ANYONE BUT 'HIM':
In the September and October Shmooze Letters we examined two historical issues that hinder the Jewish community from seeing Yeshua as the Messiah from the Scriptures:
(1) Interpreting Scripture through ‘traditions of men’, which obscure Messiah’s authority as Lord, and... (2) The destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, resulting in the idea that Messiah’s atonement for sin is unnecessary. Although these issues are important, the third historical issue outweighs them all: ‘Christian’ persecution of the Jews. ‘Christian’ anti-Semitism has historically sabotaged the Jewish people’s consideration of Yeshua’s claims to be the Messiah.
To most believers in Yeshua, it seems unfair, if not completely unreasonable, for Jewish people to completely dismiss Yeshua because of what some ‘medieval skinheads’ did in His Name. But, as strange as it may seem to us in our “enlightened” society, the historical leaders of anti-Semitism were not peripheral Christians: they were leaders in the Church!
A Tragic History
In the 2nd century A.D. the groundwork was laid for a course of history where eventually the government and the church would declare the Jewish people as ‘fair game.’
Church father Justin Martyr wrote in Dialogue with Trypho that Jewish misfortunes were divine punishment from God: “Tribulations were justly imposed on you [Jews] for you have murdered the Just One.” |
In the fourth century under the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, the so-called ‘Christian faith’ was legalized and made the state religion. With the legalization of ‘Christianity’ throughout the empire, this hostility toward the Jewish people became widespread.
* Concerning the Jews, Aphrahat (bishop at Mar Mattai, near Nineveh) wrote in A.D. 344, “He [God] has truly abandoned them,” while misquoting Old Covenant portions to substantiate this claim (see, for example, Isaiah 1:4).
* Augustine, in his Reply to Faustus, the Manichean, wrote of “the Jews as being guilty of Christ’s blood” and as being “cursed from the earth” and therefore “cursed by the Church.” Their subjugated and miserable state was to be preserved as “proof to believing Christians of the subjection merited by those who in the pride of their kingdom put the Lord to death.”
* In A.D. 386-387 John Chrysostom delivered eight sermons degrading Jews in religion and customs: “God always hated the Jews”, and “It is incumbent on all Christians to hate the Jews.” On the occasion of a procession honoring the Maccabees (Hanukkah) in A.D. 388, the destruction of the synagogue of Calinicon took place immediately after a series of these anti-Jewish sermons were delivered.
* In the Middle Ages during the Crusades, Jews were routinely murdered by Crusaders en route to the Holy Land. Upon arriving in Jerusalem in 1099, the Crusaders rounded up all Jews, herded them into the Great Synagogue there and set it ablaze. While it burned to the ground, the Crusaders marched around it singing “Christ We Adore Thee.”
Luther’s Errors = ‘Final Solution’
Anti-Semitism continued even during the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther, who is a hero of many theology professors because of his historic stand for justification by faith, wrote three anti-Jewish tracts later in his life.
These tracts expressed the following ideas:
(1) Jewish synagogues should be burned;
(2) Jewish homes should be destroyed;
(3) Jewish workers should be given menial tasks;
(4) Jewish money should be confiscated; and...
(5) Jewish people should be forced out of their communities.
The Church’s writings were not only theoretical, but they were applied with deadly effectiveness. For example, charges against the Jews included Blood Libel, Desecrating the Host, Die Judensav (The Jewish Sow), Jewish economic conspiracies, and alleged Jewish rape of Christian women. During the Spanish Inquisition, thousands of Jews either died at the foot of a cross or were expelled from Catholic Spain. The “Final Solutions” of Orthodox Russia (1900) and Lutheran Germany (1935), proposed the elimination of Jews from Russia in the former, and from Europe in the latter (known as “Judenfrei,” or “Jew Free” Nazi policy) .
