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date: 23 April 2019

Martin Luther in Modern New Testament Scholarship

Summary and Keywords

Martin Luther is intimately interwoven with the history of New Testament scholarship. Histories of modern biblical interpretation often begin their treatment with Luther and other Reformation currents, suggesting a direct genealogical relationship between the Reformer and modern criticism. Indeed, Luther’s frank criticism of the theological utility of certain books in the New Testament—James, Hebrews, Revelation—were to prove a warrant for the later development of historical critical approaches to Scripture that would also entail judgements about the authenticity of biblical texts. Later scholars increasingly came to use historical, philological criteria rather than material, theological criteria to reach these judgements, but they relied on the possibility Luther established of criticizing sacred scripture while remaining within the institutional church, even if certain tensions with ecclesiastical authorities were inevitable.

In the 20th century, the decisive influence of Luther can be found on a series of influential New Testament scholars and their interpretative efforts. To consider only an exemplary few—Rudolf Bultmann, Gerhard Ebeling, Ernst Käsemann, and Martin Hengel—one can begin to grasp the enormity of the Reformer’s imprint on modern New Testament scholarship, due in part to the outsize influence of the German Lutheran theological academy on the development of the discipline.

In recent decades, Luther has been invoked above all in the lively debates surrounding the so-called “New Perspective on Paul,” and the question of whether Luther fundamentally misconstrued the Pauline message by unconsciously conforming it to his own experience of and reaction against late medieval Catholicism. While Luther has often been asked to shoulder the blame for a host of exegetical problems in this regard, more sophisticated recent approaches have allowed him to be an interpreter in his own right, with justified contemporary concerns that motivate his actualizing exegesis of Paul.

In the end, with the turn toward reception history and the reinvigorated retrieval of the theological tradition in contemporary biblical scholarship, more of Luther within New Testament study is likely to be seen in the years ahead.

Keywords: Martin Luther, New Testament, historical criticism, New Perspective on Paul, justification, Rudolf Bultmann, Gerhard Ebeling, Ernst Käsemann, Martin Hengel, reception history

Martin Luther is a Janus-faced character in modern critical scholarship on the New Testament. On the one hand, he is lauded as one who restored serious attention to the New Testament as an authoritative source of constructive theological reflection, and also authorized in some sense a critical historical approach to the Bible that could view the individual documents in Scripture on their own differentiated terms rather than merely flattening them out into a homogeneous deposit of revelation. On the other hand, he has been painted as villainously, or at least misguidedly, steering Pauline scholarship off course by projecting his conflict with late medieval Catholicism back onto the 1st century conflict between Paul and his Jewish contemporaries. Recent scholarship has begun to move beyond the simplistic dualism suggested by this double-sided reception by allowing that Luther is a complex figure who made use of Paul for his own ends but also might continue to serve as a provocative and fecund interpreter of Paul and the New Testament as a whole.

Luther and the Impetus for Historical Criticism

The precise origins and intellectual genealogies of biblical historical criticism are debated, and stretch complexly into the early modern or late medieval periods. The influence of late medieval nominalism, the humanist philological tradition, debates over Scripture in the context of the Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and nascent secularization have all been cited as decisive spurs to the development of a self-consciously critical approach to the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Within this tangled web, any suggestion that places the origins of historical criticism at the feet of one solitary figure is unlikely to command assent. Nevertheless, within the broader horizon of shifting stances toward the interpretation of Scripture, and in certain ways as a reaction to them, Luther offered a distinctive impetus to a self-consciously independent and critical approach to the authority of Scripture.

In his famous “Preface to the New Testament” (1522), Luther asked the question, “Which are the true and noblest books of the New Testament?” Rather than treating the New Testament as an undifferentiated deposit of divine revelation, Luther admitted of variation among the books: “John’s Gospel and St. Paul’s epistles, especially that to the Romans, and St. Peter’s first epistle are the true kernel and marrow of all the books. They ought properly to be the foremost books, and it would be advisable for every Christian to read them first and most, and by daily reading to make them as much his own as his daily bread.”1 Luther then goes on to draw an unflattering comparison with the Epistle of James: “Therefore St. James’ epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it.”2 And elsewhere he comments on James similarly, as in his 1520 remark that “many assert with much probability that this epistle is not by James the apostle, and that it is not worthy of an apostolic spirit.”3 Or again, he points out that James disagrees with Paul’s view of justification and also lacks other essential Christian teaching.4 Luther also made similarly critical comments about Hebrews, Jude, and Revelation.5 As W. G. Kümmel remarks, “In this way attention was drawn for the first time to the fact that within the New Testament there are material differences between the books of instruction—differences that cannot be reconciled—and as a consequence it became possible to observe the multiplicity of the ways of thinking and the historical genesis of the world of thought of the New Testament.”6

