Sola scriptura

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Propagandist allegory of the sola scriptura principle

The term sola scriptura ( Latin for "solely through the Scriptures") denotes a theological principle of the Reformation and Reformation theology , according to which the message of salvation is sufficiently conveyed through the Bible and does not need to be supplemented by church traditions. From this, Lutheran orthodoxy developed the principle of writing in connection with the Lutheran confessional writings .

Together with the principles sola fide ("only through faith"), sola gratia ("only through grace") and solus Christ ("only Christ"), it forms the principles of the Reformation.

Schematic representation of Luther's doctrine of justification , modified from P. Blickle (1992)

Origin of expression

The phrase sola scriptura goes back to Martin Luther's formulation that only the signature rule ( "solam scripturam regnare" ), acting in its justification Assertio ( "Freedom Declaration") of 1520 against those of Leo X issued Papal Bull of Excommunication used. The other three solae also go back to Martin Luther.

Sola scriptura and scripture interpretation

Luther's approach

With the "sola scriptura" Luther tried to find a reliable, unchangeable standard in the theological debate with the Roman Catholic Church , since human judgments had repeatedly turned out to be erroneous in the course of church history.

In the late Middle Ages , the use of the fourfold sense of writing resulted in an enormous variety of interpretations of the script. Thus, customs and doctrines were established that would have completely strayed from the biblical testimony (for example the business-like indulgence trade ). Luther wanted to counteract this situation.

The requirement of the “sola scriptura” should by no means express that only the exact wording of the Holy Scriptures is decisive for the life of a Christian, as was formulated in modern times as the program of Christian fundamentalism . Rather, it was about the question of who interprets the Scriptures correctly. According to Luther's idea, this could only happen through the writing itself, since it was "credible, clear and its own interpreter" ( "per se certissima, apertissima, sui ipsius interpres" ). Also, the scripture should not be sacralized, but the word of God contained in it should constantly come up anew (become viva vox ). In this process the human being is only passive - he receives the unavailable word.

So that this unavailability does not lead to arbitrary interpretation of Scripture, Luther emphasized the “center of Scripture”. This middle lies in the message of Christ , which is thus the inner standard of Scripture. From here it is possible to criticize church decisions and even the individual scriptures of the Bible - depending on whether they “treben Christ”, that is, bring the gospel to the believers, or not.

Scripture clarity

The Roman Catholic and humanist sides, especially Erasmus of Rotterdam , objected to this doctrine that the script always needs an external interpretation, since it is full of incomprehensible, "dark" passages. Luther then proclaimed the clarity of scripture ( claritas scripturae ). The content of the Bible even presents itself in a “double clarity”: the external clarity of the text ( claritas externa ) is confirmed by the internal clarity ( claritas interna ) that the Holy Spirit works in the heart of the listener or reader.

Roman Catholic answer

The Roman Catholic Church reacted to the Council of Trent (1545–1563) with a clarification of its scriptural teaching. In the fourth session (1546) a decree was passed, according to which the divine truth is to be found not only in scripture, but in the connection between scripture and tradition ( “in libris scriptis et sine scripto traditionibus” based in Jn 16,13  EU ). This confirmed the correct interpretation of the Bible by the ecclesiastical Magisterium , since only in this way can the work of the Holy Spirit be regarded as certain ( Jn 14.26  EU ). The Bible itself only gains its authority through the Church, which is also older than the Bible. The ecclesiastical magisterium established the Bible canon , which also shows the authority of the Church over the Bible.

Eastern Orthodox view

The Eastern Churches reject the principle of sola scriptura.

Impact history

Lutheran orthodoxy formulated its own point of view against the Roman Catholic doctrine in the concord formula (1577). Thus in the Epitome that "only the Scriptures the unanimous judges rule and norm" ( "sola sacra scriptura iudex, norma et regula" ) and " touchstone " ( "Lydius lapis" be) for all church teachings and traditions could. The script has since been referred to as norma normans ("norm-setting norm"), the church confessions in return as norma normata ("standardized norm"), as they are derived from the script.

Based on the formulations of the confessional writings and, above all, Luther's designation of the scriptures as “principium primum”, Lutheran orthodoxy worked out the scriptural principle in the 17th century. Through the Aristotelian category of the principle , the Bible was established as an unquestionable axiom of Lutheran theology. The doctrine of the verbal inspiration of Scripture was also developed in this context. According to Wolfhart Pannenberg, the authority of the Holy Scriptures for Reformation theology is based on the fact that "it is not the word of man, but God's own word."

