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date: 24 March 2017

Martin Luther and Anti-Judaism and Anti-Semitism

Summary and Keywords

The uncomfortable question of Martin Luther’s place in the development of modern anti-Semitism is raised by Luther’s status as a national cultural icon after German unification (1871) and by the fact that the Third Reich (1933–1945) perpetrated what is arguably the most violently racist state policy known to human history thus far. Luther contributed to the symbiosis of religious and secular prejudices. The reception of Luther’s anti-Jewish discourse illustrates the gradual diffusion of religious hostility into a society where churches slid from a central position to the margins of social influence. This can only be understood against the backdrop of a long chronology of religious thinking. The long chronology shows that Luther was more a conduit than a catalyst of European anti-Jewish polemic and feeling.

Keywords: Martin Luther, anti-Semitism, anti-Jewish polemic, Christian Hebraism, National Socialism, racism, Luther’s reception, tolerance

Ambivalent Scholars

Aside from his appeal to what was, in his own day, a vaguely ethnic conception of the German nation and, perhaps, the intensity of the apocalyptic mise en scène of his senescent vitriol, Luther’s anti-Semitism was very unoriginal—as is frequently said.1 There is little in Of the Jews and Their Lies or in his other anti-Jewish writings that cannot be found in treatises and folklore current in the previous two hundred years, when violent incidents against Jews in Central Europe were generally more frequent and more widespread than in Luther’s own lifetime.2 Nor is it clear that his theological construction of “the hermeneutical Jew,” the Jew as the embodiment of an allegedly false biblical literalism, can account for the intensity of that senescent vitriol or the post-Reformation, German-Protestant acceptance of Jewish servitude to Christian princes.3 By contrast, the appeal to blood purity in 16th-century Iberia by Catholic theologians, who were to a man also passionately anti-Lutheran, was far more innovative, far more “racist” in principle, and arguably more aggressive and violent in immediate effect than what we find in northern Europe during and after the Reformation.4 Unlike Germany, Habsburg Spain and Portugal in the 16th century did effectively eliminate the remnants of Jewish (and Muslim) life from their territories. Although numerous cities and principalities made a similar attempt to remove Jews in Central Europe after the late 13th century, the political fragmentation of the Holy Roman Empire made it impossible to extinguish Jewish life there. The Reformation was not at the vanguard of anti-Jewish feeling or action, if for no other reason than that its homeland lacked the political capacity of Habsburg Iberia.

Luther’s influence was not decisive, and certainly not neutral, but ambivalent. So, for example, his writings communicated a generalized distrust, describing Jews as thieves in his preface to the 1528 edition of the influential 15th-century handbook for policing vagrants, the Liber vagatorum. This “evolved into a powerful and all-embracing stereotype—‘that of the Jews as a people of thieves and robbers extraordinaire,’” except that Luther by no means propagated this message alone.5 The Liber vagatorum itself, an influential handbook of street-thief vocabulary that included many Hebrew terms, for use by city authorities controlling vagrancy, along with any number of 15th-century sermons, treatises, and stories, communicated the same before Luther.6 The church historian Johannes Wallmann has documented court theologians drawing on Luther to recommend the expulsion of Jewish subjects from Christian principalities in the later 16th and early 17th centuries. Yet there were also Lutheran university theologians who used Luther to support the traditional policy of restricted tolerance of Jewish subjects in Christian lands. More impressively still, theologians of the universities of Jena and Frankfurt am Oder in 1611 cited Luther in briefs they wrote for the city of Hamburg that favored the admission of Portuguese Jewish refugees.7 Luther’s writings had multiple uses after the Reformation. They could incite animosity or ease it. Luther’s legacy was ambivalent.

Mixtures of sympathy and disdain contributing to this ambivalence are evident in the work of many scholars during the confessional era, and, accordingly, ambivalence ran from the Renaissance to 18th-century rationalism and 19th-century modernism. To be sure, a genuine fascination with Jews really did exist. Theologically, it was rooted in the ancient theological conviction that Christianity had, and had to have, a Jewish origin. After the Reformation, scholars were more interested in ancient and contemporary Jews than ever before. The 16th-century bloom of Christian Hebraism, fueled by the rapid growth of biblical philology, lent Christian interest in the Jewish Other a new ethnographic intensity. Since the early Renaissance, Christian Hebraists cultivated an interest in medieval Jewish sources and also used Yiddish, the contemporary Jewish vernacular, as a medial language between Hebrew and German. Sebastian Münster (1488–1552) had included material from the Arukh, Rabbi Nathan ben Yehiel’s eleventh-century Aramaic dictionary and glosses. Johannes Reuchlin (1455–1522) used two Hebrew manuscripts with Yiddish glosses. He and Konrad Pellikan (1478–1556) made a Latin translation of Asher ben Jacob Halevi’s 14th-century Talmudic dictionary, the Kleyne orukh, which included Yiddish glosses. In the 17th century Johann Wagenseil (1633–1705) recommended Yiddish in his Belehrung der Jüdisch-Teutschen Red- und Schreibart as an aid to interpreting Hebrew terms in the Old Testament. Johannes Buxtorf (1564–1629) used Yiddish biblical dictionaries. Christian scholars both criticized the Taytsh-khumesh, a word-for-word translation of the Pentateuch from Hebrew to Yiddish, for its literalism and used it as an exegetical tool.8 Knowledge of Jewish scholarship and culture was growing.

Studies by Aya Elyada, Yaacov Deutsch, Adam Sutcliffe, and Dominique Bourel have called attention to the ambivalence that accompanied the growth of Hebrew scholarship. This expressed itself in a desire to convert Jews or in a need to control their alleged blasphemies and anti-Christian propaganda.9 Accordingly, interest in contemporary Jewish private life could build sympathy but also mistrust:

Together with the new genre of Christian ethnographies on Jewish customs and way of life, the interest in the Jews’ everyday language shifted the focus of anti-Jewish polemic from disputes over canonical texts to the domestic and private sphere of contemporary Jewish life. The Christian study of Yiddish thus significantly contributed to the domestication of the polemic against the Jews, and lent the discourse on Jews and Judaism a new dimension of actuality.10

Elyada describes this as “a double-edged sword.” The growth of Christian knowledge of Jewish culture contributed to “what historian R[onnie] Po-chia Hsia has called ‘the process of disenchantment’ of Jews and Judaism, which took place in the German lands starting with the Reformation,” when Christians increasingly saw Jews as people and not diabolical conspirators.11 But it also “rendered more layers of Ashkenazi Jewish culture as subjects of the scrutiny and criticism of Christian scholars, who used their newly gained knowledge as further ammunition in their attack on Jewish culture and religion.” A hit parade of Lutheran scholars worried about Jewish blasphemies hidden in Yiddish literature: the convert Samuel Brenz (early 17th century), the Heidelberg Hebraist Johann Andreas Eisenmenger (1654–1704), the Giessen theologian Johann Jakob Rambach (1693–1735), the Kiel theologian Christian Kortholt (1709–1751), the Leipzig Hebraist Johann Gottlob Carpzov (1679–1767), the theologian Wilhelm Chrysander (1718–1788), and a variety of other 18th- and early 19th-century authors who sought to expose the anti-Christian feelings hidden in Yiddish literature.12

Luther’s legacy played a minor role in this post-Reformation ambivalence. An instructive example comes from the influential Johannes Buxtorf. Buxtorf’s Synagoga Judaica (The Jewish synagogue, 1603) is an introduction to Jewish ritual life for Christian students. The author strove for an unbiased account from Hebrew sources, but he also concluded with a dialogue between a Christian and a Jew “in which the Christian faith is defended and Jewish unbelief is rebutted and toppled to the ground,” as his title page boasts. Furthermore, he used Luther to establish a rivalry between Jews and Christians at the outset, by quoting two pages from Luther’s Of the Jews and Their Lies at the beginning of his book.13 In an early milestone in the new ethnographic approach to Jews and Judaism in the early modern period, Buxtorf saw Jews as cultural inferiors and objects of missionary desire.

