Judenrein Christianity – Part 3: Martin Luther

Martin Luther, commemorated on February 18 Eva...
Martin Luther, commemorated on February 18 Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Minneapolis: Fortress Press (2006), 15. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christians of a Protestant background also have some black marks in their history. The greatest of them are found in the person of Martin Luther, whose 95 Theses lit a fire of Reformation that the Catholic Church was never after able to put out.  When he first started out, Luther was actually very pro-Jewish for his time, even writing a revolutionary pamphlet, “That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew” (1523 CE):

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.

I hope that if one deals in a kindly way with the Jews and instructs them carefully from Holy Scripture, many of them will become genuine Christians and turn again to the faith of their fathers, the prophets and patriarchs. They will only be frightened further away from it if their Judaism is so utterly rejected that nothing is allowed to remain, and they are treated only with arrogance and scorn. If the apostles, who also were Jews, had dealt with us Gentiles as we Gentiles deal with the Jews, there would never have been a Christian among the Gentiles. Since they dealt with us Gentiles in such brotherly fashion, we in our turn ought to treat the Jews in a brotherly manner in order that we might convert some of them. For even we ourselves are not yet all very far along, not to speak of having arrived.

Can you see just why this pamphlet was so revolutionary in its time? Not only is Luther recognizing the sins of the Church (though of course he places them all on the papacy) in dealing with the Jews, but he even tacitly recognizes that there needed to be a place for Jewish Christians to remain within “their Judaism.”

This was sadly not to last. After being exposed to translations of some passages from the Talmud which are, candidly, slanderous and blasphemous to Yeshua, Luther’s attitude radically changed. In 1538 CE he wrote Against the Sabbaterians, which was directed at dissuading Christians from the then-emergent sect of the Sabbatarian Anabaptists. Lacking any real Scriptural case, Luther built his case largely by attacking the Jews. However, that work’s rhetoric is mild compared to that of The Jews and Their Lies, which he wrote in 1543. Here Luther called for all synagogues to be burned along with the sacred writings of the Jews, the property of Jews to be stolen (confiscated) and they themselves enslaved for hard labor. He even went so far as to want to forbid Jews to publicly worship the God of our fathers:

[T]hat they be forbidden on pain of death to praise God, to give thanks, to pray, and to teach publicly among us and in our country. . . [and] that they be forbidden to utter the name of God within our hearing. . . But what will happen even if we do burn down the Jews’ synagogues and forbid them publicly to praise God, to pray, to teach, to utter God’s name? They will still keep doing it in secret. If we know that they are doing this in secret, it is the same as if they were doing it publicly. For our knowledge of their secret doings and our toleration of them implies that they are not secret after all, and thus our conscience is encumbered with it before God. So let us beware. In my opinion the problem must be resolved thus: If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country.

Four hundred years later, Martin Luther’s words would be used as propaganda fuel by the Nazi Party as they put the “Final Solution” into action. Ironically, the Final Solution ultimately led to the survivors to re-establish Israel as a nation, fulfilling Luther’s desire:

If they wish to apply Moses’ law again, they must first return to the land of Canaan, become Moses’ Jews, and keep his laws. . . But if the authorities are reluctant to use force and restrain the Jews’ devilish wantonness, the latter should, as we said, be expelled from the country and be told to return to their land and their possessions in Jerusalem. . . It will not do for them to say at this point: “We Jews care nothing about the New Testament or about the belief of the Christians.” Let them express such sentiments in their own country or secretly. . .

It is sad that today, so many downplay or outright deny the Holocaust, while repeating its rhetoric against the Jews. It’s just as sad that Christianity, while largely repenting of hating the Jews, has never repented of the theological errors inherent in both Replacement Theology and Dispensationalism that continues to make it Judenrein.

One thought on “Judenrein Christianity – Part 3: Martin Luther

  1. Please do not generalise or take the American conservative and fundamental Christians as the main stream. In the United States we may find several Christians who deny that Jeshua which they know as Jesus was a Jew.

    At the European continent there have been many Christians who also respected the Jews as the Chosen People of God and were willing to protect and hide them when they were in danger, endangering their own life as well.

    Not all Christians are Jew haters and not all Christians are Trinitarians. But we also are aware that for several religious as well as non-religious people somehow the Jews were considered as a threat, or a people not to associate with or to be done with.

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