THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE
AND OF THE CREEDS
INTENSIVE study of Luther's theology is particularly rewarding because of his originality. The voice with which Luther speaks to us is unmistakably his own. Luther however did not intend to say anything particularly original. He felt he was commissioned only to explicate rightly the truth contained in the Holy Scriptures and the dogma of the orthodox church. All of his theological work presupposes the authority of Scripture and the derived authority of the genuine tradition of the church.
We shall begin at this point: All Luther's theological thinking presupposes the authority of Scripture. His theology is nothing more than an attempt to interpret the Scripture. Its form is basically exegesis. He is no “systematician” in the scholastic sense, and he is no dogmatician—either in the sense of the great medieval systems or in the sense of modern theology. He wrote neither a dogmatics, nor an ethics, nor a Summa: he never produced anything like Melanchthon's analyses of individual doctrines (loci theologici) or Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Luther was professor of biblical exegesis at the University of Wittenberg. The major part of his literary work consists accordingly of exegetical lectures on the Old and New Testaments. Some he edited himself; some were edited by others. Together with these lectures stand the sermons. Again, some were prepared for publication by Luther himself; others were taken down and published by his students. In these sermons we again hear Luther explicating biblical material. His larger and smaller topical writings too are saturated with quotations from Scripture and are largely exegetical in character. Luther also prepared theses for his students to defend in the open disputations that were part of the examinations for the theological degrees; and although he tried to