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Christianity and antisemitism

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Christianity and antisemitism

A strain of hostility among Christians to Judaism and the Jewish people developed from the early years of Christianity and persisted over the ensuing centuries, driven by numerous factors including theological differences, competition between Church and Synagogue, the Christian drive for converts[1] decreed by the Great Commission, misunderstanding of Jewish beliefs and practices, and a perceived Jewish hostility toward Christians, and culminated in the Holocaust, which has driven many within Christianity to reflect on the relationship between theology, practices, and that genocide.[2]

These attitudes were reinforced in Christian preaching, art and popular teaching over the centuries containing contempt for Jews.[3]

Modern Antisemitism has been described as primarily hatred against Jews as a race with its modern expression rooted in 18th century racial theories, while anti-Judaism is described as hostility to Jewish religion, but in Western Christianity it effectively merged into antisemitism during the 12th century.[4]:16 Scholars have debated how Christian antisemitism played a role in the Nazi Third Reich, World War II and the Holocaust.

Roman-Jewish tensions

Although Jewish communities lived and generally flourished in all major cities of the Roman Empire, tension between the Roman authorities and the Jews long preceded Christianity gaining any influence in the government of the Roman Empire. In Rome and throughout the Roman Empire, religion was an integral part of the civil government. The Emperor was from time to time declared to be a god and demanded to be worshiped accordingly.[5] This created religious difficulties for Jews, who were prohibited from worshiping any other god than that of the Hebrew Bible. This, and the financial and political resentment of an occupied nation, created problems in the relations between Rome and its Jewish subjects, as well as for worshipers of Mithras, worshipers of Sabazius, and Christianity.[6] In the case of Jews, this led to several revolts against Rome and severe persecutions by Rome as punishment. Roman political distrust of the Jews centred on suspicions that they preferred Rome's great rival in the Eastern Empire, Persia, to Rome as regional overlord, and these suspicions may have had some justification. Jews revolted against the Romans in the Great Revolt of 66 CE, which culminated with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. They revolted again under the leadership of the professed messiah Simon Bar Kokhba in 132 CE, which culminated in the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem, which Hadrian renamed into Aelia Capitolina in an attempt to wipe out memory of Jews there.[7]

Early differences

There have been philosophical differences between Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism since the founding of Christianity. Christians acknowledge the roots of Christianity in Judaism. Some claim the entirety of Jewish religious heritage as its own, while interpreting it very differently.

Debates between the Early Christians, who at first saw themselves as a movement within Judaism and not as a separate religion, and other Jews initially revolved around the question whether Jesus was the Messiah, which later encompassed the issue of his divinity. Once gentiles were converted to Christianity, the question arose whether and how far these gentile Christians were obliged to follow Jewish law in order to follow Jesus (see Paul's letter to the Galatians). At the Council of Jerusalem, it was decided that new gentile converts did not need to be circumcised (the Apostolic Decree of Acts 15:19-21), while requiring acceptance to a set of laws similar to Judaism's Noahide Law, (see also Old Testament#Christian view of the Law for the modern debate), but Paul also questioned the validity of Jewish Christians' adherence to the Jewish law in relation to faith in Christ, according to some interpretations. The issue of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism is still debated.

The increase of the numbers of gentile Christians in comparison to Jewish Christians eventually resulted in a rift between Christianity and Judaism, which was further increased by the Jewish-Roman wars (66–73 and 132–135) that drove many more Jews into the diaspora and reduced the influence of the Bishop of Jerusalem, leader of the first Christian church. Early Christians also found in the Old Testament, prophecies which seemed to indicate that God's original covenant with the Jews would be expanded to include also the Gentiles, in other words Proselytes, God-fearers, and Noachides. Thus the Church Fathers tend to emphasise that the Church is the new "spiritual" Israel, completing or replacing the earthly Israel which was but its prototype. In modern times, this view would come to be called "Supersessionism".

Also, the two religions differed in their legal status in the Roman Empire: Judaism, restricted to the Jewish people and Jewish Proselytes, was generally exempt from obligation to the Roman imperial cult and since the reign of Julius Caesar enjoyed the status of a "licit religion", though there were also occasional persecutions, for example in 19 Tiberius expelled the Jews from Rome,[8] as Claudius did again in 49.[9] Christianity however was not restricted to one people, and as Jewish Christians were excluded from the synagogue (see Council of Jamnia), they also lost the protection of the status of Judaism, though said protection did have its limits (see for example Titus Flavius Clemens (consul), Akiba ben Joseph, and Ten Martyrs).

