Anti-Semite. The word rests in a conversation like a foul stench and with it comes unbidden images and accusations. Today in many circles this word alone is possibly the most horrendous name to place on a person. Maybe though, not because of what it means, but because of what it brings to mind. Automatically and unwanted, pictures come to our mind of goose stepping Nazis and concentration camps, bodies piled high and what we think of as the air fills with the scent of burning flesh. Our worst nightmares and human kinds worst behaviors.
Yet, many of us do not know where the term came from or even what it means beyond their simple ideas. Even dictionaries only give the blandest description of the term. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines anti-Semitism as “having or showing prejudice against Jews,” “discriminating against or persecuting Jews,” “… hostility [toward Jews]. ” but there really isnt a lot to be learned from that, that we didnt already know. So I knew I had to dig deeper. So I started to look for references to Nazis and Hitler as well as Martin Luther.
I began to even look for sites of the Ku Klux Klan in efforts to find some background on the term that brings so much angst into the mind as this. Although I admit, I did find a wonderful article in an unexpected location, unexpected only because I had already consulted so many encyclopedias and found nothing. Yet Funk and Wagner told me this: ANTI-SEMITISM, political, social, and economic agitation and activities directed against Jews. The term is now used to denote anti-Judaic acts or sentiments based on any grounds, including religious ones.
The adjective Semitic originally was applied to all descendants of Shem, the eldest son of the biblical patriarch Noah; in later usage, it refers to a group of peoples of southwestern Asia, including both Jews and Arabs. The word anti-Semitism was coined about 1879 to denote hostility only toward Jews. This hostility is supposedly justified by a theory, first developed in Germany in the middle of the 19th century, that peoples of so-called Aryan stock are superior in physique and character to those of Semitic stock. www. nkandwagnalls. com/ I was surprised to learn that it had to do with more then just the Jews, but Arabs as well.
Else where, I found a little more to back this up; Anti-Semitism, from a strict adherence to the compound structure and meaning of the word itself, can be defined simply as being against (antagonistic toward, opposed to) the Semitic people. In a grammatical and etymological sense (as pertaining to race), such a definition would include all the descendants of Shem (e. g. , the Arabic nations as well as the nation of Israel).
The word “anti-Semitism” though is not really used in a broad sense pertaining to the entire Semitic line. Rather, the word is invariably used in a much more restrictive sense, referring to opposition exhibited toward only one branch of the Semitic line — opposition exhibited toward the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. The Jewish people alone, among the Semitic people, have been the target of persecution after persecution during the past three and one-half millenniums; and “anti-Semitism” is an expression which has come into use pointing to these persecutions.
Other Semitic nations are not in view at all. gracenet. com/lamp/TODA1. html And a little more on the background; Today one hears protests that the word anti- Semitism should not be used, because there are other Semites besides the Jews. The term however, was coined in 1879 by a racist named Wilhelm Marr. He was searching for a more scientific sounding term then Jew when he founded the League of Anti-Semites. In the European context, the word Semite was used strictly for the Jews. Page 36 Christians and Jews in Germany. Uriel Tal. The term can further be broken own into both racial and religious anti-Semitism.
Both religious and racial anti-Semitism were to be found in the Second Reich. Religious anti-Semitism insisted that a Jew could not retain his Jewish identity, and it demanded that he converts and assimilates. Fredrick Paulsen, a prominent liberal humanist and outspoken critic of racial anti-Semitism, explained in his System of Ethics that to remain a complete Jew and a complete German is impossible. Racial anti-Semitism treated the Jew as a parasite, a biological inferior that conversion and assimilation would not cure, a danger to the body politic.
Uriel Tal, Christians and Jews in Germany: Religion, Politics, and Ideology in the Second Reich, 1870-1914, trans. Noah Jonathan Jacobs (Ithaca NY Cornwell University 1975) Page 291. This of course brings a little more directly to the issue at hand. The people that are and have been anti-Semites. Hitler and the Third Reich automatically come to mind. Yet sitting in the background of that totally deplorable incident sits a man that we knowingly would never have placed with Hitler at all. Martin Luther.
