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The Impact of Martin Luther and the Reformation on Modern Revivalism

Luther reported on one occasion that three rabbis visited him because they had heard of his interest in the Hebrew language and hoped to reach an agreement with him. However, they rejected Luther’s argument that the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament point to Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, because Jews were forbidden to travel in that part of Germany, Luther gave them a letter of introduction in which he asked “for Christ’s sake” that they be granted free passage. Because of his mention of Christ, they refrained from using the letter.


Luther Encounters Anti-Christian Polemics

Luther was eventually attacked by Jewish writers who vilified him for his attempts to win them to Christ. His writings such as, That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, were maligned and held up to ridicule. Luther’s response was, at first, mild. He replied, “For the sake of the crucified Jew, whom no one will take from me, I gladly wanted to do my best for you Jews, except that you abused my favor and hardened your hearts.”

Luther’s attitude toward the Jews obviously hardened as he entered more extensive dialogues and debates with Jewish rabbis on the Scriptures and the Messiah. Luther had hoped that, through these debates, the Jews would be won to faith in Christ. Through these debates, however, Luther was exposed to rabbinical writings that maligned Jesus and Christianity. He was horrified to read of Jesus being vilified as the illegitimate son of a whore and a kabbalistic magician who was exposed for his trickery and put to death. Having been taught from childhood to reverence and honor God and Jesus and Mary, he responded with both anger and fear. He wrote,

I am still praying daily and I duck under the shelter of the Son of God. I hold Him and honor Him as my Lord, to whom I must run and flee when the devil, sin or other misfortune threatens me, for He is my shelter, as wide as heaven and earth, and my mother hen under whom I crawl from God’s wrath. Therefore, I cannot have any fellowship or patience with obstinate blasphemers and those who defame this dear Savior.

When he found the rabbis to be obstinate in their positions, he finally gave up any hope of the Jews coming to Christ en masse. And with them entertaining such blasphemous views of Christ, he gave up any hope of Christians and Jews being able to live together in harmony.

Although Luther should have responded in the spirit of the One he proclaimed (who had prayed for His tormenters at the cross, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”) he, instead, reacted with anger and fury and wrote a treatise entitled On the Jews and Their Lies. The word Lies in the title referred to the Jewish diatribes against Jesus, Mary, and the Triune God. The third section of this book contains the diatribes that he fulminated against the Jewish people.

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Category: Church History, Summer 2009

About the Author: Eddie L. Hyatt, D.Min. (Regent University), M.Div. and M.A. (Oral Roberts University), serves the body of Christ around the world by teaching with academic excellence and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He has authored several books, including 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity. His passion is to see authentic spiritual awakening transform the Church and impact the world in the Twenty-first century.

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