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OF THE JEWS
The Jews boast they are Abraham’s children; and, indeed, `twas a higher honor of them, when the rich glutton in hell said, “Father Abraham,” etc. But our Lord God can well distinguish these children; for to such as the glutton he gives their wages here in this life, but the rewards and wages for the others he reserves until the life to come.
The Jews are the most miserable people on earth. They are plagued everywhere, and scattered about all countries, having no certain resting place. They sit as on a wheelbarrow, without a country, people, or government; yet they wait on with earnest confidence; they cheer up themselves and say: It will soon be better with us. Thus hardened are they; but let them know assuredly, that there is none other Lord or God, but only he that already sits at the right hand of God the Father. The Jews are not permitted to trade or to keep cattle, they are only usurers and brokers; they eat nothing the Christians kill or touch; they drink no wine; they have many superstitions; they wash the flesh most diligently, whereas they cannot be cleansed through the flesh. They drink not milk, because God said: “Thou shalt not boil the young kid in his mother’s milk.” Such superstitions proceed out of God’s anger. They that are without faith, have laws without end, as we see in the papists and Turks; but they are rightly served, for seeing they refused to have Christ and his Gospel, instead of freedom they must have servitude.
If I were a Jew, the pope should never persuade me to his doctrine; I would rather be ten times racked. Popedom, with its abominations and profanities, has given to the Jews infinite offence. I am persuaded if the Jews heard our preaching, and how we handle the Old Testament, many of them might be won, but, through disputing, they have become more and more stiff-necked, haughty, and presumptuous. Yet, if but a few of the rabbis fell off, we might see them come to us, one after another, for they are almost weary of waiting.
At Frankfort-on-the-Main there are very many Jews; they have a whole street to themselves, of which every house is filled with them. They are compelled to wear little yellow rings on their coats, thereby to be known; they have no houses or grounds of their own, only furniture; and, indeed, they can only lend money upon houses or grounds at great hazard.
I have studied the chief passages of Scripture, that constitute the grounds upon which the Jews argue against us; as where God said to Abraham: “I will make my covenant between me and thee, and with thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant,” etc. Here the Jews brag, as the papists do upon the passage: “Thou art Peter.” I would willingly bereave the Jews of this bragging, by rejecting the law of Moses, so that they should not be able to gainsay me. We have against them the prophet Jeremiah, where he says: “Behold, the time cometh, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, not as the covenant which I made with their fathers,” etc. “But this shall be the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel; after this time, saith the Lord, I will give my laws into their hearts, and will write it in their minds,” etc.
Here, surely the Jews must yield, and say: the law of Moses continued but for awhile, therefore it must be abolished. But the covenant of the circumcision, given before Moses time, and made between God and Abraham, and his seed Isaac in his generation, they say, must and shall be an everlasting covenant, which they will not suffer to be taken from them.
And though Moses himself rejects their circumcising of the flesh, and presses upon the circumcising of the heart, yet, nevertheless, they boast of that everlasting covenant out of God’s Word; and when they admit that the circumcision justifies not, yet, nevertheless, say they, it is an everlasting covenant, thinking it is a covenant of works, therefore we must leave unto them their circumcision.
I, for my part, with all God-fearing Christians, have this sure and strong comfort, that the circumcision was to continue but for awhile, until Messiah came; when he came, the commandment was at an end. Moses was wise; he kept himself within bounds, for in all his four books after Genesis, he wrote nothing of physical circumcision, but only of the circumcision of the heart. He dwells upon the Sacrifices, the Sabbath, and showbread; but leaves this covenant of circumcision quite out, making no mention thereof; as much as to say: “Tis little to be regarded. If it had been of such importance and weight as the Jews make it, he would doubtless have urged it accordingly. Again, in the Book of Joshua, mention is made of the circumcising of the heart. The papists, however, blind people, who know nothing at all of the Scriptures, are not able to confute one argument of the Jews; theirs is truly a fearful blindness.
The verse in the 115th Psalm is masterly: “He shall bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great.” Here the Holy Spirit is a fierce thunderclap against the proud, boasting Jews and papists, who brag that they alone are God’s people, and will allow of none but of those that are of their church. But the Holy Ghost says: The poor condemned people are also God’s people, for God saved many of the Gentiles without the law and circumcision, as without popedom.
