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E CO -'E A PR . CTICAL APPLICI TI N ICORDIA THE LOGICAl MONThL P No.1 lib Aspects of Biblical Hermeneutics: Confessional Principles and Practical Applications Papers delivered to a conference of the Council of Presidents and [he seminary faculties of The Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod. CoNCORDIA THEOLO leAL MONTHLY Occasional Papers No.1 Published by Concordia Publishing House Primed jn U. S. A. This paper mailed without extra co't co the roster of pastors and men teachers of The Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod. Not indexed in the CO'lcorditJ Theological Motl/hLy Index. CONTENTS Page An Introduction 1 Some Thoughts on the Theological Presuppositions for a Lutheran Approach [0 the Scriptures 2 f.UffiBERTJ.A.Bou~ Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Lutheran Confessions RALPH A. BOHLMANN The Introduction of the Historical-Critical Method and Its Relationship to Lutheran Hermeneutics FRED KRAMER Lutheran Hermeneutics and Hermeneutics Today JOHN WARWICK MONTGOMERY 21 48 78 An Introduction This supplement to the CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY contains four essays delivered to the Council of Presidents and the joint theological faculties of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod meeting in St.Louis Nov. 29-30, 1965. At the suggestion pf this group the essays are being mailed to the clergy and called male teachers of the Synod. The topics were assigned to the essayists by the program committee and were de­signed to dovetail. This is particularly true of the papers by Bouman and Bohlmann, which should be read and studied as a unit. The papers stimulated considerable discussion when they were first presented, although none of the participants in the conference feel that there was enough time to discuss· them adequately. They have undergone no substantive editing. Careful study of these papers will make a decided contribution toward resolving some of the theological arguments which bother us. Many of us who heard them originally feel that we want to read them a second and a third time before we reach a final decision concerning some of the opinions stated in the papers. The four essayists were in agreement that the Holy Scriptures are the final norm for Lutheran theology, and that a Lutheran theologian, by definition, bows cheerfully to this norm. There were two questions put in sharp form by each essayist: What is the nature of Scripture? How does one arrive at a sure grasp of its meaning? Regardless of the form each question may take (and the questions are posed by theologians in a bewildering variety of forms), the questions themselves finally are reduced to these bedrock pastoral concerns. The answer to these questions leads one directly to the heart of the Christian faith, salvation through faith in the incarnate Son of God. Or does faith in the incarnate Son of God lead directly to the answer to these two questions? HERBERT T. MAYER Some Thoughts on the Theological Presuppositions for a Lutheran Approach to the Scriptures PROLEGOMENA It ~s possible to speak of a presupposi­tlOnless approach to the Bible. We could imagine some pagan or Muslim from some remote corner of the globe coming into a bookstore and there discovering a book he had never heard of before, called Bible, or Scripture, or whatever the trans­lation into his native tongue named it. With respect to this book he could be per­fectly neutral, at the beginning at least, because he was totally ignorant of its con­tent or its message. Our title suggests that such a hypotheti­cal case is not under consideration. It frankly admits that there are certain pre­suppositions that appear to be self-evident to those who maintain them and may be accepted as a matter of course. Not all pre­suppositions are valid, of course. Though they may seem so to the persons holding them, they are far from self-evident to others. There may be and often is a high degree of subjectivity in presuppositions. Our theme suggests, furthermore, that we are not about to speak of presupposi­tions in general, such as may be common to all areas of human thought and inquiry, but theological presuppositions. This raises Her~ert J. A. Bouman is professor of syste­matt.c theol~gy at Concordia Seminary, Saint Louts, and ts a member of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of The Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod. 2 HERBERT J. A. BOUMAN issues about God and the Word concern­ing Him, about God in communication with man. Our concern is lifted out of the realm of the secular disciplines and con­centrates on an approach to the Scriptures by men whose life has been formed, in­formed, and transformed by God, men whose thoughts have been taken captive to the obedience of Christ, whose episte­mology and methodology are controlled by faith and the illumination of the Spirit of God, who once spake by the prophets and led the apostles into all truth and glorified Christ in them and now speaks again through the prophetic and apostolic Scrip­tures to perform the same function for the interpreter and the hearer. Another word in our theme is "Lu­theran." In the history of the church there has been a variety of approaches to the Bible with great divergence in the results. These results have usually reflected certain philosophic or theological preconceptions about God and His nature, His attitudes and acts, His abilities or desires to estab­lish communication and communion with man. A one-sided stress on the transcen­dence of God tended to depersonalize God and make Him distant, cold, unapproach­able, serenely indifferent to and unaffected by mundane affairs. Such a view of God could easily reduce the question of an ap­proach to Him or His Word to an acutely academic and irretrievably irrelevant mat­ter. Conversely, a preconception of God LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES 3 as already present within the creature would tend to obviate the necessity of any further concern with how one ought to approach that which we call God's Word to man. The subjective reflection of the man in whom God is alleged to be imma­nent becomes the criterion of theology. If the sovereign God needs no vehicle to ride into men's hearts and lives, he probably disdains to use one, and a concern about the vehicle can again become academic and irrelevant. Or if He has simply handed down a comprehensive collection of time­less laws or ordinances all on the same level, I need but take this catalog, start on page 1, and work my way through to the last page, making sure only that I have all the vocables, the grammar, and the syntax straight. Again, if I approach the Bible with cer­tain preconceptions about myself and my fellowmen, with an optimistic view of hu­man powers and capabilities unimpaired or not critically impaired, God's address to man will take on a character and function commensurate with such an anthropology (more about this later). Another point to be considered: Any approach to Scripture, certainly within Christendom, already represents a return, a response to its message, whether that content has been transmitted by means of the church's creedal summaries or oral kerygma or through hearing or reading its very words. In the circle of the church's use of Scripture it is always both a Heraus­kommen and a Hinzukommen. Hence there exists a reciprocal, even cyclical, rela­tionship, a circle perfectly natural and proper for those within the circle but stultifying nonsense to the unregenerate logician. This state of affairs certainly compli­cates the problem before us. If the ap­proach to Scripture on the part of men within the church is conditioned by what is in Scripture, which is a constant (apart from relatively unimportant variations in the extent of the canon), then we may ask why the results should be so much at vari­ance. Why should Origen and Tertullian, or Arius and Marcellus, or Marcion and Irenaeus, or Nestorius and Cyril of Alex­andria, or Theodore of Mopsuestia and Eutyches, or Pelagius and Augustine, or Aquinas and Occam, or Luther and Eras­mus and Zwingli, or Wesley and Calvin, or Pieper and Fosdick arrive at such mas­sively discordant conclusions? The answer lies, of course, largely in the fact that the same Scriptures were read and interpreted in the context of specific theological and anthropological perspectives which in many instances allowed themselves to be influenced and even controlled by certain extra-Biblical philosophical, cosmological, anthropological, nomistic, etc., assumptions that resulted in major or minor distortions of the Biblical message. Some of this distortion was occasioned and abetted by a principal of selection of Biblical materials which were first of all interpreted in the light of a certain Ten­denz, preconceived and imported into the text, and then· these materials in turn be­came the criterion for the understanding and application of the rest of Scripture. The very vocabulary of Scripture, including such key words as spirit, flesh, righteous­ness, sin, knowledge, grace,faith, merit, reward, love, Law, Gospel, etc., took on a distinctive coloring in accordance with the respective T endenz in the service of which they were employed. 4 LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES It is well known that Luther himself, as a child of his time and an heir of previous ages or exegetical principle and method, was long held captive to this legacy. His earlier works teem with instances of rather fanciful allegorical exegesis, and traces per­sist even in his mature writings. His spir­itual agonizing was prolonged for years by principles of interpretation that were in the thralls of a nomistic scholasticism. Meanwhile the radical left wing of the non-Lutheran Reformation and the more moderate right wing with their spiritual­ism, symbolicism, rationalism, and Bibli­cism represented the proliferation or re­vival of other Tendenzen that had been present in the church in ages past. Without attempting to absolutize or oversimplify the denominational problem, it can, I think, be said that the various theological systems owe their existence in a measure to divergent hermeneutics and that the Lutheran Reformation was noth­ing less than a hermeneutical revolution. Luther's theological breakthrough meant the repudiation of one set of interpretive principles and the adoption of another. This revolution first transformed Luther himself and subsequently his co-workers and ultimately many thousands of others, to the degree that Luther's new insights, gained through a complex of causes, not the least of which was his years of inten­sive preoccupation with the Scriptures themselves, became normative for them. But if it is true that differing hermeneu­tics produced divergent theological and ecclesiastical alignments, it is also true that to a significant degree the extent of the interdenominational cleavages, their inten­sification, and their perpetuation were too often the result of semantic difficulties, as friendly Roman Catholic critics are some­times at pains to point out. Much of the material in the Lutheran Symbols, particu­larly in the Apology but also in the Augs­burg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, the Tractate, and the Formula of Concord, is presented in the form. of an Auseinander­setzung with other hermeneutical principles and exegetical practices, as understood by the Lutherans from their own perspective, a perspective which quite evidently gives direction to their damnamus. Not only is there a roster of men and movements whose theologies are repudiated by name, e. g., the Manichaeans, Gnostics, Arians, Mohammedans, Samosatenes, Pelagians, Donatists, Novatians, Anabaptists, etc., but there are also frequent rejections of "the opponents" or "others" or "all others who hold contrary views" or those who hold views "contrary to the Gospel." Certain theological presuppositions of the Roman Catholic scholastics as well as of the Enthusiasts are repeatedly repudi­ated as doing violence to the Scriptures and as vitiating their intended message. This is done both in blanket condemna­tions and in specific rejections. "One should not obey even regularly elected bishops if they err or if they teach or command something contrary to the divine Holy Scriptures" (AC XXVIII 28).1 "It is patently contrary to God's command and Word to make laws out of opinions or to require that they be observed in order to make satisfaction for sins and obtain grace, for the glory of Christ's merit is blas­phemed when we presume to earn grace by such ordinances" ( 35 ). It is contrary 1 Citations are from The Book of Concord, ed. T. G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959) . LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES 5 to God's command to "burden Christendom with the bondage of the law, as if in order to earn God's grace there had to be a service of God among Christians like the Levitical service ... " (39). It is a "false and erroneous opinion that in Christendom one must have services of God like the Levitical or Jewish services ... " (61). The profound and extremely significant ob­servation is made: "Such errors were intro­duced into Christendom when the righ­teousness of faith was no longer taught and preached with clarity and purity." (62) In his Preface to the Apology Melanch­thon states that "we have undoubtedly brought into view many articles of Chris­tian doctrine that the church sorely needs. We need not describe here how they lay hidden under all sorts of dangerous opin­ions in the writings of the monks, canon­ists, and scholastic theologians" (17). Of these writers he says further that "since they understand neither the forgiveness of sins nor faith nor grace nor righteousness, our opponents confuse this doctrine mis­erably ... " (Ap IV 3) What led the scholastics to their false interpretation of the righteousness of God, the Gospel, and man's salvation was, ac­cording to the Lutherans, the result of a Semi-Pelagian, Pelagian, or unwarrantedly optimistic anthropology. The scholastics "minimize original sin." Thus when they talk about original sin, they do not mention the more serious faults of human nature, namely, ignoring God, despising him, lacking fear and trust in him, hating his judgment and fleeing it, being angry at him, despairing of his grace, trusting in temporal things, etc. These evils, which are most contrary to the law of God, the scholastics do not even mention. They even attribute to hu-man nature unimpaired power to love God above all things and to obey his com­mandments "according to the substance of the act." And they do not see the contra­diction. (Ap II 8) As ,a result the opponents are said to approach God on the basis of their own righteousness, the righteousness of the works dictated by the law. The "opponents select the law and by it they seek forgive­ness of sins and justification" (Ap IV 7). They scale down the lofty and unattainable level of the requirements of God's law by concentrating on external uprightness. Our opponents concentrate on the com­mandments of the second table, which contain the civil righteousness that reason understands. Content with this, they think they satisfy the law of God. Meanwhile they do not see the first table . .. (Ap IV 34) At the same time they raise the level of man's potential abilities and innate re­sources, as noted above. The gap that still remains between God's demands and man's ability no longer seems quite so impassable. The problem of man's relationship with God accordingly does not appear to be too serious or difficult for upright and reason­able men to handle. One could almost adopt a spectator attitude and indulge in philosophical and ethical speculations. But this whole business [says Melanch­thon} is the invention of idle men who do not know how the forgiveness of sins takes place, or how the judgment of God and the terrors of conscience drive out our trust in works. (Ap IV 20) It is easy enough for idle men to make up these dreams that a man guilty of mortal sin can love God above all things, since they themselves do not feel the wrath or judgment of God. (37; see 99, 115, 304; 6 LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES see FC Ep II 9-12 for further con­demnatory statements) But if man is himself in a position to cover much of the distance between him­self and God, the radical and exclusive character of God's saving activity is greatly minimized. There does not seem to be quite so much urgency about the work of Jesus Christ. Instead of the complete and only Mediator and Propitiator, He is made to appear as a moralist and teacher whose chief function is to provide man with the skills he needs to save himself. We see that there are books in existence which compare certain teachings of Christ with the teachings of Socrates, Zeno, and others, as though Christ had come to give some sort of laws by which we could merit the forgiveness of sins. . . . Ap IV 15) What need is there for the grace of Christ if we can become righteous by our own righteousness? (Ap II 10; see IV 3, 17, 21) As the Lutherans evaluated the theology of their scholastic opponents, they most frequently indicted it for the twin errors of rationalism and legalism. So if we accept this teaching of the oppo­nents . . . there will be no difference be­tween philosophical or Pharisaic righteous­ness and Christian righteousness. (Ap IV 16) Thus our opponents teach nothing but the righteousness of reason or of law .... The opponents' whole system is derived either from human reason or from the teaching of the law rather than the Gos­pel. They teach two modes of justification, one based upon reason, the other based upon the law ... (287) This is what we condemn in our oppo­nents' position, that by interpreting such passages of the Scriptures in either a philo-sophical or a Jewish manner they elimi­nate from them the righteousness of faith and Christ, the mediator. (376; see LC I 22) Such presuppositions had disastrous con­sequences for exegesis. Language was made to conform to the exegete's own dogmatic preconceptions. It is surely amazing that our opponents, are unmoved by the many passages in the Scriptures that clearly attribute justification to faith and specifically deny it to works. . . . But they have thought up a piece of sophistry to evade them. They should be interpreted, so they say, as referring to "faith fashioned by love" . . . (Ap IV' 107, 109) Whoever fails to teach about this faith we are discussing completely destroys the Gospel. (120) Our opponents twist many texts because they read their own opinions into them instead of deriving the meaning from the texts themselves. (224) After pointing out that Paul (in 1 Cor. 13 :2, which was used by the confutators to prove that love justifies) was "writing to people who, upon being justified, needed urging to bear good fruits lest they lose the Holy Spirit," Melanchthon continues, Our opponents proceed in reverse order. They quote this one text in which Paul teaches about the fruits, and they omit the many other texts in which he syste­matically discusses the mode of justifica­tion. Besides, to other texts that speak of faith they always add the correction that they should be understood in reference to "faith formed by love." (Ap IV 221) The author has harsh words to say about those who reject Christ, destroy the Gospel, and maliciously twist the Scriptures to suit the man-made theory that by our works we purchase the forgiveness of sins. (260) LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES 7 Cursed be our opponents, those Pharisees, who interpret the law in such a way that they attribute Christ's glory to works .... (269; see 253, 255, 337, 367; XII 106) As is clear from these excerpts, an exe-gesis that operates with such presupposi­tions becomes eclectic, fragmented, and therefore sectarian, and it distorts the con­tent and purpose of the Holy Scriptures. "They quote passages about law and works but omit passages about the promises" (Ap IV 183). This is concretely demon­strated by the actual selection of texts by which the architects of the Confutation attempted to refute and invalidate the Augsburg Confession and which Melanch­thon reviews in some detail (Ap IV 183 to 286). The choice of proof texts (re­member we are in the area of justification) is instructive: 1 Cor. 13:2,13; Col. 3:14; 1 Pet.4:8; Luke 6:37; Is. 58:7,9; Dan.4: 27; Matt. 5:3,7; Prov.1O:12; James 2:24; Matt. 19:17; Luke 11:41. See also Ap XII 122 fl.; XX, 12 f. This kind of approach to the Word of God is not at all difficult. It is in fact inherent in man's nature "because men naturally trust their own righteousness" (Ap IV 20). "It is inherent in man to despise God and to doubt His Word with its threats and promises" (35). "This le­galistic opinion clings by nature to the minds of men, and it cannot be driven out unless we are divinely taught." (265) In sum, the Lutherans found the the­ology of their scholastic opponents resting on humanistic, philosophical, nOmlStiC principles which resulted in not taking seriously God in His judgment and mercy, in not taking seriously man and the depths of his predicament, in not taking seriously Christ and His work of redemption. In consequence their Biblical exegesis was a tour de force that produced a theology that failed man in his greatest need. Such is our opponents' doctrine -a doc­trine of the law, an abrogation of the Gos­pel, a doctrine of despair. (Ap XII 89) They obscure the glory and the blessings of Christ, and they rob pious consciences of the consolation offered them in Christ. (Ap IV 3) In the agony of conscience and in con­flict, the conscience experiences how vain these philosophical speculations are. ( 37 ) We are therefore obliged to disagree with our opponents on justification. The Gos­pel shows another way. (291) In addition to the presuppositions of medieval scholastic theology the Lutherans were confronted by a theological perspec­tive that received the umbrella label of Enthusiasm, or Schwarmerei. Prime rep­resentatives of this view were the Anabap­tists and "spiritualists," like Miinzer and Carlstadt, and the radical left wing of the Reformation generally. The term "enthusiast," at least in Lu­ther's judgment, came ultimately to include all who in any way attempted to by-pass the Word of God in their dealings with God. If the philosophical approach tended to make God remote and transcendent and an object to speculate about, the enthusiast approach resulted in a divine immanentism which reached full flower in George Fox and Quakerism. Since this perspective con­ceived of God as already present or as making His approaches to man immedi­ately, it led naturally to a downgrading and disparagement of the written Word. It is easy to see that such a refusal to take the written Word seriously would have far­reaching implications for exegesis. The 8 LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES enthusiasts are people "who dream that the Holy Spirit does not come through the Word but because of their own prepara­tions." (Ap XIII 13) Luther is particularly outspoken in his condemnation of this attitude. His treat­ment of Confession in the Sma1cald Ar­ticles is the locus classicus. For Luther enthusiasm is exemplified also by the pa­pacy because of its claims of authority apart from the Scriptures. In these matters, which concern the ex­ternal, spoken Word, we must hold firmly to the conviction that God gives no one his Spirit or grace except through or with the external Word which comes before. Thus we shall be protected from the en­thusiasts -that is, from the spiritualists who boast that they possess the Spirit without and before the Word and who therefore judge, interpret, and twist the Scriptures or spoken Word according to their pleasure. Miinzer did this, and many still do it in our day who wish to distin­guish sharply between the letter and the spirit without knowing what they say or teach. The. papacy, too, is nothing but enthusiasm, for the pope boasts that "all laws are in the shrine of his heart," and he claims that whatever he decides and commands in his churches is spirit and law, even when it is above and contrary to the Scriptures or spoken Word. All this is the old devil and the old serpent who made enthusiasts of Adam and Eve. He led them from the external Word of God to spiritualizing and to their own imaginations, and he did this through other external words. Even so, the enthu­siasts of our day condemn the external Word, yet they do not remain silent but fill the· world with their chattering and scribbling, as if the Spirit could not come through the Scriptures or the spoken word of the apostles but must come through their own writings and words. Why do they not stop preaching and writing until the Spirit himself comes to the people without and before their writings since they boast that the Spirit came upon them without the testimony of the Scriptures? (SA-III VIII 3-6; see FC Ep II 13; FC SD II 80; LC IV 15: "our new spirits"; 28: "our know-it"alls, the new spirits") Like the scholastics with their opinio legis, the enthusiasts too are doing what comes naturally. In short, enthusiasm clings to Adam and his descendants from the beginning to the end of the world. It is a poison implanted and inoculated in man by the old dragon;' and it is the source, strength, and power of all heresy, including that of the papacy and Mohammedanism. (SA-III VIII 9) Such were the theological ideologies with which the Lutheran Reformation had to come to grips. In reality the Lutherans were inclined to lump their opponents to­gether and to regard their respective ap­proaches to Scripture as different aspects of the same perspective. We have already heard Luther putting the papists and en­thusiasts into the same category. Melanch­thon does likewise (Ap IV 66). And the Solid Declaration says of the Anabaptists: "The entire sect, however, can be charac­terized as basically nothing else than a new kind of monkery" (FC SD XII 27). That is to say, they all have this in common, that they do not take Scripture on Scrip­ture's terms but interpret it on the basis of presuppositions that are at variance with the content and purpose of the Word of God. They will not let God be God and hear Him out but presume to dictate to God what He should be saying. They pre­sume, in fact, "to wrest heaven from God." (LC I 22) LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES 9 THE LUTHERAN ApPROACH Thus the Lutheran Reformation repre­sented an antithesis to these criteria of interpretation and was in very truth a hermeneutical revolution. In the Augsburg Confession, so they maintained, they had "covered almost the sum total of all Chris­tian doctrine" (Ap XII 124), and this basic Lutheran Creed, "this Christian and thor­oughly scriptural Augsburg Confession," is considered to be "a genuinely Christian symbol which all true Christians ought to accept next to the Word of God, just as in ancient times Christian symbols and confessions were formulated in the church of God ... " (FC SD, Preface, 4). Its doc­trinal content is "drawn from and con­formed to the Word of God" and this symbol "distinguishes our reformed churches from the papacy and from other condemned sects and heresies" ('FC SD, Rule and Norm, 5; italics added). It be­comes the touchstone for all other Lu­theran Symbols, which are accepted be­cause of their agreement with Scripture and their conformity to the Augsburg Confession. This symbol is normative for all Lutheran exegesis. If other good, useful, and pure books, such as interpretations of the Holy Scriptures . . . are in accord with the aforementioned pattern of doctrine they are to be accepted and used as helpful expositions and ex­planations. Our intention was only to have a single, universally accepted, certain, and common form of doctrine which all our Evangelical churches subscribe and from which and according to which, be­cause it is drawn from the Word of God, all other writings are to be approved and accepted, judged and regulated. (Fe SD, Rule and Norm, 10; italics added) There is here the claim of a truly ecumeni­cal, catholic, unsectarian, unfragmented, undistorted, whole approach to Scripture and Christian theology. We Lutherans should be eternally grateful for this and take it seriously. As Lutherans we are ex­pected to do our theological work, in what­ever discipline, in the service of proclama­tion, and we are expected to "preach the Gospel according to the Augsburg Confes­sion" (FC SD XII 16). It is Melanch­thon's purpose in the Apology of the Augs­burg Confession "to testify to all nations that we hold to the Gospel of Christ cor­rectly and faithfully." (Preface, 15) This claim involves an understanding of the Gospel's essence, content, and purpose, as well as its place in God's total revela­tion and the proper perspective from which the Scriptures are interpreted and applied. When the Lutherans think of the "divine, prophetic, and apostolic Scriptures," they think of them in terms of God's "holy Gospel and of the Word that alone brings salvation" (Preface, Book of Concord, p. 3; see p. 5 ). The Bible has to do with what "a Christian must know for his salvation" (FC Ep, Rule and Norm, 5). Salvation, or justification, is at the center of Lutheran theology. The soteriological, eschatological, and pastoral concerns of the Lutheran Ref­ormation are unfolded throughout the Book of Concord in a richness and variety that defies adequate consideration. This presentation desires only to call attention to some of this theological wealth in the hope that you will be stimulated to im­merse yourself in this glorious heritage and make relevant and dynamic use of it in your sacred ministry. Such a course of action will be of incalculable benefit and 10 LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES will go a long way toward the restoration of genuine Lutheranism in our midst and toward combating the many un-Lutheran and sectarian accents abroad in our circles today. Central in genuine Lutheran theology as enunciated in the Lutheran Symbols is the doctrine of justification. Luther calls it "the first and chief doctrine" (SA-II I 1), while Melanchthon refers to it as "the chief article of the Gospel," or "the chief article of Christian doctrine" (AC XXVIII 52,66), or "the main doctrine of Christi­anity" (Ap IV 2). Of the nearly 190 pages of the Apology, the explicit treatment of Justification takes up over 60 pages, or almost exactly one third of