Luther after the Stendahl / Sanders Revolution: A Responsive Evaluation of Luther’s View of First-Century Judaism in His 1535 Commentary on Galatians -- By: Robert G. Artinian

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 27:1 (Spring 2006)
Article: Luther after the Stendahl / Sanders Revolution: A Responsive Evaluation of Luther’s View of First-Century Judaism in His 1535 Commentary on Galatians
Author: Robert G. Artinian


Luther after the Stendahl / Sanders Revolution: A Responsive Evaluation of Luther’s View of First-Century Judaism in His 1535 Commentary on Galatians

Robert G. Artinian

Robert G. Artinian, M.Div., is currently a graduate student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

As early as Karl Barth and Peter Wiener, modern scholars and theologians have accused Luther’s theology of carrying devastating implications and incalculable consequences, of being inherently anti-Semitic, and of even leading to the Holocaust.1 Barth himself believed that Luther’s theology was one of the key factors that prepared the way for Hitler and his regime.2 While the cause-and-effect link connecting Luther and Hitler has long since been discredited,3 the same allegation continues to be made in modern scholarship. Perhaps more important, charges that Luther’s theology mischaracterizes first-century Judaism and is inherently anti-Semitic not only continue, but appear to be at a crescendo.4

The particular area of scholarship in which these accusations have become most pronounced is in the area of Pauline studies, particularly over the course of the past forty years. What began this trend (beyond, of course, the event of the Holocaust itself and German theologians’ complicity in it) was a lecture made by the accomplished Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, Krister Stendahl, in 1963—a lecture subsequently published under the now famous title, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West.”5 In that lecture and article, Stendahl blamed Luther for misinterpreting both Paul and Judaism by reading his own psychological struggles with the Law into Paul and his own context of a legalistic sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism into the Judaism of first-century Palestine.6 In the wake of this massive claim, a whole “new perspective” on Paul—really, a new perspective on first-century Palestinian Judaism which has drastically affected Pauline interpretation—has blossomed, taking its critical impetus (and at least a part of its formative shape) from Stendahl’s proposal.7 For Stendahl’s thesis about Luther remains to this day a critical touchstone of the New Perspective on Paul.8

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