I read something recently that went like this: Antisemitism has no place in the Christian Church!
I added the exclamation point, but the quote is verbatim. I’ve been trying to find out who said it, but my googling has proven fruitless. Maybe I dreamed it, but I don’t think so. Could be that I heard it on television. If I ever find out who said it, I’ll update this post. At any rate, it’s been bugging me for about a month, and the reason is, whoever said it is dead wrong.
Antisemitism is a poor word for what it really means, because Semite refers to a number of different peoples, and in general no one of consequence is against many of them. I, for example, have absolutely no problem with the Mhallami, but I’m from the Deep South and I don’t get out much. They may be assholes, but they’ve never bothered me. Now Arabs I could do without, but I have no opinion about the Druze.
We all know what antisemitism means. Antipathy towards Jews or Judaism, which is really the same thing for a Christian. Secular, non-practicing Jews are a whole other issue for Christians (they’re just a part of the World), and Jews who become Christians are embraced by the Church. But practicing Jews, and Judaism itself? I would love for all Christians to understand this: There has always been a very prominent place in the Christian Church for antisemitism.
If you’re a Christian and believe that anti-Judaism is wrong, and therefore anti-Jewishness is wrong, then you have to disavow Martin Luther, John Calvin, St. Augustine, John Chrysostom, Origen, virtually all the Church Fathers, and pretty much all of Christendom from the time of the Apostles all the way up until roughly yesterday.
Don’t get me started about Martin Luther. He wrote a whole book about this, called On the Jews and Their Lies. I read it a few years back, and found it extremely funny, but I like insult comedy. I don’t think anyone would argue with my description of it as vicious. I’ve also read a little known and shorter book by John Calvin, called Response To Questions And Objections Of A Certain Jew. Calvin, as expected, was much more measured and analytical than Luther, but nevertheless he writes things about the Jews that today would get him torched. For example, he taught that the Jews were the chosen people of God, and therefore blessed, but when they rejected the Messiah that God sent directly to them, that blessing became a curse. He calls them a cursed race. I’d say that qualifies as antisemitic.
The following are choice quotes from Calvin, Luther, and some of the early Church Fathers, antisemites all. We’ll start out with the Church Fathers, then to Luther, and then to Calvin. I put more work into quoting Calvin for three reasons: first, I’m a Presbyterian, so I’m naturally partial to quoting Calvin; second, I think most Christians, especially the Reformed kind, would be more surprised to discover Calvin’s antisemitism than Luther’s; and third, there’s simply too many awesome quotes from Luther. Where to begin? What to leave out? Just read the book, man.
|Anti-Semitism of the “Church Fathers”
Ignatius Bishop of Antioch (98-117A.D.) – Epistle to the Magnesians
For if we are still practicing Judaism, we admit that we have not received God’s favor…it is wrong to talk about Jesus Christ and live like Jews. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity.
“Epistle of Barnabas” Chapter 4vs 6-7 (between 130A.D. and 138 A.D.)
Take heed to yourselves and be not like some piling upon you sins and saying that the covenant is theirs as well as ours. It is ours, but they lost it completely just after Moses received it.
Justin Martyr – Dialogue with Trypho (Between 138A.D. and 161 A.D.)
We too, would observe your circumcision of the flesh, your Sabbath days, and in a word, all your festivals, if we were not aware of the reason why they were imposed upon you, namely, because of your sins and the hardness of heart.
The custom of circumcising the flesh, handed down from Abraham, was given to you as a distinguishing mark, to set you off from other nations and from us Christians. The purpose of this was that you and only you might suffer the afflictions that are now justly yours; that only your land be desolated, and you cities ruined by fire, that the fruits of your land be eaten by strangers before your very eyes; that not one of you be permitted to enter your city of Jerusalem. Your circumcision of the flesh is the only mark by which you can certainly be distinguished from other men…as I stated before it was by reason of your sins and the sins of your fathers that, among other precepts, God imposed upon you the observance of the sabbath as a mark.
Origen of Alexandria (185-254 A.D.) – A ecclesiastical writer and teacher who contributed to the early formation of Christian doctrines.
We may thus assert in utter confidence that the Jews will not return to their earlier situation, for they have committed the most abominable of crimes, informing this conspiracy against the Savior of the human race…hence the city where Jesus suffered was necessarily destroyed, the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election.
John Chrysostom (344-407 A.D.) – One of the “greatest” of church fathers; known as “The Golden Mouthed.” A missionary preacher famous for his sermons and addresses.