the total, not to speak of the many other articles in which justification provides the constant background and context. This is true also of the Augsburg Confession (e. g., III, IV, V, VI, VII, IX, XI, XII, XV, XVII, XVIII, XX, XXI, XXIV). Justification, as presented in the Confes­sions, is indeed a many-splendored thing, just like the Biblical witness to God's gra­cious attitudes and acts on behalf of His creatures. The subject is exceedingly grand and comprehensive. It thwarts all human attempts at neat and definitive systematiza­tion. It is too large to be poured into any mold of man's devising. A serious student of the symbols is overwhelmed by the sub­ject. On nearly every page he meets the cantus firmus of justification as the ever­recurring theme which, though developed in a hundred fascinating variations, always remains plainly recognizable as the same theme. In what follows I shall for the most part let the Symbols speak for themselves. An occasional comment may give direction. A Basic Definitions The primary statement of justification on which all subsequent discussions are built is Art. IV of the Augsburg Confes­sion. It follows upon a confession of the triune God, the Creator and Author of all blessings, a description of man the crea­ture's desperate plight, and a summary of the person and work of Jesus Christ, the theanthropic Savior. Imbedded in the statement is the classic Lutheran formula "by grace, for Christ's sake, through faith." All human cooperation is categorically de­nied, and the divine monergism is affirmed, as is the Christological basis. The necessity of faith on man's part to receive God's complete gift is emphasized. The forensic character of justification is expressed in such terms as "forgiveness," "reckon," and "impute." In the German form the phrases "forgiveness of sin and righteousness be­fore God" and "eternal life is given us" already adumbrate the almost bewildering variety of equations that we find in Apol­ogy IV. In a number of places the term "justify" or the nature of justification itself are defined: . . . "to be justified" means to make un­righteous men righteous or to regenerate them, as well as to be pronounced or ac­counted righteous. (Ap IV 72) Therefore we are justified by faith alone, justification being understood as making unrighteous man righteous or affecting his regeneration. (78) "To be justified" here does not mean that a wicked man is made righteous but that he is pronounced righteous in a forensic way .... (252) . . . God will and does account us alto-LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES 11 gether righteous and holy for the sake of Christ, our mediator. (SA-III XIII 1) In this passage [Rom. 5: 1} "justify" is used in a judicial way to mean "to absolve a guilty man and pronounce him righ­teous," and to do so on account of some­one else's righteousness, namely, Christ's, which is communicated to us through faith. (Ap N 305) Because the righteousness of Christ is given to us through faith, therefore faith is righteousness in us by imputation. That is, by it we are made acceptable to God because of God's imputation and ordi­nances, as Paul says (Rom. 4: 5 ), "Faith is reckoned as righteousness." ( 307) · . . according to the usage of Scripture the word "justify" means in this article "absolve," that is, pronounce free from sin. (FC Ep III 7) If one pays a debt for one's friend, the debtor is freed by the merit of another as though it were his own. Thus the merits of Christ are bestowed on us so that when we believe in him we are ac­counted righteous by our trust in Christ's merits as though we had merits of our own. (Ap XXI 19) B Justification and Synonyms 1. Righteousness .. righteousness before God .... (AC IV 1) Therefore the righteousness which by grace is reckoned to faith or to the be­lievers is the obedience, the passion, and the resurrection of Christ. . " (FC SD III 14) · .. in this passage [Rom. 5: 1J our righ­teousness is the imputation of some one else's righteousness .... (Ap N 306) · . . the free forgiveness of sins and . . . the righteousness of Christ. (Ap N 121) · . . the righteousness of faith and Christ, the mediator. (376) The whole man . . . shall be accounted and shall be righteous and holy. . . . (SA-III XIII 2) · . . Scripture teaches that the righteous­ness of faith before God consists solely in a gracious reconciliation or the forgive­ness of sins. . . . (FC SD III 30) 2. Forgiveness of Sins . . forgiveness of sins is the same as justification .... CAp IV 76) · . . men . . . are freely justified . . . when they believe that ... their sins are forgiven on account of Christ .... (AC IV 2, Latin) By freely accepting the forgiveness of sins, faith sets against God's wrath not our merits of love, but Christ the media­tor and propitiator. (46) It will be easy to determine what faith is if we pay attention to the article of the Creed on the forgiveness of sins. (51) 3. Reconciliation . . to us, oppressed by sin and death, the promise freely offers reconciliation for Christ's sake, which we do not accept by works but by faith alone. (Ap N 44) · .. God is reconciled and favorably dis­posed to him because of Christ. . . . (45) Justification is reconciliation for Christ's sake. (158) 4. A Gracious God, God's Approval, Christ's Kingdom, Children of God · .. believe that we have a gracious God because of Christ. (Ap IV 345) · . . justification is not the approval of a particular act but of the total person. (222) · . . the kingdom of Christ is the righ­teousness of the heart and the gift of the Holy Spirit .... (Ap VII 13) [The kingdom of God isJ Simply what 12 LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES we learned in the Creed, namely, that God sent His Son, Christ our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil and to bring us to himself and rule us as a king of righ­teousness, life, and salvation. . . . (LC III 51) God's name was given to us when we became Christians at Baptism, and so we are called children of God. . . . (37) C Justification and Christ . Christ, true God and true man . was truly born, suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried in order to be a sacrifice not only for original sin but also for all other sins and to propitiate God's wrath (AC III 2, 3) We know that the merits of Christ are our only propitiation. Because of them we are accounted righteous. . . . (Ap XXI 31) Christ takes Moses' place, not by forgiv­ing sins on account of our work but by setting his merits and his propitiation against the wrath of God for us so that we might be freely forgiven. (Ap XXVII 17) There was no counsel, no help, no com­fort for us until this only and eternal Son of God, in his unfathomable goodness, had mercy on our misery and wretchedness and came from heaven to help us. (LC II 29) "Lord" simply means the same as Re­deemer, that is, he who has brought us back from the devil to God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness .... (31) D Justification and Faith freely justified for Christ's sake through faith when they believe that they are received into favor .... (AC IV I, 2, Latin) · . . a man is justified. when, with his conscience terrified by the preaching of penitence, he takes heart and believes that he has a gracious God for Chrisfs sake. (Ap IV 292) · . . we are talking· about " . a faith that truly and wholeheartedly accepts the promise of grace. This does not come without a great battle in the human heart. . . . A faith which' believes that God cares for us, forgives us,and hears us is a supernatural thing, for of itself the human mind believes no such thing about God. (303) · .. faith is not merely knowledge in the intellect but also trust in the will, that is;' to desire and to accept what the promise offers -reconciliation and forgiveness of sins. (304) It is surely amazing that our opponents are unmoved by the many passages in the Scriptures that clearly attribute justifica­tion to faith and specifically deny it to works. (107) · .. faith is truly righteousness because it is obedience to the Gospel. (308) · . . our opponents are deceived with re­gard to the term "faith." . . . We are not talking about a knowledge of history, how­ever, but about trust in God's promise and in his mercy. (337) · .. we appropriate God with all his treas­ures. (LC III 60) · .. this personal faith obtains the forgive­ness of sins and justifies us. (Ap IV 45) Such a faith is not an easy thing . . . nor is it a human power, but a divine power that makes us alive . and enables us to overcome death and the devil. (250) E Justification and the Holy Spirit To obtain such faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES 13 Gospel'ind the sacraments. Through these, as through': means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel. (AC V 1,2) · . . faith is . . . a work of the Holy Spirit that frees us from death, comforting and quickening terrified minds. (Ap IV 115 ) But Christ was given so that for his sake we might receive the gift of the forgive­ness of sins and the Holy Spirit, to bring forth in ,us eternal righteousness and a new and eternal life. (132) · .. when we are consoled by faith through hearing the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins, we receive the Holy Spirit, so that we can think rightly about God, fear him, and believe in him. (13 5 ) · . . the kingdom of Christ is the righ­teousness of the heart and the gift of the Holy Spirit. . .. (Ap VII 13) · . . the kingdom of God comes . . . to us ... when the heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word. . . . (SC III 7, 8) But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith. . . . (SC II 6) F Justification and Regeneration . "to be justified" means to make un­righteous men righteous or to regenerate them, as well as to be pronounced or ac­counted righteous. (Ap IV 72) · . . by faith alone we . . . are justified, that is, out of unrighteous we are made righteous and regenerated men. ( 117 ) · .. by faith (as St. Peter says) we get a new and clean heart and . . . God will and does account us altogether righteous and holy for the sake of Christ, our medi­ator. (SA-III XIII 1) G Justification and Gospel the chief article of the Gospel must be maintained, namely, that we obtain the grace of God through faith in Christ with­out our merits .... (AC XXVIII 52) The Gospel is, strictly speaking, the prom­ise of forgiveness of sins and justification because of Christ. (Ap IV 43) · . . one cannot deal with God or grasp him except through the Word. Therefore justification takes place through the Word. · .. (67) · . . there must needs be a proclamation in the church from which the faithful' may receive the sure hope of salvation. (119) This is the essential proclamation of the Gospel, that we obtain forgiveness of sins by faith because of Christ and not because of our works. (274) Properly speaking, the Gospel is the com­mand to believe that we have a gracious God because of Christ. (345) · . . the Gospel offers consolation and forgiveness in more ways than one, for with God there is plenteous redemption · .. from the dreadful captivity to sin, and this comes to us through the Word, the sacraments, and the like. . . . (SA-III III 8) · . . the Gospel . . . offe~s counsel and help against sin in more than one way, for God is surpassingly rich in his grace: First, through the spoken word, by which the forgiveness of sin (the peculiar office of the Gospel) is preached to the whole world; second, through Baptism; third, through the holy Sactament of the Altar; fourth, through the power of the keys; and finally, through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren. (SA-III IV) 14 LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES It [Baptism] effects forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and grants eternal salvation to all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare. (SC IV 6) · .. it [Baptism] is so full of comfort and grace that heaven and earth cannot com­prehend it. (LC IV 39) Now, the whole Gospel and the article of the Creed, "I believe in the holy Christian church, the forgiveness of sins," are em­bodied in this sacrament [of the Altar]. · .. (LC V 32) In this sacrament [of the Altar] he offers us all the treasure he brought from heaven for us .... (66) Toward forgiveness is directed everything that is to be preached concerning the sac­raments and, in short, the entire Gospel and all the duties of Christianity. (LC II 54) The Word of God . . . leads us to Christ, who is "the book of life." . . . (FC Ep XI 7; see SD II 50) H Justification and Theology On this article rests all that we teach and practice against the pope, the devil, and the world. Therefore we must be quite certain and have no doubts about it. Other­wise all is lost, and the pope, the devil, and all our adversaries will gain the vic­tory. (SA-II I 5) The Mass . . . runs into direct and vio­lent conflict with this fundamental article. (SA-II II 1) · . . purgatory, too, is contrary to the fundamental article that Christ alone, and not the work of man, can help souls. (12) [Fraternities are] contrary to the first ar­ticle, concerning redemption. (21) [Indulgences] are also contrary to the first article, for the merits of Christ are ob-tained by grace, through :faith, without our work or pennies. (24) [The invocation of saints] is in conflict with the first, chief article and undermines knowledge of Christ. (25) The chapters and monasteries. . . . All this, too, is in conflict with the first, fun­damental article concerning redemption in Jesus Christ. ( SA-II III 1, 2) ... all the things that the pope has un­dertaken and done ... come into conflict with the first, fundamental article which is concerned with redemption in Jesus Christ. (SA-II IV 3) This is just about a summary of the doc--­trines that are preached and taught in our churches for proper Christian instruction, the consolation of consciences, and the amendment of believers. (AC, Concl., Part I, 1) I Justification and Interpretation of Scripture We have now come to the goal of our investigation, the theological presupposi­tions for a Lutheran approach to the Scrip­tures. The preceding collection of excerpts, long as it is, represents only a small frac­tion of what could have been produced so as mercifully "to avoid prolixity and undue length," to borrow Melanchthon's phrase (AC Cond., 1). The citations are gleaned from all sections of the Book of Concord to show that, though Luther and Melanch­thon and the framers of the Formula of Concord express it in different ways, all are committed to the same theology, "the soteriological approach to Christian doc­trine," as F. E. Mayer calls it.2 From the 2 F. E. Mayer, The Religious Bodies of Amer­ica, 3d ed. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), p. 145. LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES 15 confession of faith in the forgiveness of sins (Apostles' Creed) and the "for us men and for our salvation" (Nicene Creed) to the final statement of the body of the Formula of Concord, that speaks of "the divine truth of the holy Gospel" which is to "lead the poor sinnet to true and sincere repentance, . raise him up through faith, strengthen him in his new obedience, and thus justify and save him for ever through the sole merit of Christ" (SD XI 96), the Lutheran Symbols are devoted to the doc­trine of justification. Sober prose, rhetori­cal questions, impassioned pleas, ad homi­nem arguments, indignant denunciations, sarcasm, invective, exquisite prayers, elo­quent apostrophes, poetic descriptions, sermons -all are put into the service of the Gospel in a way that makes these Symbols quite unique in the history of Christian creeds. Sometimes the treatment becomes rather verbose and repetitious. The precision in formulations and definitions, in distinc­tions and minutely structured subdivisions that characterize so much of the work of the great Lutheran systematizers of the 17th century is still lacking for the most part. There are unresolved problems and some ambiguities, which moved the formu­lators of the Formula to suggest certain clarifications and provide certain safe­guards against misunderstanding (e. g., SD III, passim) . Yet the Lutheran confessors found the rediscovered and restored Gospel thoroughly exciting and inexhaustible for all areas of Christian theology, faith, and life. They saw a very close connection be­tween the intrusion of false sources and norms of authority in the church and the intrusion of heresies and abuses in the church. They noted that a magisterial usurpation of authority on the part of human traditions, institutions, and episte­mologies led to an adulteration of the Gospel of the grace of God. If the Gospel was to be purified and preserved una­bridged, it had to be oriented exclusively to the prophetic and apostolic writings, the Word of God, the "clear Scripture of the Holy Spirit," and the subordinate, an­cillary role of all else had to be recognized. The first aspect of the relationship be­tween justification and the Scriptures is therefore the assertion that justification is not a Lutheran sectarian peculiarity ("dieselbige selige Lehre, das liebe, heilige Evangelium, nennen sie Lutherisch" [Ap XV 42} but has its source entirely in the Scriptures. "How and in what manner, on the basis of the Holy Scriptures, these things are preached, taught, communicated, and embraced" is what the Augsburg Con­fession is out to demonstrate (AC Pref­ace, 8), and in the very last statement of this Symbol the Lutherans declare them­selves "ready to present further informa­tion on the basis of the divine Holy Scrip­ture" (Concl., 7). In one of the sum­maries of his discussion of justification in Apology IV Melanchthon says: "What we have shown thus far, on the basis of the Scriptures and arguments derived from the Scriptures, was to make clear that by faith alone we receive the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake, and by faith alone are justified .... " (Ap IV 117; italics added) What concerns us here, in the second place and in particular, is the obverse side of the coin: justification as an approach to the Scriptures, as a theological perspective (derived from Scripture) from which to interpret Scripture. Any intelligent judg-1.6 LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES menton what is a proper exegetical stance presupposes and requires a clear under­standing of the content of Scripture and the purpose, which is inseparable from the content. Again, such a judgment is not quantitative but qualitative. It involves the ability to discern the core and thrust of God's Word to man in terms of what God has in mind for man, to see what is cen­tral and what is peripheral, to distinguish the message itself from iis setting, to ap­preciate, in short, "was Christum treibet" and what is in the service of "was Chris­tum treibet." (It should be. self-evident that such judgments have nothing to do with disparaging or repudiating any part of the Biblical content). In the context of these observations we can understand the theological insights ex­pressed by Luther in the Large Catechism. Not only does. he call the Catechism "a brief compend and summary of all the Holy Scriptures" (LC, Long Preface, 18), but he also affirms that in the first three parts of the Catechism "everything con­tained in Scripture is comprehended in short, plain, and simple terms" (Short Preface, 18), and he even claims that anyone who knows the Ten Command­ments perfectly knows the entire Scrip­tures. In all affairs and circumstances he can counsel, help, comfort, judge, and make decisions in both spiritual and tem­poral matters. He is qualified to Sit 10 judgment upon all doctrines. . .. (LC, Long Preface, 17) We can also understand why the Con­fessions can say of justification, or the for­giveness of sins, that it leads in a pre-eminent way to the clear and proper understanding of the entire Holy Scripture, it alone points the way to the inexpressible treasure ,and right knowledge of Christ, and 'it,alone opens the door into the whole Bible. (Ap N 2, German) Justification is the true key to the Scrip­tures. But this also means that the message of justification is the central and ultimate Word of God to man and that all other messages must be distinguished from it and made subservient to k Thus the dis­tinction between Law and Go!>pel, with the former in the service of the latter, ex­ercises the extremely important hermeneu­tical and critical function of keeping the Biblical content in proper focus. "All Scripture should be divided into these two chief doctrines, the law and the promises." (ApIV5) These are the two chief works of God in men, to terrify and to justify and quicken the terrified. One or the other of these works is spoken of throughout Scripture. One part is the law, which reveals, de­nounces, and condemns sin. The other part is the Gospel, that is, the promise of grace granted in Christ. (Ap XII 53) In what follows, the Law appears to be forgotten. This promise is repeated continually throughout Scripture; first it was given to Adam, later to the patriarchs, then illu­mined by the prophets, and finally pro­claimed and revealed by Christ among the Jews, and spread by the apostles through­out the world. (Ap XII 53) Immediately preceding these lines it is said that Isaiah (28:21) calls it God's alien work to terrify because God's own proper work is to quicken and console. But he terrifies, he says, to make room for consolation and quickening be­cause hearts that do not feel God's wrath in their smugnesssputn consolation. In LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES 17 this way Scripture makes a practice of join­ing these two,; terror and consolation. . . . (Ap XII 51, 52) The distinction between law and Gospel is an especially b~illiant light which serves the purpose that the Word of God may be rightly divided and the writings of the holy prophets and apostles may be ex­plained and understood correctly. We must therefore observe this distinction with particular diligence lest we confuse the two doctrines and change the Gospel into law. This would darken the merit of Christ and rob disturbed consciences of the comfort which they would otherwise have in the holy Gospel when it is preached purely and without admixture, for by it Christians can support them­selves in their greatest temptations against the terrors of the law. (FC SD VI) This is in no sense an antinomian repudia­tion of the Law. It is rather a most vigor­ous affirmation of the Law in its divinely assigned role. . . . they quote passages about law and works but omit passages about the prom­ises. To all their statements about the law we answer immediately that the law cannot be kept without Christ. . . . In commending works, therefore, we must add that faith is necessary, and that they are commended because of faith as its fruits or testimony. . . . The rule I have just stated interprets all the passages they quote on law and works. For we concede that in some places the Scripture presents the law, while in others it presents the Gospel, the free promise of the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake. . . . Therefore we call upon devout minds to consider the promises, and we teach them about the free forgiveness of sins and the reconcilia­tion that comes through faith in Christ. Later we add the teaching of the law. And we must distinguish between these, as Paul says (II Tim. 2: 15). We must see what the Scriptures ascribe to the law and wpat they ascribe to the promises. (Ap IV 183 to 188) The teaching of the law is certainly not intended to abolish the Gospel of Christ, the propitiator. (269; see 272, 371) From this perspective Luther interprets the Ten Commandments when he makes their fulfillment dependent on the fear and love of God and trust in Him, something which is possible only as a result of the Gospel. ". . . no man can achieve so much as to keep one of the Ten Commandments as it ought to be kept. Both the Creed and the Lord's Prayer must help us ... " (LC I 316; see LC II 1-3). All com­mandments of the Law are comprehended in the first, which in its full dimensions involves knowledge of the trUe God and of His relations with man, and this pre­supposes the Gospel. This is exactly the meaning and right in­terpretation of the first and chief com­mandment, from which all others proceed. This word, "You shall have no other gods," means simply, "You shall fear, love, and trust me as your one true God." . . . Thus the entire Scriptures have proclaimed and presented this commandment every­where, emphasizing these two things, fear of God and trust in God. (LC I 324, 325; see Ap II 9, 10) This perspective also enables Luther to revise the Biblical text itself, and modern­day updaters of Luther's Catechism will be well advised to appreciate his profound theological concerns and keep their hands from switching back to the precise Old Testament form. Luther can change the text of several of the commandments by omission or substitution and adapt them to the New Testament situation, as, for 18 LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES example, the Third Commandment, of which he says: . . . according to its literal, outward sense, this commandment does not concern us Christians. It is an entirely external mat­ter, like the other ordinances of the Old Testament connected with particular cus­toms, persons, times, and places, from all of which we are now set free through Christ. (LC I 82; see 293) Luther then proceeds to offer a "Christian interpretation." (83) Thus the perspective of the Gospel of Christ has far-reaching implications for the interpretation of the Old Testament in general. Commenting on the opponents' insistence on the necessity of observing traditions to merit the forgiveness of sins, Melanchthon says: "Here our opponents are openly Judaizing . . ." (Ap XV 4). "From this point of view there is no dif­ference between our traditions and the ceremonies of Moses" (Ap XV 10). Acts 15: 10 f.: "Here Peter forbids the burden­ing of consciences with additional outward ceremonies, whether of Moses or of an­other" (AC XXVI 28; see Ap XV 30; XVI 3; XXIII 41, 42; XXIV 27, 30, 36, 37). "The services of the Mass and the rest of the papal order are nothing but a misinterpretation of the Levitical order" (Ap XXIV 52), and such a practice "cor­rupts the teaching of both the Old and the New Testament .... " (57) Yet in spite of the very real and very important differences between the two Testaments, from the perspective of the Gospel or of justification the essential theological unity of the Scriptures is rec­ognized. This unity again involves the distinction between Law and Gospel, not in that the Law is assigned to the Old Tes-tament and the Gospel to the New but that both permeate both Testaments. Since the beginning of the world these two proclamations have continually been set forth side by side in the church of God with the proper distinction. The descen­dants of the holy patriarchs, like the pa­triarchs themselves, constantly reminded themselves not only how man in the be­ginning was created righteous and holy by God and through the deceit of the serpent transgressed God's laws, became a sinner, corrupted himself and all his descendants, and plunged them into death and eternal damnation, but also revived their courage and comforted themselves with the proc­lamation of the woman's seed, who would bruise the serpent's head; likewise, of the seed of Abraham, by whom all nations should be blessed; likewise, of David's son, who should restore the kingdom of Israel and be a light to the nations, "who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities and with whose stripes we are healed." (FC SD V 23) A favorite passage of Melanchthon's is Acts 10: 43 ("To Him all the prophets bear witness"), and he uses it again and again. Peter, he says, "cites the consensus of all the prophets, which is really citing the authority of the church" (Ap IV 83; see Ap XII 66; XX 2). More fully: "Peter clearly cites the consensus of the prophets; the writings of the apostles attest that they believed the same thing ... " (Ap XII 73). It is therefore from the Lutheran perspec­tive a distortion of Scripture to interpret the Old Testament in isolation from and without constant reference to the New Testament ("as we discern the shadow in the Old Testament, so in the New we should look for what it represents" rAp XXIV 3 7J ). At the very least an exegesis LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES 19 of the Old Testament as if there were no New Testament is one-sided and incom­plete and therefore sectarian. The kind of interpretations of the Scrip­tures of which the Confessions speak is impossible for an unregenerate man, though his mastery of the external skills may be outstanding. " ... Scripture denies to the intellect, heart, and will of the natural man every capacity, aptitude, skill, and ability to think anything good or right in spiritual matters" (FC SD II 12). The proper approach to Scripture is a matter of faith, justifying faith, which means the gift of the Holy Spirit. True empathy with the "&ripture of d1e Holy Spirit" is possible only for one who has the Holy Spirit. God has given us the Holy Spirit in Baptism. As a result "we have been given the power to interpret the Scriptures and to know Christ, which is impossible without the Holy Spirit" (LC IV 49). Lu­meran exegesis involves the exegete him­self in the depths of his existence as a child of God who places himself under the Word of God and lets God judge and comfort him. And that makes Lutheran exegesis in-tensely practical. It recognizes that All Scripture, inspired by God, should minister not to security and impenitence but "to reproof, correction, and improve­ment" (II Tim.3:16). Furthermore, ev­erything in the Word of God is written down for us, not for the purpose of thereby driving us to despair but in order that "by steadfastness, by the encourage­ment of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4). (FC SD XI 12) Lutheran exegesis feels ineluctably con­cerned and responsible for the man "for whom Christ died" and is under compul-sian to reach him with the holy Gospel for the consolation of his terrified con­science. The crowning glory of the meo­logical presuppositions for a Lutheran ap­proach to the Scriptures is its conviction that "any interpretation of the Scriptures which weakens or even removes this com­fort and hope is contrary to the Holy Spirit's will and intent" (SD XI 92). What Lutheran hermeneutics and exegesis is all about is magnificendy woven to­gether in the following trinitarian and soteriological summary: Concerning the righteousness of faith be­fore God we believe, teach, and confess unanimously . . . that a poor sinner is justified before God (that is, he is absolved and declared utterly free from all his sins, and from the verdict of well deserved damnation, and is adopted as a child of God and an heir of eternal life) without any merit or worthiness on our part, and without any preceding, present, or subse­quent works, by sheer grace, solely through the merit of the total obedience, the bitter passion, the death, and the resurrection of Christ, our Lord, whose obedience is reck­oned to us as righteousness. The Holy Spirit offers these treasures to us in the promise of the Gospel, and faith is the only means whereby we can apprehend, accept, apply them to ourselves, and make them our own. Faith is a gift of God whereby we rightly learn to know Christ as our redeemer in the Word of the Gos­pel and to trust in him, that solely for the sake of his obedience we have for­giveness of sins by grace, are accounted righteous and holy by God the Father, and are saved forever. (FC SD III 9-11) This is where Lutherans stand, and it is this stance that gives their theology its truly catholic character. "We know that what we have said agrees with the pro-20 LUTHERAN APPROACH TO THE SCRIPTURES phetic and apostolic Scriptures ... and with the whole church of Christ .... " (Ap IV 389) Lutheran exegesis has the same purposes as the Lutheran Symbols and Lutheran the­ology in general: "to do and to continue to do everything that is useful and profitable [lJ to the increase and expansion of God's praise and glory, [2J to the propagation of that Word of his that alone brings salvation, [3 J to the tranquility and peace of Christian schools and churches, and [4J to the needed consolation and in­struction of poor, misguided con­sciences." (Preface to the Book of Concord, p. 13 ) A BRIEF EPILOGUE 1. The Lutheran approach to the Scriptures is not humanistic, rationalistic, specu­lative, detached, academic, legalistic, fadistic, capricious, sectarian. 