From the reign of Nero onwards, who is said to have blamed the Great Fire of Rome on Christians, Christianity was considered to be illegal and Christians were frequently subjected to persecution, differing regionally. Comparably, Judaism suffered the setbacks of the Jewish-Roman wars, remembered in the legacy of the Ten Martyrs. Robin Lane Fox traces the origin of much later hostility to the period of persecution, where the commonest test by the authorities of a suspected Christian was to require homage to be paid to the deified emperor. Jews were exempt from this requirement as long as they paid the Fiscus Judaicus, and Christians (many or mostly of Jewish origins) would say they were Jewish but refused to pay the tax. This had to be confirmed by the local Jewish authorities, who were likely to refuse to accept the Christians as Jewish, often leading to their execution.[10] The Birkat haMinim was often brought forward as support for this charge that the Jews were responsible for the Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. In the 3rd century systematic persecution of Christians began and lasted until Constantine's conversion to Christianity. In 390 Theodosius I made Christianity the state church of the Roman Empire. While pagan cults and Manichaeism were suppressed, Judaism retained its legal status as a licit religion, though anti-Jewish violence still occurred. In the 5th century, some legal measures worsened the status of the Jews in the Roman Empire (now more properly called the Byzantine Empire since relocating to Constantinople).

Issues arising from the New Testament

Jesus as the Messiah

The Hebrew word mashiyakh (משיח) typically signified a man, chosen by God or descended from a man chosen by God, to serve as a civil and military authority. Jesus was considered by Christians to be the Messiah, while for most Jews the death of Jesus would have been sufficient proof that he was not the Jewish Messiah.

Observance of Mosaic law

Another source of tension between early Christians and Jews was the question of observance of Mosaic Law. Early Christians were divided over the issue: Some Jewish Christians or so-called Judaizers argued that Christians were bound to observe Mosaic law,[11] while Paul perhaps argued that only some of Mosaic Law applied to Christians, though the issue of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism is still hotly debated with some advocating complete abrogation. The issue was argued especially in the context of whether Gentile converts were obligated to undergo circumcision, which was a requirement for Jewish boys. The issue was hotly debated in the 1st century and settled at the Council of Jerusalem, in which Paul and Barnabas participated as representatives of the church at Antioch. The Council decided that Gentile converts were not subject to most Mosaic Law, including circumcision, but required them to stay away from eating meat with blood still on it, eating the meat of strangled animals, eating food offered to idols, and sexual immorality. See also Noahide Law and Proselyte.

Many have interpreted Paul's writings and other parts of the New Testament as ending the requirements of the Jewish law. See Proselyte and New Perspective on Paul for more details. An example of another view is represented by the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Judaizers:[12]

Paul, on the other hand, not only did not object to the observance of the Mosaic Law as long as it did not interfere with the liberty of the Gentiles but also he conformed to its prescriptions when occasion required. Thus he shortly after [the Council of Jerusalem] circumcised Timothy, and he was in the very act of observing the Mosaic ritual when he was arrested at Jerusalem.

Criticism of the Pharisees

Many New Testament passages criticise the Pharisees and it has been argued that these passages have shaped the way that Christians viewed Jews. Like most Bible passages, however, they can and have been interpreted in a variety of ways.

During Jesus' life and at the time of his execution, the Pharisees were only one of several Jewish groups such as the Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes; indeed, some have suggested that Jesus was himself a Pharisee (although there is no biblical basis for that claim). Arguments by Jesus and his disciples against the Pharisees and what he saw as their hypocrisy were most likely examples of disputes among Jews and internal to Judaism that were common at the time, see for example Hillel and Shammai. (Lutheran Pastor John Stendahl has pointed out that "Christianity begins as a kind of Judaism, and we must recognize that words spoken in a family conflict are inappropriately appropriated by those outside the family.")

Recent studies on antisemitism in the New Testament

Professor Lillian C. Freudmann, author of Antisemitism in the New Testament (John Dominic Crossan's 1995 Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus.

Some biblical scholars have also been accused of holding antisemitic beliefs. Bruce J. Malina, founding member of The Context Group, has come under criticism for going as far as to deny the Semitic ancestry of modern Israelis. He then ties this back to his work on first century cultural anthropology.[13]

The Church Fathers

After Paul's death, Christianity emerged as a separate religion, and Pauline Christianity emerged as the dominant form of Christianity, especially after Paul, James and the other apostles agreed on a compromise set of requirements. Some Christians continued to adhere to aspects of Jewish law, but they were few in number and often considered heretics by the Church. One example is the Ebionites, who seem to have denied the virgin birth of Jesus, the physical Resurrection of Jesus, and most of the books that were later canonized as the New Testament. For example, the Ethiopian Orthodox still continue Old Testament practices such as the Sabbath. As late as the 4th century Church Father John Chrysostom complained (see John Chrysostom#Sermons on Jews and Judaizing Christians) that some Christians were still attending Jewish synagogues.

