In public defense of the ministry of Moses: Luther's enarratio on Psalm 90, 1534-1535

Gordon Lincoln Isaac, Marquette University


Luther's lectures on Psalm 90 were held in the latter portion of the Reformer's career. They are comments on a section of Scripture which speaks of how God sweeps us away into death. This study focuses on Luther's approach to Scripture revealed in these lectures and his manner of argumentation. In an effort to accurately identify Luther's manner of biblical exposition, the lectures are read in light of the latest research in sixteenth-century commentating which shows Luther using an ancient and monastic approach to Scripture, as well as with sensitivity to the revitalization of sixteenth-century rhetoric. The application of both methods of research into a single work is one of this study's unique contributions. One of the central findings of the study is this: Luther's lectures on Psalm 90 are best understood as enarratio. Unlike confutatio where Luther must defend himself against an opponent (e.g., Latomus) enarratio finds Luther defending the scriptural tradition. Just as in his commentaries on Galatians where Luther makes public defense of Paul's teaching, Paul's manner of speaking, Paul's theologizing; in the Enarratio Psalmi XC Luther defends the ministry of Moses as lawgiver. Luther takes great pains to establish Moses' teaching, identify Moses' manner of speaking, mark Moses' way of warning people about the wrath of God, and to set forward the urgency with which Moses calls them to prayer. By publically defending Moses and establishing the validity of his teaching office Luther is afforded the opportunity to speak to the theological errors of the antinomians, who threatened to obscure the whole counsel of God by throwing the teaching of the law and God's wrath out of the Church.

Recommended Citation

Isaac, Gordon Lincoln, "In public defense of the ministry of Moses: Luther's enarratio on Psalm 90, 1534-1535" (1996). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9634269.