A Yiddish joke from Holocaust times aptly illustrates the difficulty of trying to deal constructively with anti-Semitism. In this apocryphal tale, two Jewish ghetto fighters in the heroic Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April 1943 were captured by one of SS General Stroop’s Nazi soldiers. As the brave ghetto fighters are lined up against a wall to be shot by the firing squad, the Nazi commander uncharacteristically asks the two if they have any last requests. The first Jewish man says, “Yes, as a matter of fact, I would like a cigarette.” The second Jewish fighter hisses at the first fighter, “For God’s sake don’t make trouble!”
The black humor of this story revolves around the second fighter’s being out of touch with reality, with the deathly seriousness of the situation. Among European Jews, anti-Semitism was a normal part of life. Gentile Christians were expected to sneer at or hate Jews as best, and to attack or even murder Jews on occasion. For many ghetto Jews, the safest course of action was to act like an armadillo or an ostrich, playing dumb or simply hanging onto life until the worst of the pogroms had swept by the ‘Anatevka’ of Jewish life.
Yet there comes a time when downplaying threats to the Jewish people is no longer a joke. The rise of anti-Semitism in the modern world is a fast-spreading malignant cancer, and the angry red tumor of Jew-hatred can no longer be ignored.
From classical anti-Semitism to modern anti-Zionism, from the Der Stürmer propaganda images of the evil Jew controlling world finance to the rabid BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel) and pro-Hamas marches across the Western hemisphere, it is too late for men and women of conscience to timidly request that we should just sit tight, and that no one should make trouble. Believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (all Jews), and followers of Yeshua the Jewish Messiah – it is time to shine God’s light into darkness and to clearly recognize where the battle lines are.
Pagan anti-Semitism infiltrates the Church
Two world-class scholars, one Catholic and one Jewish, shed light on the fact that the roots of Christian anti-Semitism are essentially borrowed from the pagan world.
Edward Flannery (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Flannery) penned the historical analysis “The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Anti-Semitism” (reprinted Paulist Press 1985). He shows how Greek and Roman Jew-hatred was baptized and given confirmation as orthodox Christian dogma by the Fathers of the Church. The Greco-Roman arrogance toward the Jewish people revealed itself in assuming that the people of Israel were primitives (worshipping an invisible God) who refused to bow down before a superior culture (Hellenism) and who kept themselves separate and distinct.
Pagans accused Jews of performing secret religious ceremonies involving cannibalism and sexual orgies. These pagan philosophers described the ‘seditious nature’ of the Jewish people. Since the original Christians were actually Jews – Messianic Jews – these same anti-Semitic charges were aimed by Romans against these first believers – both Jews and Gentiles. Within two hundred years these same pagan charges were adapted and adopted by the predominantly Gentile Church, and used as live-fire ammunition against the Jewish community at-large.
Dr. Menahem Stern, editor of Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1974) has brought together the definitive compendium of all writings by ancient Greeks and Romans dealing with the Jewish people as well as contemporaneous Greco-Roman attitudes to Israel. The reading of these documents is shocking but at the same time strangely familiar. All of their main points have been plagiarized and amplified by the Church Fathers and have become part of the Western world’s guilty subconscious, its prejudiced outlook against the Jewish people.
- These books are a good place to start for those who want to uncover anti-Semitic roots hiding within some aspects of Christian theology. They give helpful directions for those who would like to prioritize repentance and intercession about these matters.
From Justin Martyr, a Samaritan raised in a community steeped in Jew-hatred, to Saint John Chrysostom (who called for Christians to murder Jews), the bloody tumor of anti-Semitism can be seen bulging out beneath priestly robes. For more on these issues, see chapters 8-10 of Israel the Key To World Revival (http://davidstent.com/books/) especially “Dragon Theology: The Spiritual Roots of Anti-Semitism”).
The Chosen People teaching – turned on its head
One of the most revered Fathers of the Church, Saint Augustine, re-interpreted the biblical teaching regarding Israel’s priority calling. He admitted that Jews are different and separate but saw this as a curse, with the Jewish people being forever under judgment, forever to be persecuted and humiliated by Christians, bearing a Jewish ‘mark of Cain’ for the rest of history.
