Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?

By COGwriter

Most people realize that the genuine true Church of God cannot be part of the Roman Catholic Church. However, some do not realize that the genuine Church of God is not part of the Protestant reformation movement led by Martin Luther (our history predates Luther, and the actual Roman Catholic Church for that matter, please see the History of Early Christianity).

Regarding the Bible, those in the real Church of God believe that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and, and is profitable for doctrine" (II Timothy 3:16, NKJV throughout unless otherwise stated).

Did Martin Luther agree?

Martin Luther publicly taught that only the Bible should be used as doctrine. One of the rallying cries of his movement was sola Scriptura (translated in English as 'the Bible alone'). This is one of the major positions that many professing Protestants respect Martin Luther for.

Although Martin Luther stated that he looked upon the Bible "as if God Himself spoke therein" he also stated,

My word is the word of Christ; my mouth is the mouth of Christ" (O'Hare PF. The Facts About Luther, 1916--1987 reprint ed., pp. 203-204).

[Specifically, what Martin Luther wrote in German was ""Ich bin sehr gewiss, dass mein Wort nitt mein, sondern Christus Wort sei, so muss mein Mund auch des sein, des Wort er redet" (Luther, 682) - also translated as "I am confident that it is not my word, but Christ's word, so my mouth is His who utters the words"(God's words - the violence of representation. Universitatea din Bucuresti, 2002., September 25, 2003).]

Did Martin Luther really revere and believe the Bible more than his own opinions? This article will quote Martin Luther extensively to assist the reader in answering that question.

Martin Luther Added to the Book of Romans

The Bible, in Romans 3:28, states,

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

Martin Luther, in his German translation of the Bible, specifically added the word "allein" (English 'alone') to Romans 3:28-a word that is not in the original Greek. Notice what Protestant scholars have admitted:

...Martin Luther would once again emphasize...that we are "justified by faith alone", apart from the works of the Law" (Rom. 3:28), adding the German word allein ("alone") in his translation of the Greek text. There is certainly a trace of Marcion in Luther's move (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 64-65).

Marcion? Marcion was a second century apostate that was denounced by Polycarp of Smyrna. Here is something about Marcion:

Marcion ... even went so far as to rewrite Matthew 5:17, where Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Think not that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to destroy them but to fulfill them.” Marcion turned it around and said that Jesus’ actual words were “Think not that I have come to fulfill the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to fulfill them but to destroy them.” Further, he took some of Paul’s epistles and some sections of the book of Luke and edited them to eliminate any connection with Judaism or the Old Testament. As a result of his actions, church leaders finally branded him a heretic and excommunicated him. (Garr J. Is Christianity Off Base? Vision magazine, Fall 2004. viewed 08/29/13)

More on Marcion can be found in the article Marcion: The First Protestant?

Furthermore, getting back to Martin Luther, he, himself, reportedly said:

You tell me what a great fuss the Papists are making because the word alone in not in the text of Paul…say right out to him: 'Dr. Martin Luther will have it so,'…I will have it so, and I order it to be so, and my will is reason enough. I know very well that the word 'alone' is not in the Latin or the Greek text (Stoddard J. Rebuilding a Lost Faith. 1922, pp. 101-102; see also Luther M. Amic. Discussion, 1, 127).

This passage strongly suggests that Martin Luther viewed his opinions, and not the actual Bible as the primary authority--a concept which this author will name prima Luther. By "papists" he is condemning Roman Catholics, but is needs to be understood that Protestant scholars (like HOJ Brown) also realize that Martin Luther changed that scripture.

Perhaps it should also be noted that Martin Luther also claimed that the word for "alone" was needed for a translation into the German language, but that is really only true if one feels that the word alone must be added (according to one person I consulted with who studied German). The truth is that Martin Luther intentionally added a word and many sadly relied on it.

A second rallying cry for followers of Martin Luther was the expression sola fide (faith alone). But it appears that Martin Luther may have intentionally mistranslated Romans 3:28 for the pretence of supposedly having supposed scriptural justification for his sola fide doctrine.

He also made another change in Romans. Romans 4:15 states,

...because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.

Yet in his German translation, Martin Luther added the word 'only' before the term 'wrath' to Romans 4:15 (O'Hare, p. 201).

This presumably was to attempt to justify his position to discredit the law.

Martin Luther Made At Least One Other Intentional Mistranslation

Martin Luther has also been charged with intentionally mistranslating Matthew 3:2, Acts 19:18, and many other scriptures (ibid, p. 200).

Matthew 3:2 states,

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"

Martin Luther, in his German translation, according to at least one Catholic source, changed the word 'repent' to 'mend' or 'do better' (ibid, p. 201), presumably to justify his position that one does not need to obey God's laws through repentance. Others disagree on that point and indicate that the German term chosen can or should be translated as repent.

Yet, irrespective of the translation (as I do not know enough German to have a strong opinion), Martin Luther did not seem to teach strong real repentance as he taught,

Be a sinner, and sin boldly, but believe more boldly still. Sin shall not drag us away from Him, even should we commit fornication or murder thousands and thousands of times a day (Luther, M. Letter of August 1, 1521 as quoted in Stoddard, p.93).

