Martin Luther & The Jews (pdfs)

Scholars and non-scholars, Jews and Christians, owe a great debt to the work of scholars working in the Lutheran tradition for preserving these texts by Luther that they recognize as odious. Given that they are hard to find in one place, I have assembled at this one place these PDFs and my own annotated digests of writings by Luther about the Jews. Along with a few other items, I am including the main texts: “That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew,” “On the Jews and Their Lies,” and “Vom Schem Hamphoras.”

About the Jews themselves living in his own time, I would only suggest that the temper in Augustine is relatively sedate, even confident. For Luther, Christian contempt against Judaism and Jews bleeds into abject fear. There is the fear of being under the power of Jews who conspire at home and in the synagogue to rob, murder, and otherwise abuse “the goyim.” Attached to this fear is another fear, which is the mortal fear of the devil, sin, judgment, and the power of death. In Luther, anti-Semitism is bound up with the torment of being a Christian.

What is new about the Luther is the apocalyptic animus. Luther writes against the idea of Jewish election and other Jewish “lies” about circumcision, works, Jesus, Mary, God, the Messiah, and the New Testament. Luther promotes the burning down of synagogues, schools and homes, removing protections for Jews on the road, forbidding usury and seizing Jewish money in escrow, putting Jews to hard agricultural work, expelling them from the country.

“Modern” in Luther is the attention to the widening fifteen-hundred-year passage of historical time since the crucifixion of Christ, the public sphere and the private sphere, territory and politics, physiology, and eliminationist solutions to the “misfortune” represented not just by Judaism, but by the Jews themselves. Observed in the scholarly literature is the effect of early modern print media in amping up the scale of anti-Semitic animus. Oberman notes the importance of pamphlets, which were cheap, readable, ideal for informing, alarming and mobilizing the public. Pamphlets focused not on individual sin but the crimes against a society and the enemy within. For more on pamphlets and other printed texts, see this bit here at Marginalia Review of Books. Luther and the Reformation show how, in the modern period, anti-Judaism scales up into anti-Semitism, feeding into the paranoid style in modern Christian apocalypticism. Modern anti-Semitism exemplified by Luther is crude, vulgar, vernacular.  I would stress the terrifying bitterness saturating the literary art of these ugly pages.

Below are links to the primary and secondary source material and digests with my very light annotations in parentheses.

MEDITATION ON PASSION (1519)

Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, edited by Timothy F. Lull, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press), pp.165-172

[Not par for course in anti-Jewish polemics as relating to the Passion of Christ, what we see here is that the problem for Luther about the Jews and their imputed “wickedness” has nothing to do with the crucifixion of Christ. His starting point is Christian sin and the grace of Christ. The opening passage is worth noting.]

#1. Some people meditate on Christ’s passion by venting their anger on the Jews.1 This singing and ranting about wretched Judas  satisfies them, for they are in the habit of complaining about other people, of condemning and reproaching their adversaries. That might well be a meditation on the wickedness of Judas and the Jews, but not on the sufferings of Christ.

#4. They contemplate Christ’s passion aright who view it with a terror-stricken heart and a despairing conscience. This terror must be felt as you witness the stem wrath and the unchanging earnestness with which God looks upon sin and sinners, so much so that he was unwilling to release sinners even for his only and dearest Son  without his payment of the severest penalty for them. Thus he says in Isaiah 53 [ :8], “I have chastised him for the transgressions of my people.” If the dearest child is punished thus, what will be the fate of sinners? It must be an inexpressible and unbearable earnestness that forces such a great and infinite person to suffer and die to appease it. And if you seriously consider that it is God’s very own Son, the eternal wisdom of the Father, who suffers, you will be terrified indeed. The more you think about it, the more intensely will you be frightened.

#5. You must get this thought through your head and not doubt that you are the one who is torturing Christ thus, for your sins have surely wrought this. In Acts 2 [ :36-37] St. Peter frightened the Jews like a peal of thunder when he said to all of them, “You crucified him,” Consequently three thousand alarmed and terrified Jews asked the apostles on that one day, “O dear brethren, what shall we do now?” Therefore, when you see the nails piercing Christ’s hands, you can be certain that it is your work. When you behold his crown of thorns, you may rest assured that these are your evil thoughts, etc.

#8. We must give ourselves wholly to this matter, for the main benefit of Christ’s passion is that man sees into his own true self and that he be terrified and crushed by this. Unless we seek that knowledge, we do not derive much benefit from Christ’s passion. The real and true work of Christ’s passion is to make man conformable to Christ, so that man’s conscience is tormented by his sins in like measure as Christ was pitiably tormented in body and soul by our sins. This does not call for many words but for profound reflection and a great awe of sins. Take this as an illustration: a criminal is sentenced to death for the murder of the child of a prince or a king. In the meantime you go your carefree way, singing and playing, until you are cruelly arrested and convicted of having inspired the murderer. Now the whole world closes in upon you, especially since your conscience also deserts you. You should be terrified even more by the meditation on Christ’s passion. For the evildoers, the Jews, whom God has judged and driven out, were only the servants of your sin; you are actually the one who, as we said, by his sin killed and crucified God’s Son.

THAT JESUS CHRIST WAS BORN A JEW” (1523)

[Translated by Walther I. Brandt. In The Christian in Society II, edited by Walther I. Brandt, 195-230. Vol. 45 of Luther’s Works. Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1962]

[The majority of the text is devoted to exegesis meant to prove the virgin birth, that only faith in a supernatural God born of a woman could allow one hope to crush the head of the devil. The focus is being a good Christian and Christian dominion. While not new in the history of anti-Semitism, we begin to see with Luther about the Jews a discourse of carnality including “flesh and blood” and animals.]

[About popes and bishops and monks and Jews]

Our fools, the popes, bishops, sophists, and monks -the crude asses’ heads-have hitherto so treated the Jews that anyone who wished to be a good Christian would almost have had to become a Jew. If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian. They have dealt with the Jews as if they were dogs rather than human beings; they have done little else than deride them and seize their property

[p.200]

[Jesus was a Jew, their own flesh and blood. The discuourse about Jews has an earthy, physical feel to it]

When we are inclined to boastof our position we should remember that we are but Gentiles, while the Jews are of the lineage of Christ. We are aliens and in-laws; they are blood relatives, cousins, and brothers of our Lord. Therefore, if one is to boast of flesh and blood, the Jews are actually nearer to Christ than we are, as St. Paul says in Romans 9 [:5]. God has also demonstrated this by his acts, for: to no nation among the Gentiles has he granted so high an honor as he has to the Jews. For from among the Gentiles there have been raised up no patriarchs, no apostles, no prophets, indeed, very few genuine Christians either. And although the gospel has been proclaimed to all the world, yet He committed the Holy Scriptures, that is, the law and the prophets, to no nation except the Jews, as Paul says in Romans 3 [:2] and Psalm 147 [:19-20], “He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; nor revealed his ordinances to them.”

