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Martin Luther, The Greatest Anti-Semite of His Time

Updated on October 30, 2017

Was Martin Luther an Anti-Semite?

Though Martin Luther has been called “the father of modern Protestantism ” he was also referred to as “the greatest anti-Semite of his time (Noble 2). Alongside his many actions that changed the world and built a new type of Christianity, he also filled his life preaching hate against those that followed the Jewish faith. He used bible verse as justification in arguments to commit genocide. Such a religious man chose to twist the word of God in such a way to damn God's chosen people, that the Nazis were able to use his writings as historical justification. Is there then a possibility that he may have warped other scriptures for his own personal agenda?

Martin Luther in 1533 at the age of 50.
Martin Luther in 1533 at the age of 50. | Source

Luther's Beginnings

Martin Luther was born to Margarita and Johannes Luther in Eisleben, Germany. He was born on the 10th of November after eleven o'clock in 1483. At the age of fourteen, he was sent to Magdeburg to study (Melanthrop). In 1507, at age 24 he was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest (“Martin”). Ten years later he released his 95 theses, which caused a controversy and threatened his life (Luther “Disputations 1).

Luther then continued to married a former nun Katharina Von Bora in 1525, and died on February 18, 1546. Somewhere in his 63 years, Luther developed a hatred for those of the Jewish faith. Arguing in hie book 'The Jews and Their Lies' that the entire race should be removed from the Earth, or at the very least exiled. Which is an irony since it was the Catholic Church who threatened his life and exiled him from his own country.

Somewhere in his 63 years Luther developed a hatred for those of the Jewish faith, which is an irony since it was the Catholic Church who threatened his life, and exiled him from his own country.

A statue of Luther in Magdenburg.
A statue of Luther in Magdenburg. | Source
Door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg to which, by one account, Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on 31 October 1517, sparking the Reformation.
Door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg to which, by one account, Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on 31 October 1517, sparking the Reformation. | Source

Reformation Sunday

Gomes educates us in his “Protestant Dilemma” that on October 31 many Protestants gathered together to celebrate their Protestant faith and the fact that they were Protestant and not Catholic. This “Reformation Sunday” is meant to declare the heritage of the reformed and evangelical Protestantism, with a particular emphasis on the contributions of Martin Luther. Kenneth Osbeck goes on to discuss that on this day Luther posted his 95 theses on the doors of the Wittenberg Cathedral, and it could possibly be the most “important day of Protestant history.” Osbeck also later goes on to tell that Luther's new reformation “proclaimed 'justification by faith in Christ' rather than by works and 'salvation by grace alone.'” When Pope Leo X told Luther to withdraw his writings because they contradicted the Catholic faith, Luther called him “the greatest thief and robber that has come into the world, and all in the holy name of Christ.” Luther's greatest arguments came from the Pope's practices of selling indulgences and using the money to live luxuriously and build extravagant churches rather than helping the poor. However, Luther's main concern was not the poor.

Luther's Prejudices

In 1524 the German Peasant War took place, in which peasants who lived almost as slaves, revolted for better living conditions. Luther took the side of the wealthy nobles, saying that the peasants should be killed “just as one must kill a mad dog.” By 1525 over 100,000 peasants had been murdered, and the rebellion crushed (Price). Luther also had a hardened heart when it came to Jews, he referred to them regularly in his book The Jews and Their Lies as murderers, whores, thieves, and scoundrel “with their bloodthirsty, revengeful and murderous desire and hope!” In fact, in a sixty-one-page pamphlet, Luther only uses seventeen biblical verses as sources, most of which from the book of Hosea, which calls for repentance. “O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity,” (Hosea 14:1) and speaks of God's love for Israel. If the Jews are no longer God's chosen people, then shouldn't there be a bounty of biblical evidence to prove this claim? Luther also published Vom Schem Hamphoras, in which he parallels the Jews with the Devil.

Have you heard of Martin Luther's anti-semitical beliefs before?

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Luther's Last Lecture

In modern days, people have been asked what their lecture of choice would be if they knew the lecture would be their last. Martin Luther was given this chance, and days before his death he gave four sermons in Eisleben says before his death in which he warned of the Jews treachery, and preached that they were “as the sworn enemies of the true faith who would gladly 'kill us all' if the could” (Noble ). Apparently the most important thing on his mind near the time of his death was not to preach the word of God's love and salvation, but instead, he showed the hatred that lingered in his very soul.

