Although Christian antisemitism
is considered to have started around the 12th century, its roots are attributed by some scholars to anti-Jewish
attitudes and polemic beginning with early Christianity
Christian anti-Judaic attitudes started to develop even before the end of the first century and even though there is evidence of continued Jewish-Christian interaction, including Christian participation in Sabbath worship. Anti-Judaic attitudes developed from early years of Christianity and persisted over the centuries, driven by numerous factors including theological differences, the Christian drive for converts, misunderstanding of Jewish beliefs and practices.
These attitudes persisted in Christian preaching, art and popular teaching for centuries. In certain countries it often led to civil and political discrimination against Jews and in some instances to physical attacks on Jews which resulted in death.
From time to time, European politics involved scapegoating of Jewish populations, sometimes due to cultural conflict, sometimes due to financial pressures of the populations, and sometimes for reasons of internal politics. Such episodes prompted or expanded anti-Semitic measures. Christian antisemitism ultimately played a dramatic role in the Nazi Third Reich, World War II and the Holocaust. 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...
However, many Popes, bishops and some Christian princes stepped up to protect Jews, although it was only in the mid-twentieth century that the Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations issued major statements repudiating this anti-Judaic theology and began a process of constructive Christian-Jewish interaction.
Many Christians do not consider anti-Judaism to be antisemitism, regarding anti-Judaism as a disagreement of religiously sincere and unemotional 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)
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.
Antecedents of Christian antisemitism
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 religious difficulties for Jews, who were prohibited from worshiping any other god then that of the Hebrew Bible. This created problems in the relations between Rome and its Jewish subjects, as well as for worshipers of Mithras, worshipers of Sabazius, and Christianity. In the case of Jews, this led to several revolts against Rome and severe persecutions by Rome as punishment. Though Romans inherited pagan antiphathetic to Jews and Judaism from the Greeks, their attitudes were not theological and could not be described as anti-Judaic. The Roman objection was essentially to the refusal of Jews to "bend the knee" to their Roman overlord.
Many of the early gentile converts to Christianity probably came from and shared this cultural bias. As gentile converts they also were not well acquainted with the internal life of the Jewish community. Hence they read many of the New Testament texts as condemnations of Judaism as such, rather than as internal differences which were commonplace within the Jewish community.
There have been philosophical differences between Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism
since the founding of Christianity. Christians acknowledge the roots of Christianity in Judaism. Some claim the entirety of Jewish religious heritage as its own, while interpreting it very differently.
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 also 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, it was decided that new gentile converts did not need to be circumcised (the Apostolic Decree of ), while requiring acceptance of 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 Christian's adherence to the Jewish law in relation to faith in Christ (see also Antinomianism, Law and Gospel, Pauline Christianity).
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. 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.
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), Akiba ben Joseph, and Ten Martyrs). From the reign of Nero onwards 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. In the third century systematic persecution of Christians began and lasted until Constantine's conversion to Christianity. In 390 Theodosius I made Christianity the state religion. While pagan cults and Manichaeism were suppressed, Judaism retained its legal status as a licit religion, though anti-Jewish violence still occurred. In the fifth century, some legal measures worsened the status of the Jews in the Roman Empire.
One of the main teachings of Christianity was the universal brotherhood of man - this was also emphasized in many classical teachings of the Ancient Greeks. Sometimes, Christian and other groups have viewed the Jewish emphasis on a "racial peoplehood" as a tribalistic view which stands in direct opposition to the universal brotherhood of man, and can often cause other groups to desire to create a similar "racial peoplehood" based on racial purity and putting the interests of their own particular "peoplehood" above all others in a type of Darwinian struggle for existence. One of the criticisms that some Christians and other groups have leveled towards Judaism is that its emphasis on "racial peoplehood" makes it easier for injustice or inequality to occur, even though the Jewish people generally take great pride in combating injustices. But, many Jewish people have taken great pride in their "peoplehood" and lack of assimilation, and consider themselves to be a people who must use their position to create a better and more just world. Various Jewish denominations differ on how they view intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews.
Jewish people have often contributed positively in many ways to civil rights movements that have attempted to eliminate racism or other forms of injustice. Many of the teachings of Jesus were aimed at eliminating prejudice based on "peoplehood" or economic power. And, also, the teachings of the Apostle Paul were aimed at reconciling the Greeks and the Jewish people, eliminating the old religious barriers. Many Jews contributed to the civil rights movements in the USA, including the feminist movement and the movement to integrate schools and other parts of society. Assimilation among other people is still a vibrant issue discussed among Jews and non-Jews today.
The assimilation of Jews into majority non-Jewish culture is perhaps the single issue where Christians and Jews differ most sharply. The conversion of a Jewish born person to Christianity may be seen by Jews as a scourge ("silent Holocaust") and by some Christians as a "blessing from God" for the salvation of a non-Christian for their conversion to Christianity.
New Testament rejection of Judaism
A number of passages in the New Testament may be considered as a rejection of Judaism given a certain interpretive approach. Among them are:
- the explication of the Jewish role in the Passion of Jesus. This is exemplified by I Thessalonians 2:14-15:
- For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judea; for you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men.
- the assertion that the Jewish covenant with God has been superseded by a New Covenant.
- criticisms of the Pharisees. (Matthew 23)
- criticisms of Jewish parochialism or particularism.
- criticisms of Jews being children of the devil and the like (John 8:44-47)
These elements of the New Testament have their origins in first-century history. Christianity began as a revision of Judaism. Many of Jesus's followers during his life were Jews, and it was even a matter of confusion, many years after his death, as to whether non-Jews could even be considered Christians at all, according to the way some interpret the Council of Jerusalem.
