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The Church and Anti-Semitism

This is not an attempt to give a comprehensive report of the Church and the Jews. It is a short article covering some of the incidents, so we will have a picture of what has happened between the Church and the Jews in the past. Some have forgotten how the Jews have been treated by Christians, and others have never known.

The Church began as a Jewish institution and was founded by Jews. Christians have redemption through a Jewish Savior and have received the writings of Jewish prophets and apostles. The error of replacement theology crept into the early Church and was hardly noticed at first, but more and more as time went on it increased. This error soon brought about a legacy of hate toward the Jews which resulted in harassment, death, and persecution of Jews. Down through time, from the beginning of the Church, the Church has condemned the Jews as enemies of the cross. This sad legacy of the Church is still ongoing today.

Soon after the ascension of Jesus the disciples began to gather and congregate in homes or wherever they could and then eventually into churches. When Stephen was stoned to death in 33 A.D. it caused the disciples to be scattered out of Jerusalem in every direction. In 70 A.D., when Jerusalem and the Holy Temple was destroyed the Jewish people were scattered to the four corners of the earth.

Near the end of the first century there was competition between the Jews and the church for converts and the church came to include many Gentiles. Gentiles are people of every nation except Israel and the church is made up of believing Gentiles and Jews who become one in the church, as the result of accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior. As a result, in the first few centuries, the Jewish Church was decreasing and the Gentiles began assuming leadership positions in the Church. The Church was in a transition from a Jewish to a Gentile Church and by the end of the second century the change was almost complete. Replacement Theology began to emerge and was beginning to be adopted as truth. The error of Replacement Theology is still in use in many churches today.

In 130 A.D. the Roman Emperor Hadrian decided to rebuild Jerusalem. He built a temple to Jupiter on the site of the Temple of Solomon and, of course, the Jews didn't like this at all. In 132 A.D. a Jewish warrior came, Bar Kochba, who claimed to be the fulfillment of the prophecy in Numbers 24:17-19. Bar Kochba was accepted by Rabbi Akiba as Israel's Messiah. Many of the Jews joined Bar Kochba in a revolt against Rome. By hiding themselves and their weapons in caves they were able to capture over a thousand villages and strong places from the Romans. The Jews that believe Jesus was the Messiah, the church, refused to join in this revolt. Bar Kochba then saw them as enemies and traitors and killed some of them. The church became outraged and their anti-Semitism grew, and eventually the church was less tolerant of having anything to do with their Jewish roots.

The Roman general Severus subdued them in 135 A.D. and had Rabbi Akiba flayed alive. Thousands of Jews were killed and many sold as slaves, while others were deported. There were some Jews who were able to stay in their land and they have had a presence in the land of Judea, or Palestine, for over 3,000 years now. The Jews were not allowed to enter the city of Jerusalem. This was also the time the Jewish homeland had it's name changed from Judea to Palaestina, today called Palestine. This change of name was an effort by Rome to eliminate the Jewish name and their connection to the land of Israel.

After the Bar Kochba revolt the church quickly became more Gentile as the process of Gentiles entering the church increased. This was also the time that the allegorical method of interpreting the scriptures enabled the Church to appropriate God's promises to Israel. There had been rumblings of this in the past, beginning in 100 A.D. when The Epistle of Barnabas said the Old Testament was meant to be read allegorically, spiritualizing the meaning. By using the allegorical method one can re-interpret Scripture to mean anything they desire. Using this method they now claimed the Church had replaced Israel and has inherited all the promises God made to Israel. Origen of Alexandria wrote that the Jews would never be restored to their former condition. All of this is based upon the use of allegorical method of interpreting the Bible, which can be used to give a false conclusion that Israel will never be restored to their former condition. The Church, in these early centuries used the allegorical method and failed to look at the historical and Hebraic context of the passages and resulted in anti-Semitism.

Since Jerusalem had been reduced to rubble and the Jews killed or deported, with some few left in the land outside of Jerusalem, the early Church now assumed that they had replaced Israel in God's plan, since there was no longer an Israel. Even down to 1948 the Church continued this false assumption that, since there was no nation of Israel, the Church has replaced Israel. In 1948 we saw the nation of Israel restored to her promised land and, for a time afterward, many saw the truth and returned to the literal, grammatical, and historical method of interpreting the Bible. In today's world, many have returned to the allegorical method, which has resulted in the apostasy of many churches and members.

