Do Protestants still use Luther's additions to the Bible?

Martin Luther added the word ‘alone’ after the word ‘faith’ in the following verses:

Romans 3:20; Romans 4:5; and Galatians 2:16 (probably many more verses too)

Do Protestants still accept what Luther changed?

Also, Luther called the Epistle of James an epistle of straw mostly because it says we are justified by works and not by faith alone. He also said, “If I had my way, I would cast old Jimmy boy into the stove.” If Luther had his way of getting rid of the Deuterocanonicals, why didn’t he get rid of James?

**Question…do most Protestants use the German Bible? Was Luthur translating the implied meaning from Greek to German…or did he go back and add “alone” in Greek to his manuscript THEN translate it into German? **

The whole “Luther added “alone” to the Bible” has always been a strange and curious arguement to me…I’m not conversant in any way shape or fashion with German…since Luther didn’t translate into English…I have no idea even how to address the question.:slight_smile:

I think James was kept because the Catholics and Protestants made an agreement on the New Testament. Lutherans for years after Luther though conspicously left out James, Hebrews, and Revelation from their Bibles. Not sure when this changed.

This is from Luther’s preface to his writings on James:

Though this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients, I praise it and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God. However, to state my own opinion about it, though without prejudice to anyone, I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle; and my reasons follow.

In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works [2:24]. It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac [2:21]; though in Romans 4:2–22] St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15:6]. Now although this epistle might be helped and an interpretation devised for this justification by works, it cannot be defended in its application to works [Jas. 2:23] of Moses’ statement in Genesis 15:6]. For Moses is speaking here only of Abraham’s faith, and not of his works, as St. Paul demonstrates in Romans 4. This fault, therefore, proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle.

In the second place its purpose is to teach Christians, but in all this long teaching it does not once mention the Passion, the resurrection, or the Spirit of Christ. He names Christ several times; however he teaches nothing about him, but only speaks of general faith in God. Now it is the office of a true apostle to preach of the Passion and resurrection and office of Christ, and to lay the foundation for faith in him, as Christ himself says in John 15:27], “You shall bear witness to me.” All the genuine sacred books agree in this, that all of them preach and inculcate [treiben] Christ. And that is the true test by which to judge all books, when we see whether or not they inculcate Christ. For all the Scriptures show us Christ, Romans 3:21]; and St. Paul will know nothing but Christ, I Corinthians 2:2]. Whatever does not teach Christ is not yet apostolic, even though St. Peter or St. Paul does the teaching. Again, whatever preaches Christ would be apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod were doing it.

But this James does nothing more than drive to the law and to its works. Besides, he throws things together so chaotically that it seems to me he must have been some good, pious man, who took a few sayings from the disciples of the apostles and thus tossed them off on paper. Or it may perhaps have been written by someone on the basis of his preaching. He calls the law a “law of liberty” [1:25], though Paul calls it a law of slavery, of wrath, of death, and of sin.
Luther, M. (1999, c1960). Vol. 35: Luther’s works, vol. 35 : Word and Sacrament I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (35:395). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

It seems to me that Luther’s views on James were mixed. He praises it and considers it a good book and yet he takes issue with it. Of course, we all do the same with many books that we read.

A couple other clarifying points, to add to the others offered here.

First, Luther’s German Bible did not remove the deuterocanonicals, nor any other books. Reformation churches generally did not remove any of these, either, as you will find with the original 1611 Authorized (King James) Version. German Bibles in the US also had the deuterocanonicals until the early 20th century, when the influence of more radical aspects of the Reformation pushed them from the modern re-printings of the KJV, also coinciding with most American Lutherans accepting English in their worship services (rather than their languages of ethnicity, such as Norwegian, Sweedish, German, etc.)

Secondly, Luther’s translation of Romans is rock solid. As any translator will tell you, one must communicate the ideas and intents of the original language into the translated language. St. Paul clearly intends to juxtapose justification by faith against justification by works of the law, so Luther’s translation is valid in this context (and follows various ancient Church Fathers in their understandings and exegesis, too.) Some translators continue in this tradition, and others don’t… but I’m not aware of anyone who uses a German Luther Bible these days on a regular basis. The standard Bible translation for liturgy and lectionary in the LCMS is the English Standard Version, well regarded by many Christian bodies for its accuracy and precision. However, confessional Lutheran pastors are trained to work primarily from the original texts, so we are not bound by particular translations.

