Christianity and antisemitism
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Part of Jewish history
Christianity and antisemitism deals with the hostility of Christian Churches, Christian groups, and by Christians in general to Judaism and the Jewish people. Christian rhetoric and antipathy towards Jews developed in the early years of Christianity and was reinforced by ever increasing anti-Jewish measures over the ensuing centuries. The action taken by Christians against Jews included acts of violence, and murder culminating in the Holocaust.:21:169 Christian antisemitism has been attributed to numerous factors including theological differences, competition between Church and Synagogue, the Christian drive for converts, decreed by the Great Commission, misunderstanding of Jewish beliefs and practices, and a perceived Jewish hostility toward Christians. These attitudes were reinforced in Christian preaching, art and popular teaching for two millennia, containing contempt for Jews, as well as statutes which were designed to humiliate and stigmatise Jews.
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.:16 Scholars have debated how Christian antisemitism played a role in the Nazi Third Reich, World War II and the Holocaust. The Holocaust has driven many within Christianity to reflect on the relationship between Christian theology, practices, and that genocide.
- 1 Roman-Jewish tensions
- 2 Early differences
- 3 Issues arising from the New Testament
- 4 Church Fathers
- 5 Middle Ages
- 6 Renaissance to the 17th century
- 7 18th century
- 8 19th century
- 9 20th-century
- 10 Anti-Judaism
- 11 Jewish converts
- 12 Reconciliation between Judaism and Christian groups
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 Further reading
- 16 External links
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Although Jewish communities lived and generally flourished in all major cities of the Roman Empire, tension existed between the Roman authorities and the Jews. 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. This created difficulties for religious 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 relations between Rome and its Jewish subjects, as well as for worshipers of Mithras, worshipers of Sabazius, and Christianity. This led to several Jewish revolts against Rome and retaliation 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.
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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,[Acts 15] 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, as Claudius did again in 49. 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), Rabbi Akiva, and Ten Martyrs).
From the reign of Nero onwards, who is said by Tacitus 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. 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
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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.
Mainstream Talmudic Rabbinical Judaism today directly descends from the Pharisees who Jesus often criticized. 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 who mostly died out not long after the period; indeed, Jewish scholars such as Harvey Falk and Hyam Maccoby have suggested that Jesus was himself a Pharisee. 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 (University Press of America, 1994) has published a detailed study of the description of Jews in the New Testament, and the historical effects that such passages have had in the Christian community throughout history. Similar studies of such verses have been made by both Christian and Jewish scholars, including, Professors Clark Williamsom (Christian Theological Seminary), Hyam Maccoby (The Leo Baeck Institute), Norman A. Beck (Texas Lutheran College), and Michael Berenbaum (Georgetown University). Most rabbis feel that these verses are antisemitic, and many Christian scholars, in America and Europe, have reached the same conclusion. Another example is 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.
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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.[Acts 15] 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 that some Christians were still attending Jewish synagogues.
The Church Fathers identified Jews and Judaism with heresy and declared the people of Israel to be extra Deum (lat. "outside of God"). Saint Peter of Antioch referred to Christians that refused to worship religious images as having "Jewish minds".
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. Like his anti-Jewish teacher, St. Ambrose of Milan, he defined Jews as a special subset of those damned to hell. As "Witness People", he sanctified collective punishment for the Jewish deicide and enslavement of Jews to Catholics: "Not by bodily death, shall the ungodly race of carnal Jews perish ... 'Scatter them abroad, take away their strength. And bring them down O Lord'". Augustine claimed to "love" the Jews but as a means to convert them to Christianity. Sometimes he identified all Jews with the evil Judas and developed the doctrine (together with St. Cyprian) that there was "no salvation outside the Church".
Other Church Fathers, such as John Chrysostom, went further in their condemnation. The Catholic editor Paul Harkins wrote that St. John Chrysostom's anti-Jewish theology "is no longer tenable (..) For these objectively unchristian acts he cannot be excused, even if he is the product of his times." John Chrysostom held, as most Church Fathers did, that the sins of all Jews were communal and endless, to him his Jewish neighbours were the collective representation of all alleged crimes of all preexisting Jews. All Church Fathers applied the passages of the New Testament concerning the alleged advocation of the crucifixion of Christ to all Jews of his day, the Jews were the ultimate evil. However, John Chrysostom went so far to say that because Jews rejected the Christian God in human flesh, Christ, they therefore deserved to be killed: "grew fit for slaughter." In citing the New Testament,[Luke 19:27] he claimed that Jesus was speaking about Jews when he said, "as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me."
St. Jerome identified Jews with Judas Iscariot and the immoral use of money ("Judas is cursed, that in Judas the Jews may be accursed... their prayers turn into sins"). Jerome's homiletical assaults, that may have served as the basis for the anti-Jewish Good Friday liturgy, contrasts Jews with the evil, and that "the ceremonies of the Jews are harmful and deadly to Christians", whoever keeps them was doomed to the devil: "My enemies are the Jews; they have conspired in hatred against Me, crucified Me, heaped evils of all kinds upon Me, blasphemed Me."