2. The Lutheran approach to the Scriptures is baptized, regenerated, tnmtarian, Christ-centered, spiritual, soteriological, evangelical, eschatological, pastoral, re­sponsible, unfragmented, catholic, dox­ological. 3. Although the Lutheran Confessions claim to present the total content of the Scriptures in summary form, they are silent on many aspects of Biblical interpretation that are today agitating the minds of many in the church. Yet the commentaries of Luther and other Reformation writers show that many of these problems were not unknown in the 16th century (e. g., Luther's difficul­ties with James, Revelation, etc., his largely unsuccessful attempts at resolv­ing discrepancies in parallel accounts in both Old and New Testaments, his gen­erous concessions to other exegetes with whose interpretations he could not agree) . 4. The Lutheran Confessions suggest that any new problems arising in the future concerning Christian theology, includ­ing the theology of the Word, be eval­uated and resolved from the perspective that controls the enunciation of what Lutherans believe, teach, and confess (d. AC, Concl., 1). This would mean that they would regard as valid and im­portant those questions that have ex­plicit or implicit relevance for the proc­lamation, promotion, and preservation of the holy Gospel, of the righteousness of faith, or the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake. St. Louis, Mo. Principles of Biblical Interpretation In the Lutheran Confessions The Lutheran Confessions suggest the following Vorverstandnis, or presup­positions, for the Lutheran interpreter of Holy Scripture: 1. He regards the Scriptures as the Word spoken by God Himself; he knows that God is addressing him in every word of the Bible. 2. He knows that God Himself must en­lighten his understanding in order for him to believe what God is saying in Holy Scripture; he reads the Scriptures as one who has the Spirit and expects the Spirit. 3. He knows that in Holy Scripture God speaks a condemnatory word (Law) and a forgiving word ( Gospel), the former for the sake of the latter; he therefore seeks to distinguish rightly between the two words of God lest the word of Gospel become a word of Law. 4. He reads the Scriptures as one who has been justified by God's grace for Christ's sake through faith; he knows that Jesus Christ is the center of all the Scripture. But we are here involved in a circle! The above statements are not merely presup­positions for Biblical interpretation but Ralph A. Bohlmann is assistant professor of systematic theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and is a member of the Commis­sion on Theology and Church Relations of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. 21 RALPH A. BOHLMANN products of Biblical interpretation.1 An awareness of the Confessional principles of Biblical interpretation, which we shall attempt to set forth in the first part of our article, becomes necessary both to evaluate the legitimacy of these presuppositions and to appreciate the exegesis of the Confes­sions, which was shaped by these presup­positions. In the second part of our pres­entation we shall ask whether some of the above presuppositions (Law-Gospel, justi­fication) are in fact principles of interpre­tation and attempt to answer the question on the basis of samples of Confessional exegesis. We shall conclude with some implications of this study for the task of Biblical interpretation today.2 1 Here we are taking seriously the Confes­sions' claim to be expositions of Scripture. 2 In our investigation we are limiting our­selves to an examination of statements explicitly referring to Biblical interpretation and to exam­ples of Biblical interpretation within the Confes­sions that illustrate hermeneutical principles. We are not examining the non-Confessional writings of the Confessional authors (although this should be done to get a complete picture of their hermeneutical principles). We are also not investigating pre-Reformation hermeneutical principles in detail (something that also should be done in order to note the continuity and discontinuity of Biblical hermeneutics in the Confessions). Nor are we attempting to pass judgment on the correctness of the exegesis of in­dividual Bible passages in the Scriptures. Three studies on the Biblical exegesis of the Confes­sions are: Wilhelm C. Linss, "Biblical Interpre­tation in the Formula of Concord," in The Sym­posium on Seventeenth Century Lutheranism, I (St. Louis: The Symposium on Seventeenth Cen-22 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS I. THE HOLY SCRIPTURES AND THEIR INTERPRETATION A. The Nature of Holy Scripture The principles for interpreting any piece of literature are to a large extent deter­mined by the nature of the literature. That this maxim applies also to the Holy Scrip­tures is clearly evidenced in the Lutheran Confessions. At the risk of repeating ac­cents made in H. J. A. Bouman's paper, let us examine some of the basic Confessional attitudes toward the nature of Holy Scrip­ture. 1. The author of Holy Scripture is God Himself. The absence of a specific article on the nature of Biblical inspiration in the Confessions should not be overemphasized.3 Whatever the reasons for such an omission may have been, it is obvious that from beginning to end the Confessions treat Holy Scripture as divinely authoritative. This divine authority is expressed in ex-tury Lutheranism, 1962), 118-135; Edmund Schlink, Theology of the Lutheran Confessions, trans. P. F. Koehneke and H. J. A. Bouman (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1961), pp. 297-317; and ]iirgen Roloff, "The Interpreta­tion of Scripture in Article IV of Melanchthon's Apology of the Augsburg Confession," Lutheran World, VIII (1961),47-63. Within the Confessions we are limiting our study to the official texts of each document. Our citations are taken from The Book of Concord, ed. T. G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1959). 3 For explanations, see Schlink, pp. If., n. 1; Werner Elert, The Structure of Lutheranism, trans. Walter A. Hansen (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1962), pp. 182ff.; and F. E. Mayer, The Religious Bodies of America, 2d ed. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956), pp. 142ff. It should be remembered that all parties involved in the controversies treated in the Confessions accepted the divine audlOrity of Scripture. plicit statements as well as in the copious use of Scripture throughout the Book of Concord. The divine authority of Scripture rests substantially on its divine authorship. Melanchthon chides the Romanists for condemning "several articles in opposition to the clear Scripture of the Holy Spirit" CAp, Preface, 9). Amazed that they are "unmoved by the many passages in the Scriptures that clearly attribute justification to faith," he asks: "Do they suppose that these words fell from the Holy Spirit un­awares?" CAp IV 108).4 The article of Christian liberty is "an article which the Holy Spirit through the mouth of the holy· apostle so seriously commanded the church to preserve" C FC SD X 15). The frequent designation of Holy Scripture as the "Word of God" adds additional evidence that the confessors clearly regarded God as the auctor primarius of Scripture.5 The divine authorship of Scripture is the basic reason for its absolute reliability. We know "that God does not lie" and that "God's Word cannot err" C LC IV 57). Therefore Luther advises: " ... believe the Scriptures. They will not lie to you" CLC V 76). Our position is based "on the Word of God as the eternal truth" C FC SD, Rule and Norm, 13). The Formula rejects an opinion as wrong because: "In this way it would be taught that God, who 4 See AC XXVIII 49: "If, then, bishops have the power to burden the churches with countless requirements and thus ensnare consciences, why does the divine Scripture so frequently forbid the making and keeping of human regulations? Why does it call them doctrines of the devil? Is it possible that the Holy Spirit warned against them for nothing?" 5 The Preface to the Book of Concord calls them the "Holy Scriptures of God" (p. 12), as does FC SD V, 3. BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS 23 is the eternal Truth, contradicts himself" (SD XI 35). The Preface to the Book of Concord describes the Scriptures as the "pure, infallible, and unalterable Word of God" (p. 8). The divine authorship of all Scripture gives it a unity and infallibility not found in other writings.6 2. Holy Scripture is Christo centric. Its content from beginning to end deals with the justification of the sinner by God's grace for Christ's sake through faith. Scrip­ture presents "the promise of Christ . . . either when it promises that the Messiah will come and promises forgiveness of sins, justification, and eternal life for his sake, or when, in the New Testament, the Christ who came promises forgiveness of sins, justification, and eternal life" (Ap IV 5). The "promise [of grace in Christ] is re­peated continually throughout Scripture; first it was given to Adam, later to the patriarchs, then illumined by the prophets, and finally proclaimed and revealed by Christ among the Jews, and spread by the apostles throughout the world." (XII 53) 7 Because of the conviction that the en­tire Scripture testifies of Christ, it is not surprising that Christological interpreta­tions are frequently given to Old Testament texts. Dan.4:27 is thus explained: "Daniel 6 For ~n excelle~t treatment of the authority, use, and lnterpretatlOn of the Bible in the Lu­theran Confessions, see the recently published work of Holsten Fagerberg, Die Theologie der lutherischen Bekenntnisschriften von 1529 bis 1537, trans. Gerhard Klose (Gottingen: Vanden­hoeck & Ruprecht, 1965), pp. 14--44. Fager­berg writes: "Die BK betrachten Gottes Wort als eine in der Bibel geoffenbarte Wahrheit. Da nur sie eine sichere Kenntnis von Gottes Willen v~rmitteln kann, wird die Schrift, ein einzelnes Blbelwort oder andere bibelnahen Worte Gottes Wort genannt," p. 18 f. 7 See also Ap 24 55 and FC SD VI 23. knew that the forgiveness of sins in the Christ was promised not only to the Israel­ites but to all nations. Otherwise he could not have promised the king forgiveness of sins" (A p IV 262). That the death of Christ is a satisfaction not only for guilt but also for eternal death is proved from Hos.13:14 (Ap XII 140). Passages from Is. 53 are used directly of Christ (XX 5; XXIV 23; SA-II I 2, 5). The burning of the lamb, the drink offering, and the offer­ing of flour mentioned in Num. 28:4 ff. "depicted Christ and the whole worship of the New Testament" (Ap XXIV 36). The Levitical propitiatory sacrifices are symbols of Christ's future offering (Ap XXIV 24, 53). The Old Testament is used frequently for support throughout Melanchthon's de­tailed treatment of justification in the fourth article of the Apology. Ps. 8:6; 93: 1 and Zech. 9: 10 are cited to show that the prophets foretell that Christ, the God­man, is everywhere present to rule (FC SD VIII 27). These and similar examples demonstrate that for the Confessions the unity of Scripture is grounded not only on the fact that it has but one Author but on the fact that it has but one basic mes­sage, Jesus Christ.8 3. The Holy Scriptures, God's Word centering in Jesus Christ, speak directly to 8 Confessional statements reflecting the Christological interpretation of the New Testa­ment have not been cited because they are more obvious, and in order to conserve space. We have spoken of "Christocentricity" here to epito­mize what is elsewhere more completely de­scribed as the Law-Gospel content of Scripture, or the centrality in Scripture of the doctrine of justification by grace for Christ's sake through faith. See H. ]. A. Bouman, "Some Thoughts on the Theological Presuppositions for a Lutheran Approach to the Scriptures," pp. 2-20, for a more complete treatment of this point. 24 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS the reader. This is not to suggest that they are "suprahistorical" or that the original context and setting of the words of Scrip­ture are unimportant. It is rather to affirm that they are "omnihistorical"; they speak to the reader and his age, whatever that may be. One is struck by the frequency with which the Confessions apply passages directly to contemporaneous situations without a discussion of the original pur­pose or context of the passage. A few examples will have to suffice. Emperor Charles V is implored not to "agree to the violent counsels of our oppo­nents but to find other ways of establish­ing harmony" because God "honors kings with his own name and calls them gods (Ps.82:6), 'I say, You are gods'" (Ap XXI 44). Matt. 23: 2, "The Pharisees sit on Moses' seat," is used in support of the doctrine that "the sacraments are efficacious even if the priests who administer them are wicked men" (AC VIII). John the Baptist's preaching of repentance is applied directly (SA-III III 30-32). Both Acts 5:29 and Gal. 1:8 are applied to the pon­tiffs "who defend godless forms of wor­ship, idolatry, and doctrines which conflict with the Gospel" (Treatise, 38). "Beware of false prophets" (Matt. 7: 15) and "Do not be mismated with unbelievers" (2 Cor. 6: 14) are used in support of the statement that all Christians ought to "abandon and execrate the pope and his adherents as the kingdom of the Antichrist" (Treatise 41). The words "for you" in the words of in­stitution of the Lord's Supper "are not preached to wood or stone but to you and me" (LC V 65). Christ's words over Jeru­salem in Matt. 23:37: "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" are used to show that no injustice is done when the Holy Spirit does not illuminate a man who despises the instruments of the Holy Spirit (FC SD II 58). Examples of this direct application of Scripture abound in the Book of Con­cord. They suggest that the Confessions' interest in Scripture is both existential and historical. The Confessional exegete asks not only, "What did God through the hu­man author say to His audience then?" but also, "What is God saying to us now?" He is convinced that the answer to both questions is the same.9 In short, the Con­fessions approach the Scriptures under the .. conviction that "everything in Scripture, as St. Paul testifies, was written for our in­struction that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (FC Ep XI 16, 16, italics added; s~e SD XI 12) 10 4. Holy Scripture, God's Word to us about Jesus Christ, is clear and understand­able (allgemeinverstandlich). The perspicu­ity of Scripture was one of the most im­portant assertions of the Lutheran Ref­ormation. For centuries the Scriptures had been regarded as a dark and mysterious book requiring the interpretation of the church and the utilization of allegorical exegesis to understand its mysteries. Through his understanding of the Christo­centric and revelational nature of the Scrip­tures, as well as from Scripture's own claim to clarity, Luther came to emphasize the 9 This is not to suggest that the Confessions are unaware that the ordinances under the Old Covenant and certain other prescriptions do not bind the Christian today, e. g., Ap XXIII 41; XXIV 27, 37; XXVIII 16. 10 This reference to Rom. 15:4 includes the New Testament within the scope of "Scripture," as the context makes clear. BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS 25 perspicuity and general understandability of the Bible. Luther maintained both the "external clarity" of the text and the "in­ternal clarity" of the Christocentric subject matter of Scripture gained through the Holy Spirit.11 This does not mean that there are no diflicult or obscure passages in Scripture. But such passages can be inter­preted through clearer passages or through philological and grammatical studies. If such passages still remain unclear after such investigation, Luther suggests that the reason lies not in the obscurity of the text but in the mind of the reader. The im­portance of this emphasis on the clarity of Scripture cannot be overestimated: it freed the Bible from the need for official inter­pretation by the church, helped place the Book of Life into the hands of anyone who could read, and stimulated exegetes to search the Scriptures.12 11 See Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston (Westwood, N. J.: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1957), pp. 70-74, 123-134, et passim. 12 For an excellent treatment of the claritaJ Scripturae and Luther's major hermeneutical rules in relationship to pre-Lutheran exegesis, see Gerhard Krause, Studien zu LutherJ AUJle­gung der Kleinen Propheten (Tiibingen: J. c. B. Mohr, 1962), pp.I71-281. Krause states: "Es ist nun sehr bezeichnend fiir Luthers Gesamtauf­fassung von der Bibelexegese, dass er sich nicht begniigt mit der dogmatischen Behauptung einer 'claritas scripturae' in Christus" (p. 268) but spoke "von der grundsatzlichen Klarheit der Schrift in sprachlicher Hinsicht und in der Glaubens-Summa ihrer Botschaft" (p. 281). The most complete study of Luther's concept of the clarity of Scripture is Rudolf Hermann, Von de1' Kla1'heit de1' Heiligen Sch1'i/t (Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1958). Peter Fraenkel describes Melanchthon's views on Scriptural clarity in a similar way: "Just as Melanchthon had a high regard for the Scrip­tures as a text and connected this closely with their saving import and force, so also he thought that both the text as such and the entire matter It is not surprising that the belief in the claritas Scripturae should permeate the Lu­theran Confessions. To be sure, this truth is not set forth in a systematic way nor defined as carefully as we might like. But it is evident in several ways. Perhaps the most obvious and compel­ling Confessional evidence for the clarity of Scripture is the manner in which Scrip­ture is cited as the basis of Confessional doctrine. Again and again passages are simply quoted without any explanation. Of the more than 1,700 Scripture citations in the Confessions, the preponderant ma­jority are simply direct quotations of the .. sacred text without explanation or ex­tended commentary. At times several para­graphs in succession present the Confes­sional argument simply by quoting passage after passage almost without comment (e.g,. FC SD II 10ff.; XI 28ff.; SA-II I 1 ff.). Melanchthon almost tires of citing so much evidence: " ... since it is obvious throughout the Scriptures" (Ap VII 37). of the Christian faith are 'clear', in the sense that God has clearly revealed these mysteries for us and thus given them to us and has not left anything to out initiative to find out. . . . This is not affected by the fact that some passages are obscure and that we may have to resort to com­mentaries, dictionaries or gifted exegetes to find out what they mean. For hand in hand with the perspicuity of the document goes, as we saw, the perspicuity of its subject matter, the Law and Gospel of God, the salvation offered in Christ." In TeJtimonia Pat1'um: The Function of the Pat1'iJtic A1'gument in the Theolog'Y of Philip Melanchthon (Geneva: Libraire E. Droz, 1961), pp.209f. With reference to the Confessional under­standing of the clarity of Scripture, Fagerberg states: "Die hl. Schrift ist ihrem Inhalt nach grundsatzlich klar, so dass das, was sie sagen will, in begreifbare 5atze gefasst werden kann. Wenn Zweifeliiber den Gehalt. einer Schrift­stelle herrschen, dann haben die deudichen Stellen die undeudichen zu erklaren," p. 41 f. 26 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS Again he states: "We would cite more passages if they were not obvious to every devout reader of Scripture, and we want to avoid being lengthy in order to make our case more easily understood" (XII 83). The use of Scripture in this unadorned way in documents that at least in part were intended for a nonclerical audience indi­cates the Confessional belief in the general understandability of Scripture. There are explicit statements on the clarity of Scripture as well. The prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments are described as "the pure and clear fountain of Israel" (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 3) .13 This description of the Scrip­tures, the source of all doctrine, as lauter, or limpidissimus, is an affirmation of their clarity. In the Preface to the Apology (9) Melanchthon says the authors of the Con­futation "have condemned several articles in opposition to the clear Scripture of the Holy Spirit." In the matter of transferring the Lord's Supper to the dead ex opere operato, the Romanists could claim support from Gregory and later medieval theolo­gians, but "we set against them the clearest and surest passages of Scripture (nos op­ponimus clarissimas et certissimas scrip­turas)" (Ap XXIV 94). A highly signifi­cant passage appears in the Formula's treat­ment of the Lord's Supper: In the institution of his last will and 13" . zu dem reinen, lautern Brunnen Israels . . ."; ". . . ut limpidissimos puris­simosque Israelis fontes . . .," Die Bekenntnis­schri/ten der evangelisch-Iutherischen Kirche, 5th rev. ed. (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Rup­recht, 1963), p. 834. With reference to Scrip­ture as the source of doctrine, Fraenkel states: "The 16th century, like its ancient models and ourselves, used Ions as a technical term for liter­ary origins or intellectual and spiritual presuppo­sitions," p. 190, n. 83. testament and of his abiding covenant and union, he uses no flowery languagee but the most appropriate, simple, indubitable, and clear words (ganz eigentliche, ein­faltige, unzweilelhaftige und klare Wort gebraucht), just as he does in all the articles of faith and in the institution of other covenant-signs and signs of grace or sacraments, such as circumcision, the many kinds of sacrifice in the Old Testa­ment, and holy Baptism. (SD VII 50; italics added) The Confessions maintain in article after article that their argument rests on "clear passages" of Scripture. The following are examples of teachings for which the Cori~ fessions claim clear Scripture: Communion in both kinds (AC XXII 2), the institu­tion of marriage to avoid immorality (XXIII 3), no humanly established regula­tions merit God's grace (XXVIII 43), lust is sin (Ap II 40), justification through faith (IV 314), the distinction between human and spiritual righteousness (XVIII 10), the Eucharistic words of institution (LC V 45; FC Ep VII 15; SD VII 50), and that conversion is to be attributed to God alone. (SD II 87) 5. The Holy Scriptures are literary doc­uments. This point is not stated as such in the Confessions but is assumed through­out. The Scriptures were written by God through human authors in particular lan­guages and times. This fact, while obvious, has important implications for the inter­pretation of Scripture, as we shall see below. B. Principles of Biblical Interpretation The Holy Scriptures are God's clear lit­erary Word to us about Jesus Christ. How do I get at the meaning of this Word? How do I hear what God is saying to me BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS 27 in His Law and in His Gospel? The Con­fessions give basically one answer (with many aspects) to these questions: through grammatical-historical exegesis. To enthu­siasts of every kind "who boast that they possess the Spirit without and before the Word and who therefore judge, interpret, and twist the Scriptures or spoken Word according to their pleasure" (SA-III VIII 3), the Confessions assert that God's message does not lie behind or above or apart from the Word but in the Word.14 1. "Derive the meaning from the text" may thus be regarded as the basic Confes­sional principle of Biblical interpretation. This principle is especially evident in the Apology's criticism of the exegesis of the Roman Confutation. This criticism is of three kinds: a. The Romanists are selective in their use of Scripture. They select "passages about law and works but omit passages about the promises." (IV 183; see also N 107, 221, 284, 286; XII 34) b. They twist and distort the Scriptures to suit their own non-Scriptural opinions. "Our opponents twist many texts because they read their own opinions into them in­stead of deriving the meaning from the texts themselves" (N 224; see also N 244, 253, 255, 260, 286; XII 123; XXN, 14). While this "eisegesis" usually takes the form of imposing a false human opin­ion about justification on the text of Scrip­ture, the Romanists also read later inven­tions, such as canonical satisfactions or monasticism, into the Scriptures. (XII 131; XXVII 29) 14 Note that Luther regards "enthusiasm" as "the source, strength, and power of all heresy" (SA-III VIII 9). c. Their actual exegesis is careless, slov­enly, illogical, and often dishonest. They add words to the text (IV 264) or omit a word and the central thought as well (N 357). They quote passages in a garbled form (IV 286) or out of context (XXIV 15 ). They are guilty of bad grammar (by applying a universal particle to a single part [IV 283]), of neglecting grammar (XII 163), or even of despising grammar (XII 106). Their use of logic in under­standing the text is sophistic or wrong (IV 222, 335, 360 f.). They "make the effect the cause" (XX 13). Melanchthon laments: "Who ever taught these asses such logic? .. This is not logic or even sophistry, but sheer dishonesty" (XII 123). Such "exe­gesis" had indeed obscured "important teachings of the Scriptures and the Fa­thers." (II 32) In short, the Romanists "do violence not only to Scripture but also to the very usage of the language" (N 357; see also IV 286, where Melanchthon summarizes the above criticisms of Roman exegesis). The criti­cisms of the Apology make it very clear that the Romanists held wrong presupposi­tions for their interpretation of Scripture. They were wrong in the first instance he­cause they were not derived from the Scriptures through careful and objective literary exegesis. Implicit in the above criticisms is the contention that sober exe­gesis will lead not only to proper presup­positions but also to correct conclusions. The actual exegesis in the Confessions makes it clear how seriously they took the principle of deriving the meaning from the text of Scripture. Statements like the following are frequent: "we shall simply present Paul's meaning" (Ap N 231); "the text does not say this" (264); "as .the 28 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS narrative in the text shows" (267); "what we have said is what Paul really and truly means" (XII 84); "Where does Scripture say this?" (138); "the prophet's own words give us his meaning" (XXIV 32). The appeal throughout is to what God is ac­tually saying through His holy penmen. The Confessions evidence a careful con­cern for many of the aspects of grammati­cal exegesis. They know the importance of word study and usage. We note how carefully the words "to be justified" and "justification" are explained (Ap IV 72; see FC Ep III 7: "according to the usage of Scripture," and SD III 17: "And this is the usual usage and meaning of the word in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments"). Particular attention is given to understanding "faith in the true sense, as the Scriptures use the word" (Ap IV 112; see IV 304). Similar attention is given to deriving the meaning of the word "Gospel" from the Biblical usage, and it is noted: "The word 'Gospel' is not used in a single sense in Holy Scripture" (FC Ep V 6; see SD V 3-6). The Biblical meaning of the word "necessity" is studied (SD IV 14, 17), and the Biblical usage of the word "repentance" is analyzed. (V 7-8) Sometimes extra-Biblical data are help­ful for the understanding of a word used in Scripture. Commenting on the meaning of "sin offering" in Is. 53: 10 and Rom. 8: 3, Melanchthon writes: We can understand the meaning of the word more readily if we look at the cus­toms which the heathen adopted from their misi11terpretation of the patriarchal tradition. The Latins offered a sacrificial victim to placate the wrath of God when, amid great calamities, it seemed to be unusually severe; this they called a trespass offering. Sometimes they offered up human sacrifices, perhaps because they had heard that a human victim was going to placate God for the whole human race. The Greeks called them either "refuse" or "offscouring." (Ap XXIV 23) Later in the same article Melanchthon dis­cusses the use of the word "liturgy" by the Greeks. He quotes Demosthenes, the re­script of Pertinax, and Ulpian, a commen­tator on Demosthenes, and concludes: But further proofs are unnecessary since anyone who reads the Greek authors can find examples everywhere of their use·· of "liturgy" to mean· public duties or ministrations. Because of the diphthong, philologists do not derive it from lite, which means prayers, but from leita, which means public goods; thus the verb means to care for or to administer pub­licgoods. (81-83) Readers of the Large Catechism will also remember that Luther explains the Greek and Latin background of the word "Kirche." (II 48) 15 Particular weight is often laid on one word in a passage. Melanchthon carefully explains the force of the word "judge" in 1 Cor.11:31 (Ap XII 163). The word "bread" in 1 Cor.11:28 and 10:16 is enough Biblical basis to oppose transub­stantiation (SA-III VI 5). Much impor­tance is attached to the exclusive particles ("alone," "freely," "not of works," "it is a gift") in passages dealing with justifica­tion (Ap IV 73; FC SD III 52). Melanch­thon feels no compulsion to do so but of-15 Luther's derivation of Kit-ehe from the Greek is generally held to be correct, although his attempt to associate it with the Latin "curia" is probably faulty. See Bekenntnisseh,.;ften, p. 656, n. 7. BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS 29 fers a distinction between the words "faith" and· "hope" (Ap IV 312). The Greek text is appealed to for a deeper understanding of key words (e. g., LC III 113: "In the Greek this petition reads, 'Deliver or keep us from the Evil One, or the Wicked One' "; or FC SD II 12, which explains that the Greek expression "does not receive" in 1 Cor. 2: 14 actually means "does not grasp, take hold of, or appre­hend"). Grammar is of the utmost importance, as the general exegesis of the Confessions from beginning to end makes very clear. The Treatise, for example, can argue that the plural form of the word "you" in Matt. 16: 15; 18: 19; John 20:23 shows that "the keys were given equally to all the apostles and that all the apostles were sent out as equals." (Treatise, 23) The literary context and historical set­ting must also be carefully considered. Luke 7:47 is interpreted on the basis of its context, especially verse 50 (Ap IV 152). 