Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Shocking Beliefs on Martin Luther: Not all the events in the book of Job actually happened as reported

Here's one I came across from the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther article. Under the heading, "Luther believed that the Bible wasn’t always literally factual," the article states, "He also argued that not all the events in the book of Job actually happened as reported. [Luther’s Works, Vol. 54, pp. 79-80].

Which events? The article doesn't say, but since these are the "Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther," is the thrust to assume the worst?  The intent reminds me of the Luther quote Patrick O'Hare used in The Facts About Luther: "Job spoke not as it stands written in his book, but only had such thoughts. It is merely the argument of a fable"(p. 207). Whichever Martin Luther O'Hare had in mind, it wasn't one based on his actual written statements about Job.

Documentation
While no actual Luther quote about Job is given, The article cites "Luther’s Works," "Vol. 54, pp. 79-80." The documentation  appears to refer to the English version of Luther's Works. Vol. 54 is a collection of Table Talk comments. Unfortunately, one of the most popular sources for quoting Luther is by using comments from the Table Talk. It is, in actuality, not something Luther wrote but is a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death. Since the statements contained therein are purported to have been made by Luther, they should serve more as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written. For a list of Table Talk versions in English, see this link.

Context
No. 475: On the Authorship of the Book of Job Spring, 1533
“Job didn’t speak the way it is written [in his book], but he thought those things. One doesn’t speak that way under temptation. Nevertheless, the things reported actually happened. They are like the plot of a story which a writer, like Terence, adopts and to which he adds characters and circumstances. The author wished to paint a picture of patience. It’s possible that Solomon himself wrote this book, for the style is not very different from his. At the time of Solomon the story which he undertook to write was old and well known. It was as if I today were to take up the stories of Joseph or Rebekah. The Hebrew poet, whoever he was, saw and wrote about those temptations, as Vergil described Aeneas, led him through all the seas and resting places, and made him a statesman and soldier. Whoever wrote Job, it appears that he was a great theologian.”
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 54: Table Talk. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 54, pp. 79–80). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Conclusion
I'm not exactly sure what the Shocking Belief  is supposed to be in the above Table Talk context.  In all the instances I've checked in which Luther spoke of Job or quoted the book of Job, he referred to him as a historical figure and treated the events that transpired in his life as actually occurring. When the Shocking Beliefs article states Luther "argued that not all the events in the book of Job actually happened as reported," Luther above is reported to have said, "the things reported actually happened." Perhaps the Shocking Belief is supposed to be that Luther is reported to have said, "Job didn’t speak the way it is written [in his book], but he thought those things. One doesn’t speak that way under temptation."

I guess it's within the realm of possibility that by "event" this second-hand statement is meant. If that's the case, it really isn't all that shocking. In terms of building a case on it, it's a Table Talk comment, which in fairness to Luther,  should only serve as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written.

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