Friday, January 08, 2016

Lutheran Bible scholarship

I'd like to do a little overview of Lutheran Bible scholarship. To begin with, I use the word "Lutheran" advisedly. In Europe, I think "Lutheran" is sometimes used as a generic synonym for Protestant or non-Catholic. The Lutheranism of Rudolf Bultmann, Albrecht Ritschl, Ernst Käsemann, Helmut Koester, and Wolfhart Pannenberg (to name a few) is highly attenuated. 

German Bible scholarship is infamously liberal, but I'm going to focus on moderate to conservative Lutheran scholars. In the 19C, Carl Friedrich Keil was their great OT scholar. He published an introduction to the OT, as well as several commentaries on OT books (as well as some NT books). Due to their age, these are now in the public domain:

His NT counterpart was Theodor Zahn. Some NT scholars have a greater theological emphasis while others have a greater historical emphasis. Zahn was in the latter category. He was probably the most erudite NT scholar of his generation. His only rival in that regard was Bishop Lightfoot. Zahn conducted major research on the NT canon, edited the Apostolic fathers, published a monumental NT introduction, along with several massive commentaries on the NT. For those of you who can read period academic German, these are currently online:

In a sense, Adolf Schlatter, his younger contemporary, was his successor. Schlatter had a more theological emphasis. Some of his works have been translated into English: notably, his commentary on Romans, a devotional volume on Do We Know Jesus?, and his two-volume The History of the Christ and The Theology of the Apostles.

Martin Hengel is the next major figure. He's a throwback to Zahn. Very erudite. Defends the general historicity of the Gospels and Acts. Did important work on St. Paul. Hengel was a foil to Bultmann. 

Back in the 50s you had the abortive Concordia Commentaries series. That produced what was, for their time, fine commentaries on Luke, by NT lexicographer William Arndt, and Nahum, by Walter Maier. 

Walter Maier was, in turn, the father of Paul Maier, an ancient historian who's written a number of books defending NT history: 

Craig Koester has published major commentaries on Hebrews and Revelation–although I doubt he would qualify as a confessional Lutheran.

Andrew Steinmann is probably the most substantial conservative Lutheran scholar writing today. He's published a monograph on Biblical chronology, a monograph on the OT canon, two OT introductions,  commentaries on Proverbs, Daniel, and Ezra/Nehemiah, and two books on prayer. 

His commentaries are contributions to a revived Concordia Commentary series. I doubt contemporary confessional Lutheranism has a deep enough talent pool to produce outstanding commentaries on every book of the Bible, but it has the depth to produce some outstanding or exceptional commentaries. In addition to Steinmann's contributions, you have Horace Hummel's monumental commentary on Ezekiel, Andrew Das on Galatians, and Curtis Giese on 2 Peter and Jude. 

Finally, Mark Seifrid used to teach at SBTS, but reverted to Lutheranism. His recent, major commentary on 2 Corinthians has a Lutheran emphasis, and I wouldn't be surprised if he publishes one or more additional commentaries from a Lutheran viewpoint. 


  1. Another Lutheran Bible scholar who could be mentioned here is Adolf Harnack (1851-1930). Even though unlike Zahn he belonged to the liberal branch of Lutheranism nevertheless with respect to the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts he arrived at quite “conservative” conclusions. So he held the view that these books were written in the early 60s by Luke the physician mentioned in Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:11 und Philemon 24. The works in which he presented his respective views were translated into English. It’s the following works:

    Adolf Harnack, Luke the Physician: the author of the Third Gospel and of the Acts of the Apostels (=New Testament Studies, vol. 1), New York 1908.


    Adolf Harnack, The Acts of the Apostles (=New Testament Studies, vol. 3), New York 1909.


    Adolf Harnack, The date of Acts and of the Synoptic Gospels (=New Testament Studies, vol. 4), New York 1911.


    Theodor Zahn’s introduction to the New Testament was also translated into English:

    Theodor Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, vol. 1, New York 1909.


    Theodor Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, vol. 2, New York 1909.


    Theodor Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, vol. 3, New York 1909.


  2. Had no idea about Seifrid until now. Explains alot especially when reading his refutations on the NPP. Now how do the Lutherans take his ambiguous take on imputation?