Monday, October 30, 2017

Luther and the Jews


Luther and the Jews

By Julio Severo
Dr. Michael Brown wrote an excellent article in which he, quoting Stephen Nichols, said that “in 1523, Luther reached out with kindness and humility to the Jewish people, denouncing how the church had treated them up until then 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.’”
Luther and the Bible
You can read Brown’s full article, titled “Was Martin Luther an Anti-Semite?” here.
Another important article, also titled “Was Martin Luther an Anti-Semite?” and written by Dr. Eddie Hyatt, shows that Luther used vitriolic words against Jews, Muslims, Catholics and Anabaptists and that they also used vitriolic words against him. You can read Hyatt’s full article here.
Brown explains how Adolf Hitler used Martin Luther’s words to persecute the Jews. Of course, Hitler also used the Bible to support Nazism. According to Ray Comfort, in his book “Hitler, God and the Bible,” Hitler made much public use of the Bible. But while Hitler had to pervert the Bible, he did not have to pervert any words of Luther against the Jews. Luther’s own words against the Jews were already perverted — and inexcusable.
They are inexcusable not only because he was the highest leader of the Protestant Reformation, but also claimed to be a follower of Jesus. “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:6 ESV)
By criticizing the Jews, Luther did what all the European society, dominated by ancient anti-Jewish Catholic traditions, had been doing for a long time. Incidentally, while Luther was criticizing the Jews, the Catholic Church was also criticizing, and torturing, robbing and burning them at the fires of the Inquisition.
After all, Luther and his followers have no history of torturing, robbing, and burning Jews. They have no history of inquisition against Jews.
The United States, the largest Protestant nation in the world and the nation that most followed Luther’s guidance of putting the Bible at the center of everything, has no history of torturing, robbing, and burning Jews. The U.S. has no history of inquisition against Jews. On the contrary, as a Protestant nation, the U.S. has an incredible record of protection, partnership and friendship with the Jews and an enviable track record against the Inquisition.
More Bible reading (which is the main value of Protestantism) produces more defense of the Jews, although some Jews have different thoughts. Osias Wurman, who is Israel’s honorary consul in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, expressed concern about Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. in 2016 — a victory that was achieved largely through evangelical voters.
He spoke of this victory as if an increase in evangelical conservatism would produce an increase in pro-Holocaust sentiments, when the reverse is true. American evangelicals do not support the Holocaust and the Inquisition.
However, as a Brazilian Jew Wurman lost a great opportunity to denounce that there is an increase of pro-Inquisition stances among right-wing esoteric Catholics in Brazil. These pro-Inquisition far-right-wingers reject the Vatican’s current stance against the Inquisition and accuse Luther of having committed a “genocide” for his anti-Jewish views, when in reality the Inquisition represents the anti-Jewish words and actions of medieval Catholicism that was a major influence on Luther. This pro-Inquisition rightistism has been totally rejected by conservative evangelicals, who join the Jews in denouncing the Holocaust and the Inquisition.
To follow the U.S. conservative Protestantism leads to stances against the Holocaust and the Inquisition.
To follow medieval Catholicism leads to stances in support of the Inquisition, which fatally leads to the Holocaust.
Luther followed medieval European standards (which were entirely Catholic), and when he verbally attacked the Jews he did not follow the example of Jesus, who never taught his disciples to hate the Jews.
Jesus directed his disciples to pray and be careful. He said, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41 ESV) Luther’s temptation was strong and his flesh was weak. He fell into the prevailing temptation of his generation, which was before and after hostile to the Jews.
To follow social trends (all social personalities do this) and religious traditions (all religious leaders do this) is in conflict with vigilance and prayer.
Actually, if Hitler needed an anti-Jewish religious example against the Jews, he did not even need Luther, because the Catholic Church had abundant examples of several centuries of words and actions against the Jews. All that Luther said against the Jews the Inquisition was already practicing in abundance.
Hitler, who was an esoteric Catholic who shrewdly used left-wing and right-wing imageries, used Luther’s example because if he did not have this evangelical example, he would be left only with the abundant Catholic examples.
Luther’s Protestantism sought to free itself from Catholic traditions, and Luther himself had experience only with such traditions.
Luther lived in a 100 percent Catholic Europe. Everyone he knew were Catholics. All the opinions he heard were Catholic and anti-Jewish.
Luther’s generation was anti-Semitic. In fact, the whole Europe where Luther was born was Catholic and anti-Semitic.
Luther had toward the Jews the same hostility of an ordinary Catholic (from popes to priests), because he had been brought up as a Catholic. Although he and other Protestants had the same anti-Jewish hostility of Catholics, you did not actually see Luther and other Protestants killing Jews. They had hatreds or prejudices, but they did not practice them. They had no inquisitions against the Jews. They did not torture and kill Jews. In the same way, the Jews had their own hatreds or prejudices against Christians.
Whoever condemns Luther for his words against the Jews inevitably has to condemn the pope and the whole Catholic Church of that time not only for its words but also for its actions, especially the Inquisition, against the Jews.
A follower of Jesus would have for the Jews the love that Jesus had, and Luther initially had this love, because he wanted their conversion. But when he got old and sick, he changed his mind. And his idea became repugnant and hateful against the Jews, allegedly because he read blasphemous writings of Jews against Jesus Christ and Christians. However, Hyatt makes it clear that before his death, Luther returned to his more conciliatory attitude toward the Jews.
