Martin Luther: "On the Jews and their lies"

Not of the World

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I'm curious if any Lutherans here know much about Luther's book and how his views fit with the teachings of Christ. Thanks in advance.

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Daniel9v9

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Hey, welcome!

Maybe I can offer a couple of thoughts:

Luther is a very dramatic author, who is both compassionate and aggressive. This is because he wanted to call sinners to repentance and to comfort the contrite with the Gospel of Jesus. So, he wrote a lot of good, insightful, and encouraging words, but he was also fiercely polemical towards heretics and whoever compromised on God's Word. Some of it is warranted, and some of it is quite colourful, to put it in gentle terms, or maybe even wrong and sinful. So, this is the first thing we can take note of. Luther did not write harshly exclusively towards Judaism, for we can also compare what he wrote about the Pope, for example.

The second thing that is good to point out is that the idea of racism and antisemitism is a modern concept. So although Luther's writings sound very offensive to our modern ears, and particularly in light of the great tragedy of WW2 and the nazis' abuse of his writings, his words are theological. In other words, it would be anachronistic and simplistic to say that Luther was merely a racist or things along those lines.

So, what I've said so far is one side, and on the other, I would say that Luther was a sinner, and erred in many ways. He was a careful thinker but also very bold and perhaps reckless in some ways. So it's important to understand that although the Lutheran Church bears his name (which was applied to us as a pejorative term), that doesn't mean it's his church or that we agree with everything he believed in. So we reject his writings on the Jews and Their Lies. But we also understand that the debate Luther is having with his opponents is much more complex than what is commonly understood. Jesus also spoke sternly against the Jewish people who rejected him, and so did the early church, and Luther is following in these steps but not in a particularly good way.

Now, we live in an age that is very sensitive to polemical writings in one way, but also deeply polemical in other ways. And, in short, on a whole, while we don't agree with Luther on this point, we also recognise that we can't bring our contemporary issues into the past. We have to understand the original content in its own terms. So when Luther is right, he's right. When he's wrong, he's wrong.

So, if I can offer some practical and pastoral advice, I'd say: If you're interested in Luther, I can recommend his small and large catechisms. If you're interested in a Lutheran response to antisemitism, then perhaps you can look into Bonhoeffer who opposed the nazis. I frankly wouldn't bother with Luther's later writings on Judaism, but at least that's my 2c.
 
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Not of the World

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Hey, welcome!

Maybe I can offer a couple of thoughts:

Luther is a very dramatic author, who is both compassionate and aggressive. This is because he wanted to call sinners to repentance and to comfort the contrite with the Gospel of Jesus. So, he wrote a lot of good, insightful, and encouraging words, but he was also fiercely polemical towards heretics and whoever compromised on God's Word. Some of it is warranted, and some of it is quite colourful, to put it in gentle terms, or maybe even wrong and sinful. So, this is the first thing we can take note of. Luther did not write harshly exclusively towards Judaism, for we can also compare what he wrote about the Pope, for example.

The second thing that is good to point out is that the idea of racism and antisemitism is a modern concept. So although Luther's writings sound very offensive to our modern ears, and particularly in light of the great tragedy of WW2 and the nazis' abuse of his writings, his words are theological. In other words, it would be anachronistic and simplistic to say that Luther was merely a racist or things along those lines.

So, what I've said so far is one side, and on the other, I would say that Luther was a sinner, and erred in many ways. He was a careful thinker but also very bold and perhaps reckless in some ways. So it's important to understand that although the Lutheran Church bears his name (which was applied to us as a pejorative term), that doesn't mean it's his church or that we agree with everything he believed in. So we reject his writings on the Jews and Their Lies. But we also understand that the debate Luther is having with his opponents is much more complex than what is commonly understood. Jesus also spoke sternly against the Jewish people who rejected him, and so did the early church, and Luther is following in these steps but not in a particularly good way.