- “No one can fail to see that in every land where the Jews are scattered they mourn for the loss of their kingdom, and are in terrified subjection to the immensely superior number of Christians. Not by bodily death shall the ungodly race of carnal Jews perish. For whoever destroys them in this way shall suffer sevenfold vengeance, that is, shall bring upon himself the sevenfold penalty under which the Jews lie for the crucifixion of Christ. So to the end of the seven days of time, the continued preservation of the Jews will be a proof to believing Christians of the subjection merited by those who . . . put the Lord to death” (Schaff, Philip, ed., St. Augustine in A Selection of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church; 8 vol., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983, 4:187-188).
Augustine was not the first to say this. Origen and others said similar things. Yet Augustine’s teaching of contempt for the Jewish people was a crystallization of pagan anti-Semitism in Patristic garb. The Jewish people’s chosenness would now be understood as their being chosen for persecution, for destruction and for damnation.
To put it simply, a negative paradigm about the Jews was now solidly in place. No good thing could or would happen to the Jewish people. All scriptures speaking of a rosy prophetic future for the Jews would no longer be tolerated as orthodox theology. The Jews could no longer look forward to any goodness of kindness from an angry Jehovah. Any prophetic blessing for Israel now applied to the present experience of Gentile believers in Jesus. Only judgment awaited the Jews, both then and down through the corridors of time
This negative paradigm, which refuses to recognize God’s good and kind hand toward Israel after Calvary and also in our day, is part of the cancerous fruit of the pagan anti-Semitism adopted by the Church Fathers. Even today is has been imbibed by many orthodox Christians with their mothers’ milk.
The ‘unforgiveable sins’ of the Jewish people
The Church Fathers believed that the Jewish people were rejected by God and under an unchangeable curse, Paul’s words in Romans 11:1-2, 28-29 notwithstanding.
The two legal charges these theologians made against the Jewish people were: ‘rejecting the Messiah’ and ‘deicide’ (killing God).
Here are three such examples from respected Church Fathers:
- “They committed a crime of the most unhallowed kind, in conspiring against the Savior of the human race” (Origen, Against Celsus, 4:22 in Ante-Nicene Christian Literature; New York: Scribner, 1905; IV, p. 506)
- “(Concerning the Jews’ assassination of Christ there is) no expiation possible, no indulgence, no pardon . . . (The destruction of Jerusalem) was done by the wrath of God and His absolute abandon of you . . . (Jews will live) under the yoke of servitude without end . . . He who can never love Christ enough will never have done fighting against those (Jews) who hate Him . . . Flee, then, their assemblies, flee their houses, and far from venerating the synagogue because of the book it contains, hold it in hatred and aversion for the same reason . . . I hate the synagogue precisely because it has the law and the prophets . . . I hate the Jews also because they have the law…” (John Chrysostom, Adversus Iudaeos in The Fathers of the Church: Saint John Chrysostom, vol.68; Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1979)
- “What then shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of Jews? Since they live among us and we know about their lying and blaspheming and cursing, we cannot tolerate them if we do not wish to share in their lies, curses, and blasphemy . . . We must prayerfully and reverentially practice a merciful severity . . . Let me give you my honest advice: First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom. . .Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. . .” (Martin Luther, On The Jews And Their Lies; 1543; trans. Martin H. Bertram, in Luther’s Works, 47:268-72)
The negative paradigm as a factor in Christian anti-Semitism states that, since Jews are guilty of rejecting Messiah and of deicide, there can be no restoration of Israel. A modern metastasis of this anti-Jewish teaching is that no physical or spiritual restoration of the Jewish people is occurring in our day because God would never restore an unbelieving and Christ-rejecting people. In this scenario there is only room in the immediate future for another holocaust, but no room for a God-breathed present-day Jewish restoration to Zion.
Jewish kingdom bad, Gentile kingdom good
Since Christianity had judged the Jewish people as irrevocably chosen for persecution and destruction, it was unthinkable that a Jewish kingdom under Davidic rule would ever be restored. Therefore all the prophecies which insist on Jewish restoration to the Promised Land, and revival of Jewish sovereignty and the Davidic dynasty over Israel and the entire world – these now needed to be understood in ‘spiritual’ (that is to say allegorical) terms. The revival of a real Jewish kingdom on earth could only be carnal and evil, according to these perspectives.