Martin Luther seemed to overlook what the Book of Hebrews taught:

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries (Hebrews 10:26-27).

The Bible, in Acts 19:18, states,

"And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds..."

Yet according to one source, Martin Luther rendered it, "they acknowledged the miracles of the Apostles" (O'Hare, p. 201).

There are several possible reasons why Martin Luther intentionally mistranslated Acts 19:18, but the point on this article is to show that he did.

Another point to be made is that by making mistranslations of the Bible, Protestants have given Catholics reasons to ignore them (cf. 2 Peter 2:1-3). Here is what one Catholic priest has written:

The proponents of Protestantism made false translations of the Bible and misled people into their errors by apparently proving from the "Bible" (their own translations) the correctness of their doctrines. It was all deceit, lying and hypocrisy. (Kramer H.B. L. The Book of Destiny.  Nihil Obstat: J.S. Considine, O.P., Censor Deputatus.  Imprimatur: +Joseph M. Mueller, Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, January 26, 1956.  Reprint TAN Books, Rockford (IL), p. 224).

Perhaps I should add that many important Protestant-accepted doctrines would have been understood as false if later Protestant translators also would not have made their own intentional mistranslations of other parts of the Bible, especially in the New Testament. Yet, many who profess sola Scriptura even in the 21st century do not know that some of what they have relied on has been intentionally mistranslated.

Martin Luther Preferred to Change John 1:14

Martin Luther also taught,

And John 1 says: "The Word was made flesh," when in our judgment it would have been better said, "The Word was incarnate," or "made fleshly" (Disputation On the Divinity and Humanity of Christ February 27, 1540 conducted by Dr. Martin Luther, 1483-1546 translated from the Latin text WA 39/2, pp. 92-121 by Christopher B. Brown).

This was apparently done to justify his belief that Jesus was fully God and fully human while on the earth.

As Martin Luther correctly pointed out, John 1:14 states that "the Word was made flesh", yet John 1:14, combined with Philippians 2:6-7 show that Jesus 'emptied Himself' (the proper Greek translation; see Green JP. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, 3rd ed., 1996, p. 607) of His divinity while on the earth.

If not, He could not have been tempted as we are, which He was,

"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" Hebrews 4:15-16).

This is discussed more in the article on Binitarianism.

Martin Luther Stated Jesus Meant the Opposite of What He Said

The Bible, in Luke 10:28, states,

"And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live" (KJV).

Yet Martin Luther taught,

To do means to believe-to keep the law by faith. The passage in Matthew: Do this and thou shalt live, signifies Believe this and thou shalt live. The words Do this, have ironical sense, as if our Lord should say: Thou wilt do it tomorrow, but not today; only make an attempt to keep the Commandments, and the trial will teach thee the ignominy of thy failure (O'Hare, p.205).

Although Martin Luther mentioned Matthew's account (which is in Matthew 19:16-21), the quote in question is actually from Luke 10:28. It is because of such misinterpretations of what the Bible states that many Protestants have tossed out the necessity to keep the ten commandments, even though scholars agree that they were kept by the early Christians (please see the article The Ten Commandments and the Early Church).

Martin Luther's comments clearly suggest that he felt that Jesus meant the opposite of what He said in Matthew 19:16,

"But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments".

Two articles of related interest may include What Did Jesus Teach About the Ten Commandments? and Hope of Salvation: How the Genuine Church of God differ from most Protestants

Martin Luther Taught Certain Books of the Bible Were Questionable

Martin Luther had different views of various books of the Bible. Specifically, he had a fairly low view of the Books of Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation.

The Catholic Encyclopedia claims:

As for Protestantism, the Anglicans and Calvinists always kept the entire New Testament But for over a century the followers of Luther excluded Hebrews, James, Jude, and Apocalypse (Reid, George J. Transcribed by Ernie Stefanik Canon of the New Testament. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Martin Luther himself was the obvious reason why, as he wrote,

Up to this point we have had the true and certain chief books of the New Testament. The four which follow have from ancient times had a different reputation. In the first place, the fact that Hebrews is not an epistle of St. Paul, or of any other apostle (Luther, M. Prefaces to the Epistle of the Hebrews, 1546).

Regarding the New Testament Book of Hebrews Martin Luther stated,

It need not surprise one to find here bits of wood, hay, and straw (O'Hare, p. 203).

He also wrote,

St. James' epistle is really an epistle of straw…for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it" (Luther, M. Preface to the New Testament, 1546).


In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works…Besides, he throws things together so chaotically that it seems to me he must have been some good, pious man, who took a few sayings from the disciples of the apostles and thus tossed them off on paper. Or it may perhaps have been written by someone on the basis of his preaching (Luther, M. Preface to the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, 1546).

Interestingly the Epistle of James is the only place in the Bible to actually use the term 'faith alone':

You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone (James 2:24).

One would have to assume that the fact that James 2:24 contradicted Martin Luther's sola fide teaching would have been a major reason that he discounted this book of the Bible.

Protestant scholars have recognized that Martin Luther handled James poorly as they have written:

The great reformer Martin Luther...never felt good about the Epistle of James...Luther went to far when he put James in the appendix to the New Testament.

