Antisemitism and The New Testament - The New Testament and Christian Antisemitism

The New Testament and Christian Antisemitism

A. Roy Eckardt, a pioneer in the field of Jewish-Christian relations, asserted that the foundation of antisemitism and responsibility for the Holocaust lies ultimately in the New Testament. Eckardt insisted that Christian repentance must include a reexamination of basic theological attitudes toward Jews and the New Testament in order to deal effectively with antisemitism.

According to Rabbi Michael J. Cook, Professor of Intertestamental and Early Christian Literature at the Hebrew Union College, there are ten themes in the New Testament that are the greatest sources of anxiety for Jews concerning Christian antisemitism.

  1. The Jews are culpable for crucifying Jesus - as such they are guilty of deicide
  2. The tribulations of the Jewish people throughout history constitute God's punishment of them for killing Jesus
  3. Jesus originally came to preach only to the Jews, but when they rejected him, he abandoned them for gentiles instead
  4. The Children of Israel were God's original chosen people by virtue of an ancient covenant, but by rejecting Jesus they forfeited their chosenness - and now, by virtue of a New Covenant (or "testament"), Christians have replaced the Jews as God's chosen people, the Church having become the "People of God."
  5. The Jewish Bible (the so-called "Old Testament") repeatedly portrays the opaqueness and stubbornness of the Jewish people and their disloyalty to God.
  6. The Jewish Bible contains many predictions of the coming of Jesus as the Messiah (or "Christ"), yet the Jews are blind to the meaning of their own Bible.
  7. By the time of Jesus' ministry, Judaism had ceased to be a living faith.
  8. Judaism's essence is a restrictive and burdensome legalism.
  9. Christianity emphasizes excessive love, while Judaism maintains a balance of justice, God of wrath and love of peace.
  10. Judaism's oppressiveness reflects the disposition of Jesus' opponents called "Pharisees" (predecessors of the "rabbis"), who in their teachings and behavior were hypocrites (see Woes of the Pharisees).

Cook believes that both contemporary Jews and contemporary Christians need to reexamine the history of early Christianity, and the transformation of Christianity from a Jewish sect consisting of followers of a Jewish Jesus, to a separate religion often dependent on the tolerance of Rome while proselytizing among Gentiles loyal to the Roman empire, to understand how the story of Jesus came to be recast in an anti-Jewish form as the Gospels took their final form.

Some scholars assert that critical verses in the New Testament have been used to incite prejudice and violence against Jewish people. Professor Lillian C. Freudmann, author of Antisemitism in the New Testament (University Press of America, 1994) has published a study of such verses and the effects that they have had in the Christian community throughout history. Similar studies 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).

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