Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther?

By COGwriter

Most of our Protestant friends believe that since the rallying cry of the Protestant reformation was Sola Scriptura, that Martin Luther and other Protestant leaders actually based their doctrines on the Bible alone.

Did Martin Luther prefer Sola Scriptura or his own views?

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).]

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:

…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).

Martin Luther 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.

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.

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 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.

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).

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).

Because of this view, he and his followers condemned those with in the Church of God views in the 16th century. Like the Roman Catholics, Martin Luther and his followers decided against teaching that there would be a reign of Christ on the earth. Instead they condemned it.

“Article XVII: Of Christ’s Return to Judgment. Also they teach that at the Consummation of the World Christ will appear for judgment and will raise up all the dead; He will give to the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but ungodly men and the devils He will condemn to be tormented without end. They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils. They condemn also others who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed.” (The Confession of Faith: Which Was Submitted to His Imperial Majesty Charles V. At the Diet of Augsburg in the Year 1530. by Philip Melanchthon, 1497-1560. Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau. Published in: Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, pp. 37-95.)

It should be noted that some of those called Anabaptists were in the Church of God (please see the article The Sardis Church Era).  

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 did not care for several books in the Old Testament either.

More information can be found in the articles:

Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible? Though he is known for his public sola Scriptura teaching, Martin Luther’s writings about the Bible suggest he felt that prima Luther was his ultimate authority.

The Similarities and Dissimilarities between Martin Luther and Herbert W. Armstrong This article clearly shows some of the doctrinal differences between in the two. At this time of doctrinal variety and a tendency by many to accept certain aspects of Protestantism, the article should help clarify why the COG is NOT Protestant.

Hope of Salvation: How the COGs differ from most Protestants How the COGs differ from mainstream Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a COG background.

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