Skip to comments.Was Martin Luther an Anti-Semite?
Posted on 04/01/2017 7:10:18 AM PDT by Kaslin
As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, focus will return to the leader of that movement, Martin Luther. What kind of man was he, really? More specifically, what kind of Christian was he?
At a recent conference of R. C. Sprouls Ligonier Ministries, panelists Stephen Nichols and W. Robert Godfrey discussed whether Martin Luther was guilty of anti-Semitism, and there is good reason to raise this question.
As Nichols rightly points out, in 1523, Luther reached out with kindness and humility to the Jewish people, denouncing how the Church had treated them up to now with the hope that many would become Christians. Twenty years later, when that did not happen, and when Luther, now old and sick, had been exposed to some blasphemous, anti-Jesus writings penned by Jews in past generations, he wrote his infamous document Concerning the Jews and Their Lies.
In this mini-book, he told the German princes how to deal with this damned, rejected race of Jews.
First, their synagogues should be set on fire...Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed....Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayer-books and Talmuds...Fourthly, their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more...Fifthly, passport and traveling privileges should be absolutely for bidden to the Jews....Sixthly, they ought to be stopped from usury [charging interest on loans]....Seventhly, let the young and strong Jews and Jewesses be given the flail, the ax, the hoe, the spade, the distaff, and spindle, and let them earn their bread by the sweat of their noses...We ought to drive the rascally lazy bones out of our system....Therefore away with them....
To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one so that you and we may all be free of this insufferable devilish burden-the Jews.
Yes, all this came from the pen of Martin Luther. (Brace yourself. Theres more to come.)
Of this despicable document, Nichols said that Luther unleashes his rhetoric against the Jews and is very forceful in his rhetoric. Very forceful? Id call that a gross understatement.
Now we need to say that he was an equal opportunity offender. It wasnt just—that rhetoric was not just reserved—for the Jews, he used the same rhetoric for the Papists, for the Anabaptists, for the nominal Christians, that he used for the Jews. But he was wrong. He spoke harshly, and I think he abused his influence that he had in speaking harshly. And so, we need to say that Luther was wrong in that. But this isnt necessarily anti-Semitism, thats really a 20th-century phenomenon.
Once again, I must take exception to these words, which minimize the horror of what Luther wrote.
Tragically, Adolph Hitler thought that Luther was a genius who figured out how dangerous the Jewish people were. And the date that many historians mark as the beginning of the Holocaust, Nov. 9, 1938, was the day that Hitler put Luthers advice into practice, setting on fire and vandalizing Jewish synagogues, shops, and homes.
In that light, I cannot agree with Nichols in saying, I think he abused his influence that he had in speaking harshly. That, again, is a gross understatement, regardless of how ugly Luthers rhetoric was towards other groups and regardless of how coarse the rhetoric of the day might have been. For a Christian leader, such writings must be renounced in the strongest possible terms, even with tears and wails.
Robert Godfrey, the other Ligonier panelist, commented:
Just to add one more thing . . . the one little that should be added is Luther, all his life, longed that Jews should be converted and join the church. Hitler never wanted Jews to join the Nazi party. Thats the difference between anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish. Luther wasnt opposed to the Jews because of their blood. He was opposed to the Jews because of their religion. And he wanted them to join the Christian church. If youre really anti-Semitic, youre against Jews because of their blood and theres nothing Jews can do about that. Theres not change they can make to make a difference. Youre absolutely right, Luthers language should not be defended by us because its violent against the Jews. It was not against an ethnic people, as you said, but against a religion that he reacted so sharply.
Is Godfrey right? Yes and no. On the one hand, the real issue was the Jewish religion (specifically, from Luthers point of view, Jewish unbelief in Jesus) as opposed to being Jewish in and of itself. On the other hand, there was a fine line between the two, as historian Eric W. Gritsch pointed out in his book, Martin Luthers Antisemitism: Against His Better Judgment.
There is even a hint of racism in Luther when he commented on the unsubstantiated rumor that Jews killed Christian children. This crime "still shines forth from their eyes and their skin. We are at fault in not slaying them [the Jews]." Such a declaration cannot be limited to a specific historical context. It is timeless and means "death to the Jews," whether it is uttered by Luther or Adolf Hitler. Moreover, Luther himself was willing to kill "a blaspheming Jew": "I would slap his face and, if I could, fling him to the ground and, in my anger, pierce him with my sword.
So wrote Martin Luther. And I find little comfort in the fact that he wrote about others, like the peasants, in similarly dreadful terms: On the obstinate, hardened, blinded peasants, let no one have mercy, but let everyone, as he is able, hew, stab, slay, lay about him as though among mad dogs, . . . . so that peace and safety may be maintained... etc.
Returning to Luther and the Jews, quotes like this make it difficult to separate his theological Jew-hatred from his ethnic Jew-hatred:
A Jew or a Jewish heart is as hard as stone and iron and cannot be moved by any means. . . . In sum, they are the devils children damned to hell . . . . We cannot even convert the majority of Christians and have to be satisfied with a small number; it is therefore even less possible to convert these children of the devil! Although there are many who derive the crazy notion from the 11th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans that all Jews must be converted, this is not so. St. Paul meant something quite different.