In the second century, and continuing the early church fathers began to write about the Jews in a negative way. They wrote of them as a rejected people and this description followed them down through the centuries to today. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon around 177 A.D., said that the Jews were disinherited from the grace of God. Melito of Sardis said the Jews sent Jesus to the cross and were responsible for the death of God. Origen was the originator of the allegorical method of interpretation and taught this method to his many students. This resulted in the spreading of the allegorical method and helped establish it in the church. This laid the foundation of anti-Semitism for the church. This anti-Semitism resulted in the Jews being discriminated against religiously and politically. It also resulted in many confrontations with Jews in which many of them were killed. This has continued throughout time.

It was in the second century that the church fathers wanted to break with anything related to the Jews. They made claims that God has cursed and rejected Israel, and now the church is the “true” or “new” Israel; and the promises of blessing to Israel are now the exclusive property of the church. These statements were the source of, and used as the justification of, anti-Semitism by the church for centuries. The early church erroneously taught that the church had replaced Israel in God's plan.

Also in the second century, Jews and Christians were in competition with one another for the attention of Rome. The Jews had legal status as a religion and didn't want the Christians associated with them. On the other hand, Christians also wanted to be recognized by Rome and not associated with the Jews. Then, in the fourth century, Christianity was established as the official religion of the Roman Empire by Constantine. The allegorical method of interpreting the Bible was now brought into the church by Augustine. This new Christian empire did away with the legal status of the Jews. They removed their religious and governing privileges, prohibited missionary work, and Jews were not allowed to hold high offices or have military careers. Of course this is the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church, but it is important to remember that there were other Christians who disagreed with these and removed themselves to locations where they could worship in truth and freedom.

Now, with the church being favored by Rome, anti-Semitism was spread throughout the world by way of the Church and others. Ideas like the Jews had lost their right to exist, the church had replaced Israel, and Jews were Christ killers. Even one of the church fathers, John Chrysostom, the Bishop of Antioch, preached sermons against the Jews and spread many of these ideas, including that Israel has been rejected by God. He also said that Jews were inveterate murders, possessed by the devil. St Jerome described the Jews as serpents, wearing the image of Judas. Gregory of Nissa said the Jews were murders, rebels, and were companions of the devil. These false ideas, from men who were not evil, are still in existence today in many churches throughout the world. This has been, and is still, the cause of much of the anti-Semitism of today and has resulted in much tribulation for Israel. The nations of the world have followed up on what the church has said and repeat the saying of the church that Jews cannot live among us as Jews.

The Church now enters what is called the Dark Ages. This is the period from Constantine in the fourth century to 1096 A.D., the beginning of the Crusades. The Roman Emperor Constantine was the first Christian Emperor and Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire. Augustine now supported the allegorical method of interpretation and the state then adopted Replacement Theology which was the beginning of persecution of the Jews in the name of the Church. Augustine then injected Plato philosophy into Christian theology. This philosophy displaced the Hebrew understanding of Scriptures.

The Crusades came about because of the continuing Muslim slaughtering of Christians and their taking Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The purpose of the crusades was to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims and stop the spread of Islam. The Catholic Church launched nine holy wars between 1096 to 1272 A.D. to liberate the Holy Land and Jerusalem from the Muslims. While doing this, they killed thousands of Jews because of the anti-Semitism of the Church. In 1096 A.D., in different attacks, 5,000 Jews were murdered in Germany. To escape Count Emico, who was trying to forcibly convert them, 1,200 Jews committed suicide. In 1099 European Christians captured Jerusalem and killed tens of thousands of Jews.

Between 1347 and 1350 A.D. about 25 million died during the Black Death plague. As today, medieval Europe was in the majority, biblically illiterate and spiritually ignorant. Because of replacement theology and the teachings passed down through time against the Jews, the people blamed the Jews for the Black Death plague, saying they poisoned the wells. Because of this there was a mass slaying of the Jews.

