“Yeshua presented another parable to them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?” And He said to them, “An enemy has done this!” (Matthew 13:24-28)
Within 150 years of the founding of the original Messianic community, poisonous spiritual seeds were sown into the budding soil of the church. These viruses were venomous and highly contagious, and their toxicity infected many branches on the olive tree. The resulting infection polluted Christian attitudes, theology, behavior and a balanced Last Days vision for nearly two millennia.
These bad seeds are what is known today as ‘Replacement Theology.’ These tares have contaminated much of the Body of Messiah. Most believers carry this ‘spiritual corona virus’ within their souls, unaware of its malevolent influence.
- How did these anti-Semitic seeds get sown into the field of faith?
- How do these tares color the way we believers look at Scripture?
- How can we cleanse the field?
Pagan roots of Jew-hatred
The exiled twelve tribes found themselves scattered across what is today Iraq, Iran and Turkey. After Alexander the Great’s conquests, Jewish expatriate communities settled into the pagan societies of the Mediterranean. By the time Pontius Pilate became prefect (Greek, hēgemṓn) in Judea, Jew-hatred had a broad following inEgyptian, Greek and Roman societies. Two excellent historical sources on this are: Greek and Latin authors on Jews and Judaism, (Menachem Stern, 1974) and The Anguish of the Jews (Edward H. Flannery, 1965). What was it that pagan anti-Semites didn’t like about the Jewish people?
Initial Persian attacks against Jews began in the royal court and were motivated by professional jealousy. But the official charges focused on disloyalty to the king – as expressed through Daniel’s obedience to the covenant and his refusal to worship any God except YHVH (Daniel 6:11). The three Hebrews had been thrown into the fiery furnace for a similar reason – because they refused to worship Babylonian demons (Daniel 3:1-12, 16-18). Daniel already had a reputation in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace for keeping himself separate from eating non-kosher Babylonian royal foods (Daniel 1:8).
Haman (called the ‘enemy of the Jews’ in Esther 3:10; 7:6; 8:1) was infuriated by the Jewish people’s separateness and their refusal to assimilate into Persian religious and social habits: “Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, ‘There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king’s laws’” (Esther 3:8).
Jews dwelling in in the Greek Empire saw themselves as living in an impure land (see Hosea 9:13; Amos 7:17). The sons of Jacob were guided by the biblical perspective that “all the gods of the peoples are idols” (Psalm 96:5; see also Judges 2:12; 2 Samuel 7:23, 1 Corinthians 8:4-6) and that YHVH had given the Jewish people an irrevocable national calling which involved separateness and priority (Numbers 23:9; Romans 11:28-29; 1:16).
“To the proud heirs of Pericles, Aristotle and Homer, this aloofness was an insufferable arrogance.” The Greeks were convinced that anything non-Greek was primitive and barbarian, and “they naturally resented rival claims to superiority or privilege on the part of a people they considered politically and culturally undistinguished” (Flannery, Anguish, pages 6-7).
- Alexander the Great’s imperial vision had been to fashion a unified world culture under Greek control. The Jewish people’s refusal to accept pagan standards was deeply resented by the Greek world. It was a spanner in the works, ‘politically incorrect’ on steroids.
Cicero the Roman statesman and philosopher (circa 50 B.C.) spoke irately of Jewish separateness:
The Jews “sit apart at meals, and they sleep apart … They abstain from intercourse with foreign women … They adopted circumcision to distinguish themselves from other peoples by this difference. Those who are converted to their ways follow the same practice, and the earliest lesson they receive is to despise the gods, to disown their country, and to regard their parents, children, and brothers as of little account … The religious ceremonies and observances of that people were very much at variance with the splendor of this empire and the dignity of our name and the institutions of our ancestors. And they are the more odious to us now because that nation has shown by arms what were its feelings towards our supremacy” (www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0019%3Atext%3DFlac.%3Achapter%3D28; Pro Flacco 28:69).
- Cicero drew a spiritual conclusion that the conquest of Jerusalem by Pompey in 61 B.C. proved that the Roman gods “reduced (Israel) to a state of subjection” because of Israel’s insistence on a separate identity. This proclamation that the Jews must stay defeated has resurfaced in our day. More on this later.
