James 2:24: Retranslation Required (Part 1 of 3) -- By: John Niemelä

Journal: Chafer Theological Seminary Journal
Volume: CTSJ 07:1 (Jan 2001)
Article: James 2:24: Retranslation Required (Part 1 of 3)
Author: John Niemelä

James 2:24: Retranslation Required
(Part 1 of 3)

John Niemelä*

[*Editor's note: John Niemelä received a B.A. (University of Minnesota), and earned the Th.M. and Ph.D. degrees in New Testament Literature and Exegesis from Dallas Theological Seminary. John is Professor of Hebrew and Greek at Chafer Theological Seminary. His email address is [email protected]]

Sola Fide Requires Sola Scriptura

How easy it is to assume sola fide as axiomatic to Christianity without comprehending the tremendous battles Martin Luther and other Reformers fought. Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses to the door of the Church at Wittenburg marked an auspicious beginning on October 31, 1517. One of Luther’s greatest contributions to the Reformation was his translation of the Bible into a language accessible to the common man. However translating from Hebrew, Greek and Latin texts into German was a massive task. Did Luther have lexicons of today’s caliber? Did he have access to an established scholarly community dedicated to biblical languages? Did Luther have any of the modern publishing tools let alone a computer? And, yet the Reformation’s success not only depended upon sola fide (faith alone), but also sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). Indeed, Martin Luther and his contemporaries argued that departures from the Scripture authorized by the pope and various councils obscured the biblical doctrine of eternal justification, sola fide. In other words, sola fide was a compelling argument only if sola Scriptura were true. Luther’s enemies not only rejected sola fide, but also sola Scriptura, while those who embraced sola fide, of necessity, embraced sola Scriptura. The two doctrines stand or fall together.

Luther quickly saw the practical ramifications of sola Scriptura: People who read the Bible for themselves could discover (or verify) that eternal justification comes by faith alone. Those who could not read it were dependant on those who could. Unfortunately, most who could read a Latin Bible were clergymen of a church that rejected sola fide and sola Scriptura. If Luther were to translate the Bible into German, the recently invented printing press would allow him to distribute German Bibles widely. If

people could read the Bible for themselves, not only would they be reading Scripture, but also they could personally verify sola fide. Thus, five years after nailing his 95 Theses on the door at Wittenburg, he released his first German New Testament. During the remaining years of his life, he produced almost twenty revised editions of the New Testament and four of th...

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