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date: 25 September 2017

Martin Luther's Practice of Old Testament Commentary

Summary and Keywords

Scholarly analysis of biblical interpretation and commentary in the history of Christianity has become an important subfield in history as well as biblical studies and theology. From the Reformation and into the modern era, Martin Luther has been appreciated first of all as an expositor of the Bible and a confessor of its teachings. His vocation as a theologian called to teach in the University of Wittenberg was especially focused on the exposition of scripture, and his development as a theologian and eventually as an evangelical reformer was deeply tied to his experience in interpreting the Bible in his university classroom, in the Augustinian cloister, and in his household. His interpretation of scripture was the basis of his “Reformation discovery” of justification by faith, and his conflict with the papal church was largely the result of Luther’s conviction that the message of scripture, in particular “the gospel,” was being overwhelmed in the theology and churchly practice of his time by “human teachings” not supported by and contradicting scripture. As a result, Luther and other evangelical reformers of the 16th century appealed to scripture alone (sola scriptura) as the highest authority in shaping their theology and proposals for reform.

Luther’s teachings and leadership in the Reformation were shared and celebrated not only through his doctrinal and polemical treatises and catechetical writings, but also through the many sermons, biblical commentaries on both Old and New Testament books, and prefaces on the books of the Bible that were published in his lifetime and thereafter. Old Testament commentary was an especially important genre of Luther’s published works, as it encapsulated much of his work as a university professor of theology and evangelical reformer.

Keywords: Martin Luther, Bible, humanism, Jews, monasticism, Old Testament, scholasticism, theology, university

Luther’s Biblical Commentaries in Relation to His Vocation

Luther’s achievements in biblical commentary cannot be separated from his vocation as a baptized Christian, a friar (from 1505 until c. 1525) of the German Reform (Observant) Congregation of Augustinian Hermits, a professor of theology called to the University of Wittenberg, and an ordained priest called to preach at the Augustinian cloister and also at the city church (St. Mary’s) in the town of Wittenberg in Electoral Saxony. It is therefore anachronistic and misleading to think of Luther’s activities in Old Testament commentary in terms of exegesis of the Old Testament (or “Hebrew Bible”) in relation to modern academic contexts, including the division of theological studies into Old and New Testament biblical studies, systematic theology, church history, and practical theology (including homiletics). Although Heinrich Bornkamm drew attention to this connection between Luther’s academic position and Old Testament studies as a means of emphasizing the predominance in Luther’s biblical lectures at the university on Old Testament books over those of the New Testament,1 it has become common to read of Luther’s vocation as “professor of Old Testament” portrayed through this anachronistic lens.

Biblical Interpretation in the Medieval University

In a medieval university faculty of theology, biblical exposition was one of several means of conveying the content of theology in a holistic way; thus professors of theology might have any one of several interchangeable titles, such as magistri sacre theologiae or doctores sacre scripture (etc.), and theology itself was often titled sacra pagina or sacra scriptura.2 The goal of biblical exposition was to convey Catholic doctrine in its relation to the biblical text from which it was drawn. To interpret the biblical text, including and indeed especially the Old Testament canonical writings, as a divine revelation of the Trinity, of Christ, and of the church was in no way viewed as illegitimate—for example, as “eisegesis” or reading into the Old Testament an alien New Testament theology or Catholic orthodoxy. Rather, a proper exposition of the Bible required interpreting any given book or passage as a divine revelation that is one with, and made complete in, the revelation of the Triune God in Jesus Christ and through the apostolic witness of Christ in the New Testament, a witness that, according to Catholic understanding, continues through the Roman Catholic Church. The traditions of biblical commentary were thus central to theology as a discipline, even though in scholastic theology they were often overshadowed by the practice of lecturing and developing commentaries on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, the most broadly used theological text of scholasticism.

In biblical commentary, theologians in a medieval university carried on a tradition from the early church, influenced as well by such Jewish interpreters as Philo of Alexandria, of interpreting Old Testament texts spiritually—that is, focusing on their spiritual and Christian messages rather than on the historical and literal understanding of the words (in their original Patriarchal, Israelite, and Jewish contexts), which were perceived as sometimes empty of spiritual significance for the church in the present. Saint Augustine had already developed the principle that wherever a passage was deemed to convey a literal message that was contrary to reason, immoral, or irrelevant to the goal of love for God, it must be interpreted figuratively.3 Augustine, among others, developed a threefold interpretation of allegorical, tropological, and anagogical senses of the text to illuminate its spiritual meaning and import, which together with a text’s historical or literal meaning was captured in a distich often attributed to Nicholas of Lyra (who cites it in his Prologue to the Glossa ordinaria) but authored by the 13th-century Dominican Augustine of Dacia: “The letter teaches events, allegory what you should believe, / Morality teaches what you should do, anagogy what mark you should be aiming for.”4

Luther’s Vocation

When in October 1512 Luther received his doctorate in theology and the call to take up the chair of lectura in biblia as successor to his mentor, Johann von Staupitz, his vocation was grounded in these medieval traditions of theological study and teaching. He brought to this vocation not only his studies in scholastic theology at the universities of Erfurt and Wittenberg, but also the disciplined monastic lifestyle with its focus on Bible study and hearing of the biblical text in the Augustinian cloister. He was thus deeply shaped by both monastic and scholastic forms of theology as they had developed since the central Middle Ages.5 At Erfurt and especially Wittenberg, Luther was also shaped by the burgeoning humanist movement active at both universities, with the University of Wittenberg, established by the Elector of Saxony in 1502, particularly committed to humanist principles of study and curricular reform. Thus Luther brought to his preparations and teaching podium not only a scholastic theological education according to the via moderna, or Nominalism, but also monastic traditions of biblical interpretation that focused on a rich exposition of the biblical text aimed at interpreting Christian experience, as well as the more recently developed humanist commitment to “go to the sources” (ad fontes) in their original languages. At Wittenberg this focus eventually supplanted scholastic lectures on the Sentences of Lombard, and the quaestio method of scholastic theology, with lectures on biblical books and the Church Fathers. Luther’s activity as university professor was engaged especially with lectures on the biblical text, but he also participated in university disputations, several of which indicate his willingness to criticize sharply the scholastic traditions of theology in which he had been educated.

Together with his call to the university and his monastic vows as an Augustinian friar, Luther was called to preach regularly in St. Mary’s Church, the town church of Wittenberg. His activity as a professor of theology, lecturing on the Bible and developing biblical commentaries, can be properly understood only when these various responsibilities and contexts are viewed together. Luther’s personal and intellectual development leading to his break with scholastic theology, his movement to becoming an evangelical reformer in conflict with the papal hierarchy, and his eventual repudiation of lifelong monastic vows as invalid because of their conflict with the divine institutions of marriage and civic responsibilities, fundamentally changed his approach to theology and biblical exposition, but throughout his life Luther’s vocation was to interpret the Scriptures as a baptized Christian and doctor of theology called to his position by the church. He pointed to this calling again and again, most importantly when he defended his defiant and radical action of December 10, 1520, to burn the papal bull threatening him with excommunication, together with books of scholastic theology and canon law:

I, Martin Luther, called a doctor of Holy Scripture [Latin version: Doctor theologiae], an Augustinian of Wittenberg, notify all men that by my will, advice, and help the books of the pope of Rome and some of his disciples were burned on the Monday after Saint Nicholas in the year 1520. If somebody wondering about this should ask . . . on what ground or mandate I have done it, let this be his answer.

