The Languages and the Gospel

“Although the gospel came and still comes to us through the Holy Spirit alone, we cannot deny that it came through the medium of languages, was spread abroad by that means, and must be preserved by the same means.  For just when God wanted to spread the gospel throughout the world by means of the apostles he gave the tongues for that purpose [Acts 2:1-11].  Even before that, by means of the Roman Empire he had spread the Latin and Greek languages widely in every land in order that his gospel might the more speedily bear fruit far and wide.  He has done the same thing now as well.  Formerly no one knew why God had the languages, but now for the first time we see that it was done for the sake of the gospel, which he intended to bring to light and use in exposing and destroying the kingdom of Antichrist.” Martin Luther, “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools,” in Luther’s Works, vol. 45, p. 359. [Emphasis added]

Martin Luther understood the significant connection between the study of the classical languages and the proper understanding of the Bible.  In this work (published in 1524) Dr. Luther exhorted civic leaders throughout Germany to establish schools to train future secular rulers and pastors.  Luther asserted that the return of study of classical Latin and Greek laid the foundation for the Reformation.  In 1523 he identified the rebirth of linguistic studies as a forerunner to the Reformation, that is, its John the Baptist Luther on Languages.

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