What is the significance or importance of the Protestant Reformers and the Jews in understanding the history of Judaism?

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The Protestant Reformers, specifically Martin Luther and John Calvin, played a high-profile role in the history of Judaism, but opinions differ about their influence over the course of history.

Martin Luther wrote several virulently anti-Semitic books and pamphlets in the first half of the sixteenth century. He accomplished three purposes at the time. First, he insulated his Protestant ideas and the nascent reform movement, of which he has since become the figurehead, against the charge that they were influenced by Jews specifically to hurt the Catholic Church. Second, he established his credentials as a "serious" religious scholar, at a time when anti-Semitism was an official doctrine of the Church and popular among temporal powers in Europe. Third, he made his Protestant ideas more popular with the people he sought to convert to his cause.

John Calvin argued that Jews and Judaism were, basically, obsolete after the advent of Christianity. He believed in the Old Testament, but he also believed the Covenant with God meant a Christian one, and that Christians, not Jews, were God's chosen people.

There's no doubt the beliefs of Luther and Calvin nourished anti-Semitism. They may have accelerated it in countries where significant numbers of people followed their ideas. Chief among these are the central European states which became Germany in the nineteenth century.

There are questions about just how much the views of Luther contributed to the rise of Hitlerism and Nazism. There's no doubt they played a role, but there isn't an easy line to be drawn between Luther and Hitler, because so many other influences are also present. It's clear, though, that Luther set a benchmark for hatred and mistreatment of Jews in early modern German-speaking Europe.

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