In the first place, it is an ancient traditional practice to burn poisonous evil books . . .

Secondly, I am . . . a baptized Christian, in addition a sworn doctor of Holy Scripture, and beyond that a preacher . . . whose duty it is on account of his name, station, oath, and office, to destroy or at least to ward off false, corrupt, unchristian doctrine . . .6

Luther throughout his career fulfilled this vocation and thus the goals of the foundation in Wittenberg that supported the chair of lectura in biblia at the University.7 As Ulrich Köpf has emphasized, it was the distinct way Luther carried out his professorship, rather than something distinct about this endowed chair at the University of Wittenberg as such, that is noteworthy about his career as a theologian and development as a reformer.8 Modern studies of Luther’s theological development and his “road to reformation” have focused especially on his lectures on biblical books, as scholars have correctly recognized in Luther’s engagement with scripture the roots and outcomes of his vocation as a Christian theologian and eventually an evangelical reformer.

Lectures on the Bible at the University of Wittenberg

After nearly a year of preparation, Luther commenced his lectures in the summer of 1513 with his Dictata super Psalterium (1513–1515). These lectures were not published, but some copies of the pages of the Vulgate text of the Psalms that he had printed for himself and his students (with margins and wide letting between the lines of the biblical text for marginal and linear glosses), as well as Luther’s more extensive Scholia (lecture material), were preserved and first published in modern editions. Modern analysis of the development of Luther’s theology has focused especially on these early lectures on the Psalms as well as other early lectures on Romans (1515–1516), Galatians (1516–1517), Hebrews (1517–1518), and a second series of Psalms lectures from late 1518 (or more probably early 1519) to 1521, when Luther had to break off the lectures to journey to his hearing before the imperial Diet at Worms in April, followed by his exile at the Wartburg.

After his return to Wittenberg in March 1522, Luther was able to return to his theological lectures only the following February, when he took up the book of Deuteronomy (1523–1524), and following this a series of lectures on the twelve Minor Prophets (1524–1526). Luther then took up Ecclesiastes (1526), and commenced lectures on Isaiah (May/June to August 1527), but had to break off these lectures when the university and most faculty and students moved to Jena on account of the outbreak of plague in Wittenberg. Luther stayed and took up lectures before the few remaining students on 1 John, Titus, and Philemon (1527). Studies in Wittenberg resumed their normal course in early 1528, and Luther lectured on 1 Timothy (early 1528) before returning to Isaiah, from the spring of 1528 through February 1530. Then followed lectures on the Song of Solomon (1530–1531), a second series on Galatians (1531), and selected Psalms (1532–1535). In his lectures on Psalm 90 (attributed to Moses) given in 1534–1535, Luther announced that he would spend the rest of his life “explicating Moses,”9 which mostly he did as he lectured for ten years (with several interruptions) on the Book of Genesis, from June 1535 to November 1545. The Genesis lectures were interrupted at times not only by outbreaks of plague (e.g., already in July 1535) and such travels as Luther’s journey to Smalcald in 1537, but also by shorter series of lectures on Isaiah 9 (Advent/Christmas 1543) and Isaiah 53 (Lent/Easter 1544).10

One notices the predominance of lectures on Old Testament books, but there were also important lectures on New Testament writings in the early years, in the later 1520s, and in 1531. This despite the important fact that the young genius in Greek studies, Philip Melanchthon, had joined the Wittenberg faculty in 1518, soon achieved the degree of baccalarius biblicus, and frequently gave lectures on New Testament books at the university despite breaking off doctoral studies in theology in order to devote himself to the arts and to humanist studies. For his part, Luther certainly was devoted to the application in his lectures of the studies in Hebrew grammar that he had intensified between 1515 and 1518 and then demonstrated in his second Psalms course. But despite this application, and despite the brilliance of his translation (with the help of his “Sanhedrin” of assistants) of the Old Testament from Hebrew to German, Luther cannot be termed a “Hebraist” in the sense of the 16th-century flowering of Christian Hebrew studies that was an important part of the humanist movement, especially in Germany.11 Rather, Luther grew increasingly skeptical of this aspect of the humanist movement, precisely because he judged that such Hebraists as Sebastian Münster were overly dependent on Jewish rabbis for their understanding of the Old Testament. In Luther’s conviction, the true meaning of the Old Testament as a revelation of Christ and the gospel was being compromised, a threat that he countered frequently and penetratingly in his lectures (especially those on Genesis) as well as through published writings devoted extensively, and defensively, to responding to Jewish interpretations of the Old Testament by way of biblical commentary.

The Published Commentary as Means of Reform

Already before the controversy erupted over Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses on indulgences, Luther began to share the insights of his engagement with scripture in published biblical commentary. The first of his own writings that he published, appearing in March or April 1517, was a translation into German of the seven penitential psalms, with commentary. Here, after having engaged the Psalter for the learned in his university lectures, Luther presents himself to the German people as a theologian and pastor, concerned to guide them in Christian faith and life through biblical commentary focusing on the literal sense of the penitential psalms as they communicate the grace of Christ and of God. As he wrote at the time to his friend Johann Lang, the Augustinian prior in Erfurt, if his translation and explanation of these psalms in the vernacular “is pleasing to no one else, it is highly pleasing to me.”12 Luther’s work was praised by the learned and was popular among the people as well, and sales of the edition were so rapid that a second edition was printed the next year; several more editions followed, including a version reworked by Luther in 1525.13

As the controversy over indulgences catapulted Luther into conflict with the papal hierarchy and transformed his vocation into that of the leading evangelical reformer of the Protestant Reformation, biblical commentary continued to be a significant genre of Luther’s published work. In some cases Luther himself prepared his Latin lectures on biblical books for publication; more often various assistants, working from transcriptions of his lectures by students in Luther’s university classroom, saw to the publication of his lectures, similar to the way most of Luther’s published sermons were edited from the careful notes of his auditors rather than prepared for publication by the Reformer himself. Many of the Latin commentaries were quickly translated into German, often through the efforts of Luther’s friend and colleague Justus Jonas. Of the editors of the lectures (and sermons), Georg Rörer, who utilized a system of shorthand for recording Luther’s oral speech, and Luther’s personal secretary or famulus, Veit Dietrich, were most frequently engaged in the task of publishing Luther’s lectures in the genre of biblical commentary.14