The Kindness of Missionaries

At the end of the 17th century, the balance of opinion among theologians shifted toward a certain missionizing tolerance, such as the tolerance that was evident in Luther’s That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew (1523), a position that famously poses a stark contrast with Luther’s impertinent Of the Jews and Their Lies (1543). The turning point came with the Pietist leader Philip Jakob Spener (1635–1705). As a young man, Spener was enthralled by his Strasbourg teacher Johann Conrad Dannhauer (1603–1666), who saw the crises of the Thirty Years War through a prism of apocalyptic anti-Judaism.14 By the time he wrote the Pia Desideria (1675), the manifesto of the Pietist movement, Spener was distancing himself from the late Luther’s persecutory meanness. His study of the New Testament led him to reassess his stance toward Jewish culture in light of the “mystery” described by the apostle Paul, that “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:25–27). Spener took this passage to require a kindly engagement that would move followers of Moses and the Talmud into Christianity. After publishing the Pia Desideria, Spener discovered that his new position was in fact consistent with Luther’s interpretation of this Pauline passage in the Postills of 1521 and 1522. His further research identified an additional thirty-seven theologians who had also embraced the early Luther’s hope for Jewish conversion.15 Spener was reassessing Protestant tradition.

Soon after Spener’s discovery of the missionary Luther, the Pietist Johann Wilhelm Petersen (1649–1727) noted that posthumous editions of Luther’s Postills suppressed the crucial passage that favored Jewish missions. This implied a Lutheran-Orthodox conspiracy to silence the case for engagement. Spener’s most severe Wittenberg critic, Johann Georg Neumann (1672–1717), seemed to confirm this suspicion when he acknowledged the textual corruption, then defended it, by attributing it to Luther’s colleague Kaspar Creuziger (1504–1548). Creuziger, said Neumann, recognized the inconsistency of the original text with Luther’s Of David’s Last Words (1543), then personally consulted Luther before emending the Postill edition.16 Pietists rejected this malicious speculation, and Spener restored the original text of Luther’s Postill on Rom. 11:25–27 in his 1700 edition of the Church Postill. Every edition published since then followed Spener’s version.17 The Pietists’ reassessment of this other Luther was complete by 1700, after which Spener no longer distinguished his own view from Luther’s.18 The Pietist Gottfried Arnold’s Unparteiischen Kirchen- und Ketzerhistorie (1699/1700) relished the early Luther’s criticism of Christian persecutors and Luther’s call for Christians to live with Jews as brothers: this bore witness, Arnold believed, to a brief revival of true Christianity in the early Reformation.19 A generation later Nikolaus Ludwig Graf von Zinzendorf (1700–1760), founder of the Herrnhut Brethren and the inspiration of the Protestant colonial missionary societies that proliferated in the late 18th and 19th centuries, went further still. He said there should be a Jewish “tropus” (an approximation of primitive Christianity) alongside Lutheran, Reformed, and Moravian “tropuses”—a Jewish-Christian tradition alongside other Protestant traditions—for Luther taught that Jews are no further from God than Christians.20

Pietism relativized the Jew-baiting of Luther’s later writings by focusing attention on the nicest features of his early writings. Perhaps they even made it hard for the anti-Semitic chaplain of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Adolf Stoeker, to appeal to Luther two hundred years later, as has been alleged.21 The Pietists rehabilitated Luther as a “Jew-positive” missionizer.

The missionary contributed to the rise of the Jewish citizen. Halle theologians wrote some twenty-two briefs in favor of tolerance of Jews and their right to worship. These included an expert report (Gutachten) by Johann Heinrich Michaelis (1668–1738) in defense of the use of the Alenu prayer, which King Friedrich I of Prussia had prohibited as blasphemous in 1704; the brief by Paul Anton (1661–1730) on behalf of Halle’s faculty to an unknown lord advising that he grant Jews permission to expand their synagogue in 1707; and a “Theological Consideration for the Conscientious Tolerance of Jews and their Worship among Christians,” by Siegmund Jakob Baumgarten (1706–1757) in defense of Jews using the Selichot penitential prayers in the territory of Ansbach in 1745, which his colleague in Halle, Christian Benedikt Michaelis (1680–1764), also defended.22

Alongside appeals for tolerance came missionary enterprise. A missionary academy targeting Jews, the Institutum Judaicum, was established at Halle by Johann Heinrich Callenberg (1694–1760). It was also a center of Jewish studies, partly inspired by the Yiddish-speaking Lutheran pastor of Gotha, Johann Müller. Callenberg’s institute trained itinerant missionaries who were sent through Germany and Poland.23 Students looked for opportunities to study Judaism, such as the Pietist August Hermann Francke (1663–1727), who joined the throng flocking to the Hamburg orientalist Esdras Edzard (1629–1708), to learn Hebrew and Talmud and prepare to proselytize Jews. The Altdorf orientalist Johann Christoph Wagenseil noted that “fat books” (plenos libros) supported the catechism of people in China, Japan, and other distant colonies, but how strange it is, he remarked, citing Joseph Scaliger (1540–1609) and Spener, that Christians, who should hope for Jewish conversion, hardly write to convince the Jews, whose own literature predicts the conversion of all nations.24

Luther barely figures in the new missionary ethnography. For example, Wagenseil began his Latin translation of six medieval Hebrew polemical works against Christianity with an erudite and detailed examination of the Christian uses of Hebrew literature from antiquity to his time.25 He treated patristic, medieval, Lutheran, Reformed, and recent Catholic authors with equanimity. Luther in his own day lamented how recent it was that the Qur’an had been translated into German. This, Luther warned, allowed Muhammad nine hundred years to do his damage, prompting Wagenseil to call attention to the importance of studying Hebrew literature right now.26 Wagenseil’s mixed use of Catholic, Reformed, and Lutheran sources suggest how unspecifically confessional Christian responses to Judaism were. Against the claim of the Wittenberg Hebraist John Forster (1495–1556), in the preface to his Hebrew lexicon, that “in the commentaries of the rabbis there is no light, no knowledge of God, no Spirit, not any true or solid knowledge of discipline or art, nothing of languages, nor knowledge of the Hebrew language,” Wagenseil offered a long list of scholars from across the republic of letters who had found truth in the Talmud.27 The papal and Spanish suppression of Jewish literature in the 16th century disgusted him.28 But he encouraged princes and magistrates to order public assemblies for teaching the Jews the Christian faith.29 Martin Luther is mentioned only a few times in passing, in striking contrast to the numerous citations of patristic writers, Roman law, and popes.

Other authors confirm an impression of Luther’s marginal role in anti-Jewish ethnographies. Johann Andreas Eisenmenger’s two-thousand-page Entdecktes Judentum (1700), the quintessential Christian-Hebraist exposé of Jewish religion, does not appear to refer to Martin Luther by name even once.30 Johann Christoph Bodenschatz’s Kirchliche Verfassung der heutigen Juden (1749) complained that Jews have lost the mastery of Hebrew grammar and often mistranslate the Hebrew text. Bodenschatz cited Luther for the translation of a meager two biblical words and for the encouragement to preach in Hebrew.31 Joseph ben Alexander Witzenhausen (1616–1686) translated the bible into Yiddish in 1679. When the Pietist Johann Otto Glüsing (1675–1727) completed an irenicist polyglot bible in 1712, the Biblia Pentapla, with Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Yiddish, and Dutch translations in parallel columns, he included Witzenhausen’s text. But Glüsing’s introduction warned against Jewish distortions of Messianic passages, a fear Luther shared, but Luther does not appear here by name.32

The Pietist missionary may have liked his target, but he presupposed its inferiority nonetheless. He thought Jews were unfulfilled until they yielded to Christ. In addition to the cultural violence implied by a supersessionist logic, there also existed animosity toward Jews in some territorial churches dominated by Pietists, such as the church of 18th-century Württemberg.33 The same sporadic embrace of Jewish study has been observed in the scholarship of the influential 18th-century Hebraist of the University of Halle Johann David Michaelis (1717–1791).34 Michaelis drew on a half century of intensified biblical philology to distinguish an authentic ancient Judaism, which he thought included medieval Jewish grammarians, from the degenerate and unredeemable religion of his Hebrew contemporaries. One finds this same contrast between ancient-authentic and contemporary-degenerate centuries later again in the anti-Semitic theology of the pro-Nazi theologian Gerhard Kittel. Michaelis also thought Arabic was more relevant than Hebrew to the bible scholar, in a gesture toward an emergent orientalism. This did not prevent him from admiring the Jewish rationalist Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786), precisely because Mendelssohn could be dissociated from the popular religion of Jews. Michaelis rejected the appeal of Christian Wilhelm von Dohm (1751–1820) for Jewish integration, and he supported the expulsion of Göttingen’s three or four Jewish families in response to a petition from the town’s guilds in 1777. Yet he could also support tolerance of Jewish subjects in another Christian polity.35 Ambivalence survived the critical method and the confused progress of toleration in the 18th century.

