Friday, May 16, 2008

Revisiting Luther's Anti-Jewish Writings

I recently visited the CARM discussion boards and read the following,

"It has recently been claimed by a credible scholar (who is Jewish, by the way) that On the Jews and Their Lies is a forgery. If I can remember their name I'll post it."

No, there was not a follow-up post, and it's been over two months since this statement. Now this is something I highly doubt, and even if it were true, it doesn't let Luther off the hook for his other anti-Jewish writings. Luther went on to publish two more anti-Jewish writings: On The Ineffable Name and On Christ’s Lineage (1543), and On The Last Words of David (1543). Neither of these treatises are contained in the English edition of Luther’s Works, though On The Ineffable Name and On Christ’s Lineage is available translated in English in the book, Gerhard Falk, The Jew in Christian Theology: Martin Luther's Anti-Jewish Vom Schem Hamphoras, Previously Unpublished in English, and Other Milestones in Church Doctrine Concerning Judaism (North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 1992).

It's been quite a while since I've mentioned Luther's anti-Jewish writings. I have one lengthy overview of this subject, Martin Luther’s Attitude Toward The Jews, hosted on the NTRmin site. I don't make any apologies for Luther's anti-Jewish statements. The things he said were terrible and wrong. On the other hand, I do oppose those who make the statements mean more than they do. For instance, Roman Catholics are quick to point out Luther's anti-Jewish statements somehow nullify his life's work toward Reformation. On the CARM board, "Josiah" a Lutheran, posted the following, and even if a quarter of it is true, Roman Catholics should consider their own Church and its attitude toward the Jews before going after Luther:

Consider some things Catholics and the Catholic Church said.....

306 The Council of Elvira decrees that Christians and Jews cannot intermarry, have sexual intercourse, or eat together.

325 Conversation and fellowship with Jews is forbidden to the clergy by the Council of Nicea.

c. 380 St. Gregory of Nyssa refers to the Jews as "murderers of the Lord, assassins of the prophets, rebels and detesters of God,. . . companions of the devil, race of vipers, informers, calumniators, darkeners of the mind, pharisaic leaven, Sanhedrin of demons, accursed, detested,. . . enemies of all that is beautiful".

388 A mob of Christians, at the instigation of their bishop, looted and burned the synagogue in Callinicum, a town on the Euphrates. The Emperor Theodosius wants those responsible punished and the synagogue rebuilt at the expense of the bishop, but St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, pressures him to relent and condone the action.

400 St. Augustine writes: "the Church admits and avows the Jewish people to be cursed, because after killing Christ they continue to till the ground of an earthly circumcision, an earthly Sabbath, an earthly passover, while the hidden strength or virtue of making known Christ, which this tilling contains, is not yielded to the Jews while they continue in impiety and unbelief, for it is revealed in the New Testament. While they will not turn to God, the veil which is on their minds in reading the Old Testament is not taken away. . . the Jewish people, like Cain, continue tilling the ground, in the carnal observance of the law, which does not yield to them its strength, because they do not perceive in it the grace of Christ".

c. 400 Calling the synagogue "brothel and theater" and "a cave of pirates and the lair of wild beasts," St. John Chrysostom writes that "the Jews behave no better than hogs and goats in their lewd grossness and the excesses of their gluttony".

413 A group of monks sweep through Palestine, destroying synagogues and massacring Jews at the Western Wall.

414 St. Cyril of Alexandria expels Jews from his city.

538 The Third Synod of Orléans decrees that Jews cannot show themselves in the streets during Passover Week.

681 The Synod of Toledo orders the burning of the Talmud and other books.

768 Pope Stephen IV decries ownership of hereditary estates by "the Jewish people, ever rebellious against God and derogatory of our rites".

c. 830 Agobard, Archbishop of Lyons, writes anti-Jewish pamphlets in which he refers to Jews as "sons of darkness".

c. 937 Pope Leo VII encourages his newly appointed archbishop of Mainz to expel all Jews who refuse to be baptized.

1010-1020 In Rouen, Orléans, Limoges, Mainz, and probably also in Rome, Jews are converted by force, massacred, or expelled.

1050 The Synod of Narbonne decrees that Christians are not permitted to live in Jewish homes.

c. 1070 Pope Alexander II warns the bishops of Spain to prevent violence against the Jews because, unlike the Saracens, they "are prepared to live in servitude".