[p.201]

[Gentiles love Jesus; so should the Jews]

It is amazing that the Jews are not moved to believe in this Jesus, their own flesh and blood, with whom the prophecies of Scripture actually square so powerfully and exactly, when they see that we Gentiles cling to him so hard and fast and in such numbers that many thousands have shed their blood for his sake. They know perfectly well that the Gentiles have always shown greater hostility toward the Jews than toward any other nation, and have been unwilling to tolerate their dominion, laws, or government. How is it then that the Gentiles should now so reverse themselves as to willingly and steadfastly surrender themselves to this Jew, and with heart and soul confess him king of kings and lord of lords, unless it be that here is the true Messiah to whom God by a great miracle has made the Gentiles friendly and submissive in accordance with this and numerous other prophecies?

[pp.220-21]

[How to wean the Jews with tolerance]

If the Jews should take offense because we confess our Jesus to be a man, and yet true God, we will deal forcefully with that from Scripture in due time. But this is too harsh for a beginning. Let. them first be suckled with milk, and begin by recognizing this man Jesus as the true Messiah; after that they may drink wine, and learn also that he is true God. For they have been led astray so long and so far that one must deal gently with them, as “people who have been all too strongly indoctrinated to believe that God cannot be man. Therefore, I would request and advise that one deal gently with them and instruct them from Scripture; then some of them ‘1llay com~ along. Instead of this we are trying only to drive them by force, slandering them, accusing them of having Christian blood if they don’t stink, and I know not what other foolishness. So long as you thus treat them like dogs, how can we expect to work any good among them? Again, when we forbid them to labor and do business and have any human fellowship with us, thereby forcing them into usury, how is that supposed to do them any good? If we really want to help them, we must be guided in our dealings with them not by papal law but by the law of Christian love. We must receive them cordially, and permit them to trade and work with us, that they may have occasion and opportunity to associate with us, hear our Christian teaching, and witness our Christian life. If some of them should prove stiff-necked, what of it? After all, we ourselves are not all good Christians either.

[p.229]

Martin Luther, Letter to Bernhard, A Converted Jew (1523)

From The Church Comes from All Nations, edited by Volker Stolle [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2003], p. 62.)

[I would note the expression of a genuine kindness]

Now since the golden light of the Gospel rises and shines, the hope is at hand that many of the Jews will be honestly and sincerely converted and drawn in earnestness to Christ, like you and some others have been, who are the remnant of the seed of Abraham, which is supposed to be saved through grace. For the one who has begun it will also lead it to completion and not allow his word to return to him empty. It therefore seemed good to me to send this little book [Luther’s treatise That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew] to you for the strengthening and reinforcement of your faith in Christ, whom you recently learned to know from the Gospel and into whom you now finally also are baptized in the Spirit and are born from God. I also would wish that through your example and your work, Christ might also be made known among other Jews, who were predestined, are called, and shall come to their king David, in order that he might lead and save them, whom our priests and Pharisees in unbelievable madness reject even though they are ordained for this purpose, so that this judgment might come upon them. Conduct yourself well in the Lord and pray for me.

“ON THE JEWS AND THEIR LIES’ (1543)

Translated by Martin H. Bertram. In The Christian in Society IV, edited by Franklin Sherman, 121-306. Vol. 47 of Luther’s Works. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971.

[TIME]

[What separates Luther from Augustine is the passage of time. What separates Luther in his own time from the time of Jesus is the great span of some 1500 years. The keen sense of this is indicated by how often Luther returns to this theme over and over in “On the Jews and Their Lies.” Also relating to time is the eschatological, apocalyptic temper at the time of the Reformation. Heiko Oberman has observed this in his own The Roots of Antisemitism in Renaissance and Reformation, as has Jones and Nestingen. For Luther, the future is almost now, the raging of the devils and the Last Days, and the approach of the Anti-Christ.]

The Jews themselves in their fifteen-hundred-year exile must confess that this message has been preached in all the world before their very ears, that it was assailed by much heresy and yet survived. Therefore God cannot be accused of having done all this secretly or in hiding, or of never having brought it to the attention of the Jews or of any other people. For they have all persecuted it vehemently and vigorously these fifteen hundred years. And yet the blasphemous Jews oppose it so impudently and sneeringly, as though it had just recently been invented by a drunkard who deserves no credence. They feel free to revile and damn it with impunity, and we Christians have to offer them room and place, house and home in the bargain, we have to protect and defend them all so that they can confidently and freely revile and condemn such a word of God. And by way of reward we let them take our money and property through their usury.

No, you vile father of such blasphemous Jews, you hellish devil, these are the facts: God has preached long enough to your children, the Jews, publicly and with miraculous signs throughout the world. He has done so for almost fifteen hundred years now, and still preaches. They were and still are obliged to obey him; but they were hardened and ever resisted, blasphemed, and cursed. Therefore we Christians, in tum, are obliged not to tolerate their wanton and conscious blasphemy. As we heard above, “He who hates the Son also hates the Father” [John 15:23]. For if we permit them to do this where we are sovereign, and protect them to enable them to do so, then we are eternally damned together with them because of their sins and blasphemies, even if we in our persons are as holy as the prophets, apostles, or angels. Quia faciens et consentiens pari poena [“Doing and consenting deserve equal punishment”].

Whether doer, adviser, accomplice, consenter, or concealer -one is as pious as the other. It does not help us (and the Jews still less) that the Jews refuse to acknowledge this. As has already been said, we Christians know it, and the Jews ought to know it, having heard it together with us for almost fifteen hundred years, having beheld all sorts of miracles and having heard how this doctrine has survived, by nothing but divine strength, against all devils and the whole world.

[pp.284-5]

[POLITICS AND THE PUBLIC GOOD]

[Anti-Semitism is political. It now matters to the public what the Jews do in private. Throughout “On the Jews and their Lies,” there are allusions to their writings, especially to prayers in the synagogue. The synagogue is not incidental to what concerns Luther, which is the public good. “On the Jews and their Lies” was addressed to princes and nobles with Jews in their domain. Luther wants them not to tolerate their blaspheming and murderous plotting. Luther recommends a “sharp mercy.” This is the upshot. Jews should not be allowed to do what they do and say what they say in public. But what they do in private and in secret is even worse. Jews want to murder and rob and dominate Christians, lying about God and the Messiah and their own election. To tolerate their presence would be to participate in their abominations.]

This is certain, borne out by such an enduring and impressive testimony in all the world, that “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father,” and that he who does not have the Son cannot have the Father. The Jews ever blaspheme and curse God the Father, the Creator of us all, just by blaspheming and cursing his Son, Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s Son, whom God has proclaimed as his Son for fifteen hundred years in all the world by preaching and miraculous signs against the might and the trickery of all devils and men; and he will proclaim him as such until the end of the world. They dub him Hebel Vorik, that is, not merely a liar and deceiver, but lying and deception itself, viler even than the devil. We Christians must not tolerate that they practice this in their public synagogues, in their books, and in their behavior, openly under our noses, and within our hearing, in our own country, houses, and regimes. If we do, we together with the Jews and on their account will lose God the Father and his dear Son, who purchased us at such cost with his holy blood, and we will be eternally lost, which God forbid!