As a non-Catholic, Jewish believer in Jesus, I am indebted to Luthers positive contributions and recognize the hellacious battle he fought with corrupt traditions. But I appeal to followers and admirers of Luther today: Please do not minimize the horror of what he wrote (against the Jews and others). Please dont downplay all this as an example of Luther having feet of clay (in the words of Nichols).
There is a lot of blood on those clay feet including Jewish blood.
Lets own it with sadness and grief. To do otherwise is to be less than honest with the memory of Martin Luther.
We could use a little of that Crusading spirit. Just sayin’....
Luther didn’t invent anti-Semitism. He was no better but no worse than his Roman Catholic contemporaries. His particular set of beliefs were essentially codified in Nazi Germany due to the fact that the German State Church was Lutheran, it was corrupted and perverted intentionally by the Nazis, to their own ends. They hated Christians and Christianity, only surpassed by their wildly murderous hatred of Jews.
I’ve stated many times my opposition to any State Church, not just in the US but worldwide. It’s wrong, it corrupts the religious belief and it corrupts the State. Roman Catholics have no room to critique a State Church, however, with the Vatican being more than just a mere State Church itself. It’s a State, with a seat at the United Nations.
For those sincere believers within the Roman Catholic Church, and I’ve known many, maybe this will help you with your difficulty in understanding why your current Pope is so preoccupied with the political to the point that he’s been antithetical to Catholic doctrine. The State has corrupted and taken over the religion just as it did in Germany.
Who are the enemies of the State this time? Ponder that, Traditionalists.
Just don’t go and kill them all this time, OK?
Correctly-thinking Christians do not accept Sola Scriptura. It is not a Biblical doctrine.
But that's just it. These hit pieces never reiterate everything Martin Luther said about the Jews. I'm not excusing the horrible things Martin Luther said, but he said much that wasn't horrible.
Martin Luther's final sermon on the Jews was called "We want to treat them with Christian love and to pray for them, so that they might become converted and would receive the Lord".
He said Jews lied because they denied Christ. He said Jews were trying to kill us, because Jews wanted us to doubt our savior. He went way too far with some of his writing, but it was never about race.
Here is an LCMS statement about Martin Luther...
While The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod holds Martin Luther in high esteem for his bold proclamation and clear articulation of the teachings of Scripture, it deeply regrets and deplores statements made by Luther which express a negative and hostile attitude toward the Jews. In light of the many positive and caring statements concerning the Jews made by Luther throughout his lifetime, it would not be fair on the basis of these few regrettable (and uncharacteristic) negative statements, to characterize the reformer as "a rabid anti-Semite." The LCMS, however, does not seek to "excuse" these statements of Luther, but it denounces them (without denouncing Luther's theology).
Yet God does graciously allow sinners to serve His purposes and eventually, even, share His glory.
That sounds pretty loony to me, but why don't you explain your reasoning?
In the immortal words of Alan Sherman - “oh boy”
I do not know Martin luthers soul only God does But if his profession of faith in Christ in the small and large catechisms and the Augsburg confession is real he is most definitely saved Christ paid for our sins To be saved we need to repent, believe in Christ and His stoning sacrifice for us and be covered by His blood That is all. There is no sin Christs sacrifice cannot cover Mine included. Luthers antisemetism is no worse than any other sin and if he trusted Christ for his salvation it is blotted out completely
Ask Paul When the Bereans had honest questions what did Paul do? He opened scripture When Christ met the disciples on the road to Emmaus what did He fo? He opened scripture to them When Christ rebuked Satan after His temptation what did He do? He quoted scripture The Bible is the revealed word of God I would say any Christian who uses any other source is wrong thinking Unfortunately this is one area where Catholics and protestants will never agree
Oops! That’s “grace” not “RACE”!!
Mary was saved from her own sins just as we are, through “grace by the merits of Christ our Lord and God, her Savior” as you phrased it so clearly. Without the substitution of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, even one sin falls short of the perfect standard and merits the just penalty of eternal separation from God. Jesus paid that penalty for Mary, too.
Scripture is the only inspired writings we have.
The opinions of the many ECFs, which often contradict not only each other, but official RCC teachings on the various topics, are just that...their opinions.
Every RCC priest, Sunday School teacher, bible study leader, etc puts together their own materials and lessons. They inject their opinion as to what they believe the text says.
We see this on these threads all day.
They are not. And, if you have normal reading comprehension, you've been amply corrected and you know that. That's what makes this kind of discussion so tedious, sometimes.
Or comical, if you kind of tilt your head and squint.
Idol of Mary, plus idols of angels, pagan nobility and livestock, as worshiped in a Baptist church, Tennessee, USA, Christmas, 2016
BOniface had his dingbat opinions, I have mine!
I sincerely doubt that you or anyone else saw Baptists kneeling before their little Christmas creche, or praying to it, lighting candles before it or leaving flowers and other offerings.
I concede that point, doubling it.
Peter bar Jonah, Paul of Tarsus, John the Revelator, John the Baptist, James of the Jerusalem church, Mary and Martha, Mary the mother of Jesus, all Jews before and after they met Jesus.
Founders of the Christian Church.
Jesus both man and God. God became flesh. 100% Jewish and 100% Diety...
Christianity came from all these people. Jesus did not want to do it alone, he established the Church with the help of his family and friends.
He said to Peter - upon this Rock I build my Church....
That’s all I have to say on the matter for now.. We can argue these facts among ourselves at a later date.... ha ha ha...