1078 The Synod of Gerona decrees that Jews must pay the same taxes as Christians to support the church.

1081 Pope Gregory VII writes to King Alphonso of Spain telling him that if he allows Jews to be lords over Christians, he is oppressing the Church and exalting "the Synagogue of Satan".

1096 Massacres of Jews takes place in the First Crusade, destroying entire Jewish communities in Mainz, Speyer, Worms, Cologne and other cities. The Jewish chronicler reports: "The enemies stripped them naked and dragged them off, granting quarter to none, save those few who accepted baptism. The number of the slain was eight hundred in these two days." The chronicler Guibert de Nogent reports that the Rouen Crusaders said: "We desire to go and fight God's enemies in the East; but we have before our eyes certain Jews, a race more inimical to God than any other".

1182 Jews are expelled from France, all their property is confiscated, and Christians' debts to them are cancelled with the payment of one-fifth of their value to the treasury.

1190 The Third Crusade, led by Richard the Lion-Heart, stirs anti-Jewish fervor and results in the mass suicide of the York Jews in Clifford's Tower on March 16.

1215 The Fourth Lateran Council decrees that Jews are to wear distinctive clothing, and on the three days before Easter they are not to go out in public.

1222 The Council of Oxford prohibits the construction of new synagogues.

1227 The Council of Narbonne orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1234 The Council of Arles orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1246 The Council of Béziers orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1254 The Council of Albi orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1260 The Council of Arles orders Jews to wear a round patch, but not when traveling.

1267 The Synod of Vienna decrees that Christians cannot attend Jewish ceremonies, and Jews cannot dispute with simple Christian people about the Catholic religion.

1267 The Synod of Breslau decrees compulsory ghettos for Jews.

1279 The Synod of Ofen decrees that Christians cannot sell or rent real estate to Jews.

1284 The Council of Nîmes orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1289 The Council of Vienna orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1290 Jews are expelled from England and southern Italy.

1294 Jews in France are restricted to special quarters of the cities.

1294 Jews are expelled from Bern.

1298 The Jews of Röttingen, charged with profaning the Host, are massacred and burned down to the last one.

1320 The "Shepherds' Crusade." A Christian chronicler records: "The shepherds laid siege to all the Jews who had come from all sides to take refuge. . . the Jews defended themselves heroically. . . but their resistance served no purpose, for the shepherds slaughtered a great number of the besieged Jews by smoke and by fire. . . The Jews, realizing that they would not escape alive, preferred to kill themselves. . . They chose one of their number (and) this man put some five hundred of them to death, with their consent. He then descended from the castle tower with the few Jewish children who still remained alive. . . They killed him by quartering. They spared the children, whom they made Catholics by baptism".

1326 The Council of Avignon orders Jews to wear a round patch, but not when traveling.

1347-1350 During the Black Death, Jews are accused of poisoning wells in order to overthrow Christendom, and many thousands of Jews are killed.

1394 The expulsion of Jews from France, begun in 1306, is completed with an edict promulgated on the Jewish Day of Atonement.

1420 Jews are expelled from Mainz by the archbishop.

1434 The Council of Basel decrees that Jews cannot obtain academic degrees.

1456 Pope Callistus III bans all social communication between Christians and Jews.

1462 Jews are expelled from Mainz following a conflict between two candidates for the archepiscopal seat.
1475 The entire Jewish community in Trent, northern Italy, is put to death on the allegation that it had murdered a boy for religious purposes.

1492 After forcing many Jews to be baptized and then referring to them as Marranos (swine), and after an Inquisition in which some 700 Marranos were burnt at the stake for showing signs of "Jewish" taint, Spain expels all Jews from the country.

1553 Cardinal Carafa instigates a public burning of copies of the Talmud and other Jewish religious works in a square in Rome.

This didn't stop after Luther either....

1555-1559 Pope Paul IV restricts Jews to ghettos and decrees that they are to wear distinctive headgear.

1566-1572 Pope St. Pius V expels Jews from the Papal States, allowing some to remain in Rome's ghettos and in Ancona for commercial reasons.

1592-1605 Pope Clement VIII includes a ban on all Jewish books in the expanded Index of Forbidden Books.

1826 Pope Leo XII decrees that Jews are to be confined to ghettos and their property is to be confiscated.

1858 Edgardo Mortara, 6-year old son of a Jewish family in Bologna, is abducted by the papal police and brought to Rome. He had been secretly baptized five years earlier by a domestic servant who thought he was about to die. The parents try to get the boy back, and there is a universal outcry, but Pope Pius IX rejects all petitions submitted to him.