[p.285]

TERRITORY

[Jews occupy political domain, not a spiritual-symbolic one. Wanting to clear the Christian conscience, Luther wants to put the Christian lands in the good grace of God before the judgment of God. Luther wants to build a new people and a new Jerusalem, which is impossible while tolerating lies about God and Jesus and Mary. Luther was a “Zionist.” The Jews should go back to their own land and country.]

Now behold what a fine, thick, fat lie they pronounce when they say that they are held captive by us. Jerusalem was destroyed over fourteen hundred years ago, and at that time we Christians were harassed and persecuted by the Jews throughout the world for about three hundred years, as we said earlier. We might well complain that during that time they held us Christians captive and ki1Ied us, which is the plain truth. Furthermore, we do not know to the present day which devil brought them into our country. We surely did not bring them from Jerusalem.

In addition, no one is holding them here now. The country ~dsxx the roads are open for them to proceed to their land whenever they wish. If they did so, we would be glad to present gifts to them on the occasion; it would be good riddance. For they are a heavy burden, a plague, a pestilence, a sheer misfortune for our country. Proof for this is found in the fact that they have often been expt1lled forcibly from a country, far from being held captive in it. Thus they were banished from France (which they call Tsorfath, from Obadiah [20]), which was an especially fine nest. Very recently they were banished by our dear Emperor Charles from Spain, the very best nest of all (which they called Sefarad, also on the basis of Obadiah). This year they were expelled from the entire Bohemian crownland, where they had one of the best nests, in Prague. Likewise, during my lifetime they have been driven from Regensburg, Magdeburg, and other places.

[pp.265-6]

[…]

They could not have enjoyed such good times in Jerusalem under David and Solomon with their own possessions as they now do with ours, which they daily steal and rob. And yet they wail that we have taken them captive. Indeed, we have captured them and hold them in captivity just as I hold captive my gallstone, my bloody tumor, and all the other ailments and misfortunes which I have to nurse and take care of with money and goods and all that I have. Alas, I wish that they were in Jerusalem with the Jews and whomever else they would like to have there.

[p.266]

[I WOULD RATHER BE A PIG THAN (BE JEWISH)]

[In this text, the mocking figure of the pig associated with Jews and Jewish belief about the messiah is a piteous one]

Finally I wish to say this for myself: If God were to give me no other Messiah than such as the Jews wish and hope for, I would much, much rather be a sow than a human being. I will cite you a good reason for this. The Jews ask no more of their Messiah and that he be a Kokhba and worldly king who will slay us Christians and share out the world among the Jews and make them lords, and who finally will die like other kings, and his children after him. For thus declares a rabbi: You must not suppose that it will be different at the time of the Messiah than it has been since the creation of the world, etc.; that is, there will be days and nights, years and months, summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, begetting and dying, eating and drinking, sleeping, growing, digesting, eliminating –all will take its course as itdoes now, only the Jews will be the masters and will possess all the world’s gold, goods, joys, and delights, while we Christians will be their servants. This coincides entirely with the thoughts and teachings of Muhammad. He kills us Christians as the Jews would like to do, occupies the land, and takes over our property, ourjoys and pleasures. If he were a Jew and not an Ishmaelite, the Jews would have accepted him as the Messiah long ago, or they would have made him the Kokhba.

Even if I had all of that, or if I could become the ruler of Turkey or the Messiah for whom the Jews hope, I would still prefer being a sow. For what would all of this benefit me if I could not be secure in its possession for a single hour? Death, that horrible burden and plague of all mankind, would still threaten me. I would not be safe from him; I would have to fear him every moment. I would still have to quake and tremble before hell and the wrath of God. And I would know no end of all this, but would have to expect it forever. The tyrant Dionysius illustrated this well when he placed a person who praised his good fortune at the head of a richly laden table. Over his head he suspended an unsheathed sword attached to a silk thread, and below him he put a red-hot fire, saying: Eat and be merry, etc. That is the sort of joy such a Messiah would dispense. And I know that anyone who has ever tasted of death’s terror or burden would rather be a sow than bear this forever and ever.

For a sow lies down on her featherbed, on the street, or on a dung-heap; she rests securely, snores gently, sleeps sweetly, fears neither king nor Lord, neither death nor hell, neither the devil nor God’s wrath, and lives entirely without care so long as she has her bran. And if the emperor of Turkey were to draw near with all his might and his wrath, she in her pride would not move a bristle for his sake. If someone were to rouse her, she, I suppose, would grunt and say if she could talk: You fool, why are you raving? You are not one tenth as well off as I am. Not for an hour do you live as securely, as peacefully and tranquilly as I do constantly, nor would you even if you were ten times as great or rich. In brief, no thought of death occurs to her, for her life is secure and serene.

And if the butcher performs his job with her, she probably imagines that a stone or piece of wood is pinching her. She never thinks of death, and in a moment she is dead. Neither before, during, or in death did she feel death. She feels nothing but life, nothing but everlasting life! No king, not even the Jews Messiah, will be able to emulate her, nor will any person, however great, rich, holy, or mighty he might be. She never ate of the apple which taught us wretched men in Paradise the difference between good and evil.

What good would the Jews’ Messiah do me if he were unable to help a poor man like me in face of this great and horrible lack and grief and make my life one-tenth as pleasant as that of a sow? I would say: Dear Lord God, keep your Messiah, or give him to whoever will have him. Instead, make me a sow. For it is better to be a live sow than a man who is eternally dying. Yea, as Christ says: “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” [Matt. 26:24].

However, if I had a Messiah who could remedy this grief, so that I would no longer have to fear death but would be always and eternally sure of life, and able to play a trick on the devil and death and no longer have to tremble before the wrath of God,_ then my heart would leap for joy and be intoxicated with sheer delight; then would a fire of love for God be enkindled, and my praise and thanks would never cease. Even if he would not, in addition, give me gold, silver, and other riches, all the world would nonetheless be a genuine paradise for me, though I lived in a dungeon.

[pp.292-4]

[ENGRAINED ENMITY]

[Luther maintains that the hatred of the Jews for Christians is so deeply engrained and immutable as to have penetrated into flesh and blood. Luther trades freely in the infamous blood libel and other conspiracies.]

From their youth they have imbibed such venomous hatred against the Goyim from their parents and their rabbis, and they still continuously drink it. As Psalm 109 [:18] declares, it has penetrated flesh and blood, marrow and bone, and has become part and parcel of their nature and their life. And as little as they can change flesh and blood, marrow and bone, so little can they change such pride and envy. They must remain thus and perish, unless God performs extraordinarily great miracles. If I wished to vex and anger a Jew severely, I would say: “Listen, Jehudi, do you realize that I am a real brother of all the holy children of Israel and a coheir in the kingdom of the true Messiah?” Without doubt, I would meet with a nasty rebuff. If he could stare at me with the eyes of a basilisk, he would surely do it. And all the devils could not execute the evil he would wish me, even if God were to give them leave-of that I am certain. However, I shall refrain from doing this, and I ask also that no one else do so, for Christ’s sake. For the Jews’ heart and mouth would overflow with a cloudburst of cursing and blaspheming of the name of Jesus Christ and of God the Father. We must conduct ourselves well and not give them cause for this if we can avoid it, just as I must not provoke a madman if I know that he willcurse and blaspheme God. Quite apart from this, the Jews hear and see enough in us for which they ever blaspheme and curse the name of Jesus in their hearts; for they really are possessed.

