Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Historical Theology

Scripture References in this Resource

Genesis 4; Genesis 17; Genesis 21; Genesis 25; Genesis 33; Genesis 36; Psalm 105:20-22; Romans 15:8-9; Hebrews 11:6


In this study, we attend to Luther’s Lectures on Genesis with a specific focus—Luther’s idea of fortuita misericordiaand his view of the unchosen figures in Genesis, including Cain, Hagar, Ishmael, Esau, and the Egyptians. We suggest that Luther’s use of fortuita misericordia and his treatment of the unchosen exemplify the highpoint of his evangelical theology.

Fortuita misericordia can be understood in two ways, one personal, and another salvation-historical. Regarding the person, fortuita misericordia is part of Luther’s explanation for why God generously spared some from deserved punishment, and instead provided temporal subsistence and blessings. Regarding salvation-history, fortuita misericordiaopens up the possibility for the inclusion of covenantal outsiders in the true church. We contend that there are four interpretive principles underlying Luther’s dealing with the unchosen: the universality of the divine mercy, the distinction between two kinds of attachment to the promise, the porosity of the true and false church, and the holistic understanding of salvation history.

Furthermore, Luther’s exposition of the unchosen contributes to the long-standing question in the history of Christian theology concerning the salvation of those who lived before the incarnation. Instead of asking whether and on what basis the pious and virtuous pagan may be accepted by God, Luther wondered whether the unchosen in the biblical narratives could be saved. This shift represents the way that Luther relativized the traditional requirement for objective knowledge of the revelation (fides quae creditur) in favor of the qualitative importance of one’s subjective faith (fides qua creditur) in the promise.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.