Although the Gospels offer accounts of confrontations and debates between Jesus and other Jews, such conflicts were common among Jews at the time. Scholars disagree on the historicity of the Gospels, and have offered different interpretations of the complex relationship between Jewish authorities and Christians before and following Jesus's death. These debates hinge on the meaning of the word "messiah," and the claims of Early Christians.
Rejection of Jesus as the Messiah
Christianity claims that Jesus was the Messiah which Judaism does not accept.
The Gospels claim that Jesus was a preacher, healer, and messiah. There is no reason to think Jesus would have come into conflict with Jewish authorities in first century Judea on account of his preaching and healing. However, claims that he was the Messiah was more controversial. The Hebrew word mashiyakh (משיח) typically signified a man, chosen by God or descended from a man chosen by God, to serve as a civil and military authority. If Jesus made this claim during his life, it is not surprising that many Jews, weary of Roman occupation, would have supported him as a liberator. It is also likely that Jewish authorities would have been cautious, out of fear of Roman reprisal.
Jesus was considered by Christians to be the Messiah, while for most Jews the death of Jesus would have been sufficient proof that he was not the Jewish Messiah. If early Christians preached that Jesus was about to return, it is virtually certain that Jewish authorities would have opposed them out of fear of Roman reprisal.
Such fears would have been well grounded: Jews revolted against the Romans in 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 the Land of Israel, which Hadrian renamed into Palestine to wipe out memory of Jews there.
At the time, Christianity was still considered a sect of Judaism, but the messianic claims alienated many Christians (including Jewish converts) and sharply deepened the schism.
Observance of Mosaic law
Another source of tension between early Christians and Jews was the question of observance of Mosaic Law. Early Christians were divided over the issue: Some Jewish Christians, argued that Christians were bound to observe Mosaic law, while Paul argued that not all of Mosaic Law applied to Christians. The issue was argued especially in the context of whether Gentile converts were obligated to undergo circumcision, which was a requirement for male Jews. The issue was hotly debated in the first century and settled at the Council of Jerusalem, in which Paul and Barnabas participated as representatives of the church at Antioch. The Council decided that Gentile converts were not subject to most Mosaic Law, including circumcision, but required them to stay away from eating meat with blood still on it, eating the meat of strangled animals, eating food offered to idols, and sexual immorality. See also Noahide Law and Proselyte.
Some scholars, influenced by Martin Luther, have interpreted Paul's writings as rejecting the validity of Jewish law. (See Antinomianism.) A small number of historians suggest that Paul accepted the authority of the law, but understood that it excluded non-Jews. This is not a generally accepted view. See Proselyte and New Perspective on Paul. An example of another view is represented by the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Judaizers:
- Paul, on the other hand, not only did not object to the observance of the Mosaic Law as long as it did not interfere with the liberty of the Gentiles but also he conformed to its prescriptions when occasion required (). Thus he shortly after [the Council of Jerusalem] circumcised Timothy and he was in the very act of observing the Mosaic ritual when he was arrested at Jerusalem (sqq.).
Conversion of Gentiles to Judaism
A common misunderstanding of Judaism and the Bible is the claim that although Gentiles could convert to Judaism
and thus be included, they could enter this covenant with God only by being Jewish. This is simply incorrect: see Proselyte
, Noahide Law, Council of Jerusalem and Christianity and Judaism
. Some say that by replacing the written law (the Torah
) with Christ as the sign of the covenant, Paul sought to transform Judaism into a universal religion. It is evident that Paul saw himself as a Jew, but other Jews rejected this universalism; 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 Jewish law, but they were few in number and often considered heretics
by the Church. One example is the Ebionites
, which, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia
, were "infected with Judaistic errors" (language which Jews find offensive); for instance, they denied the virgin birth
of Jesus, the physical Resurrection of Jesus
, and most of the books that were later canonized
as the New Testament
, see also "Judaizers
" (a term which Jews find offensive). For example, the Ethiopian Orthodox
are often accused of being Judaizers because they still observe Old Testament
teachings such as the Sabbath
, and conversely they accuse their opponents of residual Marcionism
. As late as the 4th century Church Father John Chrysostom
complained (see John Chrysostom#Sermons on Jews and Judaizing Christians
) that some Christians were still attending Jewish synagogues.
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.
During Jesus's life and at the time of his execution, the Pharisees were only one of several Jewish groups such as the Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes; indeed, some 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. (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.")
After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE the Pharisees emerged as the principal form of Judaism (also called "Rabbinic Judaism"). All major modern Jewish movements consider themselves descendants of Pharasaic Judaism; as such, Jews are especially sensitive to criticisms of "Pharisees" as a group.
At the same time that the Pharisees came to represent Judaism as a whole, Christianity came to seek, and attract, more non-Jewish converts than Jewish converts. Within a hundred years or so the majority of Christians were non-Jews without any significant knowledge of Judaism, although until about 1000 there was an active Jewish component of Christianity. Many of these Christians often read these passages not as internal debates among Jews but as the basis for a Christian rejection of Judaism.
Moreover, it was only during the Rabbinic era that Christianity would compete exclusively with Pharisees for converts and over how to interpret the Hebrew Bible (during Jesus's lifetime, the Sadducees were the dominant Jewish faction). Some scholars have argued that some passages of the Gospels were written (or re-written) at this time to emphasize conflict with the Pharisees. These scholars observe that the portrait of the Pharisees in the Gospels is strikingly different from that provided in Rabbinic sources, and suggest that New Testament Pharisees are a caricature and literary foil for Christianity. At a time when Christians were only seeking converts and had no political power in the Roman Empire and were in fact persecuted extensively, such a caricature may not have been in any meaningful sense "anti-Judaist." But once Christianity was established as the religion of the Empire and Christians enjoyed political domination over Europe, this caricature could be used to incite or justify oppression of Jews.