(Radmacher E.D. general editor. The Nelson Study Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1997, p. 2107)

Martin Luther taught,

Concerning the epistle of St. Jude, no one can deny that it is an extract or copy of St. Peter's second epistle…Therefore, although I value this book, it is an epistle that need not be counted among the chief books which are supposed to lay the foundations of faith (Luther, M. Preface to the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, 1546).

To me, Jude does not sound that similar to 2 Peter, but if even it is, should it be discounted? Maybe Martin Luther discounted it because it warns people: contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

And this, sadly, is not something that Martin Luther really did (though he did sometimes make some efforts towards that).

Perhaps none of Martin Luther's writings on the Bible are as harsh as what he wrote about "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:1). Specifically he wrote,

About this book of the Revelation of John...I miss more than one thing in this book, and it makes me consider it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic…I can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it. Moreover he seems to me to be going much too far when he commends his own book so highly-indeed, more than any of the other sacred books do, though they are much more important-and threatens that if anyone takes away anything from it, God will take away from him, etc. Again, they are supposed to be blessed who keep what is written in this book; and yet no one knows what that is, to say nothing of keeping it. This is just the same as if we did not have the book at all. And there are many far better books available for us to keep…My spirit cannot accommodate itself to this book. For me this is reason enough not to think highly of it: Christ is neither taught nor known in it" (Luther, M. Preface to the Revelation of St. John, 1522).

Martin Luther's preterist learnings are dangerous for those living in the 21st century (see The Dangerous Rise of Preterists; there is also a related sermon video is titled Preterism: You've Gotta Be Kidding...Right?).

Another reason Martin Luther may not have been able to accommodate this Revelation of Jesus Christ is because he clearly violated this warning,

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Revelation 22:18-19).

Martin Luther took away from this book through his comments about it, and this is the same Martin Luther who (as shown previously in this article) added words to the Bible that were not there.

Martin Luther's Comments on Books of the Old Testament Show A Hate for Things Jewish

As the following quotes show, Martin Luther did not care for several books in the Old Testament either:

"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."…

"Ecclesiastes ought to have been more complete. There is too much incoherent matter in it...Solomon did not, therefore, write 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..."

"The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible." (as quoted in O'Hare, p. 202).

Furthermore, Martin Luther had little use for the first five books of the Old Testament (sometimes referred to as the Pentateuch):

Of the Pentateuch he says: "We have no wish either to see or hear Moses" (Ibid, p. 202).

Martin Luther hated the Jews, which may be why he was against Esther, the first five books of the Bible, and other parts of the Hebrew scriptures.

Notice that Martin Luther advised his followers, burn down Jewish schools and synagogues, and to throw pitch and sulphur into the flames; to destroy their homes; to confiscate their ready money in gold and silver; to take from them their sacred books, even the whole Bible; and if that did not help matters, to hunt them of the country like mad dogs (Luther’s Works, vol. Xx, pp. 2230-2632 as quoted in Stoddard JL. Rebuilding a Lost Faith, 1922, p.99).

Accordingly, it must and dare not be considered a trifling matter but a most serious one to seek counsel against this and to save our souls from the Jews, that is, from the devil and from eternal death. My advice, as I said earlier, is: First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss in sulphur and pitch (Martin Luther (1483-1546): On the Jews and Their Lies, 1543 as quoted from Luther's Works, Volume 47: The Christian in Society IV, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971). pp 268­293).

More on Martin Luther and the Jews (as well as some of his other doctrinal positions) can be found in the article The Similarities and Dissimilarities between Martin Luther and Herbert W. Armstrong.

Martin Luther Claimed that John Was the Only True Gospel

Martin Luther had problems with prophetic passages with the gospels. Here is some of what Martin Luther taught about Matthew 24:

1. In this chapter there is a description of the end of two kingdoms; of the kingdom of the Jews, and also of the kingdom of the world. But the two Evangelists, Matthew and Mark, unite the two--and do not follow the order as Luke did, for they have nothing more in view than to relate and give the words of Christ, and are not concerned about what was said either before or after. But Luke takes special pains to write clearly and in the true order, and relates this discourse twice; first briefly in the 19th chapter, where he speaks of the destruction of the Jews at Jerusalem; afterwards in the 21st chapter he speaks of both, one following the other.

2. Notice therefore that Matthew unites the two and at the same time conceives the end, both of the Jewish nation and of the world. He therefore cooks both into one soup. But if you want to understand it, you must separate and put each by itself, that which really treats of the Jews, and that which relates to the whole world. This we wish to do now.

3. Notice, first, how Christ prophecies in this chapter concerning the final destruction of the Jewish nation, which the Jews did not at all believe, even though they had been clearly told through great signs and words, the promises of God which he made to the fathers, like unto which had happened to no other people upon the earth. For this reason they strongly insisted and depended upon it, thought it will continue forever, as they think even at the present time; that their kingdom is not destroyed but has only disbanded a little and shall be reestablished. They cannot get it out of their minds that they are not completely ruined.