Patristic bishops of the patristic era such as Augustine argued that the Jews should be left alive and suffering as a perpetual reminder of their murder of Christ. Other Church Fathers, such as John Chrysostom went longer in their condemnation. Ephraim the Syrian wrote polemics against Jews in the 4th century, including the repeated accusation that Satan dwells among them as a partner. These writings were directed at Christians who were being proselytized by Jews and who Ephraim feared were slipping back into the religion of Judaism; thus he portrayed the Jews as enemies of Christianity, like Satan, to emphasize the contrast between the two religions, namely, that Christianity was Godly and true and Judaism was Satanic and false. Like John Chrysostom, his objective was to dissuade Christians from reverting to Judaism by emphasizing what he saw as the wickedness of the Jews and their religion.[14][15]

However, there are also positive remarks from the Church Fathers on the issue, such as Eusebius of Caesarea (circa. 263-340 A.D) in his Ecclesiastical History, who said, "The race of the Hebrews is not new, but is honoured among all men for its antiquity and is itself well known to all."

Christians and Jews in Muslim lands

While in Christian Europe Christianity had the upper hand as the religion of state, under Islam Jews and Christians were on a more even footing.[16] The religious liberty of the Jews and Christians was explicitly protected under both Islamic law and tradition. The People of the Book, (Ahl al-Kitāb) held a special status in Islamic society, and consequently enjoyed many freedoms under Muslim rule.

The Middle Ages

A miniature from Grandes Chroniques de France depicting the expulsion of Jews from France in 1182.

In the Middle Ages, religion played a major role in driving antisemitism. Though not part of Roman Catholic dogma, many Christians, including members of the clergy, have repeatedly asserted that the Jewish people were collectively responsible for killing Jesus, through the so-called blood curse of Pontius Pilate in the Gospels, among other things.

On the other hand, St.Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), a Doctor of the Catholic Church, said "For us the Jews are Scripture's living words, because they remind us of what Our Lord suffered. They are not to be persecuted, killed, or even put to flight."[17]

Jews were subject to a wide range of legal disabilities and restrictions throughout the Middle Ages, some of which lasted until the end of the 19th century. Jews were excluded from many trades, the occupations varying with place and time, and determined by the influence of various non-Jewish competing interests. Often Jews were barred from all occupations but money-lending and peddling, with even these at times forbidden. The number of Jews permitted to reside in different places was limited; they were concentrated in ghettos, and were not allowed to own land; they were subject to discriminatory taxes on entering cities or districts other than their own, were forced to swear special Jewish Oaths, and suffered a variety of other measures, including restrictions on dress. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 was the first to proclaim the requirement for Jews to wear something that distinguished them as Jews (and Muslims the same).

On many occasions, Jews were accused of a blood libel, the supposed drinking of blood of Christian children in mockery of the Christian Eucharist.

Sicut Judaeis

Sicut Judaeis (the "Constitution for the Jews") was the official position of the papacy regarding Jews throughout the Middle Ages and later. The first bull was issued in about 1120 by Calixtus II, intended to protect Jews who suffered during the First Crusade, and was reaffirmed by many popes, even until the 15th century.

The bull forbade, besides other things, Christians from coercing Jews to convert, or to harm them, or to take their property, or to disturb the celebration of their festivals, or to interfere with their cemeteries, on pain of excommunication.[18]

Popular antisemitism

Antisemitism in popular European Christian culture escalated beginning in the 13th century. Blood libels and host desecration drew popular attention and led to many cases of persecution against Jews. Antisemitic imagery such as Judensau and Ecclesia et Synagoga recurred in Christian art and architecture.

In Iceland, one of the hymns repeated in the days leading up to Easter include the lines,[19]

The righteous Law of Moses
The Jews here misapplied,
Which their deceit exposes,
Their hatred and their pride.
The judgement is the Lord's.
When by falsification
The foe makes accusation,
It's His to make awards.

Persecutions and expulsions

In the Middle ages in Europe persecutions and formal expulsions of Jews were liable to occur at intervals, although it should be said that this was also the case for other minority communities, whether religious or ethnic. There were particular outbursts of riotous persecution in the Rhineland massacres of 1096 in Germany accompanying the lead-up to the First Crusade, many involving the crusaders as they travelled to the East. There were many local expulsions from cities by local rulers and city councils. In Germany the Holy Roman Emperor generally tried to restrain persecution, if only for economic reasons, but he was often unable to exert much influence. In the Edict of Expulsion, King Edward I expelled all the Jews from England in 1290 (only after ransoming some 3,000 among the most wealthy of them), on the accusation of usury and undermining loyalty to the dynasty. In 1306 there was a wave of persecution in France, and there were widespread Black Death Jewish persecutions as the Jews were blamed by many Christians for the plague, or spreading it.[20][21] As late as 1519, the Imperial city of Regensburg took advantage of the recent death of Emperor Maximilian I to expel its 500 Jews.[22]

Expulsion of Jews from Spain

Much the largest expulsion of Jews followed the Reconquista or reunification of Spain, and preceded the expulsion of the Muslims who would not convert, whose right were protected by the Treaty of Granada (1491). On 31 March 1492 Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the rulers of Spain who financed Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World just a few months later in 1492, declared that all Jews in their territories should either convert to Christianity or leave the country. While some converted, many others left for Portugal, France, Italy (including the Papal States), Netherlands, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, and North Africa. Many of those who had fled to Portugal were later expelled by King Manuel in 1497 or left to avoid forced conversion and persecution.

