Martin Luther’s Christological Hermeneutics -- By: David S. Dockery

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 04:2 (Fall 1983)
Article: Martin Luther’s Christological Hermeneutics
Author: David S. Dockery


Martin Luther’s Christological Hermeneutics

David S. Dockery

THIS ARTICLE IS WRITTEN IN COMMEMORATION OF THE 500TH ANNIVERSARY OF LUTHER’S BIRTHDAY.

The Sixteenth Century saw Martin Luther initiate a hermeneutical revolution which changed the course of human history. The Protestant Reformation would have been impossible apart from this change in hermeneutical theory. Since that day, Luther has been viewed by evangelicals and existentialists alike as their spiritual father. This article seeks to examine the claims of each group, as well to evaluate the hermeneutical principle on its own merits. The author also states the significance of Luthers christological principle for present day evangelical hermeneutics.

* * *

Martin Luther is one of the greatest men that Germany has ever produced, as well as one of the most important figures in human history. In his religious experience and theological standpoint, he strongly resembles the Apostle Paul. It was said by Melanchthon, the one who knew him best, that he was the Elijah of Protestantism and he compared him closely to the Apostle of the Gentiles. Luther roused the Church from her slumber, broke the yoke of papal tyranny, rediscovered Christian freedom, reopened the fountain of God’s Holy Word to all the people, and was responsible for directing many to Christ as their Lord. When one thinks of the Reformation, he or she quickly reflects upon the titanic force of Luther; the sovereign good sense of Zwingli; and the remorseless logic of Calvin—and of these three, the greatest was Martin Luther.1

In the 16th century, Luther initiated and fostered a hermeneutical revolution which changed the course of history. The Protestant Reformation would have been impossible apart from this change in hermeneutics which was employed to interpret both the OT and the NT.2 In

a very real sense, Luther is the father of Protestant interpretation3 and his influence is profound.

The burning desire in the heart of Luther to get the Word of God into the hands of the people was so great that he not only translated the Bible into the language of the people, but laid down certain principles concerning its interpretation.

Luther’s Hermeneutical Principles

The Principles of 1521

The first of these early principles was the supreme and final authority of Scripture itself, apart from all ecclesiastical authority or interference. He recognized that to present the Church as the way to Christ ...

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