4. For this reason God announced besides his miracles with clear and plain prophesies that their kingdom shall have an end and that God had abolished the external reign of the law, meats, offerings, etc., and would establish another which shall endure forever, as the angel announced to the virgin concerning Christ, as recorded in Luke 1, 33. "And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."

5. Among the various passages which treat of the end of Judaism there is especially one that is introduced by Christ, namely: the prophet Daniel, 9, 25f., speaks of the terrible abomination, standing where he ought not, when he says concerning the Jewish nation, "Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and three-score and two weeks," that makes together seventy weeks or 490 years, "And after the three-score and two weeks, shall the anointed one be cut off, and shall have nothing: and the people of the Prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined. And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate."

6. The Prophet Daniel desired to know the definite time when this should come to pass, but he could not learn it, and although the angel pointed out a definite time, it was nevertheless too dark for the prophet to understand, hence he said before: But at last, at the last time, you shall see everything, that is, your prophecy, that is to be revealed to you, shall transpire at the end of time. For when Christ sent out the Gospel through the ministry of himself and of the Apostles, it lasted three or three and a half years, that it almost amounts to the calculation of Daniel, namely the 490 years. Hence he also says, Christ shall take a half a week, in which the daily offerings shall cease; that is, the priesthood and reign of the Jews shall have an end; which all took place in the three and a half years in which Christ preached, and was almost completed in four years after Christ, in which the Gospel prospered the most, especially in Palestine through the Apostles (that when they opened their mouth, the Holy Ghost fell as it were, from heaven, as we see in the Acts of the Apostles), so that a whole week, or seven years, established the covenant, as Daniel says; that is, the Gospel was preached to the Jews, of which we spoke before. Now, when the time came that a new message or sermon began, there must also begin a new kingdom, that is, where Christ rules spiritually in our hearts through the Word and faith. If this is now to continue, then the other must be set aside and has no more authority and must cease. This is the part of the prophecy of the prophets, which Christ is explaining.

7. The other treats of the abomination of desolation. Here Christ now says, When ye shall see this one standing in the temple, then take heed (he wants to say) for that is a sure sign from Daniel's prophecy that his kingdom is now at an end; and do not let yourselves be deceived because the Jews and weak Christians think that it shall never be destroyed.

8. But the abomination of which Daniel writes is that the Emperor Cajus, as history tells, had put his image in the temple at Jerusalem as an idol, for the people to worship, after everything there had been destroyed. For the Scriptures call idolatry really an abomination, because God abhors and abominates it, inasmuch as he is the enemy of no sin so much as of this. The others he does truly punish, but he does not cast the people away if they repent, as he says in Psalm 89, 31- 34: "If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. But my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips." But this sin, called idolatry, which is really unbelief and denial of God, which he cannot at all endure, condemns man completely. For where this remains in the heart of man, so that he teaches and believes correctly, indicates that our works are nothing, and that we shall be acceptable to God and serve him aright alone through faith, then there will be a truly godly character; there light and truth abide. Although along side of faith there runs a sense of the weakness of the flesh. It is not an abomination before God, but only a daily sin that God will punish unto repentance; yet he keeps the people, spares them and forgives them, when the people turn to him and learn to acknowledge his goodness. On the other hand, where this faith and doctrine do not exist, everything is lost; for it is impossible for man not to establish for himself a false worship and choose his own opinion and work, and worship it, so that he really denies God and his Word, and God is entirely turned aside; so that his grace cannot operate. Such abomination is generally the most beautiful and the greatest holiness in the eyes of the world, which outwardly appears in beautiful works and customs; but inwardly is full of filthiness, as we can see at the present day in our orders and church services where they are at their best. However there are again some Christians who are not like these in their works and ways; but are truly holy before God.

9, Now Christ says, when the abomination, that is, this idol, shall stand in the temple, the kingdom shall finally be made desolate and destroyed, so that it can never be rebuilt again, as Luke expresses it clearly in these words, 21, 20f: "But when ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that our desolation is at hand. Then let them that are in Judea flee unto the mountains; and let them that are in the midst of her depart out; and let not them that are in the country enter therein. For these are days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." And further, "Woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! And pray ye that your flight may be not in the winter, neither on a Sabbath: for then shall be great tribulation, such as had not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be."

10. All this pertains still to the Jewish nation. For if this should come upon us at the end of the world, then would we, according to the text, have to be in the land of Judea, because he really points to that country. It is also true, when he says that no greater calamity has been or can be upon the earth than was at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem; as we see in history, how unmercifully they were slaughtered and even killed one another, cast themselves into the fire, and permitted themselves to kill one another. Yea, the famine was so great that they ate the strings of cross-bows and even their own children. It was so shameful and abominable that like pity and distress shall never be heard again. (Luther M. Church Postil. It was first published in 1525. In Volume V:364-378 of The Sermons of Martin Luther, published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI, 1983). It was originally published in 1905 in English by Lutherans in All Lands (Minneapolis, MN), as The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther, vol. 14. )

I should add that I disagree with Martin Luther on many points, but right here would add that I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT MATTHEW AND MARK GOT THE ORDER WRONG. But I do believe THAT A STATEMENT IN LUKE 21 WAS MISUNDERSTOOD (for details, see Persecutions by Church and State).

