Luther’s Anthropology in the Genesis Lectures

—by Tim Beck

When asked, “What is man? my daughter replied, “We're sinners.” Despite the attractive succinctness of this definition, Martin Luther provides a more detailed anthropology. His lectures on Genesis, summarized in this paper, describe man when created, as fallen, as initially restored (the life of faith), and as gloriously restored beyond Adam's pre-fall state. This anthropology is intimately connected to man‟s Redeemer, God-made-man. After righteous Adam fell, he and his reprobate seed seek what God has hidden and hide from what he reveals. However, when faith is created through the word, believers rely on Jesus Christ's promises. Despite suffering sin's afflictions from within and without, the Second Adam's seed is united with the Second Adam. Then believers anticipate seeing the glory of the Father, enduring present trials as signs of divine favor. Luther's anthropology begins when the Creator declared all things good. Adam and Eve were made in God‟s image. They also possessed exceptional gifts. Regarding those gifts, Adam's physical abilities, sensations, intellect, and memory were singular, tranquil, and fearless. He could see like the eagle and handle bears or lions like puppies (AE 1: 62-65). His reason, will, and emotions were faultless and precise. Adam and Eve were in all ways vastly more superior to the creation than they were after the fall.

These gifts allowed Adam and Eve to fulfill their vocations joyfully. As masks of God, they exercised dominion as joint stewards over the creation (AE 1: 67). From their perfect knowledge of all created things from animals to herbs, Adam and Eve commanded the living creatures at will. In the order of marriage Adam loved his wife and Eve received his love gladly, subordinating herself to him. There was no disharmony or division between them. Sexual relations were pure and therefore as public and honorable as sharing a meal (AE 1: 104). Adam was appointed as pastor in the order of worship, faithfully teaching Eve. She gladly received Adam's instruction as from God, including the command not to eat from the forbidden tree. They walked together with the pre-incarnate Christ in the cool of the evening. This order of family and worship sufficed until the fall. There was no need for civil government and its sword since there was no sin (AE 1: 115).

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