Every now and then, in reading publications that deny the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture, we find Luther’s evaluation of the Bible quoted as the manger or cradle of Christ in the sense that Luther, highly esteeming the Christ of Scripture, regarded less highly the Scriptures setting forth Christ. They may also add that according to Luther the words and stories of the Bible are unpretentious swaddling clothes, while only Christ, who is the treasure that lies within, is precious. This interpretation of Luther’s statement calls for examination.


Luther’s evaluation of the Bible as the cradle and swaddling clothes of Christ occurs as a climax in the third paragraph of his “Preface to the Old Testament,” which appeared in 1523 and then again in 1545 in the last edition of the Bible which he edited. In this Preface he entreats Bible students to study the Old Testament diligently as Christ himself commands us in John 5:39. So also Paul used the Old Testament to prove from it Christ’s atoning death and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3), and Peter referred to it frequently. Luther expresses his deep regret that so many persons in his day were spurning the Old Testament as though it were written only for the Jews, and holding that they could rest satisfied with the New. That is the gist of the first paragraph of Luther’s Preface. Properly speaking, Luther had been serving as professor of Old Testament at the divinity school of the University of Wittenberg. While he interpreted also books of the New Testament, his specialty was expounding the Old Testament to his students from the viewpoint of the coming Christ.

In the second paragraph of his Preface, Luther urges his readers to study the Old Testament because ...

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