Volume 72, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2542-6583
  • E-ISSN: 2590-3268



This article sheds light on Luther’s early attitude towards Jews and Judaism. My point of departure is the famous tract on Christian freedom from 1520, with its paradoxical talk of Christian freedom in faith and servitude to the Other in love. ‘Jewish servitude’ was a central category to define the position of the Jews in society. The category was used by the highest authorities in the Church and secular society, popes and emperors. Its meaning was ambivalent because it comprised subordination and repression, but also protection of the Jews. Against this background it becomes apparent how Luther’s theology of Christian freedom intended to reject Christian hostility towards the Jews. The consequences can be seen in his tract ‘That Jesus was a born Jew’ from 1523, where Luther made a plea to improve fundamentally the freedom of the Jews in society. This went further than J. Reuchlin’s interpretation of the ‘servitude of the Jews’ in his defence of Jewish literature against the inquisition, which included freedom of worship. However, as is well known, Luther soon revised his political position and ended up in sharp anti-Jewish agitation. The emancipatory impulse of his theology of Christian freedom in favour of a new understanding of ‘Jewish servitude’ had lost its relevance.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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