Renaissance to the 17th century

Cum Nimis Absurdum

On 14 July 1555, Pope Paul IV issued papal bull Cum nimis absurdum which revoked all the rights of the Jewish community and placed religious and economic restrictions on Jews in the Papal States, renewed anti-Jewish legislation and subjected Jews to various degradations and restrictions on their personal freedom.

The bull established the Roman Ghetto and required Jews of Rome, which had existed as a community since before Christian times and which numbered about 2,000 at the time, to live in it. The Ghetto was a walled quarter with three gates that were locked at night. Jews were also restricted to one synagogue per city.

Paul IV's successor, Pope Pius IV, enforced the creation of other ghettos in most Italian towns, and his successor, Pope Pius V, recommended them to other bordering states.

Protestant Reformation

Luther's 1543 pamphlet On the Jews and Their Lies

Martin Luther at first made overtures towards the Jews, believing that the "evils" of Catholicism had prevented their conversion to Christianity. When his call to convert to his version of Christianity was unsuccessful, he became hostile to them.

In his book On the Jews and their Lies, he excoriates them as "venomous beasts, vipers, disgusting scum, canders, devils incarnate." He provided detailed recommendations for a pogrom against them, calling for their permanent oppression and expulsion, writing "Their private houses must be destroyed and devastated, they could be lodged in stables. Let the magistrates burn their synagogues and let whatever escapes be covered with sand and mud. Let them force to work, and if this avails nothing, we will be compelled to expel them like dogs in order not to expose ourselves to incurring divine wrath and eternal damnation from the Jews and their lies." At one point he wrote: "...we are at fault in not slaying them..." a passage that "may be termed the first work of modern antisemitism, and a giant step forward on the road to the Holocaust."[23]

Luther's harsh comments about the Jews are seen by many as a continuation of medieval Christian antisemitism. In his final sermon shortly before his death, however, Luther preached: "We want to treat them with Christian love and to pray for them, so that they might become converted and would receive the Lord."[24]

18th century

In accordance with the anti-Jewish precepts of the Russian Orthodox Church,[25]:14 Russia's discriminatory policies towards Jews intensified when the partition of Poland in the 18th century resulted, for the first time in Russian history, in the possession of land with a large Jewish population.[25]:28 This land was designated as the Pale of Settlement from which Jews were forbidden to migrate into the interior of Russia.[25]:28 In 1772 Catherine II, the empress of Russia, forced the Jews of the Pale of Settlement to stay in their shtetls and forbade them from returning to the towns that they occupied before the partition of Poland.[26]

19th century

Throughout the 19th century and into the 20th, the Roman Catholic Church still incorporated strong antisemitic elements, despite increasing attempts to separate anti-Judaism (opposition to the Jewish religion on religious grounds) and racial antisemitism. Jesuits, banned candidates "who are descended from the Jewish race unless it is clear that their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather have belonged to the Catholic Church" until 1946.

Brown University historian David Kertzer, working from the Vatican archive, has argued in his book The Popes Against the Jews that in the 19th century and early 20th century the Roman Catholic Church adhered to a distinction between "good antisemitism" and "bad antisemitism". The "bad" kind promoted hatred of Jews because of their descent. This was considered un-Christian because the Christian message was intended for all of humanity regardless of ethnicity; anyone could become a Christian. The "good" kind criticized alleged Jewish conspiracies to control newspapers, banks, and other institutions, to care only about accumulation of wealth, etc. Many Catholic bishops wrote articles criticizing Jews on such grounds, and, when accused of promoting hatred of Jews, would remind people that they condemned the "bad" kind of antisemitism. Kertzer's work is not without critics. Scholar of Jewish-Christian relations Rabbi David G. Dalin, for example, criticized Kertzer in the Weekly Standard for using evidence selectively.


WWI to the eve of WWII

In 1916, in the midst of the First World War, American Jews petitioned Pope Benedict XV on behalf of the Polish Jews.

Nazi antisemitism

On April 26, 1933 Hitler declared during a meeting with Roman Catholic Bishop Wilhelm Berning (de) of Osnabrück:

“I have been attacked because of my handling of the Jewish question. The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them in ghettos, etc., because it recognized the Jews for what they were. In the epoch of liberalism the danger was no longer recognized. I am moving back toward the time in which a fifteen-hundred-year-long tradition was implemented. I do not set race over religion, but I recognize the representatives of this race as pestilent for the state and for the Church, and perhaps I am thereby doing Christianity a great service by pushing them out of schools and public functions.”

