This previously appeared in The Tree of Life Magazine

ANTI-SEMITISM AND THE CHURCH

by

shalom2@cox.net
Randy Felton

This lesson was prepared by the Randy Felton for use by him and his students in lecture classes. Randy simplifies what the scholars say, and writes simply and easily. This lesson was included in a book called The Jewish Roots of Christianity by Rev. Felton. Randy is founder of Potter's Clay Ministries, Inc., 417 NW 42nd Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73118. Randy is available as a speaker, and was a speaker at our September 1996 conference.

The first century contained a Judaism with many sects. Today is not much different. There may be different names but sects still exist and operate. During the first century, there were five primary groups that we are going to look at. These are not all by any means, but are the ones we will be studying for now.

PHARISEES - Ruling sect, clung steadfast to tradition
SADDUCEES - They drew their inspiration primarily from Temple worship
ESSENES - They withdrew to the wilderness to await the Messiah. Qumran is believed by many to be one of their communities.
NAZARENES - Also known as "Followers of the Way" or "The Way." Led by Paul after Jesus ascension.
ZEALOTS - Nationalists seeking to free Israel from Roman control
The Zealots ceased to be around the years 66-70 A.D. This was the group that Judas Iscariot belonged to and that met it's end when the first Jewish revolt was put down. This is the time the Temple was destroyed and has yet to be rebuilt. The Jewish Revolt also led to the end of the Sadducees... no Temple to worship at, and the Essenes also disappeared at this time. This left, primarily, the Pharisees and the Nazarenes.

The church began within Judaism as an all Jewish sect. Very few Gentiles converted but with the sending forth of Peter and Paul, this began to change rapidly. After the destruction of the Temple there was a great dispersion. The Pharisees had basically rejected "The Way" and the Gospel was sent to the Gentiles. Romans, chapter eleven explains how the Gentile was grafted into the roots of Judaism. During these trying times, Jews often hid Christians from persecution. The ties were very close and followers of "The Way" were seen as family.

A second Jewish revolt occurred during the years 132 to 135 A.D. This is also known as the Bar Kokaba Revolt led by the man of the same name. Bar Kokaba proclaimed himself to be the Messiah and shortly thereafter, Rabbi Akida confirmed his claim, thus adding validity to the revolt. This left Jewish Christians with a dilemma; join the revolt and deny Jesus as Messiah or withhold support and be seen as traitors by the brethren. They chose to stay out of the revolt. This caused a breach within the two communities and further separated the Christians from the Jews. The hostilities that developed were the beginning of Anti-Judaism which is still with us. This separation partly aided in the outreach to the Gentile nations but caused a very wide chasm between the church and it's roots.

The Church begins to define itself apart from Judaism beginning about 160 A.D., the time of Justin Martyr. The Church began to turn arrogant and, during the second, third and fourth centuries, Greek thought swept into the Church like a flood. A whole series of events led to the de- Judaising of the Church. Unfortunately, Christian hostility toward Judaism also developed hostility toward the Jews. There were scattered occurrences of Jews and Christians shielding one another from persecution, but it was the exception and not the rule. Hostilities and persecutions grew and the Jews rapidly became the minority wherever they were. In 1879 the term Anti-Semitism was coined by Wilheim Marr. Marr was a German political agitator describing Jews as a different "race." This was the first recorded time this concept was expressed. Anti-Semitism is a 19th-20th century phenomenon. The hostility from ancient times is best described as Anti-Judaism. What seems to be Anti-Jewish in scripture is an "Intra-Family" device used to win Jews by Jews. In the second century, it became Anti-Jewish to win Gentiles by Gentiles. In the first place, we have Jews against Jews; in the second, we have Gentiles against Jews. The loss of Jerusalem was seen as evidence of God's rejection of the Jew. The early church fathers saw the suffering of the Jewish people as directly related to their "sin" of rejecting Jesus as Messiah. In the fourth century, the Church began to read the scripture designating all blessings to the Church and all curses to the Jews.

After the second Jewish Revolt, Judaism lost it's status as a legal religion in Rome. Jews were subsequently banned from Jerusalem. It was later, in the fourth century that Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Jews lost many rights with this edict. Jews were no longer permitted to dwell in Jerusalem and by 339 A.D., it was considered a criminal offense to convert to Judaism. Later, in 380 A.D., the bishop of Milan caused the burning of a Synagogue and referred to it as "an act pleasing to God." In their zealousness to keep Gentiles from being drawn into Jewish worship and law, early Church fathers began to attack Jews and Judaism from their pulpits and in their writings.

