Luther: On the Jews

Too many ignorant persons presume to understand Luther’s view of  the Jews only from his nearly end of life tirade against Jewish persons who had bedeviled him in his rightly excoriated ‘On the Jews and Their Lies‘.  What such persons, ignorant as they are, don’t know, or don’t care to know, that in the early 1520’s Luther was one of the few in Germany who defended the Jews and indeed, one of the few who asserted that Jesus was himself a Jew.

In 1523 he wrote ‘That Jesus Christ was born a Jew’ in opposition to the anti-semitism rampant in his day.  Among other things he wrote

[I assert, then, that] Christ was a Jew born of a virgin, that I might perhaps also win some Jews to the Christian faith. Our fools, the popes, bishops, sophists, and monks—the crude asses’ heads—have hitherto so treated the Jews that anyone who wished to be a good Christian would almost have had to become a Jew. If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian.

They have dealt with the Jews as if they were dogs rather than human beings; they have done little else than deride them and seize their property. When they baptize them they show them nothing of Christian doctrine or life, but only subject them to popishness and monkery. When the Jews then see that Judaism has such strong support in Scripture, and that Christianity has become a mere babble without reliance on Scripture, how can they possibly compose themselves and become right good Christians? I have myself heard from pious baptized Jews that if they had not in our day heard the gospel they would have remained Jews under the cloak of Christianity for the rest of their days. For they acknowledge that they have never yet heard anything about Christ from those who baptized and taught them.  — Luther’s works, vol. 45.

Luther eviscerates the practice of baptism by force and the worse practice of baptizing without instruction or compassion.  Luther didn’t hate the Jews- even when he wrote his tirade.  He hated falsehood.  And he hated falsehood whether it was found in Rome or Wittenberg.

Those poorly informed historical ignoramuses who repeatedly denounce Luther as an anti-semite are simply wrong.  They know nothing of Luther nor anything of the history of the Church.  All they know is their own biases and prejudices.

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About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Professor of Biblical Studies at Quartz Hill School of Theology as well as Adjunct at the Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary
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