The transcript of this discussion contains no response by Bishop Berning. Martin Rhonheimer does not consider this unusual since, in his opinion, for a Catholic Bishop in 1933 there was nothing particularly objectionable "in this historically correct reminder".[27]

The Nazis used Martin Luther's book, On the Jews and Their Lies (1543), to claim a moral righteousness for their ideology. Luther even went so far as to advocate the murder of those Jews who refused to convert to Christianity, writing that "we are at fault in not slaying them".[28]

Archbishop Robert Runcie has asserted that: "Without centuries of Christian antisemitism, Hitler's passionate hatred would never have been so fervently echoed...because for centuries Christians have held Jews collectively responsible for the death of Jesus. On Good Friday Jews, have in times past, cowered behind locked doors with fear of a Christian mob seeking 'revenge' for deicide. Without the poisoning of Christian minds through the centuries, the Holocaust is unthinkable."[4]:21 The dissident Catholic priest Hans Küng has written that "Nazi anti-Judaism was the work of godless, anti-Christian criminals. But it would not have been possible without the almost two thousand years' pre-history of 'Christian' anti-Judaism..."[29]:169

The document Dabru Emet was issued by over 220 rabbis and intellectuals from all branches of Judaism in 2000 as a statement about Jewish-Christian relations. This document states,
"Nazism was not a Christian phenomenon. Without the long history of Christian anti-Judaism and Christian violence against Jews, Nazi ideology could not have taken hold nor could it have been carried out. Too many Christians participated in, or were sympathetic to, Nazi atrocities against Jews. Other Christians did not protest sufficiently against these atrocities. But Nazism itself was not an inevitable outcome of Christianity."

According to American historian Lucy Dawidowicz, antisemitism has a long history within Christianity. The line of "antisemitic descent" from Luther, the author of On the Jews and Their Lies, to Hitler is "easy to draw." In her The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945, she contends that Luther and Hitler were obsessed by the "demonologized universe" inhabited by Jews. Dawidowicz writes that the similarities between Luther's anti-Jewish writings and modern antisemitism are no coincidence, because they derived from a common history of Judenhass, which can be traced to Haman's advice to Ahasuerus. Although modern German antisemitism also has its roots in German nationalism and the liberal revolution of 1848, Christian antisemitism she writes is a foundation that was laid by the Roman Catholic Church and "upon which Luther built."[30]

Collaborating Christians

Opposition to the Holocaust

The Pope Pius XI, and Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber led the Catholic opposition, preaching against racism.

Many individual Christian clergy and laypeople of all denominations had to pay for their opposition with their life, including:

By the 1940s fewer Christians were willing to oppose Nazi policy publicly, but many secretly helped save the lives of Jews. There are many sections of Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Museum, Yad Vashem, dedicated to honoring these "Righteous Among the Nations".

Pope Pius XII

Before becoming Pope, Cardinal Pacelli addressed the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest on 25–30 May 1938 during which he made reference to the Jews "whose lips curse [Christ] and whose hearts reject him even today"; at this time antisemitic laws were in the process of being formulated in Hungary.[31]:92

The 1937 encyclical Pope Pius XI,[32] but drafted by the future Pope Pius XII[33] and read from the pulpits of all German Catholic churches, it condemned Nazi ideology and has been characterized by scholars as the "first great official public document to dare to confront and criticize Nazism" and "one of the greatest such condemnations ever issued by the Vatican."[34]

In the summer of 1942, Pius explained to his college of Cardinals the reasons for the great gulf that existed between Jews and Christians at the theological level: "Jerusalem has responded to His call and to His grace with the same rigid blindness and stubborn ingratitude that has led it along the path of guilt to the murder of God." Historian Guido Knopp describes these comments of Pius as being "incomprehensible" at a time when "Jerusalem was being murdered by the million".[35] This traditional adversarial relationship with Judaism would be reversed in Nostra Aetate issued during the Second Vatican Council.[36]

Prominent members of the Jewish community have contradicted the criticisms of Pius and spoke highly of his efforts to protect Jews.[37] The Israeli historian Pinchas Lapide interviewed war survivors and concluded that Pius XII "was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands". Some historians dispute this estimate.[38]

The "White Power" movement

In Proper Hands. Protestant Christian dominated KKK hinting at violence against Jews and Catholics. Illustration by Rev. Branford Clarke from Heroes of the Fiery Cross 1928 by Bishop Alma White published by the Pillar of Fire Church in Zarephath, NJ.

