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Luther's Epistle of Straw

The Voice of St. James in Reformation Preaching

This work challenges the common consensus that Luther, with his commitment to St. Paul's articulation of justification by faith, leaves no room for the Letter of St. James. Against this one-sided reading of Luther, focused only his criticism of the letter, this book argues that Luther had fruitful interpretations of the epistle that shaped the subsequent exegetical tradition. Scholarship's singular concentration on Luther's criticism of James as "an epistle of straw" has caused many to overlook Luther's sermons on James, the many places where James comes to full expression in Luther's writings, and the influence that Luther's biblical interpretation had on later interpretations of James. Based primarily on neglected Lutheran sermons in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this work examines the pastoral hermeneutic of Luther and his theological heirs as they heard the voice of James and communicated that voice to and for the sake of the church. Scholars, pastors, and educated laity alike are invited to discover how Luther's theology was shaped by the Epistle of James and how Luther's students and theological heirs aimed to preach this disputed letter fruitfully to their hearers.

Author Information

Jason D. Lane, Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, USA.


"This is an important study of Lutheran preaching and biblical hermeneutics, correcting the common misperception that Luther and subsequent Lutherans rejected James. [...] Scholars of Lutheran biblical interpretation and Lutheran homiletics will want to read this careful, sophisticated, and well—documented work."
Aaron Klink in: Lutheran Quarterly, Volume 32 (2018), issue 2, pp. 219-220

"In summary, interested readers should not hesitate to pick up a copy of Lane’s book. It provides an excellent, even if unavoidably brief, elucidation of sixteenthand seventeenth- century Lutheran history of interpretation of the book of James, the Lutheran postil tradition and the connection between Lutheran piety and the book of James. The book should leave many readers eager to learn more, and looking forward to future work from Lane on the subject."
Andrew J. Niggemann in: The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 70.3 (2019), 365-367

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Audience: Theologians, historians