The judgement that the authority and interpretation of Scripture rest not on some merely formal criterion of apostolic authorship, but on the material criterion of the gospel is a consequential one. On the one hand, Luther, together with other major figures in the Protestant Reformation, can insist on the principle of sola scriptura, as opposed to perceived subjugation of scriptural interpretation to magisterial teaching or late medieval tradition. In this sense, it is correct to suggest that it is “in the wake of his principle of sola scriptura that a genuinely modern hermeneutics gradually developed.”7 On the other hand, Luther’s sense of the variegated contours of the scriptural witness enable him to privilege certain moments or themes in the Bible over others. Above all, the gospel and “was Christum treibet” (what advances or promotes Christ) are to be privileged above other elements. Oswald Bayer is thus correct to suggest that, for Luther, “the evangelical understanding of the center point of Scripture determines how to understand scriptural authority at all.”8

Because Luther articulated a theological account that authorized potentially critical judgements on the authenticity or importance of canonical texts, this became a key impetus to the development of historical criticism that enables it to arise within the Christian church, rather than arising from a hostile intellectual climate that stands opposed to the church. It is no accident, then, that the tradition of historical criticism first becomes solidly ensconced in a major church within Lutheranism, and particularly from the 18th century onward it is major figures such as J. S. Semler (1725–1791) and F. C. Baur (1792–1860) who articulate, precisely as Lutheran theologians, a critical approach to biblical interpretation.

Semler, though far from uncritical of Luther, was a lifelong student of the Reformer, and continued his legacy, against certain forms of Lutheran Orthodoxy, in notable ways. He drew inspiration from Luther’s formulation of the principle of sola scriptura as a critical axiom and criticized the doctrinal systems of the orthodox for failing to do justice to the complexity of Scripture. And in his pioneering investigations of the historical basis for the canon, he drew inspiration from Luther’s view of the canon as a human achievement rather than divinely sanctioned. As Gottfried Hornig suggests, “Semler ascribes great worth to the conclusion that Luther and the time of the Reformation viewed the canon as still a work of the church, that it owed its existence to a ius humanum and therefore that its extent can also be altered.”9

In the decades following Semler’s death, the Tübingen theologian Ferdinand Christian Baur pointed to the Reformation as “the epoch of growing critical consciousness,” when the Protestant principle of the “autonomy of the self-conscious subject” was established.10 In particular, he notes that Luther’s judgements about the authenticity or canonicity of certain writings “attest above all an independence in his judgment, as is first and foremost necessary for the critic, to care nothing for the authority of conventional opinion and to pursue, to the contrary, his own view of the matter.”11 Notable is Baur’s view that the essential principle of Protestantism is not a certain doctrinal view—of Christ, of Scripture, of the gospel—but rather a stance of autonomy or criticism. In this way, Luther becomes a sort of authorizing predecessor of Baur’s own critical research, which was much more radical in its conclusions than that of his predecessors.

Luther was clearly not arguing for a dogmatically denuded, virginal approach to Scripture, free of any theological commitments and purely historical in intention, even if in some academic circles it is this image of an “unfettered” scholarship that prevails. But he did elevate the study of Scripture to a crucial role, and the Lutheran tradition that followed in his wake retained a commitment to the importance of scriptural study that ultimately, when wedded with the German university system in the 19th century, gave rise to an enduring academic legacy. Schweitzer exaggerated when he claimed that “only in the German temperament can there be found in the same perfection the living complex of conditions and factors—of philosophical thought, critical acumen, historical insight, and religious feeling—without which no deep theology is possible,”12 but he is not wrong in pointing out that historical criticism found its earliest flourishing in German academic theological circles, not least because of Luther’s ultimate influence.

Luther’s Influence on 20th-Century New Testament Scholarship

While it is clear that Luther exercised a notable influence on 19th-century theologians such as Martin Kähler and Albrecht Ritschl,13 who, in turn, influenced the development of New Testament scholarship, it is particularly in the light of the Luther renaissance associated with Karl Holl in the early 20th century, and especially in the development of dialectical theology in the wake of World War I that Luther again comes to prominence in New Testament study.

