Yesterday we began a series considering the roots of antisemitism in the church. Indeed there are many examples of the vitriol we witnessed yesterday as propounded by John Chrysostom in his tirade, Against the Jews. Before proceeding to some Reformation era quotes to demonstrate the antisemitism tracked into Protestantism by some of the Reformers, I’d like to cite a few other ‘church fathers’ as evidence that Chrysostom was not alone, but rather parroting a broader view.
Slayers of the Lord, murderers of the prophets, adversaries of God, haters of God, men who show contempt for the law, foes of grace, enemies of their father’s faith, advocates of the devil, brood of vipers, slanderers, scoffers, men whose minds are in darkness, leaven of the Pharisees, assembly of demons, sinners, wicked men, stoners, and haters of righteousness.
Further, Gould quotes ‘Saint’ Jerome (374-419 C.E.) as saying in Les Juifs dans L’Empire Romain, (p.312),
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 are they mercenaries.
And, quoting ‘Saint’ Fulgentius of Ruspe (ca. 467-533 C.E.) from Writings, ca. 510 C.E., Gould says,
Hold most firmly and doubt not that not all the pagans, but also all Jews, heretics and schismatics who depart from their present life outside the Catholic Church, are about to go into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Constantine ‘the Great,’ ca. 280-337 C.E. was not a church father, but a major political figure who used his authority for the advancement of Christianity and the oppression of the Jews. In Laws, 18 October 315 C.E.,
We wish to make it known to the Jews and their elders and their patriarchs that if, after the enactment of this law, any one of them dares to attack with stones or some other manifestation of anger, another who has fled their dangerous sect and attached himself to the worship of God [Christianity], he must speedily be given to the flames and burnt together with all his accomplices.
Moreover, if any one of the population should join their abominable sect and attend their meetings, he will bear with them the deserved penalties.
J.R. Marcus in The Jews of the Medieval World, p.4, as cited by Gould.
Now, to be fair, both to Gould and to the early church, he cites many positive or at least moderate perspectives on the Jews, a number of which are Popes, however, there is no rejection of those holding these dangerous views or recanting/overturning by later church authorities. Rather, as Michael L. Brown, Ph.D., points out in his very well researched book, Our Hands are Stained With Blood, these quotes and the attitudes they represent laid the foundation for innumerable atrocities against the Jews by the ‘church.’
Brown recounts the history of the Crusades and elucidates the horrors glossed over by most of history, (quotes from pgs 92-93),
Three major Crusades were carried out, and each time the story was the same: As the impassioned armies marched through Europe and the Middle East, they committed atrocities against the Jews. On one occasion they set a synagogue on fire and then marched around it singing “Christ We Adore Thee” while the Jews burned to death within.
And citing other sources he quotes,
May 3, 1096, Germany. The crusaders surrounded the synagogue of Speyer; unable to break into it, they attacked any Jews they could find outside the synagogue, killing eleven of them. One of the victims, a woman, preferring death to conversion, the only choice left open by the crusaders, inaugurated the tradition of freely accepting martyrdom.
July, 15, 1099, Jerusalem. The city was captured on July 15… where [the Jewish] inhabitants defended themselves alongside their Muslim neighbors, finally seeking refuge in the synagogues which were set on fire by the attackers. A terrible massacre ensued; the survivors were sold as slaves… [and] the Jewish community of Jerusalem came to an end and was not reconstituted for many years…
Is it any wonder why the Jews detest the cross? Is it any wonder that Professor Eugene Borowitz would say, (quoted from Brown),
We might be more inclined to give Christian claims some credence had we seen Christians through the ages behave as models of a redeemed humanity. Looking through the window of history we have found them in as much need of saving as the rest of humankind. If anything, their social failings are especially discrediting of their doctrine for they claim to be uniquely free of human sinfulness and freshly inspired by their faith to bring the world to a realm of love and peace… Until sinfulness ceases and well-being prevails, Jews know the Messiah has not come.
(He continues)… After nineteen centuries of Christianity, the extermination of six million Jews, among them one-and-a-half million children, carried out in cold blood in the very heart of Christian Europe, encouraged by the criminal silence of the Holy father in Rome, was the natural culmination of this bankruptcy. A straight line leads from the first act of oppression against the Jews and Judaism in the fourth century to the holocaust in the twentieth.
And, I would completely agree!
Some dare argue that we are not guilty of the sins of our fathers. Scripture would evidence otherwise. Leviticus 26:40-42 highlights the culpability of the sons for the fathers,
40 ‘If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me— 41 I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.
From another angle, Christendom would argue for the superiority of Melchizedek over Aaron as delineated in Hebrews 7 because Aaron was in the loins of Abraham when he paid tithes to Melchizedek. Is it any different that we are descendants, physically and spiritually of our fathers and therefore, in the Hebraic mindset, present when our fathers advanced antisemitic thought and action?
The point, as I expressed yesterday, is that we need to seek repentance and peace with our brother, Judah. We have inherited antisemitic thought and actions through our fathers and particularly through the church fathers. We must come to grips with our own culpability and cry out in humility asking our Father to cleanse us and lead us in acts of love and concern that will begin to repair the breach with the physical people of God to whom were made irrevocable promises.
Tomorrow, Martin Luther and his perfectly horrid venom-filled tirade against the Jews and what it led to…