The passage to toleration has been suggested by the writings of converts. Converts contributed to a climate of anti-Jewish hostility by claiming to expose the blasphemies and dangers Jews posed to Christian society. This resentful disposition only changed at the end of the 18th century, in the era of Jewish emancipation, when converts increasingly gave positive reports of their ancestral faith and defended Jews from Christian libels.36 This could only happen once the state became truly indifferent to confessional orthodoxy.

Ambivalent Critics

A short step separated the tolerance of Pietists from confessional indifference. Emblematic of this movement was Johann Christian Edelmann (1698–1767). Luther has been found to play a minor role here, too, not as protagonist but as paper tiger.

After a Pietist education, a brief sojourn with Zinzendorf at Herrnhut, and experiments with spiritualistic bible reading, Edelmann came to believe that “the principal intention of the Lord Jesus was that the opinions of people about God that thus far divide them from one another be reunited in love and all religious spats be entirely abolished.”37 Many authors of the time hindered the achievement of this goal, a number of them discussed in the Pietist Gottfried Arnold’s Unparteiische Kirchen- und Ketzerhistorie (1729). The obstructers of ecumenical bonhomie covered the spectrum. Papists, Lutherans, and Reformed pastors and their divisive opinions all promoted religious acrimony, although papists hardly merited mention, “because everyone already knows how they oppose other related religions [Religions-Verwandten].” The Calvinist Toussain, presumably the French exile and Heidelberg theologian Daniel Toussain (1541–1602), had suggested chaining the Lutheran clergy to a galley and shipping them off to Novaya Zemblya (an island in the Barent’s Sea, off the northern coast of Russia) to join the bears and white foxes, or to America to eat maize with wild Indians and drink the spittle of old women!38 The Reformed called Lutherans antichrists, Turks, and pagans. Lutherans called Calvinists dragon-Turks, pagans, Turkish allies, and devil-worshippers.39 There was Georg Heinrich Burchard (1624–1701), who wrote “so-called Christian, foundational annotations” (Burchard’s title was Christliche, Gründliche Anmerkungen) against the Flemish mystic and refugee Antoinette Bourignon (1616–1680), a writer who like Madame Guyon (1648–1717) would captivate 18th-century Protestants in search of a non-dogmatic, love-oriented spirituality. In his preface, Burchard used Luther’s Of the Jews and Their Lies to tell Christians how to abhor Jews. Let the Christian seeing a Jew contemplate the face and think that this is the mouth that curses the precious blood of Christ that has redeemed him; how can a Christian eat, drink, or speak with this demonic mouth?40 A Christian may not compel a Jew to faith, but do not embolden their lying and insults, and do not protect them, Luther had warned and Burchard reported.41 Burchard’s appropriation of Luther’s rhetoric, Edelmann complained, is what religions do. Religions condemn people of differing opinions (the “Augsburg Confusion—I should say Confession” no less than the Nicene Creed), and they do so against Christ’s explicit command, Luke 6:37.42 Christ, Edelmann continued, “had nothing less in mind than to establish a new religion or new external so-called divine worship.”43 To Edelmann, Luther’s anti-Semitism was part of a great religious mistake. This, however, did not prevent Edelmann from presenting the Jew as a kind of primal figure of the dogmatic religiosity he opposed, as he did in an earlier dialogue describing theologians as no better than Jews.44 The traveler from Pietism to critical reason could take Luther’s anti-Semitism as the expression of a Judaistic religiosity. Ecumenical bonhomie only went so far.

Gradually the anxiety over Jewish blasphemy yielded to the grand enterprise of Spener’s missionary program, and then it progressed from cultural accommodation to plain tolerance. But tolerance never extinguished contempt. The religious skepticism evoked by Edelmann’s fusion of spirituality and critique helped to transpose a conflict between religions into a conflict between Europeans and Jews.

Adam Sutcliffe traces the development of the Enlightenment’s ambivalent tolerance to the late Renaissance. Alongside the rise of a positive appraisal of non-biblical peoples, inaugurated by François de la Mothe le Vayer’s De la vertu des paiens (1642) and represented by the work of John Toland (1670–1722), Pierre Daniel Huet (1630–1721), and John Spenser (1630–1693), who argued for Egyptian influence on Hebrew ritual, and continuing through Voltaire (1694–1778), there emerged a partially or wholly de-Christianized view of Jewish enmity. Benedict Spinoza (1632–1677) made a special contribution to this line of critical scholarship. He combined a political idealization of ancient Israel with contempt for modern Jews. Later this encouraged the coupling of emancipation with a belief in Jewish social and cultural inferiority. Rationalist desacralizers of the bible, such as Adriaan Koerbagh (1632–1669) and Lodewijk Meyer (1629–1681), deprivileged the status of Jews while retaining the bible as a source of rational religion. The coexistence of an idealized ancient Israel and a belief in the social and cultural inferiority of contemporary Jews further encouraged the survival of contempt among the promoters of Jewish emancipation.45 The rationalist mingling of tolerance with a diffuse cultural contempt was especially evident in France, where the impact of the great trio of early Enlightenment skeptics, Spinoza, John Locke (1632–1704), and the French ex-patriot and Rotterdam professor Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), informed a thriving underground press. Spinoza, Locke, and Bayle each found Judaism to be “antithetical to his own values,” showing, Sutcliffe argues, how far the Enlightenment notion of tolerance fell short of true recognition of the Other.46

Soon after, Luther would gain what Jonathan Sheehan has called a “new post-theological authority.” He became the property of the German everyman, because his translation of the bible created the German language, according to the convert Heinrich Heine (1797–1856).47 Reappraising Luther as a theorist of individual liberty, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814), and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), all contributors to a modern, national self-awareness, moved Luther from churches and theology faculties into a broadening public sphere increasingly marked by bourgeois literacy and political populism.48


While Luther was taking his place outside of church in the public square, a fantasy of race-based order grew out of a particular theory of languages and cultures. Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829), Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835), and Franz Bopp (1791–1867) developed a theory that traced the evolution of European languages to an “Aryan” prototype in ancient India.49 Building on an Enlightenment concept that speech and folklore were concrete expressions of ancient national identities, the comparative mythology of Friedrich Max Müller (1823–1900) and Ernst Renan (1823–1892) helped hypostasize Indo-European and Semitic languages into cultures and races. Renan adapted this polygenetic idea of national identity to existing European prejudices, although he and Müller both criticized racial conceptions of the state.50 Others used these ideas to promote a concept of race-based nationhood, arguing for a variety of Aryan-Semitic differences that were often grossly hostile toward Jews as a people and Judaism as a culture, appealing to pseudo-scientific arguments for bloodlines and inherited racial traits.51 By the 1870s the neologism “anti-Semitism” was used to name an anti-Jewish posture embodied in a populist, Aryan-German ethnicity—an antipode to the aspirations of German society. Racial anti-Semitism was a newcomer in the ideology of Jew-hating. It gave religious skeptics an alternative, “secular” way to express enmity, by shifting the grounds for their claim to superiority from Christian culture to race. A secularized racism was the well-known preference of Adolf Hitler (1889–1945).52

The concept of ethnic nationality is perhaps best known from the writings of the Berlin historian Heinrich von Treitschke (1834–1886), who darkly claimed, “The Jews are our misfortune” (Die Juden sind unser Unglück).53 Treitschke supported calls for the revocation of Jewish civil rights by arguing that Jewish and Slavic cultures were incompatible with Germanic civilization, but he liked his Jewish students, insofar as he could view them as “historical Christians” influenced by a Western-medieval and modern intellectual patrimony.54 Even Treitschke preserved a certain ambivalence when he gazed at Jews through the prism of his own civilization.

