Luther's Attitude Towards Jews

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As a leader of the German Reformation and a vanguard of Protestantism, Luther’s attitude toward Jews is a matter of great concern. Some scholars, including Paul Johnson, an English journalist and famous historian, believes Luther is a brutal anti-Semite. Paul thinks Luther was not content with verbal abuse – “he got Jews expelled from Saxony in 1537, and in the 1540s he drove them from many German towns.”
However, some German theologians believe that Martin Luther does not hate Jews and think that Luther’s attitude toward Jews is a matter of religious discrimination rather than racial discrimination. Roland Bainton, noted American Protestant church historian, writes regarding to On the Jews and Their Lies, Luther’s position was “entirely religious
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Luther states his purpose by pointing out that he should “warn the Christians to be on their guard against [Jews].” He urges Christians to stand up against Jews. In the last part, Luther offers seven draconian proposals on what should be done with the Jews, who do not want to convert to Christianity: their synagogues and schools should be burned; their houses should “also be razed and destroyed”; “their prayer books and Talmudic writings” should be taken from them; their rabbis should “be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb”; “safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews”; “usury be prohibited to them, and all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them”; they should be subjected to harsh labor. Dean Bell also states that Luther’s attitude toward the Jews seemed to become more radical after 1538, and particularly so in his last work, On the Jews and Their Lies. It may sound shocking by Luther’s vulgar blast if this book is only taken into account, and one may think that Luther is a brutal and cruel anti-Jews. However, it is impossible to understand Martin Luther’s position on Jews, without exploring the framework in which he wrote. Bell points out the context including “the historical perceptions of and interactions between Jews and…show more content…
For example, in That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, written in 1523, Luther condemned the inhuman treatment of the Jews, “I hope that if one deal in a kindly way with the Jews and instructs them carefully from Holy Scripture, many of them will become genuine Christians […].” In this, we understand that he is urging Christians to treat them kindly and hoping the Jews can convert to Christianity through the sweetness. The motive of writing this article is to refute Ferdinand's defamation of Protestants in the state government of Nuremberg. Besides, he also wanted to prove that Jews might want to convert to Christianity. Therefore, Luther appealed to the Christian community to preach Jews and thought that the attitude of Christian missionaries toward Jews should be changed so that Jews could trust their sermons. Bainton also considers Luther’s kindness to Jews is only because of Luther’s religious reformation by stating that “Luther was sanguine that his reform, by eliminating the abuses of the papacy, would accomplish the conversion of the
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