1 Peter 4:8 is explained on the basis of its closer context and its wider context, 2:4,5, and 6 (238). James 2:24 is explained on the basis of its context, especially 1: 18 (246 f.). Tobit 4: 11 is interpreted by vv. 5,19 (277-280). 1 Tim. 5:8,9, 14 help us understand vv. 11, 12. That the word "Gospel" in Mark 1: 1 is to be interpreted in the wider sense is based on Mark 1: 4 (FC SD V 4). Not only the context of the words of instimtion but also the cir­cumstances of the Last Supper help us to understand our Lord's words (VII 44, 48). The "purpose and context of St. Paul's en­tire discourse" in 1 Cor. 10 help us explain his words in v.16 (VII 57). Such exam­ples could be multiplied. Confessional exegesis practices what Melanchthon preaches: It is necessary to consider passages in their context, because according to . the common rule it is improper in an argu­ment to judge or reply to a single passage without taking the whole law into ac­count. When passages are considered in their own context, they often yield. their own interpretation. (Ap IV 280) 2. "Seek the native sense of the text" may be posited as a second principle of Confessional hermeneutics, and it is closely related to the first. The insistence of the Lutheran Reformation that every passage of Holy Scripmre has but one simple sense constimted a major breakthrough in the history of Biblical interpretation. 16 In me­dieval times Scripmre was expounded by means of the Quadriga, or fourfold rule, according to which Bible passages could have a literal, moral, allegorical, and ana­gogical sense. The moral, or tropological, sense applied to the individual believer, the allegorical to the church, and the ana­gogical to the fumre. This type of exegesis made of the Scripmres a "waxen nose," a book filled with obscurity and mystery which only the church could interpretP It might be observed, however, that 16 For the prior history of this rule and its significance in Luther's thought, see F. W. Far­rar, History of Interpretation, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961). See also Krause, pp. 174f., n. 6. 17 Farrar states: "He [Luther} saw as clearly as Melanchthon that the pretense of a multiplex intelligentia destroyed the whole meaning of Scripture and deprived it of any certain sense at all, while it left room for the most extravagant perversions, and became a subtle method for transferring to human fallibility what belonged exclusively to the domain of revelation" (Pp. 327f.). 30 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS throughout the Middle Ages and into the period of the Reformation only the literal sense was valid in disputations and the exegete was not compelled to search for all four senses in every verse.1S Over against this view of Scripture, Luther asserted: "The literal sense of Scripture alone is the whole essence of faith and Christian the­ology"; and again: "If we wish to handle Scripture aright, our sole effort will be to obtain the one, simple, seminal and certain sense." 19 Or again: "The Holy Spirit is the plainest writer and speaker in heaven and earth and therefore His words cannot have more than one, and that the very simplest sense, which we call the literal, ordinary, natural sense." 20 Once again this principle of Confes­sional hermeneutics can be seen most clearly in the consistent exegetical practice of setting forth the simple, literal, or na­tive sense intended by the author as the meaning of passages. A few examples may serve to illustrate this fact. We note Melanchthon's disregard for allegories: "Our opponents will really achieve some­thing if we let them defeat us with alle-18 A. Skevington Wood, Luther's Principles of Biblical Interpretation (London: The Tyn­dale Press, 1960), pp. 24 f. This 36-page book­let gives a clear and basically accurate overview of Luther's hermeneutics. 19 Quoted by Farrar, p. 327. 20 Martin Luther, Dr. M. Luther's Answer to the Superchristian, Superspiritual, and Super­learned Book of Goat Bmser of Leipzig, with a Glance at His Comrade Murner, 1521, trans. A. Steimle, Works of Martin Luther, III (Phila­delphia: A. ]. Holman Company, 1930), 350. This writing is particularly useful for under­standing Luther's exegetical principles. For Luther's distinction between sententia generalis et specialis and his understanding of the scopus of the text, see Krause, pp. 213-223, 241-260. gories, but it is evident that allegory does not prove or establish anything" (Ap XXIV 35). Melanchthon ridicules such an example of Roman exegesis. Comment­ing on the Roman use of Prov.27:23, "Know well the condition of your flocks," to justify a priest's investigating the sins of a penitent, Melanchthon observes: By a marvelous transformation, our op­ponents make passages of Scripture mean whatever they want them to mean. Ac­cording to their interpretation, "know" here means to hear confessions, "condi­tion" means the secrets of conscience and not outward conduct, and "flocks" means, men. The interpretation surely is a neat one, worthy of these men who despise grammar. (Ap XII 106) Melanchthon counters by pointing out that Solomon is not talking about confession but merely giving a bit of domestic advice to the head of a household. He does not, however, rule out the possibility of apply­ing this passage to a pastor "by analogy." Again, commenting on the Confutation's use of 1 Sam. 2: 36 to justify distributing only the bread to the laity, Melanchthon comments: "Our opponents are obviously clowning when they apply the story of Eli's sons to the sacrament." (Ap XXII 10) Nowhere is the Confessions' appeal to the native sense of the text' more evident than in their interpretation of the Eucha­ristic words of institution. We remember Luther's words in the Large Catechism: "Here we shall take our stand and see who dares to instruct Christ and alter what he has spoken. . . . For as we have it from the lips of Christ, so it is; he cannot lie or deceive" (V 13 f.). Again: "Mark this and remember it well. For upon these words rest our whole argument, protec-BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS 31 tion, and defense against all errors and de­ceptions that have ever arisen or may yet arise." (V 19) The Formula of Concord deals with the interpretation of these words explicitly and in great detail. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, we shall cite the Formula in some detail. After setting forth the Sac­ramentarian position, the Formula quotes at length from earlier Lutheran confessions and the writings of Luther to indicate the true Lutheran position on the Real Pres­ence. Commenting on the Wittenberg Concord of 1536, the Formula remarks: Thereby they wished to indicate that, even though they also use these different for­mulas, "in the bread, under the bread, with the bread," they still accept the words of Christ in their strict sense and as they read (eigentlich und wie sie lauten), and they do not consider that in the proposi­tion (that is, the words of Christ's testa­ment) , "This is my body," we have to do with a figurative predication, but with an unusual one (that is, it is not to be understood as a figurative, flowery formula or quibble about words). (SD VII 38) The Formula asserts that the Lutheran position set forth above rests on a unique, firm, immovable, and indubitable rock of truth in the words of institution recorded in the holy Word of God and so understood, taught, and transmitted by the holy evangelists and apostles, and by their disciples and hearers in turn. (42 ) The article then turns to an interpretation of Christ's words, pointing out that Christ speaks not as a mere man or angel but as the one who is "himself the eternal truth and wisdom and the almighty God" (43). Noting the great care and deliberation with which our Lord chose His words "as he was about to begin his bitter passion and death for our sin" (44), the Formula concludes: We are therefore bound to interpret and explain these words of the eternal, truth­ful, and almighty Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Creator, and Redeemer, not as flowery, figurative, or metaphorical expres­sions, as they appear to our reason, but we must accept them in simple faith and due obedience in their strict and clear sense, just as they read (wie sie lauten, in ihrem eigentlichen, klaren Verstand). Nor dare we permit any objection or human contradiction, spun out of human reason, to turn us away from these words, no matter how appealing our reason may find it. (45) The article cites the example of Abraham as one who did not ask for a "tolerable and loose interpretation" of God's command to sacrifice his son Isaac but "understood the words and command of God plainly and simply, as the words read" (46). Then it returns to the words of institution. All circumstances of the institution of this Supper testify that these words of our Lord Jesus Christ, which in themselves are simple, clear, manifest, certain, and indubitable, can and should be under­stood only in their usual, strict, and com­monly accepted meaning. (48) 21 The next paragraphs show how the con­text of the Last Supper indicates that there can be no metaphor or metonymy (change in meaning) in Christ's words. We must 21 "Nun zeugen aIle Umstande der Einset­zung dieses Abendmahls, dass diese Wort unsers Herrn und Heilands Jesu Christi, so an sich selbst einfaltig, deutlich, klar, fest und unzweifel­haftig sein, anders nicht dann in ihrer gewohn­lichen, eigentlichen und gemeinen Deutung kon­nen und sollen verstanden werden." (Bekennt­nisschrijten, p. 987) 32 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS remain with the simple meaning of the words. In the institution of his last will and testament and of his abiding covenant and union, he uses no flowery language but the most appropriate, simple, indubi­table and clear words, just as he does in all the articles of faith and in the institu­tion of other covenant-signs and signs of grace or sacraments, such as circumcision, the many kinds of sacrifice in the Old Testament, and holy Baptism. And so that no misunderstanding could creep in, he explained things more clearly by adding the words, "given for you, shed for you." He let his disciples keep this simple and strict understanding and commanded them to teach all nations to observe all that he had commanded them (that is, the apostles). (50 f.) After a number of pages dealing with fur­ther explanations of the doctrine of the Lord's Supper, the article returns to the matter of interpretation. We shall not, can not, and should not per­mit any clever human opinions, no matter what appearance or prestige they may have, to lead us away from the simple, explicit, and clear understanding ( von dem einfiiltigen, deutlichen und klaren Verstand) of Christ's word and testament to a' strange meaning different from the way the letters read, but, as stated above, we shall understand and believe them in the simple sense. (92) It is not surprising, then, that the Formula explicitly condemns those who hold that the words of institution "through tropes or a figurative interpretation are to be given a different, new, and strange sense." (113) The native or proper sense of a passage, however, is the sense intended by the au­thor, and the Biblical authors do not always speak in literalistic terms. This fact is also evident in the Confessions. The Scriptures can employ figures of speech, e. g., synech­doche (Ap IV 152) or perhaps hyperbole (277). In the same article we have been quoting above, the Formula asserts that John 6:48-58 refers to a "spiritual" eating of the flesh of Christ (SD VII 61). In the following article the Formula adopts Lu­ther's explanation that the right hand of God "is not a specific place in heaven, as the Sacramentarians maintain without proof from the Holy Scriptures. The right hand of God is precisely the almighty power of God which fills heaven and earth . . ." (VIII 28). Our Lord's state-· ment in Matt. 16: 18: "On this rock I will build my church," does not have reference to a literal rock but to the "ministry of the confession which Peter made when he declared Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God." (Treatise, 25) 22 Luther's interpretation of the Ten Com­mandments should be studied carefully in this connection. With regard to the Third Commandment he says: Therefore, according to its literal, outward sense (nach dem groben Verstand), this commandment does not concern us Chris­tians. It is an entirely external matter, like the other ordinances of the Old Testament connected with particular customs, per-22 Luther gives this advice' for postulating figures of speech in Holy Scripture: "Rather let this be our conviction:. that no 'implication' or 'figure' may be allowed to exist in any passage of Scripture unless such be required by some obvious feature of the words and the absurdity of their plain sense, a,s offending against an arti­cle of faith. Everywhere we should stick to just the simple, natural meaning of the words, as yielded by the rules of grammar and, the habits of speech that God has created among men .... All 'figures' should rather be avoided, as being the quickest poison, when Scripture, itself does not absolutely require them." (Bondage of the Will, pp. 191£.) BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS 33 sons, times; and places, from all of which we are now set free through Christ. (LC I 82) Luther then proceeds to offer "ordinary people a Christian interpretation of what God requires in this commandment" (83). At first glance it would appear that Luther interprets the Third Commandment as hav­ing a double sense, the one "literal" and the other "Christian." But as Luther's con­text makes clear, the true and proper sense of the commandment is its "Christian" sense, and it was also this for the Old Tesament Jews. Its proper sense, then and now, is "that we should sanctify the holy day or day of rest" (81). True: "As far as outward observance is concerned, the com­mandment was given to the Jews alone" ( 80), but this "outward observance" for Luther is not the real, proper meaning of the text. Much the same explanation should be given to Luther's remarks on the last twO commandments: "These two com­mandments, taken literally, were given exclusively to the Jews; nevertheless, in part they also apply to us." (293) 23 A related problem greets us in Melanch­thon's comments on the Levitical sacrifices in Apology XXIV. AlI Levitical sacrifices can be classified under two heads, propitia­tory or eucharistic ( 21 ) . Yet there has really been only one propitiatory sacrifice in the world, the death of Christ ( 22 ) . What, then, were the Levitical "propitia­tory" sacrifices? They were so called only as "symbols of a future offering (ad signifi­candum futurum piaculum)" (24). That is, they were "merely a picture (imago) 23 "Diese zwei Gepot sind fast den Jiiden sonderlich gegeben wiewohl sie uns dennoch auch zum Tei! betreffen." (Bekenntnisschri/ten, p.633) of the sacrifice of Christ which was to be the one propitiatory sacrifice" (53).' How­ever: "By analogy (similitudine) they were satisfactions since they gained the righ­teousness of the ceremonial law and pre­vented the exclusion of the sinner from the commonwealth" (24) .24 For the Apol­ogy it would appear that there is but one proper meaning of the Levitical "propiti­atory" sacrifices: they are symbols of the coming sacrifice of Christ. The New T es­tament (in this case, Hebrews) has not added "another" meaning to their "origi­nal" meaning. In fact, it is only by way of "similitude" to what they signify that they are called "propitiatory" in terms of their civil function 1fi the Israelite com­munity. 3. "Let Scripture interpret itself" is a third major Confessional principle of Bib­lical interpretation. The classic formula­tion Scriptura Sacra sui ipsitts interpres is evident in Luther's writings as early as 1519.25 The same principle is sometimes expressed as "Scriptura Scripturam inter­pretatut," the "analogy of Scripture," or the 24 See paragraph 56, where it is stated that "by analogy (similitudine)" Old Testament sacri­fices can be said to have "merited civil reconcilia­tion." 25 Karl Holl, "Luthers Bedeutung fiir den Fortschritt der Auslegungskunst," Gesammelte' Au/satze zm Kirchengeschichte, 1, Luther (Tii­bingen: ]. c. B. Mohr, 1927), 569. Holl ex­plains: "Luther weist mit ihm zunachst den Anspruch ab, den die kirchliche Auktoritat be­ziiglich des Rechts der Schrifterklarung fiir sich erhob. Aber wichtiger noch war das dadn lie­gende Positive, die Hervorhebung des Eigen­rechts der Urkunde. Nach dieser Seite hin war Luthers Satz ein Ereignis fiir die ganze Geistes­wissenschaft. Und vielleicht konnte die Erkennt­nis, dass jede U rkunde aus sich selbst ver­standen werden muss, nur an einem religi6sen, Denkmal gewonnen werden." (Pp.559f.) 34 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS "analogy of faith." 26 Although the Lu­theran Reformation gave this principle classic expression and meaning, it cannot be said to be a new discovery of Luther's.27 In fact, the principle is in a general way applicable to any piece of literature. Be­cause this principle presupposes the fun­damental clarity of Scripture, it is not sur­prising that some observers regard Luther's emphasis on the clarity and self-interpret­ing nature of the Scriptures to have been motivated primarily by his desire to free Scripture from the need of ecclesiastical interpretation.28 That these two factors are closely related to the sola Scriptura prin­ciple cannot be denied. However, that this principle was more a historical necessity than a theological deduction cannot be granted. For the principle follows not only from the revelatory nature of the Word but especially from its unity of authorship, content, and purpose. That the Scriptures were authored by God suggests that the principle Scriptura Sacra sui ipsius inter­pres is simply an extension of the general hermeneutical principle of grammatical in­terpretation that any passage must be con-26 While some have understood the "analogy of faith" to refer to the creeds or other fixed summary formulations of belief, Lutherans have generally defined it as the clear passages of Holy Scripture. Wood says of Luther: "For him the rule of faith is the Scripture itself. No extrane­ous canon is invoked. He finds his sufficient criterion within the Word of God" (p. 22). The "analogy of faith" suggests, however, that the whole of Scripmre should be kept in mind in the interpretation of any of its parts. 27 See F. Kropatscheck, Das Schriftprinzip der lutherischen Kirche, I, Die Vorgeschichte: Das Erbe des Mittelalters (Leipzig: 1905) , 448£., for the use of this principle by Luther's predecessors. 28 This is suggested by Fr. Torm, Hermeneu­tik des Neuen Testaments (Gottingen: Vanden­hoeck & Ruprecht, 1930), p. 229. sidered and explained in terms of its context; thus the context of any Bible passage is ultimately the entire Scripture. That the "context" of Scripture can give a true explanation of any passage rests on the fact of its divine authorship, by virtue of which Scripture is held to be in agree­ment with itself.29 Likewise the Christo­logical content and soteriological purpose of the entire Scriptures can never be di­vorced from this principle. In the practice of exegesis this principle means that passages dealing with the same matter (parallelismus realis) can be used to explain and corroborate each other: . More importantly (and this has been its chief use in Lutheran circles), the principle means that the less clear or plain passages are to be considered in the light of the clearer passages. Ludwig Fuerbringer com­ments: "In accordance with this general rule, we must expound the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament, the New Testament being the clearer portion of Holy Writ." And again: "In like man­ner figurative passages or metaphorical ex­pressions touching upon a certain matter must be expounded in the light of such passages as speak of the same matter plainly and in proper terms." 30 29 Cf. FC SD Rule and Norm 13; FC SD XI 35; LC IV 57. Ludwig Fuerbringer wrote: "The complete agreement of Scripmre with itself must be accepted a priori as a basis in its inter­pretation. This claim must under no circum­stances be surrendered, because the divine origin of the Scripmres makes impossible any inconsis­tency of thought or speech, any contradiction, or even the smallest error." (Theological Herme­neutics [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1924], p.14) 30 Ibid., p. 16. To Fuerbringer's first point we might add that New Testament interpreta­tions of the Old Testament are the Holy Spirit's and therefore authoritative. BmLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS 35 This principle is consistently followed in the Confessions. It is in evidence in the many places where long lists of passages are cited as being in agreement with one another and therefore expressing the same truth. A few examples will illustrate this. Passages from Paul and John are used side by side (Ap IV 29-33), as are citations from Paul, John, Acts, Habbakuk, and Isaiah (88-99). 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Matthew, Acts, John, and Colossians are cited in the same paragraph (FC SD II 10). The host of citations in SD II 26 is taken from 15 different Biblical books, three of them from the Old Testament. Passages from Romans, Genesis, and Hebrews are cited together to explain how Abraham was justified before God through faith alone (III 33). These samples could be multiplied. The mutually explanatory na­ture of Scripture passages is further evi­denced not only by the use of New Testament passages to explain Old Tes­tament references (as we shall illustrate below) but correspondingly by using Old Testament passages with reference to New Testament Christians. For example, Old Testament references are used to describe the voluntary nature of the works done by "the people of the New Testament" (FC SD IV 17). A passage from Deut. 12 is used as the basis for the assertion that believers should not "set up a self-elected service of God without his Word and command." (VI 20). Moreover, the hermeneutical principle that Scripture should interpret itself is stated rather explicitly in the Confessions. In his article on monastic vows Melanch­thon deals with the Romanists' interpreta­tion of the vows of the Nazarites and Rechabites. He states: Besides, examples ought to be interpreted according to the rule (juxta reguJam), that is, according to sure and clear pas­sages of Scripture, not against the rule or the passages. It is a sure thing that our observances do not merit the forgive­ness of sins or justification. When the Rechabites are praised, therefore, we must note that they did not observe their way of life out of the belief that they would merit forgiveness of sins by it .... (Ap XXVII 60f.) 31 It is to be noted thatMelanchthon's use of the doctrine of justification to clarify the nature of Rechabite vows is based on the rule that sure and clear Scripture passages -. interpret those that are unclear; he is not using justification by grace as an indepen­dent hermeneutical principle. Melanchthon has much the same point in mind when he says with reference to Luke 11:41 ("Give alms; and behold, everything· is clean for you"): "A study of the whole passage shows its agreement with the rest of Scrip­ture." (Ap IV 281, 284) Sometimes a passage is cited simply to corroborate the interpretation given to an­other passage. Thus the meaning of "re­membrance" in 1 Cor. 11: 24 is illustrated by the citation of Ps.111:4-5 (Ap XXIV 72). That Matt.26:27 indicates that all communicants should receive the wine is corroborated by the evidence of 1 Cor. 11: 23-28 (AC XXII 2-3). 1 Cor. 10: 16 is cited and discussed to show that the words of institution teach the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Sup­per. (FC SD VII 54-60) The principle that Scripture is to inter­pret itself is particularly helpful in finding 31 It seems likely that regula here is a refer­ence to the regula fidei or analogia fidei, al­though this cannot be proved. 36 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS the meaning of a passage that is somewhat obscure or difficult to interpret. Of key significance for understanding the interpre­tation of the Law in Apology IV are the following statements: In the preaching of the law there are two things we must always keep in mind. First, we cannot keep the law unless we have been reborn by faith in Christ, as Christ says (John 15: 5 ), "Apart from me you can do nothing." Secondly, though men can at most do certain outward works, this universal statement must be permitted to interpret the entire law (Heb. 11: 6 ) , "Without faith it is impossible to please God." (256) Whenever law and works are mentioned, we must know that Christ, the mediator, should not be excluded. He is the end of the law (Rom. 10: 4), and he himself says, "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15: 5 ) . By this rule, as we have said earlier, all passages on works can be interpreted. ( 372 ) We should note that the Apology's "rule" here again consists of clear passages of Holy Scripture. Other examples of the use of this prin­ciple in the Confessions should be noted, first of all within the New Testament. That Paul in Rom.3:28 is talking about the whole Law and not just Levitical cere­monies is proved not only from Rom. 7: 7 and 4:1-6 but also from Eph.2:8 (Ap IV 87). The scope of Matt. 23: 3 ("Observe whatever they tell you") is limited by Acts 5: 29 ("We must obey God rather than men") (XXVIII 21). The plural form of "you" in John 20:23 (as well as in two Matthean passages) indicates that in Matt. 16: 15 Christ was addressing not only Peter but Peter as representative of the entire company of apostles (Treatise 23). Luke 24:46-47, a passage which does not eon­tain the word "Gospel," is used to explain the word "Gospel" in Mark 16:15 (FC SD V 4). The reason that some of those who receive the Word with joy fall away again (Luke 8: 13) is not that "God does not want to impart the grace of perseverance to those in whom he has 'begun the good work.' This would contradict St. Paul in Phil.1:6" (XI 42). The Second Com­mandment, which enjoins the proper use of God's name, explains the question "that has tormented so many teachers: why swearing is forbidden in the Gospel [Matt. 5:33-37], and yet Christ, St. Paul [Matt.--26:63 f., Gal. 1:20, 2 Cor. 2:23], and other saints took oaths."