- Christogenea Saturdays
The Devil in Luther's Dreams, Part 2
The purpose of this series of presentations, entitled The Devil of Luther's Dream, is to show the condition of the Catholic faith in Germany at the time of Martin Luther, the character of the Roman Catholic Church, and the extant struggle which Christians such as Luther were having with both Jews and Humanists, many of whom who were basically Catholics-turned-pagan, and a great number of them were monks and priests. Understanding these things, we may better understand the causes of the Reformation, and why Martin Luther and many others believed that it was necessary.
In our last program, we exhibited the fact that the celebrated Catholic priest, Erasmus, was actually a humanist and not at all a Christian. In turn, Erasmus had fostered the development of an entire collection of fellow humanists inside the Catholic church organization in Germany. However we also were able to see in the words of Albert III of Pio, the Prince of Carpi, and from his own correspondence with Erasmus, that humanism had already become prominent within the structure of the Catholic church in Italy, and that many more conservative Italian Catholics were dissatisfied with that development, himself included. Carpi had spent much of his time over several decades challenging and feuding with Erasmus, until he was left bereft of his principality by Charles V of Germany, the Holy Roman emperor.
With a partial description of these conditions, we concluded that, philosophically speaking, the 1960's hit Germany in the 1500's, and that it had hit Italy in the 1400's, and there is nothing new under the sun. However for Europe this was only the beginning of sorrows. We have already seen, in the writings of students of Erasmus such as Mutian, that humanists were also basically ecumenists, professing the validity of all religions in the deception that all religions really worship the same god. Now we hope to exhibit how humanists were also apologists for the Jews, and had fully infiltrated the courts of the papacy and the bishoprics of the empire. Once again we will be quoting at length from The History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages by Johannes Janssen, Volume 3, Book 5, published in an English translation by A.M. Christie in London in 1900.
We had left off in our previous presentation with the humanist Conrad Mutianus Rufus, commonly known as Mutian, who was a humanist and a Roman Catholic prebendary, or senior priest, at the University of Erfurt in Germany. Of the situation in Germany at this time, Janssen says that “Germany was completely overrun with literary parasites, charlatans, and lampoonists, who made the viliﬁcation of the Church and the clergy and the monastic orders a special branch of their newly acquired ‘culture.’” However many of these, like Mutian, were actually a part of the church itself.
However while they seemed to be getting all of the press and publicity, as we saw in the reception of Erasmus in his travels, not all of the Catholic clergy had turned to humanism. Many of the German monks and other clergy stood against the infiltration of humanism into the Church. Understanding this backlash, we may begin to comprehend how it was that the Lutheran church had formed so quickly and successfully. To continue with this volume of The History of the German People from page 39:
It was thus inevitable that the monks should be the enemies par excellence of the ‘poets ;’ nor is it to be wondered at that in a struggle grounded on mutual suspicion and intolerance, often willfully ignorant from fear of false knowledge, the limits of moderation should frequently have been far overstepped.
In lecture halls and pulpits the monks and the scholastic theologians thundered against the ‘poets’ as the representatives of unchristian learning which set more store by ﬁne language than by the truth of God; as the promoters of a system of study which lured the young away from all useful and solid intellectual work. They denounced them as godless people steeped in paganism. The time was now unfortunately fulﬁlled, said preachers and lecturers, in which, according to the prediction of the apostle, ‘men would turn away their ears from the truth and be turned unto fables.’ Hence there was most urgent need to put an end to this state of things. The preaching of the Gospel had never consisted in ﬁne words of human wisdom; the corrupting study of heathen poets and writers must be entirely forbidden to the young. ‘That stream must be stopped at its source,’ said a Dominican preacher at Cologne in 1516, ‘which is pouring its poisonous waters over the rising generation.’ Shall we any longer allow the young of our land to be led away by men who do not scruple to put into their hands the most indecent poets of antiquity, who explain these poets by indecent glossaries, and spice their instruction with gibes and satires against the Church and the Pope; by men who rate the Bible no higher than the heathen writings, and who have the audacity to say that more good may be learnt from the latter than from the Holy Scriptures? [As Erasmus and others have already professed.] Let us banish all these ‘poets’ from our schools, the old and the new alike, for the new are more dangerous even than the old. A sect considered specially dangerous among the holders of these new opinions were those ‘poet ’ humanists who posed under the mask of theology, and who exercised an inﬂuence similar to that of Erasmus, aiming, like him, at throwing contempt on scholastic learning as such. It was to this class that Mutian belonged.