Rudolf Bultmann, above all, in his theologically serious historical work on the New Testament, evinced a sophisticated reception and repristination of some of the Reformer’s key positions. Although trained in the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule, and indebted to comparative methods of philological scholarship, Bultmann retained his sense of the religious and theological significance of the New Testament itself, and returned again and again to those themes—ranging from his repeated Auseinandersetzungen with Karl Barth in the 1920s to his controversial proposals about demythologization in the 1940s and 1950s and his towering Theology of the New Testament. As Bultmann’s biographer points out, in the decisive period of the formation of his own Pauline exegesis, Bultmann held seminars on “Luther’s Interpretation of Galatians” (1927) and “Luther’s Exposition of Romans” (1930).14 Bultmann’s theology was far from a straightforward repetition of Luther’s theology, but he drew inspiration from Luther’s insistence on the hic et nunc of the gospel’s address, the way in which the Bible could be understood to bear God’s call to the human subject and so called for an existential decision in responsive faith.15 Unlike Barth, but inspired by Luther, Bultmann insisted on the necessity of Sachkritik, the criticism of wording of individual passages in the New Testament by means of the larger theological content (Sache) to which they bore witness.16

Bultmann was always wary of attempts to prop up faith by means of historical certainties, as he indicated in the preface to his 1926 book, Jesus. But this concern came to fruition above all in his demythologizing program, so often misunderstood as an attempt to truncate the gospel in order to accommodate modern sensibilities, rather than, as Bultmann intended it, a hermeneutical inquiry into the deep meaning of the New Testament itself and its normative claims on the reader. Many of Bultmann’s Lutheran contemporaries criticized him for his suggestion that the Bible needed to be demythologized,17 but he defended the practice by invoking Luther’s understanding of justification by faith:

Indeed, de-mythologizing is the radical application of the doctrine of justification by faith to the sphere of knowledge and thought. Like the doctrine of justification, de-mythologizing destroys every longing for security. There is no difference between security based on good works and security built on objectifying knowledge.18

But this appeal to Luther’s doctrine of justification also exposes a darker legacy of the Reformer: a negative characterization of Judaism (or those metaphorical Jews who wish to secure certainty by good works or objectifying knowledge). Luther’s anti-Semitism and theological anti-Judaism are well known;19 it would be inaccurate to suggest that those views exercised a direct influence on the 20th-century exegetical tradition, when they are mediated through time, and ungenerous to suggest that Bultmann was anti-Semitic. Nevertheless, we find in Bultmann a view of Judaism in the 1st century as legalistic and obsessed with earning God’s favor, a view that the vast majority of scholars would now reject. For example, when he suggests that for the Jew in the 1st century, “the whole range of man’s relation with God came to be thought of in terms of merit, including faith itself,”20 this seems closer to a theological construction from the Lutheran tradition than to a dispassionate reflection of the historical evidence.

In the generation of scholars that followed Bultmann, several figures stand out as significant examples of scholars of the New Testament who also bore a noticeable debt to Luther. Perhaps the one who best combined an expertise in Luther with an impact on New Testament scholarship was Gerhard Ebeling, who for some time directed the publication of Luther’s works. Ebeling published constructive investigations of Luther’s own exegesis, and in turn used that exegesis to resource contemporary hermeneutical endeavor. He became well known, together with Ernst Fuchs, for his existentializing of Lutheran theology, calculated for response. He stressed the event character of interpretation, in which, for example, the parables of Jesus might surprise and arrest the hearer anew, and so call for an engaged response.21

Bultmann’s famous student Ernst Käsemann shared with his teacher a rigorous commitment to historical work informed and motivated by robust theological concern. Although Luther is generally mentioned sparingly in Käsemann’s work, David Way is correct in suggesting that it is the Reformer’s “theology and interpretation of Paul which determine Käsemann’s position most fundamentally.”22 In particular, Käsemann inherits from Luther a strong emphasis on justification by faith—understood at its most paradoxical as the justification of the ungodly (cf. Rom. 4:5)—as the touchstone of the gospel. Suggesting that the First Commandment laid on humanity an obligation to avoid idolatry and honor the one Lord of all the world, rather than the many lords with their multiplicity of demands, or even the petty tyrant of the self, Käsemann shared with Luther and Paul the sense that the human person is always in a state of servitude, and that the only path to true freedom was to become a servant of Christ, and so of the neighbor. Later in his life, after his daughter was murdered in 1977 by Argentinian military forces, Käsemann became increasingly political with this message:

If the heart of the gospel, already contained in the First Commandment and concretized in the NT [sic], is that Christ is for us the true Lord of the world, then the gospel cannot proceed without political judgments within its proclamation. Lordship over body and soul, heart and mind, disciples and demons, this world and the world to come is a political fact.23

In certain ways, Käsemann was resolutely opposed to major trends in New Testament scholarship in the 20th century—for example, he rebelled against Bultmann’s rejection of historical Jesus research, he elevated apocalyptic to an importance for early Christian theology that it had not previously known, and he insisted on the importance of justification when this came into question, as we shall see, in the 1970s and 1980s—and it may be fair to say that because Käsemann breathed the air of the 16th century so richly, he was animated for the controversy that is, as he memorably pronounced, “the breath of life to a German theologian.”24