The synagogue is worse than a brothel…it is the den of scoundrels and the repair of wild beasts…the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults…the refuge of brigands and dabauchees, and the cavern of devils. It is a criminal assembly of Jews…a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ… a house worse than a drinking shop…a den of thieves, a house of ill fame, a dwelling of iniquity, the refuge of devils, a gulf and a abyss of perdition.”…”I would say the same things about their souls… As for me, I hate the synagogue…I hate the Jews for the same reason.
From “The Roots of Christian Anti-Semitism” by Malcolm Hay
St. Augustine (c. 354-430 A.D.), Confessions, 12.14
How hateful to me are the enemies of your Scripture! How I wish that you would slay them (the Jews) with your two-edged sword, so that there should be none to oppose your word! Gladly would I have them die to themselves and live to you!
Peter the Venerable – known as “the meekest of men, a model of Christian charity”
Yes, you Jews. I say, do I address you; you, who till this very day, deny the Son of God. How long, poor wretches, will ye not believe the truth? Truly I doubt whether a Jew can be really human… I lead out from its den a monstrous animal, and show it as a laughing stock in the amphitheater of the world, in the sight of all the people. I bring thee forward, thou Jew, thou brute beast, in the sight of all men.
From “The Roots of Christian Anti-Semitism” by Malcolm Hay
Martin Luther – 1543
On The Jews and Their Lies
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 blasphemy and cursing, we cannot tolerate them if we do not wish to share in their lies, curses, and blasphemy. In this way we cannot quench the inextinguishable fire of divine rage nor convert the Jews. We must prayerfully and reverentially practice a merciful severity. Perhaps we may save a few from the fire and flames [of hell]. We must not seek vengeance. They are surely being punished a thousand times more than we might wish them. Let me give you my honest advice.
First, their synagogues should be set on fire, and whatever does not burn up should be covered or spread over with dirt so that no one may ever be able to see a cinder or stone of it. And this ought to be done for the honor of God and of Christianity in order that God may see that we are Christians, and that we have not wittingly tolerated or approved of such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of His Son and His Christians.
Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed. For they perpetrate the same things there that they do in their synagogues. For this reason they ought to be put under one roof or in a stable, like gypsies, in order that they may realize that they are not masters in our land, as they boast, but miserable captives, as they complain of incessantly before God with bitter wailing.
Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayer-books and Talmuds in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught.
Fourthly, their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more…
Fifthly, passport and traveling privileges should be absolutely forbidden to the Jews. For they have no business in the rural districts since they are not nobles, nor officials, nor merchants, nor the like. Let them stay at home…If you princes and nobles do not close the road legally to such exploiters, then some troop ought to ride against them, for they will learn from this pamphlet what the Jews are and how to handle them and that they ought not to be protected. You ought not, you cannot protect them, unless in the eyes of God you want to share all their abomination…
To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one so that you and we may all be free of this insufferable devilish burden – the Jews…
Let the government deal with them in this respect, as I have suggested. But whether the government acts or not, let everyone at least be guided by his own conscience and form for himself a definition or image of a Jew. When you lay eyes on or think of a Jew you must say to yourself: Alas, that mouth which I there behold has cursed and execrated and maligned every Saturday my dear Lord Jesus Christ, who has redeemed me with his precious blood; in addition, it prayed and pleaded before God that I, my wife and children, and all Christians might be stabbed to death and perish miserably. And he himself would gladly do this if he were able, in order to appropriate our goods…
Such a desperate, thoroughly evil, poisonous, and devilish lot are these Jews, who for these fourteen hundred years have been and still are our plague, our pestilence, and our misfortune.
I have read and heard many stories about the Jews which agree with this judgment of Christ, namely, how they have poisoned wells, made assassinations, kidnapped children, as related before. I have heard that one Jew sent another Jew, and this by means of a Christian, a pot of blood, together with a barrel of wine, in which when drunk empty, a dead Jew was found. There are many other similar stories. For their kidnapping of children they have often been burned at the stake or banished (as we already heard). I am well aware that they deny all of this. However, it all coincides with the judgment of Christ which declares that they are venomous, bitter, vindictive, tricky serpents, assassins, and children of the devil, who sting and work harm stealthily wherever they cannot do it openly. For this reason, I would like to see them where there are no Christians. The Turks and other heathen do not tolerate what we Christians endure from these venomous serpents and young devils…next to the devil, a Christian has no more bitter and galling foe than a Jew. There is no other to whom we accord as many benefactions and from whom we suffer as much as we do from these base children of the devil, this brood of vipers.