The Jews see not that Abraham was declared justified only through faith: Abraham believed God, and that was imputed unto him for righteousness. God with circumcision confirmed his covenant with this nation, but only for a certain time. True, the circumcision of the Jews, before Christ’s coming, had great majesty; but that they should affirm that without it none are God’s people, is utterly untenable. The Jews themselves, in their circumcision, were rejected of God.
Christ drove the buyers and sellers out of the Temple, not by any temporal authority, but by the jurisdiction and power of the church, which authority every High Priest in the Temple had. The glory of this Temple was great, that the whole world must worship there. But God, out of special wisdom, caused this Temple to be destroyed, to the end the Jews might be put to confusion, and no more brag and boast thereof.
There can be no doubt that of old time many Jews took refuge in Italy and Germany, and settled there.
Cicero, the eloquent Gentile, complains of the superstition of the Jews, and their multitude in Italy; we find their footsteps throughout Germany. Here, in Saxony, many names of places speak of them; Ziman, Damen, Resen, Sygretz, Schvitz, Pratha, Thablon. The Jews inhabited Ratisbon a long time before the birth of Christ. At Cremona there are but twenty-eight Christians. It was a mighty nation.
The Jews read our books, and thereout raise objections against us; `tis a nation that scorns and blasphemes even as the lawyers, the papists, and adversaries do, taking out of our writings the knowledge of our cause, and using the same as weapons against us. But, God be praised, our cause has a sure, good and steadfast ground, namely, God and His Word.
Two Jewish rabbis, named Schamaria and Jacob, came to me at Wittenberg, desiring of me letters of safe conduct, which I granted them, and they were well pleased; only they earnestly besought me to omit thence the word Tola, that is, Jesus crucified; for they must needs blaspheme the name Jesus. They said: `Tis most wonderful that so many thousands of innocent people have been slaughtered, of whom no mention is made, while Jesus, the crucified, must always be remembered.
The Jews must be encountered with strong arguments, as where Jeremiah speaks touching Christ: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth; in his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely, and this is his name, whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” This argument the Jews are not able to solve; yet if they deny that this sentence is spoken of Christ, they must show unto us another king, descended from David, who should govern so long as the sun and moon endure, as the promises of the prophets declare.
Either God must be unjust, or you, Jews, wicked and ungodly; for ye have been in misery and fearful exile, a far longer time than ye were in the land of Canaan. Ye had not the Temple of Solomon more than three hundred years, while ye have been hunted up and down above fifteen hundred. At Babylon ye had more eminence than at Jerusalem, for Daniel was a greater and more powerful prince at Babylon than either David or Solomon at Jerusalem. The Babylonian captivity was unto you only a fatherly rod, but this last punishment was your utter extermination. You have been, above fifteen hundred years, a race rejected of God, without government, without laws, without prophets, without temple. This argument ye cannot solve; it strikes you to the ground like a thunderclap; ye can show no other reason for your condition than your sins. The two rabbis, struck to the heart, silenced, and convinced, forsook their errors, became converts, and the day following, in the presence of the whole university at Wittenberg, were baptized Christians.
The Jews hope that we shall join them, because we teach and learn the Hebrew language, but their hope is futile. `Tis they must accept of our religion, and of the crucified Christ, and overcome all their objections, especially that of the alteration of the Sabbath, which sorely annoys them, but `twas ordered by the apostles, in honor of the Lord’s resurrection.
There are sorcerers among the Jews, who delight in tormenting Christians, for they hold us as dogs. Duke Albert of Saxony well punished one of these wretches. A Jew offered to sell him a talisman, covered with strange characters, which he said effectually protected the wearer against any sword or dagger thrust. The duke replied: “I will essay thy charm upon thyself, Jew,” and putting the talisman round the fellow’s neck, he drew his sword and passed it through his body. “Thou feelest, Jew!” said he, “how `twould have been with me, had I purchased thy talisman?”