The historical-critical biblical research shook this dogmatic basis. Since then one speaks of the "crisis of the writing principle". Notwithstanding this crisis, which has existed since the 18th century, the Evangelical Church adheres to the Reformation principle of sola scriptura. It is called z. B. in the basic articles of the church order of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland: “It confesses with the churches of the Reformation that Holy Scripture is the sole source and perfect guide of faith, doctrine and life and that salvation is received only in faith . "

Consequences for church building

Before the Reformation, mass was the most important thing in worship , and especially the moment of change . The priest raised the host as high as possible ( elevation ) so that it could be seen more clearly in the longitudinally rectangular naves; In larger churches, a high choir was built into the altar for a better view of the actions . In the Protestant service, however, the sermon dominated. That is why the ground plans of the churches were changed: to the transverse church , the only purely Protestant sacred structure, or to the central building (squares or octagons that can be inscribed in a circle), which was less common in Protestantism. The pulpit was moved as close as possible to the center of the church in order to make the sermon more audible for all worshipers. In smaller churches, the same purpose should be achieved by erecting a pulpit altar : the word, the sermon, should also be placed at the center of the worship service in a purely spatial manner.



Secondary literature

  • Gerhard Ebeling : “Sola scriptura” and the problem of tradition. In: ders .: Word of God and tradition. Studies on a hermeneutics of denominations. Edition 2. Göttingen 1966, pp. 91-143.
  • Hartmut Günther: The written understanding of the concord formula. In: Confession to the Truth. Essays on the formula of concord. Erlangen 1978; Pp. 25-34.
  • Rochus Leonhardt : Basic information dogmatics. A textbook and workbook for studying theology. Edition 2. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, pp. 106–111.
  • Bernhard Rothen: The clarity of the writing. Martin Luther: The rediscovered foundations. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1990.
  • Hermann Sasse : Sacra Scriptura. Studies in the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures. Erlangen 1981.
  • Armin Wenz: The Word of God - Judgment and Salvation. Investigation into the authority of the Holy Scriptures in the confession and teaching of the Church. In: Research on systematic and ecumenical theology. Volume 75. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1996, ISBN 3-525-56282-9 (dissertation at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg 1994).
  • Mathias Mütel: With the Church Fathers against Martin Luther? The debates about tradition and auctoritas patrum at the Council of Trent. Schöningh, Paderborn 2017 (= Council History . Series B., Investigations).

Individual evidence

  1. Peter Blickle : The Reformation in the Empire. 2nd edition, UTB 1181, Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-8001-2626-5 , p. 44
  2. Martin Luther: Verification of the truth of all Martin Luther's articles which were condemned by the youngest bull of Leo X (=  D. Martin Luther's works . WA 7). 1897, p. 98 (Latin: Assertio omnium articulorum M. Lutheri per bullam Leonis X. novissimam damnatorum . 1521.).
  3. a b Martin Luther: Verification of the truth of all articles by Martin Luther that were condemned by the youngest bull of Leo X (=  D. Martin Luther's works . WA 7). 1897, p. 97 (Latin: Assertio omnium articulorum M. Lutheri per bullam Leonis X. novissimam damnatorum . 1521.).
  4. Martin Luther: Printed text of the Luther Bible 1522–1546: The New Testament. Second half: Epistles and Revelation (=  D. Martin Luther's works . WA DB 7). 1897, p. 384 .
  5. Martin Luther: About the enslaved will (=  D. Martin Luther's works . WA 18). 1908, p. 606-609 (Latin: De servo arbitrio . 1525.).
  6. Heinrich Denzinger : Compendium of the creeds and church teaching decisions. Edited by Peter Hünermann . 44th edition. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau et al. 2014, (Original title: Enchiridion Symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum , 1501. S. 87 f.) ISBN 978-3-451-37012-0 (Latin-German).
  7. Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church , p. 769
  8. ^ Johannes Wallmann: Church history of Germany since the Reformation , 6 2006, p. 98.
  9. Wolfhart Pannenberg: Systematic Theologie , Volume 1. Göttingen 1988, p. 41. Pannenberg explains on the following pages how this conception was increasingly abandoned in theology in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  10. Wolfhart Pannenberg: The crisis of the writing principle. In: Ders .: Basic questions of systematic theology , Volume 1. Göttingen 1962, pp. 11–21. Elsewhere, Pannenberg emphasizes that since Johann Salomo Semler "a distinction between scripture and the word of God has increasingly prevailed". (Pannenberg 1988, p. 56).