2. Excavating Contexts, Unearthing Logic
2.1. Luther and His Contexts
2.2. Calvin and His Contexts
3. What Is at Stake: Clarity of Biblical Interpretation
3.1. Centrality of Biblical Interpretation for Luther
3.2. Centrality of Biblical Interpretation for Calvin
Here Calvin argued that Jews could not see the true goal and content of Moses’ writings until they turned to Christ. The crucial problem, in other words, is that the Jews do not see the unity of the covenant who is Christ, the telos of the law. Likewise, in his unpublished dialogue between a Christian and a Jew, Calvin built the demonstration of the unity of the two Testaments into the structure of the dialogue itself by having the Jew cite New Testament passages and the Christian respond with Old Testament passages (; , pp. 23–26).Nor would the obtuseness of the whole Jewish nation today in awaiting the Messiah’s earthly kingdom be less monstrous had the Scriptures not foretold long before that they would receive this punishment for having rejected the gospel. For it so pleased God in righteous judgment to strike blind the minds of those who by refusing the offered light of heaven voluntarily brought darkness upon themselves. Therefore, they read Moses and continually ponder his writings, but they are hampered by a veil from seeing the light shining in his face. Thus, Moses’s face will remain covered and hidden from them until it be turned to Christ, from whom they now strive to separate and withdraw as much as they can(, 2.10.23).
4. Drawing Lessons from Church History
Conflicts of Interest
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- 1Johannes Wallmann notes that Nazis complained that Luther’s anti-Jewish writings were unknown in their time (, pp. 73–74).
- 2Luther clearly expressed a hope for Jewish conversion in his 1523 That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (, LW 45:200) and his 1524 lectures on Hosea (, LW 18:16). By his 1528 lectures on Isaiah, Luther’s portrayal of the Jews as cut off because of unbelief became more pronounced (, LW 16:236, 300, 17:413). By his 1543 treatises and his later lectures on Genesis, Luther more strongly stated that the Jews have ceased to be the people of God (, LW 47:139, 262; 2:359, 360, 361, 3:151, 4:32, 6:283).
- 3See Calvin’s comments on Ps 102:12, Ps 102:24, Hos 2:14, Jon 3:10, Mic 2:7, Mic 7:15, Hab 2:8, Hab 3:6–9, and Hab 3:13.
- 5Luther wrote, “Moreover, it is certain that after the Jews had denied Christ, they lost the subject matter. For this reason they are incapable of teaching anything sound and torture themselves in vain with matters of grammar” (, LW 3:358).
- 6In his 1532 comments on Ps 51, Luther wrote, “The proper subject of theology is man guilty of sin and condemned, and God the Justifier and Savior of man the sinner. Whatever is asked or discussed in theology outside of this subject is error and poison. All Scripture points to this, that God commends his kindness to us and his Son restores to righteousness and life the nature that has fallen into sin and condemnation” (, LW 12:311).
- 7For examples, see (, pp. 42–44; , LW 3:76, 81, 89, 97, 113, 251, 343; 4:27, 32, 366; 5:104, 141; 7:36, 196; 8:168, 176;10:3, 39, 58, 61, 155, 377, 512; 11: 13, 39, 208, 512; 16:27; 17:55; 20:71, 268; 22:42, 244–45, 275, 366, 457, 510; 24:259; 26:10, 80, 246–47, 251; 29:49; 30:29, 34, 58; 34:20).
- 8Similarly he wrote on Gen 32:24, “The Jews by their ambiguous interpretations have introduced many perversions, especially darkening the passages concerning the Messiah” (, LW 6:136), and on Gen 35:17, “For when the Jews have doubts about a word, they resort to equivocation and multiply meanings and make it more obscure by their glosses” (, LW 6:266).
- 9See also (, LW 3:115, 296, 337, 353; 4:187, 263; 6:136, 181–82, 291–92; 22:244–45, 245, 465; 47:215, 244).
- 10See Calvin’s comments on Ps 36:7, Ps 103:4, Ps 136:13, Ex 4:24, Ex 12:12, Ex 23:20, Lev 12:2, Lev 21:2, Deut 4:19, Deut 5:26, and Deut 21:10.
- 11See, for examples, his sharp criticisms of the traditional Christian exegesis of Is 63:1, Hos 13:14, Mic 4:13, Mic 5:2, and Zech 13:7, in which Calvin appealed to these same exegetical principles of plain sense, context, and authorial intention.
- 12See Calvin’s comments on Joel 2:30–31, Joel 3:9–11, Amos 5:19–20, Obadiah 18, Mic 5:7–8, Mic 5:10–15, Mic 7:9, Mic 7:16–17, preface to Nahum, Nah 1:15, Hab 3:6, Hab 3:13, Zeph 2:9–10, Hagg 2:6–9, Hagg 2:20–23, Zech 2:5, Zech 3:10, Zech 6:1–3, Zech 9:8, and Zech 12:4.
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