anti-Semitism Christianity



This is bound to ruffle some feathers, but I’m an equal opportunity provider, so have your say in the comments.

NOTE: I’m no religious scholar, but the most important thing as I see it, is to show how verses are used as a means to a nefarious end, and usually by those with brute power in their fists.

Pieter van der Horst

Anti-Semitic Elements in the New Testament

Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Pieter van der Horst

“The New Testament contains some anti-Semitic passages. One finds these only in the latest documents. The main example is in the Gospel of John. It was written after the split between Christians and Jews had occurred. The anti-Jewish sentiment permeates the whole book, and it contains the most anti-Semitic verse in the New Testament.

“John has Jesus distance himself completely from the Jewish people. He lets him speak about the Jews, their laws and festivals, as if he himself is no longer one of them. Worst of all, in a dispute between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, John has him say: ‘You have the devil as your father.’ In later Christian literature, that expression is picked up.”

Professor Pieter van der Horst studied classical philology, literature and theology. He was a Professor of Jewish studies and other subjects at Utrecht University.

“This fatal short remark has had lethal consequences over two millennia. It cost tens of thousands of Jewish lives in later history, especially in the Middle Ages. This verse was taken by Christian Jew-haters as a license to murder Jews. These murderers believed: ‘If Jesus said that Jews have the devil as their father, we should eradicate them as best as we can.’

“All New Testament scholars agree that this is not Jesus’ position, but that of John. When one religious group breaks away from its mother religion, it has to create its own new identity. The sociology of religion teaches us that, in its first phase, the new group always begins to attack the old religion fiercely. The most effective demonization is calling the Jews ‘Children of the devil’ and having Jesus say this himself. Unfortunately however, the Gospel of John is one of the most popular books in Christianity.”

“The anti-Jewish texts in the Gospel of Matthew fit into a picture that is not in itself anti-Semitic. Only in this Gospel’s narrative of the passion of Jesus does one find that Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, says ‘I do not see anything evil in this man.’ Pilate then washes his hands as a token of his wish to have nothing to do with Jesus’ execution. Pilate’s wife says, ‘I had a dream about this man. Don’t touch him because he is completely innocent.’ . Everything we know from other sources tells us that Pilate was thoroughly unscrupulous and ruthless. The idea that he would save a person from capital punishment because he thought him innocent is not historical, and almost ridiculous.

“Mathew’s text has to be understood in the context of his time, around the 80’s of the first century. In the middle of the 60’s CE, under the Emperor Nero, the first persecutions of Christians had begun, followed later by further minor persecutions on a local level. This frightened the Christians.

“For political reasons, Matthew was keen that his writings should give the Romans the impression that Christians were not a danger to them. If Pilate, a highly respected Roman magistrate, says about Jesus ‘This man is completely innocent,’ it implies that Romans do not have to fear Christianity. This in turn leads to the story of the Jews supposedly shouting, ‘Let his blood come over us’—which means, ‘We take the responsibility for his death.’ Shifting the responsibility for Jesus’ death to the Jewish people is at odds with what Matthew says in the earlier parts of his Gospel to the effect that Jesus enjoyed immense popularity with the masses, that is, with the majority of the common Jewish people.

“There is also an isolated case of an anti-Jewish outburst by the Apostle Paul. In one of his letters to the Thessalonians, the Christian community in the Greek town of Thessalonica, he reports that the Jews strongly opposed his preaching. Paul then works himself into a fury and says, ‘These Jews killed Jesus and the prophets and for that reason they displease God and are the enemies of all mankind.’

“This is the only text in the New Testament that says the Jews are the enemy of the rest of mankind. This motif derives from pre-Christian pagan anti-Semitism, where it appears many times. It stands in complete opposition to what Paul says at length about the Jewish people in his Epistle to the Romans. In three chapters— 9, 10, and 11—Paul paints a far more positive picture of the Jewish people. There is no mention of their being the enemy of humanity; nor is there any in Paul’s other letters.

“In his later letter to the Romans, Paul said, ‘We Christians should realize that the olive tree is the people of Israel and we are only grafted into this olive tree.’ His one case of an anti-Jewish outburst seems to be that of someone who did not always control his emotions.” Only in later centuries did Christianity attack the Jewish religion as fiercely as it could, including by demonization.”

i John 8:44.
ii Matthew 27:15-26.
iii 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16.
iv Romans 11:24.

2 Responses

  1. Acts of the Apostles catalogues serious persecution of Christians, including the stoning to death of Stephen. Christians in Israel were then small in number in a large Jewish population. They were hunted down by zealots, and many had to leave Israel.

    In those days, nearly two thousand years ago, it was quite acceptable for a larger religious group to persecute smaller ones. This is particularly true if zealotry is present in the larger community, and Judaism had its full complement of zealots. So let it rest.

    Jews are now living in the West in huge numbers, yet some wish to rake up such material. What is the purpose? Why do these people wish to divide and sow discord in the West, and for what purpose?

  2. The Gospel of John is mainly about the divinity of Jesus Christ.

    This in turn leads to the story of the Jews supposedly shouting, ‘Let his blood come over us’—which means, ‘We take the responsibility for his death.’ Shifting the responsibility for Jesus’ death to the Jewish people is at odds with what Matthew says in the earlier parts of his Gospel to the effect that Jesus enjoyed immense popularity with the masses, that is, with the majority of the common Jewish people.

    So what? It is also in the Gospels that Jewish priests incited the crowds, which is quite easy to do even now. The temple priests had the motive, for the teaching of Jesus was taking Jews away from temple worship, sacrifice and the money that followed. In any case, not all the people were followers of Jesus, though He was more popular among the lowest strata of society. The entire teachings of Jesus are summed up in the Beatitudes.

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    4 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
    5 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
    6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
    7 Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
    8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
    9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
    10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

    There is nothing anywhere in Judaism that comes anywhere near the love and compassion that Jesus taught and exemplified. How could it be otherwise?

    Now I don’t hold with blaming Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, not one bit. That was in the hand of God, as it was the only way for the redemption of mankind. However the subsequent persecution of the tiny minority of Christians by Jews is another matter.

    Love those that hate you is the one of the most important commands of Jesus, which is radically different from “the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” ethos of other faiths. I believe this last is the main reason for the downward the cycle of person-to-person violence as Christianity took hold in Europe. It then led to the rule of law and Western civilization. On this basis I would argue that Judeo-Christian civilization is a misnomer. What we have in the West is Christian civilization from beginning to the secular West that is now.

Leave a Reply to DP111 Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.