Now, we live in an age that is very sensitive to polemical writings in one way, but also deeply polemical in other ways. And, in short, on a whole, while we don't agree with Luther on this point, we also recognise that we can't bring our contemporary issues into the past. We have to understand the original content in its own terms. So when Luther is right, he's right. When he's wrong, he's wrong.

So, if I can offer some practical and pastoral advice, I'd say: If you're interested in Luther, I can recommend his small and large catechisms. If you're interested in a Lutheran response to antisemitism, then perhaps you can look into Bonhoeffer who opposed the nazis. I frankly wouldn't bother with Luther's later writings on Judaism, but at least that's my 2c.

Your response is amazing. Thank you!

Can you tell me if Luther believed in "sola scriptura", as many modern Christians (and myself) do?

I am vaguely familiar with Bonhoeffer but have a book about him in my Audible "wish list".

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Daniel9v9

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Your response is amazing. Thank you!

Can you tell me if Luther believed in "sola scriptura", as many modern Christians (and myself) do?

I am vaguely familiar with Bonhoeffer but have a book about him in my Audible "wish list".

View attachment 325002

Oh, thank you for your kind words! I appreciate it.

I can affirm that Luther did indeed hold to and uphold Sola Scriptura. In fact, he was one of the leading figures who championed it in the Reformation! And the principle is this: That tradition and reason must be governed by God's written Word, for it is our supreme authority.

God bless!
 
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Not of the World

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Oh, thank you for your kind words! I appreciate it.

I can affirm that Luther did indeed hold to and uphold Sola Scriptura. In fact, he was one of the leading figures who championed it in the Reformation! And the principle is this: That tradition and reason must be governed by God's written Word, for it is our supreme authority.

God bless!

I may be wrong for believing this, but it's my view that Christian Church LEADERS should stick to the example and to the words taught by Jesus and refrain from engaging in political activism and other things of that nature. So my question is this, did Luther do that when he wrote this book? I haven't read it so I don't know.

By the way, I started a thread about Church LEADERS engaging in politics here:
 
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Not of the World

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Hey, welcome!
Thank you again. Can you please tell me the significance of your avatar?

Mine is an artist's rendition of New Jerusalem from Revelation, which is not of the world (not this world), which is consistent with my chosen username.
 
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Daniel9v9

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I may be wrong for believing this, but it's my view that Christian Church LEADERS should stick to the example and to the words taught by Jesus and refrain from engaging in political activism and other things of that nature. So my question is this, did Luther do that when he wrote this book? I haven't read it so I don't know.

By the way, I started a thread about Church LEADERS engaging in politics here:

Yeah, you've touched on a very complex issue here. In Luther's mind, he draws a distinction between three different realms, which he calls the "three estates". This is the family, the Church (whoever believes in Jesus), and the government. And while they are all gifts from God and distinct, they do overlap.

Now, if someone in the pastoral office were to claim, for example, that either the American Left or the American Right is synonymous with the Word of God and that the other party in its entirety isn't, then that would be a misuse of the pastoral duties. For pastors are to preach the Word of God and not to confuse God's Word with politics, philosophy, or the traditions of men. However, that doesn't mean that the Church has nothing to do with the things that are perceived to be "political". I think a great example of this could be on the topic of abortion. Now, I firmly believe that abortion is sin, and because of this, it is my duty as a servant of the Word to preach against it and to call people to repentance, that they may receive the good news of Jesus.

So, on a whole, I'd be inclined to agree with you, but at the same time, I think can be helpful to have some distinctions in our minds to help guide our interaction with the world. That is, to put it briefly, we are in the world, but not of the world, and we can find what that looks like in the Scriptures.

Thank you again. Can you please tell me the significance of your avatar?

Mine is an artist's rendition of New Jerusalem from Revelation, which is not of the world (not this world), which is consistent with my chosen username.

Ah, nice! It's certainly good to remind ourselves that God is coming again to put an end to sin, death, and the devil, and to restore all things! God be praised!

