Martin Luther's Use of Rhetorical Masks for Jews, Princes, Clerics, and other Enemies: The Problem of Meaning in a Post Modern Age



In modern times, there is a common widespread and common misunderstanding of Martin Luther's views on Jews, Peasants, Clergy, Women, and Princes. An analysis of Luther's rhetorical use of “masks” as metaphors will help us understand that he was not the father of anti-Semitism, or of political and social elitism. The purpose of this article is to explore and understand Luther's rhetorical intent in the context of early modern German culture. The central thesis of this article is that Martin Luther may have had in his use of rhetorical masks in his public discourse a hidden communicative strategy. Often his masks involved vulgar, crude, and violent words in his attempt to stimulate and persuade public opinion. Does language have consistent long-term meaning regardless of context? Michael Giesecke, a professor of German linguistics, correctly argues that each cultural period develops its own ways of triadic perception that involves thinking, acting, and communicating. New ways of processing information as we now see in the electronic revolution holds true in the cultural shift in the sixteenth century fostered by the printing press. The new medium of printed works forces a new way of thinking in every affected age. Our problem is to understand the “new way.”