Although Martin Luther decried John for penning the Revelation of Jesus Christ, he did like John. According to Martin Luther,

The first three speak of the works of our Lord, rather than His oral teachings; that of St. John is the only sympathetic, the only true Gospel and should undoubtedly be preferred above the others. In like manner the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Paul are superior to the first three Gospels (O'Hare, p. 203).

Martin Luther's position on this, and some of his other matters, appear to be blasphemous and in contraction to 2 Timothy 3:16. It was Jesus' oral teachings, in Matthew 24, for example, that Martin Luther disagreed with.

Martin Luther was essentially a preterist, which is in biblical error (see The Dangerous Rise of Preterists; there is also a related sermon video is titled Preterism: You've Gotta Be Kidding...Right?).

Martin Luther' German Translation of the Bible

Perhaps it should be mentioned, that while some have credited Martin Luther with being the first person to translate the Bible into German, this was not the case.

The first translation of the Bible into Teutonic (old German) was apparently by Raban Maur, who was born in 776 (O'Hare, p.183). Actually, by 1522 (the year Martin Luther's translation came out) there were at least 14 versions of the Bible in High German and 3 in Low German (ibid).

However, it is true that Martin Luther's translation, became more commonly available, and possibly more understandable (in a sense)--even though it did include his intentional translating errors.

Martin Luther Preferred to Change a Commandment

Martin Luther seemed to believe that the Sabbath command had to do with learning about God's word, as opposed to rest, as he wrote about it,

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it (Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation. Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 1986, p. 10).

"We sin against the Third Commandment when we despise preaching and the Word of God...What does God require of us in the Third Commandment? A. We should hold preaching and the Word of God sacred" (Ibid, p. 68).

The Lutheran Confessions admit:

As we study Luther's expositions of the Decalog, or the Ten Commandments, we find that he does not quote the Third Commandment in its Old Testament form: 'Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy', but rather in the spirit of the New Testament: 'Thou shalt sanctify the holy day' (Mueller, John Theodore. The Lutheran Confessions. Circa 1953, p.10).

In another place, Martin Luther wrote,

Now follows the Third Commandment: "Thou shalt hallow the day of rest." (Luther, M. A treatise on Good Works together with the Letter of Dedication, published 1520. In Works of Martin Luther. Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et Al., Trans. & Eds. Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915, Vol. 1, pp. 173-285).

It should be noted that Lutherans (and Roman Catholics) consider the Sabbath to be the Third, not Fourth, Commandment. The order that Martin Luther chose to accept was an order changed by Augustine (please see the article Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Church of God?) and not the order from the Bible or that as understood by the early Church (please see the article The Ten Commandments and the Early Church). Sadly, Martin Luther often accept Roman Catholic changes instead of believing what the Bible actually taught (and of course, he came up with other teachings that neither the Bible nor the Roman Church supported).

Few realize that Martin Luther's other compromise with the Sabbath--deciding it was Sunday--was a major factor in many in the Church of Rome denouncing his movement. This proved to them that Martin Luther DID NOT BELIEVE IN SOLA SCRIPTURA. The Catholic Mirror ran a series of articles about that over a century ago callled The Christian Sabbath. Those who want to learn more on that should read it: The Christian Sabbath.

Martin Luther's compromise with non-biblical tradition still affects the Protestant movement today.

Martin Luther Preferred to Teach Doctrines That Did Not Have Proper Scriptural Support

Martin Luther apparently decided that he could not understand God, but that he should teach the unbiblical doctrine of the trinity. Notice what one Protestant scholar wrote:

For Luther, as for the German mystics, God is Deus absconditus, the "hidden God," inaccessible to human reason...

By emphasizing the sole authority of Scripture and downgrading the work of the church fathers and the decisions of the ecumenical councils, Luther created a problem for his followers. One the one hand, Luther wanted to affirm traditional theology with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity and Christ, but on the other those doctrines are not explicit in Scripture. They are the product of church fathers and the councils (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 314).

It should be noted here that NONE of the so-called "church fathers" prior to the end of the second century espoused any trinitarian position (more can be found in the article Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?).

A French Protestant named Rabaud declared,

Luther has no fixed theory of inspiration: if all his works suppose the inspiration of the Sacred Writings, all his conduct shows that he makes himself the supreme judge of it (Rabaud, Histoire de la doctrine de l inspriaation dans les pays de langue francaise depuis la Reforme jusqu a nos jours Paris, 1883, p.42 as quoted in O'Hare, p. 203).

Thus even Protestant scholars realize that Martin Luther considered Prima Luther to be of more importance than Sola Scriptura--those interested in doing God's will should heed the Bible, and most should read the article The Bible and Tradition.

Notice the following from a Protestant scholar who supported Martin Luther:

Although classical theology is certainly not without its problems, historically it is almost always the case that the appeal to the Bible alone…leads to the reemergence of ancient heresies…The Reformation began with the slogan “To the sources!” and sought to deal a fatal blow to the place of church tradition in shaping life and faith…Despite their efforts not to be influenced by the authority of tradition, each of the major Reformation churches found itself borrowing from the past and building up a traditionalism of its own…when the Anabaptists and other radicals discovered Scripture to be teaching things the Lutherans found detestable, Lutherans learned the usefulness of tradition…(Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 335,350-351).