-(LC I 65) 32 Of particular interest is the Confessional use of New Testament passages to inter­pret Old Testament ones. Eph.5:9 and Col. 3: 10 are used to interpret "image of God" in Gen. 1:27 (Ap II 18,20). Abra­ham's faith and Abel's sacrifice are ex­plained on the basis of Rom.4:9-22 and Hebrews 11:4 (IV 201-202). "Purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the Lord" (Is. 52: 11) is interpreted by Titus 1 : 15 : "To the pure all things are pure" (XXIII 64). The Levitical sacrifices are in­terpreted as symbolical of Christ's death on the basis of the Epistle to the Hebrews (XXIV 20, 22, 53). That the drink offer­ing referred to in Num.28:4ff. has refer­ence to the sanctifying of believers throughout the world with the blood of Christ is proved by 1 Peter 1:2 (36). In an extremely interesting use of Scripture 32 The Confessions use the principle of the self-interpreting Scripture also within the Old Testament. E. g., Ap XXIV 28-31, where sev· eral Old Testament texts are used side by side to show that also the Old Testament con­demns ex opere operata worship. BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS 37 the Formula cites Gen. 17:4-8, 19-21 against the Anabaptist denial of infant Baptism (SD XII 13; Ep XII 8). Paul's words in Rom. 8: 7 and Gal. 5: 17 explain Gen. 8:21; "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." (SD II 17) 33 An important aspect of the principle that Scripture interprets itself is the legiti­macy of using deductions, inferences, or analogies based on Scripture (see FC SD XI 55, which cautions against making deductions on the basis of our own specttla­tions) . Faith is necessary to receive the benefits of the sacraments because the sac­raments are signs of the promises, and a promise is useless unless faith accepts it, as Paul teaches in Rom. 4: 16 (Ap XII 61). One of the chief Confessional arguments for infant Baptism is this: The promise of salvation also applies to little children; Christ regenerates through the means of grace administered by the church; there­fore it is necessary to baptize children so that the promise of salvation might be applied to them (Ap IX 2; see SA-III 33 In light of the many ways in which the Confessions apply the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture, it would appear that my colleague Norman Habel has not accurately de­fined this principle and has limited the meaning of the clarity of Scripture. He writes: "In apply­ing this principle [,relate all of Scripture to its center, viz., salus Christus'} the Lutheran exe­gete must follow the rule that 'Scripture inter­prets Scriprure' (Scriptura Scripturam interpre­tatur). Understood in its primary sense, this rule means that the clear passages of Scripture, namely those which display the teaching of justi­fication by grace through faith in all its force and glory, must be used to interpret and evalu­ate those portions of Scripture where this truth is obscure. In short, the right distinction be­tween Law and Gospel must be rigorously main­tained in all biblical exegesis (Apology IV 5)." In The Form and Meaning of the Fall Narrative, A Detailed Analysis of Genesis 3 (St. Louis: Concordia Seminary Print Shop, 1965), p. 1. V 4). Over against the contention of Flacius that original sin is man's substantia, the Formula argues that a distinction must be made between our nature as it was created by God and original sin, which dwells in the nature. Why? 'The chief articles of our Christian faith compel us to maintain such a distinction" (SD I 34). The article goes on to show how the ar­ticles of Creation, Redemption, Sanctifica­tion, and Resurrection are opposed to the Flacian position (34-47). That "articles of faith" in the above citation means noth­ing other than the teaching of Holy Scrip­ture is evident (a) from the parallel state­ment: "According to the Holy Scriptures we must and can consider, discuss, and believe these two as distinct from each other" (33); and (b) from the explicit demonstration or claim of Scriptural basis apparent in each of the four articles. Several Scriptural deductions are evi­dent in Formula VII and VIII, dealing with the Lord's Supper and the person of Christ respectively. Because all four accounts of the words of institution use "the same words and syllables" in saying, "This is My body," and "apply them in one and the same manner ... without any interpreta­tion and change," there can be no doubt that the words of Paul and Luke: "This cup is the new covenant in My blood," have no other meaning than the words of Matthew and Mark: "This is My blood of the new covenant" (SD VII 52-53). Sev­eral non-Eucharistic passages of the New Testament (e.g., Matt. 11:28: "Come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest") are used to illustrate that the Lord's Supper is intended also for those whose faith is weak (70-71); this inference is possible because of the Con-38 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS fessional belief that the Lord's Supper is Gospel. The rule: "Nothing has the char­acter of a sacrament apart from the use instituted by Christ," which is used in dis­cussing several aspects of the Supper, is "derived from the words of institution" (85) . Article VIII accepts the Christo­logical rule (inferred from the Scriptures) that whatever the Scriptures say that Christ received in time He received according to His human nature and not according to His divine nature (VIII 57). The personal union of the two natures in Christ is used as an analogy to help us understand the sacramental union of Christ's body and blood (VII 36 f.). The doctrine of the exchange of properties in Christ (which was so crucial in the debate against the Sacramentarians) is derived from the per­sonal union and the communion of natures (VIII 31). Furthermore, the Formula ar­gues inferentially that since there is no variation with God (James 1: 17), "nothing was added to or detracted from the essence and properties of the divine nature in Christ through the incarnation" ( 49 ) . Finally let us note a deduction from Scrip­ture that is also related to the interpreta­tion of Scripture. Because everything in the Word of God is written that we might have hope, "it is beyond all doubt" that the true understanding of God's foreknowl­edge will not cause or support either im­penitence or despair. (SD XI 12) C. The Testimony of the Fathers The sola Scriptura principle is some­times taken to mean that Lutherans must have a total disregard for the tradition of the church. It could very easily have meant that for Luther and the Lutheran Confes­sions in the light of their circumstances. But it did not. The sola Scriptura principle, with its closely related emphases on the clarity and self-interpreting nature of Scripture, means that "the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments are the only rule and norm according to which all doctrines and teach­ers alike must be appraised and judged" (FC Ep, Rule and Norm, 1). But the sola S criptura principle does not rule out a re­spectful listening to the testimony of the fathers, and this has implication for the interpretation of Scripture. The Lutheran Symbols reflect a high regard for the fathers of the church and the. testimony of the church in general, for they are convinced that the church of the Augsburg Confession is in direct historical continuity with the true church of all ages. They did not see their movement as a rev­olution, but as a restoration and re-forma­tion of the church. Melanchthon claims: "They [our preachers} have not introduced any innovations, but have set forth the Holy Scriptures and the teachings of the holy Fathers" (Ap II 50). Again: "Let no one think that we are teaching any­thing new in this regard when the Church Fathers have so clearly handed down the doctrine that we need mercy even in our good works" (IV 325; see 389). The Con­clusion of the Augsburg Confession main­tains that we have "introduced nothing, either in doctrine or in ceremonies, that is contrary to Holy ,Scripture or the universal Christian church." (5) The Confessions cite a great many fa­thers in support of their exegesis. You need only check the ll-page "Verzeichnis der Zitate aus kirchlichen und Profan­schriftstelIern" in the back of the Bekennt­nisschriften to see the truth of this state-BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS 39 ment. What the Apology says about the doctrine of justification ( "We have proof for this position of ours not only in the Scriptures, but also in the Fathers" [IV 29}) is something they say often, not only about entire doctrines and confessions but about the interpretation of individual pas­sages as well. For example, Melanchthon claims that his interpretation of "on this rock" in Matt. 16: 18 has the support of "most of the holy Fathers" (Treatise, 27 to 29). Or there is the claim that the doctrine of the real presence has been "the unanimous teaching of the leading Church Fathers." (FC Ep VII 15) Neither the Confessions nor we are sug­gesting that the testimony of the fathers is a source or norm of doctrine or even a hermeneutical principle. We and they recognize: "It will not do to make articles of faith out of the holy Fathers' words or works" (SA-II II 15). The principle is: Other writings of ancient and modern teachers, whatever their names, should not be put on a par with Holy Scripture. Every single one of them should be sub­ordinated to the Scriptures and should be received in no other way and no further than as witnesses to the fashion in which the doctrine of the prophets and apostles was preserved in post-apostolic times. (Fe Ep, Rule and Norm, 2) 34 The Confessional use of the testimony of the fathers has two things to say to us as expositors of the Scriptures today. One is the constant reminder that the exegesis of the fathers-whether they be fathers of the ancient church, the Reformation church, or The Lutheran Church -Mis-34 For an excellent study of the role of the testimony of the fathers in Melanchthon's theol­ogy see Fraenkel. souri Synod -cannot determine our doc­trine; only Holy Scripture can do that. In a day when traditional interpretations are being questioned, we need to beware of a real "Romanizing tendency" -that of using tradition as a source and norm of doctrine. The testimony of the fathers says some­thing else. It suggests that we listen care­fully and respectfully and humbly to the past interpretations of Scripture. It sug­gests that we think at least twice before advocating radically different interpreta­tions from the traditional ones. It implies that the interpretations of Scripture which men under the Spirit have held to be true for hundreds of years may well be true today. In this process of appreciative, yet critical listening, the testimony of the fa­thers can serve as a hermeneutical guide. II. SOTERIOLOGICAL PRESUPPOSITIONS AND HERMENEUTICAL PRINCIPLES At this point we should raise the ques­tion: Do the Lutheran Confessions employ their soteriological presuppositions as her­meneutical principles? More precisely, can we say that the Law-Gospel distinction and the doctrine of justification by grace are actually used as principles for deriving the meaning from the text of Scripture? Those who would answer these questions affirmatively often cite the following pas­sages from the Confessions: The distinction between Law and Gospel is an especially brilliant light which serves the purpose that the Word of God may be rightly divided and the writings of the holy prophets and apostles may be ex­plained and understood correctly (eigent­lich erkliiret und verstanden). (Fe SD VI) 40 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS [The article of justification} is of especial service for the clear, correct understand­ing of the entire Holy Scriptures, and alone shows the way to the unspeakable treasure and right knowledge of Christ, and alone opens the door to the entire Bible .... (Ap IV 2 [German}) A few comments on each of these passages may be helpful. The citation from the Formula quite obviously states a basic Lutheran perspec­tive or presupposition for explaining and understanding the Scriptures. But what does it mean to distinguish Law and Gos­pel? The immediate context answers: that we do not "confuse the two doctrines and change the Gospel into Law." Confusing the doctrines of Law and Gospel means that "what belongs to one doctrine is ascribed to the other"; thus "the two doc­trines would be tangled together and made into one doctrine" (SD V 27). In effect the Formula is saying: What is Law in Scripture must be explained and under­stood as Law, and what is Gospel in Scrip­ture must be explained and understood as Gospel. If all Scripture is understood and explained as Law, there wUl be no instru­ment for the Spirit to create faith and as a result no comfort against the terrors of the Law. If all Scripture is explained and understood as Gospel, there will be no instrument for the Spirit to convict man of his sin and show him his need for a Savior, thereby weakening also the force of the Gospel. But the citation from the Formula does not answer these questions directly: How do I determine whether a passage in Scripture is Law or Gospel or both? When I have determined whether it is Law or Gospel, how do J derive the specific Law message or specific Gospel message from the passage?.35 The Formula, judging from its own methodology, would answer: Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit in the practice of careful gram­matical-historical exegesis. This passage does not suggest that the distinction be­tween Law and Gospel is a hermeneutical principle.36 The citation from Justus Jonas' unofficial and paraphrastic translation of the Apology likewise expresses a most important Lu­theran presupposition for understanding the Scriptures. We might well ask, how­ever, what it means to have a clear and correct "understanding of the entire Holy Scriptures." To understand the Scriptures correctly is to know and believe their mes­sage of salvation in Jesus Christ! To have the door opened "to the entire Bible" means to read the Bible as a believing Christian, knowing that in it and through .35 The distinction between Law and Gospel is both quantitative and functional. In some passages God is clearly speaking Law ("Thou shalt not steal) "; in others He is clearly speak­ing Gospel ("Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house"). Still others can be both Law and Gospel, depending on the emphasis; e. g.: "Christ died for our sins" is Law because it emphasizes the enormity of our sins, and Gospel because it shows the extent of God's redeeming love in Jesus Christ. See FC Ep V 9f . .36 For an excellent discussion of the relation­ship of the Law-Gospel distinction to the inter­pretation of Scripture, see C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gas­pe!, trans. W. H. T. Dau (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1929), pp. 60-67. With regard to "die Regel von Gesetz und Evangelium," Fagerberg states: "Niemals wird diese Regel als ein libergreifendes, hermeneuti­sches Prinzip verwandt oder gar als hahere In­stanz liber die hI. Schrift gesetzt. Sie will dem Bibelleser vielmehr dazu verhelfen, sich in den Aussagen der hI. Schrift liber die guten Werke zurecht zu linden und ihnen einen guten und eindeutigen Sinn zu geben," p. 38. BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION' IN THE CONFESSIONS 41 it God speaks to me about my Savior and through His· Spirit makes me His son. In short, Jonas is here expressing the convic­tion of the Confessions that the Scriptures are Christocentric and that their central purpose is to make men wise unto salva­tion. The man who believes the doctrine of justification by grace will understand this; he will see that everything in the Bible is directly or indirectly related to this center. As one who knows himself to be justified by God's grace, he will expect and find nothing in the divine Scriptures to be contrary to this doctrine; he will have his eyes opened by the Spirit to the won­ders of God's grace throughout the Scrip­tures. All of this Jonas is saying; but he is not advocating a hermeneutical principleP But are there not passages in the Con­fessions where the doctrine of justification and the distinction between Law and Gos­pel are used as hermeneutical principles? Let us note some passages where this seems likely. Commenting on the work­righteous interpretation given by the Ro­manists to two passages, Melanchthon comments: . . . in the preaching of penitence the preaching of the law is not enough be­cause the law works wrath and continually accuses. The preaching of the Gospel must be added, that is, that the forgiveness of sins is granted to us if we believe that our sins are forgiven for Christ's sake. Otherwise what need would there be of Christ, what need of the Gospel? We must always keep this important teaching in view. In this way we can oppose those who reject Christ, destroy the Gospel, and maliciously twist the Scriptures 1:0 suit the 37 "Hermeneutical principle" is used here in the sense of a rule applied by the interpreter to the text in order to discover its meaning. man-made theory that by our works we purchase the forgiveness of sins. CAp IV 260) With reference to the Confutation's sug­gestion that there are sacrifices in the New Testament besides the death of Christ which are valid for the sins of others, Melanchthon states: This notion completely negates the merit of Christ's suffering and the righteousness of faith, it corrupts the teaching of both the Old and the New Testament, and it replaces Christ as our mediator and pro­pitiator with priests and sacrificers who daily peddle their wares in the churches. CAp XXIV 57) Similar references are found frequently in the Apology, e. g., IV 231, 277; XXVII 64-65. In the Smalcald Articles Luther argues similarly that the Mass as a means for meriting God's favor (II II 7), purga­tory (12), indulgences (24), the invoca­tion of saints (25) and monastic vows to achieve God's favor (III 2; III XIV) must all be opposed as contradictory to the fun­damental article. To be sure, the above references ( and many others too) argue from the doctrine of justification. But two things should be noted: (1) all such arguments deal with passages or practices where the doctrine of justification itself is at stake; and ( 2) the doctrine of justification is derived from the Scriptures.38 To argue from the doctrine of justification in such contexts is in reality to employ the principle Scriptura Sacra sui ipsius interpres. For this princi­ple means not only that a single passage may shed light on another one but also 38 See, e. g., Ap IV 117,89-101,213. Note also that Luther's formulation of the "fundamen­tal article" is made up almost entirely of Bible passages (SA-II I). 42 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS that an article 0/ faith, derived as it is from Scripture, may be used to clarify individual passages.39 Are the doctrine of justification and the distinction between Law and Gospel then used as hermeneutical principles by the Confessions? Yes, in the sense that Law­Gospel and justification as clearly enunci­ated Scriptural doctrines are used to inter­pret other passages where the Law-Gospel distinction or the doctrine of justification is at stake. In such passages (and there are many of them, for this is indeed the fundamental article of Scripture) the dis­tinction between the Law and the Gospel and the doctrine of justification by grace function not only as hermeneutical presup­positions but as applications of the her­meneutical principle that Scripture inter­prets itself. The Lutheran Confessions never arbi­trarily impose the doctrine of justification by grace on any passage where it is not in fact taught. This would violate the prin­ciple of deriving the meaning from the text itself through grammatical-historical exegesis. Let us look at an example of Confessional exegesis where the doctrine of justification is clearly the issue: the in­terpretation of James 2:24: 'You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone;' in Ap IV 244-253. How . does the Apology reach the conclusion that this passage does not violate the Pauline doctrine of justification by grace? Not by imposing Paul's teaching on the passage but by deriving it from the passage by care-39 Some would prefer to call this hermeneuti­cal principle the "analogy of faith" because it employs an article rather than an individual passage. This is certainly legitimate, provided it is recognized that articles of faith, no less than individual passages, are derived from Scripture. ful exegesis. The Apology is interested in "what James meant" (244). It carefully reads the text, noting that James "does not omit faith nor exalt love in preference to it" (245). It takes the context seriously by pointing out that in James 1:1840 "regen­eration takes place through the Gospel" (247). Thus "the context demonstrates that the works spoken of here are those that fol­low faith" (246). In short, "James says none of this, which our opponents shamelessly infer from his words" (253). Nowhere in the whole chain of argumentation is a Law­Gospel hermeneutical principle applied, nor is there any evidence that the Con-· fessions considered this an "obscure" pas­sage requiring interpretation by a clearer one. James teaches-he is not made to teach -justification by grace. In interpreting passages where the doc­trine of justification or the distinction be­tween Law and Gospel is not the issue (and there are such instances), the Confessions likewise make it very evident that their exposition is based on the principles out­lined above (I, B). For example, in the lengthy discussion of the meaning of "This is My body" in Formula VII,u the appeal is consistently made to deriving the mean­ing from the text itself, using the context and setting of the Supper and noting paral­lel passages. Neither the doctrine of justi­fication nor the Law-Gospel distinction was an issue in this controversy, both sides re­garding the passage in question as Gospel. Does not this example suggest that it is rather pointless to regard the distinction between Law and Gospel and the doctrine 40 "Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures." 41 Cited at length above, pp.37ff. BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS 43 of justification by grace as independent hermeneutical principles of general ap­plicability? We have dealt with this point at some length because of the current tendency to confuse soteriological presuppositions with hermeneutical· principles. May I cite two examples? The recent essay "The Lutheran Confes­sions and Sola Scriptura" presents a "sum­mary of the confessional views regarding the purpose, content, and interpretation of the Scriptures."42 The essay does an ex­cellent job of setting forth the soteriologi­cal purpose and Christological content of the Scriptures on the basis of the Confes­sions. It likewise documents very well the Confessional commitment to the sole au­thority of Scripture. It offers the proper perspective for Biblical interpretation from the vantage point of the doctrine of justi­fication by grace. There can be no question about the validity of these accents. But as a "summary of the confessional views re­garding the . . . interpretation of Scrip­ture" it is remarkably quiet about the prin­ciples outlined above (1, B). Granted the need for interpreting the Scriptures "in conformity with the purpose of God ex­pressed in the Scriptures" (p. 17) -and I agree with this statement completely­can we really derive hermeneutical prin­ciples from this purpose alone, apart from the nature of Holy Scriptures as God's in­spired Word? Is it correct to state: "The doctrine of the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ is not only the praecipuus locus doctrinae christianae ("main doctrine 42 Essays Adopted by the Commissioners 0/ the American Lutheran Church and The Lu­theran Church -MisJOuri Synod, Nov. 22 and 23, 1964; April 19 and 20, 1965, p. 3. of Christianity"), but it also determines the interpretation of all Scripture" (p. 18; italics added)? Is "soteriological concern" enough of a basis to assert that exegesis will lead to basically the same applica­tion? 43 Is this statement accurately formu­lated: "All theology that receives its di­mensions and contours from this guiding principle is pure and true" (p. 11)? As I understand the document (and my un­derstanding may well be at fault), I would have to answer "No" to all of the above questions.44 Another item that raises some similar questions is "A Response to Questions­Raised by Memorial 331, Propositions 1 and 2," submitted by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations to the De­troit convention of The Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod.45 Both "A Response" and the synodical resolution (Proceedings, p. 101) recommend that the first two prop­ositions of Memorial 331 46 be studied "in the light of the approach to the Scriptures that is enunciated in the Lutheran Con-43 "Where this soteriological concern is pres­ent, exegesis, whether it deals with a single arti­cle of faith or with Scripture as a whole, will lead to basically the same application" (ibid., p. 18). 44 These questions are asked in keeping with the spirit of the Preface, which states: "The first two of these study documents are herewith pre­sented to members of the churches for study and discussion, with the suggestion that joint con­ferences be arranged at the local level for this purpose" (ibid., p. 3). 45 Proceedings 0/ the 46th Regular Conven­tion 0/ The Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod, Detroit, Michigan, June 16--26, 1965, pp.296 to 298. 46 The first proposition asks whether the six days of Creation described in Genesis and Exo­dus are ordinary, calendar days; the second prop­osition asks whether the Genesis account of the Creation and Fall is literal, factual history. 44 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS fessions which we all subscribe" (p. 296). "A Response" then gives considerable em­phasis to the doctrine of justification and the proper distinction. between Law and Gospel as the proper perspectives from which to interpret the Scriptures. Further­more, "A Response" speaks very relevantly and correctly in insisting that the inter­preter is not "free to disregard any of the hard facts of the Scriptures" and that he can determine the form in which the Scriptures speak "by observing it in each case in its Biblical context as it presents itself to him" (p. 297). There can be no quarrel with these accents; they are Biblical and Confessional. My questions deal merely with the emphasis and relevance of the document to the issues raised in Proposi­tions 1 and 2. In the final analysis, how does the doctrine of justification or the proper distinction between Law and Gos­pel help to determine the length of the days in Genesis 1 (Proposition 1) or whether the Genesis account of the Crea­tion and Fall is literal, factual history (Proposition 2)? Is it not possible that the differences of opinion among us on these questions come from men who, on both sides of the argument, proceed from the doctrine of justification by grace and properly distinguish Law and Gospel 10 these accounts? Granted that: To interpret the Scriptures in terms of Law and Gospel, as the Lutheran Con­fessions do, does not mean that the inter­preter is free to disregard any of the hard facts of the Scripture, whether these are the creation and the fall or the cross and the resurrection (p. 297), how does the doctrine of justification or the Law-Gospel distinction help us to de­termine which are the "hard facts" of Scripture and which are not? Can this last question be answered in, ahy other way than by clarifying the hermeneutical prin­ciples of grammatical-historical exegesis as it deals with literary. forms (as' "A Re­sponse" itself begins to do when it em­phasizes the importance of ,the "Biblical context" for determining the form, p. 297)? The doctrine of justification by grace and the proper distind:ion between Law and Gospel are indeed vital presupposi­tions for the proper interNetation of Holy Scripture. These presuppositions, more­over, are derived from the Scriptures them­selves and epitomize, the: content of the entire Bible. As such they serve as con­trols over against interpretations of Scrip­ture that weaken or destroy the doctrine of justification by grac~ for Christ's sake through faith or confuse the. condemning Law with the saving Gospel. But they are not principles for interpreting the message of Scripture; they are the message of Scrip­ture.47 What God is saying in His Law and in His Gospel can be heard only through the ears of a grammatical-historical exe­gesis that operates with principles of inter-47 Fagerberg states: "Die Rechtfertigung ist wichtig auf Grund ihrer biblischen Verwurze­lung und sie gibt den Aussagen der hL Schrift in bezug auf das Heil ihren guten Sinn, Ein gene­reller Schliissel zur hI. . Schrift ; ist sie jedoch nicht .... Statt das einzige Prinzip fUr die Deu­tung der hI. Schrift zu sein, ist sie diewichtigste Regel, die das Verstandnis der hI.Schrift das Verhaltnis von Glauben und .guten Werken be­treffend klarlegt," p. 36. Gerhard Gloege reaches a similar conclusion: "Das bedeutet nun nicht, dass die Rechfertigungslehre in clem Sinne ein hermeneutisches 'Prinzip' ware, dass mit ihrer Hilfe jedweder Text des AT oder NT von der Rechtfertigung zu reden hatte, bzw. auf die Rechtfertigung entfaltet" oder atigewendet wer­den miiszte. 1m GegenteiH'~ "Die Rechtferii­gungslehre als hermeneutische Kategorie," Theo­logische Literaturzeitung, 89.(1964), 163. BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS 45 pretation consistent with the nature of the Scriptures. Sola Scriptura and salus Chris­tus are inseparably joined together; let no man put them asunder! III. SOME CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS 1. The Confessions want to be under­stood and accepted as expositions and sum­maries of Holy Scripture, which remains "the only rule and norm according to which all doctrines and teachers alike must be judged and appraised" (FC Ep, Rule and Norm, 1) .48 Subscription to the Con­fessions is thus our affirmation that the doctrinal content of the Confessions is a correct explanation and summary of Holy Scripture, and our pledge to God and to one another that we will preach, teach, and administer the sacraments accordingly.49 48 Helmut Echernacht puts it well: "Was ist Bekenntnis? Das Bekenntnis steht der Schrift gegeniiber als die Antwort der Kirche auf die Rede Gottes. In ihm sagt die Kirche anbetend und gelobend ihrem Herrn das wieder, was Er ihr zuvor in der Bibel gesagt hat. Es ist damit Dialog und Liturgie" ("Schriftprinzip und Be­kenntnis," Evangelisch-lutherische Kirchenzei­tung, V [Feb. 15, 1951], 38). 49 In view of the Confessions' self-under­standing as· expositions of Holy Scripture, it is not entirely accurate to say that confessional sub­scription does· not "bind" us to the exegesis of the Confessions. C. F. W. Walther wrote: "If, for instance, an exegete does not reach the specific sense of a Bible passage and yet in­terprets it in such a manner that his interpreta­tion rests on other clear Bible passages, he is indeed mistaken in supposing that a certain teaching is contained in this specific Bible pas­sage, but he is not erring in doctrine. In like manner, he who unconditionally subscribes to the Symbolical Books declares that the interpre­tations which are contained in the Symbols are 'according to the analogy of faith: " Walther summarized the meaning of Confes­sional subscription thus: "A subscription to the confessions is the 2. In subscribing to the Lutheran Con­fessions we bind ourselves to the Confes­sional doctrine of the nature, content, and purpose of Holy Scripture (namely, that Holy Scripture is God's literary Word about Jesus Christ for man's salvation) and to all hermeneutical presuppositions and principles implicit in this doctrine. Agree­ment on proper hermeneutical principles cannot be expected without prior agree­ment on the nature of Holy Scripture as God's own Word. 3. The soteriological presuppositions of the Confessions give direction and purpose to the exegetical application of Confes-· sional hermeneutical principles. As a re­sult, the Lutheran interpreter will utilize grammatical-historical exegesis to explain the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testaments from the center of all Scripture, Jesus Christ.50 In deriving the meaning from the text, seeking the native sense of the text, and permitting Scripture to interpret itself, the Lutheran interpreter church's assurance that its teachers have recog­nized the interpretation and understanding of Scripture which is embodied in the Symbols as correct and will therefore interpret Scd pture as the Church interprets it." "Why Should Our Pastors, Teachers, and Professors Subscribe Unconditionally to the Symbolical Writings of Our Church," translated and condensed by Alex Wm. C. Guebert, Con­cordia Theological Monthly, XVIII (April 1947), 242, 246. 