Significant Old Testament Commentary by Luther Published in the Reformation Era

“Operationes in Psalmos” and other Psalms Commentary, 1519–1546

Modern scholars have debated the extent to which Luther’s reformatory theology was developed during his first Psalms lectures, but it is clear that in the second series on the Psalms, Luther was teaching his students his new theology. These lectures on Psalms 1 through 22, which he called Operationes in Psalmos, Luther prepared piecemeal for publication beginning in 1519, the first volume containing a dedication to Elector Friedrich of Saxony and Luther’s commentary on Psalms 1 through 5.15 In this dedicatory preface, dated March 27, 1519, and thus in the midst of the controversy over indulgences, Luther adopts the persona of a humanist scholar, lauding his protector and patron (and mentioning such renowned patrons of literature and learning from antiquity as Maecenas, the patron of Horace and Virgil), but then claiming different motivations: “Even if I were able to achieve something worth dedicating, I would not be anxious to preserve it by dedicating it to a patron. I have learned from the Holy Scriptures what a terrible and dangerous thing it is to sound forth and to speak in the church of God, in the presence of those of whom you know that they will be your judges on Judgment Day. (I am not as afraid of those who insult me at present.)”16 He goes on to note the Elector’s personal support and love for the Scriptures, in contrast to the theologians and jurists who distort and despise them, announcing clearly his own separation from scholastic theology. Thus, from the outset Luther presents his Psalms commentary as a reformational theology in the context of the middle stage in the “Luther affair” (Luthersache), which led by 1521 to his excommunication. The commentary itself would also enter the lists in Luther’s intensifying conflict with the papal church. The Reformer combines humanist interests in philological scholarship with a monastic theologian’s spiritual and affective interpretation of Christian faith and life as revealed in the Psalms, which speak of Christ and thus also (by way of tropology) of the Christian’s life in Christ. In commentary on the first verse of Psalm 1, Luther announces his focus on a blessed life that contradicts all human reason (and therefore scholastic theologians will later come under sharp critique—“to come now to our own times, those occupy the ‘seat of the scornful’ who fill the church of Christ with the opinions of the philosophers . . .”). Luther seeks to unveil a theology grounded in the text: “First let us consider the grammatical, yet still it is theological.”17 His commentary was well received; the first edition was soon out of print, and so a second followed within the year. In 1520 the second installment appeared, on Psalms 6–10.18

Throughout his career Luther would utilize published Psalms commentary as a means of conveying his thinking on major issues in theology and on the events as well as the social and theological principles of the Reformation. Some of these commentaries were written out by Luther; many were published from notes taken by others of Luther lecturing at the university, preaching (in the town church or at the castle church in the Elector’s residence in Wittenberg), or commenting on the biblical text in the devotions of his household. For Luther the genre of biblical commentary was similar (and sometimes even hard to distinguish) whether the original genre was a sermon or a university lecture—Luther’s sermons were largely exegetical and his lectures were often highly homiletical in tone. Frequently Luther refers to events of his day and interprets them in the light of the Psalms, as in repeated references in his lectures on Psalm 2 (originally given at the university in 1532 and published by Veit Dietrich in 1546) to the uproar and violence caused by the Peasants’ War and to the disturbances in the church caused by Karlstadt’s and Zwingli’s teachings regarding the sacrament of Communion.19 In 1530 Luther wrote and published a commentary in German on Psalm 82 that is an extensive essay on the distinction between temporal and spiritual governments, and on the responsibilities (“virtues”) of a Christian prince; he commenced writing by March, finished by April 12, and the printed copies of the first edition were gone by June.20 During his stay at the Coburg in the summer of 1530, Luther wrote a commentary (also in German) on Psalm 118 (Vulgate: Ps. 117), which he called “my beloved psalm, the beautiful Confitemini.” It was completed by June 26, the day after the Augsburg Confession was presented at the imperial Diet, and published later that year.21 As the future of the Reformation hung in the balance of imperial politics and Luther strove through letters from his Coburg “wilderness” to encourage Melanchthon and the confessors at the Diet, his commentary waxed eloquent on words that had become his motto: “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord (Ps. 118:17).” “The psalmist says of the help: ‘I shall live.’ Isn’t this an amazing help? The dying live; the suffering rejoice; the fallen rise; the disgraced are honored . . . . And here you see that this comfort and help is eternal life, which is the true, everlasting blessing of God. The entire psalm has this theme.”22

Luther’s commentaries on other Old Testament books, published between the 1520s and his death in 1546, are too numerous and extensive for even the most summary description here.23 Like the Psalms commentaries, their origins ranged from his university lectures to sermons to expositions he gave orally in his home in Wittenberg. Also like the Psalms commentaries, these Old Testament interpretations often engage Luther’s present-day theological concerns (with theology defined broadly) and are thus examples of his activity in his vocation as professor of theology and evangelical reformer, and not infrequently also as an advisor to civil authorities as the Reformation took shape in Germany. This latter role occasioned some of the most controversial of Luther’s Old Testament interpretations and commentaries, his “Jewish Writings” (Judenschriften).

Old Testament Commentary in Defense of Christian Faith: Luther’s “Jewish Writings”

As a Christian theologian, Luther’s understanding of the Jewish people was focused especially on the same problem the apostle Paul wrestled with in Romans 9–11, the problem of wide-scale rejection among Jews since the 1st century of the apostolic preachment that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah of Israel, and thus is the fulfilment of God’s covenants with Abraham (Gen. 12 and 15), Jacob/Israel (Gen. 28:13–15 and 49:10–12), and David (2 Sam. 7:4–16 and 23:1–7). Since Luther’s Old Testament interpretation has Christ, and faith in Christ, as its central thrust and theme, it is not surprising nor should it be disconcerting to find that the theme of Jewish unbelief rather than faith in Christ pervades Luther’s statements about the Jewish people in his Old Testament commentary and other writings. And just as Luther issued incisive and often harsh theological polemic against what he viewed as unbelief and/or ill appreciation for the gospel among scholastic theologians, Catholic bishops, Reformation-supporting as well as Reformation-opposing princes and other civil authorities, and the people of Germany in his day, so also he could be and was incisive and frequently harsh in his theological polemic against the Jewish people. A difference in such polemic developed, however, in a series of writings of 1543 where the Reformer combined theological polemic and Christian apologetic (especially regarding interpretation of the Old Testament) with advice to civil authorities regarding the place of non-Christian Jews in a Christian society, that is, European Christendom, in particular Luther’s native land of Germany.

