s chief effort, on the negative side, was to free theology from its bondage to philosophy, and to return to the simplicity of Scripture. He was dissatisfied with technical theological terms because of their inadequacy, even when the elements of truth they contained restrained him from abandoning them. He was not without a historical sense and a reverence for antiquity, provided that it was subjected to the tests of Holy Scripture. Scripture was not to be interpreted by the Fathers, but the Fathers were to be judged by their agreement or disagreement with Scripture” (Article ‘Luther’ in E.R.E. Vol. VIII, p. 201).
We need not traverse yet again the familiar ground of Luther’s rediscovery of the Bible ...1
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