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In a post published two days ago, we discussed the dedication of Luther and Erasmus to the study and preservation of ancient Hebrew and Greek – the original languages of the Old and New Testaments respectively. For Luther in particular, sound working knowledge of these original languages were a non-negotiable requirement for one’s proper interpretation of Scripture. He even returned to these ancient texts when he translated the Bible into German.

Luther’s concerns were well-founded; in fact, we would do well to take them to heart all these years later as Scripture is often twisted and turned into unnatural and misleading ideas about what it means to lead and live a life of salvation and true dedication to Jesus Christ.
The following response to a teaching of Andreas von Karlstadt, Luther’s contemporary who would eventually be banned from the pulpit due to the questionable nature of his preaching, presents a legitimate example – albeit a bit of a sensitive, in some ways humorous, subject – of why Luther remained committed to sound interpretation of Scripture. Karlstadt’s aim was to refute the necessity of Roman Catholic priests remaining celibate – which was an admirable undertaking and a view that Luther shared – but the passage which Karlstadt chose to support his claim (Leviticus 20:4-5) was altogether another matter, as Luther was quick to state in a letter to his longtime friend and German theologian George Spalatin:

How I wish that Karlstadt had tried to refute celibacy with more fitting Scripture passages! I am afraid he stirs up quite a lot of talk for himself and for us. What kind of exegesis [by Karlstadt] is this: the giving of seed to Moloch is the same as becoming unclean by a natural emission of semen? Everyone knows that in this passage “seed” means the same as “children” or “offspring.” … The cause he has undertaken is important, and an excellent endeavor, but I wish it were also done in an outstanding, skillful, and successful way. For you see what great clarity and strength our enemies demand of us, since they misrepresent even the most evident and fitting [of our theological] statements.