It would seem that Martin Luthers writings inspired much of the Holocaust. This causes a lot of problems for some people. In speaking to people when I was working and researching this paper, many people had no idea that Martin Luther had leanings that way at all. In fact most people simply cant believe that the Father of Protestantism could have ever been so mislead. Yet I do not believe that Luther held these beliefs out of a mislead doctrine. No, I believe that they were simply a reaction from what must have been a bitter personal disappointment and shaming.
This does not excuse him, not does it change the fact that he was in fact and anti-Semite, but certainly, it would remind us that even the greatest from among us are libel to allow our disappointments to colour our thinking, no matter how inspired it may be. No apologist can claim that Martin Luther bore his anti-Jewishness out of youthful naivete’, uneducation, or out of unfounded Christianity. On the contrary, Luther in his youth expressed a great optimism about Jewish conversion to Christianity. But in his later years, Luther began to realize that the Jews would not convert to his wishes.
His anti-Jewishness grew slowly over time. His logic came not from science or reason, but rather from Scripture and his Faith. His “On the Jews and Their Lies” shows remarkable study into the Bible and fanatical biblical reasoning. Luther, at age 60 wrote this dangerous “little” book at the prime of his maturity, and in full knowledge in support of his beliefs and Christianity. Few people today realize that Luther wrote ‘On the Jews and Their Lies. ‘ (He also wrote such works like “Against the Sabbatarians. Freethinkers should become aware of the anti-Semitic influence that Luther has brought on the world. His vehement attack on Jews and his powerful influence on the believers of the Germans has brought a new hypothesis to mind: that the Holocaust, and indeed, the eliminationist form of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany may not have occurred without the influence from Luther’s book “On the Jews and Their Lies. ”
Today, white-supremacists and Neo-Nazis continue to spread Luther’s Jewish hatred and use quotes from this book as “proof” of their convictions. mbers. icanect. net/zardoz/luther. htm Yet, Luther had not always been so. At the beginning of his career, Luther was apparently sympathetic to Jewish resistance to the Catholic Church. He wrote, early in his career: The Jews are blood relations of our Lord; if it were proper to boast of flesh and blood, the Jews belong more to Christ than we. I beg, therefore, my dear Papist, if you become tired of abusing me as a heretic, that you begin to revile me as a Jew. But Luther expected them to convert to his purified Christianity.
When they did not, he turned violently against Jews While there is little doubt that Christian anti-Semitism laid the social and cultural basis for modern anti-Semitism, modern anti-Semitism does differ in being based on pseudo-scientific notions of race. The Nazis imprisoned and killed Jews who had converted to Christianity: Luther would have welcomed them. None of this justifies what follows, but it may help to comprehend what is happening www. fordham. edu/halsall/source/luther-jews. html Also, Luther appeared to be a breath of fresh air in the midst of a dismal situation.
Initially he had high regard for the Jewish people because he expected them to convert en masse once they were presented with a Christian message free from Papal Paganism In his treatise That Jesus Christ Was born A Jew 1523 He wrote If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would have sooner become a hog then a Christian. At this time he took a firm stand against the mistreatment of the Jews, and advocated a new relationship with the Therefore I would request and advise that one deal gently with them, (the Jews) and instruct them
From Scripture; then some of them may come along. Instead of this we are trying only to drive them by Force, slandering them, accusing them of having Christian blood if they dont stink, and I know not What other foolishness. So long as we treat them like dogs, how can we expect to work any good Among them? Again, when we forbid them to labour and do business and have any human fellowship With us, thereby forcing them into usury, how is that supposed to do them any good? If we really Want to help them, we must be guided in our dealings with them not by Papal law but by the law of Christian Love Alas. Luther became irritated when the Jewish people continued to resist conversion. In 1526 he complained of the Jews stubbornness, and by the 1530s he was presenting the common medieval stereotypes accorded to the Jews. In Conversations in Table Talk he caricatured Jews as stiff-necked, ironhearted, stubborn as the devil, and usurers. In 1543, at the end of his life, he wrote three derogatory treatises against the Jews, which anti-Semites would quote for the next 400 years.
