Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Martin Luther's Anti-Semitism: Against His Better Judgment

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Martin Luther's Anti-Semitism: Against His Better Judgment

Article excerpt

Martin Luther's Anti-Semitism: Against His Better Judgment BY ERIC W. GRITSCH EERDMANS, I72 PAGES, $25

Eric Gritsch, professor emeritus of church history and former director of the Institute for Lutheran Studies at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, has given much thought over the course of his long and distinguished career to the problem of Luther's writings on the Jews.

In Martin Luther's Anti-Semitism, he helpfully summarizes his own findings: "Luther's anti-Semitism is an integral part of his life and work, clearly evidenced in his literary legacy." But, Gritsch argues, "his anti-Semitism is neither in harmony with the core of his theology nor with the stance of the Apostle Paul regarding the relationship between Jews and Christians." This leads him to conclude that, "consequently, Luther's attitude to the Jews is against his better judgment."

With this assessment, Gritsch rejects two extremes: Historians such as Walther Bienert have offered excuses and apologies for Luther's writings against the Jews, while others such as Heiko Oberman have argued that anti-Semitism was at the core of Luther's theological vision. …

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