The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca (teacher of Nero, circa 50 A.D.) spoke similarly against the Jews. The Jews, though defeated by Rome, managed to preserve their separated lifestyle and their strong commitment to YHVH’s laws. “The customs of that most accursed nation have gained such strength that they have been now received in all lands. The conquered have given laws to the conquerors!” (in Augustine, The City of God, VI, 11; www.newadvent.org/fathers/120106.htm).
The Roman historian Tacitus (circa 100 A.D.) adds: “The other practices of the Jews are sinister and revolting, and have entrenched themselves by their very wickedness … But the rest of the world they confront with the hatred reserved for enemies. They will not feed or intermarry with gentiles” (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Tacitus/Histories/5A*.html).
Celsus, a Roman anti-Christian philosopher of the 2nd century A.D., declared: The Jews “pride themselves on … being possessed of superior wisdom, and keep aloof from intercourse with others, as not being equally pure with themselves” (www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/celsus.html; V, 41).
Pagans responded with anger and hatred to Israel’s divine calling to be separate and distinct from other nations (as per Numbers 23:9). Since Israel’s calling and gifts remain irrevocable even in our day (Romans 11:28-29), it should come as no surprise that most modern nations (whether pagan or baptized) respond to God’s choosing of the Jewish people with similar anger and hatred.
Early Christian anti-Semitism
By A.D. 100 the bad seed of anti-Semitism was firmly planted in the Roman Empire, the garden of the Gentile Church. Within two hundred years these bad seeds would blossom and proclaim that:
- Israel’s disobedience and rejection of Messiah Yeshua had resulted in God’s irreversible judgment on the Jewish people
- The destructions of Jerusalem (586 B.C., 70 and 135 A.D.) proved that God had irrevocably rejected the Jewish people
- Gentile Christians (the church) are now the new Israel
- The Jewish Scriptures, covenant blessings and promises originally given to the nation Israel now belong exclusively to the Gentile church
Here are some quotes from Church Fathers which underscore these teachings:
God has rejected the Jewish people – “For inasmuch as the former (ed., the Jews) have rejected the Son of God, and cast Him out of the vineyard when they slew Him, God has justly rejected them, and given to the Gentiles outside the vineyard the fruits of its cultivation” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book IV, Chapter 36; www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103436.htm)
Gentiles are the new Israel – Justin Martyr was born in Neapolis (modern Nablus, Samaria) about 100 A.D. He declared that “Christ is the Israel and the Jacob. Even so we, who have been quarried out from the bowels of Christ, are the true Israelitic race” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 135; www.newadvent.org/fathers/01289.htm). There is no little irony in seeing a Samaritan insist on calling himself ‘a true Jew’ while denying that right to real Jews.
In another quote, Justin takes a prophetic passage directed to the Jewish people and insists that it can only be applied to Gentile Christians: “‘Therefore, says the Lord, I will raise up to Israel and to Judah the seed of men and the seed of beasts.’ (ed., Jeremiah 31:27) Since then God blesses this people, and calls them Israel, and declares them to be His inheritance, how is it that you (ed., Jews) repent not of the deception you practice on yourselves, as if you alone were the Israel, and of execrating the people whom God has blessed? For when He speaks to Jerusalem and its environs, He thus added: ‘And I will beget men upon you, even My people Israel; and they shall inherit you, and you shall be a possession for them; and you shall be no longer bereaved of them.’” (ed., Ezekiel 36:12). Trypho the Jew responds: “What, then? Are you Israel? And speaks He such things of you?” (Justin Martyr, Trypho, Chapter 123; www.newadvent.org/fathers/01288.htm)
The Jews are actually Esau – “We are Israel … Let therefore no Christian consider himself alien to the name of Israel … The Christian people then is rather Israel … But that multitude of Jews, which was deservedly reprobated for its perfidy, for the pleasures of the flesh sold their birthright, so that they belonged not to Jacob, but rather to Esau” (Augustine, Expositions on the Psalms, Psalm 114:3; www.newadvent.org/fathers/1801114.htm)
Circumcision is a sign of judgment on Jews – “For circumcision … was given for a sign – that you may be separated for the other nations and from us, and that you alone may suffer that which you now justly suffer” (Justin Martyr, Trypho, Chapter 16:2)
Positive prophecies about Israel “cannot be understood in a literal signification” – ‘Spiritual’ Christians should re-interpret positive prophecies about Israel, presenting them instead as positive prophecies about Gentile Christians only (Origen, On First Principles, Book IV, 19-22; www.newadvent.org/fathers/04124.htm)
God’s purpose in concentrating worship in Jerusalem was only to destroy it – “Why Jerusalem was destroyed? … This is what God did. He made Jerusalem what we might call the keystone which held together the structure of worship. When He overthrew the city, He destroyed the rest of the entire structure of that way of life” (John Chrysostom, Eight Homilies against the Jews IV:6:9; https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Eight_Homilies_Against_the_Jews#VI_3)