Translated by Martin H. Bertram, “On The Jews and Their Lies, Luther’s Works, Volume 47”; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971.
Martin Luther – 1543
Of The Unknowable Name and The Generations of Christ
But your [God’s] judgment is right, justus es Dominie. Yes, so shall Jews, but no one else be punished, who held your word and miracles in contempt and ridiculed, insulted and damned it for such a long time without interruption, so that they will not fall, like other humans, heathens and all the others, into sin and death, not up in Hell, nor in the middle of Hell but in the pit of Hell, as one cannot fall deeper…
Even if they were punished in the most gruesome manner that the streets ran with their blood, that their dead would be counted, not in the hundred thousands, but in the millions, as happened under Vespasian in Jerusalem and for evil under Hadrian, still they must insist on being right even if after these 1,500 years they were in misery another 1,500 years, still God must be a liar and they must be correct. In sum, they are the devil’s children, damned to Hell…
The Jews too got what they deserved. They had been called and elected to be God’s mouth as Jeremiah says…Open your mouth wide and I will fill it; they however, kept tightly closed their muzzles, eyes, ears, nose, whole heart and all senses, so he polluted and squirted them so full that it oozes from them in all places and devil’s filth comes from them.
Yes, that tastes good to them, into their hearts, they smack their lips like swine. That is how they want it. Call more: ‘Crucify him, crucify him.’ Scream more: ‘His blood come upon us and our children.’ (Matthew 27:25) I mean it came and found you…
Perhaps, one of the merciful Saints among us Christians may think I am behaving too crude and disdainfully against the poor, miserable Jews in that I deal with them so sarcastically and insulting. But, good God, I am much too mild in insulting such devils…
John Calvin, Response To Questions And Objections Of A Certain Jew – excerpts
Calvin maintains the Biblical view that the special favor shown to the Jews under the Old Covenant is no longer a blessing, but rather has become a curse. – Introduction, pg. 5
…the Jews have been unique in their perpetual obstinacy. Reading the Response should convince any reasonable person that there is no spiritual common ground shared by Christians and Jews, as the Jew stands opposed to the redemptive work of Jesus at every point. – Introduction, pg. 5
Calvin’s interlocutor was neither one of Calvin’s contemporaries nor Calvin himself writing in a different persona, but the author of Sefer Nizzahon, which translated means The Book of Victory. Nizzahon is a Jewish polemical anthology probably written in Germany during the fourteenth century. It had acquired a particularly evil reputation among Christians even before the Reformation began. – Introduction, pg. 6, quoting Stephen G. Burnett’s Calvin’s Jewish Interlocutor: Christian Hebraism and Anti-Jewish Polemics During the Reformation
The kindred nature of Catholicism and Judaism helps to explain why Calvin so fervently attacked Judaism both in the Response and in his commentaries. – Introduction, pg. 7
But unbelievers, as long as they spurn this gift, invite upon themselves a two-fold destruction… – Question 1
In short, the Jews speak as if their race had never been ungrateful to God, and had never made a deadly poison out of a medicine. –Question 1
But the explanation depends upon the abrogation of the legal worship, the ignorance of which causes the Jews to talk nonsense quite stupidly. – Question 4
If there were any trace of healthy discernment amongst the Jews, they would at once recognize how far the excellence and dignity of Christ is beyond Moses, even in miracles. – Question 6
Surely, were not all the prophets and all religion not a joke to those rascals, they would consider with a very different reverence whatever God proclaims concerning His favors. – Question 8
By their obstinacy the Jews were the first of men to show that they did not want peace with God. Therefore the Jews deservedly tore up their insides until the final destruction of their fatherland. –Question 8
But because of their arrogance these beasts desire to bind God to their own laws. – Question 9
These dogs bark that the greater part of mankind perishes because, having been put off by the mean appearance of Christ, they shrink back from him. –Question 9
If these utterly lost men had some ingenuousness, they would be ashamed to carry on a debate using such stupid objections, such sickening nonsense that is entirely unworthy of a refutation. – Question 11
Those Jews babble brutish stupidity, who say that God was visible in the person of Christ, as if his divine essence could be seen by carnal eyes. –Question 11
Again I ask you, what is signified by the fact that they wretchedly wander, dissipated throughout the whole globe, and lie prostrate in their ruin… – Question 12
If there were a trace of wit or right thinking amongst these cattle… – Question 12
