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    Christian Theology - Thread: Luther and the Jews

    1. #1
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      Luther and the Jews

      .


      One of the almost constant points made about Luther (even in some public school textbooks) is that Luther was a rapid Anti-Semitic. Many a post at Catholic sites makes this point, but it's very common everywhere since World War II. Is this historical? The following, from the website of James Swan (not a Lutheran BTW), examines that.....


      Was Luther an Anti-Semite?


      It should be kept in my mind that Luther’s later anti-Jewish tracts were written from a position different than current concept of anti-Semitism. Luther was born into a society that was anti-Judaic, but it was not the current anti-Judaic type of society that bases it racism on biological factors. Luther had no objections to integrating converted Jews fully into Christian society. He had nothing against Jews as “Jews” as a race. He had something against their religion because he believed it denied Christ.

      Dr. Heiko Oberman points out, “One thing must be clearly understood: Luther was anti-Jewish in his repeated warnings against the Jews (of any race) because of it denied the Christian Gospel and thus Christ. But Luther was not an anti-Semite or racist of any kind because- to apply the test appropriate to his time- for him a baptized Jew is fully Christian and because it matters not at all to him whether an advocate of the Jewish religion was Jew or Gentile."

      Lutheran scholar Eric Gritsch echoes Oberman’s point: “Luther was not an anti-Semite in the modern racist sense. His arguments against the Jews were theological, not biological or racist." Gritsch goes on to point out the origin of biological anti-Semitism: “Not until a French cultural anthropologist in the nineteenth century held that humankind consisted of ‘Semites’ and ‘Aryans’ were Semites considered inferior. Alfonse de Gobineau’s views were quickly adopted by European intellectuals and politicians, and Jews became the scapegoats of a snobbish colonialist society in England, France, and Germany. The rest is history- including the Jewish holocaust perpetrated by Adolf Hitler and his regime. National Socialists abused Luther to support their new racist anti-Semitism, calling him a genuine German who had hated non-Nordic races.”

      In his article “Luther’s Attitudes toward Judaism,” Carter Lindberg provides an excellent example proving Luther’s anti-Jewish writings were not motivated by biological racism. Lindberg says, “More to the point is Luther’s stance on religious intermarriage. In his criticism of the medieval Catholic canonical prohibition against a Christian marrying a Jew, Luther wrote, "Just as I may eat, drink, sleep, walk, ride with, buy from, speak to, and deal with a heathen, Jew, Turk, or heretic, so I may also marry and continue in wedlock with him. Pay no attention to the precepts of those fools who forbid it. You will find plenty of Christians—and indeed the greater part of them—who are worse in their secret unbelief than any Jew. A heathen is just as much a man or a woman—God's good creation—as St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Lucy, not to speak of a slack and spurious Christian."

      Rather than being motivated by biological factors, Luther’s criticisms were motivated by theological concerns. Luther directed intensely abusive language against Anabaptists, lawyers, the papacy, and the Jews, the issue never being race but theology. The Jews had a religion based upon works righteousness. When Luther attacked these groups, he felt he was attacking the devil- the underlying spirit of works righteousness.

      Equally, he was opposed to any sense of racial superiority. In his last expositions on Genesis in 1544, Luther makes it explicit that no one has the right to boast on their race or lineage: “Accordingly, the Jews have no grounds for boasting; they should humble themselves and acknowledge their maternal blood. For on their father’s side they are Israelites; but on their mother’s side they are Gentiles, Moabites, Assyrians, Egyptians, Canaanites. And by this God wanted to point out that the Messiah would be a brother and a cousin of both the Jews and the Gentiles, if not according to their paternal genealogy, at least according to their maternal nature. Consequently, there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, except that Moses later separated this people from the Gentiles by a different form of worship and political regime. Moreover, these things were written to make it known to all that the Messiah would gather the Gentiles and the Jews into one and the same church, just as they are joined by nature and consanguinity.”

      In his commentary on Galatians 3:28, Luther explains we are all equal. No particular people has any right to claim special privilege before God: “ ‘There is neither magistrate nor subject, neither professor nor listener, neither teacher nor pupil, neither lady nor servant.’ For in Christ Jesus all social stations, even those that were divinely ordained, are nothing. Male, female, slave, free, Jew, Gentile, king, subject—these are, of course, good creatures of God. But in Christ, that is, in the matter of salvation, they amount to nothing, for all their wisdom, righteousness, devotion, and authority.”