Before continuing, I would want to put this struggle among the clergy of Europe into a Christian Identity perspective. Notice first, however, that the monks did not want to destroy the pagan literature. In fact, for the most part we owe the preservation of it through the ages to monks! But here they only express the desire to restrict it to the young. This was for good reason. Much of the pagan literature borders upon pornography, and Christians certainly should not want to corrupt young Christian minds with the licentiousness of ancient pagan Greeks and Romans. Therefore to a great degree, the struggle between the traditional Catholics and the Humanist pagans at this time was also a moral struggle.
From our Christian Identity perspective, however, the pagan works are very important. Not necessarily those such as Ovid or Martial, who were rather recent and who themselves were the products of the decadence of Rome which was described by Paul of Tarsus and even Tacitus, but the more ancient poets especially of the Greeks. The prophets of the Bible consistently warned of paganism, and how it corrupted the morals of men and women. The children of Israel nevertheless went off into paganism, abandoning Yahweh their God in exchange for worldly pleasures.
But the pagan literature also contains much history, and that history allows the serious student of today the realization, with help from Scripture and archaeology, that the early pagan Romans and Greeks were actually descended from portions of the children of Israel who had gone off into paganism! Therefore, from a Christian Identity viewpoint, which is the only truly valid historical viewpoint, we can see the admonitions made to the children of Israel not to accept the ways of the corrupted pagan nations. Then we see those same Israelites accept those ways in spite of the warnings, and go off into paganism. Reading the pagan poets, we can then see exactly what sin the Old Testament prophets were warning about! Studying the New Testament and the later prophets, we see the solution to retrieve our race from out of that sin.
However while the Medieval clergy did not have that overall perspective that only Identity Christians can have, they nevertheless understood that the pagan literature represented degeneracy, and they stood up for the scholasticism that provides a foundation of principles and philosophies that are necessary to the understanding of truth and the maintenance of a just society. To continue with this volume of The History of the German People from page 40:
He was among the most Violent enemies of scholasticism. He described the war between the humanists and the schoolmen as ‘ a struggle between light and darkness,’ and he inspired the whole body of humanists under his lead with the profoundest aversion for what he called ‘that arrogant, extortionate, irascible race of sophists.’ Many of his own poems, of which he made presents to his pupils, breathed the bitterest hatred against scholasticism. The aim of his labours was the complete annihilation of the old schools and of all institutions which had grown up under their inﬂuence. The academic degree, on which the sophists based their authority, seemed to him worse than laughable. ‘Where reason points the way,’ he writes, ‘there is no need for “doctors.”’ Men of real culture ought not to waste their energies on acquiring the empty, barbarian titles of ‘bachelors’ or ‘ masters.’ The ‘school,’ he said, is the province of the grammarian; the theologian is quite out of place there.’ The ‘theological apes’ nowadays absorb the whole of the school curriculum into their system, and give out all sorts of nonsense. The right proportions in our university staffs would be one sophist, two mathematicians, three theologians, four lawyers, ﬁve ‘ doctors,’ six rhetoricians, seven Hebraists, eight Hellenists, nine grammarians, and ten sound philosophers as heads and principals of the whole learned body. Nearly all the disciples of Mutian imitated him in ferocious attacks on the sophists and on the professors of the old universities, and the breach between teacher and pupil became wider and wider at Erfurt, as in all the universities where the humanist inﬂuence gained ground. Many of the older professors, who had formerly been promoters of humanism, now took the opposite side and openly declared that the new ‘poets’ were the ruin of the universities. But Mutian only waxed ﬁercer and ﬁercer. ‘ We have nothing to do,’ he said, ‘with the opinions of contentious sophists concerning our young ﬂock.’ ‘ The enemies of the ﬁne arts are accomplishing nothing; Whether they will or no the number of our followers goes on increasing.’ ‘I congratulate the younger professors at Erfurt,’ he writes to Herebord von der Marthen, ‘for they are setting themselves free from barbarism.’ He exhorted the humanists, whom he called his Latin cohorts, to stand ﬁrmly together in battle, saying that in a short time he would lead them to victory over the barbarians. ‘We must hold out to the end, having once begun this campaign and bound ourselves together by the oaths of soldiers.’ But even before the outbreak of this religious war, a revolutionary rising of the community against the town council took place at Erfurt in the year 1509; and the hostiliity between humanists and scholiasts was transferred to political platforms. The older professors, with Henning Groede at their head, ranged themselves on the side of the town council, While the humanists showed decided sympathy with the resistance of the popular party. Mutian, already before bitterly incensed against Groede, who as a thorough-going German objected strongly to the humanist contempt for his native language and literature, now discharged volley after volley of insults on the scholiasts. With curious ingenuity he proved all German jurisprudence and all the civic laws of the country to have come down from antiquity, especially from the code of Solon; and by arguments from the ancient classics he convinced his humanist friends of the justice of the popular claims. ‘It was madness,’ he Wrote, ‘to believe that princes must always be born such; they often sprang from the lowest ranks of society. Socrates had long ago said that we should have better rulers if we chose them for ourselves. In his letters he inveighed ﬁercely against the adherents of the town party, and expressed his delight at the poems in which the humanists vented their popular sympathies. Only they must take care not to endanger their own personal safety; he himself always endeavoured to avoid all risk. Herebord von der Marthen was the only one of the humanist body who took an active part in the ﬁght. Constant scenes of tumult threw all the town business and proceedings into confusion. A quarrel among the students, which broke out in 1510, resulted in the destruction by the enraged populace of the university building, with its ancient records and charters, the splendid library, and even the colleges and ‘Bursas.’ [According to a note by the translator, a ‘Bursa,’ was an educational establishment with foundations for the support of scholars.] In the destruction of the colleges, in which the young of successive generations had so long been kept together in order and discipline, the more keen-sighted observers of later times rightly discerned the cause of the internal decay of the university. Amongst the emancipated students, given over to self-government, who went forth in bands from the ruins of the university, unrestrained license rapidly gained ground.
Mutian’s band of humanists also became scattered over all parts of Germany, and wherever they went they preached the gospel according to their master, spread enmity against the ‘barbarians,’ enrolled fresh recruits in their own ranks, and returned to Erfurt towards the end of 1512 strengthened for the conflict.
The warfare was soon to spread all over Germany, and to secure the victory of light over the darkness of the monks and theologians. The immediate provocative to the outbreak of hostilities was the controversy of Reuchlin with the Cologne theologians.
This battle over the hearts and minds of the German people is not all black-and-white. We can also see many positive ideals, some of those which were expressed by the later founders of the American republic, in the philosophy of these German humanists. In many ways we can sympathize with them. The system of the medieval scholiasts was in some ways oppressive and restricted the conception new ideas and free thinking, regardless of whether it was valid. But the Roman Catholic church was never truly Christian, and itself was founded upon the imperial paganism of Rome. True Christianity does not advocate human imperialism, yet here Christianity suffers between two extremes: Roman traditionalists and the opposition to it on the part of new-age pagan humanists. Many elements of the organized clergy turned to pagan humanism, and many elements of the organized clergy defended what they considered to be Christian scholarship, and they especially defended Christian morals. It is evident throughout these historical accounts that immorality was the constant companion of humanist paganism, just as it was with the ancients. The Reformation ultimately seems to have saved Christian Europe from both the imperialist humanist tyrants in Rome, and the immoral humanist agitators in Germany.
Today the coin has flipped, and the proverbial shoe is on the other foot quite precisely. The immoral pagan humanists rule the roost, they call themselves secularists, and they persecute all true Christians.
With this our historian introduces us to The Reuchlin Controversy. This controversy is an excellent example of the struggle among the Christians of Europe over the Jews and their blasphemous writings. Does the Talmud burn, or not? This too became a two-edged sword, because Reuchlin was a scholar in Greek, Hebrew and Latin who realized the value of the original languages of Scripture in the study of antiquity and Christianity. Yet Reuchlin also insisted on the preservation of satanic Jewish treachery and blasphemy posing as religion, and in this regard he was opposed by traditional Christians, and supported by the pagan humanists such as Mutian. However Reuchlin too was a humanist, and he was also the son of a high-ranking Dominican monk. We will see later that Dominican monks were among his most vocal opponents.
Reuchlin's interest in Hebrew as the original language of the Old Testament led him down a path that far too many Christians scholars have gone, and he began studying the Biblical exegesis and commentaries of medieval Jewish rabbis. From there he found the Cabbala, and imagined it to contain the secrets that would reconcile Scripture with science. This too is a satanic deception. Sadly, like Luther and all others of this time, Reuchlin believed that the Jews were the Israelites of antiquity. It is our opinion that with that belief he and so many others had given Jewish mysticism the credibility it needed so that Judaism could be maintained, and so that the Jews could eventually subvert Christianity. However many of those who wanted to burn the Jewish books also wanted the Jews to convert to Christianity, as Luther had hoped, and that also would result in the subversion of Christianity, although those who promoted the conversion of the Jews did not realize that would be the inevitable result. However unlike Luther, Reuchlin evidently thought that the peculiar Jewish writings were to be valued as Scripture at nearly the same level as the Christian Bible, he downplayed the prominence of the Jewish writings which blasphemed Christ and Christians, and he professed that those writings should be preserved and even disseminated in the universities.