Some have also suggested that the Greek word Ioudaioi could also be translated "Judaeans", meaning in some cases specifically the Jews from Judaea, as opposed to people from Galilee or Samaria for instance.
In recent years teachers in most Christian denominations have begun to teach that readers should understand the New Testament's seeming attacks on Jews as specific charges aimed at certain Jewish leaders of that time, and upon general human attitude.
However, Professor Lillian C. Freudmann, author of Antisemitism in the New Testament (University Press of America, 1994) has published a detailed study of the treatment 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 liberal Christian scholars (including clergy), 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.
Presbyterian Office of Interfaith Relations
In May 2008, the Presbyterian Church (USA) issued a statement titled "Vigilance against anti-Jewish ideas and bias." This statement reports that "Examples of ... anti-Jewish theology can unfortunately be found in connection with PC(USA) General Assembly overtures, such as the overture on Confronting Christian Zionism, adopted by the 216th General Assembly in 2004."
It also states: "When our analysis or critique of the Israeli-Palestinian situation employs language or draws on sources that have anti-Jewish overtones, or clearly makes use of classic Christian anti-Jewish ideas, we cloud complicated issues with the rhetoric of ignorance or subliminal attitudes, or the language of hate, and undermine our advocacy for peace and justice. Critical questions such as ending the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel or the future of Jerusalem are complex and difficult. It does not help to import stereotypes, anti-Jewish motifs or classic ideas of Christian anti-Jewish theology into our discussions."
The Church Fathers
A number of writings by the Church Fathers
have been used to justify persecution of Jews. Many of these were recognized as saints by the Church. None of them advocated physical violence or murder, sometimes arguing, like Augustine
, that the Jews should be left alive and suffering as a perpetual reminder of their murder of Christ
- Eusebius of Caesarea, in 325, blames the calamities which befell the Jewish nation on the Jews' role in the death of Jesus: "that from that time seditions and wars and mischievous plots followed each other in quick succession, and never ceased in the city and in all Judea until finally the siege of Vespasian overwhelmed them. Thus the divine vengeance overtook the Jews for the crimes which they dared to commit against Christ.
- Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (340-397) - A bishop was accused of instigating the burning of a synagogue by an anti-Semitic mob, and Emperor Theodosius was preparing to order the bishop to rebuild it. Ambrose discouraged the Emperor from taking this step because it would appear to show special favoritism to the Jews: (1) no action was taken against those responsible for burning the houses of various wealthy individuals in Rome; (2) no action was taken against those responsible for the recent burning of the house of the Bishop of Constantinople; (3) Jews had caused several Christian basilicas to be burnt during the reign of Julian, yet had never been asked to make reparation, and some of those basilicas were still not rebuilt. Ambrose asked that Christian monies not be used to build a place of worship for unbelievers, heretics or Jews, and reminded Ambrose that some Christian laity had said of Emperor Maximus, "he has become a Jew" because of the edict Maximus issued regarding the burning of a Roman synagogue. Ambrose did not oppose punishing those directly responsible for burning the synagogue. He halted the celebration of the Eucharist until Theodosius agreed to end the investigation without requiring reparations to be made by the bishop.
- Augustine of Hippo in Book 18, Chapter 46, of The City of God wrote "The Jews who slew Him [Jesus], and would not believe in Him, because it behoved Him to die and rise again, were yet more miserably wasted by the Romans, and utterly rooted out from their kingdom, where aliens had already ruled over them, and were dispersed through the lands (so that indeed there is no place where they are not), and are thus by their own Scriptures a testimony to us that we have not forged the prophecies about Christ.
- Augustine deems the survival and the scattering of the Jews as willed by God for them to give testimony everywhere that the prophecies that Christians interpret as proving that Jesus is the Messiah are no Christian invention, being preserved also by what he calls the Church's enemies, the Jews. Thus, he says, the survival and scattering of the Jews fulfills the prophecy: "My God hath shown me concerning mine enemies, that Thou shalt not slay them, lest they should at last forget Thy law: disperse them in Thy might."
- Ephraim the Syrian wrote polemics against Jews in the fourth century, including the repeated accusation that Satan dwells among them as a partner. These writings were directed at Christians who were being proselytized by Jews and who Ephraim feared were slipping back into the religion of 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.
- In his Dialog of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew, the Christian scholar Justin Martyr advanced arguments for the truth of Christianity and wrote to his imaginary Jewish opponent: "You think that these words refer to the stranger and the proselytes, but in fact they refer to us who have been illumined by Jesus. For Christ would have borne witness even to them; but now you are become twofold more the children of Hell, as He said Himself.
- Saint Jerome (374-419) - He denounced Jews as "Judaic serpents of whom Judas was the model". In his The Jews in the Roman Empire (Les Juifs dan L'Empire Romain) [Is this really a work by Jerome, or a modern history?] he wrote: "The Jews seek nothing but to have children, possess riches and be healthy. They seek all earthly things, but think nothing of heavenly things; for this reason they are mercenaries."
- Saint John Chrysostom (c. 344 - 407) - wrote of the Jews and of Judaizers in eight homilies Adversus Judaeos, Against The Jews (or Against the Judaizers).