Not so the establishment of a Greek- or Latin-speaking imperial power, however. Constantine’s adoption of Christianity and its incorporation into the Roman Empire was perfectly spiritual, since Jews were not in charge. The Roman Empire became the Holy Roman Empire, which promptly split in two. After Islam conquered Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul, the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow laid claim to being the present incarnation of Holy Gentile power.
In George Orwell’s Animal Farm allegory, the pigs who became the commissars declared “Two legs bad, four legs good!” In the same way, when Gentiles took over the reins of the Body of Messiah, they quickly proclaimed, “Jewish kingdom bad, Gentile kingdom good!”
The unease and loathing some Bible believers feel when they consider the re-establishment of God’s kingdom rule out of physical Jerusalem or the restoration of David’s tabernacle (a governmental term often misunderstood and misapplied by some who love worship and intercession; read and download “A Messianic Perspective on the Restoration of David’s Tabernacle” at http://davidstent.com/books/) – these may stem from the cancerous denial both of God’s covenanted love for the Jewish people, and of His strong avowal that the gifts and calling that He has given them are irrevocable – even if the Jewish people sin, stumble and trip (see Romans 11:1-2, 11-15).
‘The mother of all devils is a Jew’
In his well-researched book The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and Its Relation to Modern Anti-Semitism (Joshua Trachtenberg Jewish Publication Society of America, 1983), Trachtenberg reveals how Western and Greek Christianity were simultaneously fascinated and fearful about the power of the Jewish people. They even branded the Jewish people with the strongest curse they knew how to bestow – the anti-Christ, when he would come, would now be a Jewish man, a fitting and outstanding representative of a godless and Christ-rejecting people.
- “The Antichrist will … command that Jerusalem be rebuilt in its splendor and will make it a great and populous city, second to none in the world and will order his palace to be built there… And Jeremiah does not merely point out his sudden coming, but he even indicates the tribe from which he shall come…” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book Five, Chapter 30, Section 2; circa 180 A.D.)
- “For Moses speaks thus: ‘Dan is a lion’s whelp, and he shall leap from Bashan’ … in naming the tribe of Dan, he declared clearly the tribe from which Antichrist is destined to spring. For as Christ springs from the tribe of Judah, so Antichrist is to spring from the tribe of Dan. But since it is necessary to prove this assertion by sufficient testimony, we shall not shrink from the task” (Hippolytus, 170-236 A.D., Bishop of Portus – probably Portus Romanus, 15 miles north of Rome; Treatise on Christ and Antichrist,14)
- “As his tribe, then, and his manifestation, and his destruction, have been set forth in these words. For he will call together all the people to himself, out of every country of the dispersion, making them his own, as though they were his own children, and promising to restore their country, and establish again their kingdom and nation, in order that he may be worshipped by them as God” (Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 54)
- “They did slide, therefore, in all things, as they were found to be in harmony with the truth in nothing: neither as concerns the law, because they became transgressors; nor as concerns the prophets, because they cut off even the prophets themselves; nor as concerns the voice of the Gospels, because they crucified the Saviour Himself; nor in believing the apostles, because they persecuted them. At all times they showed themselves enemies and betrayers of the truth, and were found to be haters of God, and not lovers of Him; and such they shall be then when they find opportunity: for, rousing themselves against the servants of God, they will seek to obtain vengeance by the hand of a mortal man” (Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 58)
Irenaeus and Hippolytus are the earliest Church Fathers who established an anti-Semitic linkage between the restoration of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and the appearance of a Jewish antichrist. In this scenario it is Satan and not God who restores the Jewish people to their Promised Land. The modern Zionist return to Israel has been taking place since 1850, yet no Jewish antichrist has appeared. Perhaps this hypothesis needs to be reworked.