Finally, the last major German New Testament scholar to be considered here is Martin Hengel. Known for his vast erudition, wide-ranging historical expertise, and punchy independence, Hengel reacted against a prevailing Bultmannian liberalism and reasserted a more traditional approach to theological and historical questions in New Testament scholarship, and so he usefully demonstrates the multifaceted quality of Luther’s reception in modern scholarship. According to his student Jörg Frey, Hengel mentioned Luther (together with Karl Barth) frequently in his lectures,25 and appeals throughout his work to Luther’s translational choices and theological sensibilities. For example, when he summarizes the New Testament’s view of faith, arguing that it is anchored in a reality outside the subjective believer, he quotes Luther’s 1535 Commentary on Galatians: Rapit nos a nobis et ponit nos extra nos (WA 40/I:589).26 He also aligns his own view of Paul with that of Luther:

We should not, however, believe that Pelagius understood Paul better than Augustine or the Occamists better than Luther. The dispute is already old and the arguments that are put forward are often not new. Augustine and Luther remain the greatest and rightfully the most influential interpreters of Paul in the history of the church. Above all this must be said to those exegetes who, without ever actually reading Luther and Augustine, polemize against them both, often in a superficial manner.27

It would be too strong to suggest that Luther simply supplies the theological positions on which Hengel builds, but Hengel does believe that Luther’s view of Paul is substantially correct. This is asserted in conscious opposition to a critique of the Reformer that has dominated his reception since the latter decades of the 20th century.

Disputes over Luther’s Understanding of Paul

So far we have examined the impetus Luther offered to the development of a genuinely critical historical approach to the New Testament and considered his influence on some important New Testament scholars in the 20th century. But it is undoubtedly in the realm of Pauline interpretation that the most dramatic and sustained instance of Luther reception in current scholarly discussion can be found. Here Luther has been blamed and praised, alternately criticized as the founder of a pernicious misunderstanding of Paul and lauded as the clear-sighted visionary who grasped Paul’s concerns profoundly. The debate centers on Paul’s salvific vision, and in particular his stance toward justification and the law, in the context of his contemporary Judaism.

Even if Luther himself did not suggest that justification is the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae,28 it is clear that the forensic elements in Paul’s letters—particularly in Galatians and Romans—loomed large in his theology. For example, in his 1535 Lectures on Galatians, in detailing the “argument” of the Epistle, Luther summed up Paul’s soteriology in this way: “But this most excellent righteousness, the righteousness of faith, which God imputes to us through Christ without works, is neither political nor ceremonial nor legal nor work-righteousness but is quite the opposite; it is a merely passive righteousness.”29 Paul’s concern in Galatians is therefore straightforward: to persuade the Galatians not to adopt any form of striving for active righteousness, particularly in attempting to keep the law, in order to curry favor with God, but rather merely to accept in passive faith the imputation of Christ’s own righteousness as a gift from God. This is the essence of Paul’s gospel, and also explains why his message was a stumbling block to Jews: they erroneously took the law as a means to achieve their own active righteousness and so attempted to please God by their own efforts. Paul’s declaration that God was in Christ justifying the ungodly, apart from any of their own works, was both a message of good news and an axe laid at the root of any human legalism.

Such a position, which could doubtless be further nuanced or qualified, was dominant as an interpretation of Paul’s soteriology for centuries among Protestant interpreters. Even if there were dissidents who spoke of justification as a merely “polemical doctrine” or a “subsidiary crater” on Paul’s more foundational concept of being-in-Christ,30 for most of 19th- and 20th-century Pauline interpretation, this view held. Then, in an essay first published in English in 1963, Krister Stendahl took aim at this view of Paul and its Lutheran roots:

Especially in Protestant Christianity—which, however, at this point has its roots in Augustine and in the piety of the Middle Ages—the Pauline awareness of sin has been interpreted in the light of Luther’s struggle with his conscience. But it is exactly at that point that we can discern the most drastic difference between Luther and Paul, between the 16th and the 1st century, and, perhaps, between Eastern and Western Christianity.31

Rather, than having a conscience tormented by Luther’s question, “How can I find a gracious God?” Paul had a “robust conscience” and had no trouble in fulfilling the law, which after all had made provision for forgiveness through the sacrificial cult.32 Rather, Paul wants to know what happens to the Torah and to the relationship between Jews and Gentiles when the Messiah has come.33