There will be no restoration for the Jewish people – “You did slay Christ, you did lift violent hands against the Master, you did spill His precious blood. This is why you have no chance for atonement, excuse, or defense” (John Chrysostom, VI:2:10; https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Eight_Homilies_Against_the_Jews#I_6)
The Jews have irrevocably lost their calling in God – “I have endeavored to show that the Jews, according to what had before been foretold, had departed from God, and had lost God’s favor, which had been given them in past time, and had been promised them for the future; while the Christians had succeeded to their place, deserving well of the Lord by faith, and coming out of all nations and from the whole world” (Cyprian, Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews; Treatise XII; https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Ante-Nicene_Fathers/Volume_V/Cyprian/The_Treatises_of_Cyprian/Three_Books_of_Testimonies_Against_the_Jews/Preface)
King David prophesied God’s rejection of the Jews – “But after the Jews for the plots which they made against the Savior were cast away from His grace, the Savior built out of the Gentiles a second Holy Church, the Church of us Christians … And David prophesying of both these, said plainly of the first which was rejected, I have hated the congregation of evil doers ; but of the second which is built up he says in the same Psalm, Lord, I have loved the beauty of Your house … For now that the one Church in Judea is cast off, the Churches of Christ are increased over all the world … Agreeably to which the prophet also said to the Jews, I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord Almighty (ed. Malachi 1:10) and immediately afterwards, For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My name is glorified among the Gentiles.” (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 18:25; www.newadvent.org/fathers/310118.htm)
The new Gentile celebration of Easter must replace the accursed Jews and their Passover – “At this meeting the question concerning the most holy day of Easter was discussed, and it was resolved by the united judgment of all present, that this feast ought to be kept by all and in every place on one and the same day … And first of all, 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. For we have it in our power, if we abandon their custom … Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd … Since, therefore, it was needful that this matter should be rectified, so that we might have nothing in common with that nation of parricides who slew their Lord…it is most fitting that all should unite in desiring that which sound reason appears to demand, and in avoiding all participation in the perjured conduct of the Jews … (Eusebius, Life of Constantine, Chapters 18-19; www.newadvent.org/fathers/25023.htm)
The Jews are forever to be the slaves of the Gentile Church – “‘And the one people shall overcome the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger’ (ed., Genesis 25:23) … Only that saying, ‘The elder shall serve the younger,’ is understood by our writers, almost without exception, to mean that the elder people, the Jews, shall serve the younger people, the Christians … When it was said, ‘The one people shall overcome the other people,’ and ‘the elder shall serve the younger,’ that prophecy meant some greater thing. And what is that except what is evidently fulfilled in the Jews and Christians?”
(Augustine, The City of God, Book XVI, chapter 35; www.newadvent.org/fathers/120116.htm)
The above quotations throw a spotlight on how the enemy’s poisoned seed began to sprout in the field of the Christian church.
Doing plastic surgery on a Jewish book
The Church Fathers sketched their anti-Semitic theological conclusions on the quickly drying cement of Christian theology. Even though 95% of the Scriptures were written by Jews and over 92% of the Bible’s content concerns the Jews, the bad-seed influence of these anti-Semitic theologians decisively affected Christian theology. From the second century A.D. onward, Bible commentators, teachers and preachers tended to apply positive scriptural promises for Israel exclusively to the Gentiles, while ascribing all negative promises for Israel to the Jewish people alone. Today this is still standard practice for the vast majority of Christendom, including for many of my dear friends.
There are two main results here:
- The prophecies about the Jewish people are altered and are no longer taught as referring to the people of Jacob. The primarily Gentile church basks in the sunshine destiny of the Jewish people while brushing the Jewish nature of the promises under the carpet. A clear awareness of God’s heart and plans for Israel is simply left to wither away by the roadside
- The curse of Genesis 12:3 (“The one who dishonors/dismisses/mocks you I will curse” based on the original Hebrew verb ‘meqalelecha’) falls upon those in the Christian church who partake of this identity theft. This has increased spiritual darkness in the body of Messiah
Another result of centuries of Christian ‘bad-seed attitude’ toward the Jewish people needs to be mentioned. Anti-Semitic presuppositions color and distort biblical teaching about Last Days Jewish destiny. Negative paradigms about the Jewish people actually pervert biblical understanding and result in anti-Semitic eschatology (Last Days teaching).
