Christian Anti Semitism

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The History of Christian anti-Semitism is more than a dark past for the Church. Itis a horrific and shameful past that has influenced modern anti-Semitism and theseparation between Jews and Christians today. As Jews continue to endure such hatred,Christians should make it clear that the crimes of past centuries do not reflect the currentdesire for the restoration of these two great religions. Modern Judaism and Christianityboth rely on the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) as their source of inspiration. Bothreligions believe in the Patriarchs, the Ten Commandments, the Prophets, and accept thatGod himself inspired the writers to pen the very words of the Almighty. The early Jewishbelievers accepted Jesus (Yeshua) to be the prophet that Moses spoke about inDeuteronomy 18:15-19, which was also considered a messianic passage by classicalrabbis and Christian scholars alike.


<p>COLUMBIA EVANGELICAL SEMINARY Longview, WA</p> <p>Early Christian Anti-Semitism and Its Influence To This Day JS-602 A History of Christian Anti-Semitism: The Dark Side of the Church (4 semester hours)</p> <p>By Adrian A. Bernal Victor, Idaho, U.S.A.</p> <p>March 2008</p> <p>Professor: Rick Walston, Ph.D.</p> <p>Introduction The History of Christian anti-Semitism is more than a dark past for the Church. It is a horrific and shameful past that has influenced modern anti-Semitism and the separation between Jews and Christians today. As Jews continue to endure such hatred, Christians should make it clear that the crimes of past centuries do not reflect the current desire for the restoration of these two great religions. Modern Judaism and Christianity both rely on the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) as their source of inspiration. Both religions believe in the Patriarchs, the Ten Commandments, the Prophets, and accept that God himself inspired the writers to pen the very words of the Almighty. The early Jewish believers accepted Jesus (Yeshua) to be the prophet that Moses spoke about in Deuteronomy 18:15-19, which was also considered a messianic passage by classical rabbis and Christian scholars alike. For the first two centuries, most of the early believers were Jews with a growing number of non-Jews joining what was known as, the Way (Acts 9:2).1 Believers in the first century were accepted by other Judaisms for the most part. However, gradually, nonJewish believers were beginning to outnumber the Jewish believers, and shortly the center for Christianity was no longer in Jerusalem. With the destruction of the second Temple in A.D. 70, Jewish and non-Jewish believers were scattered across the known world, and the center for Christianity was quickly moving towards Rome. Anti-Semitism was on the rise, and Jews were beginning to experience hatred from so-called believers in the Messiah. Eventually, the divide between Jew and Gentile believers grew so wide</p> <p>Complete Jewish Bible, translated by David H. Stern (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1998), p. 1414. Used for all scriptural references unless otherwise noted.</p> <p>1</p> <p>2</p> <p>that persecutions against the Jews and accusations of being Christ Killers by the Church were the norm. Sadly, the development of this divide led to the Great Reformer, Martin Luther, penning these words: First, their synagogues should be set on fire, and whatever does not burn up should be covered or spread over with dirt so that no one may ever be able to see a cinder or stone of it. And this ought to be done for the honour of God and of Christianity in order that God may see that we are Christians, and that we have not wittingly tolerated or approved of such public lying, cursing and blaspheming of his Son and his Christians . . . Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed. For they perpetrate the same things there that they do in their synagogues . . . Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayerbooks and Talmuds in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught. Fourthly, their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more . . . Fifthly, passport and traveling privileges should be absolutely forbidden to the Jews . . . Sixthly, they ought to be stopped from usury . . . Seventhly, let the young and strong Jews and Jewesses be given the flail, the axe, the hoe, the spade, the distaff, and spindle, and let them earn their bread by the sweat of their noses . . . To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one so that you may all be free of this insufferable devilish burdenthe Jews.2 It may be hard to accept that Luther succumbed to such verbiage; however, by the end of Luthers life his hopes for the Jews acceptance of Christianity went undone. According to Michael L. Brown, Luther had hoped that his separation from the Catholic Church in the early sixteenth century would open the doors for the Jews to convert en masse to the one true-religion.3 When this did not happen, he vehemently voiced his hatred towards the Jews in several of his writings and pamphlets.