It should be noted that the above is not limited to one Protestant scholar, Martin Luther truly did not believe in rallying cry sola scriptura and even discounted several books of the Bible (an article of related interest may be Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?). (The Anabaptists are mentioned in the article on the Sardis Church era).

The reality is the fact that Protestants, Orthodox, and Roman Catholics accept tradition, they call many biblical practices that were enjoined upon and practiced by the early New Testament church, heresies. But if practices were original and based upon the Bible, can they logically be called heresies?

Are not the heretics, those that changed the teachings of the Bible in favor of traditions of men?

A major problem with the Protestant Reformation was that Martin Luther would not rely on the Bible for many doctrines, and would not “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Martin Luther held many doctrinal positions that did not have biblical support, though he had some as well that did (please see the documented article The Similarities and Dissimilarities between Martin Luther and Herbert W. Armstrong.

Martin Luther Declared That Part of Three Days Equaled Three Days and Three Nights

The Catholic-supporting Augustine declared through an odd calculation that three days and three nights equaled thirty-six hours as ratios of twelve came to thirty-six (please see the article What Happened in the Crucifixion Week?).

Martin Luther, who had been a Roman Catholic, also did not accept that Jesus was in the grave for three days and three nights as he wrote,

How can we say that he rose on the third day, since he lay in the grave only one day and two nights? According to the Jewish calculation it was only a day and a half; how shall we then persist in believing there were three days? To this we reply that be was in the state of death for at least a part of all three days. For he died at about two o'clock on Friday and consequently was dead for about two hours on the first day. After that night he lay in the grave all day, which is the true Sabbath. On the third day, which we commemorate now, he rose from the dead and so remained in the state of death a part of this day, just as if we say that something occurred on Easter-day, although it happens in the evening, only a portion of the day. In this sense Paul and the Evangelists say that be rose on the third day (Luther M. Of Christ's Resurrection from volume II:238-247 of The Sermons of Martin Luther, published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI). It was originally published in 1906 in English by Lutherans in All Lands Press (Minneapolis, MN), as The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther, vol. 11).

However, Jesus clearly said He would be in the grave for three days AND three nights and this would be the sign religious leaders should pay attention to:

An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:39-40).

Jesus being the Messiah was to be proven by Him being three days and three nights in the heart of the earth like Jonah was in the belly of the great fish.

Should we believe the Bible or human tradition? Does anyone really believe that ratios of 12 are how Jesus expected His words to be understood?

Notice what the Book of Jonah states:

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17).

Does any one really feel that Jonah was only in the belly of the fish for less than three days and three nights?

(Most Protestant commentators hedge on this and claim that parts of days is acceptable so 49 hours is possible--see The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press. Of course the problem with this is that even with 49 hours, it is not possible that Jesus was buried before sunset, about 6:00pm, on Friday and rose prior to sunrise, about 6:00am, on Sunday as that only adds up to 36 hours. Furthermore, if one takes the fact that Jesus died about 3:00 pm, as opposed to the time He was buried, that only makes 39 hours. Hence there is no way that any who actually believes the scriptures over personal interpretation can agree with Martin Luther.)

Sunday Proves Lack of Protestant Sola Scriptura

Protestants might be surprised to learn that it was partially because they endorsed Sunday that the Church of Rome condemned them for their hypocrisy related to their CLAIM of sola Scriptura.

Notice the following report:

Pharisees of old kept the true Sabbath, our modern Pharisees, counting on the credulity and simplicity of their dupes, have never once in their lives kept the true Sabbath which their divine Master kept to His dying day, and which His apostles kept, after His example, for thirty years afterward, according to the Sacred Record.

This most glaring contradiction, involving a deliberate sacrilegious rejection of a most positive precept, is presented to us today in the action of the Biblical Christian world. The Bible and the Sabbath constitute the watchword of Protestantism; but we have demonstrated that it is the Bible against their Sabbath. We have shown that no greater contradiction ever existed than their theory and practice. We have proved that neither their Biblical ancestors nor themselves have ever kept one Sabbath day in their lives. The Israelites and Seventh-day Adventists are witnesses of their weekly desecration of the day named by God so repeatedly, and whilst they have ignored and condemned their teacher, the Bible, they have adopted a day kept by the Catholic Church. What Protestant can, after perusing these articles, with a clear conscience, continue to disobey the command of God, enjoining Saturday to be kept, which command his teacher, the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, records as the will of God?

The history of the world cannot present a more stupid, self-stultifying specimen of dereliction of principle than this. The teacher demands emphatically in every page that the law of the Sabbath be observed every week, by all recognizing it as "the only infallible teacher," whilst the disciples of that teacher have not once for over three hundred years observed the divine precept! That immense concourse of Biblical Christians, the Methodists, have declared that the Sabbath has never been abrogated, whilst the followers of the Church of England, together with her daughter, the [pg. 9] Episcopal Church of the United States, are committed by the twentieth article of religion, already quoted, to the ordinance that the Church cannot lawfully ordain anything "contrary to God's written word." God's written word enjoins His worship to be observed on Saturday absolutely, repeatedly, and most emphatically, with a most positive threat of death to him who disobeys. All the Biblical sects occupy the same self-stultifying position which no explanation can modify, much less justify.

