Martin Luther and the question of anti-Semitism


Romans 11

25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

28 Concerning the gospel they are  enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.  32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

34 “For who has known the mind of theLord?
Or who has become His counselor?”
35 “Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”

36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.


This subject must be addressed for the sake of truth and justice, and because it is critical to giving the Gospel – our Gospel and Luther’s – a hearing in our day, especially after the Shoah (Holocaust) and because of the sensitivity of our nation and world to prejudice and its consequences.


The Unquenchable Flame

discovering the heart of the Reformation

Michael Reeves

Luther and the Jews

“What probably turns more people away from Luther than anything else is his tract On the Jews and Their Lies. Trumpeted and used as traditional German virtue by the Nazis in the twentieth century, and displayed in a glass case at the Nuremberg rallies, it is enough for many to dismiss Luther as an odious anti-Semite, and all his theology as fatally tainted. Undoubtedly it contains horrible material that one wishes he had died before writing. However, not only was it written long after his Reformation breakthrough, after a change of heart toward the Jews (meaning that it is entirely inappropriate to tar all his theology with its brush), but also, the caricature is a distortion. There was no racism involved.

In 1523 he wrote That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, a critique of the common mistreatment of Jews by Christians. He dedicated it to a converted Jew he had befriended, whom he would later support financially and whose son he would house at great personal cost. Over the years, though, he detected what he saw as a hardness of heart in the unbelieving Jews, in that they refused to acknowledge that their own Scriptures pointed them clearly to Christ. Finally stung into action by some virulent Jewish apologetics that attacked Christianity, in 1542 he wrote On the Jews and Their Lies. In it he argued, first, that being children of Abraham was always a spiritual matter, not one of genetics;  he then went on to show from the Old Testament that Jesus must be the promised Christ; only then did he move on to his notorious set of recommendations. While he condemned personal acts of vengeance he argued that then-standard blasphemy laws should be applied to the Jews, making their religion criminal. As such, Jewish synagogues and houses should be destroyed as dangerous hotbeds of blasphemy; and, along with other blasphemers, the Jews themselves should be expelled.

It is hard for a modern audience, not only to avoid reading later racial anti-Semitism into such unpleasant material, but also to understand that these were, at the time, standard measures taken against heretics. Luther was arguing for the powers of the state to be applied to uphold Christianity. And, while his recommendations are repulsive, they had not come from a lack of spiritual concern. Concluding the work, he wrote: ‘May Christ, our dear Lord, convert them mercifully and preserve us steadfastly and immovably in the knowledge of him, which is eternal life. Amen.’


 

Apologizing for mass murder

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POPE FRANCIS WALDENSIAN
Pope Francis shakes hands with Eugenio Bernardini, the Moderator of the Waldensian Church, during the first ever visit of a pope to the Waldensian evangelical church, in Turin, northern Italy, Monday, June 22, 2015. (L’ Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

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(Disclaimer: only a glimpse of the history of relations between the papacy and Waldensian Christians can be gleaned from these excerpts. Sitting popes came against them over a very long period of time. See J.A. Wylie’s History of the Waldenses, available in several formats.)

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A recent Papal apology

Pope Francis Asks Forgiveness For Catholic Church’s Persecution Of Waldensians

This HUFF POST RELIGION article by Philip Pullella (REUTERS) majors on Francis’ personality and the probable motive behind this apology – the push for “Christian” unity.

“Pope Francis asked forgiveness on Monday for the Roman Catholic Church’s ‘non-Christian and inhumane’ treatment in the past of the Waldensians, a tiny Protestant movement the Vatican tried to exterminate in the 15th century.

“Francis made his plea during the first ever visit by a pope to a Waldensian temple on the second day of a trip to Italy’s northern Piedmont region, the centre of the Waldensian Church, which has only about 30,000 followers worldwide.

“While the movement is miniscule compared to the 1.2 billion member Roman Catholic Church, the gesture is part of Francis’ drive to promote Christian unity and it has taken on added significance ahead of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017.

“‘On behalf of the Catholic Church, I ask forgiveness for the un-Christian and even inhumane positions and actions taken against you historically,’ he said. ‘In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us!’

“The Waldensians, who now live mostly in Italy and Latin America, were founded by Peter Waldo in France in the late 12th century. He gave up his wealth and preached poverty but as the movement grew it came into increasing theological conflict with the papacy.

“The movement, an early precursor of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, was branded as heretical and in 1487 Pope Innocent VIII ordered its extermination.”

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"LIGHT SHINES IN DARKNESS"
Waldensian motto “Light Shines In Darkness”

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How faithful Waldensians view his apology

Pope meets the Waldensian Church

On July 3, 2015, the website of the group of Christians named “Sentieri Antichi Valdesi” (“Old Waldensian Paths”) published an analysis of the Pope’s apology and his reception in a Waldensian temple. 

