Martin Luther's "Of the Hidden Name"
Vom Schem Hamphoras and The Jew in Christian Theology
In 1543, Martin Luther, the founder of Protestant Christianity, published
a book which he called Vom Schem Hamphoras. Vom is a German word meaning
ďof the. Hamephorash is Hebrew, meaning ďthe hidden or ineffable name
of God.Ē Luther misspelled the
word even as he spelled almost all German words in any manner he liked. This was
true because in his day there was no German grammar, any more than there was an
Since Luther had translated the Torah
from the Hebrew into German, he did not hesitate to cite Hebrew phrases
throughout Vom Schem Hamphoras.
Anyone acquainted with Lutherís
extensive writings will have noticed that although Vom Schem Hamphoras is
included in the German editions of Lutherís Collected Works, this book was not
included in the 1971 English translation of all of Lutherís writings. It is
his only work not found there.
Therefore I decided to translate Vom
Schem Hamphoras into American English and make it an appendix to a
background book The Jew in Christian Theology.
Because Luther wrote in the sixteenth
century, his German is antiquated. His German was as remote from modern German
as is William Dunbar or Spenser from modern English, as both of these authors
preceded Shakespeare. Furthermore, Luther made every grammatical error possible,
and in addition quoted Latin writers in the original.
Nevertheless, we now have that book in
our language and recognize that Luther was a devoted enemy of the Jewish people.
He raged against Jews, called us ugly names, and demanded the burning of all
synagogues and the Talmud. He predicted the total extermination of all Jews and
demanded their expulsion from Germany. He did, however, accept Jews who had
converted to his brand of Christianity.
So as to make this medieval book more
plausible, I wrote The Jew in Christian Theology and included Lutherís
diatribe as an appendix. My book is divided into two parts. First, The
Contribution of Christian Theology to the Fate of the European Jews, which
begins with the writings of the early church fathers concerning Jews and
continues through the centuries, ending with the work of Soloviev.
The second part of the book is called:
Towards a New Christian Theology of Judaism. This begins with the writings of
Christian theologians at the beginning of the 20th century and ends
with the Declaration Nostra Aetate by the Catholic church and an equal
declaration by the Lutheran church. Both declarations and many others by other
denominations condemn anti-Semitism and call for a new understanding of Judaism.
This book has been published by
McFarland, Publishers and will be reprinted soon because it is unique and of