- "Shall I tell you of their plundering, their covetousness, their abandonment of the poor, their thefts, their cheating in trade? the whole day long will not be enough to give you an account of these things. But do their festivals have something solemn and great about them? They have shown that these, too, are impure." (Homily I, VII, 1)
- "But before I draw up my battle line against the Jews, I will be glad to talk to those who are members of our own body, those who seem to belong to our ranks although they observe the Jewish rites and make every effort to defend them. Because they do this, as I see it, they deserve a stronger condemnation than any Jew." (HOMILY IV, II, 4)
- "Are you Jews still disputing the question? Do you not see that you are condemned by the testimony of what Christ and the prophets predicted and which the facts have proved? But why should this surprise me? That is the kind of people you are. From the beginning you have been shameless and obstinate, ready to fight at all times against obvious facts." (HOMILY V, XII, 1)
- Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (467-533) - In his "Writings", written about 510 CE, he states "Hold most firmly and doubt not that not all the pagans, but also all the Jews, heretic and schismatics who depart from the present life outside the Catholic Church, are about to go into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (See also: Extra ecclesiam nulla salus.)
The Great Thursday liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church uses the expression "impious and law-breaking people", and also speaks of "the swarm of deicides, the lawless people of the Jews", and, referring to "the gathering of the Jews", prays: "But give them, Lord, their requital, because they plotted against you in vain.
The Emperor Constantine the Great
"... it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul. ... Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.
Theodoret's Ecclesiastical History records The Epistle of the Emperor Constantine, concerning the matters transacted at the Council, addressed to those Bishops who were not present:
"It was, in the first place, declared improper to follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this holy festival, because, their hands having been stained with crime, the minds of these wretched men are necessarily blinded. ... Let us, then, have nothing in common with the Jews, who are our adversaries. ... Let us ... studiously avoiding all contact with that evil way. ... For how can they entertain right views on any point who, after having compassed the death of the Lord, being out of their minds, are guided not by sound reason, but by an unrestrained passion, wherever their innate madness carries them. ... lest your pure minds should appear to share in the customs of a people so utterly depraved. ... Therefore, this irregularity must be corrected, in order that we may no more have any thing in common with those parricides and the murderers of our Lord. ... no single point in common with the perjury of the Jews.
The Emperor Leo I
Emperor Leo I
compiled a code of law, called the New Constitutions of Leo
, Constitution LV: "Jews shall live in accordance with the rites of Christianity. Those who formerly were invested with Imperial authority promulgated various laws with reference to the Hebrew people, who, once nourished by Divine protection, became renowned, but are now remarkable for the calamities inflicted upon them because of their contumacy towards Christ and God; and these laws, while regulating their mode of life, compelled them to read the Holy Scriptures, and ordered them not to depart from the ceremonies of their worship. They also provided that their children should adhere to their religion, being obliged to do so as well by the ties of blood, as on account of the institution of circumcision. These are the laws which I have already stated were formerly enforced throughout the Empire. But the Most Holy Sovereign from whom We are descended, more concerned than his predecessors for the salvation of the Jews, instead of allowing them (as they did) to obey only their ancient laws, attempted, by the interpretation of prophesies and the conclusions which he drew from them, to convert them to the Christian religion, by means of the vivifying water of baptism. He fully succeeded in his attempts to transform them into new men, according to the doctrine of Christ, and induced them to denounce their ancient doctrines and abandon their religious ceremonies, such as circumcision, the observance of the Sabbath, and all their other rites. But although he, to a certain extent, overcame the obstinacy of the Jews, he was unable to force them to abolish the laws which permitted them to live in accordance with their ancient customs. Therefore We, desiring to accomplish what Our Father failed to effect, do hereby annul all the old laws enacted with reference to the Hebrews, and We order that they shall not dare to live in any other manner than in accordance with the rules established by the pure and salutary Christian Faith. And if anyone of them should be proved to have neglected to observe the ceremonies of the Christian religion, and to have returned to his former practices, he shall pay the penalty prescribed by the law for apostates.
Pope Gregory I
Not all early Christians were antisemitic though. Some, such as Pope Gregory I
, spoke out on the antisemitism of their day. What follows are some of this pontiff's actions taken or words spoken against antisemitism:
- "For it is necessary to gather those who are at odds with the Christian religion the unity of faith by meekness, by kindness, by admonishing, by persuading, lest these...should be repelled by threats and terrors. They ought, therefore, to come together to hear from you the Word of God in a kindly frame of mind, rather than stricken with dread, result of a harshness that goes beyond due limits." (Synan, The Popes and the Jews in the Middle Ages, p.45)
- June 591 "Censure of Virgil, bishop of Arles, and Theodore, bishop of Marseille, for having baptized Jews by force. They are to desist. (Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.4)
- November 602 "Admonition to Paschasius, bishop of Naples, to ensure that the Jews are not disturbed in the celebration of their religious festivals." (The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.23)
- "TO PASCASIUS, BISHOP OF NAPLES: Those who, with sincere intent, desire to lead people outside the Christian religion to the correct faith, ought to make the effort by means of what is pleasant, not with what is harsh, lest opposition drive afar the mind of men whom reasoning...could have attracted. Those who act otherwise...demonstrate that they are concerned with their own enterprises, rather than with those of God!
- Now, the Jews dwelling in Naples have registered a complaint with Us, asserting that certain people are attempting, in an unreasonable fashion, to restrain them from some of the solemnities connected with their own feast days, as it has been lawful for them to observe or celebrate these up to now, and for their forefathers from long ages past...For of what use is this, when...it avails nothing toward their faith and conversion?...One must act, therefore, in such a way that...they might desire to follow us rather than to fly from us...Rather let them enjoy their lawful liberty to observe and to celebrate their festivities, as they have enjoyed this up until now." (Synan, 217).
(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.
Later Christian writers
Some later Christian writers have antisemitic statements in their writings. However, other Christians spoke out against antisemitism. What follows is a sampling of writings, words, etc. of those who advocated and those who condemned antisemitism:
- Pope John XVIII 1007: "The Jews of France, victims of persecution, are taken under papal protection."(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.34)
- Pope Alexander II:
- 1063 "Praise for Winfred, archbishop of Narbonne, for defending the Jews."