The alternative history doctrine, sometimes called British Israelism. In some forms this doctrine absolutely denies that modern Jews have any racial connection to the Israel of the Bible. Instead, according to extreme forms of this doctrine the true racial Israel and true humans are the Adamic (white) race. These groups are often rejected and are not considered to be Christian groups by mainstream Christian denominations as well as by the vast majority of Christians around the world.[39][40]

Post World War II antisemitism

Antisemitism in Europe remains a substantial problem. Antisemitism exists to a lesser or greater degree in many other nations as well, including Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and the increasingly frequent tensions between some Muslim immigrants and Jews across Europe.[41][42] The US State Department reports that antisemitism has increased dramatically in Europe and Eurasia since 2000.[43]

While in a decline since the 1940s, there is still a measurable amount of antisemitism in the United States of America as well, although acts of violence are rare. The 2001 survey by the Anti-Defamation League reported 1432 acts of antisemitism in the United States that year. The figure included 877 acts of harassment, including verbal intimidation, threats and physical assaults.[44] Antisemitic pronouncements still occur, however. John Hagee, a leading proponent of "Christian Zionism," reiterated a view—the popularity of which is very hard to gauge but must nonetheless be considered not simply isolated—that the Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves by angering God.[45]


Many Christians do not consider anti-Judaism to be antisemitism. They regard anti-Judaism as a disagreement of religiously sincere people with the tenets of Judaism, while regarding antisemitism as an emotional bias or hatred not specifically targeting the religion of Judaism. Under this approach, anti-Judaism is not regarded as antisemitism as it only rejects the religious ideas of Judaism and does not involve actual hostility to the Jewish people.

Others see anti-Judaism as the rejection of or opposition to beliefs and practices essentially because of their source in Judaism or because a belief or practice is associated with the Jewish people. (But see supersessionism)

The position that "Christian theological anti-Judaism is a phenomenon distinct from modern antisemitism, which is rooted in economic and racial thought, so that Christian teachings should not be held responsible for antisemitism"[2] has been articulated, among other places, by Pope John Paul II in 'We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,' and the Jewish declaration on Christianity, Dabru Emet.[2] Several scholars, including Susannah Heschel,[2] Gavin I Langmuir[46] and Uriel Tal[2] have challenged this position, arguing that anti-Judaism led directly to modern antisemitism.

Although some Christians in the past did consider anti-Judaism to be contrary to Christian teaching, this view was not widely expressed by leaders and lay people. In many cases, the practical tolerance towards the Jewish religion and Jews prevailed. Some Christian groups, particularly in early years, condemned verbal anti-Judaism.

Jewish converts

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant Christian denomination in the U.S., has explicitly rejected suggestions that it should back away from seeking to convert Jews, a position that critics have called antisemitic, but that Baptists see as consistent with their view that salvation is found solely through faith in Christ. In 1996 the SBC approved a resolution calling for efforts to seek the conversion of Jews "as well as for the salvation of 'every kindred and tongue and people and nation.'"

Most Evangelicals agree with the SBC position, and some have been supporting efforts specifically seeking Jews' conversion. At the same time these groups are among the most pro-Israeli groups. (For more, see Christian Zionism.) Among the controversial groups that has found support from some Evangelical churches is Jews for Jesus, which claims that Jews can "complete" their Jewish faith by accepting Jesus as the Messiah.

The Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, and the United Church of Canada have ended their efforts to convert Jews. While Anglicans do not, as a rule, seek converts from other Christian denominations,[47] the General Synod has affirmed that "the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ is for all and must be shared with all including people from other faiths or of no faith and that to do anything else would be to institutionalize discrimination".[48]

The Roman Catholic Church formerly had religious congregations specifically aimed to conversion of Jews. Some of these were founded by Jewish converts themselves, like the Community of Our Lady of Zion, which was composed of nuns and ordained priests. Many Catholic saints were noted specifically because of their missionary zeal in converting Jews, such as Vincent Ferrer. After the Second Vatican Council many missionary orders aimed at converting Jews to Christianity no longer actively sought to missionize (or proselytize) among Jews. Traditionalist Roman Catholic groups, congregations and clergymen, however, continue to support missionizing Jews according to traditional patterns, sometimes with success (e.g., the Society of St. Pius X which has notable Jewish converts among its faithful, many of whom have become traditionalist priests).

Some Jewish organizations have described evangelism and missionary activity directed specifically at Jews as antisemitic.[49][50][51]

Reconciliation between Judaism and Christian groups

In recent years there has been much to note in the way of reconciliation between some Christian groups and the Jews. Most of this reconciliation has occurred between the Jewish community and the Catholic Church, and evangelical Christian organizations.