Aswe have already said, they cannot endure to hear or to see that we accursed Goyim should glory in the Messiah as our chemdath, and that we are as good as they are or as they think they are. Therefore, dear Christian, be advised and do not doubt that next to the devil, you have no more bitter, venomous, and vehement foe than a real Jew who earnestly seeks to be a Jew. There may perhaps be some among them who believe what a cow or goose believes, but their lineage and circumcision infect them all. Therefore the history books often accuse them of contaminating wells, of kidnaping and piercing children, as for example at Trent, Weissensee, etc. They, of course, deny this. Whether it is true or not, I do know that they do not lack the complete, full, and ready will to do such things -either secretly or openly where possible. This you can assuredly expect from them, and you must govern yourself accordingly.

If they do perform some good deed, you may rest assured that they are not prompted by love, nor is it done with your benefit in mind. Since they are compelled to live among us, they do this for reasons of expediency; but their heart remains and is as I have described it. If you do not want to believe me, read Lyra, Burgensis, and other truthful and honest men. And even if they had not recorded it, you would find that Scripture tells of the two seeds, the serpent’s and the woman’s. It says that these are enemies, and that God and the devil are at variance with each other. Their own writings and prayer books also state this plainly enough.

[pp. 216-17]

[LUTHER’S ADVICE ABOUT WHAT TO DO TO THE JEWS]

[In his commentary to Psalms 59, Augustine formulation, “Slay them not,” invoked the example of the Jews and Jewish misery as proof of Christianity. The Jews, or Jewish life, were to be both despised and tolerated on that basis. About their conversion at the end of days, Augustine expressed some confidence. Luther effectively revokes that “tolerance” in this, the most infamous passage in “On the Jews and Their Lies.” The list of proscriptions appears twice, once addressed to civil leaders and then to religious leaders. I am including the first one. Note here how these pages are closely followed by a direct appeal to secular and then an appeal to church leaders, included below.]

There is no other explanation for this than the one cited earlier from Moses-namely, that God has struck them with “madness and blindness and confusion of mind.” So we are even at fault in not avenging all this innocent blood of our Lord and of the Christians which they shed for three hundred years after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the blood of the children they have shed since then (which still shines forth from their eyes and their skin). We are at fault in not slaying them. Rather we allow them to live freely in our midst despite all their murdering, cursing, blaspheming, lying, and defaming; we protect and shield their synagogues, houses, life, andproperty. In this way we make them lazy and secure and encourage them to fleece us boldly of our money and goods, as well as to mock and deride us, with a view to finally overcoming us, killing us all for such a great sin, and robbing us of all our property (as they daily pray and hope). Now tell me whether they do not have every reason to be the enemies of us accursed Goyim, to curse us and to strive for our final, complete, and eternal ruin!

From all of this we Christians see –for the Jews cannot see what terrible wrath of God these people have incurred and still incur without ceasing, what a fire is gleaming and glowing there, and what they achieve who curse and detest Christ and his Christians. 0 dear Christians, let us take this horrible example to heart, as St. Paul says in Romans 11, and fear God lest we also finally fall victim to such wrath, and even worse! Rather, as we said also, earlier let us honor his divine word and not neglect the time of grace, as Muhammad and the pope have already neglected it, becoming not much better than the Jews.

What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing, and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves. Vengeance a thousand times worse than we could wish them already has them by the throat. I shall give you my sincere advice:

First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not bum, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly –and I myself was unaware of it– will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.

In Deuteronomy 13 [:12 ff]Moses writes that any city that is given to idolatry shall be totally destroyed by fire, and nothing of it shall be preserved. If he were alive today, he would be the first to set fire to the synagogues and houses of the Jews. For in Deuteronomy 4 [:2] and 12 [:32] he commanded very explicitly that nothing is to be added to or subtracted from his law. And Samuel says in I Samuel 15 [:23] that disobedience to God is idolatry. Now the Jews’ doctrine at present is nothing but the additions of the rabbis and the idolatry of disobedience, so that Moses has become entirely unknown among them (as we said before), just as the Bible became unknown under the papacy in our day. So also, for Moses’ sake, their schools cannot be tolerated; they defame him just as much as they do us. It is not necessary thatthey have their own free churches for such idolatry.

Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them the fact that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.

Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. For they have justly forfeited the right to such an office by holding the poor Jews captive with the saying of Moses (Deuteronomy 17 [:10 H.]) in which he commands them to obey their teachers on penalty of death, although Moses clearly adds: “what they teach you in accord with the law of the Lord.” Those villains ignore that. They wantonly employ the poor people’s obedience contrary to the law of the Lord and infuse them with this poison, cursing, and blasphemy. In the same way the pope also held us captive with the declaration in Matthew 16{:18], “You are Peter,” etc., inducing us to believe all the lies and deceptions that issued from his devilish mind. He did not teach in accord with the word of God, and therefore he forfeited the right to teach.

Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let them stay at home. I have heard it said that a rich Jew is now traveling across the country with twelve horses –his ambition is to become a Kokhba–devouring princes, lords, lands, and people with his usury, so that the great lords view it with jealous eyes. If you great lords and princes will not forbid such usurers the highway legally, some day a troop may gather against them, having learned from this booklet the true nature of the Jews and how one should deal with them and not protect their activities. For you, too, must not and cannot protect them unless you wish to become participants in all their abominations in the sight of God. consider carefully what good could come from this, and prevent it.

Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God’s blessing in a good and worthy cause

[…]

Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen. 3 [:19]). For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.

But if we are afraid that they might harm us or our wives, children, servants, cattle, etc., if they had to serve and work for us –for it is reasonable to assume that such noble lords of the world and venomous, bitter worms are not accustomed to working and would be very reluctant to humble themselves so deeply before the accursed Goyim-then let us emulate the common sense of other nations such as France, Spain, Bohemia, etc., compute with them how much their usury has extorted from us, divide this amicably, but then eject them forever from the country. For, as we have heard, God’s anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy well only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them! 

[pp.267-272]

[ADDRESS TO SECULAR LEADERS]

I hear it said that the Jews donate large sums of money and thus prove beneficial to governments. Yes, but where does this money come from? Not from their own possessions but from that of the lords and subjects whom they plunder and rob by means of usury. Thus the lords are taking from their subjects what they receive from the Jews, i.e., the subjects are obliged to pay additional taxes and let themselves be ground into the dust for the Jews, so that they may remain in the country, lie boldly and freely, blaspheme, curse, and steal. Shouldn’t the impious Jews laugh up their sleeves because we let them make such fools of us and because we spend our money to enable them to remain in the country and to practice every malice? Over and above that we let them get rich on our sweat and blood, while we remain poor and they suck the marrow from our bones. If it is right for a servant to give his master or for a guest to give his host ten florins annually and, in return, to steal one thousand Horins from him, then the servant or the guest will very quickly and easily get rich and the master or the host will soon become a beggar.

