Christianity and Antisemitism

“If I had to baptise a Jew, I would take him to the bridge of the Elbe, hang a stone around his neck and push him over with the words ‘I baptise thee in the name of Abraham’.” (Martin Luther)

“We are at fault in not slaying them”  (Martin Luther from “On the Jews and their Lies”)

He did not call them Abraham’s children, but a “brood of vipers” [Matt. 3:7]. Oh, that was too insulting for the noble blood and race of Israel, and they declared, “He has a demon’ [Matt 11:18]. Our Lord also calls them a “brood of vipers”; furthermore in John 8 [:39,44] he states: “If you were Abraham’s children ye would do what Abraham did…. You are of your father the devil. It was intolerable to them to hear that they were not Abraham’s but the devil’s children, nor can they bear to hear this today. (Martin Luther from his book “On the Jews and their Lies” available here)

For many centuries, primitive Christian Europe had regarded the Jew as the “Christ-killer”:  an enemy and a threat to be converted and so be “saved”, or to be killed; to be expelled, or be put to death with sword and fire.  In 1543, Martin Luther set out his “honest advice” as to how Jews should be treated.  “First,” he wrote, “their synagogues should be set on fire, and whatever does not burn up should be covered or spread over with dirt so that no one may ever be able to see a cinder or stone of it.” Jewish homes, he urged, should likewise by “broken down or destroyed”.  Jews should then be “put under one roof, or in a stable, like Gypsies, in order that they may realise that they are no longer masters in our land.”  They should be put to work, to earn their living “by the sweat of their noses”, or, if regarded even then as too dangerous, these “poisonous bitter worms” should be stripped of their belongings “which they have extorted usuriously from us” and driven out of the country “for all time”.  Luther’s advice was typical of the anti-Jewish venom of his time.  Mass expulsion was a commonplace of medieval policy.  Indeed, Jews had already been driven out of almost every European country including England, France, Spain, Portugal and Bohemia.  Further expulsions were to follow:  in Italy Jews were to be confined to a special part of the towns, the ghetto, and, in Tsarist Russia, to a special region of the country, the “Pale”.  Expulsion and oppression continued until the nineteenth century.  Even when Jews were allowed growing participation in national life, however, no decade passed without Jews in one European state or another being accused of murdering Christian children, in order to use their blood in the baking of Passover bread.  This “blood libel”, coming as it did with outbursts of popular violence against Jews, reflected deep prejudice which no amount of modernity or liberal education seemed to be able to overcome.  Jew-hatred, with its two thousand year-old history could arise both as a spontaneous outburst of popular instincts, and as a deliberately fanned instrument of scapegoat politics.  (Martin Gilbert – Oxford)’s_First_Antisemitic_Writing.html 1919 letter written by Adolf Hitler calling for the “irrevocable removal [Entfernung]” of the Jews from German life.

“In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders”.  (Adolf Hitler speech 1922)

[The Jews'] “rotten and unbending stiffneckedness deserves that they be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without the pity of anyone” (John Calvin - another central figure in the Protestant Reformation )

No one can read about those terrible years without being moved, and at times overwhelmed, by the ruthless, diabolical destruction of young life, from the tiniest baby to the teenager on the verge of what ought to have been the years of opportunity and fulfilment.  (Martin Gilbert – Oxford)

Extermination camps were established at Auschwitz, Belsen and elsewhere in Central Europe and Jews transported to them in inhuman conditions to be killed, generally by gassing followed by mass cremation’ able-bodied Jews were subjected to forced labour under slave conditions become being killed.  A systematic policy of humiliation and degradation was practised prior to the actual killing. In all, about six million Jews perished, perhaps two third of the Jewish population of Europe and one third of the world Jewish population.  Others perished also’ but only the Jews, and perhaps some Gypsy groups, were singled out for total annihilation purely on account of “race”.  (Norman Solomon – Oxford)

‘What stupidity, what senselessness must it be for such an unclean, guilty helpless worm as this [the Jew], to dream of seeking acceptance by his own righteousness, of living by the righteousness which is of the law!’ (John Wesley – founder of Methodism)

“Synagogue of Satan” (Billy Graham – prominent American evangelist) USA Today coverage here.  BBC coverage of Graham’s apology for offence caused to Jews here.