Modern editions of Luther’s collected writings and scholars today use the term “Jewish Writings” (Judenschriften)24 to denote a broader selection of Luther’s writings that deal specifically with the Jews. Most of these writings engaged Jewish vs. Christian interpretations of the Old Testament, some of these highly polemical, others less so, but all of them defending traditional Christian approaches to the Old Testament and in particular Luther’s conviction that God’s promises to the Patriarchs, to King David, and to the Jews through the prophets have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ and in the church that gives witness to Christ and lives by faith in Christ. Among these is the 1523 treatise That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, in which the Reformer advocates a “kinder” approach to the Jewish people that would contrast with the hostility the Jews had continually met in European Christendom. The treatise was a defense of Luther himself against the charge that he taught that Jesus was born not of a virgin but of the seed of Abraham through Joseph; his response conveyed the teaching that Jesus was conceived in the Virgin Mary by a miracle of God in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, as well as of several other Old and New Testament passages that confirm the divine Sonship of Jesus as well as his identity as the Jewish Messiah. In particular, he interprets Genesis 49:10–12, the blessing of Judah by Jacob, and Dan. 9:24–27, the prophecy of the seventy weeks, as messianic prophecies that prove beyond doubt that the Jews are mistaken in awaiting a Messiah rather than accepting Jesus as the Messiah who already came 1,500 years ago. Although, as is the case with all his “Jewish Writings,” Luther is addressing a Christian rather than a Jewish audience, he does indicate early in the treatise that he seeks to demonstrate from scripture “the reasons that move me to believe that Christ was a Jew born of a virgin, that I might perhaps also win some Jews to the Christian faith.” He also states: “I hope that if one deals in a kindly way with the Jews and instructs them carefully from Holy Scripture, many of them will become genuine Christians and turn again to the faith of their fathers, the prophets and patriarchs.”25

Twenty years later, the same passages (and others) from the Old Testament were used by Luther in the highly polemical treatise On the Jews and Their Lies, the third part of which contains recommendations to the civil authorities for very harsh and even brutal treatment of Jewish communities in Germany, recommendations that received a lukewarm reception in Luther’s own day and have been routinely repudiated by modern scholars as hatefully anti-Judaic and even anti-Semitic. For our purposes, however, it is important to note that the bulk of the treatise is in the genre of biblical commentary: the “lies” Luther identifies are the non-Christian interpretations by Jewish rabbis of Old Testament covenants and prophecies, and Luther’s response is extensive exegesis, in particular of Genesis 49, 2 Samuel 23, Haggai 2, and Daniel 9 as messianic prophecies fulfilled in Jesus.26 This treatise was followed by On the Ineffable Name and on the Lineage of Christ, again a harshly polemical treatise, responding to Jewish traditions (as Luther read of them in a 1520 edition of a 14th-century pamphlet by the Genoese monk Porchetus Salvaticus) regarding the “Schem Hamphoras” or secret name of God.27 More substantial and clearly in the genre of biblical commentary was the last of Luther’s “Jewish Writings,” his commentary on 2 Samuel 23:1–7, published with the title Von den letzten Worten Davids (On the Last Words of David). Here Luther presents an exegesis of the “last will and testament” of King David that conveys a rich interpretation of this Old Testament text as a witness of the traditional (one could say “Catholic”) doctrines of the Trinity and of Christology. In the opening paragraphs, Luther articulates the principle he has used throughout his career as a professor of theology focusing especially on biblical interpretation, as well as in his polemics against the exegesis of Jewish rabbis and those Christian Hebraists who follow their lead:

We Christians have the meaning and import of the Bible because we have the New Testament, that is, Jesus Christ, who was promised in the Old Testament and who later appeared and brought with Him the light and the true meaning of Scripture. Thus He says in John 5:45: “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote of Me.” Also Luke 24:44–45: “‘Everything written about Me in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”

For that is the all-important point on which everything depends. Whoever does not have or want to have this Man properly and truly who is called Jesus Christ, God’s Son, whom we Christians proclaim, must keep his hands off the Bible—that I advise. He will surely come to naught. The more he studies, the blinder and more stupid will he grow, be he Jew, Tartar, Turk, Christian, or whatever he wants to call himself.28

Lectures on Genesis, 1544–1554

The last of Luther’s biblical commentaries to be considered was published in four volumes by his students, led by Veit Dietrich, who by that time was an evangelical pastor in Nuremberg. These were the lectures on Genesis that Luther engaged at the University of Wittenberg during the last ten years of his life and have been called Luther’s “Summa Theologiae.”29 The first volume was published early in 1544, the text having been reviewed by Luther, with Luther’s own preface (which included self-critical remarks on the verbose and unpolished character of the transcribed exposition) penned on Christmas Day of 1543.30 After delays, the subsequent volumes appeared in 1550, 1552, and 1554, each with a preface situating Luther’s biblical exposition within the intellectual and historical context of its year of publication.31 Despite the wordiness that Luther himself laments in his preface, and the many details of biblical commentary that may seem out of date and irrelevant to modern biblical scholars, the lectures as published are a treasure-trove of Luther’s theological thought, his way of approaching and interpreting the Scriptures in his university classroom in his most mature stage as a theologian and reformer, and his observation of conditions of life in a Germany that has broadly adopted the Reformation but remains a society Luther views as living in the “dregs of time.” Here we see Luther as a teacher and spiritual mentor of his students, applying perhaps every principle of theology and biblical interpretation that he has developed and matured during his decades of lecturing on the Bible, preparing and overseeing disputations in his vocation as a professor of theology, preaching and providing pastoral care as a pastor and as the leader of the evangelical movement that became the Lutheran Reformation.

Review of the Literature

Modern scholarship on Luther’s Old Testament lectures and commentary, beginning with the commencement of publishing the Weimar edition of Luther’s works, the Luther Renaissance, and especially the influential work of Karl Holl and his circle in Germany in the early 20th century, has been chiefly concerned with analyzing the development, contours, and content of Luther’s theology through his engagement with scripture, and demonstrating the relevance of Luther’s religious thought for the modern world. Recent works continue to mine Luther’s Old Testament commentary, especially his Psalms commentary, as rich sources for theology today.32 With the publication in the Weimar edition of Luther’s first lectures on the Psalms (1513–1515) and especially of the lectures on Romans (1515–1516), scholars have carefully investigated the developing theology of the “early Luther” and the theological character of his “tower experience” and Reformation discovery of justification by faith, as well as the question of when that experience occurred, if indeed it did occur as a specific transitional experience as Luther described in much later reflections in 1545. Since these lectures were not published in Luther’s time, it is clear that the focus of this analysis was on Luther’s inner development and his activity as a university professor rather than on the impact of these lectures as published biblical commentary. Nevertheless, central issues in Luther’s development as a theologian and reformer have been explored on the basis of these early lectures, especially Luther’s hermeneutics of the Old Testament33 and his understanding of the church in the Old Testament.34 Other studies have focused on the historical questions of how Luther utilized, developed, and/or challenged the traditions of interpreting the Psalms inherited from the Middle Ages;35 his use of Hebrew studies at this stage of his development;36 and whether his willingness to reject the traditional hierarchical definition of the church and to define the church instead as a community of believers was already evident before the indulgence controversy or resulted from that conflict.37