Peace be with you.

To my understanding, Luther was trying to convince people that works of the law, shown here from St. Paul, and good works that the Church teaches are necessary for salvation were the same things. Works of the law would be like the Church telling Catholics not to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. It isn’t necessary for salvation, but it can discipline you to increase your faith and works. Good works, or doing the will of God, are necessary for salvation:

“Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you shall know them. Not everyone that says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one that does the will of my Father in heaven.”

      --The Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter Seven Verses Nineteen to Twenty-one.

Luther’s primary point in this regard, as measured in the Lutheran Confessions, is a bit more nuanced than this.

In the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, Good Works are given their proper place as fruits of faith. They are necessary for the Christian, because living faith must produce good works (hence the traditional use of the 10 Commandments in Lutheran catechesis.) However, the Lutheran Reformers were careful not to drift into the Pelagian heresy, which saw good works as resulting in justification, since as St. Paul and Luther both note, the just shall live by faith.

For a whole slew of reasons, the nuance of the Lutheran confessional position during the Reformation rarely got a fair hearing. However, it is clear from the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, signed by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation, that Rome has finally understood what Lutherans were confessing in the relationship of faith and good works, declaring our position a viable articulation of catholic doctrine in this regard. Of course, there is much more to discuss doctrinally, but Roman Catholics are no longer in a position to condemn the confessional Lutheran teaching on Justification by Grace through Faith, as presented in our Confessions.

Peace be with you.

So do Lutherans believe in justification by faith and works? Is Sola Fide still in your doctrine?

Lutherans believe that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone. And that faith must be an active faith that produces good works, IOW, a faith that works through love.



In faith we together hold the conviction that justification is the work of the triune God. The Father sent his Son into the world to save sinners. The foundation and presupposition of justification is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Justification thus means that Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.[11]


I took a class on ecumenism by a bishop who was at Vatican II and a member of the commission for ecumenism…

He considered the problem with Lutheranism more akin to a form of scruples…I have read some great saints before Luther and the Church has always upheld that Christ is our savior…and that a true faith is one that bears fruit in living out the gospel…

I pray very much for the reunification of the Protestants with the Catholics; we can only be strengthened and made better of it…we need each other and each other’s gifts.

Luther also said "any mildmad that can read can start a church and now we have over 26,000 and still counting

I think it’s at 30,000 now. I read in another thread that 5 new ‘denominations’ pop-up every week.

However, considering Christ chose 12 witnesses to Him, we also should re-consider St. Peter in his 2nd letter…about not doing personal interpretation…but to stay with those who witnessed His Majesty.

We don’t measure Roman Catholics by every word uttered by popes, and we don’t measure Lutherans by every word of Luther (real or imagined.). If we stick to official teaching, which for Lutherans is the Book of Concord, and for the Romans is the Magesterium, we won’t find ourselves picking fights with each other unnecessarily.

Like it or not, friend, Rome does not condemn the Lutheran doctrine of Justification by Grace through Faith in Christ alone. If you’re looking for a brawl, you’ll have to look elsewhere… though I pray you might not be consumed with such a pursuit.

Easter blessings be upon you.

Well said :thumbsup::thumbsup:


I have heard this concept before from my Roman Catholic friends, and I think it is almost always very well intentioned. No doubt, that Luther was very scrupulous in his vocation as priest and monk, as he also was in his profession as theologian and Doctor of Scripture. His mind seems to be one that could not let go things, until they had reached their logical ends, for good or for ill.

While it is possible that he was overly consumed by his sense of guilt and unworthiness under the Law, I think there’s a temptation to miss precisely why he felt that way… and how the resolution of that quandry from a theological standpoint, help spark the Reformation. It seems to me, that the soft semi-Pelagianism rampant in the Church during his time (and, coincidentally, rampant in our time, too) needed someone who would actually try to live it, find it’s failures in exploring its limits, and then find within the Apostles, Fathers, and the Holy Scriptures themselves, the cure to this semi-Pelagianism.

