Munther and Luther: What do they have in common?

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Munther Isaac, a Palestinian Lutheran pastor, has surprised over 18 million viewers with a guest appearance on Tucker Carlson last week. Long known for his anti-Israel posture and theological conferences aimed at advancing replacement theology coupled with Palestinian activism, he shares some similar sentiments with his reformed denominational founder. The Lutheran denomination traces its history to the 15th century protestant reformer, Martin Luther. Although a prominent figure in the Reformation, his views towards the Jews devolved over time.

Initially, Luther expressed concern for the plight of European Jews. He hoped that his religious reforms would lead to their conversion to his form of Christianity.  During this phase, he was influenced by Johann Reuchlin, who defended Jewish books from being burned by the Holy Roman Empire.

In his later years, Luther’s unsuccessful influence on the Jews seems to have turned him vehemently antisemitic. In his work “On the Jews and Their Lies,” he made disturbing recommendations that would go on to influence his government and centuries later, was exploited by the Nazis. Here were some of his recommendations:

  • Burning Synagogues: Luther proposed setting fire to Jewish synagogues and schools as an act of Christian honor.
  • Destruction of Homes: He advised razing and destroying Jewish houses.
  • Forbidding Teaching: Luther recommended forbidding Rabbis from teaching, under threat of life and limb.
  • Abolishing Safe-Conduct: He suggested abolishing safe-conduct for Jews on highways.
  • Prohibiting Usury: Luther wanted usury prohibited for Jews and their wealth confiscated.
  • Manual Labor: Luther proposed putting tools in the hands of young Jews and Jewesses for manual labor.

In 1994, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America publicly rejected Luther’s antisemitic writings, acknowledging the pain caused by his anti-Jewish diatribes.  Yet it remains alive in the denomination, and certainly in the teachings of one of its ministers, Munther Isaac. Here are some of his positions and statements towards Israel and the present war with Hamas: 

  • In a sermon on October 8, 2023, Isaac justified the Hamas attack on Israel that occurred the day before. He referred to it as a logical outcome and linked it to the historical injustice faced by Palestinians since the Nakba.
  • He highlighted the contrast between the besieged Palestinians and the Israeli youth celebrating a concert near Gaza when they were attacked: “Frankly, anyone following the events was not surprised by what happened yesterday… One of the scenes that left an impression on my mind yesterday, and there are many scenes, is the scene of the Israeli youth who were celebrating a concert in the open air [the Nova music festival] just outside the borders of Gaza, and how they escaped. What a great contradiction, between the besieged poor on the one hand, and the wealthy people celebrating as if there was nothing behind the wall. Gaza exposes the hypocrisy of the world.”
  • On Christmas Eve, Isaac delivered a sermon in which he stated that if Jesus were born today, he would be born under the rubble in Gaza.
  • Isaac is a board member of Kairos Palestine, an organization founded in 2009 with founding documents containing antisemitic statements. Kairos Palestine engages in replacement theology, denying the Jewish people’s historic connection to Israel. The document refers to the Torah as a “dead letter” used to deprive Palestinians of their rights in their own land.
  • Isaac has publicly denied the historical and religious connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem. He has propagated the idea that Jews have no legitimate claim to the city.
  • In various interviews and writings, Isaac has equated Zionism with racism. 
  • Isaac is an activist for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. While BDS claims to be a peaceful protest, it has been criticized for its anti-Israel bias and its impact on ordinary Israelis and Palestinians.

Munther Isaac does not faithfully represent the Christian faith nor does his denomination. Whereas many Reformed churches trace their theology and denominational distinctives to some of the protestant reformers, the earliest followers of Jesus of Nazareth never claimed theological allegiance to a denominational leader. The authentic Christian faith is found in the Scriptures alone, as taught by Jesus and the Apostles. When Luther or church leaders like Munther deviate from the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, they should be called out to repent and turn back to God. 

The earliest Christians were first designated as followers of the Way, and seen as a sect of Judaism. This should not be surprising since its chief Rabbi- Yeshua of Nazareth was not only Jewish, but appointed 12 Jewish Apostles including the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus. Each would go on to record his teachings and midrash on the Scriptures. 

Unfortunately, both Luther and Munther do not represent his teachings well and have more in common with each other than with Jesus of Nazareth.  

What do Munther and Luther have in common? They are both against the Jews.

About the Author
Dr. Bryan Moselle received his PhD in Hebrew Bible from the University of Pretoria, ThM in Hebrew Bible and Semitics from Biola University, and MS Health Science from TUI. He is the senior pastor of University Bible Church in Los Angeles, California, and previously worked in international disaster relief throughout Africa.
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