Modern expressions of the ‘Jewish antichrist’ teaching
- “(In Scripture) the hints given are so plain, the conclusions which must be drawn from certain statements of Holy Writ are so obvious, and the requirements of the case are so inevitable, that we are forced to believe he (the Anti-Christ) must be a Jew” (Arthur W. Pink, The Antichrist, Chapter 3, The Person of the Antichrist)
- “Who will the Antichrist be?” asked Mr. Falwell, whose Sunday services at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg are carried by television stations nationwide. “Is he alive and here today?” he asked. “Probably. Because when he appears during the Tribulation period he will be a full-grown counterfeit of Christ. Of course he’ll be Jewish” (“Antichrist Is Alive, And a Male Jew, Falwell Contends”; New York Times, January 16, 1999)
- “Then, Hagee boomed, ‘There’s a phrase in Scripture used solely to identify the Jewish people. It suggests that this man [the Antichrist] is at least going to be partially Jewish, as was Adolph Hitler, as was Karl Marx” (“Pastor Hagee: The Antichrist Is Gay, ‘Partially Jewish, As Was Adolph Hitler’”; Huffington Post, Max Blumenthal June 2, 2008)
- “The statement by Rev. Jerry Falwell, that the Antichrist, who is evil incarnate, is Jewish, borders on anti-Semitism at best and is anti-Semitic at worst. In identifying the Antichrist as a living Jewish man, Rev. Falwell draws from an especially vicious tradition of Christian theological anti-Judaism… Fortunately, the great majority of Christian leaders and ministers consider these hateful myths to be wholly contradictory to true Christian doctrine. If Rev. Falwell and others persist in these prognostications they will be instigating an anti-Semitism rooted in Christian theological extremism” [The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry]. (Abraham H. Foxman, Anti-Defamation League National Director, New York, NY, January 19, 1999)
- “The Jewish Antichrist legend is a prelude to persecution – of Jews. The most infamous piece of anti-Semitic propaganda, the so-called ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ also repeats the medieval fable. The ‘Protocols,’ together with the Antichrist myth, sow the seeds of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism and endanger religious liberty” (Andrew Gow, The Myth of the Jewish Antichrist: Falwell Stumbles Badly, History News Service, Feb 10, 1999)
A professional definition of anti-Semitism
In the document titled “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism” (EFOA – 2012),
http://www.european-forum-on-antisemitism.org/working-definition-of-antisemitism/english/ it is stated, “Anti-Semitism frequently … is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits…Contemporary examples of anti-Semitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to: Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews…drawing comparisons … to that of the Nazis.”
When believers in Jesus make mendacious, dehumanizing and stereotypical allegations about Jews, this unfortunately fits the internationally accepted definition of anti-Semitism.
European contributions – money, control, defilers of culture
The European arena has made its own unique contributions to anti-Semitism, most of which have become accepted belief among conspiracy junkies, Islamist groups and leftist movements.
Greco-Roman anti-Semitism has metastasized, with modern writers depicting Jews as controlling the world economy though banking families such as the Rothschilds or various secretive Commissions. A Russian Tsarist forgery “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion” states that Jews are the demonic power behind capitalism and communism, and that they are pushing for anti-Christ world domination. From this perspective, any anti-Christian development in popular culture is instigated by Jews; America’s banks and entertainment industries are secretly being directed by anti-Christ Jews; any American support of the Jewish state is another example of Jewish anti-Christ control of superpowers.
Such views were popular within the Nazi hierarchy and championed by Joseph Goebbels. They are widely held in the Islamic world, and have a strong measure of popular support in the former Communist Bloc. Many of these ideas have re-appeared in the anti-Zionist and anti-Israel movements. Some Evangelical groups who advocate for BDS (boycott of Jewish products from Israel) do not see the irony that their own actions and beliefs are strikingly similar to those Nazi who boycotted Jewish shops and goods in Germany of the 1930’s.
- The sharpness of demonic anger toward anything Israeli or Jewish on many Western university campuses is another indication of the virulent spread of this new-old anti-Semitic cancer
Modern charismatic expressions
This brief study of the history of anti-Semitism is not only looking at ‘the ghost of Christmas past.’ New mutations of this ancient cancer are spreading, even among Evangelicals, even among charismatics, in our day, on our watch.
The teaching that Jewish rejection of Jesus and the deicide charge has altered Jewish destiny, has decked itself out in our day with the Emperor’s New Clothes.
There is a teaching, popularized a few decades ago by Art Katz (http://davidstent.com/he-being-dead-still-speaks/) and reworked in our day by his disciples and spiritual grandchildren (http://davidstent.com/prophesying-the-destruction-of-zion/), that good things cannot happen to Israel, that restoration to the Land cannot happen before Jewish repentance. According to this view, which fits into the classical anti-Semitic pattern first espoused by the Church Fathers, Israel’s destiny is to suffer as punishment and expiation for her sins. Only then will God allow her to be restored. Perhaps one should be thankful that, according to this modern re-working of an old theme, Jewish restoration is now permitted as long as it remains in the safe and distant future.