“Most Christians did not want to be enemies of the Roman Empire and they soon sought to play down the role of the Romans in the story.  So the Passion narratives shifted the blame on to the Jewish authorities and … Pontius Pilate… was portrayed as inquisitive and bewildered, cross-questioning the seditious prisoner before him as if Jesus were an equal and making every effort to get him off the hook…. Matthew shifted blame for Jesus’ death … to the Jewish crowed, who in his narrative roared out “His blood be on us, and on our children!”  … It would have been better for the moral health of Christianity if the blame had stayed with Pilate”.  (Diarmaid MacCulloch – Professor Oxford)

So powerfully negative is his [John’s] language (for example, John 8:31-59) that many see here the roots of later Christian anti-Judaism or anti-Semitism.  (Judith Lieu Professor Cambridge)

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8.44)

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptised by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?’ (Luke 3.7)

All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”  (Matt 27: 25)

Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation. (Matt 23:34-36)

… such gospel passages as Matt 23, which to any fair-minded reader, such as a man from Mars, would prevent the characterization of the gospels as expressive of love and only love. Christianity shared with other versions of Judaism both the ideal of the
love of one’s fellow-men and also a hostility to the out group. (Samuel Sandmel
- Professor Hebrew Union College)

[Jesus talking to “the Jews”]  John 8: 43- 44 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8: 43- 44)

The Gospels as we have them – whoever produced them – at their core are just too anti-Semitic to have been produced by anyone other than Gentiles.  The animus against Jews – Jews of all stripes, even those representing the Leadership of the Jerusalem Church (called “Pharisees” in Acts) – is just too intense and unremitting to be otherwise.  (Robert Eisenman – Professor California State, Oxford)

“A natural, if not inevitable, development of the Gentile mission was the weakening, redefinition, and, for the most part, abandonment of Jewish law…. Eventually, Jewish Christians, called Ebionites, came to be regarded as heretics”.  (Craig A. Evans – Professor Acadia, Princeton)

But the animosity involved… regarding the name “Judas”… is also related to the fact that all Jews – in fact, the very name “Jew” itself – come from the designation “House of Judah”…that is, “Judas” or “Jew” in Greek.  Therefore, a slur on the name of the one ends up, in fact, in a slur on the whole people.  (Robert Eisenman – Professor California State, Oxford)

Matthew’s general rhetorical in the gospel is liberally strewn with judgment and with hostility towards the outsider, the non-believer, the unconverted Jew; this is a still darker aspect of the legacy of the first gospel.  (Rowan Williams – Professor Oxford and Cambridge)

What to make, for example, of the Aryan Christ of the German Christians of the Nazi period?  Some images of Jesus so distort the Christ of the Gospels as to be unrecognizable as him.  They are an ideological abuse of Jesus, putting him to uses wholly inconsistent with the figure to be found in the Gospels.  (Richard Bauckham – Professor St Andrews, Cambridge)

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? (Matthew 3:7)

[Jesus talking to the Pharisees and the teachers in the law]  Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.  (Luke 11: 47-51)

“as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive”.  (Deuteronomy 20:16)

[Paul on the Jews]  For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.  (1 Thess. 2 14-16)

For the most part, the appearance of individual units of memory within the Gospels fit the hypothesis that they were communicated orally in community contexts and were both selected and shaped by the continuing experiences of communities.  Stores of Jesus in conflict with Jewish leaders, for example, probably reflect the early church’s conflicts with rival teachers in formative Judaism (see Mark 2:1 – 3:6).  (Luke Timothy Johnson – Professor Candler, Yale)