In his systematic analysis of Luther’s Old Testament interpretation as a whole, Heinrich Bornkamm’s goal was to describe in detail Luther’s theology of the Old Testament. Exploring the content of Luther’s theology from his engagement with the Old Testament has also been the focus of several studies on Luther’s last lectures, on the book of Genesis. Erich Seeberg, comparing these lectures with Luther’s early theology, came to the conclusion that the lectures are an important source of Luther’s later thought, and that the seeds of later Lutheranism, in particular a certain “churchly positivism,” were evident in the Genesis Lectures.38 Seeberg’s student Peter Meinhold in turn sought to demonstrate that the Genesis Lectures, prepared for publication not by Luther but by his students from notes taken in the classroom, were so thoroughly reworked by these editorial redactors that the lectures display an “alien theology” reflecting not Luther’s mature thought but rather the thought of these students, who were influenced more by Luther’s younger colleague Philip Melanchthon. Recently, however, Meinhold’s skepticism and in particular his attempt to construct the theology of these editors in order to establish by contrast what Luther could or could not have said in the lecture hall has been rejected by (among others) Ulrich Asendorf in a study that analyzes the Genesis Lectures systematically as the most sweeping presentation of Luther’s theology in its most mature stage.39 The Genesis Lectures have also been mined for evidence of how Luther in his university classroom sought to form his students spiritually through the text of scripture in order to prepare them for pastoral service in the evangelical churches of the Reformation,40 Luther’s portrayal of Abraham as a most holy father in the Christian faith,41 and how Luther engaged and utilized the traditions of interpreting the narrative of Genesis to unveil both continuity and change in Luther’s own interpretation of the women of the Genesis narrative.42

It is made clear in such studies that Luther’s Old Testament interpretation was not done in a framework of “objective” analysis of a distant past, but rather to foster interpretation of one’s own experience and understanding of reality by means of engagement with the Word of God as revealed through the Law and the Prophets. Likewise, fruitful research into the second Psalms lectures of 1519–1521 has demonstrated that Luther’s maturing theology and his reflections on this pivotal time in his life were made evident in his classroom lectures. If the first Psalms lectures show a creative but loyal Catholic theologian willing to criticize his church, its hierarchy, and its theologians, the second Psalms lectures show a reformer at work, using the Scriptures as his authority both to criticize sharply his opponents and to assert a reformatory theology.43

A recent turn in scholarship on Luther’s biblical commentaries has been to explore specifically the way Luther’s exegesis was presented in its published form during his life and throughout the Reformation era.44 Central to this focus is not just the content and character of Luther’s commentaries, but the way they were presented to the reading public, especially in terms of the prefaces and dedications that almost always provided the entry point for a reader into Luther’s biblical interpretations.45 Most biographies of Luther engage substantially his published writings, including biblical commentaries, and utilize them in their unveiling of the Reformer’s life. But in addition to further discoveries of the inexhaustible treasures for theology present in Luther’s Old Testament commentary, more expansive investigation into what Luther in any specific temporal context was saying in his theological lectures on the Bible, and publishing (either by his own efforts or those of his students) in the form of biblical commentary, will continue to broaden and deepen our understanding of the Reformer and of his impact on the Reformation and therefore on European society in the 16th century.46

Primary Sources

Texts of Luther’s Old Testament commentary can be located in the volumes of the Weimar edition (WA) through use of Kurt Aland.47 See also the appendix listing Luther’s Old Testament interpretations in Bornkamm.48

In addition to the Weimar edition, an extensively annotated edition of the first part of Luther’s second Psalms lectures is available.49

For the American Edition (LW) see Vogel.50

Many 16th-century imprints of Luther’s German and Latin commentaries on the Old Testament are available digitally, for example in the digital collections of the Bayerische StaatsBibliothek (BSB) in Munich and other digital collections. The simplest search method is to input the first lines of the German or Latin title in an internet search engine.

Examplars of digital texts include the 1517 Wittenberg edition of Luther’s earliest publication, his Seven Penitential Psalms (Die Sieben puszpsalm: mit//deutscher auszlegung nach//dem schrifftlichen synne//zu Christi vnd gottis gnaden/neben//seyns selben. ware erkentnis.//grundlich gerichtet/[F. Martinus Luder Augustiner//tzu Wittenberg.//1517]).

One can also access a 1555 edition of the first volume of Luther’s published lectures on Genesis, entitled In primum librum Mose enarrationes reverendi patris D. D. Martini Lutheri, plen[a]e salutaris & Christianae eruditionis, bona fide . . . collectae.

Further Reading

Asendorf, Ulrich. “Lectura in Biblia”: Luthers Genesisvorlesung (1535–1545). Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998.Find this resource:

Bader, Günter. Psalterium affectuum palaestra: Prolegomena zu einer Theologie des Psalters. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr, 1996.Find this resource:

Bader, Günter. Psalterspiel: Skizze einer Theologie des Psalters. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2009.Find this resource:

Bornkamm, Heinrich. Luther and the Old Testament. Translated by Eric W. Gritsch and Ruth C. Gritsch, Edited by Victor I. Gruhn. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969. [German orig. 1948.]Find this resource:

Ebeling, Gerhard. “The New Hermeneutics and the Early Luther.” Theology Today 21.1 (1964): 34–46.Find this resource:

Ebeling, Gerhard. “The Beginnings of Luther’s Hermeneutics.” Lutheran Quarterly 7.2–4 (1993): 129–158, 315–338, 451–468.Find this resource:

Forsberg, Juhani. Das Abrahambild in der Theologie Luthers: Pater Fidei Sanctissimus. Stuttgart: Steiner, 1984.Find this resource:

Hagen, Kenneth. “What Did the Term Commentarius Mean to Sixteenth-Century Theologians?” In Théorie et pratique de l’exégèse: Actes du troisième colloque international sur l’histoire de l’exégèse biblique au XVIe siècle (Genève, 31 août—2 septembre 1988). Edited by Irena Backus and Francis Higman, 13–38. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1990.Find this resource:

Hagen, Kenneth. Luther’s Approach to Scripture as Seen in His “Commentaries” on Galatians, 1519–1538. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr, 1993.Find this resource:

Hammer, Gerhard. D. Martin Luthers Operationes in Psalmos 1519–1521. Vol. I: Historisch-theologische Einleitung. Archiv zur Weimarer Ausgabe der Werke Martin Luthers, Texte und Untersuchungen, 1. Cologne and Vienna: Böhlau, 1991.Find this resource:

Hendrix, Scott H. “Ecclesia in via”: Ecclesiological Developments in the Medieval Psalms Exegesis and the Dictata super Psalterium (1513–1515) of Martin Luther. Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought 8. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1974.Find this resource:

