Preface To The Epistle To The Hebrews
(1546 and 1522)Hitherto we have had the right certain chief books of the New Testament. The four following ▼
▼ In Luther’s order, the four are Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation.had, in ancient times, a different reputation. In the first place, that this Epistle is not St. Paul’s, nor any other apostle’s is proved by the fact that it says, in Hebrews 2:3, that this doctrine has come to us and remains among us through those who themselves heard it from the Lord. Thus it is clear that he speaks of the apostles as a disciple to whom this doctrine has come from the apostles, perhaps long after them. For St. Paul, in Galatians 1:1, testifies mightily that he has his Gospel from no man, neither through men, but from God Himself.
Again, there is a hard knot in the fact that in chapters 6 and 10 it flatly denies and forbids to sinners repentance after baptism, and in Hebrews 12:17, it says that Esau sought repentance and did not find it. This seems, as it stands, to be against all the Gospels and St. Paul’s epistles; and although one might make a gloss on it ▼
▼ An interpretation explaining away the apparent meaning., the words are so clear that I do not know whether that would be sufficient. My opinion is that it is an epistle of many pieces put together, and it does not deal with any one subject in an orderly way.
However that may be, it is a marvelously fine epistle. It discusses Christ’s priesthood masterfully and thoroughly, out of the Scriptures, and interprets the Old Testament finely and richly. Thus it is plain that it is the work of an able and learned man, who was a disciple of the apostles, learned much from them, and was greatly experienced in faith and practiced in the Scriptures. And although, as he himself testifies in Hebrews 6:1, he does not lay the foundation of faith, which is the work of an apostle, nevertheless he does build finely thereon gold, silver, precious stones, as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:12. Therefore we should not be hindered, even though wood, straw or hay be mixed in with them, but accept this fine teaching with all honor; though to be sure, we cannot put it on the same level with the apostolic epistles.
Who wrote it is not known, and will not be known for a while; it makes no difference. We should be satisfied with the doctrine that he bases so constantly on the Scriptures, showing a right fine grasp upon the reading of the Scriptures and the proper way to deal with them.
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