It is historically inaccurate to describe Christianity as "a religion of the book," that is, the Bible. Clearly Jesus founded a Church through the instrument of his Apostles. With this simple truth, the entirety of Martin Luther’s argument should be clearly thrown out as being not true.
Yet that (Sola Scriptura) was the main argument put forth more than 600 years ago on April 18th, 1521, when Luther had been summoned by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V to appear at the Imperial Diet in Worms, Germany. Despite the warning by friends not to come, Luther nevertheless appeared. Assuming it would be an opportunity for him to present his beliefs on the Scripture, he soon discovered that he was standing at his own heresy trial. The political and ecclesiastical hierarchy of the day was present - in addition to the Emperor, six electors, the Pope's legates, archbishops, bishops, dukes, margraves, princes, counts, deputies, ambassadors of foreign courts, and numerous dignitaries. Outside were several thousand spectators.
A table in the middle of the room held twenty-five of Luther's books and treatises, including his 95 Theses, On the Papacy, Address to the Christian Nobility, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of the Christian. The prosecuting attorney for the Roman Catholic Church, Johann von Eck, essentially asked Luther two questions. "Martin Luther, are these your books?" and, "Will you recant?"
Luther realized that this was not an open debate, but an examination for a capital offense. Sensing the gravity of the moment, he asked to recess for the night so that he might give careful thought to the answer. The request arose not from any lack of courage, but from a sense of responsibility. He wrote to a friend that night, "I shall not retreat one iota, so Christ help me." The next day, Luther appeared before the dense crowd and stated he would not recant his books. Such writings are filled with Scripture, he asserted, and to recant would be to recant the word of God itself.
Luther then issued his famous response:
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by clear reason, for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves, I am bound by the Scriptures that I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand, God help me.
Luther made a horrible logical fallacy here of cause and effect. In essence, the Church created the Holy Bible and Jesus created the Church. Yet, it was the same Church that Jesus created that created the Holy Bible. How could Martin Luther actually throw out the Church yet accept the Holy Bible? The answer is simple, Martin Luther did not really know how or why the Holy Bible came together and his vision was clouded by his inability to see the truth about the Church.
What was the Holy Bible based upon? What books did the early Apostles use during the time Christ was on this earth and after he was resurrected? The answer is the Septuagint. The Septuagint was collected under the direction of the Macadoean Ruler of Egypt Ptolemy II. He had gathered six Jewish scholars from each of the 12 Tribes of Israel and they all came up with the same translations independently. The book they produced was considered to be Holy by the Jewish fathers and was in use during the time of Christ.
This is the real problem here. At the time of Christ, Jesus and his followers were Jewish. Christ came to this earth to establish His church here on earth. He was and is the fulfilment of the Jewish faith- the Messiah. Now, if we stop the story right here, we would not understand how the problem about the Bible begins in earnest. As many of the Jews became believers in Christ and left the Jewish religion. This was true in Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman Empire, and the place where Peter was the First Bishop of the Church. The conversion of so many Jews to the new Christian Religion, became a troubling part for the Jewish leaders and scholars. They called for a rekindling of their Jewish roots. They adopted the books that were clearly written in Hebrew and emphasized the early part of their history up until the Captivity period.
It was this during this Captivity Period when the Jews were taken to Babylon. While in captivity they learned the new language Aramaic and the concept of heaven. When they returned to Israel after King Cyrus allowed them to go back home, they spoke Aramaic not Hebrew. When the Jews had been losing so many of their members to Christianity, they voted at the Council of Jamnia (90 AD) to accept the original books of Talmud and not to include any additional books from the period since coming back from captivity. This was not divine inspiration, it was actually a form of dispersion, and the Jewish leaders were frankly tired of losing so many members to the new Christian Church. Several books that were contained in the Septuagint, which weren’t considered divinely motivated by Jews at this Council, were collected and taken from the Jewish Talmud. They were relegated to be considered a nutritional supplement, of types, or could be used in the interpretation of the Hebrew Bible but under no means were they considered equal to the rest of the Holy Scriptures.
Finally, in 1534 Martin Luther completed a version of the Bible, with Apocrypha, was released. He referred to the Apocrypha as "books not equal to the Holy Scriptures, yet good and useful to read." Almost the exact same words that were used by Jews in 90 A.D.
Therefore, it was not that the books were not important to the early Christians, it was that they were not used by the Jews who at this time no longer looked at their former members who had joined the Christian movement as Jews. The early Christians were Jews and still followed many of the Jewish customs. As they changed from following the Jewish practices, the Jewish Church became more and more conservative and tried to eliminate many of the practices that were considered too Christian.
These changes included: elimination of several books from their Holy Books and the use of Hebrew elementing Aramiac. They were trying to get back to the more Orthodox view of Judaism. It would be like getting back to basics. Just because the Jews did this at this time and place did not make it right or did not mean that they had any special insight on what should have been included in the Christian Old Testament.
It was Martin Luther who took this same approach and took the books out of the Holy Bible. Yet remember he did say, “ Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by clear reason, for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves, I am bound by the Scriptures that I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand, God help me.”
What is wrong with his statement?
There are three major problems with his statement.
First, he did not like the Pope because he was authoritarian. However, ask yourself this question, “Was not Martin Luther doing the exact same thing that he was accusing the Pope of doing- acting authoritarian?” The only difference is that the Pope had authority through the Church and Martin Luther got his through himself. Power taken through self assertion is authoritarian correct?
Second, the Holy Scriptures were produced through the Church or were the product of the Church. Thereby, how could you possibly accept the Holy Scriptures to be true unless you also accept Church? It doesn’t make sense to accept the Bible and then reject the Church because without the Church, you would have not gotten the Bible correct?
Third, he explained that he did not trust either the Pope or in Councils alone since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves. However, he failed to see that he was also human and flawed. His ideas were both full of errors and were very contradictory in nature. He accepted the Bible but not the Church that gave us the Bible. He would not accept the word of the Pope or Councils yet he took it upon himself to accept his own word.
Martin Luther was a man of contradictions. Most of us are. The difference between him and us is that he placed himself above others and went against the Church. Now, I ask you, do you think you know better than the Church? If you do, please remember Martin Luther and the fact that Jesus established the Church here on Earth-not Martin Luther. When we begin to think outside of the Church, the results are not good. This was not a reformation, it was an insurrection.