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There are many who have pointed out that Luther added the word, "alone" to Romans 3:28 (you can read one such example in this question) so that the Luther Bible reads:

for we reckon a man to be justified by faith alone without deeds of law

where the Greek reads:

for we reckon a man to be justified by faith without deeds of law

Is this true?

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You should consider asking this here: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions –  user1054 Jun 29 '12 at 20:05
@DanAndrews I mostly just wanted the answer as a matter of public record. While I agree that Luther was wrong about a lot of his theology, he gets a lot of poorly justified flack. –  Ignatius Theophorus Jun 29 '12 at 20:52
I agree with you –  user1054 Jun 29 '12 at 20:55

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Yes and no. Yes he added it, no it is not the atrocity that it necessarily implies.

Part of Luther's defense of the translation is that inclusion of the word "alone" is more grammatically correct than its exclusion. While I'm not an expert in German, I do speak enough of it to know that he does have a point.

His problem, though, is in the interpretation of the verse. If we're being true to the original Greek the passage is better understood, "of the set {faith, works of the law} man is only reconciled by faith."

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Mmmm... sets... –  Ignatius Theophorus Jun 28 '12 at 20:53
...and that is quite a problem, because it puts him directly at odds with both Christ and James, who teach clearly and unambiguously that obedience to the Gospel (which means works, but not "of the law" (of Moses), which is what Paul was talking about here) are also necessary. Putting a "sola" in there destroys the idea of the well-defined set that Paul mentioned, and builds an entire theology on a false and dangerous premise. –  Mason Wheeler Jun 28 '12 at 21:47
@MasonWheeler then Paul created a false set, no? Why waste time (and be so misleading) saying: "Well, between these two items 'A' and 'B' in the set, it would be only item 'A' that is sufficient and necessary" when what he really meant was "Item 'A' isn't sufficient. You must add a third item, 'C.'" We can discuss what the biblical definition of "faith" is and what it includes, but it is evident in Romans that Luther didn't change anything by adding the word. Or so says me, a crazy Baptist. :) –  San Jacinto Jun 28 '12 at 23:11
@SanJacinto: Because the point of the sermon in question was not to specify what is necessary for salvation, but what is not: obedience to the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was supposed to produce faith in adherents and turn their mind to the Savior (see Galatians 3,) but it was perverted by the Rabbis to the point where they ended up essentially worshiping the Law itself. Paul's point here is that it is the faith produced by the observation of the Law that can lead to salvation; the actual works of the Law, divorced from faith, are irrelevant. Luther loses that point, which is dangerous. –  Mason Wheeler Jun 28 '12 at 23:43
@MasonWheeler I think it is a non sequitur to say that because Paul is stating that the law is powerless to yield salvation means that he believed that our active obedience is a condition of salvation. I will let you have the last word, but I want to ask one question: in Romans 3:31, Paul says that by this faith, we uphold the law. If 'works' are a part of this faith by union (as opposed to effect), how does this uphold the law? Is this better asked as its own question, directed toward Roman Catholics (I assume that you are Roman Catholic)? –  San Jacinto Jun 29 '12 at 1:00


When people translate from one langugae to another words are sometimes added and sometimes removed. One can compare any two Bibles and find thousands of words to argue about.

I think Catholic opposition to Luther's choice of words, and obsession with this one in particular, indicates what the Protestant reformation was all about.

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