He distinguishes special books, from this point of view. He says: The main books in which this criterion is fulfilled are the Fourth Gospel, Paul’s Epistles, and I Peter. These are the books in which Christ is dealt with centrally. From there, other books can be judged. And even beyond the Bible, Luther can say very courageous things.
He says, for instance, that Judas and Pilate would be apostolic if they gave the message of Christ, and Paul and John wou1d not if they gave not the message of Christ. He even says that everybody today who had the Spirit as powerfully as the prophets and apostles, could create new Decalogues and another Testament; only because we have not the Spirit in this fullness must we drink from their fountain.
This of course is extremely nominalistic and anti-humanistic. This is emphasizing the Spiritual character of the Bible. It is a creation of the Divine Spirit in those who have written it, but it is not a dictation! From this he was able to give a half-religious, half-historical criticism of the biblical books. It does not mean anything whether the five books of Moses were written by Moses or not. He knew very well that the texts of the prophets were in great disorder. He also knew that the later prophets are dependent on the earlier ones. He also knew that the concrete prophecies of the prophet often proved to be errors. He says that the Book of Esther and the Revelations of John do not really belong to the Scripture; the Fourth Gospel excels the Synoptics in value and power, and James’ Epistle has no evangelical character at all.
Now I would say that although Lutheran Orthodoxy was not able to preserve this great prophetic tradition of Luther one thing was done by his freedom – namely it was possible for Protestantism to do something which no other religion in the whole world was able to do: it could receive the historical treatment of the biblical literature – we call it often with very misleading words “higher” or biblical criticism. It is simply the historical method applied to the holy books of a religion.