Anti-Semitism a Theological Conspiracy
The universal church, protestants and even among reformists has in history played a most significant role in the plight of the Jewish nation. Many saw the conversion from paganism to Christianity in the fourth century as one which has half the persecution of the Christians and bringing much needed respite to tired and weary saints. Yet within the walls of the church hierarchy sermons were preached, established works formulated which would see the most brutal aggression against a people, known today as anti Semitic. The church was rescued somewhat from the Catholic abuse by notable reformers such as Calvin and Martin Luther, but even they promoted anti Semitic views in some of their established works.
The New Testament church came into existence through Jesus a Jewish kid born in Nazareth of Judea, but spent most of His adult life teaching the message of salvation to His own antion. His childhood was typical of any other young Jewish boys of his time. The biblical account of His life says that he was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, received a religious education, learned his father Joseph’s carpentry trade, kept the Law of Moses, and spoke both Hebrew and Aramaic, the languages of the Jews of his day. Upon reaching the age of 30, traditional age when priest started their temple service, Jesus began His preaching and teachings concerning the kingdom of God. He called people to repentance and ministering to the poor, the sick and blind, his following multiplied greatly which upsets the religious establishments. Christ called many disciples, but have an inner circle of who after His death became leaders of the first century church, known as the twelve apostles. For a number of years the Jewish early believers in Jesus as the Messiah were culturally and ethnically similar to, and even at times worshipping alongside, their mainstream counterparts. But a number of religious and political events in the latter half of the first century and the early part of the second began to drive a wedge between gentile converts and their Jewish counterpart. This was not a deliberate act but born from the consequences of both faith and cultural circumstances.
Acts of the Apostles, chapter 15, recorded one of the earliest theological issues in the New Testament, when a question arose in the church whether it was necessary or obligatory for Gentiles (non-Jewish) converts to the gospel in Jesus as the Messiah to follow Jewish customs prerequisite to be accepted as Christians. This was the first major test for the new church and its leaders, one which threatened not just the viability of the message, but threatened to split the church straight down the middle. The book reveals that after debating the issue, early church leaders meeting in Jerusalem ruled that new converts would not have to observe the entire Jewish law, but identified certain relevant practices and encouraged them forward. The ruling had far reaching impact, and following the comprehensive missionary efforts of Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, the cultural makeup of the first century church began to rapidly change. The previously dominant Jewish flavor had begun to decrease and Gentile converts took over as the majority. To the conventional Jewish observer, the change is interpreted as tantamount to the new church becoming a lawless society. Opening the door to and encouraging pagan influences into their puritanical Jewish-Christian culture.
What caused the early church to apportioned blame and how does one kill God, unless God allowed himself to be killed? An even better question, if this was preordained by God that Jesus was to die on the cross, were not those that carried out the act in fact operating in God's behalf? Is God responsible? Why would Pilot, a man known for cruelty who represented the most powerful world empire of that time, allow himself to be pushed around by a bunch of Jews he could order slaughtered with a single word? We have to look to the Gospel accounts which in itself do not give detailed information and established church doctrines where followers are prevented from asking questions and its claims of priesthood infallibility. If the prophecy concerning Christ death is accurate then the blame should not be at the feet of the Jews. The proclamation gives more than an indication of responsibility, it says Christ would die at the hands of sinners. Matthew 26FF shows a dialogue between Pilate and the crowd who found no wrong in Him which warranted His execution but to please the people he hand him over to be crucified. Pilate did not hand Christ to the Jews but to his Roman soldiers who eventually killed Jesus. Crucifixion was never Jewish custom but a Roman system of punishment for rebellion as where stoning was the method formerly used by Jews. The Sadducees were the dominant Jewish faction at that time and they operated the Temple as puppets of Roman. Many other Jewish sects, the Pharisees, Zealots, and Essenes featured prominently at that time. The Pharisees took on a more prominent role in Judaism after the temple destruction in 70 AD. The later fulfillment of Christ prophecy of the Temple destruction sets the stage and may have been the single most contributing factor to the growth of the early church and rabbinic Judaism. Deflated after the loss of a Jewish national pride and their religious life, this proud people were clutching for something to believe in. This loss did not dampen their hope in the promised Messiah who would arrive on the scene and save them from their hated and repressive Roman overlord.