The picture of Jesus we have is based on religious canonical documents that, to a large extent, have been rewritten so that the family and those close to Jesus have been written out and a huge amount of anti-Semitism written in… [Jesus] is made to appear as if he doesn’t like his own people.  He says things like “A prophet is never accepted in his own house”, “who are my mother and brothers?”.  These are polemics – the Greco [i.e. Greek] idea to put your own ideas into the mouth of an important person to give them credibility.  Jesus is made to like Roman Centurions – and to praise them – and the centurions are presented as not wanting to execute Jesus, which is unrealistic and a complete invention.  Real Jewish sympathisers would never write those sorts of things.   [very slight paraphrasing in the second from last sentence]  (Robert Eisenman – Professor California State, Oxford)

The shape of Matthew’s Gospel suggests that it was composed in the context of this rivalry between those who followed Jesus as teacher and Lord, and those who followed Moses and the interpretation of the Pharisees.  Matthew opens up Mark’s tight focus on discipleship to a wider context involving the struggle of the church to define itself with respect to a more dominant form of Judaism.  (Luke Timothy Johnson – Professor Candler, Yale)

John’s portrayal of the Jews, who are made to represent, fatefully, the world that rejects God.  The consequences of this blunt characterisation have been evidenced in the powerful strain of anti-Semitism that has run through Christian history.  (Luke Timothy Johnson – Professor Candler, Yale)

After 70….doctrines hardened on both sides as Christians and Jews defined themselves in opposition to one another, and Christians developed the “teaching of contempt” about Jews that was to cause so much misery and bloodshed until, detached from its Christian setting, it culminated in the Holocaust.  (Norman Solomon – Oxford)

Polemic to a large extent is not about attempting to convince the enemy.  It is about attempting to convince your own people not to be attracted by the enemy… Polemics is kind of defensive.  The form it takes is that the other guys do
not know what they are talking about.  They are the recipients of true religion but they have distorted it.  (Guy Stroumsa – Professor Oxford)

[Christian view of Jewish history]  Christianity is responsible for
an entirely different perspective and periodization. Nineteenth-century
scholars, especially in Germany, used the term “late Judaism” (Spsuyudentaim) to designate the religion and society of the Jews after Ezra or after the Maccabees. The term disparaged, and was meant to disparage. the Judaism it designated. The Judaism of the Second Temple period was “late” because it was approaching
the end of its appointed time
and was about to relinquish to Christianity
whatever value it still retained. “Late Judaism” was a sterile, lifeless organism, waiting
in vain for the infusion of spirituality that only Christianity could provide
After the birth of Christianity, “late Judaism” lost all importance and could
be ignored by scholars and Christians alike. The fact this Judaism continued to
flourish and develop for millennia after the period of “late Judaism” did not
affect the currency of the term, because the term derived not from historical
analysis but from theological belief.  (Shaye Cohen – Professor Harvard)

Generally speaking, the common holy texts not only did not bind the Jews and Christians in this and other periods, but just the opposite-they created a bitter controversy and separation that increased continually and escalated resulting in the horrible tragic history that dominated the last two thousand years. (Howard Abraham –
Professor University Missouri)

increasing awareness in theological circles of the perils of relying on the literal text of the New Testament and that the final text of the Gospels was edited long after the events described; that the authors were concerned with denigrating those Jews who did not follow Jesus; that they were concerned with vindicating the Romans, whose goodwill they were seeking. Jews and Christians also possessed different texts of the Bible and consequently Christian interpretation depended on the Septuagint (LXX), a Greek translation from the second century BCE, while the rabbis relied on the Hebrew Masoretic Text.2 The LXX was used originally by Jews living in the Diaspora but was taken over by the early church.  (Howard Abraham – Professor University Missouri)

