Why I’m Not, And Never Will Be, A Roman Catholic (Reason 4 – Luther, History, and Solafide)April 5, 2011
It is commonly assumed by Roman Catholics that solafide was invented by Luther for having added the German word “allien” to his German translation of the Vulgate. Here is a debate by James Swan where he seeks to clear up some false Catholic assumptions in regard to Luther. Not only was Luther not afraid to retract the word, but Luther was within the realm of reason to add it in the first place since even some Catholic NT translations prior to Luther also included “alone”, i.e. the Nuremberg Bible (1483), “allein durch den glauben” and the Italian Bibles of Geneva (1476) and of Venice (1538) say “per sola fede.” Source
In defense of his translation, Luther also claimed that others before him included the word “alone”. They may not have interpreted it the same (or they may have), but the word is there. That’s the point. Thomas Aquinas is one example. He said, “Non est ergo in eis [moralibus et caeremonialibus legis] spes iustificationis, sed in sola fide, Rom. 3:28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem, sine operibus legis” (Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28: We consider a human being to be justified by faith, without the works of the law).
(Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Ep. I ad Timotheum cap. 1, lect. 3 (Parma ed., 13.588)
All of this is even pointed out by Catholic scholar Joseph Fitzmyer in his commentary on ‘Romans’.
(Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans, A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993) 360-361.)
This link has Fitzmyer’s reference list of early fathers whom mention solafide, and it also gives many of the quotations if you want to check it out.
Just as there was a time in history prior to the Council of Nicaea when the doctrine of the Trinity was never placed under the Biblical microscope of scrutiny, likewise solafide had never been as debated in history as it was in the 16th century. This doesn’t imply, as many Catholics assume, that solafide was never believed, however.
How did Luther get his epiphany of solafide in the first place? It’s unknown. I personally think it’s because he was reading his Bible. Nevertheless, Luther didn’t make it up, he realized it.
Solafide has a greater pedigree then Rome’s current gospel of having to believe that Mary was sinless (not required or fully accepted until 1854), while even 7 Bishops of Rome taught that only Jesus was sinless (according to scholar Philip Schaff).
Here is a link that goes in-depth to show that Schaff, and Launoy whom he referenced, weren’t lying in their scholarship that 7 Bishops of Rome taught that only Jesus was sinless.