Here we shall continue with this volume of The History of the German People from page 44:
Johann Reuchlin was among the ﬁrst leaders of thought in Germany who by example and speech, and by constantly pointing out the importance of the study of Greek literature, procured for the Greek language a place in the higher branches of university curriculums. He also rendered substantial service to the cause of Latin study by his Latin dictionary and his translations of the Greek classics into Latin. But his labours in the department of the Hebrew language constitute the most important of all his achievements. It is to him that we owe the ﬁrst complete system of instruction in Hebrew. It was his wish by means of Hebraistic research, and by throwing open the original text of the Old Testament, to furnish a healthy counterpoise to the excessive worship of pagan antiquity; for it seemed to him that in the engrossing study of rhetoric and poetry the Holy Scriptures were in danger not only of suffering neglect but of being altogether despised by many people.
As in the study of classical literature, however, so also in that of the Hebrew there were dangers of a special kind. Reuchlin was by nature strongly predisposed to mysticism, and he soon began to use his knowledge of the Hebrew tongue as a key to the strange world of Cabbalistic lore. The man who influenced him most powerfully in this respect was Pico della Mirandola, who had been the first to procure admission for the Cabbala into the circles of learned men, and who speaks of it in terms of the highest veneration. ‘No systems of science or learning,’ he says, ‘make us feel so certain of the divinity of Christ as do the Cabbala and natural magic.’ [It must be said that Giovanni Pico della Mirandola was from a traditional Catholic Italian noble family who had planned for him a career in the clergy. Studying under a Jew at the university of Padua he became a so-called Christian Cabbalist and Renaissance humanist. He based many theological theses on the philosophy of Plato, and was a friend of Lorenzo de'Medici, who supported him for nearly a decade before he died.] Reuchlin adds the following to this testimony [meaning Mirandola's testimony of the Cabbala]: ‘The one aim and object of the Cabbalists is to raise the spirit of man up to God, and to endow it with complete beatitude. All who pursue the study of this science obtain in this life the highest happiness, and in the life to come everlasting joy.’ [This is actually anti-Christian, because men can be imagined to become as god without Christ, without God's law, and apart from or in spite of God's Own word. Therefore the Cabbala is merely the continuation of that same rebellion against God seen in Genesis chapter 3.] In two works, entitled respectively ‘De Verbo Miriﬁco’ (‘Of the Wonder-working World’) and ‘De Arte Cabbalistica’ (‘Of the Cabbalistic Art’), Reuchlin lays the basis of a semi-supernatural, semi-rationalistic theosophy. His leading idea in both books is that the visible world is the image or reflection of an invisible one with which it stands in the most intimate correlation. [So heaven is just as corrupt as earth. That reflects a belief in a god made in the image of the Jew.] Allied with this idea is the belief in the magic power of terrestrial elements over their corresponding forces in the celestial world [Satanic Black magic]. Especial efficacy is assigned to those letters of Holy Writ which individually are in miraculous union with the individual angels who carry on the government of the nether world. At the utterance of certain words God is beheld by our minds, and as it were reproduced within us. Reuchlin justiﬁes the mystic, Cabbalistic interpretation of the ﬁve books of Moses by the argument that if there were no mystic wisdom concealed in these books they would have no higher value than other books whose contents are equally moral and didactic. [Sounding very much like Erasmus.] The art of arranging the letters of Holy Writ in magic order was, he asserted, conferred on Moses by the Almighty; from Moses it came down to Christ, from Christ, by transmission, to the seventy translators [those of the Septuagint in anachronistic order], and from them to the company of the esoterics [evidently Jewish rabbis]. Reuchlin’s estimate of Pythagoras as a man in almost every respect at one with Christian belief is quite consistent with these opinions. According to Pythagorean philosophy, he says, faith must not be subjected to any operation of logic, for mankind will never attain to a clear apprehension of the basis of religion by mere processes of thought; hence religion has never presented itself as a product of human speculation, but always as a divine revelation. [Serious students of the Classics must be aware that Pythagoras, while none of his own writing survives, from those citations of his found in other classical authors must have been influenced by a study of Hebrew Scriptures, but certainly not by the Cabbala.]