</p> <p>Dan Cohn-Sherbok, The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Christian Anti-Semitism (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), p. 73, quoting Martin Luther, Against the Jews and Their Lies, Disputation and Dialogue, reprinted (Talmage: 1543), pp. 34-36. Note: Cohn-Sherbok does not offer references as to the publishers, dates, and pages of the quoted material used throughout his book. Therefore, the accuracies of these quotes may be questionable; however, some have been confirmed using other referential works listed in this papers bibliography. All other quotes, outside of Cohn-Sherboks own, will have the quoted author, the title of the work, and Sherboks page number(s) where the material was cited. Michael L. Brown, Our Hands are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the Church and the Jewish People (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 1992), p. 14.3</p> <p>2</p> <p>3</p> <p>Although Luthers view of the Jewish people has been widely known and circulated, most of the early Church Fathers paved the way for Luther to build upon the Christian anti-Semitism of his time. Luther was not the exception to Christian antiSemitism, but, rather, a normal continuation of it spanning over several hundred centuries among Christianity. Although Semitism relates to several Semitic peoples (those descended from Shem), it would be wrong to assume that if a person is anti-Jewish he is also anti-Arab. That is not always the case; however, some people specifically use the terms anti-Jewish or anti-Judaism to distinguish the Jewish people and Judaism from other Semitic peoples. For example, it would be wrong to label the president of Iran (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) as being anti-Semitic because he is of Semitic origin. It is proper, however, to label him as being anti-Jewish or anti-Zionist because of his hatred and desire to destroy Israel and the Jews.4 For the sake of clarity throughout this paper, the terms anti-Semitism, anti-Jewish, and anti-Judaism will be used interchangeably to relate specifically to the hatred projected towards the Jewish people by the Church. Furthermore, it should be recognized that early Christianity did not start Jewish persecution; it did, however, catapult the atrocities committed against the Jewish people after the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. Although anti-Semitic acts were normal occurrences up to that time, the separation of Jew and non-Jew in the Church became more prevalent with the exclusions of Jewish</p> <p>Elise Labott and Aneesh Raman,, Iran President Says U.N. Sanctions Unlikely: Ahmadinejad Also Tells Israelis to Go Back to Europe, April 24, 2006, (27 February 2008).</p> <p>4</p> <p>4</p> <p>feasts, festivals, and Sabbath-day observances, which the early Church in the first three centuries enjoyed and celebrated. Christian anti-Semitism and its lingering affects in todays society, must be remembered and never repeated. However, the Church has seemed to have forgotten her past regarding the horrific attacks that Jews suffered at the hands of Christians. In the late fifteenth century, autos-de-fe (acts of the faith) became a way of justifying persecution against the Jews.5 For example, Jews were blamed, tortured, and forced to falsely confess for kidnapping and killing Christian children. They were accused of using their blood in making matzot (plural for unleavened bread) at Passover meals, and the using of Christian blood to cure diseases.6 Although it would be easier to reason that real Christians could never do such things, the reality is that both learned and unlearned Christians committed crimes against the Jews. The Church should not ignore the facts but repent and make restitution whenever possible. This, however, may have to be accomplished through personal admittance and responsibility. It should also be noted that it is equally wrong for Jewish people and Judaism to claim that Jewish persecution originated with Christianity and the Church. This is erroneous since Jews (Israelites or Hebrew descendants) have been persecuted for centuries prior to Christianitys conception. However, it would not be wrong to assume that Christians and Christianity brought about some of the most horrific crimes and murders committed to one group of people. All of these crimes, by the way, were under</p> <p>5</p> <p>Cohn-Sherbok, p. 45. Ibid., p. 57.</p> <p>6</p> <p>5</p> <p>the banner of the Church and or Christ, whether true (born-again) believers were involved or not. Therefore, this paper will primarily focus on, although not be limited to, three questions or concerns regarding Christian anti-Semitism: (1) Where did anti-Semitism come from? (2) How did it influence the Church? And, (3) What can be done, subjectively, to repair the relationships between Jews and Christians? Early Christian Anti-Semitism and Its Influence To This Day Where did anti-Semitism come from? Although it can be argued as to the exact time and place anti-Semitism started, Wilhelm Marr of Germany coined the term antiSemitism in his work The Victory of Judaism over Germanism,7 and in 1871 Marr founded an anti-Semitic league.8 Regardless, the Bible offers the first possibility of hatred towards the Jews: Now ADONAI said to Avram, (Abram) Get yourself out of your country, away from your kinsmen and away from your fathers house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great; and you are to be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed (parenthesis added, Genesis 12:1-3). It was at this time in history that God instructed Abram (later to be known as Abraham) to leave his country and his fathers house. A specific people were to emerge from all others, and in time these people became known as the Hebrews. Eventually, after 430 years of living in Egypt and being held captive for most of that time, the Children of Israel (Jacob) were led out of Egypt by Moses into the wilderness. At this time, Moses,</p> <p>7</p> <p>Cohn-Sherbok, p. 166. Ibid.