Stendahl’s challenge to Pauline interpretation struck a nerve, but it was E. P. Sanders’s 1977 thorough re-examination of the evidence for the “pattern of religion” in Second Temple Judaism that convinced many that Luther’s Paul made little sense within a 1st-century context.34 Sanders does not often speak of Luther, although at one point he urges that his concept of “forensic” justification is absent in Paul.35 In the years after Sanders’s tome, J. D. G. Dunn pronounced that a “new perspective” on Paul had been born, one that did not depend on Paul confronting a legalistic Judaism invested in its own works-righteousness with an offer of free grace in the act of justification.36 Since the early 1980s, Pauline scholars have been struggling to articulate an interpretation of the Pauline writings that does justice to the new insights about the nature of 1st-century Judaism (almost universally conceded), and this has often entailed pronouncing some judgement on the adequacy of Luther’s reading of Paul.37

Almost from the beginning of the so-called New Perspective on Paul, New Testament scholarship evinced a divide along linguistic lines. In Germany, with its strong Lutheran heritage, scholars criticized the New Perspective and queried the adequacy of its view of Luther.38 In the United Kingdom and the United States, however, the New Perspective tended to be accepted much more readily, apart from confessional circles in which the theological judgements the New Perspective entailed were deemed unacceptable. One suspects that a loyalty to Luther motivated at least some of the resistance to the New Perspective.

In current scholarship, it is common to hear discussion of a “post–New Perspective” view of Paul, in light of the failure of key New Perspective exegetes to offer a plausible exegesis of Paul (and in particular, Paul’s view of life coram Deo).39 For all its gains in historical contextualization, there seems to have been a loss in theological sophistication. At times, the view of Luther seems exaggerated, as for example in Douglas Campbell’s learned but ultimately unpersuasive attack on what he terms “justification theory,” which can only be described as a hyper-Lutheran strawman (the concept is a heuristic abstraction, but still one that Campbell discovers in Luther, even if, in his view, the Reformer was inconsistent in his support for it).40 Scholars of both Luther and the New Testament have defended the Reformer against charges that he somehow missed the heart of Paul’s gospel,41 even if there are clearly elements in Luther’s thought—his construal of Judaism above all—that are today roundly criticized.

We also find a striking congruence in Pauline and Luther studies on the question of participation. Although the idea that Paul’s theology is at its root participationist goes back at least to Deissmann, Wrede, and Schweitzer, it has been championed especially by and since Sanders, having now become a major school of Pauline interpretation—usually when coupled with an emphasis on the apocalyptic elements in Paul’s thought. These new readings of Paul are especially amenable to the so-called Finnish interpretation of Luther and its contention that the centrality of participatory categories in Luther’s thought has long been neglected.42 If it is true that “modern interpreters of Luther have paid considerable attention to the nonforensic and Christ-centered language in the Reformer’s writings,”43 the same may be said equally of the apostle Paul.

If we allow Luther to have his own theological concerns and to approach Paul, not as a historicist exegete avant la lettre whose only concern was to understand Paul in his original context, but as an actualizing interpreter who approached Paul with theological concerns in mind, then we will do more justice to Luther as a reader of the apostle. In fact, in one of the most notable books on Paul in the “post–New Perspective” vein, John Barclay offers a sophisticated reading of Paul’s view of “the gift” in which Martin Luther is the author cited with the greatest frequency (apart, of course, from Paul himself).44 By contending that authors in antiquity and in modernity tend to “perfect” the concept of grace in different directions, Barclay has enabled a complex appreciation of how Luther’s concerns may differ from Paul’s and yet still see how the Reformer’s exegesis arises as a genuine, if contextual, interpretation of Paul.

Conclusion: Luther’s Future in New Testament Studies

Many of Luther’s concrete exegetical decisions beyond those here surveyed have continued to inspire debate and allegiance in the work of New Testament scholarship. The exegetical tradition has always looked to formative figures in the theological tradition to resource its work, and Luther continues to find a place in this retrieval of tradition.45 In fact, given the growing importance of the burgeoning field of reception history within biblical scholarship, the role of Luther in New Testament studies is only likely to increase, and it is hoped that this eventuates in constructive conversation between Luther scholars and New Testament scholars. Those who have devoted time to reading Luther in extenso know the thrill of his engaged commitment to the exegetical task. As J. L. Martyn, himself notable as a theologically sophisticated interpreter of Galatians, once noted:

Numerous students, however, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, find help in Luther’s passionate love affair with Galatians … Luther was captivated by the message of God’s free and powerful grace that he heard in Galatians. With some notable reservations, not least ones related to Luther’s portrait of Judaism, the reformer’s interpretation has happily influenced—to one degree or another—most readings of the letter since his time.46

Luther retains his capacity to inspire, to madden, and to provoke, far beyond traditional denominational boundaries. His reception in modern New Testament scholarship has been tumultuous, but the tenacity of his theological vision suggests he is unlikely to disappear from the discipline any time soon.