How truly do the words of the Holy Spirit apply to this deplorable situation! "Iniquitas mentita est sibi" — "Iniquity hath lied to itself." Proposing to follow the Bible only as teacher, yet before the world, the sole teacher is ignominiously thrust aside, and the teaching and practice of the Catholic Church — "the mother of abomination," when it suits their purpose so to designate her — adopted, despite the most terrible threats pronounced by God Himself against those who disobey the command, "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath."
Before closing this series of articles, we beg to call the attention of our readers once more to our caption, introductory of each; viz., 1st—The Christian Sabbath, the genuine offspring of the union of the Holy Spirit with the Catholic Church His spouse. 2nd—The claim of Protestantism to any part therein proved to be groundless, self-contradictory, and suicidal.

The first proposition needs little proof. The Catholic Church for over one thousand years before the existence of a Protestant, by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday. We say by virtue of her divine mission, because He who called Himself the "Lord of the Sabbath," endowed her with His own power to teach, "he that heareth you, heareth Me;" commanded all who believe in Him to hear her, under penalty of being placed with "heathen and publican;" and promised to be with her to the end of the world. She holds her charter as teacher from Him — a charter as infallible as perpetual. The Protestant world at its birth found the Christian Sabbath too strongly entrenched to run counter to its existence; it was therefore placed under the necessity of acquiescing in the arrangement, thus implying the Church's right to change the day, for over three hundred years. The Christian Sabbath is therefore to this day, the acknowledged offspring of the Catholic Church as spouse of the Holy Ghost, without a word of remonstrance from the Protestant world.

Let us now, however, take a glance at our second proposition, with the Bible alone as the teacher and guide in faith and morals. This teacher most emphatically forbids any change in the day for paramount reasons. The command calls for a "perpetual covenant." The day commanded to be kept by the teacher has never once been kept, thereby developing an apostasy from an assumedly fixed principle, as self-contradictory, self-stultifying, and consequently as suicidal as it is within the power of language to express. Nor are the limits of demoralization yet reached. Far from it. Their pretense for leaving the bosom of the Catholic Church was for apostasy from the truth as taught in the written word. They adopted the written word as their sole teacher, which they had no sooner done than they abandoned it promptly, as these articles have abundantly proved; and by a perversity as willful as erroneous, they accept the teaching of the Catholic Church in direct opposition to the plain, unvaried, and constant teaching of their sole teacher in the most essential doctrine of their religion, thereby emphasizing the situation in what may be aptly designated "a mockery, a delusion, and a snare." (Catholic Mirror on the Christian Sabbath., 1893)

Catholic scholars know that Sunday is NOT the biblical day of rest. In the late 19th century, they published a series of articles demonstrating that the biblical Sabbath was Saturday, but that the Protestants would not heed that, but instead accepted Rome's traditon of Sunday. Those articles are in the Catholic Mirror on the Christian Sabbath.

Protestants may be surprised to learn that it was their choosing of Sunday that got Rome to more fully reject sola Scriptura, but instead choose tradition over scripture (see also Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings).

The following is from a Seventh-day Adventist writer:

[ADVENTIST EDITORS' NOTE. — It was upon this very point that the Reformation was condemned by the Council of Trent. The Reformers had constantly charged, as here stated, that the Catholic Church had "apostatized from the truth as contained in the written word. "The written word,"

"The Bible and the Bible only," "Thus saith the Lord," these were their constant watchwords; and "the Scripture, as in the written word, the sole standard of appeal," this was the proclaimed platform of the Reformation and of Protestantism. "The Scripture and tradition." The Bible as interpreted by the Church and according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers," this was the position and claim of the Catholic Church. This was the main issue in the Council of Trent, which was called especially to consider the questions that had been raised and forced upon the attention of Europe by the Reformers. The very first question concerning faith that was considered by the council was the question involved in this issue. There was a strong party even of the Catholics within the council who were in favor of abandoning tradition and adopting the Scriptures only, as the standard of authority. This view was so decidedly held in the debates in the council that the pope's legates actually wrote to him that there was "a strong tendency to set aside tradition altogether and to make Scripture the sole standard of appeal." But to do this would manifestly be to go a long way toward justifying the claims of the Protestants. By this crisis there was developed upon the ultra-Catholic portion of the council the task of convincing the others that "Scripture and tradition" were the only sure ground to stand upon. If this could be done, the council could be carried to issue a decree condemning the Reformation, otherwise not. The question was debated day after day, until the council was fairly brought to a standstill. Finally, after a long and intensive mental strain, the Archbishop of Reggio came into the council with substantially the following argument to the party who held for Scripture alone:

"The Protestants claim to stand upon the written word only. They profess to hold the Scripture alone as the standard of faith. They justify their revolt by the plea that the Church has apostatized from the written word and follows tradition. Now the Protestants claim, that they stand upon the written word only, is not true. Their profession of holding the Scripture alone as the standard of faith, is false. PROOF: The written word explicitly enjoins the observance of the seventh day as the Sabbath. They do not observe the seventh day, but reject it. If they do truly hold the scripture alone as their standard, they would be observing the seventh day as is enjoined in the Scripture throughout. Yet they not only reject the observance of the Sabbath enjoined in the written word, but they have adopted and do practice the observance of Sunday, for which they have only the tradition of the Church. Consequently the claim of 'Scripture alone as the standard,' fails; and the doctrine of 'Scripture and tradition' as essential, is fully established, the Protestants themselves being judges."