Reuchlin was far from any wish to injure the cause of Christianity and the Church by his mysto-philosophical system; on the contrary he imagined that he had struck new light out of the Hebrew books for the better understanding of Christianity.
His opinions, however, even if regarded as mere philosophy only, were well calculated to turn men’s brains, especially as they gave great encouragement to the tendency already strong in mankind to put oneself in immediate connection with the spirit-world. Mutian was delighted with the ‘De Verbo Miriﬁco,’ and expressed the hope that Reuchlin would accomplish all that Pico della Mirandola had predicted. [Here the translator notes the correspondence between the parties in question.] Cornelius Agrippa delivered lectures on this ‘Christian and catholic work.’
So here we should perceive a convergence resulting in the union of Humanist pagans, Jewish Cabbala, the promotion of immorality, the breaking from Christian tradition, and the Roman Catholic clergy. While we cannot dig down to the level of everyday exchanges between 15th century university students and their Jewish influences to see the devils in the details, we certainly can see the Jewish influence in medieval society and in the universities of Italy and Germany which was at the root of this pro-Jewish and humanist movement. This is why all true Christians should see their pagan White brethren as little but whores for the Jews. It is the Jews who have greatly instigated humanism and neo-paganism coupled with immorality in Europe from the very beginning. Continuing from the bottom of page 46:
Several theologians, on the other hand, spoke disparagingly of it. ‘In reading Reuchlin’s books,’ wrote John Colet, ‘one is made to feel as if the magic lay more in the words than in the things; there must be rare secrets indeed contained in the Hebrew letters and signs! Ah me, of such books and such wisdom there is no end! There is nothing better for us in this brief span of time than to live purely and nobly, to strive daily after perfection, and to seek indeed to attain that which these Pythagorean Cabbalists hold out before us, but which we can only lay hold of by fervent love to Jesus and by imitation of his example.’ [This seems to be praise only on the surface, it is actually a rebuttal.]
In serious apprehension of another invasion of Judaism the Dominican monk Jacob Hoogstraten, professor of theology at Cologne, and religious inquisitor of the provinces of Cologne, Mayence, and Treves, entered the lists against Reuchlin in a pamphlet entitled ‘Destruction of the Cabbala,’ in which he showed that the Jewish mystics did not support the articles of the Christian faith, but, on the contrary, denied their truth, and that Reuchlin’s book was full of errors.
When Reuchlin’s ‘De Arte Cabbalistica’ and Hoogstraten’s confutation of it appeared a lengthy controversy on the question of the Hebrew books was already in full swing. At the beginning of it Reuchlin had astonished his contemporaries by taking part with the opponents of the Jews. [Of course this was contrary to expectation.] At the instigation of a certain nobleman he published, in 1505, a ‘missive ’with the title ‘Why did the Jews remain so long in Captivity?’ In this pamphlet he explained that the captivity and exile of the Jews, lasting more than 1,300 years, was a just punishment for the godless crime they had committed against the Saviour of the world. [This is a pious position for the time, but shows that Reuchlin, as well as all of his contemporaries, were misled into believing that the Jews were the Israelites of Scripture, when in fact they were not. As Scripture proves, the dispersal of the Jews was vengeance against God's enemies, while the ancient dispersions of true Israel for their punishment began nearly 800 years before that time.] This sin of theirs, he said, continued perpetually, so that day after day they were guilty of fresh blasphemy, reviling and dishonouring God in the Person of His Son, our Lord Jesus, the true Messiah. ‘They call him,’ says Reuchlin, ‘a criminal, a sorcerer, a malefactor. The gracious Virgin, his mother, they call “Haria,” and the Apostles and disciples heretics, and all of us Christians they call “outcasts” [or perhaps non-people, the German word unvolk.] and foolish heathens.’ All Jews, up to the present time, so long as they continued to be Jews, he said, were participators in this blasphemy towards God, and took a peculiar delight in inventing fresh ways of harming Christians. This was manifest in all their proceedings and in their daily prayers; in their books also, which are written and read out against us. ‘The worst part of it is that the Jews will not recognise that all this, which is committed against our Lord Jesus, is sin and wickedness, for in this way they cannot come to any recognition of their wrong-doing or improvement of their lives. And so long as they remain altogether stiff-necked in their sins they must also continue in durance and exile. I pray God that He will enlighten them and turn them back to the true faith, that so they may be set free from the yoke of the devil, as the community of the Christian Church pray devoutly for them every Good Friday; and if they would recognise Jesus as the true Messiah it would be well with them here in this world and in the world to come for ever.’ [The error that the Jews are Israel leads to the error of a hoped-for Jewish conversion to Christ. The apostles of Christ knew better, and just when this heresy came into the medieval church I do not know, however the Jewish question was debated in the church long before this time.] He concludes with the following generous offer: ‘If there is any Jew who would like to be instructed concerning the Messiah and our true faith, I will willingly receive such a one and provide for him, so that he may have no anxiety for temporal necessities, but may be able to serve God peaceably and in freedom from care.’
