Monday, 29 April 2013

Was Luther's Translation of Romans 3:28 An Innovation?

I hope my regular readers will pardon the delay in completing the series on Roman Catholic theological anthropology previously announced. It's been a busy month! In the past two weeks I drove 4000 kms to Adelaide and back to attend a conference with my family using the occasion to have a holiday. Even with the resources available on the 'net I find it impossible to "do" much theology while away from my library, meagre though it is. I may not get to complete my proposed series until I am on leave in June. In the meantime, let's consider a criticism of Luther often made by uninformed Roman Catholic apologists - that Luther's translation of  Romans 3:28 - "So halten wir nun dafür, dass der Mensch gerecht werde ohne des Gesetzes Werke, allein durch den Glauben" (Lit.: "We therefore conclude that a man is justified without the works of the law, only through faith") was an innovation and an unjustified (pun!) one at that.

Happily, I can save myself some time and work on this question by simply quoting here from the unbiased research of a leading Roman Catholic New Testament scholar, Joseph A. Fitzmyer:
"At 3:28 Luther introduced the adv. “only” into his translation of Romans (1522), “alleyn durch den Glauben” (WAusg 7.38); cf. Aus der Bibel 1546, “alleine durch den Glauben” (WAusg, DB 7.39); also 7.3-27 (Pref. to the Epistle). See further his Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen, of 8 Sept. 1530 (WAusg 30.2 [1909], 627-49; “On Translating: An Open Letter” [LuthW 35.175-202]). Although “alleyn/alleine” finds no corresponding adverb in the Greek text, two of the points that Luther made in his defense of the added adverb were that it was demanded by the context and that sola was used in the theological tradition before him.

Robert Bellarmine listed eight earlier authors who used sola (Disputatio de controversiis: De justificatione 1.25 [Naples: G. Giuliano, 1856], 4.501-3):

Origen, Commentarius in Ep. ad Romanos, cap. 3 (PG 14.952).

Hilary, Commentarius in Matthaeum 8:6 (PL 9.961).

Basil, Hom. de humilitate 20.3 (PG 31.529C).

Ambrosiaster, In Ep. ad Romanos 3.24 (CSEL 81.1.119): “sola fide justificati sunt dono Dei,” through faith alone they have been justified by a gift of God; 4.5 (CSEL 81.1.130).

John Chrysostom, Hom. in Ep. ad Titum 3.3 (PG 62.679 [not in Greek text]).

Cyril of Alexandria, In Joannis Evangelium 10.15.7 (PG 74.368 [but alludes to Jas 2:19]).

Bernard, In Canticum serm. 22.8 (PL 183.881): “solam justificatur per fidem,” is justified by faith alone.

Theophylact, Expositio in ep. ad Galatas 3.12-13 (PG 124.988).

To these eight Lyonnet added two others (Quaestiones, 114-18):

Theodoret, Affectionum curatio 7 (PG 93.100; ed. J. Raeder [Teubner], 189.20-24).

Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Ep. I ad Timotheum cap. 1, lect. 3 (Parma ed., 13.588): “Non est ergo in eis [moralibus et caeremonialibus legis] spes iustificationis, sed in sola fide, Rom. 3:28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem, sine operibus legis” (Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28: We consider a human being to be justified by faith, without the works of the law). Cf. In ep. ad Romanos 4.1 (Parma ed., 13.42a): “reputabitur fides eius, scilicet sola sine operibus exterioribus, ad iustitiam”; In ep. ad Galatas 2.4 (Parma ed., 13.397b): “solum ex fide Christi” [Opera 20.437, b41]).

See further:

Theodore of Mopsuestia, In ep. ad Galatas (ed. H. B. Swete), 1.31.15.

Marius Victorinus (ep. Pauli ad Galatas (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15-16: “Ipsa enim fides sola iustificationem dat-et sanctificationem” (For faith itself alone gives justification and sanctification); In ep. Pauli Ephesios (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15: “Sed sola fides in Christum nobis salus est” (But only faith in Christ is salvation for us).

Augustine, De fide et operibus, 22.40 (CSEL 41.84-85): “licet recte dici possit ad solam fidem pertinere dei mandata, si non mortua, sed viva illa intellegatur fides, quae per dilectionem operatur” (Although it can be said that God’s commandments pertain to faith alone, if it is not dead [faith], but rather understood as that live faith, which works through love”). Migne Latin Text: Venire quippe debet etiam illud in mentem, quod scriptum est, In hoc cognoscimus eum, si mandata ejus servemus. Qui dicit, Quia cognovi eum, et mandata ejus non servat, mendax est, et in hoc veritas non est (I Joan. II, 3, 4). Et ne quisquam existimet mandata ejus ad solam fidem pertinere: quanquam dicere hoc nullus est ausus, praesertim quia mandata dixit, quae ne multitudine cogitationem spargerent [Note: [Col. 0223] Sic Mss. Editi vero, cogitationes parerent.], In illis duobus tota Lex pendet et Prophetae (Matth. XXII, 40): licet recte dici possit ad solam fidem pertinere Dei mandata, si non mortua, sed viva illa intelligatur fides, quae per dilectionem operatur; tamen postea Joannes ipse aperuit quid diceret, cum ait: Hoc est mandatum ejus, ut credamus nomini Filii ejus Jesu Christi, et diligamns invicem (I Joan. III, 23) See De fide et operibus, Cap. XXII, §40, PL 40:223."

