A Question for Lutherans


How does your church address Martin Luther’s anti-semetism?


As I recall Martin Luther was excommunicated; he chose not to be Catholic. An official excommunication is pretty much the most extreme action the church can take against someone. He didn’t repent then. As such I don’t think the Church condeming his anti-semetic beliefs would have made two pennies worth of difference to change his mind.


We consider his comments to have been really ill-advised.

The theology which shaped the comments is correct: there is no salvation outside faith in Christ. But he had no business calling for the kinds of reprisals he did. It is (perhaps) significant that while he called for the burning of their synagogues and books, he did not call for their deaths. It is also worth noting that he was very much a product of his time and that his remarks were emblematic of how a good number of Christians (Protestant and Catholic) felt and believed during the period.

He cannot be excused for giving contemporary and later generations what they took to be an endorsement of violence against Jews.

No Lutheran Church currently endorses his perspective as it pertains to such actions.

Having said that, it remains to be discussed what an anti-semite is and whether Luther was one.

If an anti-semite is someone who hates Jews just because they are Jews and who considers them subhuman and calls for and works for their extirmination then Luther is no more an anti-semite than was St. John Chrysostom.

It can certainly be said that his remarks in “On the Jews” are anti-semitic, but it is far from clear whether he personally fits the definition of an anti-semite as we today, in the wake of the Shoah, would understand it.


I apologize. I didn’t mean the catholic church’s explanation. I was asking what the Lutheren Church’s position was.


The same way it addresses all anti-semittism and racism: condemning it.

Or perhaps the same way your church address Melito’s anti-semittism.


thanks for the answer. I think you are setting the bar a little to high for anti-semitism, but I appreciate your response as to the Lutheren Church’s position.


Maybe I am.

What anti-semitism is should probably be defined by a Jew.

If a Jew thinks Luther was an anti-semite, I’d be interested in finding out why and if the reason is a good one I’d have no problem accepting it.


Thanks. I’m Jewish btw.


I think it would be based on his writings. I don’t think we need to quote them here.


Ups, sorry:o


You’re sorry I’m Jewish??? :wink:


No, probably not, but there would still need to be some sort of standard by which to judge.

Some people think that anyone who opposes the right of the State of Israel to exist is an anti-semite, some think any opposition to Zionism is such. Others think other things.

And truly, sometimes it is real anti-semitism which causes these kinds of views. But not always.

I guess if you want to use a “smell test” that’s fine too but then it becomes very subjective and you haven’t really got the wherewithal to expect other to necessarily agree with you.

Here’s a question, what about people who believe that one cannot be in right standing with God unless he or she trusts solely in the finished work of Jesus for that standing and that therefore Jews who reject Christ as Messiah will not be saved?

Are they anti-semites?

Is this an anti-semitic belief?


I’m getting confused. I thought that the Luthern church had condmened his statements that are in question. As to your question, the answer would be no. Because they are not expressing a hatred or prejudice against Jews.


I’m just trying to get to what you think anti-semitism is.

I’m not leading you anywhere. I honestly want to know what you think it is.


I think we should be careful in judging people of the past under the standards of today. To some extent, everyone is a product of their time. I’ve seen some of Luther’s statements about Jews and they would not be acceptable today. I doubt, however, that the statements were necessarily uncommon during Luther’s time though.


common or uncommon is not the issue. Pre-WWII hatred of jews was often expressed in writings in Vienna. Do we need to look at the time in order to determine if these statements were anti-semitic? If so, then we would have to conclude that anti-semitism did not exist until around 1940.


I can’t speak for Lutherans.

But as a former Lutheran, it was one of the many reasons I left Lutheranism and became Catholic.


No, if they are anti-semitic should be, in most cases, apparent on their face. My point is that sometimes we judge people in the past according to today’s standards and this is often not fair. And it works both ways. Abraham Lincoln is known as being anti-slavery and for being “the Great Emancipator” among other things. Yet, if you read some of his writings, you’d conclude that by today’s standards that the man was a racist. Do we refuse to credit Lincoln for his positive contributions regarding race issues in the US because he was insufficiently “pure” under today’s sensitivities regarding his racial attitudes? Especially, when his attitudes were considered to be progressive in his time? That’s all that I am trying to say. I am not defending Luther for saying things that were clearly anti-semitic, just saying that we need to read those statements in the context and time that they were written.


I agree. They’re nasty. Very nasty.

Please note, even as a Catholic, I think that it is generally agreed by Lutherans that he became rather crotchety in his later life. So, to be fair, I’m not entirely sure that Luther was in full control of his reasoning later in life.

I’ve read some article’s about those who suffered from Alzeimer’s later in life-- and their personalties tended to change for the worse in some way. While I wouldn’t say that Luther suffered from Alzeimer’s per se, it does seem reasonable that in his old age he did lean toward a kind of crotchety senileness (ie., like any other grumpy old man).

So while I don’t think this excuses his words at all, and it might in fact be more to do with his failure to convert the contemporary Jewish people to Christ, it does seem to at least possibly shed some light on his words later in life.

No matter which way you look at them, his words are extremely harsh-- as I’m sure you already know.


If Luther made positive contributions toward tolerance for Judiasm, I’m all ears. Given the context of his statements and the time that they were made, were his attitudes toward Jews progressive during his time?

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