The conversion of the Jews then could only be hoped for, so the theologians and canonists had repeatedly declared, when they cast off their grasping spirit, earned their living, like Christian citizens, by honest trades and industries, and were compelled to surrender all those anti-Christian books by which hatred of Christianity was continually kept alive—above all the Talmud. In several pamphlets published between the years 1507 and 1509 the converted Jew, Johannes Pfefferkorn, urged the above demands anew, and in perfect good faith, against his former co-religionists. [This complicates matters very much, because Pfefferkorn is later set up as a primary opponent to Reuchlin in the matter of the jewish books. Apparently, even then the Jews were able to maintain control of both sides of the arguments over Christian society.]
In the ﬁrst of these, the ‘Judenspiegel,’ he began by a resolute condemnation of the persecution of the Jews, and defended them against the crimes laid to their charge, especially the accusation that they were obliged to use Christian blood for their sacriﬁces, and for this purpose to slaughter young Christian children. ‘Well-beloved Christians,’ he exclaims, ‘I entreat you to give no credence to this!’ He urged that the persecutions which the Jews underwent deterred them from adopting Christianity. [This sounds like so many Jewish so-called converts to Christianity and like so many Jewish apologists among the White nationalists of today! Pfefferkorn, the Brother Nathaniel of his own time, sets himself up as a leading critic of Jews, and all the while he is excusing the Jews for their behaviour and their crimes.] Having thus done justice to the Jewish side of the question, he [Pfefferkorn] went on to insist that the Jews must renounce the practice of usury, earn their bread by honourable work, attend sermons at stated times to hear the Word of God preached, and, above all, give up the Talmudic books. In a later pamphlet he declared that ‘from the way in which these blind Jews kept the Easter festival’ they could no longer be followers of Moses, but were mere Talmudists, repudiators of the Old and the New Testaments, and deserving of condemnation according to Mosaic law. The Talmud, which was their seducer, must be taken from them, and then they would soon change in heart and mind. [We see that the true German Christian, Martin Luther had later adopted these same arguments and remedies against the Jews.] In this pamphlet, as well as in two others, the ‘Judenbeicht’ and the ‘Judenfeind,’ he described, in terms of strong condemnation, the wanton wickedness of the Jews towards the Christians, and exhorted the latter not to tolerate the Jews amongst them in their present reprobate condition, for they were cursers of Jesus Christ and his blessed Mother. He did not, however, go so far as to demand the banishment or extermination of the Jews [of course not, since he was a Jew his mission was to help ensure Jewish survival]; he only asked that the measures proposed above should be adopted and enforced. If, however, the magistrates, bribed, possibly, by gifts of money from the Jews, refused this petition of the Christians, he advised the latter to have recourse to prayer to God, and also to make appeal to other Christian rulers.
Of these the Emperor was the highest, and to him Pfefferkorn himself resolved to turn for help. Through the instrumentality of several monasteries of the Dominican Order, which protected the Christians zealously against Jewish usury and advocated the suppression of Jewish books, Pfefferkorn obtained letters of recommendation to the Emperor Maximilian’s sister Kunigunde, widow of Albrecht, Duke of Bavaria, and the Duchess, approving of his scheme, recommended him to her brother. On August 15, 1509, Maximilian issued an injunction to all the Jews of the Empire to the effect that they were to bring all and any of their books which were directed against the Christian religion or against their own Mosaic law before Johannes Pfefferkorn, ‘as our servant and loyal subject of the realm, and as a well-established and learned believer of our faith.’ [The Jew set himself up as an expert, ingratiated a woman, and then became the guiding light for Christians in regards to the satanic Jews. The pagans are whores for the Jews, and the Catholic Christians are dupes for the Jews.] Pfefferkorn was invested with authority to take all these books from the Jews and conﬁscate them, albeit in every place with knowledge and discretion, and in the presence of the priest and two members of the town council or magistracy.