1904 In an interview with Zionist leader Theodor Hertzl, Pope St. Pius X says: "I know, it is disagreeable to see the Turks in possession of our Holy Places. We simply have to put up with it. But to sanction the Jewish wish to occupy these sites, that we cannot do. . . The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people. . . If you go to Palestine and your people settle there, you will find us clergy and churches ready to baptize you all".

1919 Newly independent Poland passes a law making Sunday a compulsory day of rest in Poland. The law is intended to force Jews to observe the Christian sabbath in addition to their own.

1921 Speaking for Pope Benedict XV, a Vatican spokesman informed representatives of the Zionist Movement that they did not wish to assist "the Jewish race, which is permeated with a revolutionary and rebellious spirit" to gain control over the Holy Land.

1925 At a conference of Catholic academicians in Innsbruck, Austria, Bishop Sigismund Waitz calls the Jews an "alien people" who had corrupted England, France, Italy, and especially America.

1933 In a series of Advent sermons, Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich defends the Old Testament against Nazi attacks but emphasizes that it is not his intention to defend contemporary Jewry, saying that a distinction has to be drawn between Jews living before and after the crucifixion of Jesus.

1933 In a pastoral letter on January 23, Bishop Johannes Maria Gföllner of Linz, Austria, declares that while the radical anti-Semitism preached by Nazism is completely incompatible with Christianity, it is the right and duty of Christians to fight and break the harmful influences of Jewry in all areas of modern cultural life. The Austrian episcopate condemns the letter in December for causing racial hatred and conflict.

1933-1939 The general consensus among the Catholic papers in Poland is that Jewish influence should be reduced in all areas of life, that the Polish and Jewish communities should be separated as much as possible, and that the most desirable option is mass emigration of the Jews from Poland. St. Maximilian Kolbe is an active promoter of antisemitic literature.

1935-1936 The Polish Catholic Church gives full support to a government policy encouraging Jewish emigration from Poland.

1937 Austrian bishop Alois Hudal publishes a book defending Nazi racial ideology, supporting laws preventing a flood of Jewish immigrants, and criticizing the "Jewish" press for playing off Austrians against Germans. His book receives the support of Archbishop (later Cardinal) Theodor Innitzer of Vienna.

1939 Josef Tiso, a Catholic priest with a doctorate in theology, became president of independent Slovakia. An extremist hater of Jews, he allied Slovakia with Nazi Germany and, with strong objections from the Vatican, deported most Slovakian Jews to their deaths in the camps. He declared: "It is a Christian action to expel the Jews, because it is for the good of the people, which is thus getting rid of its pests." Monsignor Tiso was executed after the war as a war criminal.

I'm guessing Josiah did not compile this information, but it was rather a cut-and-paste from a web site (I haven't Googled it to find the source, or the accuracy of the information). Why do Catholics resort to bringing up Luther’s later attitudes toward the Jews? Is it because the Roman Catholic Church has a spotless record of defending the Jews and other groups against intolerance and hatred? Are they the watchdogs of all religious intolerance?

The answer: No, they do not posses a spotless record of defending the minority against the majority, nor do they have a spotless record in their relations with the Jews:

“In 1553 all copies of the Talmud found in Rome were burned in public. Pope Paul IV (1555-1559) ordered measures to be taken against the Jews, and twenty-four men and one woman were burned at the stake. On July 12, 1555, he issued a bull that renewed all the oppressive medieval legislation against the Jews, excluding them from professions, limiting their financial and commercial activities, forbidding them to own real estate, and humiliating them by obliging them to wear yellow hats.”[Lewis W. Spitz, The Protestant Reformation (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1985), 357].

Roman Catholics try to deflect the guilt of their church’s abuses and doctrinal confusion that Luther rightly fought against. Instead of dealing with the blatant abuses, need for reform, and muddled theology inherent in the sixteenth century church, the tactic is to discredit Luther by any means possible. Simply because Luther was wrong on his attitude toward the Jews does not necessarily mean he was wrong on the need for church reform, the proclamation of the gospel of justification by faith alone, or sola scriptura. No bona fide Protestant argues that Luther was an infallible interpreter, divine authority, or immaculately conceived. We realize Luther was a man of many faults. Yet when he proclaims the gospel, he is absolutely correct because the Bible clearly teaches it. When he speaks out against the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church he is right because history shows this was the case. When he makes terrible statements about the Jews, he’s not right (or wrong) because he was somehow a Protestant pope or the originator of Protestantism, he’s wrong because a clear exposition of the Scriptures and solid Christian theology do not support such terrible statements.


