JOURNAL ARTICLE CRITIQUE
Bell, Theo M.M.A.C. “Man is a Mircocosmos: Adam and Eve in Luther’s Lectures on Genesis (1535-1545)” Concordia Theological Quarterly, Volume 69:2 (April 2005): 159-184.
THEO 525 (Spring 2012)
Systematic Theology I
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary
Rick Mangrum (ID# 21757355)
January 29, 2012
JOURNAL ARTICLE CRITIQUE
In the article “Man is a Microcosmos: Adam and Eve in Luther’s Lectures on Genesis (1535-1545)”, Bell examines the views of Martin Luther on the fall on man, specifically the details presented in Genesis about Adam and Eve before, during and after the original sin. Bell compares and contrasts Luther’s views with those of his contemporary theologians of that time and draws conclusions regarding their accuracy and application to modern life. Bell writes from the position of Professor of Theology at Catholic Theological University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Bell’s summary of Luther’s views on this subject is built on the foundation that the study of Genesis was one of the great pursuits of Luther’s life. No other book in the Old Testament is “treated by him in such a profound and extensive way.”1 Luther wrote at least 2200 pages on this Old Testament Book. According to Bell, Luther’s purpose in this writing was to clearly show a detailed description of Adam and Even in the garden, detail the relationship designed by God between the sexes and show the evolution of their relationship as it was changed by the original sin, all while solidly making the case for the literal interpretation and acceptance of the biblical story of the first man, woman and the creation of the world.
Luther differed considerably from the best known theologians and philosophers of his time such as Aristotle as well as his church fathers Augustine and Hilary, who firmly believed that scripture was to be read and studied from an allegorical perspective, not necessarily to be taken literally.2 Bell details Luther’s outline of Adam and Eve created in the image of God, living in paradise, falling into sin and their life after the fall from the perspective that the biblical account is a literal interpretation of actual events as they occurred, not as analogies or stories that allow the reader to draw their own conclusions.
Bell agrees with Luther’s point of view toward the literal interpretation of scripture. What is at stake in Luther’s writing is the question of the reality of scripture. For Luther, Genesis represented a “historical reality.”3 Bell summarizes Luther’s support of literal interpretation by illustrating the creation of man in the literal image of God, stating that man can only be defined by how close he remains to that image through his relationship with his creator. Luther believed that the image of God was about the “whole person” not just the physical or spiritual characteristics.4 Luther also illustrates that today, the image of God shown in man is in a different state than the one that existed before the fall. Today the image of God is measured by a man’s closeness to his creator, by his desire for that relationship and his willingness to fulfill it.
Bell also summarizes Luther’s support of literal interpretation of scripture from the example of Adam and Eve’s initial relationship to each other and how it changed after the fall. Bell states that were it not for the fall of man in the garden, woman would today be “the equal of Adam in all respects.”5 Man’s relationship with God was restored by Christ, but the man-woman relationship was forever changed.6
Bell achieved the goal of supporting Luther’s literal interpretation of scripture by his examination of this work. His detailed analysis of Luther’s positions and the very words used were very convincing. He gave specific examples to support Luther’s views. In the beginning of Bell’s article, he does make reference to the historical context of scripture and its importance in literal interpretation. That idea was not explored or clarified, to this reader’s disappointment.
1Bell, Theo M.M.A.C., “Man is a Microcosmos: Adam and Eve in Luther’s Lectures on Genesis (1535-1545)”, Concordia Theological Quarterly, Volume 69:2, (April 2005), 160.
2House, Paul R., Old Testament Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 403.
6 van Braght, Theileman J., Martyrs Mirror (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1938), 1015.