Theological and exegetical conceptions of Jews stemming from early Christianity and the Middle Ages were historically linked to a diffuse sense of European-Jewish incompatibility. “To a large degree, the idea of race was but a late development that tied up some loose ends in early thinking about the ‘national character’ of the Jews and lent it a pseudoscientific basis,” the historian Paul Lawrence Rose explains.55 Beneath the many varieties of hostility toward Jews, “pagan, Christian, rationalist, economic, moral, racist, French, Russian, American, anti-Zionist, liberal, Arab, and even Jewish,” one may detect a singular “resentment of the Jews for being ‘a nation apart,’ ‘a chosen race,’ separated from the rest of humanity. This concept was always a dual one in that it fused a religious concept of the chosen people with a secular one of Jewish ethnicity.”56 The enemy of the late 19th-century anti-Semite descended from a dispersed yet ethnically coherent, biblical nation that had once fascinated the Renaissance Christian Hebraist, willfully contradicting the Christian Hebraist’s religion and expressing his enmity by resisting conversion, by allegedly exploiting Christian industriousness and honest living, and by allegedly blaspheming the Trinity, Christ, and the Virgin Mary. The inclusion of Jews in Christian narratives accounts for the continental and global spread of anti-Semitism.57

While secularized racism grew in the two generations between unification and World War I, for Germany’s two-thirds Protestant majority Luther’s star shone bright on the nation’s cultural firmament. There was no singular Luther effect on anti-Semitism before or after German unification. As a 2016 volume of essays makes clear, his writings against the Jews were well known in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Most theologians were not very keen on them—not only Catholics but also Lutheran Pietists, conservatives, and liberal reconcilers of Enlightenment philosophy, science, and theology.58 Lutheran conservatives hoped for the conversion of Jews. Liberals embraced Jewish emancipation and assimilation.59 Neither group was served by the Jew-hating invectives of Luther’s last years.

Notwithstanding this general avoidance of that distemper, theologians were largely helpless to hinder the spirited adaptation of Luther’s anti-Jewish polemic by German racial populists, National Socialists, and members of the “German Christian” movement, all of whom consumed, regurgitated, and augmented the slanders of Luther’s Of the Jews and Their Lies when it suited them.60 Some anti-Semites saw Luther as not radical enough, such as the Göttingen orientalist Paul de Lagarde (1827–1891), who believed that a national religion should supersede institutionalized churches. He thought Martin Luther failed to break free of a Catholic mentality. Although this criticism violated a certain cultural orthodoxy, the Berlin theologian and academic kingmaker Adolf von Harnack, an admirer of Luther’s “epoch-making greatness,” had great praise for de Lagarde as a terrific Protestant theologian.61 Meanwhile, in the German Catholic Church, which may never have become “an active force of nationalism” or a contributor to “the intensification of national consciousness,” a sense of Christian-Jewish conflict were added to the stresses of the Kulturkampf, the campaign by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (r. 1871–1890) to impose a Protestant-national culture on Catholic citizens. Animosity toward Jews could flourish without Luther. Catholic clergy had little more use for Jews than other German nationalists. They merged conflicts between church and state, ultramontanism and liberalism, and Catholicism and Protestantism into an omnibus “phobia” for “a bad world inhabited by Antichrists and castoff ‘God-killers,’” that is, a secular Europe dominated by metaphorical Jews.62 Anti-Semitism became a “cultural code,” a sign of group membership, for Catholics no less than Protestants and secularists at the end of the 19th century.63

If the majority of Protestant theologians were cool to Luther’s anti-Semitic corpus, there were spectacular exceptions to this rule. A few, such as the Protestant theologian Adolf Stoecker (d. 1909), chaplain to Kaiser Wilhelm II (r. 1888–1918) and the outspoken founder of the influential Christian-Social Workers’ Party (established 1881), who was celebrated as “the court preacher of all Germans,” promoted a traditional Christian supersessionism and a Protestantly Christianized state after the stock market crash of 1873 and upon Bismarck’s “conservative turn” at the end of the decade, just as working class anti-Semitism exploded and ignited the political right.64 When Treitschke added his voice to the melee of anxiety in 1879, he appealed, ludicrously, to the prominent Jewish historian Heinrich Graetz. “One reads it in Graetz’s history of the Jews, what fanatical rage against the ‘hereditary enmity,’ Christendom, what mortal hatred precisely against the purest and most powerful exemplars of Germanic essence, from Luther to Goethe and Fichte!” Then Treitschke describes the Jews’ “overestimation” of themselves as absurd.65 Graetz quickly rebutted Treitschke’s perverse appeal to his History of the Jews.66 But the rebuttal did little to stem the progress of popular anti-Semitism. Adolf Stoecker’s combination of German nationalism and conservatism was propagated by the Protestant press, youth organizations, Protestant home missions, and clergy societies.67 In this manner, German nationalism and religious conservatism were swept up in the same tide.

At least some part of this current continued through 1945 among Protestant churchmen influenced by Stoecker in their young adulthood. These included the German Protestant bishops Theophil Wurm (1868–1953), Hans Meiser (1881–1956), and Otto Dibelius (1880–1967). Theophil Wurm explicitly linked anti-Semitism to traditional Christian polemic before and during the Nazi period. He blamed the Enlightenment for promiscuously advocating political emancipation and freethinking. The Enlightenment created the “unbearable hegemony of Judaism.”68 Wurm was an early leader in Württemberg of the resistance to the integration of territorial churches into the “Imperial Church” (Reichskirche), against which the Confessing Church was organized. This earned him a three-week house arrest in 1934.69 A man of conviction, when asked by his colleagues in the Confessing Church to protest the so-called Reichskristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom of November 9–10, 1938, that destroyed every synagogue in Germany and many Jewish businesses and much real property that survived Nazi “dejudaization” thus far, he did in fact write a letter of protest to the minister of justice, Franz Gürtner. But he in no way contested “the state’s right to combat Judaism as a dangerous entity.”70 The Nazi euthanasia program, which he eventually protested (1940), helped unsettle his anti-Jewish nationalism. He finally objected to the persecution of Jews, too, in 1943, only as the deportations of Jews from Germany were completed. Immediately after the war Wurm was instrumental in the composition and adaptation of the “Stuttgart Confession of Guilt” (1945), in which Wurm, Martin Niemoeller (1892–1984), Meiser, Dibelius, and other Protestant dignitaries confessed, “We have for long years struggled in the name of Jesus Christ against the spirit that has had its fruitful expression in the National-Socialist regime of terror; but we imprecate ourselves, that we did not confess more courageously, did not pray more faithfully, did not believe more joyously, and did not love more fervently.”71 This is the brief document’s entire account of the church’s complicity in the violence of the previous twelve years. It turns immediately to describe a new beginning. Such was the legacy of Adolf Stoecker’s admirers in the Confessing Church.

In Bavaria during the Weimar Republic, Hans Meiser wanted the church to re-Christianize society after the de-Christianization of the nation-state, which occurred in 1918 and ended a history he thought had begun with the conversion of Clovis in 496. Meiser was a critic of the “racial materialism” of nonreligious anti-Semites. He promoted the racial struggle against Jews nonetheless, arguing for Jewish citizenship to be revoked and Jews to be driven from public life.72 These attitudes were deliberately linked to the history of Jewish servitude in Christian nations by Heinrich Rendtorff (1888–1960), bishop of the church of Mecklenburg. In April 1933, the German Protestant Church Committee (the national umbrella of the German Protestant Church at the time) deliberated over the question of solidarity with Jews against their persecution. Rendtorff argued that emancipation was a product of the Enlightenment, did not reflect Protestant norms, and therefore left Jews outside the church’s purview.73 There was no need for the church to defend Jewish citizenship.