50 Nils Alstrup Dahl comments: "For the person who allows the church's confession to direct him to biblical exegesis, the elementary task of exegesis remains the most important and the most authentic one: the precise reading of what is written. . . . The actual goal of his work remains to arrive at an understanding of the gospel attested in the Scriptures in its signifi­cance for the total life of the church and the world:' "The Lutheran Exegete and the Con­fessions of His Church," Lutheran Worid, VI [June 1959], 10) 46 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS of Scripture continues to hear God speak­ing Law and Gospel for the gracious justi­fication of all men through faith in Jesus Christ. He hears this message throughout the Scriptures, not because he has manipu­lated the text or practiced eisegesis but because that is precisely what God is saying in the text of Scripture. 4. Because God is their author and Jesus Christ their chief content, the Scriptures are a literary and theological unit and must be interpreted as such. Because God's au­thorship was accomplished through human authors living and writing at various times as men of their times, the Scriptures must also be read as historical literary docu­ments. Because of the theanthropic nature of every word of Scripture, the interpreter is obliged to utilize -and be judged by­the canons of both theological and histori­cal interpretation, with the latter clearly in the service of the former. 5. Because of the interrelationship of the sola Scriptura and salus Christus prin­ciples, the church should be rightfully con­cerned with any interpretation or interpre­tive technique that is contrary to these principles or creates uncertainty about them. In employing nontraditional tech­niques or advancing nontraditional inter­pretations the Lutheran interpreter, out of love for the people he serves, should clearly demonstrate that he has not violated either the sola Scriptura or the salus Christus principle. 51 51 Some of the "minor" problems confronting the church are not so minor as they appear at first glance. Many people are concerned about matters like the authorship of the Pentateuch, Isaiah, and Ps. 110 or the historicity of Jonah, not because of the intrinsic importance of these questions but because they feel that some current answers to these questions are contrary to what 6. The Confessional presuppositions and principles of Biblical interpretation are not a set of neatly formulated rules and guide­lines, which, if followed consistently, will yield guaranteed and unanimous results in every exegetical detail. On the other hand they are prescriptive enough to measure the validity of every exegetical approach to the Scriptures. The Lutheran interpreter of Scripture who follows these principles carries out his task with the confidence that the Holy Spirit will open his eyes to behold "the things of the Spirit of God." (1 Cor.2:14) And after God, through the Holy Spirit-­in Baptism, has kindled and wrought a beginning of true knowledge of God and faith, we ought to petition him incessantly that by the same Spirit and grace, through daily exercise in reading his Word and putting it into practice, he would preserve faith and his heavenly gifts in us and strengthen us daily until our end. Unless God himself is our teacher, we cannot study and learn anything pleasing to him and beneficial to us and others. (FC SD II, 16) St. Louis, Mo. they understand Christ and the New Testament to be saying. They are thus concerned for the sola Scriptura principle: Do these "new" inter­pretations suggest that the Bible is unreliable? If the Bible is unreliable in these points, may I trust it when it tells me about my Savior? These people are also concerned about the salus Christus principle: Do these "new" interpreta­tions imply that Christ was wrong? And if Christ was wrong, then He' was not omniscient; and if He was not omniscient, then He was not God; and if He wasn't God, how could He be my Savior? If I cannot trust Christ's words on such matters, can I trust them on any matter? Perhaps such people have an unclear understand­ing of what Christ and the New Testament are actually saying on such matters, but for their sake this needs to be demonstrated with all love and patience. BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN THE CONFESSIONS 47 BIBLIOGRAPHY A. Primary Sources Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-Iuthe­rischlJn Kirche. 5th rev. ed. Gottingen: Van­denhoeck & Ruprecht, 1965. The Book of Concord. Ed. T. G. Tappert. Phila­delphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1959. B. Secondary Sources Commission on Theology and Church Relations. "A Response to Questions Raised by Memo­rial 331, Propositions 1 and 2," Proceedings 0/ the 46th Regular Convention of The Lu­theran Church -Missouri Synod (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1965), pp. 296-298. Dahl, Nils A. "The Lutheran Exegete and the Confessions of His Church," Lutheran World, VI (June 1959),2-10. Echternacht, Helmut. "Schriftprinzip und Be­kenntnis," Evangelisch-Iutherische Kirchen­zeitung, V (Feb. 15,1951), 38ft Elert, Werner. The Structure 0/ Lutheranism, trans. Walter A. Hansen (St. Louis: Concor­dia Publishing House, 1962), pp. 179-200. Fagerberg, Holsten. Die Theologie der lutheri­schen Bekenntnisschriften t'on 1529 bis 1537. Trans. Gerhard Klose. Gottingen: Vanden­hoeck & Ruprecht, 1965. Farrar, F. W. History 0/ Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961. Fraenkel, Peter. Testimonia Patrum: The Func­tion 0/ the Patristic Argument in the The­ology 0/ Philip Melanchthon. Geneva: Li­braire E. Droz, 1961. Fuerbringer, Ludwig. Theological Hermeneutics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House Print, 1924. Gloege, Gerhard. "Die Rechtfertigungslehre als hermeneutische Kategorie." Theologische Li­teraturzeitung, 89 (1964), 161-176. Habel, Norman. The Form and Meaning of the Fall Narrative, A Detailed Analysis of Genesis 3. St. Louis: Concordia Seminary Print Shop, 1965. Hermann, Rudolf. Von der Klarheit der Heili­gen Schrift: Untersuchungen und Erorterun­gen iiber Luthers Lehre von der Schrift in De servo arbitri.o. Berlin: Evangelische Ver­lagsanstalt, 1958. Holl, Karl. "Luthers Bedeutung fiir den Fort­schritt der Auslegungskunst," Gesammelte Aufsitze zur Kirchengeschichte, I, Luther (Tiibingen: ]. C. B. Mohr, 1927) pp. 544-582. Krause, Gerhard. Studien zu Luthers Auslegung der Kleinen Propheten. Beitrage zur histo­rischen Theologie, 33, ed. Gerhard Ebeling. Tiibingen: J. c. B. Mohr, 1962. Kropatscheck, Friedrich. Das Schriftprinzip der lutherischen Kirche. I. Die Vorgeschichte: Das Erbe des Mittelalters. Leipzig: A. Deichert, 1904. Linss, Wilhelm C. "Biblical Interpretation in the Formula of Concord," The Symposium on Seventeenth Century Lutheranism, I (St. Louis: The Symposium on Seventeenth Cen­tury Lutheranism, 1962), 118-135. Luther, Martin. The Bondage of the Will. Trans. ]. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston. West­wood, N. J.: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1957. ________________ . D-,. M. Luther's Answer to the Superchristian, Superspiritual, and Super­learned Book of Goat Emser of Leipzig, with -a Glance at His Comrade Murner. 1521. Works of Marti.n Luther, Vol. III, trans. A. Steimle (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Com­pany, 1930), 307-401. "The Lutheran Confessions and Sola Scriptura," in Essays Adopted by the Commissioners of the American Lutheran Church and The Lu­theran Church -Missouri Synod, Nov. 22-23, 1964; April 19-20, 1965, pp. 11-19. Mayer, F. E. The Religious Bodies of America. 2d ed. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956), pp. 142-144. Roloff, Jiirgen. "The Interpretation of Scripture in Article IV of Melanchthon's Apology of the Augsburg Confession," Lutheran World, VIII (June 1961), 47-63. Schlink, Edmund. Theology of the Lutheran Confessions. Trans. P. F. Koehneke and H. ]. A. Bouman. Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1961. Torm, Fr. Hermeneutik des Neuen Testaments. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1930. Walther, C. F. W. The Proper Distinction Be­tween Law and Gospel. Trans. W. H. T. Dau. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1929. ________________ . "Why Should Our Pastors, Teach­ers, and Professors Subscribe Unconditionally to the Symbolical Writings of Our Church." Translated and condensed by Alex Wm. C. Guebert. Concordia Theological Monthly, XVIII (April 1947), 241-253. Wood, A. Skevington. Luther's Principles of Biblical Interpretation. London: The Tyndale Press, 1960. The Introduction of the Historical-critical Method . and -Its Relationship to Lutheran Hermeneutics When this topic was assigned to this writer, it ·was suggested that he should concern himself particularly with Johann Salomo Semler and his part in the introduction of the historical-critical method in Lutheranism. It is true that Semler is probably the most influential person in c()ooection with the develop­ment and introduction of the historical­critical method within Lutheranism. It is, however, also true that Semler had prede­cessors who prepared the way for him. In fact, proponents of the historical-critical method like to claim Luther and the Re­formers as their forerunners in their oppo­sition to what , they consider the aberrations of Lutheran Orthodoxy. . In a study of this breadth it is not pos­sible to work solely or even predominantly on the basis of primary sources. Many of the primary sources are not available in the libraries. of our two seminaries, and it could hardly be expected that if they were, any member of the two faculties would have the tille to work solely on the basis of these primary sources, which are very numeroUs, very voluminous, and, if we may trust the judgment of Emanuel Hirsch, written, at least so far as Semler is Fred Kramer is professor of systematic the­ology at Concordia Seminary, Springfield, Ill. He is academic dean of the faculty and a member of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of The Lutheran Church­Missouri Synod. 48 FRED KRAMER concerned, in "elendes stets undurchsich­tiges umstandliches Deutsch. . . wohl das schlechteste, das ie ein Deutscher von geistigem Rang geschrieben hat.'; This writer has therefore confined him­self very largely to a number of apparently very excellent and thorough secondary sources. He would mention first of all Hans-Joachim Kraus, GeschicMe der hi­storisch-kritischen Erforschung des Alten Testaments. 1 The second source of our material is Gottfried Hornig, Die Anfange der historisch-kritischen Theologie: Johann Salomo Semler'S Schriftverstandnis und seine Stellung zu Luther.2 Another emi­nently scholarly though. secondary work is Emanuel Hirsch, Geschichte der neuern evangelischen Theologie, Vol. IV.3 A shorter but nevertheless very useful work is Wolfgang Schmittner, Kritik und Apo­logetik in der Theologie J. S. Semlers, in 1 Hans-Joachim Kraus, Geschichte der hi­storisch-kritischen Erforschung des Atten Testa­ments von der Reformation his zur Gegenwart (Neukirchen: Verlag der Buchhandlung des Erziehungsvereins, 1956). All translations from German and Latin in thisartic1e are by this writer. 2 Gottfried Hornig, Di'e Anffinge der hi­storisch-kritischen Theologie: Johtmn Salomo Semlers Schriftverstiindnis und seine Stellung zu Luther (GOttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1961) . 3 Emanuel Hirsch, "Joh. Salomo Semler," in Geschichte der neuem evangeUschen The­ologie, IV (Giitersloh: C. Bertelsmann Verlag, [1952J), pp. 48-89). HISTORICAL· CRITICAL METHOD 49 Theologisch'e Existenz Heute.4 All these writers i'appear to i have worked very ex­tensively . with the· primary sources. While they do not at all times agree in all par­ticulars in their judgments, there is nev­ertheless considerable unanimity both with respect to the facts and with respect to the evaluation of the facts as they concern the beginnings and the . development of the historical-'ctiticalmethod and its relation­ship to Lutheran. hermeneutics. I THE ATIITlJDE OF LUTHER AND THE REFORMERS TOWARD THE SCRIPTURES Kraus makes the demand that in pre­senting the history of the historical-critical theory we ask again and again, "What did the Reformers say?"5 It is neither germane to our topic, nor does it appear necessary that we dwell here on Luther's profound reverence for Holy Scripture as the in­spired Word of God. We must, however, refer to Luther's hermeneutical principles and to any statements by Luther which might indicate that he had leanings toward literary and historical criticism of Scrip­ture. It is a fact, as any student of Luther knows, that Luther turned against the fan­ciful allegorical interpretations of Scrip­ture which had been customary in medieval Christendom and insisted on grammatical­historical exegesis. By studying the text of Scripture according to the meaning of the words and according to the grammar in the historical setting of the text Luther 4 Wolfang Schmittner, Kritik und Apolo­getik in der Theologie J. S. Semters, Nr. 106 in Theologische Existenz Reute (Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1963). 5 Kraus, p. 21. sought to arrive at the sensus litteralis, which must be understood as the intended sense of the writer. Concerning this there is no debate. The claim of the proponents of the historical and literary criticism of the Bible is that the doctrine of verbal in­spiration as set forth in Lutheran Ortho­doxy made a study and understanding of Scripture in the sense of Luther unlikely if not impossible. In speaking of Luther as one who was not hostile to literary and historical criticism Kraus says: Luther realized that Isaiah and Jeremiah did not publish their books themselves ... Rather their speeches -according to Lu­ther's understanding -were excerpted by scribes. The exact historical order could not be maintained. Also the Psalter was not arranged according to a careful plan when it was composed. Luther goes quite far when he even considers it possible that Moses could also have drawn from the tradition of other (heathen) peoples. But in any case the tradition of the fathers came to Moses to be fixed Scripturally. He then shapes it like a "Virgil ian poet." Here problems arise concerning the com­position of Biblical books and also ques­tions about the tradition behind Bible stories. From Luther's Table Talk we re­ceive the following information in this connection: "Thereafter Master Fortemius said that many assert that the JtEV'ta:tEu­xov was not written by Moses. The Rev­erend Doctor responded: What has that to do with the matter? Let be, that Moses did not write, nevertheless it is Moses' book. ... 6 6 Ibid., pp. 13 f.; quotation from Martin Luther, D. Martin Luthers TiJchreden, 3, in D. Martin Luthers Werke (Weimar: Herman Biih­laus Nachfolger, 1914), 23, Nr. 2844b. This; edition will be cited as W A. so HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD Kraus continues: In any case critical insights are stated openly. They do not touch the unshakable certainty that God Himself speaks in Holy Scripture and that the Biblical witnesses worked and wrote from the Holy Spirit. The human form of Scripture which be­comes visible in the problems of compo­sition and tradition Luther did not take too seriously: "It does not matter much. If a dispute occurs with respect to Scrip­ture and it is not possible to harmonize it, then one should let it go." 7 We may refer here also to the sharp words which Luther spoke concerning the Book of Esther in his exegesis on Ex. 4: 24-26. Luther expresses his amazement that the Holy Ghost mixed "this crazy stuff into such great and important and high matters." Similarly Luther often noted ap­parent contradictions in the matter of historical facts and chronological diffi­culties.s Not only Luther but also other Reform­ers are claimed as forerunners of the his­torical and literary criticism of the Bible. In Kraus, Karlstadt is given a special chap­ter because of his critical investigations with respect to the canon. On account of these studies Kraus says that Karlstadt is the fir.st forerunner of the literary-critical study of the Old Testament within Protes­tant theology. Karlstadt first of all separ­ated the s<;>-called apocryphal books from those he considered canonical. He also de­voted considerable attention to the Pen­tateuch. He do>:s not doubt that Moses received the Law from God and trans­mitted it to the people, but with respect 7 Kraus, p. 14 (Kraus' s italics); quotation irom W A, 46, 727. 8 Kraus, p. 14. to the Pentateuch he asks: "From whom is the speech of the five Books of Moses and the nature of the discourse?" He ex­presses his thoughts in the following words: The discourses of the authors, achieved with so much labor, we judge more rightly to be by editors of the books. Indeed, filled with this kind of concern I began to doubt about the writer of the last two Books of Esdras . . . thinking also about the historian of the Books of Moses I was uncertain who might have written the five volumes of the Law, who might have been their writer. Moreover, so far as the hap­penings are concerned, I by no means' doubted that they were performed by those to whom they are attributed, whether to Moses or to others, but so far as the writer of the history is concerned, I was moved by a by no means groundless persuasion to believe that it was another than Moses. -First of all I was shaken by this reason that, when Moses died, the story is woven together by the same phraseology and diction in which it had been begun to be written earlier, but it is clear that Moses, after he died, neither said nor wrote anything, wherefore the style of the history is given to a man other than Moses. Moreover, we see that many things be­long to Deuteronomy which Moses did not publish; these and others, as one can see from the last chapter of Deuteronomy, throughout the speech of the historian are the words of the writer of the history of Deuteronomy. . . . From this it is demon­strated that the proposition that Moses was not the writer of the five books can be defended since, when Moses had been buried, we see the style of the speech the same; certainly it would be ridiculous to assume that the same Moses, the dead Moses, spoke these words: "Moses died at the command of God, and He buried him HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD 51 in the land of Moab, and no man knows his grave." These things and others which follow no one except a manifest madman will attribute to Moses as author.9 Karlstadt was critical with respect to the authorship of other Old Testament books. He considers the author of the Books of Samuel unknown; he holds that the self-praise in the Book of Ezra (7: 6-25) makes it impossible to consider Ezra the author of this book. The Book of Dan­iel is critically examined. Katlstadt would like to delete the Greek additions.1o With all this literary and historical criticism Karlstadt has no inclination to deny the Protestant principle of sola Scrip­tura.11 John Calvin Calvinism is known for its early formu­lation of a doctrine concerning Holy Scrip­ture and of a confessional fixing of the canon.12 Yet also John Calvin has his doubts about the authorship of some Old Testament books. Comparing Calvin's way of operating in this atea with that of Lu­ther, Kraus says: Calvin operates in a similat manner in his interpretation of the Old Testament -even though in his criticism of the content of the text he is more reserved than Luther. A notable example of the criticism that Calvin practiced is in the foreword of the exegesis of the Book of Joshua. The inherited tradition is given up, because it is impossible to think of 9 Ibid., p. 26. 10 Ibid., p. 27. 11 Ibid. 12 E.g., "The French Confession of Faith, A.D. 1559," Art. III; see Philip Schaff, The C1'eeds of Ch1'istendom, III (New York: Harper & Bros., 1905), 360 f. Joshua as the author. The total content of the book speaks against such an under­standing. Calvin frankly declares that the assumption that Joshua must have written the book because the superscription bears his name rests on very weak grounds, for also the name "Samuel" is found in another book of the Holy Scripture which simply cannot have been written by Sam­uel. Calvin then catefully sets forth the assumption that it was probably the high priest Eleazar who gathered the reports concerning the events out of which the book was constructed later. This concep­tion goes back to the supposition ex­pressed by Calvin in another place that. the manuscripts pertaining to the Law and the historical reports of the Old Testa­ment were gathered in the Ark of the Covenant by whoever happened to be high priest at the time they were written. But then he says with the greatest caution: "We ate ready to leave undecided what we cannot search out and what finally is not of the greatest importance. But this most important thing must be accepted, that the doctrines contained in this Book were inspired by the Spirit of God for our use."13 II LUTHERAN ORTHODOXY AND ITS ATTITUDE TOWARD SCRIPTURE Whereas proponents of the historical and literary criticism of the Bible believe that they find allies in the Reformers­Luther, Melanchthon, Katlstadt, and Cal­vin -they have harsh words for the Lu­theran dogmaticians and their doctrine of verbal inspiration. We must therefore ask what the orthodox Lutheran dogmaticians in company with the Reformed dogmati­cians of the same age taught concerning 13 Kraus, pp. 14 f. 52 HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD the inspiration of Scripture and how this doctrine affected any efforts at historical and literary criticism of the Bible_ It is a fact, too well known among us to need demonstration here, that Luther's free criticism of certain books in the Old and New Testament canon was not shared by the dogmaticians of Lutheran Ortho­doxy. While the Orthodox dogmaticians could not deny the doubts which had per­sisted in the church from ancient times with respect to the canonicity of certain books, they did their best to establish the canonicity of also these books, and the criticisms of Luther are for the most part silenced among Lutherans during the 17th century. Hornig gives the following char­acterization of the doctrine of verbal in­spiration in the Lutheran dogmaticians: Through the doctrine of verbal inspi­ration, which they sought to establish by means of 2 Tim. 3: 16 and other passages of Scripture, the dogmaticians maintain that the writings of both the Old and the New Testament are divinely inspired in their very words and therefore to be looked upon as infallible. The concept of inspiration, or Theopneustie, has a very definite meaning in the framework of the orthodox doctrine of Scripture. It signifies the unique act through which God as the author of Holy Scripture communi­cated His Word to prophets and apostles and moved them at the same time to write it down. This revelation of God, which is given through inspiration, hap­pens according to the orthodox under­standing with the intention that the Word of God may be transmitted to coming generations in its original and authentic form uncorrupted and unchanged.14 Kraus expresses similar sentiments con-14 Hornig, pp. 41 f. cerning the doctrine of· verbal inspiration in the Lutheran dogmaticians as follows: Viewing matters as a whole we gather that the question about the historical origin of the canonical Holy Scriptures was asked only here and there. In the foreground there stands the very schematic and constructive conception of the man­ner in which the Word of God became Scripture as it was described in the fol­lowing manner by John Gerhard: "Divine inspiration is such an action by which God in a supernatural manner communi­cated to the intellect of the writers not only the concepts of all things which were to be written, in conformity with the ob­jects, but also the concepts of the words themselves and of all things by which these were to be expressed, and moved their will to the act of writing." The authors of the Bible are "God's helpers, Christ's hand, the writers and notaries of the Holy Spirit; they wrote not as men but as God's men." Therefore "no error even in little things, no lapse of memory, much less a lie can find a place in all Scripture." 15 With respect to the Hebrew vowel points Kraus says: A characteristic example for the rigid maintenance of the doctrine of inspiration may be seen in the dispute concerning the Hebrew vowel points. The problem was again raised through the writing of the Jew Elias Levita, Massoreth hammas­soreth (1538). . . . Zwingli, Calvin, and Luther opposed the view of the originality of the vowel points in the original autoe graphs. Luther rejects the "new human invention of the rabbis." 16 On the other 15 Kraus, p. 30. 16 Discussing the contested passage Ps. 22: 7 Luther says with reference to the vowel points: "Denn dass man die Punkte verandern, und kii'arl und kii'1iru lesen kiinnte, das geniigt nicht, HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD 53 hand Matthius Flacius is an eager defender of the conviction that the vowel points possess a high antiquity. The incipient confirmation of the dogma of inspiration could not dispense with the acceptance of the archaic validity of the Hebrew vowel points. For if one should have declared himself for a later introduction of these signs, the text of the whole Scripture would have become uncertain. This dared not happen under any circumstance. Flacius in the ensuing debate even appeals to the Word of Jesus that not an iota [not an apostrophe} of the Law was to perish. Yes, if the Hebrew points were a late invention, then according to John Gerhard it would follow: "Scripture was not given by God through the prophets down to the separate words since without the vowel points the words could stand only in a naked manner, therefore the whole of Scripture would not be the-da es hinIanglich bekannt ist, dass man den Punkten nicht glauben darf, da sie erst eine neue Erfindung sind." Martin Luther, Dr. Martin Luthers Sammtliche Schriften, 2d ed., ed. Joh. Georg Walch. IV (St. Louis: Concordia Pub­lishing House [I88I}, 1284. This edition will be cited as St. L. In his rather violent writing Yom Schem Hamphoras Luther counsels Christian scholars of the Hebrew Old Testament that, if they could change the vowel points in the Hebrew and other grammatical details so that they would get away from the Jewish understanding so that it would agree with the New Testament, they should do this confidently and joyfully. He says in this connection: "Mit dieser Weise kiinnte man der Juden Verstand in der Bibel fein schwachen, und ist das Vortheil da, dass Mose und die Propheten nicht haben mit Punkten geschrieben, welches ein neu Menschenfiindlein, nach ihrer Zeit auf­gebracht; darum nicht not ist, diesel ben so steif zu halten, als die Juden gerne wollten, sonder­lich wo sie dem Neuen Testament zuwider gebraucht werden .... Darum, wo sich die aequivocatio in einem vocabulo begibt, so nehme man die significatio, die mit dem Neuen Testa­ment stimmt, so wird sie gewiss. " St. L. XX, 2106 f.; see WA 53, 647 f. opneuston." By means of this example one can see that strong supports are everywhere built into the orthodox doctrine of inspiration. The Scriptural principle of the Reformation is fortified in its untouch­ableness down to the very vowel points. Without a single gap this dogma sur­rounds the Holy Scripture like a protecting wall.17 According to Hornig this orthodox doc­trine concerning Scripture experienced a development in later Lutheran Orthodoxy. He writes: In the framework of the orthodox doc­trine of Scripture a development can be noticed insofar as the doctrine of verbal­inspiration is emphasized ever more strongly. With Calov, Quenstedt, Hollaz, and other dogmaticians of late Orthodoxy this doctrine is developed down to an exact explanation of the process of inspi­ration. By inspiration they understood the divinely worked suggestio rerum, suggestio verborum, and the impulsus ad scriben­dum. Therefore the Biblical writers did not act on their own impulse when they wrote down the books of the Old and of the New Testament but formulated them under the guidance of God and as a result of His direct command. Therefore God is the real originator (causa principialis) [sic} of Scripture while prophets and apostles are only tools (causae instru­mentales) which God used in the compo­sition of Scripture. In consequence of this thinking the Biblical writers are called amanuenses, and the process of inspiration is described as a dictation of the Holy Spirit, a dictamen in calamum.18 As representatives of the dictation theory Hornig names Calov, Quenstedt, and Hol­laz and quotes from Hollaz the words: 17 Kraus, pp. 30 f. (Kraus's italics). 18 Hornig, p. 43. 