</p> <p>8</p> <p>6</p> <p>with Gods instruction, established the Aaronic priesthood, which further separated Israel from all other peoples on the earth. This separation, starting with Abraham, seems to be at the heart of persecution and anti-Semitism. The first five books of the Bible (Torah) are broken down into fiftyfour Sabbath readings called Parashot, singularly, parashah or parashat. Interestingly, the third parashat (reading) is from Genesis 12:1-17:27, which is called Lekh Lkha meaning: Get yourself out. This same concept of separation seems to be what the Apostle Paul is relating to the Corinthian believers directly out of Isaiah 52:11, Ezekiel 20:41, 34, 2 Samuel 7:14, 8, and then back out of Isaiah 43:6 when he quotes: . . . Go out from their midst; separate yourselves; dont even touch what is unclean. Then I myself will receive you. In fact, I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters. says ADONAI-Tzvaot (Lord of Righteousness) (parenthesis added, 2 Corinthians 6:17b-18). Therefore, at the very heart of anti-Semitism is the hatred projected towards the Jews for being different from their neighbors. The Law of Moses with the Ten Commandments is the main dividing factor for this separation. And, with these laws everything from grooming to clothing to worship further differentiates the Jewish people from all others. It also carried over to the Church Fathers when in the fourth century John Chrysostom, described as A bright cheerful soul, a sensitive heart, a temperament open to emotion and impulse; and all this elevated, refined, transformed by the touch of heaven, . . .9 writes:</p> <p>9</p> <p>Brown, p. 10, quoting Cardinal Newman.</p> <p>7</p> <p>The synagogue is worse than a brothelit is the den of scoundrels and the repair of wild beaststhe temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cultsthe refuge of brigands and debauchees, and the cavern of devils. [It is] a criminal assembly of Jewsa place of meeting for the assassins of Christa house worse than a drinking shopa den of thieves; a house of ill fame, a dwelling of iniquity, the refuge of devils, a gulf and abyss of perdition.10 It is hard to imagine that a man of such praise would rise to such hatred; nevertheless, it was prevalent in his time, and its effect has filtered-down through the centuries to this present age. Another hint of early anti-Semitism comes from the belief in the one true God (monotheism). Many, if not most, cultures worshiped a plurality of deities (polytheism). Often, the sun, moon, stars, and creatures were worshiped as gods, and human sacrifices were offered as a means to bring about good fortunes.11 Gods people, from time to time, had to be disciplined by God himself due to their lack of trust in him and their incorporation of paganism, which at times included sacrificing their own children. God instructed Jeremiah to speak these words to the children of Israel: For the people of Yhudah (Judah) have done what is evil from my perspective, says ADONAI; they have set up their detestable things in the house which bears my name, to defile it. They have built the high places of Tofet in the Ben-Hinnom (Son of Hinnom) Valley, to burn their sons and daughters in the fire, something I never ordered; in fact, such a thing never even entered my mind! (parentheses added, Jeremiah 7:30-31). These sorts of paganistic rituals not only influenced Judaism but Christianity as well. Thus, when a culture separates itself from other surrounding cultures, especially in deity worship, the result is often jealousy and hatred. Although it is not justifiable to dislike a culture because of its belief system, it is, nevertheless, a reality that has extended to the</p> <p>10</p> <p>Ibid, p. 10, citing John Chrysostom.</p> <p>All About Spirituality, Paganism Earth, 2002-2008, (29 February 2008).</p> <p>11</p> <p>8</p> <p>hatred projected upon the Jewish people for centuries prior to and after the resurrection of Christ and the formation of the Church. Additionally, Christian anti-Semitism may have originated from the false accusations of deicide, i.e., the Jews killed Christ; therefore, they were expelled and condemned to endlessly wonder about the earth because of their rejection of the Messiah. Randy Weiss states: Christianity carries the primary responsibility for developing and expressing the concept of modern anti-Semitism. This would seem implausible and horrible; nevertheless, the Church is guilty. Christian leaders developed and spread antiSemitism as it has been practiced for many centuries. An unmistakable component of modern anti-Semitism is its theological justification developed by Christianity. Christianity, with all of its claims to be the religion of love, invented a platform of hatred...</p>