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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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Related to this BH question – Mr. Bultitude Feb 12 at 14:33

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 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 & SanJacinto This looks amusingly like a discussion. Perhaps a second question is in order? – Ignatius Theophorus Jun 29 '12 at 7:01


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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Yes. Luther added the word 'alone' in Romans 3:28 in the German Translation he made.

It was added to emphasize the meaning of the text.

Jutification is by faith apart from the works of the Law. If it is apart from the works of the Law and by faith,then,it means by faith alone.

Note that the works of the Law incudes all works including good works ( Romans 4:4-8) and the 10 commandments ( 2 Corinthians 3:6-7). Hence, Luther's addition is justified by the context per se of Romans 3:28.


Both Origen and Augustine ( both were early church writers) added the word 'alone' too in Romans 3:28. This would mean that Luther was not the original or the first one to add in Romans 3.

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I'm guessing the downvotes are before the last edit, here's one to try to bump you back up. – Raphael Rosch Jun 30 at 19:07

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