Otto Dibelius was a leader in the Confessing Church during the Third Reich. During the Weimar Republic he adapted Stoecker’s concept of the “Christian state.” Dibelius admonished the church to compensate for the absence of such a Christian state by assuming the leadership of morals and culture, making the church the nation’s “lifeform” (Lebensform) and “homeland” (Heimat), restoring a lost wholeness, soul, homeland, Christian bonds, ethnicity, fatherland, and national consciousness, doing battle against the degradations of industrialization—and democracy.74 The Jews were enemies of Heimat. They promoted modernity and embraced a rigid “asphalt culture.” None of this seemed to hinder a spectacular career as “one of the world’s great churchmen,” as Time magazine enthused in 1953.75 Nor did the Third Reich, whose interference in church government he opposed, diminish his commitment to the church’s role as a unifying force in society. He was a founding member of the Christian Democratic Union, chairman of the Evangelical Church in Germany (the umbrella organization of Protestant state churches in Germany, 1949–1961), bishop of the Protestant Church of Berlin-Brandenburg (1945–1966), and president of the World Council of Churches (1954–1960). The Time cover story is a clear indication of the respect Dibelius commanded in the American Protestant establishment. The cover carried the caption “It is not easy to live as a Christian,” and the article offered a fair account of the Protestant bishop’s anti-communism, ecumenical profile, uncertainty over western European democracy, and impact on postwar Christianity.

Similarly, Gerhard Kittel (1888–1948), whose reputation as a biblical scholar was barely diminished after the war, abandoned his Weimar-era admiration for Jewish ethics (it was equal to Christianity, he originally thought) and became a Christian anti-Semite when Hitler came to power in 1933, promoting segregation, including the segregation of Jewish converts into separate churches and the withdrawal of German citizenship from Jews.76 Kittel’s integration of Christianity and Nazism was on full display in his 1936 inaugural address to a department dedicated to “the Jewish question” in the Nazi Walter Frank’s racist Imperial Institute for the History of the New Germany. Judaism, Kittel argued, was a religion that originated in the Babylonian exile, was distinguished from the original Hebraic faith by diaspora and the Talmud, and had been weakened by a long history of miscegenation. The historical role of theological attempts to dissociate Judaism from Christianity during the Third Reich keeps similar discussions in Germany today extremely controversial.77 Perhaps alluding to the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Kittel claimed that Jews used their dispersion to dominate the world.78 To be sure, Kittel never advocated the bodily extermination of Jews. But Stoecker, Wurm, Meiser, Dibelius, Rendtorff, and Kittel were among the most prominent Protestant churchmen and scholars of their generation. They leave no doubt that the idea of Christian-Jewish conflict was deeply embedded in the Lutheran establishment and intrinsic to a certain strand of Protestant social ethics—Judaism presented as a drag on the good society—even if it was by no means the only strand.

The selection by the young Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) of citations from Luther to support his call for Christian solidarity with Jews did little to stem the influence of more prominent churchmen, although voices of protest suggest that the meaning of Luther during the Third Reich was not purely anti-Semitic.79 In 1936, the leadership of the Confessing Church, the minority organization of German Protestants who protested the domination of the church by Nazi government, published a “Memorandum to the Führer and the Imperial Chancellor” that complained of the incompatibility of the Nazi worldview with Christianity, railed against the “aggrandizement of the Aryan man,” and contrasted the anti-Semitism imposed by the National Socialist worldview with the Christian commandment to love one’s neighbor.80 Scattered Lutheran sermons after the pogroms of Reichskristallnacht defended Christians of Jewish descent. But many pastors justified the anti-Jewish violence of early November 1938, the beginning of the complete disintegration of Jewish life in Germany. For example, the Landesbischof of Thüringen Martin Sasse (1890–1942), promoter of the German Christian movement in Thuringia, where the Protestant churches were particularly anti-Semitic, and a member of the Nazi party, was pleased that the national pogrom occurred on the commonly accepted date of Luther’s birthday:

On November 10, 1938, and Luther’s birthday, the synagogues burned in Germany. … In this hour the voice must be heard of the man who, as German prophet of the sixteenth century first began as friend of Jews, who driven by his conscience, driven by experience and reality, became the biggest anti-Semite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews.81

The German Christians inaugurated the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life, a society of corresponding members, to promote the synthesis of Nazi and Protestant worldviews. Its work, according to the pronouncements of its founder, Walter Grundmann (1906–1976), professor of New Testament at Jena, completed the Reformation Luther had begun.82

These select examples point to a fusion of religious and racial prejudices in the 19th and 20th centuries, two “originally distinct lines of impulse in the sensibilities and arguments of a broad majority of the population” that “came together in a barely breakable connection,” as the historian Günther van Norden has said.83 Van Norden explains that to try to relieve Christians of guilt by claiming that Nazism was as anti-Christian as it was anti-Jewish, as a group of Bonn theologians suggested in the early 1980s, ignores the strong collaboration of National Socialists and Christian churches in the Third Reich.84 It may be tempting for a Protestant to discount the xenophobic marriage of Luther to modern racism as a “fraudulent reception” or to push the trajectory from “Luther to Hitler” to the margins of current research.85 But Luther, whether “against his better judgment” or intuitively embracing ancient Christian prejudices, undoubtedly contributed to the marriage of anti-Jewish feeling and German nationalism.86 Luther, like Christianity, cannot really be separated from the history of racial violence in Europe.


Since the late 20th century scholars have shown how complex Luther’s contribution to anti-Jewish racism was. As we have seen, this complexity is due to the contrasting emphases of his writings about Jews, combined with broader historical trends in intellectual culture, namely, a certain ambivalence that characterized (1) Christian Hebraism after the Reformation, (2) missions aimed at Jews in the 18th century, and (3) the rational philosophies of the Enlightenment. In the end, Luther’s reputation and writings helped transfer elements of a traditional Christian polemical repertoire to broader sensibilities about social identity in the emerging nation-state of the 19th century and beyond.

Further Reading

Burnett, Stephen G. “Distorted Mirrors: Antonius Margaritha, Johann Buxtorf and Christian Ethnographies of the Jews.” Sixteenth Century Journal 15 (1994): 275–287.Find this resource:

Burnett, Stephen G. From Christian Hebraism to Jewish Studies: Johannes Buxtorf (1564–1629) and Hebrew Learning in the Seventeenth Century. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1996.Find this resource:

Deutsch, Yaacov. Judaism in Christian Eyes: Ethnographic Descriptions of Jews and Judaism in Early Modern Europe. Translated by Avi Aronsky. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Elyada, Aya. A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish: Christians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Ericksen, Robert P. Complicity in the Holocaust: Churches and Universities in Nazi Germany. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Friedman, Jerome. “Jewish Conversion, the Spanish Pure Blood Laws and Reformation: A Revisionist View of Racial and Religious Antisemitism.” Sixteenth Century Journal 18 (1987): 3–30.Find this resource:

Gritsch, Eric W. Martin Luther’s Anti-Semitism: Against His Better Judgment. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012.Find this resource:

Heschel, Susannah. The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Kalman, Julie. Rethinking Antisemitism in Nineteenth-Century France. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Kaufmann, Thomas. Luthers Juden. Stuttgart: Verlag Philip Reclam, 2014.Find this resource:

Kushner, Tony, and Nadia Valman, eds. Philosemitism, Antisemitism and “the Jews”: Perspectives from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2004.Find this resource:

Nirenberg, David. Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition. New York: W. W. Norton, 2013.Find this resource:

Oelke, Jarry, Wolfgang Kraus, Gury Scheider-Ludorff, Axel Töllner, and Anselm Schubert, eds. Martin Luthers “Judenschriften”: Die Rezeption im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016.Find this resource:

Olender, Maurice. Les langues du Paradis: Aryens et Sémites, un couple providentiel. Paris: Gallimard Le Seuil, 1989.Find this resource:

Probst, Christopher J. Demonizing the Jews: Luther and the Protestant Church in Nazi Germany. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Rose, Paul Lawrence. Revolutionary Antisemitism in Germany from Kant to Wagner. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.Find this resource:

Sutcliffe, Adam. Judaism and Enlightenment. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Wallmann, Johannes. “The Reception of Luther’s Writings on the Jews from the Reformation to the End of the 19th Century.” Lutheran Quarterly 1 (1987): 72–97.Find this resource:

Zinguer, Ilana Y., and Sam W. Bloom, eds. L’Antisémitisme Éclairé: Inclusion et exclusion depuis l’Epoque des Lumières jusqu’à l’affaire Dreyfus. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.Find this resource:


(1.) For the apocalyptic framework, see Heiko Oberman, The Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Age of Renaissance and Reformation, trans. Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989); Eric W. Gritsch, Martin Luther’s Anti-Semitism: Against His Better Judgment (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012), 133–137; and Bernd Hamm, “Die Rezeption von Luthers ‘Judenschriften’ im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Ein Kommentar zur Tagung,” in Martin Luthers “Judenschriften”: Die Rezeption im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Jarry Oelke, Wolfgang Kraus, Gury Scheider-Ludorff, Axel Töllner, and Anselm Schubert (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016), 315–322, esp. 317–318. All translations are my own unless otherwise indicated.

