Christianity and antisemitism
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Christian rhetoric and antipathy towards Jews developed in the early years of Christianity and was reinforced by the belief that Jews had killed Christ and ever increasing anti-Jewish measures over the ensuing centuries. The action taken by Christians against Jews included acts of ostracism, humiliation and 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 Early differences
- 2 Issues arising from the New Testament
- 3 Church Fathers
- 4 Middle Ages
- 5 Renaissance to the 17th century
- 6 18th century
- 7 19th century
- 8 20th century
- 9 Anti-Judaism
- 10 Jewish converts
- 11 Reconciliation between Judaism and Christian groups
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
Christianity and Judaism 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
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Jesus as the Messiah
Jesus is rejected in Judaism as a failed Jewish Messiah claimant and a false prophet. Belief in the divinity of any human being is incompatible with Judaism: However, since the traditional Jewish belief is that the messiah has not yet come and the Messianic Age is not yet present, the total rejection of Jesus as either messiah or deity has never been a central issue for Judaism.
If Christianity had come from Judaism and Jesus was a Jew, how and why did the Jews reject such core elements of Christianity? The most widely held explanation was that Jews had been the chosen people but broke the covenant with God, and were condemned to spend the rest of eternity suffering on earth, a symbol of degradation and sub-humanity. It was because of this belief that many Medieval European rulers protected the Jews, but considered them property of the king.
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 whom 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.
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". In the early second century AD, the heretic Marcion of Sinope (c. 85 – c. 160 AD) declared that the Jewish God was a different God, inferior to the Christian one, and rejected the Jewish scriptures as the product of a lesser deity. Marcion's teachings, which were extremely popular, rejected Judaism not only as an incomplete revelation, but as a false one as well, but, at the same time, allowed less blame to be placed on the Jews personally for having not recognized Jesus, since, in Marcion's worldview, Jesus was not sent by the lesser Jewish God, but by the supreme Christian God, whom the Jews had no reason to recognize.
In combating Marcion, orthodox apologists conceded that Judaism was an incomplete and inferior religion to Christianity, while also defending the Jewish scriptures as canonical. The Church Father Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240 AD) had a particularly intense personal dislike towards the Jews and argued that the Gentiles had been chosen by God to replace the Jews, because they were worthier and more honorable. Origen of Alexandria (c. 184 – c. 253) was more knowledgeable about Judaism than any of the other Church Fathers, having studied Hebrew, met Rabbi Hillel the Younger, consulted and debated with Jewish scholars, and been influenced by the allegorical interpretations of Philo of Alexandria. Origen defended the canonicity of the Old Testament and defended Jews of the past as having been chosen by God for their merits. Nonetheless, he condemned contemporary Jews for not understanding their own Law, insisted that Christians were the "true Israel", and blamed the Jews for the death of Christ. He did, however, maintain that Jews would eventually attain salvation in the final apocatastasis.
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, 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. Jews' association to money lending would carry on throughout history in the stereotype of Jews being greedy and perpetuating capitalism.
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 although they were not always strictly upheld.
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. Many believed Jews poisoned wells to cause plagues. In the case of blood libel it was widely believed that the Jews would kill a child before Easter and needed Christian blood to bake matzo.Throughout history if a Christian child was murdered accusations of blood libel would arise no matter how small the Jewish population. The Church often added to the fire by portraying the dead child as a martyr who had been tortured and child had powers like Jesus was believed to. Sometimes the children were even made into Saints. 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 includes 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
During 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, regardless of whether they were religious or ethnic. There were particular outbursts of riotous persecution during 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
The largest expulsion of Jews followed the Reconquista or the reunification of Spain, and it 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
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 be forced 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 living in 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. Brown University historian David Kertzer, working from the Vatican archive, has argued in his book The Popes Against the Jews that in the 19th and early 20th centuries 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 they were accused of promoting hatred of Jews, they 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.
Opposition to the French Revolution
The counter-revolutionary Catholic royalist Louis de Bonald stands out among the earliest figures to explicitly call for the reversal of Jewish emancipation in the wake of the French Revolution. Bonald's attacks on the Jews are likely to have influenced Napoleon's decision to limit the civil rights of Alsatian Jews. Bonald's article Sur les juifs (1806) was one of the most venomous screeds of its era and furnished a paradigm which combined anti-liberalism, a defense of a rural society, traditional Christian antisemitism, and the identification of Jews with bankers and finance capital, which would in turn influence many subsequent right-wing reactionaries such as Roger Gougenot des Mousseaux, Charles Maurras, and Édouard Drumont, nationalists such as Maurice Barrès and Paolo Orano, and antisemitic socialists such as Alphonse Toussenel. Bonald furthermore declared that the Jews were an "alien" people, a "state within a state", and should be forced to wear a distinctive mark to more easily identify and discriminate against them.
In the 1840s, the popular counter-revolutionary Catholic journalist Louis Veuillot propagated Bonald's arguments against the Jewish "financial aristocracy" along with vicious attacks against the Talmud and the Jews as a "deicidal people" driven by hatred to "enslave" Christians. Gougenot des Mousseaux's Le Juif, le judaïsme et la judaïsation des peuples chrétiens (1869) has been called a "Bible of modern antisemitism" and was translated into German by Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg. Between 1882 and 1886 alone, French priests published twenty antisemitic books blaming France's ills on the Jews and urging the government to consign them back to the ghettos, expel them, or hang them from the gallows.
In Italy the Jesuit priest Antonio Bresciani's highly popular novel 1850 novel L'Ebreo di Verona (The Jew of Verona) shaped religious anti-Semitism for decades, as did his work for La Civiltà Cattolica, which he helped launch.
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.
In Russia, under the Tsarist regime, antisemitism intensified in the early years of the 20th century and was given official favour when the secret police forged the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a document purported to be a transcription of a plan by Jewish elders to achieve global domination. Violence against the Jews in the Kishinev pogrom in 1903 was continued after the 1905 revolution by the activities of the Black Hundreds. The Beilis Trial of 1913 showed that it was possible to revive the blood libel accusation in Russia.
Catholic writers such as Ernest Jouin, who published the Protocols in French, seamlessly blended racial and religious anti-Semitism, as in his statement that "from the triple viewpoint of race, of nationality, and of religion, the Jew has become the enemy of humanity." Pope Pius XI praised Jouin for "combating our mortal [Jewish] enemy" and appointed him to high papal office as a protonotary apostolic.
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 among them, is an alternative history doctrine, which is sometimes called British Israelism. In some of its forms, this doctrine absolutely denies the view 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 the true humans are the members of the Adamic (white) race. These groups are often rejected and they are not even considered Christian groups by either mainstream Christian denominations or 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. For example, the influential evangelical preacher Billy Graham and then-president Richard Nixon were captured on tape in the early 1970s discussing matters like how to address the Jews' control of the American media. This belief in Jewish conspiracies and domination of the media was similar to those of Graham's former mentors: William Bell Riley chose Graham to succeed him as the second president of Northwestern Bible and Missionary Training School and evangelist Mordecai Ham led the meetings where Graham first believed in Christ. Both held strongly antisemitic views. 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 engage in anti-Israel activism, including support for the controversial BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. While not directly indicative of anti-semitism, this activism often conflates the Israeli government'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 which critics have called antisemitic, but a position which Baptists believe is 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's position, and some support efforts which specifically seek the Jews' conversion. At the same time these Evangelical groups are among the most pro-Israel groups. (For more information, see Christian Zionism.) Among the controversial groups that have 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 at the conversion of Jews. Some of these were founded by Jewish converts themselves, like the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, 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.
- 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
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