But truly, whatever spiritual gifts Christ bestows upon his followers, it is not surprising that they are counted for nothing by these profane men, who are utterly without sense when it comes to partaking of every aspect of the celestial life. – Question 12
Whatever Messiah they finally invent for themselves… – Question 13
Nay more, does not this filthy mockery of theirs sufficiently prove what I said earlier, that it is not so much our Christ who is a laughing stock to these Jews, but the law and all the prophets? – Question 13
The solution to this problem, which is of no importance to these pigs, is that Christ experienced hunger, because in taking on our flesh, at the same time he took on hunger and all other human passions, except for sinful corruption. – Question 14
But from this cause they more than stupidly infer that there are very many Christs to be discovered by us. – Question 15
These words have been corrupted by a stupid contrivance under the papacy, but the ignorance of men is not a reason for these dumb animals to scoff at the true faith. – Question 16
From this it is certainly made plain how these rabid dogs gnaw without discretion at whatever they hear from the New Testament. – Question 17
What will escape their impudence when they allow themselves to clamor against the mysteries of God so wantonly? – Question 18
The solution to this question depends upon a principle that is unknown to the Jews, because they have been struck by a spirit of dizziness and madness. – Question 18
But these pigs so subvert all the principles of nature, that no trace of reason can be found amongst them. – Question 21
First of all, their depraved and indomitable obstinacy merits that none of them be pitied, as they all delight in their evils while being oppressed by a great mass of miseries without end or measure. How absurd is this stupidity, that now after so many centuries of continually and openly being worn down by the hostile hand of God they feel so secure in their case? It is evident from the prophets how the horrible filth of all their crimes was advancing amongst that people long before the exile. Already one hundred years before, Isaiah called the leaders Sodom and the people Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:10); from that time they did not cease from provoking the vengeance of God against themselves with their diabolical hardness. – Question 23
Selections from Calvin’s Bible Commentaries
From Ezekiel 16:53
“He here confirms again what we lately saw, that the Jews were doomed and devoted to final destruction, nor was it possible for them to escape any more than for Sodom to rise again and Samaria to be restored to her original dignity.”
“…but the Israelites were already alienated from God; afterwards the Jews also cut themselves off from him.”
From Isaiah 8:14
“…for he includes the whole nation, and declares that God will be their destruction.”
“…for they were altogether rejected by God, whose Son they had refused.”
From Matthew 5:17
“… Christ saw that the greater part of the Jews, though they professed to believe the Law, were profane and degenerate.”
From Malachi 1:11
“Here God shows that he no longer cared for the Jews, for he would bid altars to be reared for him everywhere and through all parts of the world, that he might be purely worshipped by all nations. It is indeed a remarkable prophecy as to the calling of the Gentiles; but we must especially remember this, – that whenever the Prophets speak of this calling, they promise the spread of God’s worship as a favor to the Jews, or as a punishment and reproach.
The Prophets them promised to the Jews that the Gentile would become allied to them; so does Zechariah,
“In that day lay hold shall ten men on the skirt of the garment, and will say to a Jew, Be thou our leader; for the same God with thee will we worship.” (Zechariah 8:23)
It would have been the highest honor to the Jews had they become teachers to all nations, so as to instruct them in true religion. So also Isaiah says, that is, that those who were before aliens would become the disciples of the chosen people, so that they would willingly submit to their teaching. But as the Jews have fallen from their place, the Gentiles have succeeded and occupied their position. Hence it is that the Prophets when speaking of the calling of the Gentiles, often denounce it as a punishment on the Jews; as though they had said, that when they were repudiated there would be other children of God, whom he would substitute in their place, according to what Christ threatened to the men of his age,
“Taken away from you shall be the kingdom of God, and shall be given to another nation.” (Matthew 21:43)
Such is this prophecy: for our Prophet does not simply open to the Gentiles the temple of God, to connect them with the Jews and to unite them in true religion; but he first excludes the Jews, and shows that the worship of God would be exercised in common by the Gentiles, for the doctrine of salvation would be propagated to the utmost extremities of the earth.
