Original Research - Special Collection: Trinity

God, Christ and the Spirit in Luther and Calvin’s commentaries on the Letter to Philemon

D. Francois Tolmie
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 43, No 1 | a2663 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v43i1.2663 | © 2022 D. Francois Tolmie | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 August 2022 | Published: 03 November 2022

About the author(s)

D. Francois Tolmie, Department of Old and New Testament Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


The aim of this contribution is to illustrate the way in which the interpretation of Scripture is influenced by one’s presuppositions by investigating the different ways in which two well-known Reformers, Luther and Calvin, depicted God, Christ and the Spirit in their commentaries on the Letter to Philemon. It is shown how their own views influenced the way in which they interpreted the letter and appropriated it for their own times. The most striking difference between the two commentaries is that Luther’s interpretation of the letter was dominated by a Christocentric view (he even often read Christ – and sometimes also Satan – in between the lines of the letter where Paul did not explicitly mention him), whereas an opposite tendency may be noted in Calvin’s interpretation of the letter (he tended to bring God – and sometimes even certain dogmatic concepts regarding God – into the picture when Paul did not explicitly refer to God).

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The article illustrates the importance of historical perspectives for Biblical Studies, in particular for the interpretation of Biblical texts.


New Testament; Letter to Philemon; history of reception; Trinity; Luther; Calvin.

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