(2.) Christopher Ocker, “German Theologians and the Jews in the Fifteenth Century,” in Jews, Judaism, and the Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Germany, ed. Dean Phillip Bell, Stephen G. Burnett (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2006), 33–65.

(3.) David Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (New York: W. W. Norton, 2013), 246–268. Emphasis on Luther’s revival of the bible’s literal sense, and his disassociation of Jews from it, may overly simplify, and exaggerate the innovation of, Protestant hermeneutics. Christopher Ocker, Biblical Poetics before Humanism and Reformation (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 184–213; Ocker, “The Four Senses of Scripture,” in Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, ed. Dale Allison Jr., Volker Leppin, Choon-Leong Seow, Hermann Spieckermann, Barry Dov Walfish, Eric Ziolkowski, vol. 9 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014), 551–556; Ocker, “Typology,” in The Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine, ed. Karla Pollmann (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 1831–1837.

(4.) Jerome Friedman, “Jewish Conversion, the Spanish Pure Blood Laws and Reformation: A Revisionist View of Racial and Religious Antisemitism,” Sixteenth Century Journal 18 (1987): 3–30. For the 15th-century prelude, see Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism, 217–245.

(5.) Derek J. Penslar, Shylock’s Children: Economics and Jewish Identity in Modern Europe (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 20; Aya Elyada, A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish: Christians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), 104–105, 118.

(6.) Christopher Ocker, “‘Rechte Arme’ und ‘Bettler Orden’: Eine neue Sicht der Armut und die Deligitimierung der Bettelmönche,” in Kulturelle Reformation: Sinnformationen im Umbruch, ed. Bernhard Jussen and Craig Koslofsky (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999), 123–151; Martin Luther, Von der falschen Betler buberey (1528), vol. 26 of Martin Luthers Werke (Weimar, Germany: H. Böhlau, 1883–2009), 637–654.

(7.) Johannes Wallmann, “The Reception of Luther’s Writings on the Jews from the Reformation to the End of the 19th Century,” Lutheran Quarterly 1 (1987): 72–97.

(8.) Stephen G. Burnett, From Christian Hebraism to Jewish Studies: Johannes Buxtorf (1564–1629) and Hebrew Learning in the Seventeenth Century (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1996), 123.

(9.) Elyada, Goy Who Speaks Yiddish, 76–77.

(10.) Elyada, Goy Who Speaks Yiddish, 77–78.

(11.) Elyada, Goy Who Speaks Yiddish, 77–78. This expressed the general growth of the historicization of biblical knowledge. Debora Shuger, The Renaissance Bible: Scholarship, Sacrifice, and Subjectivity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

(12.) The most important of which were Jüdischer Sprach-Meister (c. 1714); Philog Lottus, Kurtze und gründliche Anweisung zur Teutsch-Jüdischen Sprache (1733); and Bibliophilus, Jüdischer Sprach-Meister, oder Hebräisch-Teutsches Wörter-Buch (1742). Elyada, God Who Speaks Yiddish, 50–64. The convert Samuel Friedrich Brenz points to the insulting Yiddish names for Protestants (the new Amona ra, —"that is, the new bad faith”), the papacy (the old Amona ra), Calvinists (minem, “that is, the unbelievers”), then alleges that they offered Luther a sum of money in exchange for his intervention on their behalf to receive protection in evangelical lands, because the Jews had good access to Luther. “But listen, you Jews, what blessed Herr Doctor Luther thought about you; he said, ‘Henceforth I will have nothing to do with any Jew, since they are, as Saint Paul says, given over to wrath; indeed, the more a person wants to help them, the harder and angrier they get, for which reason, leave them off,’ [so says] Doctor Luther in the book Of the Jews and their Lies.” Samuel Friedrich Brenz, Jüdischer abgestreiffter Schlangenbalg (Nuremberg: Balthasar Scherffen, 1614), sign. cii(r)–cii(v).

(13.) Stephen G. Burnett, “Distorted Mirrors: Antonius Margaritha, Johann Buxtorf and Christian Ethnographies of the Jews,” Sixteenth Century Journal 15 (1994): 275–287; Burnett, From Christian Hebraism to Jewish Studies, 78–79; Johannes Buxtorf, Synagoga Judaica: Das ist, Juden-schul, Darinnen der gantz Jüdische Glaub und Glaubensübung (Basel: Ludwig König, 1643), viii(r)–viii(v). For editions, consider Thomas Kaufmann, Konfession und Kultur: Lutherischer Protestantismus in der zweiten Hälfte des Reformationsjahrhunderts (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 114–115n5.

(14.) Wallmann, “Reception of Luther’s Writings,” 72–97.

(15.) His claim regarding Luther hung on Luther’s interpretation of Rom. 11:25. Johannes Wallmann, “Zur Haltung des Pietismus gegenüber den Juden,” in vol. 4 of Geschichte des Pietismus, ed. Martin Brecht, Klaus Deppermann, Ulrich Gäbler, and Hartmut Lehmann (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1993–2004), 146–148.

(16.) Wallmann, “Zur Haltung,” 148.

(17.) The church historian Johannes Wallmann, who seems to share Spener’s hope for Jewish conversion, comments, “Thereby Luther, with his most read homiletical work, became a witness to the truth of the future conversion of the Jews.” Wallmann, “Zur Haltung,” 148–149.

(18.) Wallmann, “Zur Haltung,” 149.

(19.) Wallmann, “Zur Haltung,” 150.

(20.) Wallmann, “Zur Haltung,” 151.

(21.) Wallmann, “Zur Haltung,” 153, whose view of missionizing is less equivocal than that in this article.

(22.) Wallmann, “Zur Haltung,” 155–156. Christian Benedikt Michaelis was the nephew of the more famous editor of the 1720 Biblia hebraica.

(23.) For the following, see Wallmann, “Zur Haltung,” 158–161.

(24.) Wallmann, “Zur Haltung, 145–146, 158–161; Johann Andreas Wagenseil, Tela ignea Satanae sive arcani et horribiles Judaeorum adversus Christum, Deum et Christianam religionem libri (Frankfurt: Zunner, 1681), 88–89.

(25.) The six works were Yomtov Lipman of Mühlhausen’s Sefer Niẓaḥon, Yitzḥaq of Torki’s Sefer Ḥissuk Emuna, the anonymous Sefer Niẓaḥon Yashan, the Toldoth Yešu, and the Hebrew protocols of the disputations of Paris (1240) and Barcelona (1263). For the preface to theologians, Tela ignea Satanae, 7–104. There exists a serviceable online English translation by Wade Blocker, “Johann Christian Wagenseil’s 1681 Satan’s Fiery Darts Preface.” My references are to the Latin text.

(26.) Wagenseil, Tela ignea Satanae, 86–88.

(27.) These include Raymond Martini, Peter Galatini, Paul Fagius, Sebastian Münster, Joseph Scaliger, Caesar Cardinal Baronius, the elder and younger Buxtorfs, Hugo Grotius, Wilhelm Schickard, John Drusius, Peter Cunaei, Jean and Louis Cappel, John Cameron, Sixtinus of Amama, Samuel Petitus, Louis de Dieu, Dionysius Petavius, John Selden, Guilelmus Henricus Vorstius, John Henricus Hottinger, Theodorici Hackspanius, Sebaldus Schellius, Johannes Coccejus, Constantin l’Empereur, Johannis Morini, Joseph Voisin, John Lightfoot, and the Casaubons. Wagenseil, Tela ignea Satanae, 64–66. His medieval informants include the infamous 15th-century Iberian polemicist Hieronymo de Sante Fide. Wagenseil, Tela ignea Satanae, 75–78.

(28.) Wagenseil, Tela ignea Satanae, 10–13.

(29.) Wagenseil, Tela ignea Satanae, 100–103. Compulsory sermons were a common late medieval practice.