In fact, Martin Sasse, a Nazi Bishop, praised Luther as “their greatest anti-Semite of his time”

Martin's Influence of the Nazis

Even though Luther wished to save the Jews in his own way through salvation, and not necessarily by extermination, although that may be only because the pseudo-scientific eugenics had nod not been identified in his time. Luther's writings became a strong hold for the Nazis to latch on to for the sense of historical justification. In fact, Martin Sasse, a Nazi Bishop, praised Luther as “their greatest anti-Semite of his time” (Noble). Though most people do not realize it, atheism played no role in the rise of Nazism. All of the main Nazi leader were either Protestant or Catholic by birth, which means that by 1945 80% of Europe's Jewish population had all but been “cleansed” by people of the Christian faith or heritage (Paul). Papal Edict established the first Jewish ghettos, not the Nazi leaders (Luther “The Jews and Their Lies). Hitler himself was Catholic by name, but he never disavowed his Catholic faith, nor was he ever excommunicated. The Pope actually sent Hitler birthday gifts every year (Noble). Noble tells of some of the so call Aryan Christian who where fierce anti-Semites who denied that Christ was a Jew. The Nazis could preform their atrocities with a clear conscious, because it seemed that two well respected religious men supported their actions: the Pope and Martin Luther.

The Fight to Translate The Jews and Their Lies

In the prologue to The Jews and Their Lies the publishers tell about the difficulties they encountered while attempting to to translate the book. “In effecting the translating of this work we became increasingly convinced that a well organized plot to keep this book hidden exists” (3). It took two different translators, after a dramatic set of intimidation, to complete the translation of this well hidden book. The publishers also state how they “were shocked and amazed at the interference [they] encountered from a wide variety of sources” (3). It's also interesting to note that many clergymen of all denominations know about this book, but there has only been one English translation of it in the in the United States (5). Also, they mention that a large number of Christians hold resentment at the knowledge that writings of someone as prominent as Martin Luther have been so meticulously hidden, while other of his teachings are what many denominations base their belief systems on.

Works Cited

Gomes, Peter J. “The Protestant Dilemma.” Christian Century; Vol. 114 Issue 28, p 905.

Luther, Dr. Martin. “Disputations of doctor Martin Luther on the power of the Efficacy of Indulgences”, Works of Martin Luther, Vol 1. 1517. Trans. Adolf Spaeth & Henry Eyster.

Luther, Dr. Martin. The Jews and Their Lies. York: Liberty Bell Publications, 2004.

”Martin Luther.” Who2Biography.

Melanthop, Philip. The History of the Life and Acts of Luther. Trans. T. Frazel. 1995.

Noble, Graham. “Martin Luther and the German anti-semitism: Graham Noble illustrates Luther's anti-Jewish views and distinguishes them from those of the Nazis. (The Unpredictable Past.)” History Review (March 2012):1(2)

Osbeck, Kenneth W. “Martin Luther's 'A Mighty Fortress': did we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing, were not the right man on our side, the man of God's own choosing. (Story Behind the song)(Brief Article).” Today's Christian 44.5 (Sept-Oct 2006):19(1).

Paul, Gregory S. “The Greatest Scandal: Part 2: Christianity's Role in the rise of the Nazis.” Free Inquiry 24.1 (Dec 2003):28(7)

Price, Sean Stewart. “The reformer: Martin Luther: how a German priest challenged authority—and changed the world. (World History).” Junior Scholastic. 111,15 (March 15, 2009): 13(4)

Comments

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    • Klep Skep profile image

      Klep Skep 

      14 months ago

      Thanks for this article, I recently wrote something along these lines but with a bit different content:

      http://www.klepticskeptic.com/2017/06/29/copernicu...

      I grew up a Christian who would quote Luther and yet I never knew about his anti-Semitism and other rather unflattering things about him. This and many other things I've been learning about history/philosophy/science have been making me re-think who I listen to.

      Great article!

    • Diana Grant profile image

      Diana Grant 

      4 years ago from London

      That's very interesting. We are not taught these things at school, are we?

      I have only recently learned that Henry Ford had connections with Nazi Germany and was knowingly using Jewish slave labor in his motor factory there.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      4 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      I had no idea, so sad. Good to know, lots of people are unaware of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison's antisemitism as well.

      Well done,

      Ben

    • hrymel profile imageAUTHOR

      Haley 

      5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Many people, especially religious ones that quote Martin Luther, are unaware of his anti-semantic teachings. And although most of his teachings are fine, and were much needed at the time, I feel it's important to acknowledge his questionable teachings as well.

      As far theChive goes, I've never received that warning for the site. So long as your on a secure computer thechive.com should work just fine. It may just be your firewall settings.

    • Dont Taze Me Bro profile image

      Banned cause of PISSANTS Promisem and Dean Traylor 

      5 years ago from https:// usercontent2. hubstatic.com / 13861447_f1024.jpg

      Interesting facts! So, Luther felt about the same as every other nation and religion throughout history (except maybe the US, although look at who they just made Secretary of Defense).

      Hey, I went to www.thechive.com and got this message

      This Connection is Untrusted

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