Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Kenneth G. Hagen

Second Advisor

John P. Donnelly

Third Advisor

William J. Kelly

Fourth Advisor

Joseph T. Lienhard

Fifth Advisor

Paul Misner


This dissertation examines Luther's attitudes toward the Jews and seeks to discover the contexts which gave rise to those attitudes. An historical introduction outlines the relationship between the church and the Jews until the sixteenth century. Christendom could not tolerate the presence of the Jews qua Jews in its midst; the only tolerable Jew was a Jewish convert to Christianity. An examination of Luther's writings reveals that Luther never changed his theological outlook toward the Jews. There was, however, a change in his public attitude towards them. At first coldly theological, Luther called for better treatment of the Jews in the early 1520's with the hope of converting them to evangelical Christianity. By the end of the 1520's he saw the futility of his hope and viewed the Jews as a threat to Christian welfare. Luther believed that the Jews committed public blasphemy by slandering Christ and everything Christian. He urged that action be taken against the Jews in order to curtail this blasphemous activity and to avoid the complicity of Christians in such activity. This call for action against the Jews was entirely consistent with his dealings with other opponents: papists, Turks, Anabaptists, and Sacramentarians. The Jews were, for Luther, the prime example of opposition to the Gospel which all other groups imitated. Consequently, his opposition to all these groups was alike in intensity and tone; Luther treated the Jews in no way different than he treated all those whom he considered opponents of the Gospel. To single out his outbursts against the Jews is to miss this crucial connection. The basic reason for Luther's call to action against the Jews grew out of his pastoral concern for his people and for the Jews. The issues of blasphemy and complicity were important because behind them lay the issue of salvation. Luther's first call for toleration of the Jews was given in the hope of their conversion to Christianity. His subsequent call for "sharp mercy" toward the Jews was for the sake of the salvation of the Christians and, secondarily, with the hope that such "sharp mercy" might bring some Jews to faith.



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