See also


  1. ^ Nancy Calvert Koyzis (2004). Paul, monotheism and the people of God : the significance of Abraham traditions for early Judaism and Christianity. Continuum International Publishing Group.  
  2. ^ a b c d e Heschel, Susannah, The Aryan Jesus: Christian theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany, p. 20, Princeton University Press, 2008
  3. ^ Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. May 5, 2009. The Origins of Christian Anti-Semitism: Interview with Pieter van der Horst
  4. ^ a b Richard Harries. After the evil: Christianity and Judaism in the shadow of the Holocaust. Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0199263134
  5. ^ Lazare, Bernard. op cit. p. 63
  6. ^ Lazare, Bernard. op cit. p. 64
  7. ^ Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People, pg 132-135 Verso publishing retrieved from
  8. ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Tiberius 36
  9. ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Claudius XXV.4, referenced in Acts 18:2
  10. ^ In Pagans and Christians
  11. ^  : "held that circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic Law were necessary for salvation and in consequence wished to impose them on the Gentile converts, or who at least considered them as still obligatory on the Jewish Christians"
  12. ^  
  13. ^ Myles, Robert; James Crossley (Dec 2012). "Biblical Scholarship, Jews and Israel: On Bruce Malina, Conspiracy Theories and Ideological Contradictions". The Bible and Interpretation. 
  14. ^ "Ephraim the Syrian and his polemics against Jews". Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  15. ^ "Analysis of Ephraim's writings". Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  16. ^ The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam Bat Yeʼor - 1985 Indispensable to the Western observer for a full understanding of the complexities of the conflicts in the Middle East, this study analyzes and documents the historical, social, and spiritual realities of the dhimmi peoples -- the non-Arab
  17. ^ Catholic Book of Quotations, by Leo Knowles, Copyright 2004 by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. All rights reserved.
  18. ^  
  19. ^ "Iceland, the Jews, and Anti-Semitism, 1625-2004 - Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson". Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  20. ^ Anti-Semitism. Jerusalem: Keter Books. 1974.  
  21. ^ "Map of Jewish expulsions and resettlement areas in Europe". Florida Center for Instructional Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida. A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust. Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  22. ^ Wood, Christopher S., Albrecht Altdorfer and the Origins of Landscape, p. 251, 1993, Reaktion Books, London, ISBN 0948462469
  23. ^ Johnson, Paul. A History of the Jews, HarperCollins Publishers, 1987, p.242. ISBN 5-551-76858-9. Paul Johnson.
  24. ^ Luther, Martin. D. Martin Luthers Werke: kritische Gesamtausgabe, Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1920, Vol. 51, p. 195.
  25. ^ a b c Steven Beller (2007) Antisemitism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press 2007. ISBN 978-0192892775
  26. ^ "The Virtual Jewish History Tour By Rebecca Weiner". Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  27. ^ Rhonheimer, Martin (November 2003). ""The Holocaust: What Was Not Said. First Things Magazine. Retrieved 1 July 2009. 
  28. ^ Luther, Martin. On the Jews and Their Lies, cited in Robert.Michael. "Luther, Luther Scholars, and the Jews,"Encounter 46 (Autumn 1985) No.4.343–344
  29. ^ Hans Küng. On Being a Christian. Doubleday, Garden City NY, 1976 ISBN 978-0385027120
  30. ^ The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945. First published 1975; this Bantam edition 1986, p.23. ISBN 0-553-34532-X
  31. ^ Donald J. Dietrich. Christian responses to the Holocaust: moral and ethical issues Religion, theology, and the Holocaust. Syracuse University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-8156-3029-8
  32. ^ Coppa, Frank J. (1999). Controversial Concordats. Catholic University of America Press. p. 132
  33. ^ Pham, p. 45, quote: "When Pius XI was complimented on the publication, in 1937, of his encyclical denouncing Nazism, Mit Brennender Sorge, his response was to point to his Secretary of State and say bluntly, 'The credit is his.'"
  34. ^ Bokenkotter, pp. 389–392, quote "And when Hitler showed increasing belligerence toward the Church, Pius met the challenge with a decisiveness that astonished the world. His encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge was the 'first great official public document to dare to confront and criticize Nazism' and 'one of the greatest such condemnations ever issued by the Vatican.' Smuggled into Germany, it was read from all the Catholic pulpits on Palm Sunday in March 1937. It denounced the Nazi "myth of blood and soil" and decried its neopaganism. The Nazis retaliated by closing and sealing all the presses that had printed it and took numerous vindictive measures against the Church, including staging a long series of immorality trials of Catholic clergy."
  35. ^ Knopp, Guido. Hitler's Holocaust, Sutton,2000, p. 250, ISBN 0-7509-2700-3
  36. ^ Kessler, Edward, Neil Wenborn. A dictionary of Jewish-Christian relations", p. 86, Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-521-82692-6
  37. ^ Bokenkotter, Thomas (2004). A Concise History of the Catholic Church. Doubleday. pp. 480–481, quote: "A recent article by American rabbi, David G. Dalin, challenges this judgment. He calls making Pius XII a target of moral outrage a failure of historical understanding, and he thinks Jews should reject any 'attempt to usurp the Holocaust' for the partisan purposes at work in this debate. Dalin surmises that well-known Jews such as Albert Einstein, Golda Meir, Moshe Sharett, and Rabbi Isaac Herzog would likely have been shocked at these attacks on Pope Pius. ... Dalin points out that Rabbi Herzog, the chief rabbi of Israel, sent a message in February 1944 declaring 'the people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness ... (is) doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history.'" Dalin cites these tributes as recognition of the work of the Holy See in saving hundreds of thousands of Jews."
  38. ^ Deák, István (2001). Essays on Hitler's Europe. University of Nebraska Press. p. 182.
  39. ^ Michael Barkun for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Christian Identity Movement
  40. ^ Southern Poverty Law Center. Ku Klux Klan
  41. ^ Stone, Andrea (2004-11-22). "As attacks rise in France, Jews flock to Israel". Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  42. ^ Jews for Le Pen by Daniel Ben-Simon. Haaretz. 25/03/07
  43. ^ State Department Report on Anti-Semitism: Europe and Eurasia: anti-Semitism in Europe increased in recent years (2005 report)
  44. ^ ADL Audit: Anti-Semitic Incidents in U.S. Declined in 2001 Americans Reject Conspiracy Theories Blaming Jews for 9/11 (2002 report)
  45. ^ Blumenthal, Max (2008-05-22). "My Interview With Pastor Hagee On His Anti-Semitic Statements (and What Will Lieberman Say Now?)". Huffington Post. 
  46. ^ Langmuir, AvGavin I., History, Religion, and Antisemitism, p. 40, University of California Press, 1990
  47. ^ "Anglican Communion News Service: European Anglicans set common goals at Madrid consultation". Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  48. ^ Owen, Peter (2009-02-11). "General Synod - Uniqueness of Christ in Multi-Faith Britain". Thinking Anglicans. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  49. ^ Keeping Faith. Scottsdale Progress by Kim Sue Lia Perkes (Religion Editor, The Arizona Republic) December, 1982
  50. ^ 1998 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents: Missionaries and Messianic Churches (Bnai Brith Canada)
  51. ^ Portland Jews Brace for Assault by 'Jews for Jesus' by Paul Haist (Jewish Review) May 15, 2002