54 HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD Omnia et singula verba, quae in sacro codice leguntU1', a Spiritu Sancto Prophetis et Apostolis inspirata et in calamum dic­tata sunt.19 Kraus accuses the Lutheran dogmaticians of seeking to establish the authority of Scripture by means of rationalistic prin­ciples. He says: The authority of the Bible is established on rational grounds, and the whole of Scripture is represented as something given in a supernatural manner. One is amazed at the zeal with which the au­thority of the Bible is "proved" with an appeal to its venerable age, the dependa­bility of the historical information, and the absence of contradictions in content. These rational postulates, which stood in the service of a demonstration of the super­natural character of Scripture, later on became factors which inflamed criticism in an especially violent manner.20 The orthodox Lutheran dogmaticians, according to Hornig, considered the ortho­dox doctrine of verbal inspiration neces­sary to convince men that Holy Scripture is the codex of truths revealed by God Himself. As soon as these basic presup­positions were fulfilled, so they supposed, the assent to the remaining articles of faith in the dogmatic system would come of itself.21 If we may believe Hornig's characteriza­tion of the orthodox Lutheran use of the doctrine of verbal inspiration, it amounted to this: A man had first of all to accept one doc­trine of orthodox dogmatics before he 19 Ibid., p.41; quotation from D. Hollaz, Examen Theologicum Acromaticum, I (Rostock and Leipzig, 1718), 94 f. 20 Kraus, p. 28. 21 Hornig, p. 49. could believe any sentence in Holy Scrip­ture. First he had to accept the verbal inspiration before it was possible for him to receive the forgiving grace of God in saving faith.22 To the extent that this principle was actually carried out in Lutheran theology the Christian faith took on a very intel­lectualistic cast. It was as if a man were saved by the correctness and completeness of his conception of the Christian doctrine rather than by a commitment to his Lord and Savior in confidence in His atoning work. This situation within Lutheran Or­thodoxy seemed like a challenge to men of .. critical temperament. On this point Kraus says: Scriptural principle of the Reformation is the foundation of Protestant Biblical exegesis. For this reason it was necessary . . . to set forth this important point of departure. It will have become clear how serious the misplacing of the theological accents during the age of orthodoxy was. The dogma of inspiration with all its her­meneutical consequences is the deciding factor which challenges criticism. The divinization (Vergottlichung) of Scrip­ture calls the humanistic reaction onto the field.23 Hornig summarizes the results for dog­matical and exegetical theology that fol­lowed from the position of Orthodoxy as follows: The verbally inspired Scripture is con­sidered by Orthodoxy as the source of knowledge out of which all doctrines of faith are to be proved and derived. But as soon as the hermeneutical principles of orthodox exegesis are examined, the secret dominance of the already established dog-22 Ibid., p. 50. 23 Kraus, p. 34 (Kraus's italics). HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD 55 matical doctrines over the testimony of Scripture become clearly apparent. The deciding factor is not the intended sense of the words of the Biblical writers. The real hermeneutical principle is rather an exegesis according to the analogy of faith. The result is therefore a dogmatically bound exegesis, which can indeed furnish dogmatics with new dicta probantia but can hardly correct its own doctrines or even question them.24 The following may stand as a represen­tative criticism of the Orthodox Lutheran doctrine of verbal inspiration: Insofar as one proceeds from the pre­supposition that the verbally inspired original texts have been transmitted es­sentially uncorrupted, it is necessary to declare on the basis of the doctrine of verbal inspiration that every form of textual criticism is illegitimate. Strictly speaking, however, also a study of the text from the standpoint of the history of thought or the history of religion of the content of the Biblical message is for­bidden. For this content is not the result of a historical development but has as the Word of God a supernatural character. Laudable as the endeavor is to maintain the dependability of Holy Scripture as the only fountain of man's salvation, so serious are nevertheless the objections which the Orthodox doctrine of verbal inspiration arouses. Through this doctrine the human-historical character of the Biblical message is negated. But this doc­trine also gets into conflict with the self­testimony of the New Testament text at important points. For when the apostles demand faith for their message, this is not done with the claim that their words are divinely inspired but rather with a reference to the fact that they were eye 24 Hornig, p. 51. and ear witnesses of the words and deeds of Jesus Christ.25 Kraus criticizes Orthodoxy particularly for being unable to study the Scripture his­torically. He says: The basic orthodox idea of pure doctrine failed at one essential point to bring a suitable manner of regarding the Bibli­cal facts: It was not able to enter into the essence of the history.26 This, according to Kraus, entered Re­formed theology only through Johannes Coccejus, and Lutheran theology through George Calixt.27 The doctrine of verbal inspiration had far-reaching theoretical consequences in Lutheran Orthodoxy. Because it was held that Scripture contained neither errors nor lies nor lapses of memory nor oversights with respect either to the matters treated or to the words used, Orthodox theologians often drew conclusions from the Bible with respect to other sciences which were coming to the fore during the period of Orthodoxy, as for instance the sciences of history, geology, physics, and astronomy. The bitter disputes that grew out of this situation have come down into our own time and are with us today as we all well know. III HISTORICAL CRITICISM OF THE BIBLE DURING THE 16TH AND 17TH CENTURIES If the 16th century was the age of the Reformation, during which the sola Scrip­tura was firmly established in Protestant 25 Ibid., p. 44. 26 Kraus, p. 33 (Kraus's italics). 27 Ibid. 56 HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD theology, and the 17th century was the era of Reformed and Lutheran Orthodoxy, these centuries were nevertheless not with­out voices :which ~emanded literary and historical criticism of the Bible. In the following we shall consider a few of these. Hugo Grotius Hugo Grotius, a Dutch statesman and scholar, sought to read the Bible histori­cally. First of all l}e practiced determined textual criticism, -seeking out to the best of his ability the beSt readings. Further­more, he placed the' Old Testament and its statements against the background of secu­lar history, seeking a purely historical ex­planation. Philology, textual criticism, and history -these are the viewpoints from which he practiced' Biblical interpretation. Grotius wanted to read the Old Testament on its own terms apart from any depend­ence on the New Testament. Consequently Grotius missed' Chlist· in the Old Testa­ment, and the Ebed-Jabwe in Isaiah was never Christ' but first Isaiah and later J ere­miah. The Psalrtis 'became exclusively ex­pressions of individual piety. In his in­terpretation of Scripture Grotius was a good humanist bui: not a good Biblical exegete.28 The S ocinians What Hugo Grotius did in his way the Socinians had' done, . if . possible, even: more radically before him. . They interpreted Psalm 2 only of David, Psalm 22 of an unhappy Israelite, Psalm 45 of the wedding of Solomon.' The ,pr~phecies of the Old Testament were not. thought to be direct prophecies ~fChrist, but insofar as they actually transcended the immediate his­torical setting, they were to be looked upon 28 Ibid., pp. 46-49. as dark oracles of something future. The truth of Scripture was considered the eter­nal truth of reason. The Socinians consid­ered it their duty to free this eternal truth of reason from its historical elltanglements. With these principles the Old Testament was practically superfluous. All this was an inheritance from humanism.29 Historical Criticism Within Roman Catholicism According to Kraus, Andreas Masius, a Roman Catholic scholar commenting op. the Book of Joshua, expressed the opinion that the Book of Joshua had been written., not by Joshua; as the Jewish commenta­tors maintained, but by Ezra or some other man equal with Ezra. Masius then ex­panded his ideas to the Pentateuch and ex­pressed not only the opinion that Moses had not written the Pentateuch but that most of the writings of the Old Testament are totally undependable as historical docu­ments. Masius had a learned pupil, Benedict Pereira. Pereira, a Spanish Jesuit, became the teacher of Richard Simon, a noted Catholic scholar, who had a strong histori­cal-critical bent. Pereira wrote on the Pen­tateuch. While he sought to hold fast to the conviction that essentially the Penta­teuch is the work of Moses, he expressed the opinion that many things in these writings "leave Moses behind."30 The Role of the Philosophers in the Development of the Historical and Literary Criticism of the Bible Influenced by the Dutch Hugo Grotius, the British Lord Herbert of Cherbury at-29 Ibid., pp. 37-39. 30 Ibid. HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD 57 tacked the Orthodox position with respect to divine . revelation. Cherbury believed that all religions, also Judaism and Chris­tianity, are the result of a falling away from an original natural religion. It is easy to see how the Biblical concept of revelation was relativized, not to say de­nied, by the position taken by Cherbury. Perhaps more influential than Cherbury was the philosopher Thomas Hobbes_ Hobbes attacked the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and declared this whole complex of books to be post-Mosaic. He did, however, grant that anything of which the Pentateuch· itself said that Moses had written was written by him. The English Deists were very much in­terested in the study of the Old Testament. They believed that in the Old Testament they could uncover a natural religious con­nection of Christianity with the univer­sal pheonomena of belief in God and the manner in which this belief is manifested in people's lives. The Jewish philosopher Spinoza (1632 to 1677), a younger contemporary of Hobbes, also tried to show that Moses could not have been the author of the Pentateuch. Furthermore, Spinoza set forth certain hermeneutical rules which he considered necessary for a proper understanding of Scripture. Spinoza is considered the first to work out the principles of a historical­critical hermeneutics. He insisted that na­ture can be properly explained only when a natural history has been written on the basis of which the definition of objects of nature bec~mes possible. Similarly, he holds, Holy Scripture can be conscienti­ously explained only if previous to the ex-planation a history of 'the Biblical litera­ture has been worked out. Only on the basis of sure facts and principles can the meaning of the Biblical authors be grasped. In other words, we must know the literary history of the Pentateuch before we can profitably study and hope to understand the Pentateuch. He demanded that in the study of all texts the student must estab­lish who the writer was, on what occasion he wrote, at what time, to whom, and fin­ally in what language he wrote. It is ob­vious that such study could be conducted only where there was an exact knowledge of the language and, above all things, of . the history of the language. For only where there is a history of a language and of its idioms can the history of the literature be known. The Se1ZStts literalis can therefore not be ascertained except on the basis of a knowledge of the language and the his­tory of the literature.31 It would seem self-evident on the basis of such a hermeneutical demand that the Bible will be a closed book to all but the highly learned in language, history, and literature. Spinoza assumed a certain accommoda­tion of Scripture to vulgar opinion. He wanted to separate the divine doctrine of Scripture and the vulgar opinion to which the Scripture must accommodate itself. From here it was not far to the extremes that were to show themselves in the vulgar rationalism that was soon to prevail and to the position of Reimarus in the so-called W olfenbuttler Fragmente, in which not only the disciples of our lord but our lord Himself were considered conscious cheats and deceivers. 31 Ibid., p. 57. 58 HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD The Immediate Theological Forerunners of Johann Salomo Semler While these things were taking place in the philosophical world, the so-called Auf­ktarung was proceeding on all sides. Nat­ural science, particularly in the area of as­tronomy, had been making steady strides since the time of Copernicus, a contempo­rary of the Reformers. The theologians were by no means unaware of these devel­opments or unaffected by them. A new TV eltbild, a new understanding of nature and of the universe, was knocking power­fully at the doors of the theological world. Sigismund Jacob Baumgarten (1706-57, professor at Halle) introduced current phi­losophical methods into theology while seeking at the same time to maintain an orthodox Lutheran dogmatical stance. He became the teacher of Semler, who was but 19 years his junior. Semler, who published many of Baumgarten's works and in part furnished them with introductions running as high as 160 pages, praised the theologi­cal method of Baumgarten. He saw in Baumgarten a theology which had begun to depart from the rigid formulas of the later Lutheran Orthodox dogmaticians. Another theologian who tried to hold the positions of Orthodoxy yet felt deeply obligated to the so-called Enlightenment was Johann David Michaelis (1717-91). Michaelis, like others before him, con­cerned himself with the question of the authorship of the Pentateuch. He says that Moses is the author but assumes that Moses used sources that were in existence before his time. Others, including Luther, had made this assumption before Michaelis. It is evident that forces were stirring on numerous fronts before Semler that au­gured the literary and historical criticism of Scripture. However, it remained for Johann Salomo Semler to bring these crit­ical theories in their full force and devel­opment into the theology of the church. In the above we have given only the briefest overview of the forerunners of Semler. Many other men contributed through philological study of Hebrew and the cognate languages, through the writing of hermeneutical treatises, through the de­velopment of a science of isagogics, through the study of history and literature. We turn now to a study of the role played by Semler. Kraus states that Michaelis had sought to patch the bursting ring of the dogma of inspiration, but Semler destroyed it completely as he sought for new founda­tions for a valid Protestant Biblical theo­logy.32 IV JOHANN SALOMO SEMLER: THE INTRODUCTION OF THE HISTORICAL-CRITICAL MJ;THOD IN LUTHERAN THEOLOGY Johann Salomo Semler (1725-91) is acknowledged as the father of the modern historical and literary criticism of the Bi­ble. He was raised in pietistic surround­ings but drifted more and more into ra­tionalism, although he despised the vulgar rationalists and according to his own testi­mony at least desired to hold on to the fundamental Christian doctrines. While Semler had, as we have seen, forerunners in the matter of the historical and literary criticism of Scripture, he is generally acknowledged as the man who helped these theories to triumph in the Protestantism of his age. Semler appears 32 Ibid., p. 83. HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD 59 to have been a highly gifted man with a great capacity for work. We quote from Hornig: In line with his many and varied gifts Semler worked extensively in all areas of theology. As a newly elected professor in Halle he lectured during his first year on hermeneutics and church history. A few years later (winter 1758-59) he also lectured on dogmatics, ethics, polemics, and the history of the Reformation. As the bibliography prepared by J. G. Eich­horn shows, Semler published learned treatises also in the area of archaeology, numismatics, textual criticism, hermeneu­tics, exegesis, patristics, church history, history of dogma, and dogmatics. Witness to his special interest in the theology and history of the Reformation is the pub­lication by Semler of thorough studies in primary sources and of manuscripts and documents which had not before been published. After the death of his teacher and friend Baumgarten, Semler published this man's voluminous writings. Furthermore the German theology of that time owes to the initiative of Semler the exact knowl­edge of important works of English, French, and Dutch authors. Semler either caused the translation of these works or, in case other learned men sent him trans­lations, he provided these with introduc­tions and often with very detailed com­mentaries. Semler wielded great influence through his four-volume Abhandlung von freier Untersuchung des Canon (1771 to 1775 ) . This belongs to the most im­portant theological works produced during the 18th century. In this work Semler brought the evidence for the gradual growth of the canon and at the same time proved the legalistic and formalistic un­derstanding of the canon that prevailed in Orthodoxy as untenable.33 33 Hornig, p. 11. Schmittner judges that in this work the old Protestant doctrine concerning Holy Scripture is overcome.34 Students of Semler agree that one of his most important contributions to theologi­cal learning lies in the area of hermeneu­tical method. In this he turned against both Orthodoxy and Pietism. It is on ac­count of these labors in the area of canon and of hermeneutics that he is considered the father of the hitorical-critical method. What was Semler's concern? According to Schmittner we find Semler fighting a war on two fronts: on the one hand against Orthodoxy, which he accuses of fostering a legalistic doctrinal system which discour­ages, a man from thinking and all but for­bids him to examine the Bible critically, and on the other hand against the vulgar rationalism which he saw as a destroyer of the Christian faith. We quote from Schmittner: On the one hand it is necessary to give to the Christian religion an unshakable territory which is capable of withstanding all attacks of philosophical, historical, and scientific criticism; on the other to safe­guard to the individual who has become of age the right to make decisions ac­cording to his conscience without any compulsion stemming from dogmatics. He calls upon theology to speak under­standably, ad hominem, "according as men can receive it"; that is, theology is to enter into their epistemological problems and not be content with a blind submission to the authority of received doctrine. When opinions occur which depart from the received doctrine, they are not to be con­demned a priori, but they are to be heard and discussed in open dialog, in intel­lectual honesty, "in honest use ... of 34 Schmittner, p. 23. 60 HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD reason," ,for God desires no sacrificium inteUectl1S but a "free, moral, proper acceptance" of the· truth. He is concerned about the right grounds of the Christian doctrine' as opposed to the scruples of "thin.kingChristians" that arise from their reason and to the elite followers of rationalism,· but on the other hand also as opposed, to the need for security of Orthodoxy which Semler considered ques­tionable.35 It will be well in the following to keep in mind these two sides of Semler's con­cern. Hornig presents this concern as follows: Semler looks· upon Holy Scripture as "the ground of true Christianity"; he wishes to further' the right use of Scripture and is certain that no one can justly accuse him of "looking to other fountains of knowl­edge beside, Holy Scripture." Semler, like Luther before him, does not, in stressing the Scriptural' pfinciple, desire to encour­age a legalistic Biblicism. Semler rejects the idea oIa formal Scriptural principle which' considers all Biblical statements in principle of the same value. In construct­ing theology he wants to take his point of departure' from exegesis and hermeneutics. If the results of exegesis get into conflict with previously accepted exegetical and dogmatical formulations, then the tradi­tional understandings are not to be held, but the results of a scientifically grounded exegesis. are to be followed.36 In seeking the meaning of Scripture Semler stresses the importance of the his­torical sense: Everything depends on the "true histori­cal. understanding of Holy Scripture. I de­sired always first of all to seek the first 35 Ibid., pp. 6 f. 36 Hornig, p. 151. historical or hermeneutical or true sense . . . . Everywhere I found too. little_ ., historical sense, always the theological perversions." 37 Semler's Hermeneutics Semlercriticizec! the exegetical efforts of both Orthodoxy and Pietism. He found Orthodoxy struggling under a dogmatically bound exegesis, and Pietism suffering from mystical, allegorical interpretation. He be­lieved that both of these were arbitrary and failed to find the' sense intended by the Biblical writers. Against the method of both Orthodoxy and Pietism Semler praised the exegetical principles of luther. He declared that luther had the most cor­rect hermeneutical principle so far as the sense of Scripture is concerned. As Luther had done before him, so also Semler con­demned allegorizing the text and instructed his students to search for the meaning of the words. This does not mean, however, that Semler's hermeneutics is simply that of luther and the Reformers. A careful examination of Semler's hermeneutics will reveal that it departs in important respects from luther's hermeneutics. Semler saw the task of hermeneutics as a double one. First of all, the exegete had to get at the intended sense of a passage in its historical setting. Second, he had to translate it for his hearers into concepts and language suited to their understand­ing. Schmittner quotes Semler on these points as follows: Hermeneutical skill depends on sure and exact knowledge of the Biblical way of speaking and also on an exact grasp of the historical circumstances of a Biblical speech. Then one must be able to speak 37 Schmittner, pp. 28 f. HISTORICAL~CRITICAL METHOD 61 concerning, these, things now in 'such a way as the' altered time and othercircum~ stances of II1enarqund ,us demand, or one must make hise~planation in such a way that they cap, understand it. All of hermeneutics can ,be subsumed under these two points.38 In the following quotation we attempt to show what all, according to Semler's understanding, belongs to theological her­meneutics. Theological hermeneutics according to Semler must pay attention to the universal rules of scientific interpretation of texts, but it must, also t3ke into consideration those factors which arise out of the special nature of the biblical texts and of their contents. Semler figru.es as belonging in the realm of hermeneutics not only gram­mar, rhetoric and logic, but also the his­tory of the transmission of the text, the translations, textual criticism, and exe­gesis. The cardinal rule ,of any scientific in­terpretation of the text must, according to Semler, be the enqeavor to be guided strictly by the words of the text and to carry nothing of one's own thoughts into the text. . . ., "The Holy writers," so Semler declares, "must alone be the lords and masters to tell us what they really meant." Seml,er is in sympathy with the traditional grammatical interpretation of the text but comes to the conclusion that this alone does not yet offer a guarantee that the text is being explained and under­,stood according to its original intended sense. The epoch-making importance of Semler for the history, of hermeneutics and exegesis lie,s in the (for his time) new demand for a historical interpretation of the text.39 38 Ibid., p. 18. 39 Hornig, p., 7.9 (Hornig's italics). What this means for hermeneutics and exegesis may be made clear by.the follow­ing paragraph from Hornig: " Only when one seeks to understand the Biblical texts without, introducing ex­traneous thoughts as accounts of definite historical happenings wholly in the light of their own time does one, according to Semler, realize completely how far these texts are removed from us in time, and only so does one become capable of ap­propriate exegesis. He does not deny that the Biblical texts and the W ~rd of God contained in them concern' Us also and are to be proclaimed to us. But what a given Bible text has to say to us today is, ac-., cording to Semler, a question which can be answered only when one has estab­lished the original historical, sense of this text. Only in this manner can we, in view of the changed historical situation, reach a correspondence in content, between the past and the present proclamation of the Word of God. According to Semler the historical exegesis does' riot yet solve the problem of the actual proclamation, which must be directed to man today' arid speak to him in his specific situation: It does, however, constitute a ,necessary condition for a proper fulfillment, of this task. 40 The historical understanding of Scrip-ture which Semler demands brings the exegete squarely up against the question of the canon. According to orthodox doctrine the canon is a divinely, verbally' inspired and un­changeable collection of. writings which equally obligates Chrisj:ians in all its parts.41 Semler is convinced that anyone who would arrive at a ,true understanding of the 40 Ibid., p. 82. 41 Ibid., p. 60. 62 HISTORICAL·CRITICAL METHOD canon must not orient himself by means of the orthodox doctrine but must examine the history of the origin of the canon. There one will arrive at the conclusion that the beginning of collecting the New Testament writings was made during the second century, that the lists of books which constituted the canon varied greatly in different churches, and that the fixing of the canon in the form we know today was the result of a process which lasted for some centuries, was carried on between rivaling traditions, and was accomplished by means of ecclesiastical compromises.42 Semler is convinced that all theological questions which concern historical matters -and to these belong the inscripturation of oral tradition, the origin and delimita· tion of the canon, questions of genuine· ness and authorship -cannot be answered by means of dogmatical assertions but can be answered with some degree of depend­ability only through historical investiga­tions. From this premise Semler raises the accusation against the Orthodox doctrine of Scripture that it lacks a foundation that rests on historical investigations. Semler believed that this understanding of the origin of the canon would shake to its foundations the doctrine of verbal inspir­ation as held by Orthodoxy. Also, textual criticism played a most im­portant part in Semler's hermeneutics and exegesis. If we may trust the criticisms leveled against some of the representatives of Orthodoxy by their detractors, some of the Orthodox theologians must have of­fered a good bit of resistance to textual criticisms in the beginning. In the fol­lowing we quote from Schmittner, who 42 Ibid. himself is for the most part quoting Semler: "That the special practice and skill which is called criticism should under no cir­cumstances be applied to Scripture . . . I have never been willing to be forced onto me, because now for a long time I have ascribed divinity and importance to the truths, to their efficacious ... con­tent, but considered the copying and the printing of the Bible to be the same human labor as when copyists and printers went to work on Plato or Roratius. A special divine rule and supervision of God in connection with the work of copy­ing only he can maintain who believes that his dreams are reality." Semler dis­tinguishes between divine content and human transmission. In this way Holy Scripture gains historical plasticity and fullness. To gain its content in its original form it is necessary to examine the pro­cess of transmission critically without respect for the taboos prescribed by the reigning understanding of Scripture. So Semler conceives "the idea . . . little by little to gather freer conceptions . . . concerning the history of the Bible as a book." Re says that the historian will find it questionable whether the Biblical text "came to us so directly and unaltered that it is still quite genuine." Feeling the need for a dependable critically opened text with the best possible reading he de­fends the right of philological analysis against the suspicion of Orthodoxy, which flowed from the concern for the integrity of Scripture, and against the disinterest of Pietism, which grew from the aversion of Pietism against scientific meticulousness and abstraction. Realizing that he was entering a very wide field which had for the most part not been worked, Semler gives_ himself to the task of examining the Biblical texts according to principles developed in connection with secular HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD 63 literature. He was convinced that it was legitimate to use textual criticism with Bible texts as well as with secular writers. In this way ... he rent the veil between hermeneutica sacra and hermeneutica pro­fana.43 Along with other criticisms of Ortho­doxy Semler criticized the strict separation of theology from philosophy which the dogmaticians had at least in theory advo­cated. He held that not only the rules of logic but also the best contemporary his­torical, philological, and text-critical meth­ods must be applied, as in all scientific dis­ciplines, so also in theology.44 On one point in particular Semler de­parts radically from the hermeneutics of Lutheran Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy recog­nized the Lutheran Confessions as one norm for the interpretation of Scripture. The demand was that Scripture should be interpreted in harmony with the analogy of faith. This was sometimes understood as the sum total of the clear sedes doc­trinae, at other times as the confessional doctrinal statements of the church. These two understandings are not as far apart as they might seem to be on the surface, be­cause the doctrinal statements were under­stood to be based on the clear passages of Scripture. Any careful student of the Lu­theran Confessions soon realizes that the Confessions understand themselves as ex­position of Scripture.45 Because the Lutheran Confessions are believed by that body to be faithful ex-43 Schmittner, p. 21. 44 Hornig, p. 131. 