Vom Schem Hamphoras

The Judensau from Wittenberg, 1596

Vom Schem Hamphoras, full title: Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlecht Christi (Of the Unknowable Name and the Generations of Christ), was a book written by German Reformation leader Martin Luther in 1543, in which he equated Jews with the Devil and described them in vile language.

Schem Hamphoras is the Hebrew rabbinic name for the ineffable name of God, the tetragrammaton. Luther's use of the term was in itself a taunt and insult to Jewish sensitivities. He wrote the tract several months after publishing On the Jews and Their Lies.

In the book he wrote:

"Here in Wittenberg, in our parish church, there is a sow carved into the stone under which lie young pigs and Jews who are sucking; behind the sow stands a rabbi who is lifting up the right leg of the sow, raises behind the sow, bows down and looks with great effort into the Talmud under the sow, as if he wanted to read and see something most difficult and exceptional; no doubt they gained their Shem Hamphoras from that place..."

Luther argued that the Jews were no longer the chosen people but "the devil's people".[1] An English translation of Vom Schem Hamphoras was first published in 1992 as part of The Jew In Christian Theology by Gerhard Falk.[2] Historians have noted Luther's writings contributed to antisemitism within the German provinces during his era. Historical evidence shows that the Nazi Party in the 1930s and 1940s used Luther's writings to build up antisemitism under their rule, by exerting pressure on schools to incorporate it into the curriculum, and the Lutheran church to incorporate it into sermons. Whether or not Luther's writings were a leading force for antisemitism in Europe over the past 500 years is currently being debated by historians. Nevertheless, it is clear that his writings were used extensively by the Nazis.[3][4][5]

See also


  1. Luther, Vom Schem Hamphoras, quoted in Michael, 113.
  2. Falk, Gerhard, The Jew in Christian Theology: Martin Luther's Anti-Jewish Vom Schem Hamphoras, Previously Unpublished in English, and Other Milestones in Church Doctrine Concerning Judaism, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1992. ISBN 0-89950-716-6.
  3. Lutheran Quarterly, n.s. 1 (Spring 1987) 1:72-97.
  4. Berger, Ronald. Fathoming the Holocaust: A Social Problems Approach (New York: Aldine De Gruyter, 2002), 28; Johnson, Paul. A History of the Jews (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1987), 242; Shirer, William. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960).
  5. Grunberger, Richard. The 12-Year Reich: A Social History of Nazi German 1933-1945 (NP:Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971), 465.
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