And even if the Jews could give the government such sums of money from their own property, which is not possible, and thereby buy protection from us, and the privilege publicly and freely to slander, blaspheme, vilify, and curse our Lord Jesus Christ so shamefully in their synagogues, and in addition to wish us every misfortune, namely, that we might all be stabbed to death and perish with our Haman, emperor, princes, lords, wife, and children-this would really be selling Christ our Lord, the whole of Christendom together with the whole empire, and ourselves, with wife and children, cheaply and shamefully. What a great saint the traitor Judas would be in comparison with us! Indeed, if each Jew, as many as there are of them, could give one hundred thousand florins annually, we should nevertheless not yield them for this the right so freely to malign, curse, defame, impoverish by usury a single Christian. That would still be far too cheap a price. How much more intolerable is it that we permit the Jews to purchase with our money such license to slander and curse the whole Christ and all of us and, furthermore, reward them for this with riches and make them our lords, while they ridicule us and gloating their malice. That would prove a delightful spectacle for the devil and his angels, over which they could secretly grin like a sow grins at her litter, but which would indeed merit God’s great wrath.

In brief, dear princes and lords, those of you who have Jews under your rule-if my counsel does not please you, find better advice, so that you and we all can be rid of the un bearab1e, devilish burden of the Jews, lest we become guilty sharers before God in the lies, the blasphemy, the defamation, and the curses which the mad Jews indulge in so freely and wantonly against the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, his dear mother, all Christians, all authority, and ourselves. Do not grant them protection, safe-conduct, or communion with us. Do not aid and abet them in acquiring your money or your subjects’ money and property by means of usury. We have enough sin of our own without this, dating back to the papacy, and we add to it daily with our ingratitude and our contempt of God’s word and all his grace; so it is not necessary to burden ourselves also with these alien, shameful vices of the Jews and, over and above it all, to pay them for it with money and property. Let us consider that we are now daily struggling with the Turks, which surely calls for a lessening of our sins and a reformation of our life. With this faithful counsel and warning I wish to cleanse and exonerate my conscience.

[pp.272-74]

[ADDRESS TO PASTORS AND PREACHERS]

And you, my dear gentlemen and friends who are pastors and preachers, I wish to remind very faithfully of your official duty, so that you too may warn your parishioners concerning their eternal harm, as you know how to do-namely, that they be on their guard against the Jews and avoid them so far as possible. They should not curse them or harm their persons, however. For the Jews have cursed and harmed themselves more than enough by cursing the Man Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s son, which they unfortunately have been doing for over fourteen hundred years. Let the government deal with them in this respect, as I have suggested. But whether the government acts or not, let everyone at least be guided by his own conscience and form for himself a definition or image of a Jew.

When you lay eyes on or think of a Jew you must say to yourself: Alas, that mouth which I there behold has cursed and execrated and maligned every Saturday my dear Lord Jesus Christ, who has redeemed me with his precious blood; in addition, it prayed and pleaded before God that I, my wife and children, and all Christians might be stabbed to death and perish miserably. And he himself would gladly do this if he were able, in order to appropriate our goods. Perhaps he has spat on the ground many times this very day over the name of Jesus, as is their custom, so that the spittle still clings to his mouth and beard, if he had a chance to spit. If I were to eat, drink, or talk with such a devilish mouth, I would eat or drink myself full of devils by the dish or cupful, just as I surely make myself a cohort of all the devils that dwell in the Jews and that deride the precious blood of Christ. May God preserve me from this!

We cannot help it that they do not share our belief. It is impossible to force anyone to believe. However, we must avoid confirming them in their wanton lying, slandering, cursing, and defaming. Nor dare we make ourselves partners in their devilish ranting and raving by shielding and protecting them, by giving them food, drink, and shelter, or by other neighborly acts, especially since they boast so proudly and despicably when we do help and serve them that God has ordained them as lords and us as servants. For instance, when a Christian kindles their fire for them on a Sabbath, or cooks for them in an inn whatever they want, they curse and defame and revile us for it, supposing this to be something praiseworthy, and yet they live on our wealth, which they have stolen from us. Such a desperate, thoroughly evil, poisonous, and devilish lot are these Jews, who for these fourteen hundred years have been and still are our plague, our pestilence, and our misfortune.

Especially you pastors who have Jews living in your midst, persist in reminding your lords and rulers to be mindful of their office and of their obligation before God to force the Jews to work, to forbid usury, and tocheck their blasphemy and cursing. For if they punish thievery, robbery, murder, blasphemy, and other vices among us Christians, why should the devilish Jews be scot-free to commit their crimes among us and against us? We suffer more from them than the Italians do from the Spaniards, who plunder the host’s kitchen, cellar, chest, and purse, and, in addition, curse him and threaten him with death. Thus the Jews, our guests, also treat us; forwe are their hosts. They rob and fleece us and hang about our necks, these lazy weaklings and indolent bellies; they swill and feast, enjoy good times in our homes, and by way of reward they curse our Lord Christ, our churches, our princes, and all of us, threatening us and unceasingly wishing us death and evil. Just ponder this: How does it happen that we poor Christians nourish and enrich such an idle and lazy people, such a useless, evil, pernicious people, such blasphemous enemies of God, receiving nothing in return but their curses and defamation and every misfortune they may inflict on us or wish us? Indeed, we are as blind and unfeeling clods in this respect as are the Jews in their unbelief, to suffer such great tyranny from these vicious weaklings, and not perceive and sense that they are our lords, yes, our mad tyrants, and that we are their captives and subjects. Meanwhile they wail that they are our captives, and at the same time mock us –as though we had to take this from them!

But if the authorities are reluctant to use force and restrain the Jews’ devilish wantonness, the latter should, as we said, be expelled from the country and be told to return to their land and their possessions in Jerusalem, where they may lie, curse, blaspheme, defame, murder, steal, rob, practice usury, mock, and indulge in all those infamous abominations which they practice among us and leave us our government, our country, our life, and our property much more leave our Lord the Messiah, our faith, and our church undefiled and uncontaminated with their devilish tyranny and malice. Any privileges that they may plead shall not help them; for no one can grant privileges for practicing such abominations. These cancel and abrogate all privileges.

If you pastors and preachers have followed my example and have faithfully issued such warnings, but neither prince nor subject will do anything about it, let us follow the advice of Christ (Matthew 10 (:14)) and shake the dust from our shoes, and say, “We are innocent of your blood.” For I observe and have often experienced how indulgent the perverted world is when it should be strict, and, conversely, how harsh it is when it should be merciful. Such was the case with King Ahab, as we find recorded in I Kings 20. That is the way the prince of this world reigns. I suppose that the princes will now wish to show mercy to the Jews, the bloodthirsty foes of our Christian and human name, in order to earn heaven thereby. But that the Jews enmesh us, harass us, torment and distress us poor Christians in every way with the abovementioned devilish and detestable deeds, this they want us to tolerate, and this is a good Christian deed-especially if there is any money involved (which they have filched and stolen from us).

