Martin Luther's "Of the Hidden Name"

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


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 English grammar.

     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 singular proportions.

Shalom uívracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Assassination, Anarchy, & Terrorism (2012).

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