Further reading

  • Beck, Norman A. Mature Christianity: The Recognition and Repudiation of the Anti-Jewish Polemic in the New Testament (Expanded Edition). Crossroad Pub Co 1994. ISBN 978-0824513580
  • Boyarin, Daniel. The Subversion of the Jews: Moses's Veil and the Hermeneutics of Supersession diacritics 23.2: 16-35 Summer 1993.
  • Boys, Mary Editor. Seeing Judaism Anew: Christianity's Sacred Obligation. Sheed & Ward March 31, 2005 ISBN 978-0742548824
  • Carmichael, Joel. The Satanizing of the Jews: Origin and development of mystical anti-Semitism. Fromm, 1993 ISBN 978-0880641326
  • Gager, John C. The Origins of Anti-Semitism: Attitudes Toward Judaism in Pagan and Christian Antiquity. Oxford Univ. Press, 1983 ISBN 978-0195036077
  • Gould, Allan, Editor. What Did They Think of the Jews? Jason Aronson Inc., 1991 ISBN 978-0876687512
  • Hall III, Sidney G. Christian Anti-Semitism and Paul's Theology. Fortress Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0800626549
  • Johnson, Luke. The New Testament's Anti-Jewish Slander and Conventions of Ancient Polemic Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 108, No. 3, Autumn, 1989
  • Lapide, Pinchas E Three Popes and the Jews. Hawthorne Books, 1967 ISBN 978-0285501973
  • Micklem, Nathaniel. National Socialism and the Roman Catholic Church: Being an Account of the Conflict between the National Socialist Government of Germany and the Roman Catholic Church, 1933-1938. London: Oxford University Press, 1939.
  • Nicholls, William, Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate. Jason Aronson Inc., 1993. ISBN 978-0876683989
  • Ruether, Rosemary Radford Faith and fratricide: the theological roots of anti-Semitism. New York 1974, Seabury Press, ISBN 978-0-8164-2263-0.
  • Synan, Edward A. The Popes and the Jews in the Middle Ages. Macmillan, New York, 1965 ISBN 978-1597400947
  • Utz, Richard: Remembering Ritual Murder: The Anti-Semitic Blood Accusation Narrative in Medieval and Contemporary Cultural Memory. Pp. 145–62 in Genre and Ritual: The Cultural Heritage of Medieval Rituals. Ed. Eyolf Østrem. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press/University of Copenhagen, 2005. ISBN 978-8763502412
  • Wilken, Robert L.. John Chrysostom and the Jews. The Transformation of the Classical Heritage, Volume 4. Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 1983 ISBN 978-0520047570

External links

  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Yad Vashem
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