Martin Luther produced a german translation of the Bible, known as Luther's Bible. The books and the order in which they appear forms a the canon of that translation, known as Luther's Canon.

The Protestant reformer was fully aware of the so called problem of the canon. By that I mean, knowledge over the fact that throughout Church history, it took a while for the biblical canon to be formed. Some Church fathers rejected books such as Revelation (John Chrysostom for example), James or Hebrews. Other Church fathers considered letters like the Epistle of Barnabas or Shepard of Hermans should be part of the canon (Justin Martyr).

How did Martin Luther decided on what the canon should be? Does he discus the problem of the canon in any of his writings?

1 Answer 1


There are a number of articles on the subject. One article can be found here. I found helpful the quote in the article from the Lutheran theologian, John W. Montgomery, who sums up Luther's criteria:

In his Preface to Jude we heard Luther say: “Although I value this book, it is an Epistle that need not be counted among the chief books which are to lay the foundations of faith”; why? “The ancient fathers excluded this Epistle from the main body of the Scriptures.” Again and again in his Prefaces we find Luther arguing in this vein: “Up to this point we have had to do with the true and certain chief books of the New Testament. The four which follow have from ancient times had a different reputation.” “This Epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients.” “Many of the fathers also rejected this book [Revelation: Luther’s Preface of 1522] a long time ago.” Here Luther appeals not to subjective considerations but objectively to the judgments of the early church, specifically to what Jerome says in his De viris illustribus, chap. 2, and to what Eusebius reports in his Ecclesiastical History, Bk. II, chap. 23 and Bk. III, chap. 25. The negative evaluations of antilegomena by certain church fathers were certainly unjustified, as history proved, but Luther had every right to raise the question in terms of the fathers. Unless one is going to make the fatal error of accepting the content of Scripture because the institutional church has declared it such,… there is no choice but to refer canonicity questions to the earliest judgments available historically concerning the apostolic authority of New Testament books. Christ promised to the apostolic company a unique and entirely reliable knowledge of His teachings through the special guidance of His Holy Spirit (John 14:26), so the issue of the apostolicity of New Testament writings has always been vital for the church. As a theologian, Luther had the right, even the responsibility, to raise this issue, and did not become a subjectivist by doing so.”

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .