Chapter 8: Judeophobia (antisemitism) in the Reformation
The Protestant reformation was started by Martin Luther in 1517. One of the principles of the Protestant Church was to bring Christianity back to its Jewish sources rather than the Hellenistic interpretation. Initially many Protestants approached Judaism, expecting Jews to finally accept the new faith when it was lovingly presented and stressing its Jewish components. But again, when this expectation proved false, the reaction was Judeophobic. Luther’s last book was “On the Jews and Their Lies” (1543) in which he called the Jews the anti-Christ. “It is harder to convert them than Satan himself.”
Luther called for the violent expulsion of Jews from all Germany. He addressed European noblemen: “Let me give you my honest advice. First, their synagogues should be set on fire, and whatever does not burn up should be covered or spread over with dirt... And this ought to be done for the honor of God and of Christianity in order that God may see that we are Christians, and that we have not willingly tolerated or approved of such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of His Son and His Christians... Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed. For they perpetrate the same things that they do in their synagogues. For this reason they ought to be put under one roof or in a stable... Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayerbooks and Talmuds in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught. Fourthly, their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more... God’s rage is so great against them that they only become worse and worse... To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one so that you and we may all be free of this insufferable devilish burden - the Jews.” This was the theologian and founder of the new trend (one of the most brutal Nazi Judeophobes, Julius Streicher, argued in his defense at the Nuremberg trials that he had merely repeated what Luther had said about the Jews).
So far we have seen the development of Judeophobic mythology pass through three stages: Antiquity (Jews are lepers and ass-worshipers, misogynists and lazy), Early Middle Ages (the Jewish people is deicidal and, through its suffering, a witness of Christian truth) and Late Middle Ages (Jews drink Christian blood, poison wells, and are partners with Satan). The main difference between pagan and Christian myths is that the former were mainly cultural, whereas and the latter were mostly theological: “God hates them” became a common belief.
But what do I see on the horizon? It looks like the salvation of the Jews from the accumulated myths, discrimination and disdain, the lies and legends. It is 18th century Europe: rationalism and Encyclopedism are in the air, free-thinkers scorn superstitions and plan the religion of reason in a world of brotherhood. Surely the Enlightenment will put an end to the discrimination and violence caused by gratuitous hatred!
These pages are adapted by the kind permission of Dr. Gustavo Perednik.They are based on a twelve-lecture Internet course prepared for "The Jewish University in Cyberspace." During 2000 and 2001, the book by Gustavo Perednik "Judeophobia" was published in Spanish. This course summarizes the core ideas ofthe book. It presents a comprehensive and unique analysis of the development of Jew hate (Judeophobia or antisemitism) throughout history. It tries to answer the question "why the Jews?" - why have Jews been particularly singled out for ethnic, racial and religious persecution, and it traces the relationship between anti-Zionism and racist Judeophobia or so-called antisemitism.
The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism is grateful to Dr. Perednik for his permission to popularize his works.