Augustine – perverting the meaning of the Chosen People
Augustine reinterpreted Israel’s chosenness to mean something negative. According to his novel teaching, Jews were actually chosen to be punished continually by God down through the corridors of time. The Jewish people no longer have any positive role to play in history. No positive developments can happen to them until after Israel repents of rejecting Yeshua.
On January 5, 1897, the semi-official Vatican Jesuit periodical Civilta Cattolica published an article ‘The Dispersion of Israel over the Modern World.’ The Vatican declared that God cannot be involved in a Jewish return to Zion, using language and theology taken straight from St. Augustine:
- “1827 years have passed since the prediction of Jesus of Nazareth was fulfilled … that the Jews would be led away to be slaves among all the nations and that they would remain in the dispersion until the end of the world … According to the Sacred Scriptures, the Jewish people must always live dispersed and vagabondo [vagrant, wandering] among the other nations, so that they may render witness to Christ not only by the Scriptures … but by their very existence.”
The same Augustinian refusal to acknowledge God’s love and grace in a Jewish return to Zion was voiced by Papal Secretary of State Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val in a 1904 correspondence with Theodore Herzl. “As long as the Jews deny Christ’s divinity, we cannot take a stand favorable to them.”
Pope Pius X declared to Herzl in a face-to-face private discussion on January 22, 1904:
- “We are unable to favor this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem – but we could never sanction it. As head of the Church I cannot answer you otherwise. The Jews have not recognized our Lord. Therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people … It is disagreeable to see the Turks in possession of our Holy Places. We simply have to put up with it. But to sanction the Jewish wish to occupy these sites, that we cannot do … Either the Jews … deny the divinity of Jesus and we cannot assist them … or else they will go there with no religion whatever, and then we can have nothing at all to do with them” (The Diaries of Theodore Herzl, 1956; pp. 428-429)
All followers of Yeshua are challenged by this history. Can we acknowledge it, repent for it and take pro-active steps to support the restoration of the Jewish people?
Bad seeds in our day
Augustine could point in his day to the destruction of Jerusalem as a support for his teaching that Jews would be fated to wander the earth until the end of time. Today, however, he would have difficulty in making the same point. This is because for the first time in nearly 2,000 years the Jewish people have returned to their Land of Promise and are making it bloom.
There is a miniscule ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect in Jerusalem called Neturei Karta (‘the guardians of the city’ in Aramaic). They strongly believe that the Jewish people should never have set up a secular state but should have instead become ultra-Orthodox Jews living under Muslim domination. Neturei Karta refuse to accept the validity of the State of Israel and proclaim that the Jewish state will soon be destroyed. Who would have thought that Augustinian anti-Semitism would be preached by a backwater of ultra-Orthodox Jews in a Jerusalem ghetto? Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
Unfortunately, this same anti-Semitic teaching is being recycled by some in our day. Back in May and June 2012 I wrote two newsletters analyzing the teachings of Art Katz (https://davidstent.org/he-being-dead-still-speaks/) and Dalton Lifsey-Thomas (https://davidstent.org/prophesying-the-destruction-of-zion/). You can peruse these articles for a more in-depth explanation of their belief that the modern state of Israel will be totally destroyed ‘according to Scripture.’
Here are some quotes from Katz and Lifsey-Thomas which underscore these teachings:
- “I agree with Art Katz who said, ‘The State of Israel exists not for its success but for its necessary failure’” (Lifsey-Thomas, The Controversy of Zion and the Time of Jacob’s Trouble; Maskilim Publishing, 2011; p. 127)
- “The Jewish people are hostile to their Maker” (Controversy, p. 27). They have an “historic unfaithfulness to the Covenant” (p. 28). They demonstrate a “relentless infidelity to the Covenant” (p. 21)
- “One of the principle burdens upon which this book rests is the idea that the modern re-established State of Israel did not and does not constitute the great and glorious final regathering and restoration of the Nation of Israel that prophets such as Jeremiah, Zechariah, Isaiah and Ezekiel described” (Controversy, p. 137)
- “We are not witnessing the materializing of the ancient promise that the Lord will recover the remnant of survivors a second time” (Controversy, p. 164)
- “The prospect of the political death of the State … is clearly established in Scripture” (Controversy, p. 115)
- “We are foolish to expect that the modern State will somehow evolve into the redeemed and restored Nation …The modern State will be leveled like a tree being chopped down and the population will be reduced to a ‘stump’“ (Controversy, p. 160).
