Richard Radcliffe is not only an extremely successful lawyer: he is also a real-estate baron and will be entering the Ph.D. program in theology at Claremont this fall. He is the proprietor of the descriptively titled “LawReligionCultureReview” blog, and is the owner of the house my wife lived in while we were planning our wedding.
This well-researched, well organized and downright provocative essay will be published in five parts the next five days. The final part will include all the footnotes and bibliographic information. The ritual disclaimer however, will be contained at the bottom of each post. Thanks to Richard for agreeing to publish this here.
Martin Luther is a figure of cataclysmic significance in Church history. For example, “Luther’s doctrine of justification fell like a bombshell on the theological landscape of medieval Catholicism. It shattered the entire theology of merits and indeed the sacramental-penitential basis of the church itself.” (George, 72.)
However, Luther dropped other bombshells in his career, and they are no less shattering than his doctrine of justification. Among them, anti-Jewish screeds such as, Against the Sabbatarians (1538), On the Jews And Their Lies (1543), On the Ineffable Name and On Christ’s Lineage (1543), operate as the proverbial elephant in the room that many try to ignore or downplay its existence or embarrassing effects.
Given Luther’s central role in the Reformation, it is not surprising that supporters have attempted to explain away these patent anti-Jewish writings of his later years. For example, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery has argued that On the Jews and Their Lies, while a “violent pamphlet, reflect[ed] the irritability that age and disease had brought upon Luther” and posited that its “intent and message have generally been misunderstood…” (Montgomery, 145.) Further, Montgomery suggested that Luther’s “naiveté [was] certainly in evidence in such writings.” (Ibid.)
Similarly, it has been argued that the gross violence of Luther’s latest writings were “connected with his physical health, for he was worn out and could not longer stand up to the difficulties which came pouring in from all sides.” (Kooiman, 201.)
However, Martin Luther’s later writings demonstrate a virulent anti-Semitism that cannot be excused as the product of debilitating illness or advanced age, accident, incompetence or naiveté.
In establishing this thesis, this essay will explore the historical evidence supporting a conclusion of Luther’s anti-Semitism, namely his own words, and also address justifications or explanations that have been proffered in his defense. As discussed below, there are several reasons, from the evidence, supporting this paper’s thesis.
First, because Luther’s attacks were personalized and directed to Jews’ nature, and not generalized to all nonbelievers, this posture evidences, in part, Luther’s anti-Semitism. Second, inasmuch as Luther, a master theologian and exegete, supported his attacks on Jews with careful exegesis in voluminous works, it cannot be excused as an accident, incompetence or naiveté. Third, Luther’s ardent views against Jews were not localized to the final, infirm years of his life, and cannot be excused by advanced age or his illnesses.
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(Updated to fix coding).