Martin Luther's Messianic Rationale for Christ as the Sensus Literalis of Scripture in His Prefaces to the Bible

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Institution Granting Degree

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Cedarville University School or Department

Biblical and Theological Studies

First Advisor

Jason K. Lee


Philosophy, religion, theology, Martin Luther, hermeneutics, Biblical interpretation, medieval interpretation, Biblical theology, Christology


This dissertation seeks to demonstrate that Luther believes Christ to be the sensus literalis of Scripture on the basis of the Bible's messianic promise. This claim asserts that Luther's scriptural exegesis of the Bible's "letter" is responsible for his designation of Christ as its literal sense.

Chapter one introduces the scholarship on Luther as a biblical interpreter and reviews various assessments of his "Christocentric" perspective on the Bible. The main criticism leveled against Luther to which this study seeks to respond is that of "Christianization."

Chapter two contends for the preface-genre as a literary practice within the Medieval and Reformation periods where holistic statements of one's hermeneutic and biblical theology are commonly expressed. Next, the chapter embarks upon an in-depth analysis of Luther's prefaces to the Deutsch Bibel in order to manifest the Reformer's unified vision of Christ as Scripture's sensus literalis because of the Bible's preoccupation with the promise and fulfillment of the messianic hope.

Chapter three explores central components of the hermeneutic& implications of chapter two's examination of the Bible-prefaces that play a fundamental role for Luther in the establishment of Christ as the literal sense of Scripture. These three key aspects of his biblical interpretation are: the Messiah in the OT, authorial intent ion, and the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.

Chapter four features an excursus on the treatise, On the Last Words of David (1543). The goal of this chapter is to investigate a non-preface writing from Luther's corpus that shares similar intentions of prescribing and demonstrating his approach to reading the Bible with the conviction that Christ is its census literalis based upon Scripture's witness to the Messiah in its "letter." This analysis seeks to evaluate the significance of the three "hermeneutical implications" (chapter three) derived from the prefaces to the Bible (chapter two) for Luther's "Christological" interpretation of the OT in On the Last Words of David with the aim of discerning a core hermeneutic in Luther's approach to Scripture.

Chapter five summarizes the conclusions derived from this study and suggests prospects for further research directly related to Luther's hermeneutic and biblical theology.