5 Incredible Facts About Martin Luther and the Books He Questioned in the Bible

Throughout history, there have been many prominent figures whose actions and beliefs transformed the way we understand and practice our faith. Martin Luther, a distinguished theologian from the 16th century, is certainly one of them. As the leader of the Protestant Reformation, Luther had some interesting views on the biblical canon that may surprise many believers.

Martin Luther’s significance in the development of Protestantism is unquestionable. However, did you know that he questioned the authenticity of some books in the Bible, considering them of lower importance than others? In this article, we will explore five incredible facts about Martin Luther and the books of the Bible he wanted to remove.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Martin Luther questioned the value of certain books in the Bible, most notably Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation.
  2. In his German translation of the New Testament, he reordered New Testament books by importance.
  3. His views on the Old Testament canon matched the Hebrew Bible, considering the Apocrypha as less authoritative.
  4. Despite these, his translation became a cornerstone for Protestant Bible versions.
  5. Ultimately, Luther’s actions highlighted the importance of discussing the biblical canon’s formation, thus reminding us to focus on the centrality of God’s Word.
5 Incredible Facts About Martin Luther and the Books He Questioned in the Bible

Questioning the Authenticity of Some New Testament Books

Luther’s doubts about certain books’ apostolic authenticity in the New Testament were not unfounded. Many theologians in the early church shared his concerns, as evidenced in various historical documents. Luther was specifically critical of Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation, referring to them as “the four Antilegomena” – a term used to describe books that faced resistance in the process of canon formation.

For example, Luther called the Epistle of James “an epistle of straw” due to its emphasis on the importance of good works without making a clear connection to faith (James 2:14-26). He also doubted whether the book of Revelation was genuinely authored by the Apostle John, causing him to question its status as inspired Scripture (Revelation 1:1).

Reordering the Books in His German Translation

Luther’s views on these New Testament books prompted him to make some interesting editorial decisions when he translated the Bible into German. In his translation, he reordered the New Testament books according to what he believed was their importance for the teaching of Christian doctrine.

Placing the four Antilegomena at the end of his New Testament, he arranged the other books in the order of prominence, with the Gospels and Paul’s letters taking precedence. Although he didn’t remove these books outright, the reordering demonstrated his belief in their lesser significance compared to other biblical writings.

Aligning with the Hebrew Bible in the Old Testament

As for the Old Testament, Luther’s views aligned with the Hebrew Bible. He regarded the Apocrypha – a group of writings included in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and the Latin Vulgate – as beneficial to read but not equal to the canonical books in terms of authority.

This stance placed him at odds with the Council of Carthage (397 AD) and other significant ecclesiastical gatherings that confirmed the inclusion of the Apocrypha in the Bible. However, his position was later supported by the Jewish Council of Jamnia and other Protestant Reformers.

Establishing the Cornerstone for Protestant Bible Versions

Despite his differing views on the biblical canon, it’s essential to recognize Luther’s immense contribution to the translations of the Bible. His German translation proved to be a cornerstone for Protestant Bible versions that followed, and his translation methodology laid the groundwork for future efforts.

Moreover, despite the Antilegomena’s placement at the end of his New Testament, he didn’t discourage believers from reading or studying those books. Instead, he urged everyone to seek God’s Word diligently and recognize its importance in their lives.

Inspiring Christians to Contemplate the Formation of the Biblical Canon

Today, Luther’s actions serve as a historical reference point, prompting believers to confront questions about the formation and authenticity of the biblical canon. Such inquiries are essential, as they remind Christians worldwide to stay rooted in the centrality of God’s Word – the ultimate source of salvation, wisdom, and guidance.

Undoubtedly, Luther’s courageous stand for the truth inspired many in his time and continues to challenge and inspire believers today. Every boundary pushed and every question raised paved the way for deepening our understanding of Scripture, enriching our faith, and bringing us closer to God.


In conclusion, while Martin Luther’s views on the biblical canon may have been controversial, they are worth exploring and discussing as they encourage open and honest conversations about the foundations of our faith. It is crucial to remember that, despite the various opinions surrounding the evaluation and inclusion of biblical books, we must remain firmly anchored in God’s Word as our ultimate source of truth and wisdom.

As we read the Bible, we need to be open to learning from the Holy Spirit, who continues to speak to us through God’s Word, guiding us in our daily lives. Although perspectives on the biblical canon may differ, the focus should be on our personal relationship with God and allowing the Scriptures to shape our lives according to His will. Remember the words of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

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