- 1063 "Praise for Berengar, viscount of Narbonne, for protecting the Jews."
- 1065 "Admonition to Landulf, lord of Benevento, that the conversion of Jews is not to be obtained by force." [Source for all quotes on this pope: (The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.35,36,37)]
- Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (letter to Henry I, Archbishop of Mainz, 1146) "Is it not a far better triumph for the Church to convince and convert the Jews than to put them all to the sword? Has that prayer which the Church offers for the Jews...been instituted in vain?" (Carroll, Warren; The Glory of Christendom, 62).
- Thomas of Monmouth, a monk in the Norwich Benedictine monastery, wrote in 1173 a detailed anti-Semitic tractate, called The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich, holding that Jews tortured to death a Christian child during Passover.
- Pope Innocent III 1198-1216
- Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), not imposing, he said, his own judgment but rather urging the judgment of the experts, declared that, "as the laws say, the Jews by reason of their fault are sentenced to perpetual servitude and thus the lords of the lands in which they dwell may take things from them as though they were their own — with, nonetheless, this restraint observed that the necessary subsidies of life in no way be taken from them.
- Pope Gregory IX
- 6 April 1233 "Mandate, if facts are established, to the archbishops and bishops of France to induce the Christians in their dioceses to stop persecuting the Jews, who had complained to the pope that they were being maltreated and tortured by certain lords, imprisoned and left to die. The Jews are willing to forsake usury. They are to be set free and are not to be injured in person or in property."
- 3 May 1235 "Protection provided to Jews by standard formula of Sicut Judeis."
- 17 August 1236 "List of charges against Emperor Frederick II includes the "matter of the Jewish communities of which certain churches were deprived."
- 5 September 1236 "Mandate to Gerald de Malemort, archbishop of Bordeaux, Peter, bishop of Saintes, John Builloti, bishop of Angoulême, John de Melun, bishop of Poitiers, Hugo, bishop of Sees, William de Saint-Mere-Eglise, bishop of Avranches, Peter de Colmieu, bishop-elect of Rouen, Juhellus de Mathefelon, archbishop of Tours, Geoffroy de Loudon, bishop of Le Mans, William de Beaumont, bishop of Angers, Alan, bishop of Rennes, Robertus, bishop of Nantes, Ramilf, bishop of Quimper, and Philip Berruyer, archbishop-elect of Bourges to force the crusaders of their dioceses who had killed and robbed Jews to provide proper satisfaction for the crimes perpetrated against the Jews and for the property stolen from them. They had complained to the Pope."
- 5 September 1236 "Request to Louis IX, king of France, to punish the crusaders, murderers and despoilers of the Jews, and to compel them to make restitution." [Source for all quotes on this pope: (The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.143,154,162,163,165)]
- Pope Gregory X: Letter on Jews, (1271-76) - Against the Blood Libel "And most falsely do these Christians claim that the Jews have secretly and furtively carried away these children and killed them, and that the Jews offer sacrifice from the heart and blood of these children, since their law in this matter precisely and expressly forbids Jews to sacrifice, eat, or drink the blood, or to eat the flesh of animals having claws. This has been demonstrated many times at our court by Jews converted to the Christian faith: nevertheless very many Jews are often seized and detained unjustly because of this. We decree, therefore, that Christians need not be obeyed against Jews in a case or situation of this type, and we order that Jews seized under such a silly pretext be freed from imprisonment, and that they shall not be arrested henceforth on such a miserable pretext, unless-which we do not believe-they be caught in the commission of the crime. We decree that no Christian shall stir up anything new against them, but that they should be maintained in that status and position in which they were in the time of our predecessors, from antiquity till now."
- Geoffrey Chaucer (1343?-1400) wrote in "The Prioress's Tale" of his Canterbury Tales of a devout little Christian child who was murdered by Jews affronted at his singing a hymn as he passed through the Jewry, or Jewish quarter, of a city in Asia:
- Our primal foe, the serpent Sathanas,
- Who has in Jewish heart his hornets' nest,
- Swelled arrogantly: "O Jewish folk, alas!
- Is it to you a good thing, and the best,
- That such a boy walks here, without protest,
- In your despite and doing such offense
- Against the teachings that you reverence?"
- From that time forth the Jewish folk conspired
- Out of the world this innocent to chase;
- A murderer they found, and thereto hired,
- Who in an alley had a hiding-place;
- And as the child went by at sober pace,
- This cursed Jew did seize and hold him fast,
- And cut his throat, and in a pit him cast.
- I say, that in a cesspool him they threw,
- Wherein these Jews did empty their entrails.
- O cursed folk of Herod, born anew,
- How can you think your ill intent avails?
- Murder will out, 'tis sure, nor ever fails,
- And chiefly when God's honour vengeance needs.
- A considerable body of critical and scholarly opinion holds that this speech, in the mouth of the Prioress, represents an ironic inversion of Chaucer's own sentiments: that is, the Prioress is seen as a hypocrite whose cruelty and bigotry belies her conventionally pious pose — a situation typical of the indeterminacy of Chaucer's intentions.
- Pope Martin V
- He declared in 1419: "Whereas the Jews are made in the image of God and a remnant of them will one day be saved, and whereas they have besought our protection: following in the footsteps of our predecessors we command that they be not molested in their synagogues; that their laws, rights, and customs be not assailed; that they be not baptized by force, constrained to observe Christian festivals, nor to wear new badges, and they be not hindered in their business relations with Christians" http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08386a.htm
- After the Austrian and German Jews appealed to him, he spoke in their favor in 1420 and "in 1422, confirmed the ancient privileges of their race" (Ibid.)