I heard back from the person who said On the Jews and Their Lies is a forgery:

"I was told about this by a professor who teaches Reformation history. I'll have to ask him and get back to you, as he only said it briefly in passing. It was only around last year that this article is supposed to have appeared, although it is only a possibility raised by the author, presumably based on some new considerations, rather than it being stated in a 'matter of fact' sort of way (after all, if there were unequivocal proof for this then it would be in the newspapers, I'm sure). I don't even know what language the article was in, so yes, I'll definitely ask. I'm sorry I had forgotten to do so earlier!


Peter Sean said...

Why do Catholics resort to bringing up Luther’s later attitudes toward the Jews?

One reason is that Luther's mature attitudes involved spreading the "blood libel" that Jews drank the blood of Christian children.

This libel - the core of anti-semitism - was something that the Catholic Church had repudiated and exposed as "stupid and false" in numerous bulls and decrees starting in 1274.

In other words, Luther cannot be excused for believing in the "blood libel" on the grounds that everyone shared the same ignorance. Yet, when Luther discovered that his new approach did not result in mass conversions, he called for the extermination of the Jews, beginning with preaching the blood libel.

My primary source for this point is Dr. Philip Cary's lecture on "Luther: Gospel, Law and Revoluton" from the Teaching Company. Cary is a historian and a Protestant and not someone with a confessional axe to grind.

In addition, the hopscotch through history ignores an equally impressive set of dates that demonstrate the "philo-semitism" of the Catholic Church, particularly the Vatican, that Rabbi David Dalin describes in his book "The Myth of Hitler's Pope."

Two such points are a papal decree prohibiting the conviction of a Jew on Christian testimony and the fact that the Catholic Church saved more Jewish lives during the Holocaust than any single institution.

The Christian virtue of Justice requires that we acknowledge the virtues and vices of those we admire and those we despise, whether it happens to be Luther or the Catholic Church.

James Swan said...

Why do Catholics resort to bringing up Luther’s later attitudes toward the Jews? One reason is that Luther's mature attitudes involved spreading the "blood libel" that Jews drank the blood of Christian children.

Interestingly, I don't recall ever having a Catholic bring this up in anything I've read, so I would posit it is NOT a reason why Catholics resort to bringing up Luther’s later attitudes toward the Jews, or at least, you are the first. I would be interested in any documentation from a Catholic source stating something to the effect that Luther is to be repudiated because he spread the "blood libel" myth.

Second, the blood libel was a popular myth about the Jews during Luther's lifetime. One of the leading Roman Catholic scholars of the day- Johann Eck is a clear example.

“In 1540, when another ritual murder charge was raised against the Jews in Sappenfeld, Eck wrote Refutation of a Jewish Booklet in which he explains that Jews needed Christian blood in order to wash away their own blood stains which God had inflicted on them because they had crucified Christ. He concludes that, ‘it is no wonder that the Jews now buy the blood of innocent children, just as their fathers had bought the innocent blood of Jesus Christ from Judas with thirty pennies.’" [R. Po-chia Hsia, “Jews as Magicians in Reformation Germany,” in Sander L. Gilman and Steven T. Katz, Anti-Semitism in Times of Crisis (New York: New York University Press, 1991), 119-120].

So, if the Catholic Church "repudiated and exposed as stupid and false" this myth, explain WHY a leading Catholic scholar with strong ties to the Papacy repeats it, far more than Luther ever did. I can answer it for you: it was popularly believed by non-Jews, even leading Roman Catholic scholars during Luther's day.

