Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I recently listened to Dr. Scott Hahn's conversion testimony. One thing that really jumped out at me was that Dr. Hahn stated that Luther purposely inserted the German word "allein" (alone) into Romans 3:28 despite the fact that it is not in the Greek texts.

So halten wir nun dafür, daß der Mensch gerecht werde ohne des Gesetzes Werke, allein durch den Glauben.

Is this true?

Are there any writings from Luther that allude to his own translation of this crucial verse?

share|improve this question
According to Catholic apologists, Martin Luther intentionally mistranslated Romans 3:28 to include the word "allein" (alone), and Luther was rebuked for it. In response, Luther made a snide remark by calling his Catholic opponents, "papists". Are you looking for denominational (really, just Catholic) sources or external sources? –  Double U Aug 8 '13 at 4:00
Alone does not appear in the Greek text and whether it is intended or not is a matter of interpretation. Hopefully someone will know if Luther explained his interpretation. –  Andrew Leach Aug 8 '13 at 7:29
Although anyone able to give a good answer may already know, it might make for a more interesting question to observers if you were to put in the English as well. –  pterandon Aug 8 '13 at 10:32
@AndrewLeach - this maybe academic, but the link to "in the Greek Text" produces a 403 error code. –  Waeshael Aug 8 '13 at 10:49
@Anonymous - I would be satisfied with both Catholic and non-Catholic sources, as long as they are empirical and unbiased as possible. –  Charles Alsobrook Aug 8 '13 at 11:03

1 Answer 1

Luther was thinking of "salvation" only as life after death, and not of salvation as a change in a person's life that makes them whole - freedom from want; good health; freedom from oppression; and happiness - which is the meaning of The Lord ( as, for instance, in his sermon in Matthew 5).

In this narrow sense, Luther's statement about salvation by grace "alone" did not disagree with The Church's position that we are saved by the grace of God. When Luther implied by "grace alone" that nothing more needs to be done by a person (no work is needed) he could find in the scripture no support for his position, and when he translated the Bible into German, he changed the text from that in the Latin Vulgate to give scriptural support to his inspiration.

His followers, Melanchthon in particular, latched onto this idea and taught that anyone could do anything they liked and not lose their salvation by Grace, even murder. This resulted in rioting in Germany, the destruction of monasteries, and marriage of nuns. About 100,000 people died in the rioting. This was not what Luther expected to happen.

Eventually common sense prevailed, the rioting ended, and Germany became Protestant, and abandoned their support of the Roman Church - money, and manpower for the Papal war machine.

But when salvation is understood in the way The Master taught, we see that it comes from following the teaching of God.

As The Master has said:

“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20, KJV.

If we look at ST. Augustine's theology on salvation we find this: Wace and Piercy "A dictionary of Christian Biography"

In St. Augustine's letter to Deogratius (Ep. 102):

At all times, he writes, since the world began, the same faith has been revealed to men, at one time more obscurely, at another more plainly, as the circumstances altered; but what we now call the Christian religion is but the clearest revelation of a religion as old as the world. Never has its offer of salvation been withheld from those who were worthy of it even though they might not be mentioned in the sacred record. Such men who followed His commands (however unconsciously), were implicit believers in Christ. The changing (and therefore semi-real) form represents the one constant reality, the saving grace of God, revealed through the passion and resurrection of Christ (Ep 189 )

share|improve this answer
"rioting in Germany, the destruction of monasteries, and marriage of nuns?" Shocking! –  Mason Wheeler Aug 8 '13 at 11:45
@MasonWheeler: Elder Wheeler ( I assume) is your comment sincere, or are you just being funny? –  Waeshael Aug 8 '13 at 13:21
Being funny. And I haven't gone by "Elder" in many years. (See christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/6883/… for an explanation of the title and when it's used.) –  Mason Wheeler Aug 8 '13 at 16:06
Ah, so you are no longer active. But since you hold the senior priesthood, how are you addressed when you visit the church? Just curious. –  Waeshael Aug 8 '13 at 18:59
BTW: why do you consider these tragic events to be "funny." There were women and children among those killed. Many were not religious - mostly poor people who wanted a piece of the action. –  Waeshael Aug 8 '13 at 19:02

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.