In Martin Luther's Anti-Semitism: Against His Better Judgment Eric W. Gritsch, a Lutheran and a distinguished Luther scholar, faces the glaring ugliness of Martin Luther's anti- Semitism head-on, describing Luther's journey from initial attempts to proselytize Jews to an appallingly racist position, which he apparently held until his death.
Comprehensively laying out the textual evidence for Luther's virulent anti-Semitism, Gritsch traces the development of Luther's thinking in relation to his experiences, external influences, and theological convictions. Revealing greater impending danger with each step, Martin Luther's Anti-Semitism marches steadily onward until the full extent of Luther's racism becomes apparent. Gritsch's unflinching analysis also describes the impact of Luther's egregious words on subsequent generations and places Luther within Europe's long history of anti-Semitism.
Throughout, however, Gritsch resists the temptation either to demonize or to exonerate Luther. Rather, readers will recognize Luther's mistakes as links in a chain that pulled him further and further away from an attitude of respect for Jews as the biblical people of God. Gritsch depicts Luther as a famous example of the intensive struggle with the enduring question of Christian-Jewish relations. It is a great historical tragedy that Luther, of all people, fell victim to anti-Semitism--albeit against his better judgment.
Against his background of growing up in the Third Reich, his participation in interfaith dialogue over the years, and his more than half a century of studying Luther, Eric Gritsch, a widely respected church historian, provides readers with a broad survey of those who used or ignored the Reformer's utterances on the Jews, and he critiques a large number of recent scholarly commentators on the subject, concluding that 'Luther's anti-Semitism is an integral part of his life and work...but his anti-Semitism is neither in harmony with the core of his theology nor with the stance of the Apostle Paul' and is thus 'against his better judgment.
Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis
Gritsch brings to this project a lifetime of Luther study, and it shows. This foundation grounds the whole work, from its thorough rehearsal of the relevant texts, to its judicious account of Luther's impact, to its masterful use of the secondary literature, to its compelling conclusion. Highly recommended.
-Denis R. Janz
Loyola University New Orleans
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