But since Jews are being restored to the Land, undeniably so, this creates a bit of a challenge. No problem! Those who teach this position simply state that the present state of Israel is not of God (this sounds like the radically anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jewish group Neturei Karta), and that the modern state of Israel will soon be overwhelmingly destroyed. The figure of a future 90% destruction of the Jewish homeland has been placed on record in related books and websites. According to this viewpoint, only then will the coming future restoration of a nearly totally devastated Israel have these believers’ Christian approval as being a bona fide restoration of God.
- The result of this school of interpretation is simple and chilling – all teachings in the prophets regarding the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel cannot be applied in any way to the Return to Zion in our day. This present Jewish return is only a regathering for massive Jewish slaughter. Such Christians can never really accept what is going on today with any warmth of heart. Cold hearts and pained smiles greet Jewish enthusiasm, and once again Gentile Christian expressions of anti-Semitism lend a hand in crushing out God’s heart for His Chosen people (see Hosea 11:8; Romans 11:28).
Christian denigration of Jewish Restoration
There is a fascinating historical encounter between the father of secular Zionism, Theodor Herzl, and Pope Pius X. Their conversation on January 26, 1904 was recorded in Herzl’s diaries (Raphael Patai, The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl; New York/London: Herzl Press, Thomas Yoseloff, 1960; pp. 1601-1605). Herzl had come to ask for Vatican support for the creation of a homeland for his persecuted Jewish people. Here are some excerpts from the Pope’s statements during that dialogue:
- “We cannot give approval to this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem – but we could never sanction it. The soil of Jerusalem, if it was not always sacred, has been sanctified by the life of Jesus Christ. As the head of the Church I cannot tell you anything different. The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people”
- “There are two possibilities. Either the Jews will cling to their faith and continue to await the Messiah who, for us, has already appeared. In that case they will be denying the divinity of Jesus and we cannot help them. Or else they will go there without any religion, and then we can be even less favorable to them… The Jewish religion was the foundation of our own; but it was superseded by the teachings of Christ, and we cannot concede it any further validity. The Jews, who ought to have been the first to acknowledge Jesus Christ, have not done so to this day”
- “And so, if you come to Palestine and settle your people there, we shall have churches and priests ready to baptize all of you”
The sad fact revealed by these quotes is that no room has been left for the God of the Bible as the loving God who is restoring His people to their Promised Land. And the stark refusal to recognize God’s restorative love for Jacob’s sons and daughters finds cold refuge in the heart of some Christians today as well.
- According to this viewpoint, the Jews may have a past and a future – but they certainly do not have a present. According to this viewpoint, all that the Jewish people can look forward to is to “this present darkness” (see http://davidstent.com/making-the-crooked-straight-tearing-down-evangelical-strongholds-opposed-to-israels-restoration/)
The enemy of our souls has invested heavily in perverting and distorting the biblical teaching on God’s heart for Israel. His strategy throughout history has sadly found fertile ground in the theological hothouses of the Christian church. In our day, in order to clear out the Augean stables of centuries of filth, we need to invest ardently in repentance, prayer, teaching and activism, as we labor and groan for the restoration of Israel.
How shall we then live?
- Recommit to study the history of anti-Semitism and its shifting shapes
- Recommit to reading the Bible with new and open eyes about these subjects
- Pray for a spirit of repentance to fall upon your community, your teachers, your country about these matters
- Become an activist – holding up the hands of those involved in Israel’s restoration, standing against anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and boycotters of the Jewish state
- Make Matthew 25:31-46 a place of meditation, encouragement and challenge regarding taking a stand for Yeshua’s Jewish brethren
- Get involved in the Jewish community. Make Jewish friends, Rejoice and appreciate things Jewish. Don’t wait for times of anti-Semitic persecution to do this
- Wash Jewish people’s feet but don’t use boiling water
- Be prepared to live and die like Ruth, whose heart was so bound to the Jewish people that she was prepared to love them even if it meant her own death
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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