What are we poor preachers to do meanwhile? In the first place, we will believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is truthful when he declares of the Jews who did not accept but crucified him, “You are a brood of vipers and children of the devil” [cf. Matt. 1:2-34]. This is a judgment in which his forerunner John the Baptist concurred, although these people were bis kin. Now our authorities and all such merciful saints as wish the Jews well will at least have to let us believe our Lord Jesus Christ, who, I am sure, has a more intimate knowledge of all hearts than do those compassionate saints. He knows that these Jews are a brood of vipers and children of the devil, that is, people who will accord us the same benefits as does their father, the devil –and by now we Christians should have learned from Scripture as well as experience just how much he wishes us well.

[pp.274-7]

[NEW JERUSALEM]

[Christians are wrong, deluded to think that Christianity does not require the sword and worldly power. Luther now says that biblical prophets seduce with this false claim (“sword to plowshare,” etc). Luther calls this a “sorcery” practiced on “us stupid goyim.” But then Luther suggests that Christianity was spread without and against violence, just by preaching. Luther concludes with invoking a “new Jerusalem” and a “new people,” now righteous and forgiven of sin, etc. In the last sentence, there is only a mere scintilla of hope as to converting blind, devilish Jews.]

Rather the Messiah would bring eternal righteousness, make misdeeds of no effect, check transgressions, atone for sin, fulfill prophecies and visions, etc. Where sin has been forever removed and eternal righteousness is found, there sacrifice for sin or for righteousness is no longer required. Why should one sacrifice forsin if it no longer exists? Why should one seek righteousness by service to God if this righteousness is already at hand? But if sacrifice and worship are no longer necessary, of what use are priests and temple? If priests and temple are no longer necessary, why a people and a city who are served by them? It must develop into a new people and city which no longer needs such priests, temple, sacrifice, and worship, or it must be laid low and destroyed together with the useless temple and worship, priests and sacri:6ce. For the seventy weeks pronounce the final judgment and put an end to them together with city and temple, priests, sacrifice, and worship.

The Christian church, composed of Jews and Gentiles, is such a new people and a new Jerusalem. This people knows that sin has been removed entirely by Jesus Christ, that all prophecy has been fulfilled, and eternal righteousness established. For he who believes in him is eternally righteous, and all his sins are forever made of no effect, they are atoned for and forgiven, as the New Testament, especially St. Peter and St. Paul, strongly emphasizes. We no longer hear it said: Whoever offers guilt-offerings or sin-offerings or other offerings in Jerusalem becomes righteous or has atoned for his sin; but now we hear: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” [Mark16:16], no matter where in the wide world he may be. He need not travel to Jerusalem; no, Jerusalem has to come to him.

[…]

So also we read in Isaiah 33 [cf. v. 24]: “The people who will dwell in the new Jerusalem will be called N esu awon, levatus peccato: a people forgiven of all sin.” And Jeremia 32 also promises another, a new, covenant in which not Moses with his covenant shall reign, but rather, as he says: “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” [Jer. 31:34]. This is, indeed, a covenant of grace, of forgiveness, of remission of all sins eternally.

[pp.303-4]

[CONCLUDING]

So long an essay, dear sir and good friend, you have elicited from me with your booklet in which a Jew demonstrates his skill in a debate with an absent Christian. He would not, thank God, do this in my presence! My essay, I hope, will furnish a Christian (who in any case has no desire to become a Jew) with enough material not only to defend himself against the blind, venomous Jews, but also to become the foe of the Jews’ malice, lying, and cursing, and to understand not only that their belief is false but that they are surely possessed by all devils. May Christ, our dear Lord, convert them mercifully and preserve us steadfastly and immovably in the knowledge of him, which is eternal life. Amen.

[pp. 305-6]

“VOM SCHEM HAMPHORAS” (1543)

[Edited and translated by Gerhard Falk in The Jew in Christian Theology, (Jefferson: McFarland & Co., 1992)]

[In his introduction, Gerhard Falk notes the confused and ungrammatical character of Luther’s German. “Thus anything went,” the mixing of tenses and lurching from thought to thought, without consistent punctuation and spelling (p.163). It is as if the thoughts were spit out. This rambling Christian apologetic (concerning the lineage of Jesus and the virgin birth) combined with caustic lampooning of Jewish letter mysticism and Jewish powerlessness was written in 1543. I am ignoring the former and highlighting the latter. Contents are identified by section heads]

WHAT IS A JEW

[With no hope at all in converting the Jews, who are aligned with sin, death, Hell, and the Devil, the threat of anti-Jewish violence and death hangs over these opening lines to the essay]

#1. In the last pamphlet [Of the Jews and Their Lies] I have announced that I will henceforth ignore what the ferocious, miserable Jews lie about their Shem Hamphoras’ as described by Purchetus in his book called Victoria. This I have done herewith, in honor of our belief, and in opposition to the  devilish lies of the Jews so that those who want to become Jews will see what kind of “fine” dogmas they must believe and keep among the damned Jews.

For as I plainly stipulated in that pamphlet, it is not my opinion that I can write gainst the Jews in the hope of converting them. That is why I did not call that pamphlet Against the Jews, but Against the Jews and Their Lies, so that we Germans may know from historical evidence what a Jew is so that we can warn our Christians against them as we warn against the Devil himself in order to strengthen and honor our belief; not to convert the Jews which is about as possible as converting the Devil.

#2. For just, as we must teach and write concerning the Devil, Hell, Death and Sin; what they are and what they can be, so I also write about the Jews so that we can guard against all of these. Not that we can make an angel out of the Devil or a heaven out of Hell or Life from Death or Holiness from Sin. All that is impossible. A Jew or a Jewish heart is as hard as stone and iron and cannot be moved by any means. Even if Moses and all the Prophets came and did all their wondrous works in front of their eyes as did Christ and his apostles, so that they would quit their unreason, it would still be useless. Even if they were punished in the most gruesome manner that the streets ran with blood, that their dead would be counted, not in the hundred thousands but in the millions, as happened under Vespasian in Jerusalem and for evil under Hadrian, still they must insist on being right even if after these 1,500 years they were in misery another 1,500 years. Still God must be a liar and they must be correct. In sum, they are the devil’s children damned to hell; if however, something human still remains in them, for him this essay may be of use and come to some good.Some, so inclined, may still hope for that whole gang as they wish. I have no hope there anymore and know of no writings concerning such hope. We cannot even convert the majority of Christians and have to be satisfied with a small number; it is therefore even less possible to convert these children of the devil! Although there are many who derive the crazy notion from the 11th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans that all Jews must be converted, this is not so. St. Paul meant something quite different.

[ENEMIES OF CHRIST’S WONDERS]

[Scholars will note the reference in the opening sections to the Hebrew anti-Christian polemic Toledot Yeshu, reference to which reflects the work of Christian Hebraists at the time of the Reformation. At issue here is the legend of Jesus at the time of Helen the Queen finding in the Temple the stone upon which the ark of God once rested a. Written on the stone was the holy and magical name of God, Tetragrammaton, the “schem ha’mephoras” in Luther’s lampoon. For Luther, this legend is one of the “fine dogmas of the Jewish belief, and the various absurdities that a Christian who wants to become a Jew must believe. {section 21}.]

