Luther, the anti-Semite?
I was in chat here the other night, and someone mentioned that Luther was an anti-Semite. I semi agreed with him, but pointed out that he was not at all so in the early reformation, but seemed to grow that way later. I should have brought more substance and balance to that thought, but chat goes by too quickly to elaborate on details at times. I noticed this thread here just now, and thought maybe the principles that I would like to have included in chat, I could elaborate on here, to a degree they relate to the OP. To wit:
In Luther's time in Europe, there was a bias against Jews in general, yet Luther went against that culture, desiring to bring Jews into relationship with their Messiah.
As the reformation went on, he was realizing that Jews were not responding to the gospel, they were rejecting Jesus. Luther got on their case about that, thinking that if Jews really wanted to reject their Messiah, and choose to go to Hell, who was he to stand in their way?
He thought that made them blasphemers, and I do not see that he was not correct in the assessment.
To reject Jesus, is to reject God. To reject Jesus, is to not believe their God who promised a Messiah, and described Him as being born in Bethlehem of a virgin, a teacher using parables, and performing miracles, who would be hung on a cross and die for the sins of many. Not only that, He would rise again after three days, does that remind us of anyone?
To be oblivious to these facts shows hearts that are hardened toward God.
So, was Luther hard on Jews, yeah he was. He called them detestable liars, but he tried desperately to convert them, to let them understand their peril, and embrace the truth. I do not think that makes him anti-Semitic.
He was not against them as a race, he was against their anti-christ religion. He was just as hard on those who followed the Pope, on the Anabaptists, on nominal Christians who did not practice what they preached.
It is probably safe to say, that He was not as loving as he could have been, and was quite a bit too vocal in his zeal, but probably he was frustrated by the way Jews rejected to a large degree, their own Messiah, when it seemed as though they should be the first to recognize and embrace Him.
There is a large difference between antisemitism where a man (Hitler) sought to exclude Jews and destroy them, and what Luther did, trying to include Jews and bring them benefits. The first was racial, the last was theological. Jews could not choose their ethnicity, but Luther likely saw what the Jews did religiously, as a choice they made to reject Jesus.
It might even be that Luther noted that Jesus was harsh on the Jews of His day, those of His own ethnicity who claimed to worship God, yet rejected Him after proving Himself to be the Messiah.
Since His death and resurrection, His identity is further established. Jesus told the Jewish leaders of His day that they we in spiritual peril. He said it would be easier on some cities noted for their sin, than for some of them that He preached to and who rejected Him:
21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”
Was Jesus being anti-Semitic, or was he just being painfully direct?