A Christian can never be guided by hatred. It was exactly the hatred of the Jews who supported the Inquisition, who looted, tortured, and killed Jews.
If Luther had as justification for his anti-Jewish hatred of Jewish books against Jesus Christ, today others would find as justification the fact that Karl Marx was a Jew and that Genrikh Yagoda, a Jew who founded and directed the NKVD (the successor of the KGB), was, accordingly with a Jewish writer in the Israeli newspaper Ynetnews, “the greatest Jewish murderer of the 20th Century.”
In fact, in their strident propaganda against Marxism, Hitler and Henry Ford, the greatest American tycoon of that time, hated Soviet Marxism because Jews were mostly socialists in Germany and also because they held prominent positions of leadership in the Soviet Union.
In any case, the old and sick Luther who wrote a book against the Jews committed a grave sin. I totally disagree with all crazy ideas of the old and sick Luther against the Jews.
However, we should be fair and also disagree with the ideas and crazy words of the Jews against Jesus Christ and the Christians.
The Jewish Talmud and the rabbinic literature are totally against Christians, treating them in a despicable way. The Talmud may be the Jewish equivalent of Luther’s book, but it was written much earlier. In fact, the Talmud is much more harmful, because although no Lutheran and no evangelical put Luther’s anti-Jewish book on an equal footing with the Bible, religious Jews place the Talmud on a high degree very close to their Holy Scriptures (which is the Old Testament of Christians).
While no evangelical church has in its building Luther’s anti-Jewish book nor reads it from the pulpit, synagogues have the Talmud and read it along with the Scriptures.
According to the book “Jesus in the Talmud,” written by Peter Schäfer, published by the Princeton University Press in 2007, the Talmud and rabbinic literature treat Jesus as a depraved sorcerer son of a prostitute.
Quoting the Talmud, Schäfer said, “The most bizarre of all the Jesus stories is the one that tells how Jesus shares his place in the Netherworld with Titus and Balaam, the notorious archenemies of the Jewish people… Jesus’ fate consists of sitting forever in boiling excrement” (page 13).
Schäfer said that, according to the Talmud, Mary, “After she had been driven out by her husband and while she was wandering about in a disgraceful way she secretly gave birth to Jesus. And… because he [Jesus] was poor he hired himself out as a workman in Egypt, and there tried his hand at certain magical powers on which the Egyptians pride themselves; he returned full of conceit, because of these powers, and on account of them gave himself the title of God” (page 19).
The Talmud, according to Schäfer, said, “Jesus’ followers, who claim to be the new salt of the earth, are nothing but the afterbirth of that imagined offspring of the mule, a fiction of a fiction” (page 24).
While Protestants in general and Lutherans in particular reject Luther’s anti-Jewish views, religious Jews make no effort to reject the anti-Christian Talmud.
However, the Talmud’s crazy words against Christians and Luther’s crazy words against the Jews are only in the realm of ideas. If they were implemented, if Lutherans had acted like Genrikh Yagoda, it would be disgusting. Hence, even defending Luther and the Jews, I do not agree with them on every point, because of their crazy ideas against each other.
The Inquisition, of course, was worse because it was the implementation of crazy ideas. That is why I am against the Inquisition and I applaud the remarkable history of the United States in combating pro-Inquisition propaganda.
There is not in Lutheranism and Protestantism a tradition of Inquisition of torture and death against the Jews, although there is Luther’s book, which has anti-Judaism in words. In Catholicism there is in words and deeds, and the Inquisition is one of the great undeniable evidences.
Protestantism produced the United States, which has become the largest shelter of Jews the world has ever seen. And Brazil, the largest Catholic country in the world, has a history of the Inquisition, which tortured and killed many Brazilian Jews. In fact, the first Jews of New York in the 1600s were Brazilians who had fled the Inquisition in Brazil. The first Jewish cemetery in New York is composed of these Brazilian Jews persecuted by the Inquisition.
Luther’s original proposal was to value the Bible above all else. The United States did just that. The Protestant fruit in the U.S. was not only an immense cultural love for the Bible, but also a tolerance for the Jews never seen before.
The United States, which was founded by a 98 percent Protestant population, followed the Bible, as Luther pointed out, but did not follow Luther’s anti-Jewish sins.
With his imperfections, sins and even heavy opinions, Luther often sought to point to Christ. If an evangelical puts Luther above Jesus, he will be no better than the popes criticized by Luther.
A true evangelical must imitate Jesus and the Gospel, not Luther and other men. If he imitates Luther, he will utter many profanities, because this was one of Luther’s sins. And he will imitate Luther’s insane stance against the Jews, a stance totally imitated from the common Catholic customs of his day.
An evangelical who imitates the sins, dirty mouth and heavy opinions of Luther is not a follower of Jesus.
Last year, the Lutheran Church of Norway denounced Luther’s anti-Jewish writings. More churches of the Reformation should follow the example of the Lutheran Church of Norway.
Luther set a good example by denouncing the corruption of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, which has been working to repair some of these problems. But he eventually imitated one of the worst sins of the Catholic Church. Now, by following his own example of giving preeminence to the Bible, the Reformation churches have a moral and spiritual obligation to denounce the anti-Jewish views that took over an old, sick Luther.
Yet, Luther’s lasting good fruit is much better than his momentary anti-Jewish book: Because of Luther, America was born Protestant and became the best friend and refuge of Jews and Israel.
Another good fruit was Rev. Wurmbrand, a Lutheran Jewish minister who wrote several books against communism.
Portuguese version of this article: Lutero e os judeus
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