What emerged was a defining dialectic of ensuing Lutheran thought, which to my reading is an expression of St. Augustine’s thought, which we tend to call “the proper distinction between Law and Gospel.” Keeping the Law is good, but it does not save a human being crippled by concupiscence, but rather reduces us to plead by faith the ancient prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The Gospel is what saves, as through Word and Sacrament the grace of Christ is delivered to us, where we receive it by faith-- even as so great a salvation, saves us unto good works. The Law and Gospel must never be confused, and yet never seperated. It is something I think the Lutheran Reformation offers most clearly to the universal Church of Christ, and is a salve to the scrupulous among us, who look upon the natural state and capacity of man, and despair… only to find hope and life in the Cross of Christ.

I, too, pray for our reunion. It is part of our liturgy during the Divine Service, and our regular prayer of the Litany. May Christ do, what we are unable of ourselves to do.

Blessings be unto you.

I don’t think that Augustine’s “Spirit/Letter” distinction is the same as the Law/Gospel distinction at all, though the one certainly helped inspire the other. Augustine believed that justification really made a person righteous. That radically changes how you perceive the role of God’s commands. The commands in themselves, apart from the Spirit, simply kill. But when enlivened by the Spirit, they do not. That seems quite different from the Lutheran position to me. Luther’s early teachings could certainly be interpreted in this light–that’s how Martin Bucer, for instance, interpreted what he hear Luther say at Heidelberg. But this Augustinian teaching about the necessity of the Spirit to make God’s commands live is not the same thing as the developed, confessional Lutheran teaching about Law and Gospel–in fact, as I see it the two are incompatible.

The whole “Luther added “alone” to the Bible” has always been a strange and curious arguement to me…I’m not conversant in any way shape or fashion with German…since Luther didn’t translate into English…I have no idea even how to address the question.:slight_smile:

Okay, being a Native Speaker of German and often using Luther’s Bible, I’ll try to answer your question here! :wink: [Despite not being Lutheran!]

ALL Lutherans, in Germany as well as in Austria use Luther’s Bible. (in a modernized language; Version of 1986; unlike the KJV which still uses the English of the 17th Century).
In Austria the mixed (Reformed and Lutheran) Evangelical Churches use mainly Luther’s Bible. - Depending on which groups is larger, although up to 90 percent in every mixed confessional Church the Lutherans are larger here.
(The Reformed Evangelical Churches in Germany, Austria and Switzerland [where there are hardly Lutherans!] use the Zurich Translation of the Bible, which is without the deuterocanonicals.)

Sadly, I don’t know if the Lutherans here in Europe use Luther’s (German) Bible with or without deuteros. I only know that in Religious Instruction the one with deuteros is used.
But I am sure that the SELK (roughly the same as the LCMS in the US) use the one with deuteros.
You can buy in every shop here Luther’s Bible with or without deuteros.

In my Evangelical (Baptist) Church, some people use, besides other translations - one is free to choose which translation fits him personally best - , Luther’s Bible without deuterocanonical books. - The same goes for the other “reborn Christian Churches” here in Central Europe (A,D,CH).

I have a Luther’s Bible without and one with the deuterocanonical books. (The one with deuteros, was the first Bible I bought myself, shortly before I have enthrusted my life to Jesus.)

As Luther’s Bible only was modified some times so far regarding language, I think (and this goes to the OP) the content has never been changed. So yes, Lutherans still use the word ‘alone’ added after the word ‘faith’ in the following verses:

Romans 3:20; Romans 4:5; and Galatians 2:16.

Was Luthur translating the implied meaning from Greek to German…or did he go back and add “alone” in Greek to his manuscript THEN translate it into German?

Of course he interpreted, like everyone does when translating. So he “added” the word alone after the word meaning faith in Greek, because from the context it was clear that it was meant like this. Being (nearly - I haven’t finished my studies) a translator, I know what I am talking about. :wink:

Hope I could help you,

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