By Victor Ocheing
There have been talks about Martin Luther having been anti-Semitic. In fact, there are people who hold that belief so strongly that they reject everything associated with the long gone German professor of theology and a renown figure in Protestant Reformation.
In an article posted on Charismanews.com, the article author, Eddie Hyatt, says he recently received an email from someone rebuking him for quoting Luther in his pieces, telling him that Luther and all about him should be completely rejected.
Such sentiments aren’t alien. We come across them once too often. Most of them are based on some of the regrettable statements Luther made about the Jews of his time. Even though such comments came later in his life, they’ve worked to create a narrative that he was anti-Semitic. Someone would, however, ask how many German Lutheran pastors were actually in the forefront in opposing Hitler, so much so that some were even willing to sacrifice their lives. We know of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and how determined he was to stop the heinous acts Hitler was engaging in.
There are some things Luther did that showed he had some love for the Jews. In his 1523 book entitled “That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, he tried to win the heart of Jews to embrace Jesus Christ, while also saying that Europe should treat them in a humane fashion.
Luther selflessly supported his Jewish friend called Bernard in 1531, when Bernard faced serious financial challenges that he had to leave his family because of debt. Luther was kind to the Jews and only differed with them because of their unbelief in Christ Jesus.
But even as Luther tried to win over Jews to Christ, many Jewish writers vilified him and his books. At first, his response was mild. He said, “For the sake of the crucified Jew, whom no one will take from me, I gladly wanted to do my best for you Jews, except that you abused my favor and hardened your hearts.”
Things appeared to get worse the more he tried to enter into debates with the Jewish rabbis on the person of the Messiah. His hope was that the debates would result in Jews being won over to Christ.
Unfortunately, he faced more ridicule and saw many Jewish writers vilify Christ Jesus. The comments coming from the Jews didn’t go down well with him and he started responding in a rather angry manner.
He wrote: “I am still praying daily, and I duck under the shelter of the Son of God. I hold Him and honor Him as my Lord, to whom I must run and flee when the devil, sin or other misfortune threatens me, for He is my shelter, as wide as heaven and earth, and my mother hen under whom I crawl from God’s wrath. Therefore, I cannot have any fellowship or patience with obstinate blasphemers and those who defame this dear Savior.”
Realizing that the Jews weren’t going to join Christianity en masse, he changed his view of them and started making some uncalled for comments, going against the Spirit of the Christ he was proclaiming.
When he made some harsh comments against Jews, Romanists, Turks, and Anabaptists, he did so simply because these people didn’t believe in the teachings he shared on Christ. In fact, based on the ridicule and blaspheme by the Jews writers, Luther concluded that it was impossible for Christians and Jews to live together in harmony.
Looking at the context and the time he lived, it becomes clear that Luther wasn’t racist against the Jews but only disagreed with them on faith.