Ephraim the Syrian wrote polemics against Jews in the 4th century, including the repeated accusation that Satan dwells among them as a partner. The writings were directed at Christians who were being proselytized by Jews. Ephraim feared that they were slipping back into 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.
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."
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."
Jews were subject to a wide range of legal disabilities and restrictions in Medieval Europe. 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.
In the later medieval period, the number of Jews permitted to reside in certain 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, The Oath More Judaico, the form of oath required from Jewish witnesses, in some places developed bizarre or humiliating forms, e.g in Swabian law of the 13th century, the Jew would be required to stand on the hide of a sow or a bloody lamb.
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 (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.
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,
- 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. As late as 1519, the Imperial city of Regensburg took advantage of the recent death of Emperor Maximilian I to expel its 500 Jews.
Expulsion of Jews from Spain
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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 religious rights 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
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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.
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, Luther 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."
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."
In accordance with the anti-Jewish precepts of the Russian Orthodox Church,: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.:28 This land was designated as the Pale of Settlement from which Jews were forbidden to migrate into the interior of Russia.: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.
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. Pope Pius VII (1800–1823) had the walls of the Jewish ghetto in Rome rebuilt after the Jews were emancipated by Napoleon, and Jews were restricted to the ghetto through the end of the Papal States in 1870. Official Catholic organizations, such as the 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.
On April 26, 1933 Hitler declared during a meeting with Roman Catholic Bishop Wilhelm Berning 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".
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".
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.":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...":169
"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."
- German Christians
- Hanns Kerrl, Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs
- Positive Christianity (the approved Nazi version of Christianity)
- Protestant Reich Church
Opposition to the Holocaust
The Confessing Church was, in 1934, the first Christian opposition group. The Catholic Church officially condemned the Nazi theory of racism in Germany in 1937 with the encyclical "Mit brennender Sorge", signed by 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:
- Catholic priest, Maximilian Kolbe.
- Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- the Catholic parson of Berlin Cathedral, Bernhard Lichtenberg.
- the mostly Catholic members of the Munich resistance group White Rose around Hans and Sophie Scholl.
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.:92
The 1937 encyclical Mit brennender Sorge was issued by Pope Pius XI, but drafted by the future Pope Pius XII 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."
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". This traditional adversarial relationship with Judaism would be reversed in Nostra aetate issued during the Second Vatican Council.
Prominent members of the Jewish community have contradicted the criticisms of Pius and spoke highly of his efforts to protect Jews. 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.
"White Power" movement
The Christian Identity movement, the Ku Klux Klan and other White supremacist groups have expressed antisemitic views. They claim that their antisemitism is based on purported Jewish control of the media, international banks, radical left wing politics, and the Jews' promotion of multiculturalism, anti-Christian groups, liberalism and perverse organizations. They rebuke charges of racism and claim that Jews who share their ideology maintain membership in their organizations. A racial belief common among these groups, but not universal, is an 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.
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. The US State Department reports that antisemitism has increased dramatically in Europe and Eurasia since 2000.
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. A minority of American churches, such as the Presbyterian Church USA, engage in anti-Israel activism, including support for the controversial BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) movement. While not directly indicative of anti-semitism, this activism often conflates the Israel's treatment of Palestinians with that of Jesus, thereby promoting the anti-semitic doctrine of Jewish guilt. Many Christian Zionists are also accused of anti-semitism, such as John Hagee, who argued that the Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves by angering God.
Many Christians do not consider anti-Judaism to be antisemitism.[according to whom?] 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" 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. Several scholars, including Susannah Heschel, Gavin I Langmuir and Uriel Tal 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.
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, 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".
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).
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.
- Anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire
- Antisemitism and the New Testament
- Antisemitism in Europe
- Antisemitism in the Gospel of John
- Antisemitism in the Soviet Union
- Antisemitism in the United States
- Antisemitism in Ukraine
- Christianity and Judaism
- Criticisms of Christianity
- Ecclesia et Synagoga
- Good Friday Prayer for the Jews
- History of antisemitism in the United States
- History of antisemitism
- History of Jews in Ukraine
- History of the Jews and the Crusades
- History of the Jews in Germany
- History of the Jews in Russia
- Jewish deicide
- Kishinev pogrom
- New antisemitism
- History of Christian thought on persecution and tolerance
- Persecution of Jews
- Pope John Paul II and Judaism
- Racial antisemitism
- Religious antisemitism
- Timeline of antisemitism
- Richard Harries. After the evil: Christianity and Judaism in the shadow of the Holocaust. Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0199263134
- Hans Küng. On Being a Christian. Doubleday, Garden City NY, 1976 ISBN 978-0385027120
- Lucy Dawidowicz The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945. First published 1975; this Bantam edition 1986, p.23. ISBN 0-553-34532-X
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