Thank you for asking about my avatar. It looks like a combination of X and P, but it's the two first greek letters in "Christos". It's an ancient Christogram, a symbol of Jesus, like the cross. It's called a "Chi Rho", and it's an old symbol used by many different church bodies, so it's not something that is distinctly Lutheran or Anglican or Roman Catholic etc. If you're interested in knowing more, you can read all about it here:

 
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Not of the World

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I think a great example of this could be on the topic of abortion.
Well, abortion is an act that terminates the life of a human being at its earliest stage of development and it is contrary to God's commandments:

Be fruitful and multiply.
Thou shall not kill.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Abortion violates ALL of those commandments! Accordingly, I do not view a Christian church leader as "engaging in politics" by sharing the word of God with the congregation and how his words pertain to abortion or anything else. After all, which faithful Christian can dispute the word of God?

Hebrews 4:12 ESV​

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
 
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Not of the World

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That is, to put it briefly, we are in the world, but not of the world, and we can find what that looks like in the Scriptures.
Amen. I believe the answer to every societal challenge can be discerned through the word of God.
 
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Not of the World

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Thank you for asking about my avatar. It looks like a combination of X and P, but it's the two first greek letters in "Christos". It's an ancient Christogram, a symbol of Jesus, like the cross. It's called a "Chi Rho", and it's an old symbol used by many different church bodies, so it's not something that is distinctly Lutheran or Anglican or Roman Catholic etc. If you're interested in knowing more, you can read all about it here:
That's very interesting. Thank you! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your perspectives! Thank you for sharing them with me.
 
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Well, abortion is an act that terminates the life of a human being at its earliest stage of development and it is contrary to God's commandments:

Be fruitful and multiply.
Thou shall not kill.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Abortion violates ALL of those commandments! Accordingly, I do not view a Christian church leader as "engaging in politics" by sharing the word of God with the congregation and how his words pertain to abortion or anything else. After all, which faithful Christian can dispute the word of God?

Hebrews 4:12 ESV​

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Exactly!

That's very interesting. Thank you! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your perspectives! Thank you for sharing them with me.

Thank you! It's my joy in the Lord!

God's blessings to you!
 
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J_B_

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Hey, welcome!

Maybe I can offer a couple of thoughts:

Luther is a very dramatic author, who is both compassionate and aggressive. This is because he wanted to call sinners to repentance and to comfort the contrite with the Gospel of Jesus. So, he wrote a lot of good, insightful, and encouraging words, but he was also fiercely polemical towards heretics and whoever compromised on God's Word. Some of it is warranted, and some of it is quite colourful, to put it in gentle terms, or maybe even wrong and sinful. So, this is the first thing we can take note of. Luther did not write harshly exclusively towards Judaism, for we can also compare what he wrote about the Pope, for example.

The second thing that is good to point out is that the idea of racism and antisemitism is a modern concept. So although Luther's writings sound very offensive to our modern ears, and particularly in light of the great tragedy of WW2 and the nazis' abuse of his writings, his words are theological. In other words, it would be anachronistic and simplistic to say that Luther was merely a racist or things along those lines.

So, what I've said so far is one side, and on the other, I would say that Luther was a sinner, and erred in many ways. He was a careful thinker but also very bold and perhaps reckless in some ways. So it's important to understand that although the Lutheran Church bears his name (which was applied to us as a pejorative term), that doesn't mean it's his church or that we agree with everything he believed in. So we reject his writings on the Jews and Their Lies. But we also understand that the debate Luther is having with his opponents is much more complex than what is commonly understood. Jesus also spoke sternly against the Jewish people who rejected him, and so did the early church, and Luther is following in these steps but not in a particularly good way.

Now, we live in an age that is very sensitive to polemical writings in one way, but also deeply polemical in other ways. And, in short, on a whole, while we don't agree with Luther on this point, we also recognise that we can't bring our contemporary issues into the past. We have to understand the original content in its own terms. So when Luther is right, he's right. When he's wrong, he's wrong.