#1. We will now see how the Jews were always such enemies of Christ’s wonders that they attributed them to Beelzebub, the lord of the devils. For he (Christ) did do so many wondrous works as no one else has ever done as he himself says in John 15. It has also never been claimed that anyone else in his Name made the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dumb speak as Isaiah prophesied in verse 35, 4.5 .: ” God, the Rewarder, will come and help you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf will be opened, the lame will jump like a deer and the tongue of the dumb will say praises.”

#2. Over and above these many wondrous signs he did many more, woke up the dead, cleaned the leprous, and healed many others among the sick and did so many other signs that no one, except God, could have done them; yet, the meanness of the Jews, always associated with evil tricks, had the nerve to blaspheme and shame these miracles with lies. They have composed a book against Christians in which they write the following lies […]

LETTER MAGIC

#34. Now let’s take a look at the delicate fruits, the circumcised holy men. They attribute such divine works and miracles to the Shem Hamphoras, that is the empty dead, miserable letters, written in a book with ink, or hovering on the tongue or in the heart so that even the godless are carried along. Let the Shem Hamphoras be what it may; they are, and cannot be anything but, single, dead, powerless letters, although the Jews act as though it were the same as God’s Holy Scriptures of which they prattle a lot although they don’t know what they are talking about. What can letters accomplish as letters from their own power if nothing else is added? What do they, those letters, help the devils, Turks, Jews and all the godless who misuse God’s name incessantly and violate the commandment. After all, Satan and all godless names and works are also cast in holy letters.

#35. But the mad Jews give the Shem Hamphoras the divine power, as the only, sole letter, without any promise or commandment from God. For they all say that even the godless and seducers can do many miracles and divine works through these letters. Where are they now, the circumcised holy men who pride themselves as against us Christians, that they alone are the ones who honor the single right God since the damned Nazarenes pray to three gods?

Here they give divine power and honor the bare, single, dead letters in the Shem Hamphoras to such an extent that even the godless and the deceivers of God’s majesty can do works of their own against God’s will and prohibition (in the Ten Commandments). Indeed those are holy children of God who placed so many gods over their own God as there are letters in the Shem Hamphoras. It is said that there are of them as will follow; that is, they pray to 216 thousand devils and not the right God whom they insult so and whose divine honor they steal with the Shem Hamphoras; they are the same ones who appropriate the miserable letter.

#64. On the other hand, we see how the mad, senseless fools wanted to cast spells on the angels and to enslave them with mere letters, and set themselves above God, so that the angels would have to do what they want. That’s them, the holiest of the holy, who pray alone to one God. For praying to one God means among them to name one Goel with their big mouth, to exhibit oneself before one God by kneeling and bowing down, but to pray with their hearts to thousands of lies and devils for that upon which one’s heart can rely and confide, that is, one’s God; as we, the Christians, the mad, damnable Goyim say, that when the mouth keeps quiet, and the knees do not bend, nevertheless, because the heart bends without cessation, that is, his trust, comfort and reliance rests on the unified God, that is how truly and justly we pray to the unified God.

#65. But that is nothing but foolishness among these circumcised holy ones who can sometimes name one God (that suffices) while at the same time making gods and angels from letters as they please, and in whom they do not trust alone (which we the mad Goyim call worship) but also bewitch for any purpose they want. A goy ought to want to become a Jew, since they have such power that one can make Gods and angels according to our own desires, while we damnable goyim can do nothing more than believe that the only God has made us all, and that the angels govern us, and not we the angels. In sum, a Jew is so full of superstition and magic as nine cows have hair, that is, untold and infinite, like the devil their God, full of lies.

[JEWISH MAGIC FAILS]

[Touching in a particularly malicious way upon the historical experience of Jewish powerlessness]

#55. How is it possible, that during fifteen hundred years of misery they did not use the art and power of the Shem Hamphoras, but, oddly, as they were destroyed by the Romans through Vespasian (for then it was time to do wonders) and later when they were slaughtered and dispersed with their Messiah Kochab? The answer of the rabbis is that they were not pious enough, that they are homeless and in God’s disfavor, and that after such a long time the power of the seventy two angels has been forgotten. But how is that possible? Are they not forever the noble blood and circumcised saints, God’s personal people before all the world, the dearest children of Israel who do not pray to more than one God? Such as these cannot be in disfavor (unless scripture is wrong) as the damnable goyim who pray to more than one God and consider Jesus the Nazarene as the messiah. They ought to be in disfavor so that no Shem Hamphoras can help them.

[THE JUDENSAU OR ”JEWS-PIG”]

[In “On the Jews and Their Lies,” Luther wrote that he would rather be a pig than be a Jew and believe in the Jewish messiah. In this text, the Jews themselves, in particular the Jewish learning of the rabbis and their students, are compared to pigs. This section is in response to the question raised in the previous section, #58. “Whence do the Jews have this high knowledge…” Luther compares Jewish learning to the fine art of looking up the anus of a pig. In the sections to follow, which, for the sake of brevity I am not including in full, the Jews are again referred to as mad, foolish, and devilish, etc.. Luther will return to this motif in sections #111, and #113 cited below.]

#59. Well, now, I don’t know in detail where they got it from, but I can guess approximately. Here at Wittenberg, in our parish church, there is a sow carved in the stone under which lie young pigs and Jews who are sucking; behind the sow stands a rabbi who is lifting up the right leg of the sow, raises the behind of the sow, bows down and looks with great effort into the Talmud ” under the sow, as if he wanted to read and see something most difficult and exceptional; no doubt they gained their Shem Hamphoras from that place. For in earlier years there were many Jews in this area, as proved by the Hebrew names of country towns, villages, as well as citizens and farmers which exist even today, so that even a learned and honest man who was an enemy of the nasty lies of the Jews would have torn down such a picture. For among the Germans it is said of someone who pretends to great wisdom without good cause: “Where did he read that? On the behind of the sow [crudely expressed].”

[MAGIC WITCHRAFT, IDOLATRY]

[Concerning good Christians attracted to the so-called power of Jewish magic.]

#63. They even say that whoever knows the strength and virtue of the seventy two angels can force them through Shorn Haperes to prove their power. First, and in that they are right, whoever knows the source of the power of the seventy-two angels can do all miracles through that; true as that may be, whoever has a jackass which brings forth gold can have Gulden” but where is there such a jackass? In cuckoo land. Therefore the seventy-two angels of the Jews are also in cuckoo land,were never created, will never be created; that is why they rightly say that whoever knows the power of these angels will do miracles, as many and wherever he wants. We will therefore see that by means of such angels’ power they will cajole God for their messiah whether he wants it or not and win Jerusalem; how can it fail?

#64. On the other hand, we see how the mad, senseless fools wanted to castspells on the angels and to enslave them with mere letters, and set themselves above God, so that the angels would have to do what they want. That’s them, the holiest of the holy, who pray alone to one God. For praying to one God means among them to name one Goel with their big mouth, to exhibit oneself before one God by kneeling and bowing down, but to pray with their hearts to thousands of lies and devils for that upon which one’s heart can rely and confide, that is, one’s God; as we, the Christians, the mad, damnable Goyim say, that when the mouth keeps quiet, and the knees do not bend, nevertheless, because the heart bends without cessation, that is, his trust, comfort and reliance rests on the unified God, that is how truly and justly we pray to the unified God.