To deal with Old Testament scriptures, New Testament thought was read "into" rather than "out of" the Biblical text. This rendered the Tanakh little more than allegory. As Christians began to "spiritualize" the scriptures, they tended to treat unconverted Jews with more hostility.

During the Middle Ages, the Jews created separate lives due to the community, i.e. dress, habits, social restrictions, etc. The Church viewed them as useful primarily as money lenders. The scriptures forbade lending with usuary, Christians did not consider this applicable to the Jews. The Jews found this offensive, but were pressed into this service and later despised for the positions they held as a result. The Jews were also required to wear distinctive hats or sew on patches. Isolated from larger society, accusations were soon to follow. Jews were said to have a peculiar smell, not the "odor of sanctity." They were said to be the sucklers of sows and called Christ killers. The Jews were accused of being "desecrators of the host," they were presumed to secretly enter Churches to pierce the Holy Wafer and let the "real blood" of Jesus flow out. They were also accused of killing Christian infants and using their blood for their Passover wine. Jews were accused of poisoning the wells and causing the Black Plague which killed one-third of Europe's population. . . All False.

In the year 1096 A.D., Pope Urban II called for the liberation of the Holy Land from the Muslims and the Crusades were born. On the way to wage war against the Infidels, many began to wonder why they should wait until they reached the Holy Land. They could rid the world of the Christ killers as they went. The Jews suffered greatly. Meanwhile, the rabble and ne'er- do-wells, who were unfit as soldiers, fulfilled their imaginary duty by falling on nearby Jewish villages. This was done all across Europe, killing and raping hapless Jews, leaving Synagogues burning in their wake. Just as at Massada, many Jews chose suicide rather than forced conversions. Death or conversion was the only choice given those caught. One form of trial to test the converted Jews was the "Trial by Water" or "Water Test." After the suspect was bound he/she was cast into a body of water, either a lake, stream or pond. The liars were said to float, whereby they were executed. The truthful sank and promptly drowned...how convenient!

One of the first waves of Crusaders to arrive in the Holy Land began to search for the infidels. Upon approaching a village, they were met by a party of men, well dressed in flowing robes and armed for battle. The Crusaders fell upon them and killed them all with little resistance. Upon entering the village, they learned from the women that they were Christians coming out to join with them. The only excuse offered was the question, What right do Christians have to wear turbans?

In the year 1099 A.D., the Crusaders besieged Jerusalem. During this time, the Crusaders herded the Jews into a central Synagogue and set it on fire. The soldiers formed a ring around the Synagogue holding their shields emblazoned with the Cross and singing hymns. Anyone who tried to escape was prodded back inside by the lances of the brave and noble knights. Can it be any wonder that the Jew finds it offensive when he sees a banner proclaiming a crusade coming to his city? Christians need to rethink some of their terms and their origins.

The next event of note was the European expulsion of Jews. England began to expel Jews in 1306, followed by Spain, Germany and Austria. Later, in 1492, the Inquisition began. This occurred the same year the "New World" was found by Christopher Columbus. Our home was being discovered while the European Jews were losing theirs! Thousands of Jews were tortured and burned at the stake. Finally, the Jews were ordered to convert to Christianity or leave Spain; more than 150,000 fled. They became wandering nomads, finally settling in North Africa and around the Mediterranean. Many converted openly, but secretly remained Jews and became known as Marranos.

In the year 1523, Martin Luther issued a tract, That Jesus Was Born a Jew," with high hopes of converting the Jews. They did not respond as desired and his attitude changed toward them. Twenty years later, in 1543, Luther was writing such tracts as On Jews and Their Lies." Luther called for Jews to be permanently driven out of the land.

In the later part of the nineteenth century, there were six million Jews in Czarist Russia, the largest Jewish population in the world. With the onslaught of vicious pogroms, thousands died and many more fled. Between 1880 and 1910, more than two million immigrated to America. The year 1894 saw the "Dreyfus Affair." Alfred Dreyfus, a Jew serving in the French Military, was accused of giving secret documents to the Germans and was convicted for being a traitor. After being imprisoned, he was finally exonerated and drew the world's attention to the problem of Anti- Semitism. A few years later there are again pogroms in Europe and Russia followed with World War II and the Nazis.

Could these things have been avoided if the Church remembered it's Jewish roots? It is sad to think that we do not teach our history in our churches, rather it is taught in the Synagogue.

Teaching Trips to Israel with Randy Felton

Teaching Articles by Randy Felton


Potter's Clay Ministries

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OKC, OK 73118
Phone: 1-405-528-7205
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