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February 15: The “Obdurate Jews”

February 15, 2015

Luther46cMartin Luther, the theologian who pioneered the Protestant Reformation, delivered the last sermon of his life on this date in 1546, three days before his demise at age 62, in the town of his birth, Eisleben. Luther focused the sermon on the “obdurate Jews” — “we want to practice Christian love toward them and pray that they convert, [but they are] our public enemies... and if they could kill us all, they would gladly do so. And so often they do.” He urged the expulsion of Jews from all German lands, essentially in the name of Christian self-defense. Luther had published a pamphlet in 1523 entitled, Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, which sympathized with Jews, mocked anti-Semitism, and sought to show Jews that Jesus was their promised messiah. When they refused his entreaties to convert, however, he became vengeful, writing Against the Jews and Their Lies, a 200-page anti-Semitic diatribe that identified Jews as “alien murderers and bloodthirsty enemies” and urged the burning of synagogues, the destruction of Jewish homes, and the confiscation of Jewish property.

“We are at fault for not slaying them.” —Martin Luther.