Home Special Reports The History of Palestine and Israel in the light of Hebrew Bible

The History of Palestine and Israel in the light of Hebrew Bible

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To be sure, the devil would wish that such deceits of his would not be uncovered, would not be brought to light, would not be censured. But just as the apostles condemned the errors of the nations, so now the church of God ought to refute the errors of all the enemies of the gospel, so that the glory of God and his Son Jesus Christ might be celebrated against the devil and his instruments. While the son of God was hanging on the cross, the whole world of nature testified with novel and awesome signs that this death mattered to God, and threatened not only the Jews,
but the whole world of all times insofar as it rejected the Son of God.”
“Even if a few were moved, God still wanted to set forth a clear testimony. Thus, even if this world at the extreme end of the ages is oppressed by a huge multitude of idolatrous Jews, Muhammadans, and papists, nevertheless, let us sound forth the voice of the gospel and bear witness that the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ, whom the apostles show us, is truly the Son of God and Savior, and let us denounce the errors of all those who wage war against the gospel. Therefore, as I have written against the idols of the Jews and the papists, and will continue to do so to the extent that it is granted me, so also, I have begun to refute the pernicious beliefs of Muhammad, and I will continue to do so at more length. But in order to do this, it is also useful to study closely the writings of Muhammad themselves. Accordingly, I have wanted to get a look at a complete text of the Qur’an. I do not doubt that the more other pious and learned persons read these writings, the more the errors and the name of Muhammad will be refuted.”
(Ibid: 263).
“For just as the folly, or rather madness, of the Jews is more easily observed once their hidden secrets have been brought out into the open, so once the book of Muhammad has been made public and thoroughly examined in all its parts, all pious persons will more easily comprehend the insanity and wiles of the devil and will be more easily able to refute them. This is the reason that has moved me to wish to publish this book.”
(Ibid: 264).
“Given the fact, however, that some persons fear that by reading such a book weak minds might be corrupted as it were by an infection and turned from Christ, to such persons I respond in this way. May there be none so infirm in the church of God that they do not have this conviction fixed in their mind, that, as certain as they know that they are alive as long as their senses and bodily motor functions are still vital, as certain as they know that it is day, as long as they see the sun passing above the earth in the middle of the sky, so certain should they be that it is patently impossible that any religion or doctrine about the worship or invocation of God be true that utterly rejects the prophetic and apostolic writings.”
(Ibid: 264).
“There is one eternal church beginning from Adam, to whom God revealed himself with sure and wondrous testimonies in the very word which God entrusted to the prophets and apostles. Time and time again God commands that by its teaching God is to be known and acknowledged and that all other beliefs about God be rejected. To this one teaching God joins us, just as the prophet Isaiah clearly says in chapter 59: ‘This is my covenant, says the Lord: my Spirit is in you, and my words that I have placed in your mouth will not depart from your mouth or the mouth of your descendants forever.’ And Christ says: ‘If you abide in me, and my words abide in you; whatever you ask will be done for you.” And Paul says that the church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.'”
(Ibid: 265).
“Therefore, all beliefs of all nations about God that either ignore or reject the prophets and the apostles are to be insistently condemned. Muhammad acknowledges, however, that he is devising a new belief that dissents from the prophets and apostles. Therefore, as you firmly repudiate the beliefs of the Egyptians who worshipped cats and of the Arabians who worshipped
dogs, so you shall denounce the new creation of Muhammad, because he himself openly admits that he does not embrace the teaching of the prophets and apostles. If there are any who are so without understanding that they do not have this conviction fixed in their mind that the only true religion is that which was from the beginning handed on by God, with clear testimonies, through the prophets and apostles, even if these persons do not now read the writings of Muhammad, but either only hear about the Turks or see them, how will they fortify themselves against their beliefs? Rather, it is a shameful and impious ignorance if they do not daily admonish themselves in intercession concerning this belief, if they do not separate themselves from the Jews, the Turks, and other nations in prayer; if they do not meditate on the fact that this one alone is the eternal and true God, the creator and sustainer of all things, who hears us and will grant life eternal, who revealed himself in the writings of the prophets and apostles, who willingly sent God’s Son to be a sacrifice for our sake. Those who meditate on these things in prayer will acknowledge that this stupidity is no light sin. Because only a few call upon God rightly in prayer, the church, therefore, is being punished for its ignorance and neglect. But since this punishment is already in sight, may it warn us, as I have already said, to separate ourselves in prayer from the Turks, from the Jews, and from the other nations, and to invoke the eternal and true God, the creator of all things, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified for our sake and raised from the dead. ”But I shall speak about these things more fully at another time. Daniel and the other captives won over the King of Babylon and many others to true knowledge of God. The Goths, the Huns, and the Franks, although victorious, nevertheless, were converted by their captives to the worship of God. So now, too, God perhaps will call some of the Turks from their darkness through their Christian captives who have been instructed. Or perhaps God wishes that those uninstructed Christians who are sorely oppressed in Illyria, Greece, and Asia, may be strengthened by those Christians who by reading this book will be able to fight more courageously on behalf of the gospel.”
(Ibid: 265).
