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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Luther's early faith = later Luther --> another angel having everlasting gospel

Most theologians, scholars and commentators prefer the early Luther to the later Luther because his comments against the Jews (and the Papacy) were not as harsh. They generally point to Luther's irenic stance towards the Jews in his early writings in contrast to his harsh comments in his later life. Most modern theologians fall into this camp.  The editor Franklin Sherman of volume 47 of Luther's Works, (Fortress Press, 1971), had this to say:
(Introduction, page x) It is the treatise On the Jews and Their Lies, published in 1543, of which Luther’s biographer Roland H. Bainton remarked: “One could wish that Luther had died before ever this tract was written.”
(page 123) The negative attitudes expressed in these late treatises struck ... us, in view of the fact that earlier in his career he had shown marked sympathy toward the Jews. 
Franklin Sherman and Roland Bainton have in view Luther's earlier writing of That Jesus Christ Was Born A Jew and it's tone of sympathy for the Jews.

Uwe Siemon-Netto, speaking for the (new English) LC-MS, wrote an article in the Lutheran Witness magazine, April 2004 issue, saying this:
Ah, if only Luther had let the matter rest there. Alas,we can’t get away from the bitter truth that toward the end of his life—well after the adoption of the Augsburg Confession in 1530, which is where the film "Luther" ends—the reformer changed his tune radically. In 1543, three years before his death, he penned his venomous book, Of the Jews and Their Lies, whose contents Lutherans ignored for centuries but came to haunt them in the aftermath of World War II and to this very day. [underling mine]
And there are even some Jewish writers who would almost commend the early Luther.  Perhaps a good example of this is Professor Nachum Tim Gidal in his book Jews in Germany: From Roman Times to the Weimar Republic, Konemann (June 1998).
...he pleaded for tolerance [for the Jews]... (page 13)
...His campaign against the papacy gave the Jews reason to hope for some understanding toward their faith and for humane treatment in accordance with Luther's Christian principles.... (page 82)
... These were new sentiments [Luther's sympathies] to come from the Christian side, and they could have led to a normalization of the relationship between Christians and Jews. (page 82)
But is it true?  Did Luther's faith change?  Certainly his words had a different tone in terms of how they should be treated.  But the Jews knew then (and now) that Luther's faith did not change.  Again Nachum Tim Gidal says it best (page 82):
...Luther demanded a price from every Jew: the denial of his faith. Luther's Christian charity therefore appeared to the Jews as an attempt at religious bribery by which they might obtain humane treatment. Luther underestimated the strength of the Jews' faith, which even in the face of death and under torture permitted no betrayal of God, of the profession of faith in the uniqueness and oneness of God. 
In all of history since the time of Christ on earth, this was the Jews opportunity to hear again the true Gospel, for it was Martin Luther who had uncovered the pearl of great price from the works righteousness of the papacy...  the announcement of the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake, that even their sins had been paid for and that there is nothing any of us can do to appease God for He is already reconciled with all of us... only believe on the Lamb of God, the Savior of the World, Jesus.  How did Luther do this?  With the Scriptures, the only sure foundation. That is what Luther did masterfully in his writing On The Jews And Their Lies. But sadly the Jews continued their rejection of the Son of God (and the Scriptures) and showed themselves no different than those of the time of the New Testament.  And so the later Luther, whose Christian faith had not changed since the early Luther, had to agree with the Jews that he had "underestimated" the stubbornness of the Jews.

So we see who really follows the Scriptures – the early and later Luther, not modern theologians and commentators. To them, Jesus says (Luke 24:25):
Luke 24:25 - O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken
But the old German Missouri Synod followed Martin Luther who expounded the Old Testament as Jesus said it should be done (Luke 24:26-27):
Luke 24: 26-27 - Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
This was done by Martin Luther. The old German Missouri Synod hailed Luther as the one through whom the angel spoke in Revelations:
Revelation 14:6-7  – And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
Here is how Walther's Der Lutheraner monthly magazine began depicting Martin Luther on it's masthead beginning in 1850:

How different is the view of Luther by today's theologians and scholars from that of the old German Missouri Synod!  A Lutheran today barely hears of Walther and Pieper who knew Martin Luther best... notwithstanding the new English LC-MS "celebration" of Walther's birthday.

I will have more about this subject in a later post.


  1. If you are not attending the Divine Service of Word and Sacrament, all these blog posts are useless to you, and for you.

    Repent and return to Christ.

    1. I am reply to the above in my next post.

    2. The "next post" is here:


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