- Martin Luther, founder of Lutheranism, a Christian denomination, 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 and wrote in his book On the Jews and their Lies that they were "venomous beasts, vipers, disgusting scum, canders, devils incarnate. 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." It is to be noted that the many Lutheran churches and councils across the world have disassociated themselves from these statements. (See Luther and antisemitism)
- Pope Clement VIII (1536-1605). "All the world suffers from the usury of the Jews, their monopolies and deceit. They have brought many unfortunate people into a state of poverty, especially the farmers, working class people and the very poor. Then, as now, Jews have to be reminded intermittently that they were enjoying rights in any country since they left Palestine and the Arabian desert, and subsequently their ethical and moral doctrines as well as their deeds rightly deserve to be exposed to criticism in whatever country they happen to live." citation lacking
The Jews' expulsion from England
Edward I of England
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.
The Jews' expulsion from Spain
In 1481 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 years later in 1492, declared that all Jews in their territories should either convert to Catholicism or leave the country. While some converted, many others left for Portugal
(including the Papal States
), the Netherlands
, the Ottoman Empire
, and North Africa
. Many of those who had fled to Portugal (where, by then they constituted an estimated 1/3 of the population), were forcibly converted in 1496 rather than face martyrdom (exile was not offered as a third option as it had been in Spain 6 years earlier). Some sources claim that between four and eight thousand Jews who had formally converted were burnt alive by the Spanish Inquisition
based on the accusation that they were still secretly practicing Judaism
Inquisitions in India
The Goan Inquisition was established in India in the year 1552. The inquisition persecuted many Indian communities of Hindus
, as well as the large population of Jews in the Konkan
region. They were accused of "crimes" of different kinds, such as blasphemies, impiety, sodomy, necromancy and witchcraft. Participation in “superstitious assemblies” (Jewish Shabbats) were enough to cause a victim to be burnt at the stake. If he confessed at the last moment, and was "truly sorry", he would be condemned to the garrote for capital punishment, and then burnt. Otherwise he would be burnt alive. The Goa Inquisition resulted in a massive depopulation of Indian Jewry in that region of the country by Christians.
Conflict under the Portuguese
The Jewish presence in the South Indian state of Kerala has been small but representative. The Portuguese
massacre of South Indian Jewry
in the 16th century led to a significant decline in Jewish settlements in the region. Eventually they sought refuge with the Hindu King of Cochin. In a letter written by the Portuguese to their king in 1513, permission is sought for their extermination. The Portuguese destroyed the remnants of the Jewish population in Kodungallore
. They also destroyed the Jewish settlement in Cochin
and damaged the Jewish synagogue there as well as their historical documents.
In AD 1662 the Dutch attacked Cochin but were driven out. The Jews were severely punished by the Portuguese for allegedly aiding the Dutch. In AD 1663 the Dutch returned and defeated the Portuguese. The Jews were treated more tolerantly by the Dutch rulers. The Cochin Jews reestablished their links with European Jews. In 1687 a Jewish delegation from Amsterdam arrived under the leadership of Mr. Thomas Perera. His report published in 1687 under the name "NOTSIAS DOS JUDEOS DE COCHIM " details the history of Cochin Jews.
Reasons that conflict continued
The isolation of Jews as a special case
may be a partial cause of both beneficial and detrimental special treatment of the Jews. This special case
treatment can be seen from very early times, into the present in both politics and religion.
A classical Christian principle is that all people must know God as revealed through Jesus, as that is the only way that anyone can avoid damnation and gain eternal life in Heaven. To the service of this religious motive, Christian rulers applied the same tools of the Roman empire. Many Christian rulers argued that those who take away the possibility of eternal life should be prevented by force, especially apostates from the Christian faith or those who drew converts away from the Church, since this would be worse than murder or any purely temporal evil. Therefore, at times, no public displays of any non-Christian religion were allowed, and proselytizing to convert people away from Christianity was also forbidden: sometimes purely for reason of Empire, sometimes more directly arising from the power and authority of the Church.
A special case had always been reserved for the Jewish religion. Christians have believed that the Jewish practices were prefigures of the Christian ones, and that they may not be forcibly stopped (although Christians never ceased from attempting to convert Jews). This singling out of Jews had the negative side-effect of isolating Jews into a special class, as a group excluded from the general rule.
For example, Christian law forbade Christians to lend money and reclaim it with interest; Jewish law likewise had the same restrictions, but it applied only to other Jews. Therefore, Jews could become lenders and claim interest from European Christians. Jews naturally played an important role in the economies of the Middle Ages. On many occasions, when their high-powered debtors decided they did not want to pay back their debts, they relied on the "Christ's murderers" tradition to expel the Jews and default on their obligations. To many, this would appear to be a case of misuse of Scripture and tradition to justify actions that would otherwise be condemned.
An almost automatic respect is often accorded to a Jewish convert to Christianity, which goes hand in hand with a special contempt for Jewish apostasy from Christianity. Especially strong fascination with Jews and Judaism, both positive and negative, has typified Christianity from the beginning. No family lineage has the significance to Christianity that belongs to every Jew, simply by being born Jewish. Special interest in their history and religion has occasionally produced among Christians a special interest in winning their conversion; the dark side of which, is that an especially virulent disdain has been reserved for ethnically Jewish converts to Christianity who practice Judaism after conversion to Christianity, or revert to Judaism. The logical assumption that Jews should understand Jesus better than anyone makes Jewish rejection of Christian claims felt with unique disappointment, sometimes erupting into hatred and violence toward them, for reasons that would not even remotely apply to any other ethnic group. This has been the important cause of Christian antisemitism for centuries, and especially during the Inquisition.