“The following corollary assertions provide a source of great encouragement: Just as the church of God is eternal, so it is fitting that the church’s teachings be eternal; yet this book witnesses that this creation of Muhammad is a new thing. The church of God by necessity embraces the prophets and apostles; Muhammad rejects their teaching. In the church of God from the very beginning this voice of the gospel has always been handed on: that the eternal Father willed that the Son of God become a sacrifice for sins; Muhammad scorns this sacrifice and propitiation. In the church the doctrine has always existed concerning the causes of human weakness, calamity, and death, and especially concerning sin passed on after the fall of the first parents; these Muhammad, as if an Epicurean, considers to be in any fabrications. Finally, the book itself gives rise to many other assertions whose enumeration would hardly edify the pious. This must not be thought a matter of light importance, especially by those of us who teach in the church. We must fight on all fronts against the ranks of the devil. In this age of ours how many varied enemies have we already seen? Papist defenders of idolatry, the Jews, the multifarious monstrosities of the Anabaptists, Servetus, and others. Let us now prepare ourselves against Muhammad. But what can we say about matters that are still outside our knowledge?” (Ibid: 266). Therefore, it is of value for the learned to read the writings of the enemy in order to refute them more keenly, to cut them to pieces and to overturn them, in order that they might be able to bring some to safety, or certainly to fortify our people with more study arguments.
On December 6, 1529, “Veit Dietrich wrote from Wittenberg to Hektor Pömer in Nurenberg,.We
have in our possession from occupied Constantinople a pamphlet written many years ago on the customs of the Turks that Luther will soon publish with the addition of hisownpreface. Then on January 3, 1530, Luther wrote to his friend Nikolaus Hausmann in Zwickau. A pamphlet in Latin on the rites and religion of the Turks written almost seventy years ago is being prepared. The libelous referred to in these remarks appears to have been written by a certain Georg von Muelbach, in later life a Dominican priest among the curia in Rome, who as a youth had been captured when the Turks, under the lead of Murad II (1421-1451), invaded Hungary during the uncertainties of succession that accompanied the death of Emperor Sigismund in 1437. The youth was subsequently sold to some merchants and carried off in chains to Adriano polis where he was imprisoned for some twenty years before his release in 1458. Although Luther dates the writing almost seventy years ago. (i.e., about 1460), a more accurate date of shortly before 1481 derives from the author’s reference within the work to Muhammad (i.e., Muhammad II, 1451-1481) as the one who now rules. A translation of the preface referred to in Dietrich’s letter and written by Luther to accompany his publication of the libelous follows. For further historical background, see the introduction to Luther’s preface in WA 30/2:198-200, from which these brief notes” (Ibid: 266) are excerpted.
The famous argument in favour of Luther might be presented from the eminent scholars of Bible:
“Martin Luther’s remarkable involvement with Islam and Muslims (= Turks”) is insufficiently known. For this reason, his prefaces to the ‘Book of the Rites and Customs of the Turks’ and to ‘Bibliander’s Edition of Alcoran’ have been newly translated and are presented here. Luther was a person of his time, and his language expresses the roughness of the age. It is not helpful to point out that most commentators of his time were far less informed and much more diatribe than Luther. It is better to remind ourselves that here we have an aspect of the ‘burdensome past’ which calls us to penitence and apology. All the same, Luther was far ahead of his time, and is helpful to us in reminding us of the importance of the Islamic reality. He expressed regret that scholars were not seeking to study and understand Islam in its own terms. Above all he points us to the essential distinctiveness of the gospel message of the free gift of forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life from a gracious God. Perhaps he might approve of this special issue. Perhaps, too, if he were here, he might say, ‘Let us be little Christs to the Muslims.’ As little Christs we are called upon in advance to express regret to Muslim readers who might be offended by the intemperate language, even as we recognize that we may all learn from our respective histories. As far as is known, the two prefaces are translated into English for the first time, and appreciation is extended to Professors Henrich and Boyce for their dedicated efforts.”
Editors of the tracts on Hienrich, Boyce Translation.James Boyce and Sarah Henrich are professors of New Testament. Professor Boyce, a former editor of Word & World, has had varied service in the church and maintains an interest in philology and archaeology. He is co-translator of Mark the Evangelist (W. Marxsen). Professor Henrich has had experience in general education as well as theological education. Her study of Who Is Jesus? Is available as part of the proceedings (six cassettes) of the 1995 Luther Seminary Convocation. (P. 263).
Tracts of Luther. On War Against the Turk (1529), a pastoral piece written to teach people how to fight with a clear conscience (LW 46:157-205);
Heerpredigt wider den Türken (Sermon Against the Turks, 1529), preached in the spring in light of the Turkish threat on Vienna (WA 30/2:160-197);
Vorwort zu dem Libellus de ritu et moribus Turcorum (Preface to Libellus de ritu et moribus Turcorum, 1530), a preface accompanying his publication of a “tract on the religion and customs of the Turks” written around 1481 – a new translation of this preface from the Latin is presented below in Part II (WA 30/2:205-208);
Appeal for Prayer Against the Turks (1541), written to encourage resistance on the occasion of the resurgence of Turkish threats to Germany with Suleiman’s conquest of Hungary (LW 43:215-241);
Verlegung des Alcoran Bruder Richardi, Prediger Ordens (Refutation of the Alcoran of Brother Richard, Preaching Order, 1542), a translation into German of a medieval tract against Islam (WA 53:272-396); and, finally, the second piece newly translated from the Latin here in Part III: Vorrede zu Theodor Biblianders Koranausgabe (Preface to Theodor Bibliander’s Edition of the Qur’an, 1543, WA 53:569-572).