So horrible were his statements that Julius Streicher, Hitlers hate-sheet editor and propagandist in Der Sturmer, cited Luther at his Neurenburg trial to justify his actions. Note martin Luther to George Spalatin, Wittenburg, 1514 in Perserved Smith, ed. and trans, Luthers correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters. Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society 1913 pages 28-29 Martin Luther, That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew, 1523 trans. Walther I, Brandt, in Luthers Works. Philadelphia: Muhlenburg, 1962)
And so we see that no real malice was originally intended, but that after dealing with deep disappointment and shame, Luther lashed out bitterly. Yet he is a man and therefore still responsible for his actions, and therefore still could be called an anti-Semite. What did he do and write that is so bad, that one could label him so? I will explain. I will put forth that Luther was both a racial and religious anti-Semite and them further prove that it was his writings that helped to fan the flame of anti-Semitism that turned into the Holocaust and the KKK movements that we see today.
In putting forth that Luther was a religious anti-Semite, I first place under observation the premise for his writing his pro-Jewish book That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew. Alone the fact that he wrote in hopes that Jews would convert to Lutheranism would have him branded. Luther’s Enthusiasm for Mission Work. Luther did not always show himself to be a hopelessly anti-Semitic man. In his 1523 work “Jesus Christ was born a Jew” he makes reference to the origins of Christianity. He wanted to convert the Jews to the belief he found after years of searching.
Luther wanted the Jews to recognize and confess the “true belief”. www. luther. /e/juden. html In going back to our working definition of religious anti-Semitism we find that it is based on a need for the Jew to convert and assimilate. Later, in a letter he would say; But what am I doing? My heart is fuller of these thoughts than my tongue can tell. I have come to the conclusion that the Jews will always curse and blaspheme God and his King Christ, as all the prophets have predicted. He who neither reads nor understands this, as yet knows no theology, in my opinion. And so I presume the men of Cologne cannot understand the Scripture, because it is necessary that such things take place to fulfill prophecy.
If they are trying to stop the Jews blaspheming, they are working to prove the Bible and God liars. But trust God to be true, even if a million men of Cologne sweat to make him false. Conversion of the Jews will be the work of God alone operating from within, and not of man working-or rather playing-from without. If these offences be taken away, worse will follow. For they are thus given over by the wrath of God to reprobation, that they may become incorrigible, as Ecclesiastes says, for every one who is incorrigible is rendered worse rather than better by correction.
Farewell in the Lord; pardon my words, and pray the Lord for my sinning soul. “Martin Luther’s to George Spalatin,” from Luthers Correspondence and Other Contemporary, Letters, trans. by P. Smith (1913), Vol. 1, pp. 28-29. www. fordham. edu/halsall/mod/1514luther. html So we see he was absolutely determined that the Jews would and should convert to Christianity. When they refused to do this as he ha anticipated, then he became frustrated and bitter, and his desire for them to convert would be articulated in much stronger terms.
Therefore be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer self-glory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practiced most maliciously and veheming his eyes on them. And also, If I had to refute all the other articles of the Jewish faith, I should be obliged to write against them as much and for as long a time as they have used for inventing their lies– that is, longer than two thousand years.
However it is difficult for one to find quotes that lend themselves specifically to a religious anti-Semitism. It is much, much eisier to find racial slurs within Luthers writings. But even then, you find them peppered with comments about their blasphemies towards God for we must never forget that Luthers main complaint was a religious one, not a personal one. The following are a series of quotes, all taken from Luthers book The Jews and Their Lies all are excellent examples of the mans growing hatred for the Jewish race.