Review of the Literature

There has been little work done directly on the image of Luther in New Testament scholarship as a whole, and this is certainly a field in which further research would be beneficial. There have been, however, a number of studies of Luther’s influence on particular figures. Particularly notable is the collection of essays assessing Luther’s reception in Bultmann, edited by Ulrich Körtner, et al. (details in the “Further Reading” list). The most sustained investigations have concerned the appeal to Luther in discussion and debate surrounding the New Perspective on Paul. Westerholm offers a helpful introduction to this debate informed by a sophisticated understanding of Luther, and the volume edited by Bachmann offers a useful collection of German voices on the New Perspective. Perhaps the most extensive treatment of Luther’s own exegesis of Paul, together with some discussion of his modern reception, is the substantial study by Stolle.

Further Reading

Bachmann, Michael, ed. Lutherische und Neue Paulusperspektive: Beiträge zu einem Schlüsselproblem der gegenwärtigen exegetischen Diskussion. WUNT 182. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005.Find this resource:

Barclay, J. M. G. Paul and the Gift. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015.Find this resource:

Dunn, J. D. G. The New Perspective on Paul. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.Find this resource:

Hentschel, Anni. “Luther’s Relevance for Contemporary Hermeneutics.” LWF Documentation 57 (2012): 47–68.Find this resource:

Körtner, Ulrich H. J., Christof Landmesser, Mareile Lasogga, and Udo Hahn, eds. Bultmann und Luther: Lutherrezeption in Exegese und Hermeneutik Rudolf Bultmanns. Hannover, Germany: VELKD, 2010.Find this resource:

Mattox, Mickey L. “Martin Luther’s Reception of Paul,” in A Companion to Paul in the Reformation. Edited by R. Ward Holder, 93–128. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2009.Find this resource:

Saarinen, Risto. “The Pauline Luther and the Law: Lutheran Theology Re-Engages in the Study of Paul.” Pro Ecclesia 15.1 (2006): 64–86.Find this resource:

Stendahl, Krister. “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West.” HTR 56 (1963): 199–215.Find this resource:

Reprinted in his Paul Among Jews and Gentiles. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976.Find this resource:

Stolle, Volker. Luther und Paulus: Die exegetischen und hermeneutischen Grundlagen der lutherischen Rechtfertigungslehre im Paulinismus Luthers. Arbeiten zur Bibel und ihrer Geschichte 10. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2002.Find this resource:

Westerholm, Stephen. Perspectives Old and New: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004.Find this resource:


(1.) LW 35:361–362.

(2.) LW 35:362.

(3.) LW 36:118.

(4.) LW 35:395–396.

(5.) See W. G. Kümmel, The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of Its Problems (London: SCM, 1973), 20–27.

(6.) Kümmel, New Testament, 26.

(7.) Anni Hentschel, “Luther’s Relevance for Contemporary Hermeneutics,” LWF Documentation 57 (2012): 47–68; here, 48.

(8.) Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation, trans. Thomas H. Trapp (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 83. For Luther’s view of the Bible more broadly, see, e.g., Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology, 68–92; Oswald Bayer, “Luther as an Interpreter of Holy Scripture,” in The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther, ed. Donald K. McKim (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 73–85; Kenneth Hagen, Luther’s Approach to Scripture as Seen in His “Commentaries” on Galatians 1519–1538 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1993); Volker Stolle, Luther und Paulus: Die exegetischen und hermeneutischen Grundlagen der lutherischen Rechtfertigungslehre im Paulinismus Luthers, Arbeiten zur Bibel und ihrer Geschichte 10 (Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2002); and Mickey L. Mattox, “Martin Luther’s Reception of Paul,” in A Companion to Paul in the Reformation, ed. R. Ward Holder (Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2009), 93–128.

(9.) Gottfried Hornig, Die Anfänge der historisch-kritischen Theologie: Johann Salomo Semlers Schriftverständnis und seine Stellung zu Luther (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1961), 63; and “Grossen Wert legt Semler auf die Feststellung, daß Luther und die Reformationszeit den Kanon noch als ein Werk der Kirche betrachteten, das seine Existenz einem ius humanum verdankt und dessen Umfang daher auch geändert werden kann” (cf. 60–65 passim).

(10.) F. C. Baur, “Die Einleitung in das Neue Testament als theologische Wissenschaft: Ihr Begriff und ihre Aufgabe, ihr Entwicklungsgang und ihr innerer Organismus,” Theologische Jahrbücher 9.4 (1850): 463–566; 10.1, 2, 3 (1851): 70–94, 222–253, 291–328; here, 487, 488; cf. 485–493.

