Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Martin Luther's comments about allegory in his sermon on the Laborers in the Vineyard

The Sermons of Martin Luther (Baker)

Martin Luther’s approach to allegory can be seen in his 1525 sermon on the Laborers in the Vineyard parable (volume II: 106-112 of The Sermons of Martin Luther, published by Baker; Grand Rapids, MI). He notes the allegorical interpretations from “some church fathers” and says that these interpretations are “all right for pastime, if there is nothing else to preach” but that aspects of their allegorizations do “not harmonize with Scripture” and therefore cannot be correct.

Luther advises that interpreters should “let such fables pass and abide by the simple teaching and meaning of Christ”:
Therefore we must not consider this parable in every detail, but confine ourselves to the leading thought, that which Christ designs to teach by it . . . . For such parables are never spoken for the purpose of being interpreted in all their minutia (106-7).
Instead the parable seeks to portray God’s unmerited mercy to sinners and that human beings cannot “storm their way into heaven by their good works” (i.e., those are the workers who “murmur against the householder,” who signifies God; 108).

Next up: Luther explores ethical implications of the parables in his sermons.

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