This difference ought to be noticed, which interpreters have not observed, and yet it is what is very necessary to be known; and for want of knowing this has it happened that passages wholly different have been indiscriminately blended together. The Prophet then does not here promise, as we have often stated in other places, that the whole world would be subject to God, so that true religion would everywhere prevail, but he brands the Jews with reproach, as though he had sad, “God had repudiated you, but he will find other sons for himself, who will occupy your place.” He had repudiated in the last verse their sacrifices, and we know how haughtily the Jews gloried in the holiness of their race. As then they were inflated with so much pride, they thought that God would be no God except he had them as his holy Church. The Prophet here answers them, and anticipates their objection by saying, that God’s name would be celebrated through the whole wolrd: “Ye are a few people, all the nations will united in one body to worship God together; God then will not stand in need of you, and after he rejects you his kingdom will not decay. Ye indeed think that his kingdom cannot be safe, and that his glory will perish except he is worshipped by you; but I now declare to you that the worship of God will flourish everywhere, even after he shall cast you out of his family.”
We now then see what the Prophet means when he says, that Great will be the name of God from the rising to the setting of the sun. It is simply said in Psalm 113:3,
“From the rising to the setting of the sun wonderful shall be the name of God.”
There indeed it is only a promise, but here the Prophet includes the punishment which the Jews had deserved, as though he had said, that after they were rejected by God on account of their ingratitude, the Gentiles would become holy to God, because he would adopt them instead of that wicked and ungodly people.”
From Isaiah 7:14
“But it is a just reward of their malice, that God hath blinded them in such a manner as to be deprived of all judgment. This happens in the present day to the papists, who often expose themselves to ridicule by their mad eagerness to pervert the Scriptures.”
From Genesis 49:10
“Though this passage is obscure, it would not have been very difficult to elicit its genuine sense, if the Jews, with their accustomed malignity, had not endeavored to envelop it in clouds.”
“For while they lay too much stress on certain words, they produce no other effect than that of giving an occasion of ridicule to the Jews, whom it is necessary to surround with firm and powerful barriers, from which they shall be unable to escape.”
“ They have indeed no relish for a spiritual kingdom; and therefore they rather imagine for themselves wealth and power, and propose to themselves sweet repose and earthly pleasures, than righteousness, and newness of life, with free forgiveness of sins.”
“But now, when, through nearly fifteen centuries, they have been scattered and banished from their country, having no polity, by what pretext can they fancy, from the prophecy of Jacob, that a Redeemer will come to them? Truly, as I would not willingly glory over their calamity; so unless they, being subdued by it, open their eyes, I freely pronounce that they are worthy to perish a thousand times without remedy.”
From Haggai 2:9
“But in suffering a counterfeit Temple to be built by Herod, when the manifestation of Christ was nigh, he manifested his vengeance by punishing their ingratitude, rather than his favor; and I call it counterfeit, because its splendor was never approved by God.”
From Isaiah 53:3
“He does not even except the Jews, whose hearts were puffed up with a false opinion of their own superiority, but condemns them indiscriminately, along with others, to destruction.”
“I have had much conversation with many Jews—I have never seen either a drop of piety or a grain of truth or ingenuousness—nay, I have never found common sense in any Jew.” —John Calvin, Commentary on Daniel 2:44
Oh, and by the way, I haven’t even begun to quote what Jesus Christ said to, and about, the Pharisees. It’s easy to find in the Gospels and in Revelation. He calls them a brood of vipers, children of the Devil, and a Synagogue of Satan, among other condemnations. What is Judaism, now and in the past, if not Pharisaism? Then and now they hold the Talmud to be authoritative. Then and now they are hostile to Christ and Christianity. There is no discernible difference between Judaism and Pharisaism. The two faiths, Christianity and Judaism, have never been in any way compatible.
I also haven’t mentioned what the Talmud says about Christ. It’s vile. So vile that I don’t want to repeat it. Look it up for yourself. Granted, there are some rabbis who say that the old rabbis were talking about someone else, but I don’t buy that. Also granted, the Talmud is 5000 pages of gobbledy-gook, just a bunch of rabbis arguing with each other down through the centuries, but that in itself tells me that holding the Talmud as authoritative is folly, at best.
Does this mean I want to gas the Jews? Not anymore than Calvin did.
But if we have to choose between what our modern Church and it’s milquetoast pastors says about antisemitism, that it’s double-plus bad, and we’re not to criticize Jews or Israel, or choose to stand with Calvin, Luther, the Church Fathers, all of Christendom except for the last fifty years, and Christ himself, I’ll choose the latter, thank you very much.
Not much of a decision, is it?