As any other religion, Christianity is transmitted through the voices of humans. The shape of antisemitism in the Christian world has changed so much according to place and time that, on nearly anyone's account, it is unfair to say Christians per se have taught antisemitism or even lived by it. It should also be noted that Christian doctrine has contained elements of tolerance as well as antisemitism, even long before the Second Vatican Council denounced it. Already in the 16th century the Catechism of the Council of Trent, promulgated by Pope Pius V, rejected the notion that present-day Jews bore personal guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus. It stressed that the Christian elect bore even more guilt as to the crucifixion at Calvary, because their sins were committed despite knowing Jesus Christ and his commandments, while the Jews who allegedly crucified Jesus by the hands of the Roman soldiers would not have done so if they had known him. Likewise, many Popes, while criticizing doctrines of post-Temple Judaism (Talmud, Kabbalah) fiercely, commanded that Jews should not be harmed, but were to be allowed to live peacefully among Christians so they would eventually come to see the light of the Messiah, whom they still rejected.
19th- and 20th-century
In the Papal States
, which existed until 1870, Jews were required to live only in specified neighborhoods called ghettos
. Only Jews were taxed to support state boarding schools for Jewish converts to Christianity. It was illegal to convert from Christianity to Judaism. Sometimes Jews were baptized involuntarily, and, even when such baptisms were illegal, forced to practice the Christian religion. In many such cases the state separated them from their families. See Edgardo Mortara
for an account of one of the most widely publicized instances of acrimony between Catholics and Jews in the Papal States
in the second half of the 19th century.
In the 19th and (before the end of the second World War) 20th centuries, the Roman Catholic Church adhered to a distinction between "good antisemitism" and "bad antisemitism". The "bad" kind promoted hatred of Jews simply because they were Jews. This was considered un-Christian because the Christian message was that all of humanity 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. A detailed account is found in historian David Kertzer's book The Popes Against the Jews.
However, many scholars dispute Kertzer's findings. Jose Sanchez, history professor at St. Louis University criticized Kertzer's work as polemical and exaggerating the papacy's role in anti-Semitism. Scholar of Jewish-Christian relations Rabbi David G. Dalin criticized Kertzer for selectively using evidence. Ronald J. Rychlak, lawyer and author of Hitler, the War, and the Pope , also decried Kertzer's work for omitting strong evidence that the Church was not anti-Semitic.
Furthermore, there were prominent opponents of antisemitism within the Catholic Church. Pope Gregory XVI, for example, spoke out against it in 1837. He rubbed out all the debts of the Jewish community and gave them medical aid during a cholera epidemic "when...[he saw] how poverty and high taxes plunged the [Jewish] community into bankruptcy" (Chadwick, Owen/A History of the Popes 1830-1914/Oxford University Press/2003/p.129). Also, Pope Leo XIII defending the Jews in a newspaper interview (Ibid.) and supported French Jewish officer Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who had been accused of treason. Leo XIII "publicly condemned the anti-Semitic campaign against him" (Ibid). As the historian Owen Chadwick himself writes:
"Protestants everywhere condemned the papacy for the Dreyfus Affair, though the papacy had nothing to do with the matter. So far as he expressed an opinion publicly, Leo XIII was on the side of Dreyfus. In March 1899 he was said to have compared Dreyfus to Jesus on Calvary" (Chadwick, Owen/A History of the Popes 1830-1914/Oxford University Press/2003/p.385).
Moreover, during the pontificate of Pope Pius X, many condemned antisemitism:
In the Catholic Church the leaders were against any such [anti-Semitic] attitudes towards the Jews. In Vienna one cardinal after another, from Rauscher onwards, tried to prevent race-hatred and especially anti-Semitism in the Church. As political anti-Semitism...grew in Vienna, the bishops issued a joint pastoral letter against anti-Semitism and racialism... In 1895 the rector of the university of Vienna was a Catholic priest, Laurenz Mullner...In a debate on money for the medical school, an anti-Semite attacked the university as Jew-infested. Mullner took the speaker to pieces: 'Read Dante, and what he said about Averroes, a Semite; he was a great spirit. Read Thomas Aquinas, a noble mind and a saint. Even where they do not agree with Jewish scholars they speak in a very different spirit. Every year it is my duty to refute Spinoza. Though I refute him, yet I bow before that great spirit and noble mind.'" (Chadwick, Owen/A History of the Popes 1830-1914/Oxford University Press/2003/p.379,381)
According to American historian Lucy Dawidowicz, antisemitism has a long history within Christianity. The line of "anti-Semitic 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 writes 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 , Christian antisemitism is a foundation she says was laid by the Roman Catholic Church and "upon which Luther built.
WWI to the eve of the WWII
There were many other actions taken one behalf of the pontiffs to oppose antisemitism. In 1916, in the midst of the First World War
, American Jews petitioned Pope Benedict XV on behalf of the Polish Jews. To this the pontiff responded in a statement denouncing antisemitism:
"The Supreme Pontiff.... as Head of the Catholic Church, which, faithful to its divine doctrines and its most glorious traditions, considers all men as brothers and teaches them to love one another, he never ceases to indicate among individuals, as well as among peoples, the observance of the principles of the natural law, and to condemn everything that violates them. This law must be observed and respected in the case of the children of Israel, as well as of all others, because it would not be conformable to justice or to religion itself to derogate from it solely on account of divergence of religious confessions".
Pope Pius XI, who was pontiff prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, was particularly opposed to antisemitism:
- Sept. 6, 1938, he says to some Belgian pilgrims that antisemitism "is a hateful movement, a movement that we cannot, as Christians, take any part in...Anti-Semitism is inadmissible" (Chadwick, Ibid.).
