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Luther's Anti-semitism

Posted: Sun Feb 12, 2012 5:51 pm
by TK
I happened to hear a sermon by Dr. Michael Brown the other day which was essentially going over the history of anti-semitism in the Church-- his point being that thgreat majority of Christians really don't know anything about- particularly when it comes to heroes of the faith like Martin Luther. The sermon can be found here: "Do Not be Ignorant of this Mystery"

He quoted some of what is below-- my question is-- what are we to do with this information? How could Martin Luther written such a thing? Dr. Brown said that Luther has been called Hitler's John the Baptist, which is a scary thought. How could Luther have been so misguided and seemingly evil in the words he wrote below?
What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves. Vengeance a thousand times worse than we could wish them already has them by the throat. I shall give you my sincere advice:

First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly ­ and I myself was unaware of it ­ will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.

Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. (remainder omitted)

Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. For they have justly forfeited the right to such an office by holding the poor Jews captive with the saying of Moses (Deuteronomy 17 [:10 ff.]) in which he commands them to obey their teachers on penalty of death, although Moses clearly adds: "what they teach you in accord with the law of the Lord." Those villains ignore that. They wantonly employ the poor people's obedience contrary to the law of the Lord and infuse them with this poison, cursing, and blasphemy. In the same way the pope also held us captive with the declaration in Matthew 16 {:18], "You are Peter," etc, inducing us to believe all the lies and deceptions that issued from his devilish mind. He did not teach in accord with the word of God, and therefore he forfeited the right to teach.

Fifth, I advise that safe­conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let they stay at home. (...remainder omitted).

Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God's blessing in a good and worthy cause.

Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen 3[:19]}. For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.

Re: Luther's Anti-semitism

Posted: Sun Feb 12, 2012 7:35 pm
by steve
It would appear that Luther lacked the Spirit of did many others from the time of Christ until the present. The "Golden-tongued" preacher, John Chrysotom, said equally hateful things about the Jews.

Luther's description of the Jews and their activities do not resemble those of any Jews that I have known, so I have to assume that Luther was either making up malicious lies, or else that the Jews of his day were of a different mold from those I have met (I have never met any Jews living in Medieval Europe, nor any Jews living previous to the holocaust, which, I would imagine, may have had a chastening effect on the Jewish psyche). While no sweeping criticism of any race can be understood as universally true, I would have to say that there were certainly times when the Jewish prophets and even Paul, spoke very unflatteringly of their countrymen (1 Thess.2:14-16). Perhaps there have been times when the Jewish populations of certain lands did more than they do now to irritate their non-Jewish neighbors. I don't know.

Before one decides that Luther was out of touch with the character of most of the Jews of his own time, one might wish to become familiar with the various harsh blasphemies against Jesus Christ found in the Talmud. It may be (though I do not know and cannot say), that, in Luther's day, the Jews were more obnoxious than those I have known (perhaps more like the Pharisees that Jesus described in Matthew 23), and were not involved in productive pursuits (as Luther charges), but were simply getting rich off their neighbors through banking practices which Luther considered to be dishonest and immoral. I have no idea if this was an accurate portrayal of the majority of Jews in Europe at the time. If we wished to paint a portrait of German Jews in the 16th century, Luther would be one witness to consider—though certainly not the only one.

Even if the Jews were as bad as Luther suggests, of course, no instructed Christian would recommend the destruction of their houses, shops, synagogues, etc., but perhaps Luther might not be regarded as an instructed Christian. He was theologically-trained, of course, and had done a fair amount of original thinking for a man of his time, but the day in which he lived was a spiritually dark time, coming, as it was, toward the end of a spiritually dark millennium, and the Spirit of Christ often was neglected in favor of bitter theological controversies. I doubt that he was wiser than others of his generation, in this respect.

It is a shame that those who criticize amillennialism and what they regard as "replacement theology" have always seemed to lay the blame for antisemitism at the door of this theology. While antisemites would no doubt favor this theology, drunkards might be equally delighted to learn that Jesus drank and made wine. The truth of supercessionism (so-called "Replacement Theology"), or of Jesus making real wine, is not the problem here. Sinful, carnal hearts are the problem.

Identifying the biblical truth about Christ being Abraham's true Seed with antisemitism reminds me of reading an evangelical feminist, some years ago, who said, "As long as the church teaches the doctrine of the husband's headship, we will never end wife abuse and child abuse." The suggestion is that wicked and violent men are wicked and violent because of their theological positions! I suppose it never crossed this woman's mind to consider that the abuser is not seriously contemplating biblical theology when he beats his wife. People do not abuse their wives and children because of their holding to the traditional view of marriage. The same man who beats his wife would continue to do so, even if the church taught that the wife is the head of the man.

Likewise, the drunkard does not abuse alcohol because he believes Jesus made real wine at Cana, and the antisemite does not hate Jews because he has learned that Christ is the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel. He hates Jews because he is a racist.

Re: Luther's Anti-semitism

Posted: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:59 pm
by Paidion
It wasn't only Jews that Luther persecuted. His prejudices included Anabaptists.

"That seditious articles of doctrine should be punished by the sword needed no further proof. For the rest, the Anabaptists hold tenets relating to infant baptism, original sin, and inspiration, which have no connection with the Word of God, and are indeed opposed to it. ... Secular authorities are also bound to restrain and punish avowedly false doctrine ... For think what disaster would ensue if children were not baptized? ... Besides this the Anabaptists separate themselves from the churches ... and they set up a ministry and congregation of their own, which is also contrary to the command of God. From all this it becomes clear that the secular authorities are bound ... to inflict corporal punishment on the offenders ... Also when it is a case of only upholding some spiritual tenet, such as infant baptism, original sin, and unnecessary separation, then ... we conclude that ... the stubborn sectaries must be put to death."

Source: Dave Armstrong in "Pamphlet of 1536" in Martin Luther and the Protestant Inquisition

Re: Luther's Anti-semitism

Posted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 3:05 pm
by TK
I would agree that Luther may have been a "victim" of his unenlightened age.

But it would seem that a truly converted person would not be able to write what he wrote.

I can imagine what would happen today if a respected well known Christian leader (take your pick who) said or wrote something similar (and meant it).

I realize we all may "lack the Spirit of Christ" to some degree or another-- but in Luther's case it seemed to be a very large lack. I am just having difficulty in trying to figure out what he was thinking. He obviously did not think what he was writing was wrong, and apparently felt he was doing God a favor by doing so.


Re: Luther's Anti-semitism

Posted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 10:24 pm
by jeremiah
TK wrote:and apparently felt he was doing God a favor by doing so.

i think that may be a kind of key to the spirit of his words. it reminds me of how certain brothers and sisters who for the sake of blind loyalty to national israel become willingly callous and numb to the injustices committed by the state of israel. not all of them make it a habit, but i have heard quite a few harsh and hateful words coming from popular teachers and preachers impugning any who would dare criticize israel....anyway my point is, i believe God accepts them. even though i now have a extremely difficult time reading the christian scriptures and not seeing that "God's chosen people" are his son's disciples.

grace and peace,

Re: Luther's Anti-semitism

Posted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:45 pm
by steve7150
I think that Luther though great in certain areas was woefully deficient in other areas. He probably voiced what many people around him felt toward Jews yet the fact that he could also hate Anabaptists also revealed that his hate was well beyond the fact that the Jews rejected Christ. I think the fact a devout Christian can be so hateful is really remarkable and shows how strong the darker side of our nature can be, even after conversion.