(11.) “Einleitung,” 492. Note also Baur’s passing comment: “Luther had a healthier sense of truth, and judged: ‘The allegory of Sarah and Hagar will not hold water, for it is at variance with historical reason.’ This is the only true way of looking at the apostle’s argument here” (Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ [2 vols.; London: Williams & Norgate, 1873–1875], 2.285).

(12.) Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 1st complete ed., ed. John Bowden (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001), 3.

(13.) On Kähler, see Hans-Peter Göll, Versöhnung und Rechtfertigung: Die Rechtfertigungslehre Martin Kählers (Giessen, Germany, and Basel, Switzerland: Brunnen, 1991); on Ritschl, see Frank Hofmann, Albrecht Ritschls Lutherrezeption, Die Lutherische Kirche: Geschichte und Gestalten Band 19 (Gütersloh, Germany: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1998), esp. 76–85.

(14.) Konrad Hammann, Rudolf Bultmann. Eine Biographie, 2d ed. (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 169 n. 204.

(15.) On Bultmann and Luther, see Eduard Lohse, “Rudolf Bultmann als lutherischer Theologe,” Luther 45.2 (1974): 49–54; Ulrich H. J. Körtner, Christof Landmesser, Mareile Lasogga, and Udo Hahn, eds., Bultmann und Luther: Lutherrezeption in Exegese und Hermeneutik Rudolf Bultmanns (Hannover, Germany: VELKD, 2010), esp. Ulrich H. J. Körtner, “Zur Einführung: Bultmann und Luther—oder: Wie lutherisch ist die Theologie Rudolf Bultmanns?” (pp. 9–21).

(16.) Invoking Luther, see Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, 2 vols., trans. Kendrick Grobel (New York: Scribner, 1951–1955), 2:238. On the whole question of Sachkritik and Bultmann’s disagreement with Barth, see the sensitive treatment by Robert Morgan, “Sachkritik in Reception History,” JSNT 33.2 (2010): 175–190.

(17.) On the Lutheran reaction against Bultmann’s “demythologizing,” see Hammann, Rudolf Bultmann, 424–427.

(18.) Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology (New York: Scribners, 1958), 84.

(19.) For Luther’s anti-Semitism, see, e.g., H. Kremers, ed., Die Juden und Martin Luther, Martin Luther und die Juden: Geschichte, Wirkungsgeschichte, Herausforderung (Neukirchen, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag, 1985). For Luther’s possible influence on, inter alia, Walter Grundmann and Gerhard Kittel in their anti-Semitic views, see Anders Gerdmar, Roots of Theological Anti-Semitism: German Biblical Interpretation and the Jews, from Herder and Semler to Kittel and Bultmann (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2009).

(20.) Bultmann, Primitive Christianity in its Contemporary Setting, trans. R. H. Fuller (London: Thames and Hudson, 1956), 71; cf. 59–71.

(21.) See, e.g., Gerhard Ebeling, Evangelische Evangelienauslegung: Eine Untersuchung zu Luthers Hermeneutik (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1969 [1942]); Ebeling, Word and Faith (London: SCM, 1963); Ebeling, “Word of God and Hermeneutic,” in The New Hermeneutic, eds. James M. Robinson and John B. Cobb Jr., New Frontiers in Theology 2 (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 78–110. For a helpful analysis of a case study that stresses similarities and differences between the readings of Paul offered by Luther and Ebeling, see Wayne Coppins, “Paul’s Juxtaposition of Freedom and Positive Servitude in I Cor 9:19 and Its Reception by Martin Luther and Gerhard Ebeling.” Lutherjahrbuch 78 (2011): 277–298.

(22.) David V. Way, The Lordship of Christ: Ernst Käsemann’s Interpretation of Paul’s Theology, Oxford Theological Monographs (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991), 25–29 (here 25) passim.

(23.) Ernst Käsemann, “What I Have Unlearned in 50 Years as a German Theologian,” Currents in Theology and Mission 15 (1988): 325–335, here 334–335; see also his On Being a Disciple of the Crucified Nazarene: Unpublished Lectures and Sermons, ed. R. Landau with W. Kraus, trans. Roy A. Harrisville (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010), where his indebtedness to Luther becomes more clear than in his strictly exegetical writings.

(24.) Käsemann, “Justification and Salvation History in the Epistle to the Romans,” in his Perspectives on Paul (London: SCM, 1971), 60–78, here 60.