This doesn't excuse Luther, for I know and admit he was a man of faults and sins. What it does do, is point out the Roman Catholic Church had no problem employing Eck, and he held the same opinion. A telling comparison can be made by consulting the way the Catholic Encyclopedia evaluates the anti-Jewish remarks of Johann Eck and Martin Luther. The Catholic Encyclopedia highly praises Eck: “He was the most distinguished theologian of the time in Germany, the most scholarly and courageous champion of the Catholic Faith. Frank and even in disposition, he was also inspired by a sincere love of truth; but he showed none the less an intense self-consciousness and the jovial bluntness of speech which characterized the men of that day.” Interestingly, the Catholic Encyclopedia makes no mention of Eck’s anti-Jewish writings. However, in their entry on “Luther” they point out, “It was while in this agony of body and torture of mind, that his unsurpassable and irreproducible coarseness attained its culminating point of virtuosity in his anti-Semitic and antipapal pamphlets.” In the Catholic Encyclopedia’s entry on the “History of the Jews,” no mention is made of Johann Eck. However, of Luther they point out, “Luther himself, towards the end of his life, was [the Jews] greatest opponent,” and, “Luther, on the other hand, required their absolute expulsion. . . . It was reserved for him to place Jews on a level with Gypsies. . . . He was the cause of their being expelled by Protestant princes.”
I submit that many Roman Catholics evaluate Luther’s anti-Semitism the same way the Catholic Encyclopedia does. The Catholic Encyclopedia fails to document that one of the leading theologians of the sixteenth century was blatantly hostile towards the Jews, but rather characterizes him to be “inspired by a sincere love of truth.” I’ve met many Roman Catholics in discussion who point out that Johann Eck defeated Luther in debate, and was a champion for the Roman Catholic Church. How many of them would dismiss the entirety of Eck’s work because he was blatantly anti-Semitic?

EA said...

Roman Catholics try to deflect the guilt of their church’s abuses and doctrinal confusion that Luther rightly fought against. Instead of dealing with the blatant abuses, need for reform, and muddled theology inherent in the sixteenth century church, the tactic is to discredit Luther by any means possible.

People had been calling for reform in the RCC for generations before Luther. The Council of Trent is a classic example of closing the barn door after the horse has gotten loose.

As James has pointed out numerous times, RCC theologians are very mild, even appreciative of Luther's theology nowadays.

Online Catholic apologists are about one century behind their denominations' theologians in dealing with Luther.

Anonymous said...

This libel - the core of anti-semitism - was something that the Catholic Church had repudiated and exposed as "stupid and false" in numerous bulls and decrees starting in 1274.

What are these "numerous bulls and decrees"? Where can we find them?

Antipelagian said...

Sorry if you already addressed this...but have you read sections of the Talmud?

I'm wondering if Luther's hatred of the Jews was purely theological and not racial...hence, he despised religious Jews?

There are some really offensive things in the Talmud many are unaware of.

from the Talmud:
Baba Mezia 24a . If a Jew finds an object lost by a gentile ("heathen") it does not have to be returned. (Affirmed also in Baba Kamma 113b). Sanhedrin 76a. God will not spare a Jew who "marries his daughter to an old man or takes a wife for his infant son or returns a lost article to a Cuthean..."

Sanhedrin 57a . When a Jew murders a gentile ("Cuthean"), there will be no death penalty. What a Jew steals from a gentile he may keep.

Baba Kamma 113a. Jews may use lies ("subterfuges") to circumvent a Gentile.

Kethuboth 11b. "When a grown-up man has intercourse with a little girl it is nothing."

Yebamoth 59b. A woman who had intercourse with a beast is eligible to marry a Jewish priest. A woman who has sex with a demon is also eligible to marry a Jewish priest

R. Aha the son of Raba said: If one caused all his seed to pass through [the fire] to Molech, he is exempt from punishment, because it is written, of thy seed implying, but not all thy seed.

Moed Kattan 17a. If a Jew is tempted to do evil he should go to a city where he is not known and do the evil there.

Coschen Hamischpat, Hagah 425. It is the law to kill anyone who denies the Torah. The Christians belong to the denying ones of the Torah.

When a man commits sodomy with a boy under nine years of age, it "is not deemed as pederasty" (Sanhedrin, 54b,55a).

When I found out some of these things, I began to rethink Luther and I am not sure I'd consider him an antisemite...if anyone truly believed and acted on some of those quotes, it would be criminal, in fact.

James Swan said...

Sorry if you already addressed this...but have you read sections of the Talmud?

I don't recall if I've ever come across any information on Luther reading the Talmud, I'd have to check my notes. Luther certainly knew what it was, and mentions it as something to be destroyed in On The Jews and Their Lies.

Luther had nothing against Jews as “Jews.” He had something against their religion because he believed it denied and blasphemed Christ.

I don't know if the quotes you mention played a part for Luther- I'm tempted to say they did not- but if he did read them, they certainly did not help the situation.