(30.) Johann Andreas Eisenmenger, Entdecktes Judenthum, 2 parts (Königsberg: n.p., 1711).

(31.) Johann Christoph Georg Bodenschatz, Kirchliche Verfassung der heutigen Juden sonderlich derer in Deutschland, 4 parts (Coburg, Germany: Georg Otto, 1749), 1:7, 1:178, 2:10.

(32.) Elyada, Goy Who Speaks Yiddish, 65–75. Wallmann, by contrast, sees the Biblia Pentapla as “eine unparteiische Bibelausgabe.” Wallmann, “Zur Haltung,” 151.

(33.) Peter von der Osten-Sacken, Martin Luther und die Juden: Neu untersucht anhand von Anton Margarithas ‘Der gantz Jüdisch glaub’ (1530/31) (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2002), 272–274.

(34.) Dominique Bourel, “La judéophobie savante dans l’Allemagne des Lumières: Johann David Michaelis,” in L’Antisémitisme Éclairé: Inclusion et exclusion depuis l’Epoque des Lumières jusqu’à l’affaire Dreyfus, ed. Ilana Y. Zinguer and Sam W. Bloom (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003), 125–138.

(35.) Bourel, “La judéophobie,” 127–128, 137. See also Anna-Ruth Löwenbrück, Judenfeindschaft im Zeitalter der Aufklärung: Eine Studie zur Vorgeschichte des modernen Antisemitismus am Beispiel des Göttinger Theologen und Orientalisten Johann David Michaelis (1717–1791) (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1995), 123–178, 192–202 and passim, and Michael C. Legaspi, The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies (New York: Oxford, 2010), 95–104.

(36.) Yaacov Deutsch, Judaism in Christian Eyes: Ethnographic Descriptions of Jews and Judaism in Early Modern Europe, trans. Avi Aronsky (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 229–258.

(37.) Johann Christian Edelmann, Abgenöthigtes, jedoch Andern nicht wieder aufgenöthites Glaubens-Bekenntniß (Frankfurt: n.p., 1746), 143. For Edelmann as a mediating figure between Enlightenment and radical spiritualism, see Else Walravens, “Johann Christian Edelmann’s Radicalism: A Synthesis of Enlightenment and Spirituality,” Philosophica 89 (2014): 137–178.

(38.) Edelmann, Abgenöthigtes, 144.

(39.) Edelmann, Abgenöthigtes, 144.

(40.) Antoinette was a Flemish mystical writer who contributed to the broad movement of Quietism in the 18th century. She had a strong following in the Netherlands and Scotland. She spent the last year of her life in Hamburg, which raised Burchard’s alarm. Mirjam de Baar, “Conflicting Discourses on Female Dissent in the Early Modern Period: The Case of Antoinette Bourignon (1616–1680),” L’Atelier du Centre de recherches historiques, April 2009.

(41.) Edelmann, Abgenöthigtes, 145; Luther, D. Martin Luthers Werke 53:528.

(42.) Edelmann, Abgenöthigtes, 146.

(43.) Edelmann, Abgenöthigtes, 147.

(44.) Adam Sutcliffe, Judaism and Enlightenment (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 184; Johann Christian Edelmann, Moses mit Aufgedeckten Angesicht (1740); Rüdgiger Otto, “Johann Christian Edelmann’s Criticism of the Bible and Its Relation to Spinoza,” in Disguised and Overt Spinozism around 1700, ed. Wiep van Bunge, Wim Klever (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1996), 171–188.

(45.) Sutcliffe, Judaism and Enlightenment, 128–129, 131, 235, 249, and passim.

(46.) Adam Sutcliffe, “Enlightenment and Exclusion: Judaism and Toleration in Spinoza, Locke and Bayle,” in Philosemitism, Antisemitism and “the Jews”: Perspectives from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century, ed. Tony Kushner and Nadia Valman (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2004), 176–193, and quoting Goethe, in Joachim Whaley’s translation, “Toleration should really only be a transitory attitude. It must lead to recognition. To tolerate is to insult.” Compare Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Maximen und Reflexionen: Vollständige Neuausgabe mit einer Biographie des Autors, ed. Karl-Maria Guth (Berlin: Hofenberg, 2014), 95. Goethe also shared in “the philosophical critique of Judaism as a religion without feeling.” Ritchie Robertson, “The Limits of Toleration in Enlightenment Germany: Lessing, Goethe and the Jews,” in Kushner and Valman, Philosemitism, Antisemitism and “the Jews,” 213.

(47.) Jonathan Sheehan, The Enlightenment Bible: Translation, Scholarship, Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 224.

(48.) Heinrich Asselt, “The Use of Luther’s Thought in the Nineteenth Century and the Luther Renaissance,” The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, ed. Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’Ubomír Batka (New York: Oxford, 2014), 551–572.

(49.) Maurice Olender, Les langues du Paradis: Aryens et Sémites, un couple providentiel (Paris: Gallimard, Le Seuil, 1989), 22, 26–34. Ignaz Goldziher (1850–1921), adapting Ernst Renan to his own purpose, gave Semites in the primordial position. Olender, Les langues du Paradis, 153–175.

(50.) Ernest Renan, “What Is A Nation?” (1882), in Becoming National: A Reader, ed. Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 41–55. To distance his theory of cultures and races from anti-Semitism, Renan defined the nation as “a soul, a spiritual principle,” based on “the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories” and “present-day consent, the desire to live together, the will to perpetuate the value of the heritage that one has received in an undivided form.”

(51.) Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008), 33–47.

(52.) Nazi state policy held the relationship of Christianity and Judaism as something distinct from and inappropriate to race-based anti-Semitism, which was conceived as a political weapon in defense of the German people. Leonore Siegele-Wenschkewitz, “Protestantische Universitätstheologie und Rassenideologie in der Zeit des Natoinalsozialismus—Gerhard Kittels Vortrag ‘Die Entstehung des Judentums und die Entstehung der Judenfrage,’” in Antisemitismus, ed. ed. Günter Brakelmann and Martin Rosowski (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989), here 59. Peter von der Osten-Sacken noted that the religious element of German anti-Semitism has been ignored by most (German) scholarship. Osten-Sacken, Martin Luther und die Juden, 285–289.

(53.) Heinrich von Treitschke, “Unsere Aussichten,” Preußische Jahrbücher 44 (1879): 559–576. An edition of the conclusion (572–576) is included in Deutsche Geschichte in Dokumenten und Bildern, vol. 4, Reichsgründung: Bismarcks Deutschland 1866–1890. Jeffrey Andrew Barush, “German Historiography: 19th Century German National Identity and the Jews,” in Zinguer and Bloom L’Antisémitisme Éclairé, 366–367.

(54.) Olender, Les langues, 29; Barush, “German Historiography, 351–367.

(55.) Paul Lawrence Rose, Revolutionary Antisemitism in Germany from Kant to Wagner (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), xvii.

(56.) Rose, Revolutionary Antisemitism, xvi.

(57.) Gritsch, Martin Luther’s Anti-Semitism, 111–132. For Christian conceptions of the Jews as a nation, see Deutsch, Judaism in Christian Eyes, 34–76. For its role in European political thought, see Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism, 300–324. For the synergy of nationalist and religious anti-Semitism in France, see Julie Kalman, Rethinking Antisemitism in Nineteenth-Century France (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010). For the Americas, see the following: Jeff Lesser, Welcoming the Undesirables: Brazil and the Jewish Question (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 46–117; Judith Laikin Elkin, “Colonial Origins of Contemporary Anti-Semitism in Latin America,” in The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America: New Studies on History and Literature, ed. David Sheinin and Lois Baer Barr (New York: Garland, 1996), 127–142; Sandra McGee Deutsch, “Anti-Semitism and the Chilean Movimiento Nacional Socialista, 1932–1941,” in Sheinin and Barr, Jewish Diaspora in Latin America, 161–182; Ronald C. Newton, “German Nazism and the Origins of Argentine Anti-Semitism,” in Sheinin and Barr, Jewish Diaspora in Latin America, 199–218; Robert Michael, A Concise History of American Antisemitism (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005).

(58.) Oelke et al., Martin Luthers “Judenschriften.”