Joseph A. Fitzmyer: Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, 1993, 360-361.


Martin Yee said...

Pastor Henderson,

Glad you are "back in business". Great sense of irony quoting a RC scholar in support of Luther's "innovation". So apparently many in the past have similar understanding with Luther on Romans 3:28? But then why are they not believing in sola fide? Is it because of vested interests or fear of being seen as heretical?

Btw are you in any way related to the new LCA bishop John Henderson? Just curious.

Warm regards,

Mark Henderson said...

"So apparently many in the past have similar understanding with Luther on Romans 3:28? But then why are they not believing in sola fide?"
Good question, Martin. Pace Hans Kueng, who thought otherwise, Trent decisively rejected sola fide, and the dogmaticians followed, ignoring the historical evidence. But in spite of this the Biblical scholars of today find the doctrine in Paul - the Bible triumphs over dogma. If they looked they would find it in Jesus as well!

Mark Henderson said...

I'm not related to John Henderson -not as far as we know anyway. I'll have to ask him where his family comes from to be sure.

joel in ga said...

The Catholic edition of the Good News Translation, which bears the imprimatur and nihil obstat, translated Romans 3:28 the same in both Protestant and Catholic versions: "For we conclude that a person is put right with God only through faith, and not by doing what the Law commands"

Mark Henderson said...

That's interesting - I wonder if that one "got through" the censors? I have a school edition of the New American Bible, translated by leading American Catholic scholars, with quite extensive footnotes and an imprimatur and nihil obstat (along with a portrait of JPII on the frontispiece!). This is how it translates 3:28 - "For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law." That can still be read quite consitently with Rome's "faith formed by love" justifies doctrine, but the footnotes teach sola fide! I don't know how that got through the censors - but it shows there are some true "evangelical catholics" (not Weigel's variety) under the Roman umbrella.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Was Luther's Translation of Romans 3:28 An Innovation?

Yes. :-)

As to your quotes: non idem est si duo dicunt idem.

Mark Henderson said...

Ah Lucian, you must have a better response? You know, a reasoned argument...references...evidence...ohwait, you don't.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

I guess my argument about Luther's teaching not coming from God because no true Scotsman, erm, I mean Prophet, is received by his own contrymen didn't impress you too much... :-) OK: Let's try another one then! :D

The question raised by Judaizers was whether Christianity, ie faith in Christ, requires Judaism as a necessary precondition. The answer was that it doesn't. All one has to do to be a Christian is to hold the Christian faith, the keeping of Jewish observances not being mandatory.

Mark Henderson said...

"All one has to do to be a Christian is to hold the Christian faith, the keeping of Jewish observances not being mandatory."
Precisely. So, why do the Orthodox have a Temple, priests and a sacrificial eucharist? ;0)

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Because the first Christians also had them.

Saint Paul and the other Apostles did not abolish communal worship, presbyters, or the Holy Eucharist. (Or monotheism itself, for that matter). What they did abolish, though, were the things meant to separate rather than unite. E.g., Jewish customs, which the Gentiles obviously did not share: nor do all Gentiles have the same customs either. Romanians don't eat frogs' legs, for instance, as the Austro-Hungarian nobility did.

The reason they did that was because these ritual or symbolic separations (such as that between clean and unclean animals, or that between Saturday and the rest of the days of the week) represented the separation between Jews and Gentiles, which even the Old Covenant itself says that it will be abolished at the time of the arrival of the Messiah. Obviously, Christians do believe that the Christ did indeed come, so we also act accordingly.

Mark Henderson said...

I've no problem with communal worship, elders or the eucharist, Lucian. What puzzles me is the Orthodox nostalgia for the symbolism of the Temple worship which was part and parcel of the OT system. The curtain in the Temple was torn in two, thus symbolizing the redundancy of that system after Christ's sacrifice had been effected. Thus we no longer need a Temple in which a priest offers a sacrifice to make us acceptable to God - the one priestly sacrifice was offered by Christ. The church is a temple not made with human hands. Read the letter to the Hebrew Christians.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Apropos Jewish roots of Christianity: Today we celebrate the Uplifting of the Holy Cross. Now: Why is the equivalent of Great and Holy Friday (Spring) celebrated in Autumn ? Two words: Yom Kippur. September, as its name still suggests, was originally the seventh month of the ancient Roman calendar, just as Tishri [Sep/Oct] still is in the Jewish calendar.