      Luther’s most well known anti-Jewish writing was On The Jews and Their Lies. It is often quoted and cited as the clearest example of Luther’s anti-Semitism. Interestingly though, this very document proves that Luther was not a biological anti-Semite, he was not against the Jews as people, nor did he seek for their extermination. In that treatise, Luther launches into a long section against any notion that the Jews are better than anyone else. He puts forth an alleged popular anti-Jewish argument that they thanked God that they were not born gentiles or women. In arguing against this caricature, Luther mocks those who think any one particular people is better than another: “…[T]he Greek Plato daily accorded God such praise and thanksgiving—if such arrogance and blasphemy may be termed praise of God. This man, too, praised his gods for these three items: that he was a human being and not an animal; a male and not a female; a Greek and not a non-Greek or barbarian…Similarly, the Italians fancy themselves the only human beings; they imagine that all other people in the world are nonhumans, mere ducks or mice by comparison.”




      AHHHH...



      .
      We are justified by works - just not our own.

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      Martin Luther
      "On the Jews and Their Lies: Part 11" (1543)
      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.


      In Deuteronomy 13:12 Moses writes that any city that is given to idolatry shall be totally destroyed by fire, and nothing of it shall be preserved. If he were alive today, he would be the first to set fire to the synagogues and houses of the Jews. For in Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32 he commanded very explicitly that nothing is to be added to or subtracted from his law. And Samuel says in I Samuel 15:23 that disobedience to God is idolatry. Now the Jews' doctrine at present is nothing but the additions of the rabbis and the idolatry of disobedience, so that Moses has become entirely unknown among them (as we said before), just as the Bible became unknown under the papacy in our day. So also, for Moses' sake, their schools cannot be tolerated; they defame him just as much as they do us. It is not necessary that they have their own free churches for such idolatry.


      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 the fact 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.


      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) 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 safe-conduct 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 them stay at home. I have heard it said that a rich Jew is now traveling across the country with twelve horses his ambition is to become a Kokhba devouring princes, lords, lands, and people with his usury, so that the great lords view it with jealous eyes. If you great lords and princes will not forbid such usurers the highway legally, some day a troop may gather against them, having learned from this booklet the true nature of the Jews and how one should deal with them and not protect their activities. For you, too, must not and cannot protect them unless you wish to become participants in their abominations in the sight of God. Consider carefully what good could come from this, and prevent it.


      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.


      But when they boast that Moses allowed or commanded them to exact usury from strangers, citing Deuteronomy 23:20 apart from this they cannot adduce as much as a letter in their support we must tell them that there are two classes of Jews or Israelites. The first comprises those whom Moses, in compliance with God's command, led from Egypt into the land of Canaan. To them he issued his law, which they were to keep in that country and not beyond it, and then only until the advent of the Messiah. The other Jews are those of the emperor and not of Moses. These date back to the time of Pilate, the procurator of the land of Judah. For when the latter asked them before the judgment seat, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" they all said, "Crucify him, crucify him!" He said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" They shouted in reply, "We have no king but Caesar!" [Matt. 27:22; John 19:15]. God had not commanded of them such submission to the emperor; they gave it voluntarily.


      But when the emperor demanded the obedience due him, they resisted and rebelled against him. Now they no longer wanted to be his subjects. Then he came and visited his subjects, gathered them in Jerusalem, and then scattered them throughout his entire empire, so that they were forced to obey him. From these the present remnant of Jews descended, of whom Moses knows nothing, nor they of him; for they do not deserve a single passage or verse of Moses. If they wish to apply Moses' law again, they must first return to the land of Canaan, become Moses' Jews, and keep his laws. There they may practice usury as much as strangers will endure from them. But since they are dwelling in and disobeying Moses in foreign countries under the emperor, they are bound to keep the emperor's laws and refrain from the practice of usury until they become obedient to Moses. For Moses' law has never passed a single step beyond the land of Canaan or beyond the people of Israel. Moses was not sent to the Egyptians, the Babylonians, or any other nation with his law, but only to the people whom he led from Egypt into the land of Canaan, as he himself testifies frequently in Deuteronomy. They were expected to keep his commandments in the land which they would conquer beyond the Jordan.


