Lutherans/Lutherans and Jews


Dear Sir,
I am Jewish and have a good friend who is Lutheran. We have many lively discussions but we have never tackled the Lutheran position on the Jews. Could you give me some information (ie is there salvation outside the church for Jews, what is the position on converting Jews, what place does Israel have in your eschatology and theology?). Also, I've noticed he rarely discusses bible versus, more his beliefs without specific references or oft with sociopolitically references rather than biblical ones; is this normative and is there a reason for it? Thank you very much in advance.


Thank you for your question.

The relationship between the Jewish and Lutheran communities has often been a strained one.  Luther, towards the end of his life, wrote an infamous anti-Semitic treatise, "On the Jews and Their Lies", which while reflecting the tenor of his time and geography, did nothing to get us on good footing together.  Lutherans in Europe and elsewhere, were often part of the problem when it came to ant--Semitic policies and behavior, culminating with the Nazi Holocaust and the complicity or silence of the official Lutheran church in German (with the notable exception of many renegades, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who were usually killed for their courage).

Fast forward to the latter 20th and early 21st centuries, and the Lutheran Church, in its various denominations, has been trying to repair some of our past sins.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to which I belong, has been intentional about creating positive relationships with our Jewish neighbors.  They have promoted formal dialogues between our various Rabbis, Pastors, and Theologians, as well as promoting such dialogues on a local level between lay people.

For more information, I refer you to some material the ELCA has on their web site:

Generally, we leave questions of salvation of Jewish people to God--knowing God's love for his Chosen People and also God's grace.  There is no "official" ELCA policy on this, but I think most of us lean to, "God's love will of course embrace them."

As to the Bible, well, we Lutherans can get a little lazy about that.  Many of our people are "biblically illiterate" something I lay at the feet of pastors such as myself.  We are working on getting better on this and getting our lay people back into studying the Bible and knowing how it makes a difference for their lives.  Progress is often slow, however.

I hope that this is helpful,

Martin Eldred


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Martin W. Eldred


I have been a Lutheran Christian for 55 years and a Lutheran pastor for almost 27. I can answer most general questions about Luther, Lutheran History, Lutheran Theology, and a Lutheran approach to Biblical Interpretation. I am ELCA, for those who know what that means, and I tend to be moderate theologically. I hope that I can converse with those that are either more conservative or liberal than I, and especially with those who are really just seeking.


Pastors are "generalists" and generally have a working knowledge on many subjects. We are also used to working with a variety of answers from a variety of people. I teach a great deal, especially in the area ofthe New Testament. I particulalry enjoy the Pauline literature.

I have been a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, an international gathering of biblical scholars and teachers, since the late 1980s.

I have written a few book reviews for the journal, "Lutheran Quarterly."

I have a B.A. from Pacific Lutheran University in Religion (Biblical Studies)and a Master of Divinity from Wartburg Theological Seminary, and I am currently completing a PhD in New Testament.

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