The traditional Christian teaching of contempt for Judaism, resulting from the Adversus Iudaeos literature, has understandably reduced the desire among the majority of rabbinic scholars to take patristics seriously…. … … [however] Jews and Christians need to be reminded that the history of their relationship is not simply one of condemnation and contempt. There is an additional story to be told of the Jewish–Christian encounter. Rather than simply breeding contempt, familiarity has also generated admiration and respect. On an exegetical level, at least, Jews and Christians took into account the interpretations that each developed, sometimes appropriating the others’ interpretations and incorporating them into their own exegetical tradition. (Edward Kessler – Cambridge) [italics added]

John Chrysostom 4th Adversus Judaeos (Greek kata Ioudaious, “against the Jews” or “against the Judeans”) are a series of fourth century homilies by John
Chrysostom (deemed a saint by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches)

Paul Johnson makes great play with the anti-semitism of Tsarist Russia, which was of
a degree of nastiness unknown elsewhere. He quotes a chilling little
conversation between the Tsarist Minister, Count Witte – by Russian standards a
liberal and a moderniser – and Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, in the
course of which Witte remarked: ‘I used to say to the late Tsar, Alexander III,
“Majesty, if it were possible to drown the six or seven million Jews in the
Black Sea, I would be absolutely in favour of that. But if it is not possible,
one must let them live.’” Witte’s reasoning was that the Jews were poor,
therefore filthy, therefore rightly loathed by the Russians, who had better
allow the Jews to prosper a little so that they might clean themselves up. That
was the view of a man who described himself as a friend of the Jews. It takes
little imagination to see how easy it was to incite their enemies to violence
against them. (Alan Ryan – Professor Oxford – from review of “A History of the
Jews” by Paul Johnson)

Jewish history after AD 73 is substantially the history of anti-semitism: wherever the Jews lived, they existed on sufferance. They might run no great risk of violence or expulsion for considerable periods: none the less, under Islam as much as under Christian rule, they were required to endure continuous humiliation as the price of being permitted to exist at all. Jews might not carry arms, even though they were more likely than anyone to be the victims of assault and robbery; they were forbidden to wear costume appropriate only to free men; sometimes they were forced to wear special hats, coloured patches on their clothes; always, they had to pay additional taxes in return for the dubious protection of their secular rulers. (Alan Ryan – Professor Oxford)

The work of the non-mad ordinary German in all this unnerves most people because they rightly fear that they might have done exactly what all those co-operative and dutiful civil servants did.  (Alan Ryan – Professor Oxford)

Alan showed in this work that Paul was a Jewish mystic, and it was his experience of
the post-resurrection Jesus as the manifestation of the Kavod, that turned him
into a Christian and a theologian. Alan wrote this book as a Jewish scholar
trying to clarify Jewish history from the writings of Paul and understand Paul
as a Jew. How do you explain his conversion from this perspective? He was
writing against scholars of Jewish studies who “frequently disparage
Paul’s writings, as if to say ‘Nothing serious can be concluded about Judaism
from such a person’” (p. xv). Alan felt that this was nonsense. He wrote,
“This is a pretext for ignoring writing with disturbing evaluations of
Judaism” (p. xv), and “To be used effectively, the NT should be read
with allowance for its anti-Pharisaic and sometimes anti-Jewish tone. Almost
every page of the NT reveals intolerance of its Jewish milieu that is borne of
an intensely aggravated family conflict
” (p. xvi).  [Italics added] (from obituary of Alan Segal – Professor Columbia)

[In the light of his point that Jews were expecting a divine messiah…] Christians will no longer be able to claim that Jews wilfully, as a body, rejected Jesus as God.  Such beliefs about Jews have led to a deep, painful, and bloody history of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism.  Many ancient Jews simply accepted Jesus as God, and they did so because their beliefs and expectations led them there.  Others, while holding similar ideas about God, found it hard to believe that this particular, seemingly undistinguished, Jew was the one they were waiting for.  (Daniel Boyarin and Jack Miles – Boyarin Professor Berkley)