So, if I can offer some practical and pastoral advice, I'd say: If you're interested in Luther, I can recommend his small and large catechisms. If you're interested in a Lutheran response to antisemitism, then perhaps you can look into Bonhoeffer who opposed the nazis. I frankly wouldn't bother with Luther's later writings on Judaism, but at least that's my 2c.

One of the best replies I've heard on this text.
 
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J_B_

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I can affirm that Luther did indeed hold to and uphold Sola Scriptura. In fact, he was one of the leading figures who championed it in the Reformation! And the principle is this: That tradition and reason must be governed by God's written Word, for it is our supreme authority.

I don't disagree with you, but this also requires a subtle touch like your reply regarding Luther's polemic about Jews. As best I know, Luther never used the term. As such, we have to be careful about applying later terms to Luther's thought. He did say things that parallel the Reformation solas, but for a Lutheran to say he would agree with sola scriptura is a somewhat tautological statement because it comes from a strictly Lutheran interpretation of the phrase. Per the modern (typically American Reformed/Puritan) understanding of the term, it would be better to say Luther held to prima scriptura. Even better is to just stick to Luther's own words and not put labels on him.

When they extol the authority of the fathers or they extol the authority of Augustine or of Gregory and likewise of the councils, our answer is 'Those things have no claim on us. We demand the word.'

My dear pope, you must not lord it over Scripture, nor must I or anybody else, according to our own ideas. The devil has that attitude!
 
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JM

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ViaCrucis

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Different Lutheran church bodies have put out official statements addressing Luther's polemical writings against the Jews and the problem of modern antisemitism. The short of it is: Lutherans love Luther because he was a good theologian and student of Scripture; but Luther was also a sinner (as we all are), and that means he sometimes said and did things that are clearly wrong. While Luther couldn't have predicted what would happen centuries later in Germany under the Nazis, we today do have the vision of hindsight to see that anti-Jewish polemical writings in the history of the Christian Church were a major contribution to the horrors of the Holocaust. The Church has never been perfect because she is comprised of sinners, and so many horrible things have been said, done, and written which we do have a moral responsibility to reject and refute and repent of.

As was already said, if one wants to read Luther and be edified, there is his Large and Small Catechisms which are good, edifying, and are part of the Lutheran Confessions. I also agree with looking into Bonhoeffer.

I think, in light of the recent rise in antisemitism, it's as important as ever for us as Christians to take a stand against hate and to recognize the deep problems that have existed in the history of the Church in regard to our overall relationships with the Jewish community, which has historically been very poor and has frequently resulted in a great deal of pain and sorrow and harm to our Jewish neighbors.

-CryptoLutheran
 
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Wasn't Bonhoeffer neo Orthodox with a bunch of liberal theological issues?

I read the book and it's not that back and recommend everyone read it, not because it's true, but for historical significance.
It has been a while since I have looked into Dietrich Bonhoeffer but I will always consider him as a positive ( although flawed) influence for my faith. From what I recall he was educated in a theological atmosphere that was far worse off than the shortcomings of Bonhoeffer’s faith expression.

Given the almost faithless environment Bonhoeffer was educated in and the totalitarian system he resisted, his Christ like living example needs to be remembered more than his shortcomings that still must be taken into account.

I remember reading an essay by an Orthodox nun, St. Maria ( Skobtsova) who was also executed by the Nazis ( one month before Bonhoeffer in a different place). The essay was written at the same time Bonhoeffer’s: Cost of Discipleship was written. Mother Maria stripped away many excesses that plague Orthodoxy to this day but held onto our full faith tradition of the Trinity and Jesus Christ. Still, when I read either her or Bonhoeffer, I couldn’t help but feel both had the same Holy Spirit driving their purpose.

I would approach Bonhoeffer with caution but I would encourage reading his writings. I believe he was a witness used by the Lord even if his ( still brilliant) intellect was flawed.

Here is a thoughtful but serious criticism of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s faith expression to take into account.

 
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