45 See Edmund Schlink, Theologie der Lu­therischen Bekenntnisschri/ten 3d ed. (Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1948), pp. 6-11, 35, 38, 55-66, 418, 420. positions of Biblical teaching, the church has expected its pastors and theologians to refrain from interpreting Scripture con­trary to the Lutheran Confessions. There­fore in a sense the Confessions were viewed as a norm for interpretation, one of the hermeneutical principles according to which Scripture is to be understood. On this point Hornig writes: Already in his early writings during the years 1757-60 Semler called for the realization of a theology that proceeds from hermeneutics and exegesis. Neither the Confessions of the church nor the received dogmatical systems can, accord-.. ing to Semler, claim the rank of a norm of interpretation, because this would place them above Scripture itself.46 Semler repeatedly appeals to Luther in matters hermeneutical and exegetical. We therefore ask wherein Semler's hermeneu­tics differs from Luther's. On this subject we find the following significant statements in Hornig: It is true there are in Luther noticeable tendencies in the direction of historical criticism, but these occur only sporadically and are not carried through methodically. Decisive for Luther's inner relationship to Holy Scripture is the experience that in it we are met by the living Word of God. This inner boundness to Scripture causes the text-critical considerations and ques­tions one meets occasionally in Luther to recede into the background. For this reason one cannot really call Luther a representative of a historical-critical study of Scripture. The differences which are apparent here may be seen also in the interpretation of Scripture which is focused on the mean­ing of the words. While Semler desires 46 Hornig, pp. 78 f. 64 HISTORICAL-CRITICAL. METHOD to hold' fast the, Christocenttic understand­ing of Scripture, he differs from Luther in this, that he will not place the Christ principle ahead of the exegesis of any pat­ticulat point or passage. And it is speci­fically the exegetical demand to find the sensus literalis historicus which forbids the use of a Christological or Christocentric method' 'of interpretation. Referring a passage to Christ, according to Semler's historical-critical' principles, is possible only where it rests directly on the wording of the text and can consequently also be verified by means of the text. In the in­terpretation of Scripture the sensus litera­tis is for Semler the historical sense, for Luther on the other hand the sense which refers it· to' Christ. Hornig adds significantly: This difference in method, which Semler did not discuss particularly, had to be­come apparent particularly in the inter­pretation-of the Old Testament and can be documented there most cleatly.47 Semler's Theory of Accommodation We COJ;llenow to a discussion of one of the very important elements of Semler's hermeneutics, his particular theory of ac­commodation. This subject furnishes the material for Hornig's last chapter in his book on the historical-critical theology. It covers in all 25 pages. The question of course goes far beyond Semler, and many theologians and philoso­phers had· dealt with the subject before Semler. Hornig.states the question as fol­lows: The"dispute revolved around the question whether and in how far it can be main­tained that Jesus and the apostles in their proclamation accommodated themselves to 47 Ibid., p. 208. the religious ideas and, the general under­standing of the universe (W eltbild) of their hearers. Closely connected with this was the other question, how such tem­porally conditioned elements of the New Testament message ate to be judged from the standpoint of .tpodern. science. The manner in which these questions were answered had considerable consequences not only for systematic theology but also for the immediate practical proclamation. For the demand was made 'that the ideas which were recognized as temporally con­ditioned and erroneous should not be considered when the essence of Chris­tianity is defined and should also be­banished from the sermon.48 Schmittner states the case as follows: How does Semler believe that the prob­lem is to be dealt with that the most central statements of the ,New Testament, the words of Jesus Himself and the testi­mony of the apostles to Christ, are most intimately bound up with ideas which appear questionable to modern critical thinking, which is bound by the results of the researches of natural and historical science? Does it not represent an essen­tial limiting of Christian truth, a dis­regatd of the authority of Jesus and of the apostles, if one chooses here on the basis of critical examination? We have arrived at the deciding point in the struggle between Orthodoxy and En­lightenment. . Everything depends on whether the filtering judgment which wishes to distill that which is usable out of that which is foreign actually is that . which "Christum treibet." 49 The theory of accommodation was not formulated by Semler. I~ belonged to the burning questions whicli toward the end 48 Ibid., p. 21t. 49 Schmittner, p. 40. HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD 65 of the 18th century occupied theological discussion. According to Hornig many publications of that time occupied them­selves with this theme and took position either for or against.50 Researchers in ~he­ological literature tell us, that the thought that the incarnation of Christ represents a divine accommodation, the thought also that the Biblical writers in their proclama­tion made use of a certain accommodation, goes back to the time of the Greek church fathers.51 Even the dogmaticians 'of 'Orthodoxy had a certain theory of accommodation during the 17th century, Semler, who knew all this, never claimed to be the author of the theory of accommodation, although some have accused him of being the origi­nator.52 The Orthodox dogmaticians taught a certain theory of accommodation in con­nection with the doctrine of the verbal inspiration of Scripture, which they viewed as a direct dictation of the Holy Spirit to the Biblical writers. Hornig says the fol­lowing on their theory of accommodation: Every philosophically trained reader of the Hebrew and Greek Bible texts could establish without difficulty that the Bibli­cal writings differ from one another in grammar, style, and manner of expression. The discovery of these differences ap­peared to be in contradiction to the basic Orthodox teaching that Holy Scripture has only one author and that it is the result of direct dictation of the Holy Spirit. In order to, be able to continue to hold fast the verbal inspiration of Scrip­ture without being compelled to deny the 50 Hornig, p. 21l. 51 Ibid., p. 213. 52 Ibid. human and historical element of the most widely differing linguistic usage, the dog­maticians held a theory of accommoda­tion according to which they maintained that the Holy Spirit in the -dictation ac­commodated Himself to the style and the language of the various Biblical writers.53 In a footnote Hornig quotes Quenstedt on this subject, whose Latin w,e 'translate freely as follows: There is a great diversity among the holy writers so far as style, and manner of speaking are concerned,whichseems to come from this: because the Holy Spirit accommodated Himself to the ordinary mode of speaking, leaving to each one his --style of speech; it must not for this reason be denied that the Holy Spirit inspired to them individually the very words. 54 The debate about the theory of accom-modation was in full swing during the time of Baumgarten, the teacher of Semler. What it was all about, or wh~t it was in part about, may be made ,clear by the following quotation from Hornig: As an example of ,such expressions where we assume that an accommodation of the Biblical writers to, traditional ideas and to the limited power of comprehen­sion of the common people Baumgarten quotes the so-called "optical expres­sions ... " used in Holy Scripture, concern­ing the fixity of the earth and the rising and setting of the sun. ,Since these ex­pressions in Scripture are not a correct description of what actually happens in nature, the question' arises ,how these words of Scripture are to be understood and to be interpreted. 53 Ibid., p. 214. 54 Ibid., quotation from J. A. Quenstedt, Theologia didactio-polemica sive Systema The­ologicum, I (Leipzig, 1702, 76b. 66 HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD Iri . answering this question Baumgarten gives three possible positions. The op­ponents of the theory of accommodation understand these optical expressions in a literal sense and consider them true as such. They proceed from the assumption that the words of Scripture are always an adequate description of what actually takes place, therefore also of the workings of nature (Naturvorgange). Therefore they assume that these sayings of Scripture are to be considered the "basis for natural science" and demand that natural science be derived from Holy Scripture. The hypothesis that Jesus Christ and the apostles had accommodated themselves to contemporary understandings of nature -which are recognized as erroneous by modern research -is met by these theo­logians with the following arguments: (1) The assumption that there could be an accommodation in Holy Scripture "denies the truth of Holy Scripture"; and (2) the theory of accommodation "mili­tates against the divine character of Scrip­ture and the omniscience of God, who is the best natural scientist." 55 While both philosophers and theologians had dealt with theories of accommodation before Semler, he remains one of the chief representatives of these theories of accom­modation. Semler does not appear to have treated the Biblical view of nature as based on accommodation. Rather he seems to be of the opinion that the Biblical writers shared the understanding and the mis­understanding of nature that prevailed in their time. His theory of accommodation cuts deeper. Hornig tells us: Accommodation according to Semler is a pedagogical act for the purpose of the 55 Homig, p. 216. more rapid spread of Christianity. It con­sists in this, that Jesus and the apostles in a measure accommodated themselves to the specific way of thinking and to the traditional religious conceptions of their hearers. Semler sees an act of accommo­dation already in the fact that Jesus speaks to the people in parables but in speaking with His disciples dispenses with this mode of speaking and presents His thoughts directly. Yet even in speaking with His disciples Jesus took into con­sideration that they were not yet able to bear the full truth. 56 Semler widened the theory of accom­modation in explaining what he and others' with him consider the explanation of dif­ferent ways of teaching that occur in the New Testament. On this subject Hornig says: That the four evangelists in their way of presentation, argumentation, and termi­nology differ among themselves Semler explains from the missionary intent of the evangelists, who in composing their writ­ings consciously accommodated themselves to the religious and national origin of their readers. Thus the Gospel according to St. Matthew is directed to the repre­sentatives of a strict, legalistic Judaism. Therefore it contains many quotations from the Old Testament and intends to convince the reader that in Jesus the promised Messiah has come. Also the Gospel according to St. Luke is destined for Jews and contains a genealogy which is meant to prove the descent of Jesus from the house of David. John on the other hand addresses Greek-speaking Jews in Asia Minor. He dispenses with the genealogy, shortens the historical accounts considerably, and does not attempt to prove his message with quotations from 56 Ibid., p. 222. HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD 67 the Old Testament. Rather he seeks to make the importance of Jesus Christ for salvation clear by taking the concepts of Logos and Monogenes which were al­ready familiar to the Hellenistic Jews and applies them to Jesus Christ.57 How Semler differs in his theory of ac­commodation from the theologians of Or­thodoxy will be clear from the manner in which he treated the account of the crea­tion in Genesis. On this subject Hornig says: According to Semler's understanding the Christian faith implies belief in creation, that is, the conviction that God has created the world and all things. Therefore, so Semler emphasizes, belief in the creation must under all circumstances be main­tained. This does not, however, mean, ac­cording to Semler, that the Christian is obligated to recognize the conception of nature and the descriptions of nature in the Old Testament. In accord with his historical-critical understanding of Scrip­ture and on the basis of the conviction that in particular in connection with the Biblical conceptions of nature we are often dealing with temporally conditioned and mythological concepts, Semler declines to look upon all individual statements of the Biblical account of the creation as histori­cally dependable statements.58 What this did to the orthodox doctrine of Scripture and to the relation of Scrip­ture to the sciences may be made clear by the following quotation from Hornig: Since [according to Semler] the ortho­dox doctrine that everything in Scripture rests on a verbal inspiration from God itself rests on an error, Semler can see no reason why theology should not accept 57 Ibid., p. 223. 58 Ibid., p. 220. the results of research in the natural sciences. Semler is convinced that the­ology must accept the independence of the disciplines of natural science and must surrender the orthodox claim to authority over these disciplines. In sharp contra­diction to the orthodox conception Semler formulates as follows: "Whatever is true in philosophy is also true in theology." Against the orthodox argument that by this Holy Scripture was subjected to the judgment of human reason Semler argued with the statement that through our reason, which was given us by God, the very matters are recognized which are the result of God's creative work. Here, even. as in the interpretation of Scripture, Sem­ler assumes that the insights of reason are not acts of subjective arbitrariness but the result of strict scientific work. Semler considers Holy Scripture the human-historical witness of the revelation of God, and reason not as the sum of definite innately known facts but as a function for knowing. Therefore also Semler does nbt wish to understand Scrip­ture and reason as two magnitudes that might rival each other. Rather he em­phasizes that reason is absolutely necessary for the understanding of Scripture and for arrival at Christian conviction. Therefore a conflict between Scripture and reason is simply inescapable when Scripture is understood as a collection of verbally inspired truths which can be used to dis­prove the results of natural science. Sem­ler considered this kind of use of Scrip­ture a misuse. Therefore he sharply opposes the representatives of a Biblicistic fundamentalism who "on account of the letter of Scripture, and in order to think and to speak Biblically, wished to deter­mine the system of the planets and of natural occurrences according to Biblical expressions contrary to astronomy and physics which we consider incontro-68 HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD vertible."Senilerrecognizes that the orthodox doctrine of Scripture drives the Christian into the dilemma of a double truth or forces him to deny the results of natural science.59. Semler's theory of accommodation led him to demythologize the New Testament in certain respects." On this subject Hor­nig says: The circumstance that the writers of the New Testament practiced accommodations which can be recognized both in their nature and in their. extent by means of historical-cri~ical exegesis, according to Semler justifies inner Biblical criticism as to content. The real proclamation of the Word of God is not: to orient itself by means of the concepts that represent ac­commodations which were demanded at the time when Christianity was introduced on pedagogical grounds, but above all things on the clear principles of New Testament proclamation as they lie before us particularly in John and Paul. The realization of. this demand leads Semler to demythologize, that is, to give up mythological concepts which come from a pre-Christian religious tradition and in part were retained by New Testament writers. Semler did not develop a clear definition of the :concept of "mythology" or of "myth." When he speaks about oriental and Jewish mythology, this con­cept serves to designate a primitive pic­torial way of thinking and speaking which has its origin in .. the religious imagina­tion and speaks. of supernatural divine things in anthropomorphic language.6o We quote the fo1l6wlng from Hornig to show that thil!. _ concept is already very strong in Semler:. 59 Ibid., pp. 221 f. . 60. Ibid., p. 225.' From this historical-critical attitude there follows Semler'srejectioJ1 of the mythological and legendary:traditions and his demand for demythologization of the New Testament message. ·Not the circum­stance that the myths. speak. of metaphysi­cal entities demands criticism, according to Semler, but the fact that they personify spiritual realities, that. they historicize the ahistorical. Semler sees. in mythology the anthropomorphic tendency at work, to describe divine and metaphysical beings in the form of a man, according to human ways of acting and human ways of be­having. Thus mythology" is . a hypostasiz­ing, an elevating of spiritual experience~. and of religious concepts to substance. He wants to reverse this process through demythologizing. With his demand for demythologizing Semler does not intend a reduction of the saving message of the New Testament. Rather his demand has an apologetic intent: to defend the uniqueness and the historicity of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ over against ccintemporary attacks. When the reality of the resur­rection of Jesus Christ was denied and declared to be a product of religious fan­tasy and mythology, the 'distinction be­tween history and myth -appeared neces­sary. Otherwise it seemed that the whole New Testament message of . salvation would be condemned as mythology. Sem­ler is of the opinion tha~ the mythological concepts and pictures are n<;>t. an inte­grating part nor the necessary form of expression of the New Tesatrilent mes­sage but that they can' certainly be sepa­rated from it. If we compare the critical understand­ing of reality of Semler with the so-called Biblical reali~m of ronteriipbrary Wiir­temberg theologians, we see basic differ­ences. While Semler seeks td distinguish in the New Testament:between the re-HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD 69 demptioh accomplished by Christ and the human-historical concepts of redemption, between the historical facts and mytho­logical pi~es, the representatives of Biblical realism reject such distinctions a priori.. They consider all Biblical state­ments t,o be' equally real and in harmony with realii:y. Clinging to the tradition of the Orthodox' understanding of Scrip­ture they , consider the Bible as "the trustworthy textbook of history," and on the basis of· chronological statements in the Bible they seek to calculate the date when the world began and also the date when it will come to an end. Consciously they hold fast to the idea that the devil is a concrete personal being. Semler's attempt to. explain the New Testament statements concerning the devil as an ac­commodation to mythological Jewish ways of thinking is felt on the basis of Biblical realism to be an unacceptable spiritualizing of Biblical statements.61 We believe that with this we have suffi-ciently characterized the theory of accom­modation as it was in part taken over by Semler from' previous theologians and phi­losophers and' in part developed further by him. In the following we shall attempt to evaluate critically. from the standpoint of its effect on Biblical theology the historical­critical method as represented by Semler. The Effect of Semler's Historical-critical Theory on the Doctrines of the Church Semler thought of himself as an enemy of the crass rationalism fostered by the contemporary deism and naturalism which came from England and France into Ger­many.62 He wanted to hold fast to and defend the revelation of God in Jesus 61 Ibid., pp. 233 f. 62 Ibid., p. 12. Christ. In harmony ,with the orthodox Lutheran dogmatics . Semler distinguished between' revelatio generalis and revelatio specialis. For the revelatio generalis he uses the German word allgemeine Offen­barung, and the revelatio specialis he calls naehere Offenbarung.63 Trying to make clear what Semler understood by these terms Schmittner says: Already natural revehition aimed at the salvation of man, '''the ultimate aim of God." It gave to man the possibility of understanding himself as coming from God, that is, as Hiscteature.' It is pos­sible to agree with, Semler 'in this and in .. view of Rom. 1:19ff.; 2:14ff.; and John 1:4 to speak of a $chopfungsofJenbarungj but then one ~ust also say: The dark­ness comprehended it not. In the opinion of Semler, and even earlier of the Wolffian orthodoxy, this darkness is not so very dark but rather a moderate semi­darkness, which grows lighter and lighter as the Enlighten,ment proceeds, and finally in consistent rationalism it no longer needs a second sllpernatural source of light. By means of this natural source of light, which Semler does not consider to have been completely obliterated, a large number of "general natural truths," in particular the existence of God and His demands on men, can be known. "Therefore one must cease to denigrate the natural know ledge of God so very much, since it is' and remains the first step to revealed ~owledge." Men are, "as men, capable when they use their human capacities purposefully . . . to arrive at such a knowledge of God and of His will that' it is sufficient to obligate them to a behavior' consonant with this will." Semler emphasizes that "God Him­self wisely arranged it that men were 63 Ibid., p. 101; Schminnet, pp. 11-14. 70 HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD never lacking who saw into these natural truths quite independently of the Scrip­ture." Here one may ask why a revelation in Christ was necessary if man on the basis of his natural powers could know both God's existence and His demands, but Semler does hold to the necessity of a "nearer revelation."64 Holy Scripture is, according to Semler, th~ bearer of the revelatio specialis. How­ever, the greater part of the total concept of Scripture consists of truths that are known by nature, which all rational men are able to recognize. Only a small part is concerned with supernatural truths, the eternal counsels of God. Semler says: It is undeniable that Holy Scripture . . . contains only a very few sentences . . . which ... specifically concern the possi­bility of the best union with God and the agreement with all the purposes which He has for us. It is these sentences which really are the subject of the nearer revela­tion, whereby it is distinguished from that which men know concerning God by natural revelation.65 Semler, so his defenders tell us, did not intend to attack the uniqueness of Scrip­ture.66 Nevertheless, Semler distinguished fundamentally between Holy Scripture and the Word of God. He refused to identify the one with the other. Here Semler and others after him confused what he said with something Luther had said before. Luther had distinguished between the rel­ative importance of various Biblical books. It is well known that among the Gospels he preferred John to the Synoptists. He preferred the Epistle to the Romans to 64 Schmittner, p. 12. 65 Ibid., p. 13. 66 Ibid., p. 28. other New Testament epistles. To suppose that this is one and the same thing as dis­tinguishing in Scripture between that which is the Word of God and that which is not the Word of God is one of the great confusions in modern theology of which already Semler seems to have been guilty.67 Beginning with Semler the old orthodox formula Scriptura Sacra est Ver­bum Dei is changed to Scriptura Sacra continet Verbum Dei.68 On Semler's un­derstanding of the concept "Word of God" Hornig says: Semler considers the Word of God first of all Christ Himself, for Christ is the' incarnate Word of God. That is to say that also Jesus' doctrine must be counted as being Word of God. Jesus Christ as Logos and Monogenes is "the originator of wholesome insights for men" and has "disseminated grace and truth or perfect knowledge of God" among them. Semler does not yet recognize a basic distinction between the doctrine of Jesus and Pauline proclamation, between the Gospel of Jesus and the Gospel concerning Jesus. In har­mony with his own concept of revelation Semler is able to call the apostolic mes­sage of Christ, of the Christ who was de­livered for our offenses and raised again for our justification, the content of the Christian faith and therefore the one "Word of God" which alone concerns us.69 Semler distinguishes between the divine content and the human form of Scripture. He refuses to identify revelation with Scripture itself. On this point Hornig says: In harmony with the understanding which had been developed in Orthodoxy Sem-67 Ibid., p. 30. 68 Hornig, p. 84. 69 Ibid., p. 85. HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD 71 ler understands by revelation the impart­ing of divine truths to definite historical persons who at the same time received the command to make known these divine truths through oral proclamation or through fixation by means of writing. Since Holy Scripture contains both the witness of the Old Testament revelations and also of the New Testament revelation in Christ, Scripture has a continuing and normative importance for the Christian religion as witness to revelation. How­ever, Semler differs from the Orthodox understanding in this, that he rejects the identification of revelation and Scripture, because this negates the human-historical element. According to Semler, revelation is preserved through the medium of human understanding, restatement (W ie­dergabe), and tradition but at the same time is veiled in a temporally conditioned garb. Since the communication of the divine truths may be viewed as inspiration of the matter (Realinspiration), not, how­ever, as verbal inspiration, Semler con­siders the Orthodox designation of Scrip­ture as "written revelation" as misleading and not in harmony with the facts.7o Kraus is quite critical of Semler with respect to his understanding of revelation. He finds Semler and men of similar stripe as placing themselves into a position where they become the judges of revelation. In this connection we quote Kraus: Where are the valid norms for such a critical evaluation of what is past? If one follows up this question, one very soon finds that the Biblical witness of revelation is subjected to a general concept of rational religious truths and moral laws. The historical-critical research is begun by a rejection of the Biblical concept of revelation. Without hindrance this evalu-70 Ibid., p. 100. ating CrItlclsm can now proceed: "Since we are not morally improved by all the 24 books of the Old Testament, we can­not convince ourselves of their divine origin." Divine is therefore that which morally improves us, and this in turn is measured with general norms. Semler proceeds even more radically and judges: "The canon of the Old Testament consists of a collection of coarse Jewish prejudices which are positively opposed to Chris­tianity, and only a small part of this canon contains divine and inspired writings for the Jews in which useful and usable truths also for Christians are found." Here the general evaluation of usable eternal truths is combined with a view of the Old Testament which one can only call "gnostic." The New Testament, according to Semler, contains the universal en­lightened, eternal religion compared with which the Old Testament seems narrow, national, Jewish, and temporally bound. Kraus adds, and this we may well note: We cannot sufficiently emphasize that these judgments seek to dominate the understanding of the Old Testament down to the present. They spring from the spirit of the Enlightenment and from that modern Gnosis which to a large ex­tent has become the real impulse or at least the dominating characteristic of the historical-critical research .... 71 We are not surprised that Semler had an idea of what ought to be done with the Old Testament. He writes: A healthy excerpt from the books of the Old Testament would recommend the Christian doctrine and religion much bet­ter and much more convincingly than the cold repetitions of happenings which are totally outlandish, totally foreign and unknown for us and for our taste in 71 Kraus, pp. 99 f. 72 HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD knowledge and morals and will continue to be so.72 One thing appears certain: Semler's un­derstanding of the nature of Holy Scrip­ture is a far cry from that of Luther and the other Reformers. These approach Holy Scripture with the unshakable conviction that it is the inspired Word of God. One wonders in what sense one can still speak of inspiration where the understanding of Semler reigns. Semler, it appears, not only justly criticized the Orthodox doctrine of Biblical inspiration on those points in which it went beyond Scripture itself but was willing to amend the Biblical text it­self where it did not suit his concept of inspiration. On this point Schmittner says: There are also weak points in Semler's argumentation. For instance, he tries to get around 2 Tim. 3: 16, one of the most important dicta probantia of the orthodox doctrine of inspiration . . . by means of the highly questionable text-critical elimi­nation of the lem, by which he arrives at his own basic thought (only that Scripture is inspired by God which can demon­strate that it is useful for doctrine).73 Hornig has the following to say con-cerning Semler and the doctrine of in­spiration: In the dogmatics of high orthodoxy the doctrine of verbal inspiration was not proved by a reference to the late Jewish concepts but was based immediately on exegetical arguments. Semler therefore considers it his· task to examine the proof passages that were cited. The classical text for verbal inspiration was above all others 2 Tim. 3: 16. Semler does not agree with the interpretation of the orthodox dogma-72 Ibid., p. 100. 73 Schmittner, p. 27. ticians of this passage. The expression ltiioCi. YQCI.