The Weakness of Scripture – an Excerpt from Reading the Bible with Martin Luther

The following is an excerpt from Reading the Bible with Martin Luther, by Timothy Wengert.

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Cover ArtFor the most part, Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s right-hand man in Wittenberg, did not generally appreciate the oppositions inherent in the theology of the cross. He did not consider paradox a legitimate theological category and treated it instead as a rhetorical one. But in one respect, Melanchthon embraced this notion and developed what could be called an ecclesiology of the cross.

In the face of the powerful claims by his papal opponents to apostolic succession, greater numbers, and a bigger army, Melanchthon pointed to the weak first-century church, which included Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, and the shepherds. Their witness was not a powerful word but a weak one, filled with cultural and social weaknesses, to be sure, but also pointing to weak believers in the crucified Christ. So, for Melanchthon and Luther, the church itself was hidden in weakness, visible only in its marks of Word, sacraments, and suffering.

The same weakness both Luther and Melanchthon celebrated in the church is also true for Scripture. It is a weak book from all external and internal signs, proclaiming a weak God coming in the dust—visibly hidden in weakness. And that very weakness is its strength, for that is the way God comes to us in this book: humble and lowly, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, not with lofty words of wisdom but in weakness and trembling.

©2013 by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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