Hendrix, Scott H. “The Authority of Scripture at Work: Luther’s Exegesis of the Psalms.” In Tradition and Authority in the Reformation. Edited by Scott H. Hendrix, vol. 2, 144–164. Collected Studies Series. Aldershot, U.K., and Brookfield, VT: Ashgate/Variorum, 1996.Find this resource:

Hendrix, Scott H. “Luther Against the Background of the History of Biblical Interpretation.” In Tradition and Authority in the Reformation. Edited by Scott H. Hendrix, vol. 1, 229–239. Aldershot, U.K., and Brookfield, VT: Ashgate/Variorum, 1996.Find this resource:

Holl, Karl. “Die Entstehung von Luthers Kirchenbegriff.” In Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kirchengeschichte, vol. 1: Luther. Edited by Karl Holl, 288–325. 6th edn. Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1932a.Find this resource:

Holl, Karl. “Luthers Bedeutung für den Fortschritt der Auslegungskunst.” In Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kirchengeschichte, vol. 1: Luther. Edited by Karl Holl, 544–582. Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1932b.Find this resource:

Klaus, Bernhard. “Die Lutherüberlieferung Veit Dietrichs und ihre Problematik.” Zeitschrift für bayerische Kirchengeschichte 53 (1984): 33–47.Find this resource:

Kolb, Robert. Luther and the Stories of God: Biblical Narratives as a Foundation for Christian Living. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012.Find this resource:

Köpf, Ulrich. “Martin Luthers theologischen Lehrstuhl.” In Die theologische Fakultät Wittenberg 1502 bis 1602: Beiträge zur 500. Wiederkehr des Gründungsjahres der Leucorea. Edited by Irene Dingel and Günther Wartenberg, 55–70. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsantalt, 2002.Find this resource:

Mattox, Mickey Leland. “Defender of the Most Holy Matriarchs”: Martin Luther’s Interpretation of the Women of Genesis in the Enarrationes in Genesin, 1535–45. Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought 92. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2003.Find this resource:

Maxfield, John A.Luther’s Lectures on Genesis and the Formation of Evangelical Identity. Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies 80. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Maxfield, John A. “Martin Luther’s Swan Song: Luther’s Students, Melanchthon, and the Publication of the Lectures on Genesis (1544–1554).” Lutherjahrbuch: Organ der internationalen Lutherforschung 81 (2014): 224–248.Find this resource:

Meinhold, Peter. Die Genesisvorlesung Luthers und ihre Herausgeber. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1936.Find this resource:

Preus, James S.From Shadow to Promise: Old Testament Interpretation from Augustine to the Young Luther. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1969.Find this resource:

Raeder, Siegfried. Das Hebräische bei Luther, untersucht bis zum Ende der ersten Psalmenvorlesung. Beiträge zur historischen Theologie 31. Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1961.Find this resource:

Raeder, Siegfried. Grammatica Theologica: Studien zu Luthers Operationes in Psalmos. 1. Aufl. Beiträge zur historischen Theologie 51. Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1977.Find this resource:

Raeder, Siegfried. “Luther als Ausleger und Übersetzer der Heiligen Schrift.” In Leben und Werk Martin Luthers von 1526 bis 1546: Festgabe zu seinem 500. Geburtstag im Auftrag des Theologischen Arbeitskreises für Reformationsgeschichtliche Forschung. Edited by Helmar Junghans, vol. 1, 253–278, vol. 2, 2:800–805 (endnotes). Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983.Find this resource:

Raeder, Siegfried. “The Exegetical and Hermeneutical Work of Martin Luther.” In Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation, vol. 2: From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. Edited by Magne Sæbø, 363–406. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008.Find this resource:

Rosin, Robert. Reformers, the Preacher, and Skepticism: Luther, Brenz, Melanchthon, and Ecclesiastes. Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Europäische Geschichte Mainz, Abteilung abendländische Religionsgeschichte 171. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1997.Find this resource:

Wolff, Jens. Metapher und Kreuz: Studien zu Luthers Christusbild. Hermeneutische Untersuchungen zur Theologie 47. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005.Find this resource:


(1.) Heinrich Bornkamm, Luther and the Old Testament, trans. Eric W. Gritsch and Ruth C. Gritsch, ed. Victor I. Gruhn (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), 7. Bornkamm goes on to note that “the situation is exactly reversed with regard to preaching. Although Luther preached thirty times as many sermons on New Testament texts as on Old Testament ones, we should not forget that Luther held largely to the Gospel and Epistle periscopes in his sermon texts” (p. 8).

(2.) See Ulrich Köpf, “The Institutional Framework of Christian Exegesis in the Middle Ages,” in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation, vol. 1: From the Beginnings to the Middle Ages, Pt. 2: The Middle Ages, ed. Magne Sæbø (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 2000), 173–179; and Ulrich Köpf, “Martin Luthers theologischen Lehrstuhl,” in Die theologische Fakultät Wittenberg 1502 bis 1602: Beiträge zur 500. Wiederkehr des Gründungsjahres der Leucorea, ed. Irene Dingel and Günther Wartenberg (Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsantalt, 2002), 67 et passim.

(3.) Aug. De Doctrina Christiana Bk. III. See esp. III.33: “We must first explain the way to discover whether an expression is literal or figurative. Generally speaking, it is this: anything in the divine discourse that cannot be related either to good morals or to the true faith should be taken as figurative.” Saint Augustine, On Christian Teaching, translated with an Introduction and Notes by R. P. H. Green (Oxford World’s Classics; Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 75.

(4.) “Littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria, / Moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia.” Translated in Henri de Lubac, S. J., Medieval Exegesis, vol. 1: The Four Senses of Scripture, trans. Mark Sebanc (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmanns; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998), 1.

(5.) See Köpf, “Institutional Framework of Christian Exegesis,” 148–179.

(6.) LW 31:383–384. German text (WA 7:161, 8–10; 162, 1–11): “Ich Martinus Luther, genant Doctor der heyligen schrifft, Augustiner tzu Wittenbergk, fug meniglich zu wissenn, das durch meyn willen, radt unnd zuthat auff montag noch Sanct Nicolai ym M.D.xx. Jar vorprennet seyn die Bucher des Pabts von Rhom und ettlich seyner Jungernn. Szo yemand sich des vorwundernn, wie ich mich wol vorsehe, fragen wurd, aufs was ursach und befelh ich das than habe, der las yhm die mit geantwort seyn. [para.] Czum ersten Its eyn alt herkumner prauch, vorgifftig, bos bucher zuvorprennenn . . . [para.] Czum andernn, So bynn ich yhe unwirdig eyn getauffter Christen, Datzu eyn geschworner Doctor der heylign schrifft, Ubir das ein teglicher prediger, dem seynis namens, stands, eydis und ampts halben gepurt, falsch, vorfurische, unchristliche lere zuvortilgen odder yhe wehren . . .” As Köpf notes, in the Latin version of his defense Luther uses the term Doctor Theologie for his call to teach at the University of Wittenberg; Kopf, “Martin Luthers theologischen Lehrstuhl,” 67; cf. WA 7:161, 18.