Christianity the new born faith in Christ came to seek, and attract, more non-Jewish converts than Jewish converts after the 1st century. Within a hundred years or so the majority of Christians were non-Jews without any significant knowledge of Judaism. Many of these Christians read these passages not as internal debates among Jews but as the basis for a Christian rejection of Judaism and Jews. By this time, Christians were theologically rejecting any and all groups who rejected the Christian claim that Jesus was God, which of course included the Jews, along with Greeks and Romans who worshipped the traditional Greek and Roman gods, most Gnostics, and Jewish Christians. Pharisees likewise reject those Jewish groups that didn't convert to Christianity. Once Christianity was established as the religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine, and Christians enjoyed political and religious power over Europe, it became a vehicle to incite or justify oppression of Jews. In a few Christian denominations have begun to teach that readers should understand the New Testament's attacks on Jews as specific charges aimed at certain Jewish leaders of that time, and upon attitudes. The sad fact is that the Catholic teachings and Rabbinical Judaism of today do not reflect the diverse majority of Jews and Christians that often lived in peace with pagans. Most of those groups were exterminated by the 5th century and Islam butchered most of those that survived outside the clutches of the early Christian church in Arabia and Persia.
Birth of Anti Semitism
In the second century, church fathers began to harbor anti Semitic sentiments, beginning to take an uncompromising posture of theological and political opposition. Policies critical of the Jewish people not just on religious grounds, but ethnicity and culturally began to affect church teachings and interpretation. The Church now claim that God has cursed and rejected the Jewish peoples, and now the Church is the "true" or "new" Israel.
The western arm of the universal church accused the Jews of killing Jesus, claiming that all Jews everywhere forever are responsible for Christ death.
Church Father John Chrysostom, eight sermons preached at Antioch in 386-388, brings Anti-Semitism to its highest point within all “Adversus Judaeos”literature. In his sermons he labeled “the Jews most miserable of all men... lustful, rapacious, greedy, perfidious bandits, inveterate murders, destroyers, men possessed by the devil. They know only one thing, to satisfy their gullets, get drunk, to kill and maim one another... They have surpassed the ferocity of wild beasts, for they murder their offspring and immolate them to the devil...”and much more. Chrysostom and all the Anti Semitics among the Church Fathers and their successors were over many centuries revered as saints by the Catholic Church. Augustine wrote at the same time and his original contribution to the Anti Semitics arsenal is the theory of the witness-people. The reason for which Jews subsist is to probe the truth of Christianity. Like Cain, he explains, they carry a sign but are not to be killed. Jews were not only wrong but evil, and the theological gulf grew wider and deeper. As the Anglican theologian James Parkes puts it, the Church did not claim the Hebrew Bible in its entirety, only its heroes and virtuous characters, God’s promises and praise. The rest, the villains and the idolaters, the stubborn and the unbelievers were left for the Jews, curses and accusations were for them, and that was the description of the Jews. Variations of this theme were preached in writings and from Roman Catholics church pulpits, week after week, wherever and whenever there was a reference to the Jewish people.
The claims that Anti Semitics was born in the Church, should not overshadow the aggression of other nations such as the Romans, Greeks, Islam, Egyptians and many European states. Christian Anti Semitics was incomparably stronger as the church wheels enormous power and influence over many nations and peoples. An Hungarian nobleman Joseph Eotvosz in the 1920’s explained “an anti-Semite as “one who hates the Jews... more than necessary.” This was not true for the pagan world, generally tolerant to the Jews, even if did have many Anti Semitics. But once Christianity took hold, Anti Semitics became the norm, God’s will, a theological platform with laws, contempt, calumnies, animosity, segregation, forced baptisms, appropriation of children, unjust trials, pogroms, exiles, systematic persecution, rapine, and social degradation. With the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire by Constantine in the fourth century, however, Christianity soon began to enjoy a position of superiority over Judaism which caused serious consequences for Judaism. The new "Christian" empire began to enact great political and religious changes affecting the Jews, removing former religious and governing privileges, curtailment of rabbinical jurisdiction, and the Prohibition of missionary work. A 537 ad legislation prevents Jews from holding high offices, have military careers or serving on municipal bodies.
