LUTHER AGAINST THE JEWS continued
From the lectures by Professor Phillip Cary
Well, his crucial change is parallel to his crucial change with the Pope, and with Swingly and lots of other folk, when he decides the Jews speak for the Devil. They're not just wrong about some things, they're not just believing the wrong things - they are speaking for the Devil.
This raises the issue: Well if speaking for the Devil is such a bad thing to say about anyone, maybe Luther shouldn't say that about the Pope, much less the Jews.
What happens is he begins to see the Jews not as enemies to be loved, but as ethological enemies, who threaten who threaten to under-mine faith in the Gospel. There's that love/faith contrast; as far as a person is your neighbor, you love them, but as far as they are trying to undermine the Gospel, and take away Christian faith, they are enemies that simply must be repudiated, attacked, you fling filth at them, so everyone knows to stay away from them.
Here's a story he tells in 1537 that kind of illustrated the change of mind.
It turns out that one of the great Rabbis of the time, a man by the name of Rabbi Josel of Rosheim, come to the town asking for a safe conduct. Now only the Prince can give a safe conduct, but Luther can kinda talk to the Prince of Saxony and say - Look, could you give this safe conduct to Rabbi Josel so he can travel on the high-way safely. And Luther TURNS HIM DOWN! And his reasons are OMINOUS!
AND THIS HIS HIS REFLECTION IN TABLE TALK A FEW YEARS LATER: "My opinion was and still is," say Luther, "One should treat the Jews in kindly fashion." So far he's talking like in 1523 - "One should treat the Jews in kindly fashion, so God may perhaps look graciously upon them and bring them to their own Messiah, that is Jesus. But NOT SO THAT THROUGH MY OWN GOOD WILL THEY BE INFLUENCED AND STRENGTHENED IN THEIR ERROR, AND BECOME STILL MORE TROUBLESOME."
So that the opening wedge for the future.
On the one hand treat them kindly, maybe you can lead them to Christ. On the other hand don't encourage them, they might end up becoming worst, undermining Christian faith.
In fact later on, he hears Jews converting Christians; THAT really SETS HIM OFF RIGHT THERE, taking away the Christian faith from Christians.
The rumors are not likely true, unless perhaps it's possible some Jews tried to convert Jews back to Judaism, occasionally when Jews are converted to Christianity, some Jews will try to visit them to bring them back to Judaism. But Jews very seldom proselyte among Christians, especially in the 16th century and middle ages, where they can get persecuted for that.
Jews don't believe, typically, that you have to be a Jew to be saved. That's not Jewish teaching. You don't have to be a Jew to be saved. So you don't have to convert people to be Jews, in order to save them. Don't have to have that missionary impulse in Judaism, the way you do in Christianity. So most Jews didn't try to convert people to Judaism, and it was not safe to try and do so.
So Luther started hearing those rumors, the Jews are undermining faith in the Gospel, which of course they're speaking for the Devil, in Luther's mind.
I think the decisive thing is he gives up hope for their conversion. Just like he gives up hope like Swingly will be converted, or the Pope will see the light. And when you give up hope for someone's conversion, in this Christian context, that means you no longer try to persuade them; you no longer just try to argue Scriptures with them.
There's no more any point in preaching to the Jews. Arguing with them about Scripture. You just have to contain them, preventing them from causing any more harm, so something ultimately to cleans society from this contamination.
We're still focussed on WORDS - the Jews are saying things, that undermines faith in the Word. Therefore they are contaminating Christendom, they're turning Christians away from God; and we're going to get in trouble for this. To tolerate this is like to tolerate a disease body-politic. There is all this types of of uncleanness and disease which he uses.
He argues that to tolerate the lies of the Jews, is to partake in those lies, and so share in the guilt of blasphemy. It's not just freedom of conscience; he's willing in principle to affirm freedom of conscience, even for Jews. BUT the problem is they don't just have a conscience, because THEY SPEAK, THEY TEACH, AND THEIR TEACHING IS BLASPHEMY - WE CAN'T ALLOW THIS!
Noe freedom of conscience doesn't mean much without freedom of speech. But Luther's inner-outer distinction leaves all the freedom for conscience, and leaves the realm of speech rather ambiguous.
If speech is public, external, then it falls under "law" - not under freedom of conscience. And blasphemy in particular, can not be tolerated Not just because it needs to be punished; we have to get into an ancient mind-set here. It's not that you are punishing the blasphemer - blasphemy is an offence to God; you have to cleans the society of this. Especially regarding blasphemy, but also sedition.
But blasphemy above all; blasphemy means using WORDS that offend God. And you have to get rid of that! So they can have their freedom of conscience, but they are NOT ALLOWED TO TEACH! NOT ALLOWED TO STUDY THEIR BIBLE AND TALMUD. THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TEACH OTHER JEWS HOW TO BE JEWS! Which means really they are not allowed to be Jewish.
This inner, this religious toleration for people's conscience doesn't go far enough. You've got to have OUTWARD toleration too, or it's not a toleration that's doing any good.
But no, for Luther, their speech, their lies, is blasphemy, therefore cannot be tolerated, otherwise the wrath of God will come upon the land because of their lies.
We dare not tolerate their conduct says Luther; we dare not tolerate their conduct now that we're aware of their lying, their reviling, their blasphemy. If we do, if we tolerate it, we become sharers in their lies, he says:
"To witness this and keep silent is tantamount to doing it ourselves."
Allowing the blasphemy to take place taints you, you become tainted with the sin of blasphemy also. If it's taking place in your community. your responsible to put a stop to it.
So HIS HARSH PROPOSALS for dealing with the Jews, are not intended as punishment, they're intended for something much worst. THEY PURGE THE LAND, OF THE BLASPHEMY LIES THAT PROVOKE THE WRATH OF GOD!
We dare not AVENGE ourselves said Luther. The Jews are doing these terrible things to us, but we can't take vengeance, that wouldn't be right, BUT WE MUST CLEANSE THE BODY-POLITIC; like cutting of a gangrenous limb he says at one point. If you have a limb getting gangrenous, you cut it off you get rid of it, or it will destroy everything. You don't want to compromise with this awful awful disease that's causing such a disaster.
That way - the RECOMMENDATION TO BURN SYNAGOGUES. His recommendation to TEARING DOWN JEWISH HOMES, but BURNING JEWISH SYNAGOGUES. WHY THE DIFFERENCE? Because the synagogue is the place of Jewish SPEECH, JEWISH TEACHING, JEWISH LIES, JEWISH BLASPHEMY..... IT NEEDS TO BE CLEANSED!
IT'S THE SAME MOTIVE ULTIMATELY OF BURNING HERETICS!
IT'S NOT A FORM OF PUNISHMENT BUT OF SOCIAL CLEANSING, SO THE WRATH OF GOD WILL NOT FALL ON THE COMMUNITY BECAUSE OF THE TERRIBLE OFFENCE.
IT'S A VERY PRIMITIVE NOTION!
AND IT'S A VERY TERRIBLE NOTION!
TO BE CONTINUED