- In the 1939 issue of B'nai B'rith's National Jewish Monthly features him on the frontcover and writes, "Regardless of their personal beliefs, men and women everywhere who believe in democracy and the rights of man have hailed the firm and uncompromising stand of Pope Pius XI against Fascist brutality, paganism, and racial theories. In his annual Christmas message to the College of Cardinals, the great Pontiff vigorously denounced Fascism...The first international voice in the world to be raised in stern condemnation of the ghastly injustice perpetrated upon the Jewish people by brutal tyrannies was Pope Pius XI" (Chadwick, Ibid.).
- "Also of note is Pius XI's support for British efforts to help Jewish and other refugees...the Holy See sent out requests to its representatives throughout the world to assist those fleeing oppression and racial persecution;see Cardinal Pacelli's circular telegrams of November 30, 1938, and January 10, 1939 in Actes et Documents 6,pp.48-50, and Pius XI's letter to the cardinal archbishops of Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Quebec, and Buenos Aires, pp. 50ff" (Pius War, p.119).
- Jan. 1939, The Jewish National Monthly reports "the only bright spot in Italy has been the Vatican, where fine humanitarian statements by the Pope have been issuing regularly".
- "When Mussolini's anti-Semitic decrees began depriving Jews of employment in Italy, Pius XI, on his own initiative, admitted Professor Vito Volterra, a famous Italian Jewish mathematician, into the Pontifical Academy of Science...(see 'Scholars at the Vatican,' Commonweal, December 4, 1942, pp.187-188). When Lord Rothschild, a prominent British leader, organized a protest meeting in London against Kristallnacht...Eugenio Pacelli, Vatican secretary of state, acting on behalf of Pius XI, who was then ill, sent a statement of solidarity with the persecuted Jews; the statement was read publicly at the meeting" (Pius War,p.119).
- When Pius XI passed away on February 10 1939 the world praised him for his opposition to the Nazi and Fascism regimes, as well as for his opposition to antisemitism (Quotes below from: Ibid. p.120,121).
- Feb. 12, 1939, Bernard Joseph wrote on behalf of the Executive Jewish Agency to the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem: "'In Common with the whole of civilized humanity, the Jewish people mourns the loss of one
of the greatest exponents of the cause of international peace and good will...More than once did we have occasion to be deeply grateful...for the deep concern which he expressed for the fate of the persecuted
Jews of Central Europe. His noble efforts on their behalf will ensure for him for all time a warm place in the memories of the Jewish people wherever they live' (Pinchas Lapide, Three Popes and the Jews ,
- Feb. 17, 1939, the Jewish historian Cecil Roth publishes the obituary "Pope Pius and the Jews: A Champion of Toleration" in the Jewish Chronicle of London, in which he "wrote movingly of his private audience with the aged pontiff, during which Pius XI assured Roth of the papacy's opposition to anti-Semitism. Roth hailed Pius XI as that 'courageous voice raised unfalteringly and unwearingly...protesting oppression, condemning racial madness...This was an aspect which he
appreciated to the full, and earned his memory an undying claim to the gratitude of the Jewish
people'" (Pius War, p.120-121)
Christians in Nazi Germany
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 Michael Cardinal von Faulhaber
led the Catholic opposition, preaching against racism. However, there was not enough organized resistance by Christian groups to prevent the Nazis' anti-Semitic policies.
Many individual Christian clergy and laypeople of all denominations had to pay for their opposition with their life, including:
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
The role of Pope Pius XII in relation to Nazi Germany is very
highly disputed. See the articles Pope Pius XII
The "White Power" movement
The Christian Identity
movement, the Ku Klux Klan
and other White supremacy
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 promotion of multiculturalism
, anti-Christian groups, liberalism
and perverse organizations. They rebuke charges of racism
and claim 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 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 not considered to be Christian groups by mainstream Christian denominations as well as 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 occasional tensions between some Muslim
immigrants and Jews across Europe. At least five nations have banned the production of kosher
and Halal meat
(see Legal aspects of ritual slaughter
). 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. Antisemitic pronouncements still occur, however. John Hagee, a leading proponent of "Christian Zionism," reiterated a view -- the popularity of which is very hard to gauge but must nonetheless be considered not simply isolated -- that the Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves by angering God.
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. Anglicans do not, as a rule, seek converts from other religions, but maintain rather 'an openness to all people "who find their spiritual home on our churches", while at the same time upholding that any form of proselytism would be unacceptable.'
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).
Some Jewish organizations have described evangelism and missionary activity directed specifically at Jews as anti-Semitic.
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.
- "Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate" by William Nicholls, 1993. Published by Jason Aronson Inc., 1995.
- "John Chrysostom and the Jews" Robert L. Wilken, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 1983
- "Mature Christianity: The Recognition and Repudiation of the Anti-Jewish Polemic in the New Testament" Norman A. Beck, Susquehanna Univ. Press, 1985
- "National Socialism and the Roman Catholic Church" Nathaniel Micklem, Oxford Univ. Press, 1939
- "The New Testament's Anti-Jewish Slander and Conventions of Ancient Polemic", Luke Johnson, Journal of Biblical Literature, Volume 3, 1989
- "The Origins of Anti-Semitism: Attitudes Toward Judaism in Pagan and Christian Antiquity" John G. Gager, Oxford Univ. Press, 1983
- "Theological Anti-Semitism in the New Testament", Rosemary Radford Ruether, Christian Century, Feb. 1968, Vol. 85
- "The Satanizing of the Jews: Origin and development of mystical anti-Semitism" Joel Carmichael, Fromm, 1993
- "Three Popes and the Jews" Pinchas E. Lapide, Hawthorne Books, 1967
- "What Did They Think of the Jews?" Edited by Allan Gould, Jason Aronson Inc., 1991
- "Anti-Semitism in the Church?" by Julio Dam