(59.) Hamm, “Die Rezeption,” 316. Luther’s biographers, both Catholic and Protestant, tended to avoid the subject of his anti-Judaism. Schubert, “Die Rezeption von Luthers ‘Judenschriften,’” 59.

(60.) Hann Christof Brennecke, “Die Rezeption von Luthers ‘Judenschriften’ in Erweckungsbewegung und Konfessionalismus,” in Oelke et al., Martin Luthers “Judenschriften,” 85–106; Olive Arnhold, “‘Luther und die Juden’ bei den Deutschen Christen,” in Oelke et al., Martin Luthers “Judenschriften,” 191–213; Johannes Heil, “Die Rezeption von Luthers ‘Judenschriften’ im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Ein Kommentar zur Tagung,” in Oelke et al., Martin Luthers “Judenschriften,” 324; Thomas Kaufmann, Luthers Juden (Stuttgart: Verlag Philip Reclam, 2014), 141–170.

(61.) Ulrich Sieg, Germany’s Prophet: Paul de Lagarde and the Origins of Modern Antisemitism, trans. Inda Ann Marianiello (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2013), 61, 122, 250. As president of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften (1911–1920), predecessor of today’s Max-Plank-Gesellschaft, von Harnack was one of the most influential figures in the cultural politics of the Weimar Era. For the Harnack quotation, see Peter Grove, “Adolf von Harnack and Karl Holl on Luther at the Origins of Modernity,” in Lutherrenaissance Past and Present, ed. Christine Helmer and Bo Kristian Holm (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015), here 109.

(62.) Olaf Blaschke, Katholizismus und Antisemitismus im Deutschen Kaiserreich (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999), 315. For Catholicism and German nationalism, see Thomas Nipperday, Religion im Umbruch: Deutschland 1870–1918 (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1988), 42–66, esp. 49.

(63.) Blaschke, Katholizismus, 318.

(64.) For this and the following, see Martin Greschat, “Protestantischer Antisemitismus in Wilhelminischer Zeit: Das Beispiel des Hofpredigers Adolf Stoecker,” in Brakelmann and Rosowski, Antisemitismus, 27–51.

(65.) Heinrich von Treitschke, “Unsere Aussichten,” Dokumente 3.

(66.) Heinrich Graetz, “Erwiderung an Herrn von Treitschke,” Schlesische Presse 859, December 7, 1879, in Der ‘Berliner Antisemitismusstreit, 1879–1881: Eine Kontroverse um die Zugehörigkeit der deutschen Juden zur Nation, 2 vols., ed. Karsten Krieger (Munich: K. G. Saur, 2004), 1:95–99.

(67.) Greschat, “Protestantischer Antisemitismus,” 27–39.

(68.) Greschat, “Protestantischer Antisemitismus,” 39.

(69.) Joachim Schaeffer, “Theophil Wurm,” Ökumenisches Heiligenlexikon.

(70.) Quoted by Günter van Norden, “Die Evangelische Kirche und die Juden im ‘Dritten Reich,’” in Brakelmann and Rosowski, Antisemitismus, 103.

(72.) Greschat, “Protestantischer Antisemitismus,” 40–41.

(73.) Cited by Van Norden, “Die Evangelische Kirche,” 101.

(74.) For this and the following, see Greschat, “Protestantischer Antisemitismus,” 41–44.

(75.) “Bishop in the Front Line,” Time, April 6, 1953.

(76.) For this and the following, see Siegele-Wenschkewitz, “Protestantische Universitätstheologie,” 63–68.

(77.) The systematic theologian Notger Slenczka, in an article published in the Marburger Jahrbuch für Theologie in 2013, argued that the Old Testament should be reclassified as non-canonical apocrypha. Friedhelm Pieper, president of the coordinating council of the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation, later accused Slenczka of anti-Judaism, which was widely reported in spring 2015. Since then others, including Jan Assmann, Micha Brumlik, and Friedrich Wilhelm Graf, have pronounced against Slenczka, as well as five colleagues at the Humboldt University. Jan-Heiner Tück, a Catholic theologian at the University of Vienna, has argued that Slenczka’s arguments deserve a hearing, as a kind of decolonizing of the Jewish bible, although he ultimately rejects the attempt to “de-Judaize” Christianity. Jan-Heiner Tück, “Christentum ohne Wurzel?,” Neue Zürcher Zeitung, June 21, 2015. Slenczka indeed argues that allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament played a central role in Luther’s and in all Christian anti-Judaism. Notger Slenczka, “18 Fragen an die Verächter der wissenschaftlichen Diskussion unter den Berliner Theologen.”

(78.) Robert P. Ericksen, Complicity in the Holocaust: Churches and Universities in Nazi Germany (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 134.

(79.) Eberhard Bethge, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer und die Juden,” in Die Juden und Martin Luther, Martin Luther und die Juden: Geschichte, Wirkungsgeschichte, Herausforderung, ed. Heinz Kremers (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1985), 224–225n15, for a close examination of Bonhoeffer’s study of Luther. A more creative attempt to reorient Christian theology toward complete acceptance of Judaism, through an engagement with the main themes of Luther’s theology (divine freedom, Law and Gospel, and the distinction between a true and false church) may be found in the work of Hans Joachim Iwand (1899–1960), whose wife, Ilse Ehrhardt, was the daughter of a Jew, Martha Rosenhain. Jürgen Seim, “Israel und die Juden im Leben und Werk Hans Joachim Iwands,” in Kremers, Die Juden und Martin Luther, 249–286.

(80.) Siegele-Wenschkewitz, “Protestantische Universitätstheologie,” 69–70.

(81.) van Norden, “Die Evangelische Kirche und die Juden,” 104, quoting Martin Sasse, ed., Martin Luther über die Juden: Weg mit Ihnen (Freiburg, Germany: Bär & Bartosch, 1938), 2; Heschel, Aryan Jesus, 69, 76; see Kaufmann, Luthers Juden, 165–166, for the complete quotation, which bemoans the influence of world Catholicism and global Anglo-Protestantism.

(82.) Heschel, Aryan Jesus, 2, 11, 81, 86, 173–174. See also Christopher J. Probst, Demonizing the Jews: Luther and the Protestant Church in Nazi Germany (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012), passim.

(83.) van Norden, “Die Evangelische Kirche,” 99. Probst’s review of theologians using Luther reaches the same conclusion. Probst, Demonizing the Jews, 174.

(84.) The Bonn theologians were responding to a resolution by a 1980 synod of the Protestant Church in the Rhineland to admit Christian guilt for complicity in the Holocaust, recognize the state of Israel, and attempt to establish a newly constructive relationship between Christians and Jews. It claims to be the first official statement by a German Protestant to recognize guilt for the Holocaust, and it was confirmed by a 2005 synod. Both documents are included in this study report on Christian-Jewish coexistence published by the same church in September 2008, “Den Rheinischen Synodalbeschluss zum Verhältnis von Christen und Juden Weiterdenken: den Gottesdienst erneuern.” Günther van Norden, “Schuld oder Mitschuld von Christen? Erwägungen zur siebten Bonner These,” in Kremers, Die Juden und Martin Luther, 301–318. Unofficial Christian admissions of guilt for the Holocaust began to appear immediately after the war, such as the 1946 declaration of the Württemberg Ecclesiastical Society, a regional clerical society, regarding the Jewish question. Probst, Demonizing the Jews, 171–172.

(85.) Hamm, “Die Rezeption,” 316. Hamm also points to the converse “fraudulent reception,” to claim, specifically, as Protestant theologians have frequently claimed, that Luther’s early treatise That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew (1523) was positive about Judaism. Its argument for Jewish conversion, he notes, signals a complete delegitimization of rabbinical Judaism, in contrast with Christian Hebraists, such as Johannes Reuchlin, who believed Jewish literature could instruct Christians. Hamm, “Die Rezeption,” 318–319. Johannes Heil points to the difference between scholarly and media discussions of Hitler’s relationship to Luther. Heil, “Die Rezeption,” 326.

(86.) Rose, Revolutionary Antisemitism, 4; Gritsch, Martin Luther’s Anti-Semitism, 138–142. Thomas Kaufmann emphasizes the difference between capacities to persecute in Luther’s day and in the 20th century. Kaufmann, Luthers Juden, 141–170.