“We believe that ‘hugs’ and forgiveness in this context, has little meaning. This is because the Catholicism represented by the current pope and the version of faith represented by the current ‘Waldensian’ moderator has very little to do with the actual Catholics and Waldensians who were in conflict. They may consider themselves their successors, and true ‘representatives’ but, in our view, they are not. Instead, they are an ‘evolution’, not necessarily for the best.

“Pope Bergoglio is a typical representative, in his own way, of post-modernist relativism. The lips which kiss the Waldensian Bible belong to the same pope who kisses statues of the Madonna and honour John Bosco, a staunch opponent of the Waldensians. These lips also pray in mosques and Buddhist temples. The pope seems to ‘value’ without discernment each form of religiosity, pretending to keep them all together, in the name of an unspecified spirituality. Undoubtedly, to the ‘ecumenical’ modern relativist this is pleasing. It avoids the question of truth arising. Everything is resolved in a sentimental ‘love’ without discernment.

“All this certainly has its own logic, but is it something we want to subscribe to? The same applies to the modern ‘Waldensians’. While the Waldensian Church is formally the same institution as it was, modern Waldensians, despite their claims, have little in common with their historic predecessors who drafted their confession of faith and joined the Reformation in Geneva. Although formally subscribing to this, the modern Waldensians leaders continually contradict it or believe they have ‘moved on’ from it. They are not children of the the Reformation, but children of Enlightenment rationalism and higher biblical criticism, which sought to undermine the authority of the Bible (so that it would not longer be considered the Word of God). They have sold out to the myth of ‘progress’. They are enthusiastic supporters of any ideology that is fashionable. Undoubtedly, they speak about ‘love’, but it is love without discernment or defined in a very questionable way. Above all, this love is devoid of the moral criteria established by God in His law, which is relativised.

“What, then, do we think of this meeting of the pope and the modern Waldensians? We consider it essentially mystifying, a ‘reconciliation’ acted out ​​by people and institutions with which, as Christians, we do not identify with and which do not represent us.”

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An older Papal apology

Pope Asks Forgiveness for Errors Of the Church Over 2,000 Years

The New York Times article by Alessandra Stanley (2000) shows the complexity of formal apologies for past sins in the thinking of the Catholic hierarchy; reveals the probable motivation for them; highlights crimes against the Jewish people; and, reveals the RCC’s belief that there is a need for mutual forgiveness. I believe that leveling a reproach in the context of any apology undercuts the value of the apology. 

“The public act of repentance, solemnly woven into the liturgy of Sunday Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica, was an unprecedented moment in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, one that the ailing 79-year-old pope pushed forward over the doubts of even many of his own cardinals and bishops. He has said repeatedly that the new evangelization he is calling for in the third millennium can take place only after what he has described as a church-wide ‘purification of memory.'”

“The pope, broadening a process of reconciliation that began in the 1960’s during the Second Vatican Council, has issued apologies before, notably regretting in a 1998 document the failure of many Catholics to help Jews during the Holocaust. [At the time,] That document, ‘We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,’ disappointed many leading Jewish groups, which complained that the pope did not go far enough in apologizing for the silence of church leaders, including the wartime pope, Pius XII.”

“The pope also mentioned the persecution of Catholics by other faiths. ‘As we ask forgiveness for our sins, we also forgive the sins committed by others against us,’ he said.”

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The Official view 

MEMORY AND RECONCILIATION: THE CHURCH AND THE FAULTS OF THE PAST

Except for these excerpts, I didn’t read this document. The topic was studied, and the document written, at the direction of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.

PRELIMINARY NOTE

The study of the topic “The Church and the Faults of the Past” was proposed to the International Theological Commission by its President, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in view of the celebration of the Jubilee Year 2000. A sub-commission was established to prepare this study; it was composed of Rev. Christopher BEGG, Msgr. Bruno FORTE (President), Rev. Sebastian KAROTEMPREL, S.D.B., Msgr. Roland MINNERATH, Rev. Thomas NORRIS, Rev. Rafael SALAZAR CARDENAS, M.Sp.S., and Msgr. Anton STRUKELJ. The general discussion of this theme took place in numerous meetings of the sub-commission and during the plenary sessions of the International Theological Commission held in Rome from 1998 to 1999. The present text was approved in forma specifica by the International Theological Commission, by written vote, and was then submitted to the President, Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who gave his approval for its publication.

