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Jewishness as an Explanation for Rejection of the Word

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Caspar Güttel’s Reception of Martin Luther’s Anti-Judaism

image of Church History and Religious Culture

The present essay challenges prior accounts of the “literary echo” to Martin Luther’s 1523 treatise, That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, which called for “friendly” theological instruction of Jews. Focusing on a dialogue between a Christian and a Jew written by Caspar Güttel, I demonstrate that Güttel was not concerned with the persuasion of Jews. Rather, writing in 1527, Güttel deployed his knowledge of the ineffectiveness of Luther’s missionary overture as part of a larger strategy casting intra-Christian resistance to the Word as “Jewish.” Moreover, the primary influence on Güttel was not That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, but Luther’s Christmas Postils. From the latter, Güttel received and propagated an image of Jews as “blind with seeing eyes”—as unable to deny truth yet paradoxically unreceptive to it. Güttel’s case underlines the necessity of looking beyond Luther’s “Jewish writings” to locate the transmission and reception of the reformer’s anti-Judaism.

Affiliations: 1: Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, PA, USA


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