During this era damaging theological attitudes began to abound, such as the idea that Jews had lost their right to exist. Various church councils drew up damaging anti-Jewish legislation but few came close to the damaging effect of Church Father John Chrysostom writings who forced the idea of Jewish sensuality, gluttony, stubbornness and rejection by God. With this rise of the Church-State, certain religious political attitudes such as Jesus ruling the world through the Roman Christian government became evident in the Catholic Church. This attitude of superiority, flamed by the ever-increasing integration of the Church into Roman government, continued on into the Middle Ages and was translated into repeated actual restrictions on Jews. The Justinian Code was a decree of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (527-564). A section of the code negated civil rights for Jews. Once the code was enforced, Jews in the Empire could not build synagogues, read the Bible in Hebrew, gather in public places, celebrate Passover before Easter, or give evidence in a judicial case in which a Christian was involved. Decrees by the early Catholic Church, Synod of Elvira (306), forbids intermarriage and sexual intercourse between Christians and Jews, and ban them from eating together. The Councils of Orleans (533-541), forbids marriages between Christians and Jews and hinder the conversion to Judaism by Christians. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215), demands that Jews wear special clothing to distinguish them from Christians. Also, the Council of Basel (1431-1443), prevented Jews to attend universities, from acting as agents in finalizing contracts between Christians, and required that they attend church services. Martin Luther (1483-1546) founded a new Christian faith, Protestantism, in the 16th century. He had been an ordained priest, but disputed Church policy with respect to the sale of indulgences (a partial remission of the punishment for a sin). Once a supporter of the Jews, he was frustrated by their unwillingness to embrace his own religion. Martin Luther became one of the most intensely bitter anti-Semites in history. His writings described Jews as the anti-Christ, worse than devils. Jews he claimed were guilty of poisoning, ritual murderers, and are parasites. Luther preached that Jews should be expelled from Germany. He promote the view that synagogues should all be burned to the ground, and all Jewish books seized
The Roman Catholic Church launched a succession of holy wars from 1096-1272. The purpose they declared in order to receive wide range sympathizers and volunteers were to liberate the Holy Land from Moslem "infidels." On the journey the crusaders slaughtered all supposed "infidels" that rejected baptism into Christianity. Thousands of Jews were massacred in Germany and France. For centuries, the Jewish people were accused of all kinds of slanders and became scapegoats for the problems of the day. In 1144, a myth “Blood Libel” began to develop in England targeting Jews for murdering Christian children. This saga was stretched to become an accusation which persisted for centuries that the Jews used the blood of Christian children in the preparation of their Passover unleavened bread (matzohs). This "blood libel" was ironic in that the consumption of any blood is expressly prohibited by Jewish law. The bubonic plague, the cause of the “Black Death” that exterminated a quarter of the population of Europe in the 14th century, was blamed on the Jews in Europe and Asia. To recover or halt the damage already done to the Jews the ruling Pope issued a declaration that Jews were not responsible for the plague, but not quick enough to stop many being burned alive or hanged by enraged mobs. During this period, Jews were permitted to be moneylenders and act as financiers, only because this activity, while necessary for a prosperous economy, was viewed by the Church as sinful. Even today this stereotypical view is propagated of a Jewish monopoly over economic and financial activity that conspired to cause the recent world recession.
The Inquisition a tribunal instituted by Pope Gregory IX and the Catholic Church in 1233 AD was intended to squash heresy he sent Dominican friars to South France and Northern Italy to conduct investigations. The friars set out as one of their main objectives to convert Jews to Christianity. Backed by the power of the universal church, it lead to a spate of harassment, torture later approved Pope Innocent IV as method of extracting confessions of guilt from heretics. Secular rulers used the persecution of heresy as a weapon to further their own designs. The Spanish Inquisition was established by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1478 and reluctant approved by Pope Sixtus IV. The Roman Church's only hold over the Spanish Inquisition was the appointment of the inquisitor general. The popes however, never reconciled themselves to the practices of that inquisition, and attempts by Sixtus IV to hinder the inquisition that had become too brutal were rejected by Ferdinand and Isabella who themselves possess a effective device to threaten the Spanish populace. "The purpose of the Spanish Inquisition was to discover and punish converted Jews, Muslims (later) who were dishonest to the church. The death penalty was used more often in Spain than in the Roman Inquisition, and rules that condemned one for heresy were far stricter, often outlawing things the Roman Church approved. "For centuries, the Jewish community in Spain had flourished and grown in numbers and influence, though anti-Semitism had from time to time made itself felt and pressure to convert was brought to bear on the Jews. After years of torture and death by burning, the Jews in 1492 were given the choice of exile or baptism, most Spanish Jews chose to leave.
Take a Stand
Space and time would fail to highlight the anti-Semitic acts of numerous other church and state officials, Augustine, Pope Clement, Hitler and the Nazis among many others complicit in the slaughter of a people. What was their guilt? A misguided pagan led and powerful international organization incorrectly claiming the Jewish people was responsible for the Messiah’s murder. Modern Christian theologians and academics concluded, the Jews rejected Christ, but it was the gentile Romans who murdered Him. Throughout history anti-Semitism rose out of ignorance, with people always looking for someone else to be blamed, and the Jews people are always that someone. With the rising tide of anti Semitism in Europe and the Americas especially in the north, level headed men and women need to take radical steps to prevent anti-Semitism and slaughter ever happening again. We must recognize the injustice of history and try to correct them by declaring that the Jewish plight is due to spiritual blindness of a fallen pagan influenced church. A church which claims infallibility of its popes and doctrines but is guilty of the most atrocious inhumane acts in history, we must stand against it.
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