Academic journal article Lutheran Theological Journal

Editorial

Academic journal article Lutheran Theological Journal

Editorial

Article excerpt

It is difficult to miss the note of regret that is sounded in Maurice Schild's perceptive and challenging essay on Luther's Bible Prefaces. Maurice claims that the omission of the Prefaces from the Luther Bible within a century of the Reformer's death has denied them their proper place within the Lutheran world ever since. Published mostly as a separate volume at a far remove from their native habitat, the Prefaces have been robbed of their intended effect. Embedded initially within the pages of the Luther Bible, Luther wanted them to engage the laity in a lively conversation with the Bible's clear central message, the good news of Christ crucified, overcoming the gap between clergy and laity and dispelling the perception that the Bible was too hard for the laity to understand. In their true Sitz im Leben the Prefaces would provide readers with a ready summation of Luther's theology, equal to its presentation in his hymns and catechisms. But far more, the Prefaces would have given more than simply the first generations of readers alone the interpretative lens that clearly distinguishes Luther's hermeneutics from those of far too many who later make claim to being the true heirs of the Réformation. In this issue of LTJ, with two further essays on Luther and the Bible and two outside the theme, it is fitting to consider afresh the chief entry point into Luther's understanding of the Bible, the much neglected prefatory material which he interspersed throughout his translation of the Bible. With our gaze fixed where Luther insisted it be fixed, who knows how many of the countless struggles over biblical authority within the world-wide church, let alone the Lutheran church, could have been assessed within a far more constructive hermeneutic?

Lamenting the failure of those who planned the Luther Decade (2008-2017) to set aside a year with a specific focus on Luther and the Bible, John Maxfield spells out in unmistakable terms that it was nothing but constant engagement with the Bible on the part of Luther and his fellow reformers that led to the Reformation. It was not their scrupulous consciences afflicted by the penitential practices of the late Mediaeval church, leading to a supposedly jaundiced view of Paul's teaching of justification. It was not the new insights made possible by advances in the study of Hebrew philology in the sixteenth century. Rather, it was Luther's regular immersion in the biblical text that gave rise to his discovery of the gospel, his understanding of justification, his hermeneutical insight into the proper distinction between law and gospel, and his appreciation of the essential clarity and unity of the Bible as the inspired word and will of God. The Bible is not a product of the evolving religious insight of ancient Israel culminating in the supposedly anti-Jewish polemic of the New Testament-a view that Maxfield finds in much current biblical scholarship-but the living word of God, which is properly expounded only as it is proclaimed in the church and before the world today. Delightfully, Maxfield includes a lengthy admonition by Luther to those who aspire to the vocation of Christian teachers and preachers. In short, such would-be teachers should return constantly to the sources (ad fontes), and lead their followers to those sources, the prophets and apostles through whom the Holy Spirit sowed 'the seeds of divine wisdom', which cannot be apprehended by reason or human nature unless truly endowed with the Holy Spirit. …

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