(7.) Otto Scheel, Martin Luther: Vom Katholizismus zur Reformation, Bd. 2: Im Kloster (Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1930), 565.

(8.) Köpf, “Martin Luthers theologischen Lehrstuhl,” 70. For comparative analysis of Luther’s manner of conducting his early lectures on the Psalms with some other university theologians, see Gerhard Hammer, D. Martin Luthers Operationes in Psalmos 1519–1521, Teil I: Historisch-theologische Einleitung [=AWA 1] (Cologne and Vienna: Böhlau, 1991), 36–47.

(9.) LW 13:75 (WA 40/III:484).

(10.) The accounting of Luther’s university lectures is based on Siegfried Raeder, “Luther als Ausleger und Übersetzer der Heiligen Schrift,” in Leben und Werk Martin Luthers von 1526 bis 1546: Festgabe zu seinem 500. Geburtstag im Auftrag des theologischen Arbeitskreises für Reformationsgeschichtliche Forschung, ed. Helmar Junghans (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983), vol. 1, 255–258.

(11.) See especially Stephen G. Burnett, “Reassessing the ‘Basel-Wittenberg Conflict’: Dimensions of the Reformation-Era Discussion of Hebrew Scholarship,” in “Hebraica Veritas?” Christian Hebraists and the Study of Judaism in Early Modern Europe, ed. Allison P. Coudert and Jeffrey S. Shoulson (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 181–201.

(12.) Quoted in WA 1:154 (my translation).

(13.) WA 1:154–157 (editor’s introduction); text at WA 1:158–220. A digital copy of the 1517 Wittenberg edition is accessible at An English translation, based on the revised edition of 1525 (WA 48:479–530), appears in LW 14:140–205.

(14.) On Veit Dietrich’s contributions to publishing Luther’s lectures, see especially Bernhard Klaus, “Die Lutherüberlieferung Veit Dietrichs und ihre Problematik,” Zeitschrift für bayerische Kirchengeschichte 53 (1984): 33–47.

(15.) The publication details of the early editions (Latin and German) are given in WA 5:12–17. See also Hammer, Historisch-theologische Einleitung, 10–23.

(16.) LW 14:280–281. WA 5:19, 25–20, 5: “Mihi vero, Illustrissime Princeps, nulla harum rationum, suppetit, Primum quod non ignorem, talia non esse, quae molior, ut patronum mereantur, et in hac parte non infeliciter habeo, quod hanc saltem inscitiam meam non ignoro. Quod si quam maxime praestare possem, quod nuncupatione dignum esset, neque sic anxius esse vellem, quo patrono servaretur. Quin postquam e sacris literis didici, quam sit res terrore et periculis plena, in ecclesia dei sonare et in eorum medio loqui, quos scias in novissimo iudicii die iudices tuos futuros (nam hos praesentes calumniatores non ita metuo) . . .”

(17.) WA 5:27, 8. The Latin is somewhat cryptic: “Sed primo grammatica videamus, verum ea Theologica.” Siegfried Raeder has given the most extensive analysis of the Operationes in Grammatica Theologica: Studien zu Luthers Operationes in Psalmos (1. Aufl., Beiträge zur historischen Theologie 51; Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1977).

(18.) On the reception of the commentary see Hammer, Historisch-theologische Einleitung, 7–10.

(19.) See LW 12:6–7, 10, 16, 41–42, 49; for comments on the Turkish threat of the time, see LW 12:32, 37. On this and other Psalms commentaries see the introductions in LW 12:vii–x; 13:ix–xii; and 14:ix–xii.

(20.) LW 13:x; Luther’s preface and text in LW 13:42–72 (WA 31/I:189–218).

(21.) LW 14:45–106 (quote at p. 45); WA 31/I:65–182.

(22.) LW 14:86. WA 31/I:152, 27–30, 36–37: “Weiter von der hülffe, sagt er also, Sondern ich wil leben, Ist nicht ein wunderliche hülffe, das der sterbende lebt, der leidende ist frölich, der fallende stehet auff, der geschendete ist inn ehren. . . [para.] Und hie sihestu, das dieser trost und hülffe sey das ewige leben, welchs ist die rechte ewige wolthat Gottes, Das gibt auch der gantze Psalm.”

(23.) A table of Luther’s Old Testament interpretations, whether published or extant only in manuscript, whether originating from sermon, university lecture course, or as written commentary, appears as an appendix in Bornkamm, Luther and the Old Testament, 271–283.

(24.) On the modern problem of categorizing certain of Luther’s writings as “Jewish Writings” (Judenschriften) and viewing them as directed against the Jews, see Kenneth Hagen, “Luther’s So-Called Judenschriften: A Genre Approach,” Archive for Reformation History 90 (1999): 130–158.

(25.) The treatise is found in LW 45:199–229 (WA 11:314–336); quotations at LW 45:200. WA 11:314, 25–28: “Darumb will ich aus der schrifft ertzelen die ursach, die mich bewegen, tzu gleuben, das Christus eyn Jude sey von eyner jungfrawen geporn, ob ich villeicht auch der Juden ettliche mocht tzum Christen glauben reytzen.” WA 11:315, 14–17: “Ich hoff, wenn man mit den Juden freuntlich handelt und aus der heyligen schrifft sie feuberlich unterweyset, es sollten yhr viel rechte Christen werden und widder tzu yhrer vetter, der Propheten unnd Patriarchen glauben tretten . . .”

(26.) In the American Edition the exegesis (Old Testament commentary) portion of the treatise runs for 78 of 168 pages, while a section recounting typical medieval superstitions concerning the Jews runs 13 pages and the final section advocating harsh treatment of (non-converting) Jewish people in Germany continues for 25 pages. Thus the biblical commentary is three times the length of the political advice, yet for obvious reasons it was this shorter section that was the darling for quotation by later European and especially German anti-Semites. On the structure of the treatise see the introduction in LW 47:123–136; the treatise itself is found at LW 47:137–306 (WA 53:417–552). On the reception of Luther’s “Jewish Writings” in his time and later see especially Johannes Wallmann, “The Reception of Luther’s Writings on the Jews from the Reformation to the End of the 19th Century,” Lutheran Quarterly 1 (1987): 72–97.

(27.) The first English translation of this treatise was published in 1992 in Gerhard Falk, The Jew in Christian Society: Martin Luther’s Anti-Jewish “Von Schem Hamphoras,” Previously Unpublished in English, and Other Milestones in Church Doctrine Concerning Judaism (Jefferson, NC, and London: McFarland, 1992), 166–224 ; a new translation introduced and annotated by Stephen Burnett will soon appear in LW 61.