One of the features of much recent historical Jesus study is a strong conviction that Jesus should be seen in a Jewish context.  This is not of course a novel observation, and both Jewish and Christian scholars have long insisted on its importance.  It has, however, come into sharper focus under the influence of Christian self-reflection following the Holocaust and in the light of greater appreciation of the diversity of Second Temple Judaism.  As a result, scholars are now much less willing to paint a bleak picture that faith, or to see Jesus only in contrast to it.  A sometimes polemical insistence of the exceptionality of Jesus vis-à-vis a stereotyped and monolithic Judaism is no longer the order of the day.  (James Carleton Paget – Cambridge)

Later, when Christians became dominant, Jews remained as provocative “others” who represented non-acceptance of the Gospel and were therefore very vulnerable to discrimination and persecution.  The terrible history of anti-Semitism began, the soil in which eventually the Nazi attempt at genocide in the Shoah or Holocaust took root.  (David F. Ford – Professor Cambridge)

Anti-Semitism is coeval [i.e. same date of origin] with the appearance of Christianity as a distinct religion: Jews were persecuted from the time of Rome’s conversion from paganism and throughout the Christian Middle Ages, while medieval anti-Semitism
was reproduced In the Reformation by Luther. However, while anti
Semitism has ancient Christian roots, the project of exterminating Jews Is
modern. If the Holocaust required modern technology and the modern state
in order to be executed, it also required the modern idea of race to be
conceived.  Nazi anti-Semitism was a fusion of modern racist ideology with
a Christian tradition of demonology. Eschatological myth and perverted science came together to produce a crime without precedent in history. (John Gray – Professor London School of Economics)

Always a tremendous booster of science, Hitler
was much impressed by vulgarised Darwinism and by theories of eugenics that had
developed from Enlightenment philosophies of materialism. He used Christian
antisemitic demonology in his persecution of Jews, and the churches
collaborated with him to a horrifying degree. But it was the Nazi belief in
race as a scientific category that opened the way to a crime without parallel
in history. Hitler’s world-view was that of many semi-literate people in
interwar Europe, a hotchpotch of counterfeit science and animus towards
religion. There can be no reasonable doubt that this was a type of atheism, or
that it helped make Nazi crimes possible. (John Gray – Professor London School
of Economics)

Jesus was executed in a land under Roman military occupation and by the Roman authorities.  Only the romans were allowed to crucify and only the Romans had the authority to condemn a man to death.  Crucifixion was a punishment for those who threated the political status quo, not those accused of theological heresy.  Of course, in first-century Palestine, as today, theology is politics.  A charismatic leader who proclaimed a kingdom with God and not Caesar at its head was an immediate threat to the authorities.  And as with all occupations, there were local stooges who acted on behalf of the Romans.  But no one was in any doubt who was ultimately in charge.  The romans were responsible for the death of Christ.  All of which makes the story of Pontius Pilate washing his hands of the decision to execute a political / theological troublemaker entirely implausible . Brutal crowd suppression was Pilate’s speciality.  Governors of troublesome outposts of the Roman Empire were hard-nosed career politicians who would not flinched form taking a man’s life before breakfast.  … moreover, given that much of the anti-Jewish rhetoric of the Gospels was written after Roman legions had returned to crush the Jewish rebellion of AD 66, some have seen the desire to blame “the Jews” as whitewashing Roman responsibility so as not to antagonise Roman power… Christians have too often preferred an anti-Semitic lie to a disturbingly relevant truth:  Jesus was destroyed by the logic of empire.  (Giles Fraser – Church of England priest, Oxford)

The Fathers of the Christian Church, for all their preaching of love, opening expressed a hatred of Jews and Judaism which added a cosmic dimension to the anti-Semitism occasionally fond in pagan classical authors; the Jews had “killed Christ”.  (Norman Solomon – Oxford)