CONCLUSION

At the conclusion of this reflection, it is appropriate to stress yet again that in every form of repentance for the wrongs of the past, and in each specific gesture connected with it, the Church addresses herself in the first place to God and seeks to give glory to him and to his mercy. Precisely in this way she is able to celebrate the dignity of the human person called to the fullness of life in faithful covenant with the living God: “The glory of God is man fully alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” By such actions, the Church also gives witness to her trust in the power of the truth that makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). Her “request for pardon must not be understood as an expression of false humility or as a denial of her 2,000-year history, which is certainly rich in merit in the areas of charity, culture, and holiness. Instead she responds to a necessary requirement of the truth, which, in addition to the positive aspects, recognizes the human limitations and weaknesses of the various generations of Christ’s disciples.” Recognition of the Truth is a source of reconciliation and peace because, as the Holy Father also states, “Love of the truth, sought with humility, is one of the great values capable of reuniting the men of today through the various cultures.” Because of her responsibility to Truth, the Church “cannot cross the threshold of the new millennium without encouraging her children to purify themselves, through repentance, of past errors and instances of infidelity, inconsistency and slowness to act. Acknowledging the weaknesses of the past is an act of honesty and courage…” It opens a new tomorrow for everyone.

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Thinking about the time of Jacob’s trouble (update)

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It bothers me that most Christians say that “the time of Jacob’s trouble” lies entirely in the future. That is because as a small girl and teen in the 50’s and 60’s, talk about and images of the Holocaust were everywhere. If you feel my thinking is wrong, please let me know in a comment or use my Contact the author page.

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Here are the opening verses of the passage that contains the prophecy of “the time of Jacob’s trouble.” 

Jeremiah 30

King James Version 

30 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,

Thus speaketh the Lord God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book.

For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.

And these are the words that the Lord spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah.

For thus saith the Lord; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace.

Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?

Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.

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What is the time of Jacob’s trouble?

I was taught that the time of Jacob’s trouble was a seven-year Tribulation at the End of the Age – the Seventieth Week of Daniel. With study, I came to realize that the Seventieth Week of Daniel had been fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus Christ, and therefore could not be a final seven years. The Seventy Weeks were a consecutive period of 490 years. The Seventieth Week was not postponed – there was no so-called gap.

All that I have been taught has to be sorted out and tested by the Word of God. Understanding the time of Jacob’s trouble is part of this process.

The prophecy of the time of Jacob’s trouble

Here are the major themes of Jeremiah 30, the chapter in which this time is foretold (this is the only place in Scripture where it is mentioned):

judgment and restoration,

vengeance upon the nations who despoiled Israel,

rule by David their King, whom God shall raise up for them (Messiah),

the latter days.

The consequences of failure

We are told that the Jewish people failed to know the time of their visitation, that is, the coming of Messiah the first time. He Himself spoke of this when He wept over Jerusalem,

Luke 19:41-44

41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,

42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.

43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,

44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD -- a painting by David Roberts (1796-1849).After this failure of the Jewish people, and during the years of their Great Revolt against Rome (66-70 A.D.), the Romans, “the people of the prince that shall come” (Daniel 9:26), destroyed the Jewish nation, the Temple was razed, more than a million Jews died (Josephus) and the rest were scattered and led into captivity. 

Most American Christians believe that the time of Jacob’s trouble lies in the future. Some Christians believe that it began with Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Judah and the captivity. Did it begin with this invasion, or with the Roman fury against the Jews and their dispersion?

Medieval manuscript Jews identified by rouelle are being burned at stake, 1515Whichever it is, it is most likely an extensive period. I believe that “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) is the centuries that include the pogroms, the Spanish Inquisition, the unremitting enmity against the Jews, the Holocaust, and the current constant warring against and slandering of Israel. 

Think, what could be worse for Jacob than what has already befallen him? 

Here are the statistics of Germany’s “Final Solution” from Jewish Virtual Library

The Estimated number of Jews killed

67%

Pre-Final Solution Jewish Population          =   8,861,800

Jewish Population Killed in Final Solution   =  5,933,900

(Poland, Baltic Countries, Germany/Austria, Protectorate, Slovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, Hungary, White Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Romania, Norway, France, Bulgaria, Italy, Luxembourg, Russia, Denmark, and Finland.)

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Hope

Auschwitz_aerial_view_RAFWhile in our day the Jews are being attacked and maligned, and antisemitism is still very much alive, and though those Jews who live in the Land live in daily peril, are the Jews destined to suffer yet again to the same or to a greater degree, in some final horrible seven years of trouble? Or are they still in the midst of this time of trouble?

If it is so that they are in the midst of this time, but are now back in the Land and continuing to return to it, are they close to and awaiting the fulfillment of the rest of Jeremiah’s prophecy, their restoration in “the latter days,” at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ – the Son of David? 

Jeremiah 30

For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him:

But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.

10 Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.

11 For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet I will not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.

12 For thus saith the Lord, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous.

13 There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines.

14 All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.

15 Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee.

16 Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey.

17 For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

18 Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.

19 And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.

20 Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them.

21  And their nobles shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them; and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the Lord.

22 And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.

23 Behold, the whirlwind of the Lord goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind: it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked.

24 The fierce anger of the Lord shall not return, until he hath done it, and until he have performed the intents of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it.

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Resources

The Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names

The Seventy Weeks

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The Time of Jacob’s Trouble future or fulfilled?

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