By a later decree Maximilian transferred the management of the whole business to Uriel, Archbishop of Mayence, and commissioned him to examine the books which Pfefferkorn had already seized in different places, and to collect the opinions of the universities of Mayence, Cologne, Erfurt, and Heidelberg, as well as those of the chief inquisitor, Jacob Hoogstraten, of Cologne, of the priest Victor of Carbes, and of Johann Reuchlin.
Reuchlin’s opinion was more favourable for the Jews than might have been expected from his ‘Missive.’ It was to the effect that, according to law, only the manifestly libelous books could be destroyed, and that all others must be preserved. As for the Talmud, Christ himself had enjoined the preservation of these books, because in them also evidence for the Christian faith could be found. [So Reuchlin vacillates between being an apologist for and a critic of Judaism, and in the end he defends allowing them to keep their books by employing a perverted idea of “what would Jesus do”, as if Christ would even support blasphemy.] As regards the occult portions of the Talmud there was no justiﬁcation for destroying even these, because superstition and error must be mixed up with human reason, in order to the strengthening and testing of true believers. [Here Reuchlin displays his own humanistic reasoning, and also his affection for the Cabbala.]
The opinions of the four universities were all different. Heidelberg arrived at no decided verdict, but appointed a committee of learned men to consider the question. Erfurt pronounced that the Emperor, and each of the princes in his own dominion, ought themselves to take away from the Jews all books of theirs which libelled the Christian religion. Mayence insisted on the suppression of all Jewish books, and for the present even their Bibles, because there was ground for suspicion that they had been falsiﬁed wherever passages favourable to Christianity occurred. Cologne was in favour of leaving the Bible to the Jews, but not the books of the Talmud, the burning of which had already been ordered by several popes. Hoogstraten and Victor of Carbes agreed with this last opinion.
In November 1510 the collective opinions were, by order of the Archbishop of Mayence, presented by Pfefferkorn to the Emperor, who was then at Freiburg. Maximilian handed the documents over for decision to three theologians, among whom was the famous Carthusian prior Gregory Reisch. The verdict of these theologians accorded with that of the Cologne University. The Bible might be left in the Jews’ possession without danger, but all the rest of their books must be taken from them, whether or no they were works which might be of use to the Christian religion or to the Jews themselves. The books were to be collected all over the world by the archbishops, bishops, and other ecclesiastical commissioners, with the help of certain lay ofﬁcers; they were then to be examined by men versed in the Latin and Hebrew tongues; those pronounced harmless, restored to the Jews, and the remainder either burnt or divided among Christian libraries for the use of students. [This bureaucratic solution is in reality no solution at all because is could never have been enforced practically.] But all this great book question came to no issue. [As do so many such bureaucratic machinations.] The Emperor declared himself satisﬁed with the opinions, but would not act on the ﬁnal decision without the concurrence of the Diet. Nevertheless the case never came on at any later Diet.
[This is not, however, the end of the argument, and we shall see this debate rage on for at least several more years, when in 1515 Reuchlin and Pfefferkorn were called before the pope.]
With this question of the Hebrew books, however, there came to be associated a controversy of the greatest importance for the intellectual and religious life of the nation.
In his statement of opinion concerning the Jews’ books Reuchlin had made a personal attack on Pfefferkorn, had called him an ‘ass’ who understood nothing whatever about the books whose destruction he was advocating, and had indulged in innuendos against the rascally fellows who had adopted Christianity from base motives. These insults had not been intended for publication, and Pfefferkorn had only come to know of them in his ofﬁcial capacity, but nevertheless he animadverted upon them in the most violent manner in his ‘Handspiegel,’ published in 1511, as an offence against his personal character. Reuchlin, in his ‘Augenspiegel,’ answered with still greater violence; calling Pfefferkorn a base, dishonourable villain, a man cursed with a devil’s nature. He took the opportunity also of disclosing in this publication, amongst other things, the memorandum of advice he had drawn up for the Emperor about the Jewish books, with an explanation of it.