- “A large-scale return of Jews to the Land of Israel is a providential prerequisite that makes possible a yet future time of trouble, trampling, shattering, flight, sifting, desolation, devastation, scattering, captivity, exile and judgment” (Controversy, p. 123)
- “What we call present Israel is only the preliminary for the desolations that must immediately precede” (Arthur Katz, Israel In Flight, http://artkatzministries.org/category/articles/israel-and-the-church-articles/)
- “The ruined cities in the literal land of Israel (are) the cities of today. Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tiberias, etc., will be made waste … The last thing in the experience of Israel is devastation and ruined cities” (Katz, IIF)
- “In my mind’s eye I imagine the Israeli Defense Force helpless, frustrated, confused and defeated. Israel’s sons, the strength of Israel, will be caught up in a net like a helpless animal, choked, stupefied, and unable to get out … This is the future, and God is saying it” (Katz, ‘Summary of Israel’s Present Plight and Her Future Glory’ on the website)
- Israel’s enemies are “the very instrumentalities raised up by God to obtain that very death of Zionist and charismatic hopes by which alone the prophetic and enduring glory is birthed” (Katz, IIF)
- “How are we going to respond when we see God destroy this sinful nation?” (Katz, IIF)
Prophesying the total destruction of the Zionist vision is bad seed
Many Jews believe that if one scratches a Christian, one finds an anti-Semite. We thank God that there are many Gentile followers of Yeshua whose life and actions show this charge to be a lie. Yet at the same time, the propagating of Zion’s total destruction cannot be interpreted as a love note to Israel. Those who teach it are sucked into the dragnet of classical Christian anti-Semitism, even if they do good works for Israel at the same time.
Three essential vitamins are needed to disinfect the field of bad seeds and its poisoned harvest.
One, God’s heart is close to Israel. They are “a people close to His heart” (Psalm 148:14) and God is not an abusive father. To say that “Jesus took personal responsibility for … the slaughter of a million Jews” and only thus would His “divine vengeance and wrath … be finally satisfied” (Covenant, p. 24) reveals what seems to be a toxic understanding of God’s fatherhood. The strident focus on an angry God snuffing His people is so far out of line with the Biblical record that it is sad that any corrective reminders are necessary.
Two, in Ezekiel 37 YHVH restores the Jewish people to the Land of Israel by a work of His gracious Spirit – while they are still not believers (Ezekiel 37:9-14). Only after the Jewish people return to the Land do they come to faith, in the prophet’s vision. To deny that today’s Jewish return to Zion is an act of a gracious God, and to insist that no return is possible until Israel repents and comes to faith – this teaching violates the prophetic word of Ezekiel 37, and it sets up conditions opposed to those in the prophecy. Grace is unmerited favor. God shows unmerited favor to Israel in Ezekiel 37. For some, that grace showered on Israel is unsettling.
Three, the goal or schwerpunkt of the resuscitation of Israel in Ezekiel 37:10 is to transform the entire Jewish people (37:11) into an exceedingly great army. This army will fight Israel’s and God’s enemies as per Psalm 83:1-5, Zechariah 12:1-9, Psalm 110:1-3, Isaiah 41:14-16, Ezekiel 34-39, etc. The Augustinian scenario where the Jews have no prophetic future except to cry “uncle!” melts like a wax statue before the prophetic vision of Ezekiel’s army.
Careful gardening is needed to pull out the weeds and remove the bad seeds. The enemy has taken much time and care in his goal to infect the body of Messiah. We are challenged by the Lord to invest the needed time, care and love as we help fellow believers (even if the cadre who pushes this false teaching is rather small) to “examine everything carefully, to hold fast to that which is good, and to abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
How should we then pray?
- Pray for God to reveal how deep is His love for Israel to believers across the globe
- Pray for a Damascus Road revelatory experience for those who hold to these anti-Semitic teachings
- Pray for an increase of biblical teaching concerning Israel which is ‘after God’s own heart’ (1 Samuel 13:14) for believers everywhere
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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