CSC: WELS Topical Q&A: Martin Luther: Luther: Martin Luther - Luther (02)
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Q:How did Luther decide which early Christian writings were the inspired Word of God (to be included in the Bible) and which writings were not inspired?

A:Luther's basic criterion for the canonicity of New Testament books was that of the ancient church (first four centuries). IS THIS BOOK APOSTOLIC? That is, 1. Did an apostle write this? 2. Did a close associate (e.g., Mark, Luke) of an apostle write this? This is why he "weighed" Hebrews for a long time. He was unsure of its authorship. He did not discard the book or think little of its content. He did, however, think it must be regarded as not in the first line of authoritative books. 3. The third measure of apostolicity--weightier in Luther's thinking than in that of many early fathers: Does this agree with the other apostolic writings? This is why he "downgraded" James, because it did not seem to agree with Paul and because it preached more law than Christ. Again, he did not discard it from the canon. (He knew that one man alone should not make such decisions).

One Old Testament book with which Luther struggled was Esther. So did the rabbis at various times. To this writing (as he really did with all writings) he applied the test: "Does it urge Christ"? His answer was, "Yes, because it tells the story of the survival of the people from whom Christ came."

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