Finally there is that that pernicious connection between Judas and anti-Semitism, a subject so vast that we can only touch on it here but one that deserves some sustained attention if for no other reason than to help explain how a selfless act of love, such as Jesus dying on a cross for others, can have such diabolic side effects.  (William Klassen – Professor Jerusalem, Cambridge)

Some Jewish communities (such as at Mainz) chose to kill each other rather than suffering death at the hands of the crusaders. Other Jewish martyrdoms caused both by the crusaders (1096, 1147 1188), and by locals who believed that Jewish communities were behind the murder of children in order to use their blood in their worship services, the desecration of the communion host, and even the Black Death (form 1348).  For example Iphraim ben Yaakov (1132-1200) describes how about forty Jews were killed at Blois [France] following such accusations. They were given the choice of saving their lives if they left their religion and accepted Christianity.  Yaakov describes how they refused “even when beaten and tortured”, encouraging each other to “remain steadfast and die for the sanctification of God’s name”.  (Jolyon Mitchell – Professor Edinbrugh, Dartmouth, Cambridge)

“the Black Death of 1348-50…pogroms of Jews were a common expression of a search for scapegoats or those guilty of spreading the plague”.  (JM Roberts – Oxford)

As Alexandra Walsham explains in her work Charitable Hatred (2006), intolerance, and indeed persecution, were viewed as positive values, both theologically and eschatologically, in the sense that they were positive actions taken in order to remedy the effects of a false or harmful faith.  Forcing people to believe in a particular set of religious truths was a form of Christian love, a “charitable hatred” that brought wayward believers back into the fold and potentially saved souls from damnation. (from “Contesting the Reformation” by C. Scott Dixon – Queen’s University Belfast, Oxford)

“The ultimate origins of what came to be called the “Holcaust” lay back well before 1901, in deep-rooted anti-semitism…Overall, though complete figures may never be available, it is probable that between 5 and 6 million Jews were killed, whether in the gas-chambers and crematoria of the concentration camps, by shootings and extermination on the spot in east and south-east Europe, or by overwork and hunger.”  (JM Roberts – Oxford)

“…bloody history of ecclesiastical anti-Semitism, culminating in the Holocaust”.  (Joel Marcus – Professor Duke, Princeton)

Historians have a special obligation to elucidate the historical causes of the death of Jesus, because Christian anti-Judaism has time and again been nourished by the charge that “the Jews” killed Jesus.  (Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz – Professors Heidelberg and Utrecht)

Italian Fascism and German-Austrian Nazism were dissimilar and profoundly unstable amalgams of diverse ideological influences, within which Christian ideas, both Catholic and (in the case of Germany) Protestant in origin, had a significant presence.  (Martin Conway – Oxford)

He [Steigmann-Gall author of "The Holy Reich"] is undeniably right to point out how much Nazism owed to German Christian, especially Protestant, concepts and how much support it gained from a majority of Christians in Germany.  (Martin Conway – Oxford)

priests salute Christianity and Antisemitism

The engagement of substantial numbers of Protestant laity and clergy in the Nazi cause reflected the deeply rooted aspiration in Protestant ranks for some coming together of religion and nation.  Hitler acknowledged and to some extent shared those feelings.  The anti-Christian currents within Nazism were largely side-lined at least until the ascendancy of the SS in the final years of the war, and the regime made frequent recourse to the language and symbolism of a tacitly Protestant but largely deconfessionalised Christianity.  (Martin Conway – Oxford)

gott mit uns Christianity and Antisemitism

Gott mit uns “God with us” Nazi belt buckle

“One leading Protestant churchman, Bishop Martin Sasse published a compendium of Martin Luther’s antisemitic vitriol shortly after Kristallnacht’s orgy of anti-Jewish violence. In the foreword to the volume, he applauded the burning of the synagogues and the coincidence of the day: ‘On November 10, 1938, on Luther’s birthday, the synagogues are burning in Germany.’ The German people, he urged, ought to heed these words ‘of the greatest antisemite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews.’”  (Daniel Johah Goldhagen – Harvard)

