Did Martin Luther hate the Jewish people?

It seems that Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ broke open the recent controversy as to whether Christians are are naturally anti-Semitic. Then there were the allegations that Pope Benedict was once a “Hitler Youth”. Currently the newspapers are abuzz with the controversy surrounding the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and their holocaust-denying Bishop Williamson.

Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before the press examines the fact that the father of the Reformation was a vigorous polemicist against the Jewish people. My personal opinion is that he was a convinced anti-Semite as the two quotes below demonstrate. They are quite offensive.

Accordingly, it must and dare not be considered a trifling matter but a most serious one to seek counsel against this and to save our souls from the Jews, that is, from the devil and from eternal death. My advice, as I said earlier, is:

First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss sulphur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in some hellfire…

Second, that all their books– their prayer books, their Talmudic writings, also the entire Bible– be taken from them, not leaving them one leaf, and that these be preserved for those who may be converted…

Third, that they be forbidden on pain of death to praise God, to give thanks, to pray, and to teach publicly among us and in our country…

Fourth, that they be forbidden to utter the name of God within our hearing. For we cannot with a good conscience listen to this or tolerate it…

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

Here’s a second quote:

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.

-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

What do you think? Was Luther as bad as these quotes sound? Was it merely the air he breathed or did have a certain disgust for the Jewish people?

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  • Philip

    I too was once a Lutheran Church missouri synod member now turned Catholic. I don’t think that antisemitism was in anyway tolerated in my church there. The people seemed honest and without prejudice that I could see. I too was turned off by Luther’s polemics, but I don’t think it’s extended down to present day Lutherans (except maybe those who believe the Pope is the anti-Christ. )