#65. But that is nothing but foolishness among these circumcised holy ones who can sometimes name one God (that suffices) while at the same time making gods and angels from letters as they please, and in whom they do not trust alone (which we the mad Goyim call worship) but also bewitch for any purpose they want.

A goy ought to want to become a Jew, since they have such power that one can make Gods and angels according to our own desires, while we damnable goyim can do nothing more than believe that the only God has made us all, and that theangels govern us, and not we the angels. In sum, a Jew is so full of superstition andmagic as nine cows have hair, that is, untold and infinite, like the devil their God,full of lies.

[A CAUTOINARY TALE FOR CHRISTIANS REGARDING JEWS AND THEIR MAGIC}

#96. About thirty years ago I heard it told, how a Jew ingratiated himself with Count Albrecht of Saxony, and taught him magic against all weapons so that he could not be punctured, beaten, shot, etc. Oh, those are fine arts by which our masters are misled so that they are murdered by stealth. But Count Albrecht was clever and wanted to be sure of that magic in advance. So he rode out to the field with that Jew and said: “Jew, I must try this magic on you,” drew and stuck the Jew through and through that he lay dead so that neither his Shem Hamphoras nor his

Tetragrammaton and any of his tricks could help him. “You lout,” said the count, “how you led me around by the nose risking my life!” Yes, he may even have softly laughed up his sleeve. Now it was better that the count tried it on the Jews than that the Jew tried it on the count. I still have a crystal ball which once belonged to Count Frederick of Saxony, which my present gracious lord, Count John Frederick, gave me. It is covered with gilded Hebrew letters and symbols and is without doubt finished in this manner. But that same count was far too clever for such tricks. Nevertheless, the louts tried it.

[THE JEWS ARE NOT JEWS]

[As part of long digress on the lineage and messiah-hood of Jesus, and the virginity of Mary, in section after section, Luther claims, in part polemically, in part in serious and good conscience  that the Jews are not Jews, that they are rightly dispersed in exile among the nations forever without soverenigty where they oppress other people with their usury, “trading skull with magic and letters,” and know nothing about the true law, which is the love of God and love your neighbor {#93, #95, #98, #110-112}.

#111. Oh, dear God! the miserable Jews have not known all their lives what the least law even is, let alone what the fulfillment of the law is, and cannot (as long as they are such Jews) ever understand it. Other kinds of folks belong here, such as St. Paul, Romans, 3, 21: “God’s justice is revealed, and witnessed through the law and the prophets,” and Joh. 1, 17: “The law was.given through Moses; but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”; St. Peter_, Apost. 15, 10, 11: “That is the burden, which neither we nor our fathers could have born, instead we believe we will be saved tl1rough the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, just as they were.” Better tell me how it is possible that the scamps (I meant to say Rabbis) and Sow Jews in their Sow school should understand such great words, when all their lives they did nothing more than to burrow in the Shorn Haperes (vultures) with their tusks.

#113. […] The Jews know about as much about this as a sow knows of the book of Psalms […]

[APPEAL TO CHRISTIANS AND CHRISTIAN HEBRAISTS]

[Even as the New Testament supersedes the old one, because of their devotion to the rabbis, the Jews have neither the one testament nor the other, whereas the Christians have both. The Old Testament predicts and the New Testament confirms the coming and arrival of Christ; the old holiness gives way to the new holiness {#114, #116, #118}. Luther goes back to prove the lineage of Jesus from Abraham through David as per Matthew and the purity of Mary, free from original sin and so on. The concluding sections turn to Christians, the divinity of Jesus. Christians who seek knowledge of scripture should not go to Jews, but to Christian Hebraists who work to “cleanse the holy old Bible of the filth and piss of Judas” by fixing its grammar after the Jews mucked it up, and to make it agree with the New Testament and to weaken the hold of the Jews on the Bible {#186-187, See #191 below}.]

[Against Jewish letter mysticism, the true power rests on correct translation, aligning one testament to the other. Unlike “Jewish Judas piss” (see below #189), Christians are born like dew in the heavens and God gave them the power to become  to become God’s children, equal to Him.. because Christians are born “not of blood but from God” {#173}. Luther, in conclusion, will appeal to Christian Hebraists to follow the lead of the Hebraist M. Bernhard Ziegler who is an “exceptional enemy of the Jews, as per below. Presumably the “Jewish Judas piss” is reference to rabbinic teachings and what we know today as the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible, as transmitted by Jewish tradition]

189. That is why I said, that Moses and the scriptures are not known by the present-day Jews, nor is it the old righteous Moses, for they have befouled him with their Judas piss. For Moses wants to be the witness of the Messiah, that is certain. But because they deal so shamefully with the Messiah it is impossible for them to understand Moses in a Pasuk. This task I wouldlike to have undertaken by my dear lord and friend, M. Bernhard Ziegler in Leipzig, Professor of Hebrew, that he too promote himself for once, like the other Hebraists (Thank God) who have become visible but without much resu1t; for he is an exceptional enemy of the Jewish Judas piss, and is capable and would bring the other Hebraists to him and would cleanse the Hebrew Bible for us. For if she should again be clean and in good Hebrew, then Christians must do it as they have the sense of the Messiah as Paul says, 1 Car. 1, 24, “We have the sense of the Messiah,” and Luc. 24, 45: “He gave them the sense to understand the scriptures;” and Matth. 13, 11: “Understanding the secret of the realm of heaven has been given you.”

190. Whether one should attack and denounce me, as I failed sometimes in translation, I will accept it with thanks. For how often did Hieronymus fail! And I see how two fine men, Sanctes and Munster, have translated the Bible studio incredibili et diligentia inimitabili and have done much good with rt. But the Rabbis aretoo powerful for them, so that they failed also in the analogy of belief, in that theyclung too much to the interpretations of the Rabbis. Even I followed their translations too much […]

#191. In this fashion one could weaken the understanding the Jews have of the

Bible, and the advantage is that Moses and the prophets did not write with dots hold to them as the Jews prefer, particularly wherever they are used to the detriment of the New Testament. One should do the same with the aequivocatio and distinctio’ wherever they are used against the New Testament. The Jews enjoy making everything doubtful and uncertain. Therefore, where the aequivocatio resorts to a vocabulo, one should take the significatio which agrees with the New Testament, there one can be certain; and the right significatio has a strong witness and assistant in the New Testament; that leaves the other significatio for the Jews, the bare hull and Peres without witness or assistance.

192. That shall be commanded the Hebraists. Here I will let it go and have nothing more to do with the Jews, or write further or again against them; they have enough on what I already wrote. God give his grace to those who will convert, that they (many) recognize and praise God the father, with us, our creator, together with our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost in eternity, Amen.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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1 Response to Martin Luther & The Jews (pdfs)

  1. dmf says:

    thanks for these, meanwhile in the here and now
    Joel S. @jh_swanson
    This tweet from the spokesperson for the Israeli Jewish settlers of Hebron is a remarkably succinct statement of why the Israeli right so often allies with European nationalist movements with historical roots in antisemitism – even when they use dog whistles like “globalist.”
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FZlSLECWYAMCoIH?format=jpg&name=medium

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