Luther, the Study of the Languages, and the Reformation

“I realize there has never been a great revelation of God’s Word unless God has first  prepared the way by the rise and flourishing of languages and learning, as though these were forerunners, a sort of [John] the Baptist.  Certainly I do not intend that young people should give up poetry and rhetoric.  I certainly wish there would be a tremendous number of poets and orators, since I realize that through these studies, as through  nothing else, people are wonderfully equipped for grasping the sacred truths, as well as for handling them skillfully and successfully.”  Martin Luther, “To Eobanus Hessus,” (March 29, 1523), Luther’s Works, vol. 49, p. 34. (Emphasis added)

Luther’s words demonstrate his attitude toward the study of languages and the importance of an education well-grounded in the liberal arts for pastors.  In fact, he desired that all Christians receive some form of education.  However, he knew that a proper understanding of the biblical languages (Hebrew, Greek, Latin) had brought about what we now call the “Lutheran Reformation.”  Additionally, Luther emphasized the importance of the study of Greek and Roman poets and orators as the basis for eloquently expressing sacred truths.

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