Fortress Press

Luther the Anti-Semite: A Contemporary Jewish Perspective

Luther the Anti-Semite

A Contemporary Jewish Perspective

Alon Goshen-Gottstein (Author)


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The problem of “Luther and the Jews” has received much attention since World War II. Many consider there to be a direct line leading from Martin Luther’s later anti-Jewish recommendations to policies carried out in the Third Reich. This has led contemporary Lutheran Churches worldwide to issue apologies and to distance themselves from Luther’s anti-Semitic teachings. It has also led Jews to distance themselves from Luther as a religious figure. The present work revisits Luther’s anti-Semitism and seeks to understand the compound factors that informed it. Drawing on contemporary Luther scholarship, it develops a model, the “Luther Model,” that brings together multiple factors that help account for “what went wrong,” as we see it from our contemporary perspective. With that model in place, it engages in an examination of whether these factors, abstracted from the particularity of their historical context, are not also present in contemporary Jewish attitudes to Christians, as well as in broader negative relations between faith communities. By constructing the “Luther Model,” this work seeks to feature Luther as a teacher and a paradigm for how religion can turn violent and destructive to other religions and to draw the appropriate lessons for interreligious relations today.  

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506445823
  • eBook ISBN 9781506445830
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 98
  • Publication Date May 1, 2018


Preface—Thomas Kaufman Introduction
1. Luther the Anti-Semite
2. The Jews and Luther
3. Luther in Historical Context
4. Introducing the “Luther Model”
5. Recognizing the Reciprocal Challenge
6. Applying the “Luther Model” Within


A convenient, commanding summary of “Luther and the Jews.”

"A broad and perceptive reading of recent scholarship treating Luther’s anti-Jewish attitudes and writings leads Goshen-Gottstein to analyze various pitfalls of passionate religious engagement along theological, psychological, sociological, and communal lines. These become a cautionary tale for him in his own contemporary Israeli and Jewish context. Here is a convenient, commanding summary of 'Luther and the Jews,' a stimulating new approach to interreligious learning in an unlikely quarter, and a challenging self-reflection on the relationship to non-Jews in Judaism, Jewish identity, and the Jewish State in the 21st century."

Peter Pettit | Muhlenberg College

This book is a role-model for good interreligious dialogue.

"Without Luther, we would have a different Europe. Thus it is logical that this 500th anniversary is celebrated, for better and worse, during the whole of 2017. His anti-Semitism has for long been emphasized by his enemies and silenced by his followers. Very few have really tried to modulate his views, trying to analyze and deeply understand, without of course accepting the mistakes.

This is what Alon Goshen-Gottstein is really doing. His manuscript has been an eye-opener for me as a Lutheran theologian and bishop. He is concluding his study in “The Luther model”, which opens for a deeper understanding, not only for Martin Luther, his theology, and historical significance but also for how basically good religious thoughts can go wrong. One can hope that 500 more years will not have to pass before the atrocities of some present interpretations of Islam will be described in a similar way, allowing for Islam’s deeper spiritual content be unveiled. This book is a role-model for good interreligious dialogue and deeper understanding also of views you cannot share."

Bishop Lennart Koskinen | Church of Sweden

A poignant document praising humanism, religious tolerance, and human dignity.

"This is an original and bold essay that combines historical study with religious and moral commitment. It seeks to study what went wrong in history and draw lessons from the mistakes of a great man like Luther. The book talks about the past, but it addresses the present and the dangers posed by religious fanaticism. It is a poignant document praising humanism, religious tolerance, and human dignity."

Israel Yuval | Hebrew University of Jerualem

A remarkable book on numerous levels. 

"A common contemporary reaction after having once encountered the depth of Luther’s antagonism and hatred toward the Jews and Judaism is one of dumbfounded stupor and the sense that one can do nothing more than repudiate such attitudes. Proposing not a way out but rather a way forward, Alon Goshen-Gottstein reads Luther both as a model of where religion can go very wrong as well as a reflection of fundamental dynamics still at work in relations between faith communities and their views of the religious other even today. A remarkable book on numerous levels."

Brooks Schramm | United Lutheran Seminary and Kirsi Stjerna | California Lutheran University

A deeply moving work with universal validity and great healing power. 

"For a Protestant reader, it is fascinating to see how Alon Goshen-Gottstein examines the antisemitic motifs in the theology of the German reformer, Martin Luther. With a sharply analytical mind he develops his 'Luther model,' demonstrating symptomatically what can 'go wrong' in a religion. With impressive empathy and self-criticism, he derives spiritual insights from his analysis of great significance for peaceful interreligious coexistence. A deeply moving work with universal validity and great healing power."

Andreas Pangritz | University of Bonn, Germany