   [The Archbishop of Reggio (Gaspar [Ricciulli] de Fosso) made his speech at the last opening session of Trent, (17th Session) reconvened under a new pope (Pius IV), on the 18th of January, 1562 after having been suspended in 1552. — J. H. Holtzman, Canon and Tradition, published in Ludwigsburg, Germany, in 1859, page 263, and Archbishop of Reggio's address in the 17th session of the Council of Trent, Jan. 18, 1562, in Mansi SC, Vol. 33, cols. 529, 530. Latin.]

   There was no getting around this, for the Protestants' own statement of faith — the Augsburg Confession, 1530 — had clearly admitted that "the observation of the Lord's day" had been appointed by "the Church" only.

[Article XXVIII: Of Ecclesiastical Power.   33. They refer to the Sabbath-day as having been changed into the Lord's Day, contrary to the Decalog, as it seems. Neither is there any example whereof they make more than concerning the changing of the Sabbath-day. Great, say they, is the power of the Church, since it has dispensed with one of the Ten Commandments! ]

   The argument was hailed in the council as of Inspiration only; the party for "Scripture alone," surrendered; and the council at once unanimously condemned Protestantism and the whole Reformation as only an unwarranted revolt from the communion and authority of the Catholic Church; and proceeded, April 8, 1546, "to the promulgation of two decrees, the first of which, enacts under anathema, that Scripture and tradition are to be received and venerated equally, and that the deutero-canonical [the apocryphal] books are part of the canon of Scripture. The second decree declares the Vulgate to be the sole authentic and standard Latin version, and gives it such authority as to supersede the original texts; forbids the interpretation of Scripture contrary to the sense received by the Church, 'or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers,'" etc. (7)

This was the inconsistency of the Protestant practice with the Protestant profession that gave to the Catholic Church her long-sought and anxiously desired ground upon which to condemn Protestantism and the whole Reformation movement as only a selfishly ambitious rebellion against the Church authority. And in this vital controversy the key, the chiefest and culminative expression, of the Protestant inconsistency was in the rejection of the Sabbath of the Lord, the seventh day, enjoined in the Scriptures, and the adoption and observance of the Sunday as enjoined by the Catholic Church.
And this is today the position of the respective parties to this controversy. Today, as this document shows, this is the vital issue upon which the Catholic Church arraigns Protestantism, and upon which she condemns the course of popular Protestantism as being "indefensible", self-contradictory, and suicidal." What will these Protestants, what will this Protestantism, do?]

(7) See the proceedings of the Council; Augsburg Confession; and Encyclopaedia Britannica, article "Trent, Council of." — The original Editor's note was apparently written by G. E. Fifield, as an article of his titled The Sabbath, the Fathers, and the Reformation, presenting the same information, appeared later in Signs of the Times, Vol. 25, No. 47, Nov. 22, 1899, pgs. 6-7.

Protestant compromises on sola Scriptura in order to accept tradition are well known (holidays--see also Should You Observe God's Holy Days or Demonic Holidays-- and views on salvation--see also Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis-- are some subjects that come immediately to mind.). This is a big reason why Protestantism most certainly is NOT representative of biblical Christianity.

Early Christians were NOT Protestant and they did keep the seventh-day Sabbath. Martin Luther and his followers compromised.

Much more on the Sabbath is in the article The Sabbath in the Early Church and Abroad.


This author cannot agree with Martin Luther's assessment of the books of the Bible, nor Martin Luther's personal changes.

It appears that Martin Luther truly preferred the concept of prima Luther (the primacy of Luther) and not sola Scriptura when it came to doctrine.

Those of us in the true Church of God believe that all 66 books of the Bible are inspired and profitable for doctrine (II Timothy 3:16). Because we also believe that we are not allowed to add or subtract from the Bible (see Revelation 22:18-19), we cannot follow the teachings of Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther—who changed or diminished the importance of at least 18 of them (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Esther, Job, Ecclesiastes, Jonah, Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation).   

For more information on how the Church of God differs from Protestantism, please read the article, Hope of Salvation: How the Genuine Church of God differs from most Protestants. To understand the the relationship between the Bible and tradition, please read Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings.

For specific information regarding the teachings of Martin Luther, please see the article The Similarities and Dissimilarities between Martin Luther and Herbert Armstrong.

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Thiel B., Ph.D. Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible? (c) 2003/2006/2007/2008/2009/2011/2013/2014/2015/2017/2018 0221