In Their Own Words: Martin Luther On The Jews

Thelonious Cornpepper
6 min readNov 10, 2022

Martin Luther is recognized as the man who started the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s reform movement began in 1517 when he published what came to be known as his Ninety-Five Theses.

The Ninety-Five Theses comprised a list of grievances against abuses in the Catholic Church as well as doctrinal statements concerning the authority of Scripture alone in the life of Christians and salvation by inward repentance rather than by sacramental practice.

Luther was a devout Catholic and a professor of moral theology, and he really just wanted to stimulate a debate about what he perceived as abuses in the Catholic Church. He wasn’t trying to start a movement.

However, the law of unintended consequences kicked in, and Luther’s rather modest effort at reform blossomed into profound change in the world of Christianity. It is because of Luther that there are currently hundreds of Protestant denominations, all of which reject the papacy and other key points of Roman Catholic doctrine.

But Martin Luther was also something else: a rabid anti-Semite. Luther just really did not like Jews because they did not accept Jesus as the Messiah. In 1543 he wrote a treatise entitled Von den Juden und ihren Lügen (On the Jews and Their Lies), in which he outlined his seven-point plan for dealing with Jews:

What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy. Thus, we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves. Vengeance a thousand times worse than we could wish them already has them by the throat. I shall give you my sincere advice:

First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly ­ and