The place and significance of Martin Luther in the long history of Christian anti-Jewish polemic has been and continues to be a contested issue. It is true that Luther’s anti-Jewish rhetoric intensified toward the end of his life, but reading Luther with a careful eye toward “the Jewish question,” it becomes clear that Luther’s theological presuppositions toward Judaism and the Jewish people are a central, core component of his thought throughout his career, not just at the end. It follows then that it is impossible to understand the heart and building blocks of Luther’s theology without acknowledging the crucial role of “the Jews” in his fundamental thinking.
Luther was constrained by ideas, images, and superstitions regarding the Jews and Judaism that he inherited from medieval Christian tradition. But the engine in the development of Luther’s theological thought as it relates to the Jews is his biblical hermeneutics. Just as “the Jewish question” is a central, core component of his thought, so biblical interpretation (and especially Old Testament interpretation) is the primary arena in which fundamental claims about the Jews and Judaism are formulated and developed.
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Written by two distinguished Lutheran scholars, one an expert on the Hebrew Bible, the other an authority on the Reformation, this volume makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of a central—yet little understood—dimension of Luther’s writings: the place of Jews and Judaism in the Reformer’s thought. Quickly dismantling the accepted but false notion that this aspect of Luther was important to him only at the end of his life, Schramm and Stjerna prove that it was in fact an abiding theme in his writings. The texts they choose to translate and introduce demonstrate that this concern was one, in fact, that pervaded the entirety of his career. Beautifully contextualized socially and theologically, these documents are also expertly translated from the Latin and German. This superb and timely collection of texts will be of interest not only to Luther and Reformation specialists and teachers but to historians of Jewish-Christian relations and of the history of interpretation of the Bible.
—Kevin Madigan, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Harvard Divinity School
With great precision and clarity, this reader re-opens and decisively advances the discussion of Luther’s relationship to the Jews. Indispensable for all future study of this vexed question.
—Denis R. Janz, provost distinguished professor of the history of Christianity, Loyola University
Brooks Schramm is a professor of biblical studies at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. He is the author of The Opponents of Third Isaiah and with Kirsi Stjerna, Spirituality: Toward a Twenty-First Century Understanding.
Kirsi I. Stjerna is a professor of Reformation church history and the director of the Institute for Luther Studies at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. She is the author of No Greater Jewel: Luther on Baptism and Women and the Reformation.