I was given links to Roman apologist Steve Ray's material on the canon, and he mentions the bit about Melanchthon stopping Luther from removing books-
Steve Ray says:
“Martin Luther understood the place of the Church in establishing the canon... He realized that if he could jettison the Church, or at least redefine it as “invisible” and “intangible”, he was free to reevaluate and regulate the content of the canon for himself. He actually began to function as his own pope and council. If it weren’t for his theologian Philip Melanchthon, Protestants would no longer consider James, Revelation, Hebrews, Jude and a few other books as inspired Scripture.”-Source: Steve Ray: “Bible's Canon: Do Protestants or Catholics Have The Correct Books?”
Ray infers that Luther wanted to create his own canon, while most scholars recognize Luther holds to a “canon within a canon” [see Roland Bainton, Studies on the Reformation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963) 5]. Paul Althaus explains that Luther “…allows the canon to stand as it was established by the ancient church. But he makes distinctions within the canon” [Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 83]. Steve Ray makes questionable points that make me wonder how familiar he is with Luther. Which “few other books” is Mr. Ray referring to? I am unaware of Luther ever seriously questioning the canonicity of any other New Testament book other than the four mentioned above.
But most importantly, Ray says, “If it weren’t for his theologian Philip Melanchthon,…” Ray seems to indicate, Luther’s views on the canon were somehow curtailed by Melanchthon. Ray makes the same point elsewhere:
“When Martin Luther rejected “popes and councils” he also realized that the canon was again up for grabs. He didn’t like James as we know, but he also placed Hebrews, Jude, and Revelation at the back of the book, not with the inspired books. It was only later that Philipp Melanchthon convinced him to defer to long tradition and place the books back in the New Testament, back in the recognized order. How did Luther fail to recognize the self-authenticating writings?"-Source: Steve Ray, “New Testament Books: Self-authenticating? No Need for the Church to Close the Canon?”
Ray would do well to provide further information to substantiate this claim that Melanchthon was the primary reason Luther put books “back in the New Testament.” To my knowledge, there is no such document from either Melanchthon or Luther. I have e-mailed him in the past asking for a source, I received no response. I tend to think its because it does not exist.
To my knowledge, no such information exists as Ray describes Luther and Melanchthon. The most in depth treatment of Luther’s Bible was done by M. Reu, Luther’s German Bible: An Historical Presentation Together with A Collection of Sources (Ohio: The Lutheran Book Concern, 1934). This book is the most in-depth thorough treatment on this subject. Within 600 pages, Reu makes no mention of such an important discussion between Luther and Melanchthon. Reu does mention though that in 1521 Melanchthon did urge Luther to follow through with his plan of translating the Bible (Reu, 148). Reu notes an intriguing comment from Luther that Melanchthon forced him to do so: “Hence Luther's remark in Tischreden that Melanchthon had forced him to translate the New Testament (I, 487, 11 f)” (Reu, 351). I have a few other books specific to Luther and the Bible. Nowhere have I found anything even remotely suggesting Melanchthon stopped Luther from removing books from the canon.
Simply because Ray doesn't cite his source, doesn't mean I think he's the bogeyman. Maybe he read someone say "Maybe Melanchthon stopped him" or something like that. I would really like him to simply document what he's referring to.
Perhaps he got it from this source: Henry G. Graham, “WHERE WE GOT THE BIBLE OUR DEBT TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.” Henry G. Graham making a similar undocumented assertion:
"Even in regard to the New Testament it required all the powers of resistance on the part of the more conservative Reformers to prevent Luther from flinging out the Epistle of St. James as unworthy to remain within the volume of Holy Scripture – ‘an Epistle of straw’ he called it, ‘with no character of the Gospel in it’. In the same way, and almost to the same degree, he dishonored the Epistle of St. Jude and the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the beautiful Apocalypse of St. John, declaring they were not on the same footing as the rest of the books, and did not contain the same amount of Gospel (i.e., his Gospel)."
Who knows? Roman Catholics don't seem to bother with ad fontes research, so this type of undocumented information will continue to spew forth. I posted about this a while back on the Catholic Answers boards- and even some of the more intelligent participants couldn’t come up with a response to where this super-ability of Melanchthon to stop Luther comes from. For instance, a guy who calls himself “itsjustdave” devoted a whole entry on his blog to this subject. The sad and funny thing about “itsjustdave’s” review is he either completely misunderstood my question about Steve Ray’s sources, or he completely ignored it:
“The fathers of Lutheranism, for centuries, understood Luther's view of the canon much the same way as Steve Ray and Henry G. Graham. I think the reason the Graham and Ray may not have included documentation of their claim, is that it is a well-established fact taught within Lutheranism. Why document the obvious? Yet, it appears from the sources you cite, revisionism has made such facts less obvious to all.”
For a minute, I thought this guy was actually going present pertinent information- but all he did was launch into Lutheran attitudes about the canon. Again, it all comes down to ad fontes research. Roman Catholics claim to have a monopoly on understanding history- yet I wonder if it's just history they're making up as they go along. It's hard to tell when sources aren't given.
Here's are some posts from Catholic Answers in which it was asserted "Erasmus Albertus" was responsible for stopping Luther:
Feb 27, '12, 9:38 pm
Re: Luther's bible
Re: Luther's bible
This is the first I've heard the name "Erasmus Albertus" as the person holding such sway over Luther's actions (it may actually be the first time I've ever heard of Erasmus Albertus as well). If you have any sort of documentation, I'd certainly like to see it.
The way this myth usually runs is that it was Melanchthon who wielded such power over Luther. Consider what Steve Ray says:
If you have any web pages or books that credit Erasmus Albertus with as the person holding such power over Luther, I would be very interested in it. Even if the page turns out to be poorly documented or completely bogus.
Thanks, James Swan
Re: Luther's bible
Re: Luther's bible
Unless someone provides some meaningful documentation, the assertion that someone had such sway over Luther to persuaded him to either leave books of the Bible in or put them back in remains a myth. To date, no Roman Catholic apologist has done so, at least none that I'm aware of, and I know the works of many of them.
Regards, James Swan