      Moreover, since priesthood, worship, government with which the greater part, indeed, almost all, of those laws of Moses deal have been at an end for over fourteen hundred years already, it is certain that Moses' law also came to an end and lost its authority. Therefore the imperial laws must be applied to these imperial Jews. Their wish to be Mosaic Jews must not be indulged. In fact, no Jew has been that for over fourteen hundred years ...
      [snipped due to forum post limit]

      You can read it and decide for yourself.
      I think the truth falls somewhere in the middle.
      Luther was not a racial anti-Semite like the later Nazis, but he advocated against more than just the Jewish Religion.
      The historic details of the time may suggest that Luther was also not without provocation and the complete record of his life will reveal that these strong feelings were not always held by him.

    4. #4
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      Note that Luther's (admittedly strong) language is against those that embrace the Jewish religion - not against any race or ethnicity; Luther believed (passionately) that it is wrong and bad to denounce Christ, to reject the Gospel, and to promote self/works righteousness. Heresy (especially the greatest heresy - denouncing Christ) was taken seriously in that day before uber-relativism was invented. It mattered not to him if a person promoting that was German or Japanese or Jewish or Arab or Black or White.... and Hebrews who converted to Christianity were fully and completely accepted as equally Christian.

      The Anti-Semite views we associate with Hitler were invented by a Frenchmen in the 19th Century. Hitler abused a national hero by quoting him (out of context) and then imputing a French anthropological (absurd) theory to Luther who clearly believed (and knew) no such thing.
      We are justified by works - just not our own.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Josiah View Post
      Note that Luther's (admittedly strong) language is against those that embrace the Jewish religion - not against any race or ethnicity; Luther believed (passionately) that it is wrong and bad to denounce Christ, to reject the Gospel, and to promote self/works righteousness. Heresy (especially the greatest heresy - denouncing Christ) was taken seriously in that day before uber-relativism was invented. It mattered not to him if a person promoting that was German or Japanese or Jewish or Arab or Black or White.... and Hebrews who converted to Christianity were fully and completely accepted as equally Christian.

      The Anti-Semite views we associate with Hitler were invented by a Frenchmen in the 19th Century. Hitler abused a national hero by quoting him (out of context) and then imputing a French anthropological (absurd) theory to Luther who clearly believed (and knew) no such thing.
      Would a Jewish convert to Christianity still be a Jew?
      Also, Israel is blessed and much prophesy is yet to be fulfilled so obviously God is not against them, then how could a Christian ever be against them? Im not referring to any particular man but in general many Christians especially "youtube Christians" hate the Jew...


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      Quote Originally Posted by DHoffmann View Post
      Would a Jewish convert to Christianity still be a Jew?

      "Jew" of course can refer to two DIFFERENT things: a member of a race and a member of a religion.

      Luther was opposed to ALL "false" religions - any that denied Christ and the Gospel. I agree he used language that (while common then) is shocking to us. But it was the view of Christ and the Gospel that he very passionately repudiated.

      Luther has nothing negative about members of the Jewish race. Indeed, those who became Christian were fully and completely embraced as full brothers. Luther very clearly (and often) rejected any form of racism.
      The Anti-Semitism that we're so familiar with was largely the invention of a French Anthropologist who lived some 300 years after Luther, a RACIST view that regards the JEWISH RACE as inferior and evil and dangerous (regardless of their religious beliefs). Yes, Hitler at times "quoted" Luther - abused him since Luther was referring to religion and Hitler was referring to race.


      Again, from the opening post...


      As Eric Gritsch notes, “Luther was not an anti-Semite in the modern racist sense. His arguments against the Jews were theological, not biological or racist." Gritsch goes on to point out the origin of biological anti-Semitism: “Not until a French cultural anthropologist in the nineteenth century held that humankind consisted of ‘Semites’ and ‘Aryans’ were Semites considered inferior. Alfonse de Gobineau’s views were quickly adopted by European intellectuals and politicians, and Jews became the scapegoats of a snobbish colonialist society in England, France, and Germany. The rest is history- including the Jewish holocaust perpetrated by Adolf Hitler and his regime. National Socialists abused Luther to support their new racist anti-Semitism, calling him a genuine German who had hated non-Nordic races.”

      .



      .
      We are justified by works - just not our own.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Josiah View Post
      "Jew" of course can refer to two DIFFERENT things: a member of a race and a member of a religion.

