Martin Luther: Anti-Semite and Hebraist

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther is said to have nailed his 95 theses to a church door, thus setting off the Protestant Reformation. While Luther’s anti-Semitism is well known—he urged his followers “to set fire to their synagogues or schools,” urged “that their houses also be razed and destroyed,” and called the synagogue “a defiled bride, . . . an incorrigible whore, and an evil slut”—less well known is his debt to Christian Hebraism. Harry Freedman traces this connection to the Italian Renaissance philosopher Pico della Mirandola, who had made a thorough study of Judaism and especially Kabbalah:

Hebrew was to play a central role in [Luther’s] Reformation, largely due to the work of Johannes Reuchlin, a German lawyer. Reuchlin had met Pico della Mirandola in 1490 and come away inspired by his infectious enthusiasm for Kabbalah. Reuchlin began to study Hebrew, to better his understanding of Kabbalah. He engaged Jewish teachers, including the great Bible commentator Obadiah Sforno, to help him.

In 1506 Reuchlin published his Rudiments of Hebrew, the first Hebrew grammar and dictionary written for Christians. He then wrote two books on Kabbalah. The study of Hebrew became so fashionable in German humanist circles that Reuchlin proposed that every German university engage two professors dedicated to the language. This sudden turn to Hebrew opened up new ways of thinking for the emerging Protestant Reformers.

One of Luther’s main complaints was that the Roman church had misrepresented the Bible, . . . which it claimed could be understood only through [ecclesiastical] interpretation. . . . Luther disagreed. He argued that even popes could make mistakes, but the only authority that could be relied upon was the unmediated word of the Bible. . . .

Understanding the Bible in accordance with its plain Hebrew meaning became a defining principle of the Reformation. Rather than being told what the Bible said, people were encouraged to study it themselves, from a translation faithful to the original Hebrew text. In 1532, Luther published his German translation of the Tanakh directly from Hebrew.

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Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Anti-Semitism, Christian Hebraists, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Martin Luther, Reformation, Translation

 

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror