The Gift and the Poison: Tolstoy and Luther on the Jews

In Leo Tolstoy’s Perception of the Jewish People

The following comparison between Tolstoy and Luther is made:

Leo Tolstoy :

“The Jew is that sacred being who has brought down from heaven the everlasting fire, and has illumined with it the entire world. He is the religious source, spring, and fountain out of which all the rest of the peoples have drawn their beliefs and their religious. The Jew is the pioneer of liberty. The Jew is the pioneer of civilization. The Jew is the emblem of eternity.”

Compare the above with the founder of the Christian Protestant church Martin Luther. The following is his opinion of the Jewish people:

First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss in sulphur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in somehellfire. Second, that all their books their prayer books, their Talmudic writings, also the entire Bible, be taken from them, not leaving them one leaf, and that these be preserved for those who may be converted. Third, that they be forbidden on pain of death to praise God, to give thanks, to pray, and to teach publicly among us and in our country. The reason for this prohibition is that their praise, thanks, prayer, and doctrine are sheer blasphemy, cursing, and idolatry, because their heart and mouth call God the Father *Hebel Vorik* as they call his Son, our Lord Jesus, this.

Fourth, that they be forbidden to utter the name of God within our hearing.For we cannot with a good conscience listen to this or tolerate it, because their blasphemous and accursed mouth and heart call God’s Son *Hebel Vorik,* and thus also call his Father that. Therefore we must not consider the mouth of the Jews as worthy of uttering the name of God within our hearing. He who hears this name-from a Jew must inform the authorities, or else throw sow dung at him when he sees him and chase him away. And may no one be merciful and kind in this regard, for God’s honor and the salvation of us all, including that of the Jews, are at stake!

(From Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies, 1543, Part XII).

The writer asks: “So who is the religious man?

I think both Tostoy and Luther are two extremes; the former in the direction that the Jews are the greatest gift to man, the latter that the Jews are the greatest “gift” (German for “poison”) to man.

If Tolstoy believed that Jesus was the Redeemer and Son of God, he would have spoken with more circumspection of those who rejected Jesus. We know that Luther, in no uncertain terms,  did believe in Jesus; so, his fault was to ignore the everlasting covenant that God had made with “Israel,” that “stiff-necked” people:

And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people; now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them [Exod. 32: 9-10].

Hitler claims to have been inspired by Luther. Let us be clear, that when Luther “expired” his venomous breath, Hitler was free to either “inspire” it or to turn his lungs in another direction. Hitler breathed in what his lungs desired.

Let him who has ears to hear, listen – to what he desires to hear.

Tolstoy has gushed overboard, while Luther has sunk low. Having said that, it would be silly to write off Luther altogether. More than silly; daft. The LORD Jesus Christ is the only one able to walk on water.

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