Traditionally, Lutherans hold the Bible of the Old and New Testaments to be the only divinely inspired book, the only source of divinely revealed knowledge, and the only norm for Christian teaching. Scripture alone is the formal principle of the faith, the final authority for all matters of faith and morals because of its inspiration, authority, clarity, efficacy, sufficiency, and infallibility -- "Sola Scriptura". Though Lutherans do not deny that other authorities govern Christian life and devotion (Tradition), but sees them all as subordinate to and corrected by the written word of God.
Lutheranism teaches that the Bible of the Old and New Testaments is the only divinely inspired book and the only source of divinely revealed knowledge. Scripture alone is the formal principle of the faith in Lutheranism, the final authority for all matters of faith and morals because of its inspiration, authority, clarity, efficacy, and sufficiency.
Lutheranism teaches that the Bible does not merely contain the Word of God, but every word of it is, because of verbal inspiration, the direct, immediate word of God. As Lutherans confess in the Nicene Creed, the Holy Spirit "spoke through the prophets". The Apology of the Augsburg Confession identifies Holy Scripture with the Word of God and calls the Holy Spirit the author of the Bible. Because of this, Lutherans confess in the Formula of Concord, "we receive and embrace with our whole heart the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the pure, clear fountain of Israel." The apocryphal books were not written by the prophets, by inspiration; they contain errors were never included in the Palestinian Canon that Jesus used, and therefore are not a part of Holy Scripture. The prophetic and apostolic Scriptures are said by the Lutheran church to be authentic as written by the prophets and apostles, and that a correct translation of their writings is God's Word because it has the same meaning as the original Biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek. A mistranslation is not God's word, and no human authority can invest it with divine authority.
Holy Scripture, the Word of God, carries the full authority of God in Lutheranism: every single statement of the Bible calls for instant, unqualified and unrestricted acceptance. Every doctrine of the Bible is the teaching of God and therefore requires full agreement. Every promise of the Bible calls for unshakable trust in its fulfillment; every command of the Bible is the directive of God himself and therefore demands willing observance.
What is said here of "every statement of the Bible" does not represent the faith of all Lutherans: a 2001 survey showed that 72 percent of members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America do not accept that everything in the Bible is literal, but that it may contain scientific or historical errors or describe events symbolically.
Lutheranism teaches that the Bible presents all doctrines and commands of the Christian faith clearly; that God's Word is freely accessible to every reader or hearer of ordinary intelligence, without requiring any special education. It also teaches that readers must understand the language God's Word is presented in, and not be so preoccupied by contrary thoughts so as to prevent understanding. It teaches that, consequently, no one needs to wait for any clergy, and pope, scholar, or ecumenical council to explain the real meaning of any part of the Bible.
Luther's translation of the Bible, from 1534, with four books placed after those Luther considered, "...the true and certain chief books of the New Testament.".
Lutheranism teaches that Scripture is united with the power of the Holy Spirit and with it, not only demands, but also creates the acceptance of its teaching. This teaching produces faith and obedience. Holy Scripture is not a dead letter, but rather, the power of the Holy Spirit is inherent in it. Scripture does not compel a mere intellectual assent to its doctrine, resting on logical argumentation, but rather it creates the living agreement of faith. The Smalcald Articles affirm, "...in those things which concern the spoken, outward Word, we must firmly hold that God grants His Spirit or grace to no one, except through or with the preceding outward Word."
Lutheranism teaches that The Bible contains everything that one needs to know in order to obtain salvation and to live a Christian life. There are no deficiencies in Scripture that need to be filled with by tradition, pronouncements of the Pope, new revelations, or present-day development of doctrine.
Historical Disputes Edit
The authority of the Scriptures has been challenged during the history of Lutheranism. Martin Luther taught that the Bible was the written Word of God, and the only reliable guide for faith and practice. He held that every passage of Scripture has one straightforward meaning, the literal sense as interpreted by other Scripture. These teachings were accepted during the orthodox Lutheranism of the 17th century. During the 18th century, Rationalism advocated reason rather than the authority of the Bible as the final source of knowledge, but most of the laity did not accept this Rationalist position. In the 19th century, a confessional revival re-emphasized the authority of the Bible and agreement with the Lutheran Confessions.
Today, Lutherans disagree about the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Theological conservatives use the historical-grammatical method of Biblical interpretation, while theological liberals use the higher critical method. The 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey conducted by the Pew Research Center surveyed 1,926 adults in the United States that self-identified as Lutheran. The study found that 30% believed that the Bible was the Word of God and was to be taken literally word for word. 40% held that the Bible was the Word of God, but was not literally true word for word or were unsure if it was literally true word for word. 23% said the Bible was written by men and not the Word of God. 7% did not know, were not sure, or had other positions.