Is it any wonder that a modern Jewish writer, Jules Isaac, author of Has Anti-Semitism Roots in Christianity? writes, “Hitler’s genocide was a final offshoot of the church’s perennial “teaching of contempt” and “system of degradation of Jews” (pp. 17,18). He goes on to say, “Christian anti-Semitism, the powerful, and strongly rooted trunk upon which [in the Christian world] all other varieties of anti-Semitism are grafted, even those of a most anti-Christian nature” (ibid. p. 40).
Problem: Countering a Convincing History
To the Jewish person who is only aware of secular history, but not of what Yeshua taught, there remains no other conclusion: Christianity is anti-Semitic. Therefore when Jewish people are pointed to the prophecies in Scripture regarding Messiah (Isaiah 7:14; 53; Micah 5:2; etc.), they cannot imagine these refer to Yeshua. After all, they reason, how could a Jewish scripture point to a Jewish Messiah who is the leader of an anti-Jewish religion?
Exception or Rule?
Throughout history there have been Christians who loved the Jewish people, such as Corrie ten Boom, who lived sacrificially rescuing Jewish people during the Holocaust. Many Christians would point to her as representing their concern for Jewish people. Unfortunately, believers like Corrie appear to Jewish people as the exception, rather than the rule.
The Kiss of Death
Other well-meaning Christian leaders have responded to Christendom’s persecution of Jewish people with an unbiblical, tragic attitude: “Let’s not offend our Jewish friends any further by preaching the gospel to them.” This perpetuates the canard that ‘Jewish people don’t need Jesus’, effectively cutting them off from the only hope for Life Eternal (see John 14:6).
A Hardened Heart
Still other Gentile believers disregard history, the scriptural instruction to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), and common sense. Rather, they attempt to justify a continued insensitivity to Jewish people. How? Instead of preaching a gospel whereby one turns from sin to God, a ‘cultural gospel’ is proclaimed for one to turn from his Jewishness, and be converted to “Christianity.” History has handed down to Jews and Christians an “us vs. them” mentality. Thus Jewish people are often made to feel that their sin is that they are Jewish, and that they should turn their back on their Jewish heritage (forget Passover, Hanukkah, etc.). This is confusing, and presents a false view of the issues of sin and forgiveness. Of course, being Jewish is no sin, lest Yeshua be the chief sinner, for He is King of the Jews.
God's Solution: Living The Truth in Love
If, because of history, Jewish people cannot ‘see’ Yeshua in the Scriptures, and if it’s unscriptural to be insensitive to Jewish people in our witness, what then are we as believers to do? Our Jewish friends need to see us as Yeshua’s representatives. Our committed love and concern for Jews, and all people, is needed to overcome the historical horrors that have been said and done “in Jesus’ name”. Let’s not allow the sad history of the past nineteen centuries to be the only witness of the Lord that our Jewish friends have. Rather, let us become ‘living epistles’ (2 Cor. 3:2,3) demonstrating God’s love for Israel. We can help Jewish people look at the Scriptures with ‘new eyes’ and favorably consider Yeshua as Lord and Messiah.
Satan has done all he can to ruin our Lord’s testimony to Israel. Although he has deceived even Church leaders regarding God’s program for Israel, still the Bible says “Greater is He [Yeshua] that is in you, than he [Satan] that is in the world” (1 John 4:4), and you with your testimony can gain victory in the Lord! I know that this victory is real. Years ago, non-Jewish believers simply and sincerely shared Jesus with me. At first I mocked them because, of course, I ‘knew’ from history what Christianity was all about. Still, a spiritual seed was planted in my heart, and soon after, I came to believe the truth about Yeshua and I was saved.
You too can make a difference! God has strategically placed you in the lives of your Jewish friends to demonstrate the love of God, that my people chosen by the Lord, will never again say, “Anyone but Him!” Instead, may they say, “No one else but Him will do!"
This article appeared in the April 2000 Word of Messiah Schmoozeletter. Many
other fine articles can be found in the "Word from the Word" section of the Word
of Messiah Ministries web site: http://www.wordofmessiah.org/. Used with the
gracious permission of Sam Nadler. Thank you, Sam !!