nazi crucifix Christianity and Antisemitism

[from blog entry discussing teaching students about Nazi theology]  When I was an assistant professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, I used to teach [a course about] Nazi theology. My students read sermons by Nazi theologians arguing that Jews were evil and were responsible for killing Jesus. They also read a book called “Theologians Under Hitler” by Robert P. Erickson, who tried to explain how and why Christian thinkers could come to believe that exterminating Jews was somehow Christ-like.  I am not a Nazi. I was not teaching Nazi theology as the truth. I was teaching it as propaganda, just like this Albany High School teacher was doing. My purpose was not to make my students sympathetic to Nazism. My purpose was to unsettle them. And to teach them something along the way. I had two goals when teaching this material.  First, I wanted my students to realize that smart Christians with doctoral degrees supported the Holocaust. Second, I wanted them to grapple with the implications of this fact on their own religious commitments. Do Christians today have any responsibility to know this history and to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again? If so, how can they exercise that responsibility without coming to understand the contours of Nazi thought?  But instead of grappling with these questions, my students almost universally tried to side-step them. The Nazis were not Christians, they told me confidently, because Christians would never kill Jews just for being Jews. Case closed. Time to move on to more comfortable topics.  What I witnessed in Atlanta, and what we are seeing today in Albany, is a failure of imagination. My students were so locked into their current circumstances that they couldn’t imagine things being different in a different place and time.  (Stephen Prothero – Professor Boston, previously Harvard)  [italics added]

[England in the later middle ages]  Jews were to wear distinguishing badges on their clothing  (John Arnold Birkbeck University of London)

In Hungary anti-Semitic acts became a feature of 1933, with anti-Jewish demonstrations on the university campuses, where Hungarian students infected by Nazi propaganda demanded that their Jewish co-students be restricted to the benches at the back of the lecture hall.   (Martin Gilbert – Oxford)

hitler as messiah Christianity and Antisemitism

Hitler as saviour or messiah figure

Repeated burnings of the Talmud and its associated writings by Christian authorities in medieval Europe were meant to destroy the intellectual sustenance of Judaism.  (Charlotte Fonrobert and Martin Jaffee – Stanford and Professor Washington)

Among those murdered were as many as a quarter of a million Gypsies, tens of thousands of homosexuals, and tens of thousands of “mental defectives”.  Also murdered, often after the cruelties of tortures, were several million Soviet prisoners-of-war, shot or starved to death long after they had been captured and disarmed.  (Martin Gilbert – Oxford)

Vatican II [1962-1965] – Condemnation of the teaching that all Jews, everywhere, were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus.  Only in 1962.

Unimaginable though it may seem now, it is conceivable that even out of horrendous evil God may be trusted to bring good… Ultimately, the question of theodicy is about whether God was right to create at all, and it has been argued that that is simply unanswerable:  either one trusts that God knew what was involved and made a wise judgment, or one claims, impossibly, to have a superior viewpoint on the matter.  (David F. Ford – Professor Cambridge)

Example of present-day anti-Semitism in Lyon France

It would seem strange that no miraculous intervention prevented Auschwitz or Hiroshima, while the purposes apparently forwarded by some of the miracles acclaimed in traditional Christian faith seem trivial by comparison (Maurice Wiles – Professor Oxford)

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”4 “Woman,why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.  (John 2:1-11)

What is problematical about the title Kyrios [Lord] is that through it Jesus can be exalted to become a formal authority.  Human beings have an unquenchable need to give themselves absolute authorities.  The historian of religion and of Christianity shows that dedication to absolutised “Lords” can activate dangerous energy.  (Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz – Professors Heidelberg and Utrecht)

We often say that Auschwitz is inhuman. That it demonstrates a terrible
inhumanity. But we also have to face the fact that Auschwitz is human. This is
what we do. We are killers, like other animals. We are killers. And unlike many
other species, we actually prey upon and kill our own kind.  (Karen Armstrong)


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