      Luther was opposed to ALL "false" religions - any that denied Christ and the Gospel. I agree he used language that (while common then) is shocking to us. But it was the view of Christ and the Gospel that he very passionately repudiated.

      Luther has nothing negative about members of the Jewish race. Indeed, those who became Christian were fully and completely embraced as full brothers. Luther very clearly (and often) rejected any form of racism.
      The Anti-Semitism that we're so familiar with was largely the invention of a French Anthropologist who lived some 300 years after Luther, a RACIST view that regards the JEWISH RACE as inferior and evil and dangerous (regardless of their religious beliefs). Yes, Hitler at times "quoted" Luther - abused him since Luther was referring to religion and Hitler was referring to race.


      Again, from the opening post...






      .
      So because they don't accept the NT they are a false religion but then why does God bless them if they are not relevant to him?
      Do not get me wrong I can't understand why a Jew won't accept their messiah when Christ fulfilled all the OT prophesies down to the 'T'... maybe this question should be started in a new thread, im just curious and I am pretty ignorant when it comes to Jewish practices and beliefs so much of the OT is left up to my imagination at best (when It gets into Jewish symbolism and rituals and laws)

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      Quote Originally Posted by DHoffmann View Post
      So because they don't accept the NT they are a false religion but then why does God bless them if they are not relevant to him?
      Do not get me wrong I can't understand why a Jew won't accept their messiah when Christ fulfilled all the OT prophesies down to the 'T'... maybe this question should be started in a new thread, im just curious and I am pretty ignorant when it comes to Jewish practices and beliefs so much of the OT is left up to my imagination at best (when It gets into Jewish symbolism and rituals and laws)

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      Anyone who rejects the Savior has damned himself...even if he is a Jew. We are all saved in the same way, by grace through faith in the Savior who has come and He is Jesus the Christ. I have Jewish friends say that they're still waiting for the Savior and they reject that Jesus is the one. I do have some Messianic Jewish friends who trust in the Savior for their salvation.
      "Christianity does not require more work but more trust." Pr. Jonathan Fisk
      "Bearing fruit does not make you a branch. A branch is a branch because it grows from the vine." Pr. Jonathan Fisk
      "A Christian's life is not defined by what the Christian does. It is defined by Christ and what He has done for us." Pr. Rolf David Preus

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      Quote Originally Posted by Lämmchen View Post
      Anyone who rejects the Savior has damned himself...even if he is a Jew. We are all saved in the same way, by grace through faith in the Savior who has come and He is Jesus the Christ. I have Jewish friends say that they're still waiting for the Savior and they reject that Jesus is the one. I do have some Messianic Jewish friends who trust in the Savior for their salvation.

      The point being: In Luther's day (long before the uber-relativism and uber-PC'ism of today), many Christians boldly denounced religions (and those who embraced them) that denounced Christ and denied the Gospel; they disagreed with the RELIGION they proclaimed because it DENIED Christ and the Gospel. And yes, the language seems almost repulsive to us 500+ years later who now live in the shadow of Mr. Rodgers and with the assumption of uber-relativism. But Luther knew nothing of the racist Anti-Semitism that was invented by a French anthropologist in the 18th Century and later associated so strongly with Hitler and th Nazis, that was hatred of a RACE (regarless of what religion a person of that race may or may not have held). When Hitler quoted Luther, he infused into the quote a much later concept entirely unknown to Luther - indeed one replusive to Luther. Luther (a national hero to the Germans) was simply abused by a politician. That so many people today CONTINUE to do what Hitler did is.... unfortunate.




      - Josiah
      We are justified by works - just not our own.

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      Quote Originally Posted by DHoffmann View Post
      Would a Jewish convert to Christianity still be a Jew?
      Also, Israel is blessed and much prophesy is yet to be fulfilled so obviously God is not against them, then how could a Christian ever be against them? Im not referring to any particular man but in general many Christians especially "youtube Christians" hate the Jew...


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      Yes. You can't love God if you hate Israel. Corrie ten Boom hid Jews in her house in WWII. Her brother evangelized to the Jews, she too. They always said they'd become a full Jew if they accepted their Jewish Messiah.
      All those Jews in their house got saved from the Nazi's except one, but she was saved, she accepted Jesus and she was sick, so she left the house. She didnt want to endanger the others. Most of Corries family died. First her family prayed for the Jews for decades. They also had an honour for Gods old people. Her brother said evangelism is to be done with respect for them.

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