(28.) LW 15:268. WA 54:29, 3–14: “Wir Christen haben den synn und verstand der Biblia, weil wir das Newe Testament, das ist Jhesum Christum haben, welcher im alten Testament verheissen und hernach komen, mit sich das liecht und verstand der schrifft bracht hat, wie er spricht Joh. 5: ‚Mose hat von mir geschrieben, „Wo ir Mose gleubtet, so würdet ir mir auch gleuben.“‘ Item Luce 21.: ‚Es mus erfullet werden, was im Gesetze, Propheten und Psalmen von mir geschrieben ist.‘ Und offenet inen den synn, das sie kundten die schrifft verstehen. „[para.] Denn da steckts, da ligts, da bleibts. Wer diesen man, der da heisst Jhesus Christus, Gottes son, den wir Christen predigen, nicht recht und rein hat, noch haben wil, der lasse die Bibel zu frieden, das rate ich, Er stösst sich gewislich, und wird, je mehr er studirt, je blinder und toller, Er sey Jude, Tatter, Turcke, Christen, oder wie er sich rhümen wil.“

(29.) Ulrich Asendorf, “Lectura in Biblia”: Luthers Genesisvorlesung (1535–1545) (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998), 67.

(30.) Neither Luther’s preface of this first volume, nor those of the editors in each of the four volumes, appeared in the American Edition of Luther’s Works. A recent annotated translation of Luther’s preface appears in John A. Maxfield, “Martin Luther as Professor of Theology and Teacher of the Bible: The Preface to His Genesis Lectures (1543),” Lutheran Theological Journal 49.2 (2015): 74–85.

(31.) See John A. Maxfield, “Martin Luther’s Swan Song: Luther’s Students, Melanchthon, and the Publication of the Lectures on Genesis (1544–1554),” Lutherjahrbuch: Organ der internationalen Lutherforschung 81 (2014): 224–248.

(32.) See Günter Bader, Psalterium affectuum palaestra: Prolegomena zu einer Theologie des Psalters (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr, 1996); Bader, Psalterspiel: Skizze einer Theologie des Psalters (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2009); and Jens Wolff, Metapher und Kreuz: Studien zu Luthers Christusbild. Hermeneutische Untersuchungen zur Theologie 47. (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005).

(33.) See Karl Holl, “Die Entstehung von Luthers Kirchenbegriff,” in Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kirchengeschichte, vol. 1, Luther, 6th ed. ed. Karl Holl (Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1932a), 288–325; Holl, “Luthers Bedeutung für den Fortschritt der Auslegungskunst,” in Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kirchengeschichte, vol. 1, Luther, ed. Karl Holl (Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1932b), 544–582; Gerhard Ebeling, “The New Hermeneutics and the Early Luther,” Theology Today 21, no. 1 (1964): 34–46; and Ebeling, “The Beginnings of Luther’s Hermeneutics.” Lutheran Quarterly 7, nos. 2–4 (1993): 129–158, 315–338, 451–468.

(34.) See Holl as well as Scott H. Hendrix, “Ecclesia in via”: Ecclesiological Developments in the Medieval Psalms Exegesis and the Dictata super Psalterium (1513–1515) of Martin Luther. Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought 8 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1974).

(35.) James S. Preus, From Shadow to Promise: Old Testament Interpretation from Augustine to the Young Luther (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1969).

(36.) Siegfried Raeder, Das Hebräische bei Luther, untersucht bis zum Ende der ersten Psalmenvorlesung. Beiträge zur historischen Theologie 31 (Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1961).

(37.) Hendrix, “Ecclesia in via.”

(38.) Erich Seeberg, Studien zu Luthers Genesisvorlesung: Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Frage nach dem alten Luther (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1932).

(39.) In addition to Asendorf (listed in Further Reading), see the response to Meinhold’s skepticism and analysis in Mickey Leland Mattox, “Defender of the Most Holy Matriarchs”: Martin Luther’s Interpretation of the Women of Genesis in the Enarrationes in Genesin, 1535–45 (Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought 92; Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2003), 263–273.

(40.) John A. Maxfield, Luther’s Lectures on Genesis and the Formation of Evangelical Identity. Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies 80 (Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2008).

(41.) Juhani Forsberg, Das Abrahambild in der Theologie Luthers: Pater Fidei Sanctissimus (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1984).

(42.) Mattox, “Defender.”

(43.) See Gerhard Hammer, D. Martin Luthers Operationes in Psalmos 1519–1521, vol. I, Historisch-theologische Einleitung. Archiv zur Weimarer Ausgabe der Werke Martin Luthers, Texte und Untersuchungen, 1 (Cologne and Vienna: Böhlau, 1991); Scott H. Hendrix, “The Authority of Scripture at Work: Luther’s Exegesis of the Psalms,” in Tradition and Authority in the Reformation, ed. Scott H. Hendrix. Collected Studies Series. (Aldershot, U.K., and Brookfield, VT: Ashgate/Variorum, 1996), 2: 144–164; and Siegfried Raeder, Grammatica Theologica: Studien zu Luthers Operationes in Psalmos 1. Aufl. Beiträge zur historischen Theologie 51 (Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1977).

(44.) Kenneth Hagen, Luther’s Approach to Scripture as Seen in His “Commentaries” on Galatians, 1519–1538 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr, 1993).

(45.) Maxfield, “Martin Luther’s Swan Song.”

(46.) An example of this use of Luther’s Old Testament commentary is Robert Rosin, Reformers, the Preacher, and Skepticism: Luther, Brenz, Melanchthon, and Ecclesiastes (Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Europäische Geschichte Mainz, Abteilung abendländische Religionsgeschichte 171; Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1997).

(47.) Kurt Aland, Hilfsbuch zum Lutherstudium. Bearbeitet in Verbindung mit Ernst Otto Reichert und Gerhard Jordan. Dritte, neubearbeite und erweiterte Auflage. (Witten, Germany: Luther-Verlag, 1970).

(48.) Heinrich Bornkamm, Luther and the Old Testament, trans. Eric W. Gritsch and Ruth C. Gritsch, ed. Victor I. Gruhn (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969 [German orig. 1948]), 268–283.

(49.) D. Martin Luther, Operationes in Psalmos 1519-1521. Teil II: Psalm 1 bis 10 (Vulgata). Herausgegeben und bearbeitet von Gerhard Hammer und Manfred Biersack, unter Mitarbeit von Heino Gaese, Hans-Ulrich Perels und Ursula Stock. Wissenschaftliche Leitung, Heiko Augustinus Oberman. Archiv zur Weimarer Ausgabe der Werke Martin Luthers. Texte und Untersuchungen Bd. 2 (Köln, and Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 1981).

(50.) Heinrich J. Vogel, ed., Vogel’s Cross Reference and Index to the Contents of Luther’s Works: A Cross Reference between the American Edition and the St. Louis, Weimar and Erlangen Editions of Luther’s Works (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1983).