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Roots Of Anti-Semitism

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After learning about the Holocaust, I've asked myself many times how this could have happened. Why would anyone believe it's acceptable to massacre an entire people? This is my reasoning for writing my paper on how Christian theology influenced anti-Semitism. Much of the Holocaust appears to have it's beginning with Christian theology. I will begin my paper with the early writings of Christians and continue chronologically until after World War II.

The Apostle Paul was one the first people to criticize the Jewish people. At first, he tried to explain to the Christians not to adopt a superior attitude towards the Jews.

IF THE PART OF THE DOUGH OFFERED AS FIRST FRUITS IS HOLY, THEN THE WHOLE BRANCH IS HOLY; AND IF THE ROOT IS HOLY, THEN THE BRANCHES ARE ALSO HOLY...DO NOT BOAST OVER THE BRANCHES. IF YOU DO BOAST, REMEMBER THAT IT IS NOT YOU THAT SUPPORT THE ROOT, BUT THE ROOT SUPPORTS YOU.

[ROMANS 11]

At one point this appeared to be Paul's feeling towards the Jews and the Christians. His sentiment appeared to change, according to Christian suppressionists. In the text Romans, many of Paul's statements were misinterpreted by those Christians to make themselves appear more superior to the Jewish people.

...INCLUDING US WHOM HE HAS CALLED, NOT FROM THE JEWS ONLY BUT ALSO FROM THE GENTILES? AS INDEED HE SAYS IN HOSEA, "THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE I WILL CALL 'MY PEOPLE,' AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED I WILL CALL 'BELOVED.'" "AND IN THE VERY PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, 'YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,' THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED CHILDREN OF THE LIVING GOD,"

...GENTILES, WHO DID NOT STRIVE FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS, HAVE ATTAINED IT, THAT IS, RIGHTEOUSNESS THROUGH FAITH; BUT ISRAEL, WHO DID STRIVE FOR THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT IS BASED ON THE LAW, DID NOT SUCCEED IN FULFILLING THAT LAW... [ROMANS 9]

"In proclaiming his Christian message Paul stressed that the Jewish nation had been rejected by God, and the new Covenant had superseded the old," said David Cohn-Sherbok, in his book The Crucified Jew. "In these ways the New Testament laid the foundations for later Christian hostility to the Jewish nation...and served as the basis for the early Church's vilification of the Jews." (Cohn-Sherbok)

Another early Christian writing which may have encouraged Jewish hatred is the Gospels of John. Scholars believe John wanted to gain favor with the Roman Hierarchy. Therefore, he emphasized the Jewish involvement in the death of Christ and minimized the Roman role. "The Gospel of John contains some of the most hostile anti-Jewish statement in the Christian scriptures. So sharp is the contrast in that gospel between Jesus' exhortations to his followers to love one another and the hostile references to the Jews...John is 'a gospel of Christian love and Jew hatred.'" (Charlesworth)

Some examples of John's apparent sentiments towards the Jewish people include the following.

...THE JEWS REPLIED...[JOHN 18:31]

...MY FOLLOWERS WOULD BE FIGHTING TO KEEP ME FROM BEING HANDED OVER TO THE JEWS...

[JOHN 18:36]

...HE WENT OUT TO THE JEWS AGAIN...[JOHN 18:38]

...THE JEWS ANSWERED HIM, "WE HAVE A LAW, AND ACCORDING TO THAT LAW HE OUGHT TO DIE BECAUSE HE HAS CLAIMED TO BE THE SON OF GOD." [JOHN 19:7]

...THE JEWS CRIED OUT, "IF YOU RELEASE THIS MAN, YOU ARE NO FRIEND OF THE EMPEROR..."

[JOHN 19:12]

...HE SAID TO THE JEWS, "HERE IS YOUR KING!" THEY CRIED OUT, "AWAY WITH HIM! AWAY WITH HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!..."[JOHN 19:14]

Many scholars believe the Jews and Christians were still worshipping together around the middle of the first century. They discussed and acknowledged their differences, like a family fight. Yet, towards the end of the first century their relationships deteriorated. After the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE, the Gentiles appeared to break away from the Jews. Jewish leaders who remained faithful to the Mosaic Law, began excommunicating Christian Jews under Nero's leadership, ending decades of relatively peaceful coexistence and shared worship. (Hauer)

The presumed superiority of Christianity started to influence Christian teachings. The 'Letters of Barnabas' (late first century or early second) repeatedly proclaims this belief: I found many passages in his letter regarding superiority.

"...HEAPING UP YOUR SINS AND SAYING THAT THE COVENANT IS BOTH THEIRS AND OUR. IT IS OURS: BUT IN THIS WAY DID THEY FINALLY LOSE IT WHEN MOSES HAD JUST RECEIVED IT, FOR THE SCRIPTURE SAYS: 'AND MOSES WAS IN THE MOUNT FASTING FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS, AND HE RECEIVED THE COVENANT FROM THE LORD, TABLES OF STONE WRITTEN WITH THE FINGER OF THE HAND OF THE LORD.' BUT THEY TURNED TO IDOLS AND LOST IT. FOR THUS SAID THE LORD: 'MOSES, MOSES, GO DOWN QUICKLY, FOR THY PEOPLE, WHOM THOU BROUGHTEST FORTH OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, HAVE BROKEN THE LAW.' AND MOSES UNDERSTOOD AND CAST THE TWO TABLES OUT OF HIS HANDS, AND THEIR COVENANT WAS BROKEN, IN ORDER THAT THE COVENANT OF JESUS THE BELOVED SHOULD BE SEALED IN OUR HEARTS IN HOPE OF HIS FAITH."

"...BUT LET US SEE WHETHER THE COVENANT WHICH HE SWEAR TO THE FATHERS TO GIVE TO THE PEOPLE--WHETHER HE HAS GIVEN IT. HE HAS GIVEN IT. BUT THEY WERE NOT WORTHY TO RECEIVE IT BECAUSE OF THEIR SINS..."

"...AND I HAVE GIVEN THEE FOR A COVENANT OF THE PEOPLE, FOR A LIGHT TO THE GENTILES, TO OPEN THE EYES OF THE BLIND, AND TO BRING FORTH FROM THEIR FATHERS THOSE THAT ARE BOUND AND THOSE THAT SIT IN DARKNESS OUT OF THE PRISON HOUSE..." ("Epistle of Barnabas")

I believe the letter of Barnabas are a reflection of Exodus 32. The writer of the letters explain in detail how God and Moses were extremely upset with their people because they were too impatient to wait for the writings of the Lord. The Letters of Barnabas takes this out of context and uses this to explain how the covenant is not theirs.

A similar idea is in the 'Letters of Ignatius of Antioch' (70-107CE). He explained the theory that the Church is the New Israel (Broadway), which I believe he received from the writings of Jeremiah. Consequently, the idea of the Church replacing Israel wasn't convincing after the Bar Kokba Revolt (132-135CE). Christian theology tried to counter this threat. They began to create a

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