The Jews having various stories about a king of Bassan, whom they call Og; they say he had lifted a great rock to throw at his enemies, but God had made a hole in the middle, so that it slipped down upon the giant’s neck, and he could never rid himself of it. `Tis a fable, like the rest of the stories about him, but, perhaps, bears a hidden moral, as the fables of Esop do, for the Jews had some very wise men among them.
The destruction of Jerusalem was a fearful thing; the fate of all other monarchies, of Sodom, of Pharaoh, the captivity of Babylon, were as nothing in comparison; for this city had been God’s habitation, his garden and bed; as the Psalm says: “Here will I dwell, for I have chosen her,” etc. There was the law, the priesthood, the temple, there had flourished David, Solomon, Isaiah, etc.; many prophets were there interred, so that the Jews had just cause to boast of their privileges. What are we poor miserable folk—what is Rome, compared with Jerusalem? But the Jews are so hardened that they listen to nothing; though overcome by testimonies, they yield not an inch. `Tis a pernicious race, oppressing all men by their usury and rapine. If they give a prince or a magistrate a thousand florins, they exhort twenty thousand from the subjects in payment. We must keep on our guard against them. They think to render homage to God by injuring the Christians, and yet we employ their physicians; `tis a tempting of God. They have haughty prayers, wherein they praise and call upon God, as if they alone were his people, cursing and condemning all other nations, relying on the 23d Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.” As if that psalm were written exclusively concerning them.
`Tis a vain boasting the Jews make of their privileges, after a lapse of above fifteen hundred years. During the seventy years, when they were captives at Babylon, they were so confused and mingled together, that even then they hardly knew out of what tribe each was descended. How should it be now, when they have been so long hunted and driven about by the Gentiles, whose soldiers spared neither their wives nor their daughters, so that now they are, as it were, all bastards, none of them knowing out of what tribe he is. In 1537, when I was at Frankfort, a great rabbi said to me: My father had read very much, and waited for the coming of the Messiah, but at last he fainted, and out of hope said: As our Messiah has not come in fifteen hundred years, most certainly Christ Jesus must be he.
The Jews above all other nations had great privileges; they had the chief promises, the highest worship of God, and a worship more pleasing to human nature than God’s service of faith in the New Testament. They agree better with the Turks than with the Christians; for both Jews and Turks concur in this, that there is but only one God; they cannot understand that three persons should be in one divine substance. They are also agreed as to bathings and washings, circumcision, and other external worshippings and ceremonies.
The Jews had excelling men among them, as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Daniel, Samuel, Paul, etc. Who can otherwise than grieve that so great and glorious a nation should so lamentably be destroyed? The Latin church had no excelling men and teachers, but Augustine; and the churches of the east none but Athanasius, and he was nothing particular; therefore, we are twigs grafted into the right tree. The prophets call the Jews, especially those of the line of Abraham, a fair switch, out of which Christ himself came.
In the porch of a church at Cologne there is a statue of a dean, who, in the one hand, holds a cat, and in the other a mouse. This dean had been a Jew, but was baptized, and became a Christian. He ordered this statue to be set up after his death, to show, that a Jew and a Christian agree as little as a cat and a mouse. And truly, they hate us Christians as they do death; it galls them to see us. If I were master of the country, I would not allow them to practice usury.
The Jews knew well that Messiah was to come, and that they were to hear him, but they would not be persuaded that our Jesus was the Messiah. They thought that the Messiah would leave all things as he found them; but when they saw that Christ took a course contrary to their expectation, they crucified him: yet they boast of themselves as being God’s people.
A Jew came to me at Wittenberg, and said: He was desirous to be baptized, and made a Christian, but that he would first go to Rome to see the chief head of Christendom. From this intention, myself, Philip Melancthon, and other divines, labored to dissuade him, fearing lest, when he witnessed the offences and knaveries at Rome, he might be scared from Christendom. But the Jew went to Rome, and when he had sufficiently seen the abominations acted there, he returned to us again, desiring to be baptized, and said: Now I will willingly worship the God of the Christians for he is a patient God. If he can endure such wickedness and vallany as is done at Rome, he can suffer and endure all the vices and knaveries of the world.
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