Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Archiv für Reformationgeschichte / Archive for Reformation History, vol. 81 (1990), pp. 50-68. Used by permission of Priscilla A. Hayden-Roy.


Martin Luther maintains throughout his work, and with special emphasis in On the Bondage of the Will, that Scripture is clear. Unlike Erasmus, who warns that we should avoid obscure parts of Scripture that, like the Cave of Corycos, would lure us too close to terrors beyond our comprehension, Luther argues that Scripture has been placed in the clearest light by the coming of Christ, in whom all of Scripture's mysteries have been revealed. If we were to look for a contemporary of Luther's to represent the opposite pole, the obscurity or ambiguity of Scripture, it would not be Erasmus for whom Corycian caverns become the hermeneutical starting point of Scriptural exegesis. The spelunker of the darkened word is Sebastian Franck. For this Spiritualist the truth of Scripture is hidden: its meaning lies in puzzles and paradoxes decipherable only by those few spiritually-minded members of the invisible church. In the course of this discussion we shall examine the anthropological faculties on which Franck and Luther base human knowledge of spiritual matters and how both thinkers define the nature and content of this knowledge. By this means we shall arrive at the concept of the clarity of Scripture in the thought of Franck (I) and Luther (II).