(25.) Jörg Frey, “Martin Hengel as Theological Teacher,” in Earliest Christian History, eds. Michael F. Bird and Jason Maston, WUNT 2.320 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2012), pp. 15–32, here 30–31.

(26.) Hengel, “Confessing and Confession,” in Earliest Christian History, 589–624, here 622.

(27.) “Paul and the Torah,” in Earliest Christian History, 625–634, here 625.

(28.) See Theodor Mahlmann, “Zur Geschichte der Formel ‘Articulus Stantis et Cadentis Ecclesiae,’” Lutherische Theologie und Kirche 17.4 (1993): 187–194, who demonstrates that the formula arises first among the Lutheran Orthodox, rather than originating in Luther himself.

(29.) LW 26:4; cf. p. 7 passim.

(30.) For justification as a “polemical doctrine,” see W. Wrede, Paul, trans. E. Lumis (London: Philip Green, 1907), 123. For justification as a “subsidiary crater,” see Albert Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1931), 225 (cf. 217–226).

(31.) Krister Stendahl, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” HTR 56 (1963): 199–215, reprinted in his Paul among Jews and Gentiles (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), 78–96, here 79. Page references are to the latter edition.

(32.) “Apostle Paul,” 83, 80.

(33.) “Apostle Paul,” 84. Note that Käsemann criticized Stendahl’s view: Käsemann, “Justification and Salvation History in the Epistle to the Romans,” in his Perspectives on Paul (London: SCM, 1971), 60–78. On the exchange, see also C. K. Barrett, “Paul and the Introspective Conscience,” in his On Paul: Aspects of His Life, Work and Influence in the Early Church (London: T&T Clark, 2003), 227–240.

(34.) E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977).

(35.) Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 492 n. 57; on this charge, which Bo Kristian Holm describes as a strawman of Luther’s position, see Holm, “Beyond Juxtaposing Luther and the ‘New Perspective on Paul’: A Common Quest for the ‘Other’ Way of Giving?” Lutherjahrbuch 80 (2013): 159–183, here 163.

(36.) J. D. G. Dunn, “The New Perspective on Paul,” BJRL 65 (1983): 95–122, and reprinted several times.

(37.) For surveys of these efforts, see, among others, S. Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004); J. D. G. Dunn, The New Perspective on Paul, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 1–98; and Magnus Zetterholm, Approaches to Paul (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009).

(38.) For example, Hans Hübner, “Pauli Theologiae Proprium,” NTS 26 (1980): 445–473; Hübner, Law in Paul’s Thought: A Contribution to the Development of Pauline Theology, trans. James C. G. Greig (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1984); several of the essays in Lutherische und Neue Paulusperspektive: Beiträge zu einem Schlüsselproblem der gegenwärtigen exegetischen Diskussion, ed. M. Bachmann with J. Woyke, WUNT 182 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005); and Wilfried Härle, “Paulus und Luther: Ein kritischer Blick auf die ‘New Perspective,’” ZTK 103 (2006): 362–393.

(39.) See, for example, Brendan Byrne, “Interpreting Romans Theologically in a Post–‘New Perspective’ Perspective,” HTR 94.3 (2001): 227–241.

(40.) See Douglas Campbell, The Deliverance of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), 250–258, 264–270; and in criticism, R. Barry Matlock, “Zeal for Paul but Not According to Knowledge: Douglas Campbell’s War on ‘Justification Theory,’” JSNT 34.2 (2011): 115–149, esp. 127 on this point.

(41.) For example, see, respectively, Erik M. Heen, “A Lutheran Response to the New Perspective on Paul,” Lutheran Quarterly 24 (2010): 263–291 and Karl P. Donfried, “Paul and the Revisionists: Did Luther Really Get It All Wrong?,” Dialog 46.1 (2007): 31–40; and Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New.

(42.) See Risto Saarinen, “The Pauline Luther and the Law: Lutheran Theology Re-Engages in the Study of Paul” Pro Ecclesia 15.1 (2006): 64–86; note also somewhat different proposal in Holm, “Beyond Juxtaposing.” For context, see Gordon L. Isaac, “The Finnish School of Luther Interpretation: Responses and Trajectories,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 76 (2012): 251–268.

(43.) Saarinen, “Pauline Luther,” 71.

(44.) J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015), citing Luther some sixty-five times.

(45.) To note just two examples: Edward J. Carter, “Toll and Tribute: A Political Reading of Matthew 17.24–27,” JSNT 25.4 (2003): 413–431; and Jonathan A. Linebaugh, “The Christo-Centrism of Faith in Christ: Martin Luther’s Reading of Galatians 2.16, 19–20,” NTS 59.4 (2013): 535–544.

(46.) J. L. Martyn, Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, AB 33A (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 35.