Now of course we would not defend the converso-Jew Pfefferkorn, but Reuchlin was being unfair in his assessment because Pfefferkorn was not even the leading advocate of the many Christians who also wanted to destroy the books of the Jews. Rather, Pfefferkorn had only maneuvered his way to being a spokesperson for them, which was actually to the advantage of the Jews. Continuing from page 53:
Neither Pfefferkorn’s ‘Handspiegel’ nor Reuchlin’s ‘Augenspiegel’ was of the nature of a party propaganda, but consisted solely of personal attacks; the Cologne theologians had no part in the ‘Handspiegel,’ nor Reuchlin’s humanist followers in the ‘Augenspiegel,’ but on the strength of these pamphlets the two hostile camps were soon formed. [This almost sounds like a battle between Christian Identity pastors, but on a much greater scale. However on a serious note, here we shall begin to see that Reuchlin was in favor of preserving the Jewish books and leaving them in the hands of the rabbis, and that the pagan humanists had voluntarily taken his side. Pfefferkorn, a Jew, wiggled his own way into being the spokesperson for those Christians who saw the blasphemy of the Jewish books and wanted to destroy them.]
The ‘Augenspiegel,’ which appeared in 1511 at the Frankfort autumn fair, caused the greatest excitement, and was soon distributed all over Germany. On the pretext that this pamphlet contained false and anti-Church teaching the Frankfort clergyman Meyer, by order, as he said, of Uriel, Archbishop of Mayence, sent a copy of it to the Theological Faculty of Cologne, which, by papal authority, possessed the supreme right of censure in Germany. Just as at that period the University of Cologne, with its two thousand students, still held the ﬁrst place in size, importance, and fame among Rhenish universities, so the Cologne Theological Faculty stood at the head of all the Theological Faculties of Germany. The most distinguished of its members were Arnold von Tungern, the head of the Laurentine Bursa, and the two Dominican monks Conrad Collin and Jacob Hoogstraten.
[A note from the editor of the book informs us that the statement referring to “supreme right of censure” is something of an overstatement, that the Faculty's power was not quite so absolute: “This statement concerning a supreme right of censorship, bestowed by Papal authority on the Theological Faculty of Cologne, is certainly incorrect. All that is true is that the Cologne Dominican Prior ‘ab immemorabili tempore fuerit et sit inquisitor apostolicus haeret. pravitatis per Moguntinam. Treverensem et Coloniensem provincias.’ See Hansen, Rheinische Acten zur Gesichte des Jesuitenordens (Bonn 1896), p, 566. This explains why the Archbishop of Mayence referred the Frankfort clergyman to the Cologne Faculty, in which the Dominican Prior, as inquisitor apostolicus, always played a prominent part. - EDITOR.”]
As soon as Reuchlin learnt that his book was to be criticised by Arnold von Tungern he wrote to him, on October 28, 1511, that he considered himself fortunate in having assigned to him a judge who was himself a distinguished scholar and a venerator of learning, and who made allowances for human weakness; that in setting forth his opinion he had had no intention whatever of hurting anybody’s feelings, still less of offending a university; that he honoured learning, and above all theology, but that he had never studied this subject himself, and that he quoted theological extracts in his writings much in the same way as a country clergyman might talk of medicine in his sermons. If he had made mistakes he begged that they might be pointed out to him, and he would be ready to correct them; for in all points he wished to continue ﬁrm in his obedience to the Church and to preserve his faith unspotted.’ In a letter to Collin, with whom he had long been on friendly terms, Reuchlin expressed himself in a similar strain. Collin replied on January 2, 1512, that it was not surprising that a doctor of law should make mistakes in theology; that the Faculty would send him the objectionable passages, pointing out what they wished altered in them.
The Faculty thereupon addressed a letter to Reuchlin, representing to him that by the publication of his opinion he had thwarted the Emperor’s proceedings against the Jewish books, and laid himself under suspicions of favouring Jewish heresy; his ‘Augenspiegel,’ published in the German language, was being read and distributed by the Jews, who were delighted that so learned a man as Reuchlin had taken up their cause, and was protecting their writings against Christ and the Christian Faith; that in support of his opinions he had perverted and misquoted passages from Holy Writ, and had furthermore been guilty of many objectionable and scandalous assertions, whereby he had cast doubts on his own orthodoxy. It was with great pleasure, however, that the Faculty learned from his letters to Tungern and Collin that he wished to persevere in the faith, and that he was ready to correct any erroneous matter. They herewith sent him a list of incorrect assertions and passages that he had perverted, and they begged him to recast them in more accurate language, or else, after the example of the humble-minded Augustine, to retract them altogether. After such conciliatory explanations on both sides one might have expected a peaceful settlement of the matter. But nothing of the kind happened.
This is where we shall end this presentation for now. When we pick up here next week, we will see that Reuchlin, the Cabbalist lawyer, changes his attitude and digs himself in to defend his position. The humanist pagan Mutian and others then begin to defend his cause. The Jews must have been gleeful, and the matter is ultimately laid before the humanist de'Medici papacy.