A Spanish Inquisition was requested by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in 1481 A.D. and was approved by the Pope. Those that were secret Jews, a Jew or Muslim who converted to Catholicism, were targets of this inquisition. There were thousands of Jews burned at the stake, but many repented. In 1492 A.D. Jews were finally expelled from Spain. Thousands of these Jews fled to Portugal. The inquisition continued until the eighteenth century with about 31,900 being burned at the stake and about 17,659 burned in effigy. A Spanish style Inquisition was authorized in Portugal by Pope Paul III in 1536 A. D.. There were about 1,800 burned alive, the rest repented.

Martin Luther had been an ordained priest of the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. He disputed the policy of the church with respect to the sale of indulgences. Martin Luther was once a supporter of the Jews but because they would not join in his own religion he became anti-Semite with his writings, calling the Jews the anti-Christ and worse than devils. He preached that the Jews were ritual murderers and parasites. He also preached that Jews should be expelled from Germany and their synagogues burned to the ground.

Then, from 1791 to 1915, Jews living in Eastern Europe were confined to a place called "Pale of Settlement". This was created in 1791 by Catherine the Great to remove Jews, those who would not convert, from Russia. The Pale consisted of 25 provinces which include the Ukraine, Lithuania, Crimea, Belarus and, since the Jews are gathered together, they became easy targets for pogroms and anti-Jewish riots.

As a child, Hitler, attended a Catholic school and learned anti-Semitism from the church fathers. The Europeans had long hated the Jews and in Vienna, where Hitler went to study, the mayor was anti-Semitic as well as the press. This anti-Semitism shown by Martin Luther and others, including the Roman Catholic Church, gave a boost to the German's argument for annihilating the Jews. Then came World War II with Hitler and Germany. Hitler built on the anti-Semitism of the church. Germany, under Hitler, brought up a plan to resolve the Jewish question. It was called “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question”. This plan was to systematically exterminate the Jewish population in Europe through genocide, and it ended with the Holocaust, which saw the killing of two thirds of the Jewish population of Europe. About 95% of the population of Germany said they were Roman Catholics or Protestants and supported Hitler. Interestingly, Hitler was never excommunicated from the Catholic church.

After World War II, and the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948, the Arabs tried to exterminate all Jews in Israel but failed. This effort, of the Arabs, to exterminate the Jews has never stopped, continuing today through the terrorist organizations of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Hamas. This is partly supported by the anti-Semitism of the many churches that teach the church has replaced Israel. Today, most of the nations of the world are anti-Semitic and the USA is quickly turning more and more anti-Semitic. Many of the protestant churches are still bogged down in the old replacement theology of the Roman Catholic church. We see the hatred of the Jews occurring nation wide in the USA and other countries around the world. The church today is calling itself anti-Zionist instead of anti-Semitic, and the Arabs use this as well as Christian organizations. Both Islamic theology and Replacement theology refuse to recognize that Israel exists. We need to remember that God's covenant with Israel is everlasting and unconditional.


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Replacement Theology: It is also called Supersessionism.

  • Some say that Israel, meaning the people and the land, have been replaced by the Church in the purposes of God and the Church is the continuation of Israel to the exclusion of the Jewish people and the land.
  • Others say that since Pentecost in Acts 2, the word Israel now refers to the Church.
  • Others say that the promises and covenants given to Israel have been taken away from the Jews and given to the Church. However, the Jews are still subject to the curses.
  • Others say that without entering today's church through repentance and the new birth the Jewish people have no future, hope, nor calling in God's plan.


Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism: is a hatred toward Jews or discrimination toward them as an ethnic, religious, or racial group.


Allegorical Interpretation: This method of interpreting scripture is used to replace Israel with the church. Those who wanted to replace Israel with the church and say that the Jews were no longer God's chosen people, resorted to this method since one can make scripture say nearly anything they desire. This was the method that brought in the anti-Semitism of the church. With this method the real meaning of any passage is disregarded in favor of the allegory. This method has resulted in many false churches and beliefs.


Crusades: The military expeditions undertaken by the Roman Catholic Church in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. The goal was to take back Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Muslims and stop the advance of Islam. Muslims were not the only targets, the Jews also became targets because of the replacement theology and the anti-Semitism it produces.


The Final Solution: The Final Solution to the Jewish Question could also be called the Holocaust. It was Hitler's plan to eliminate all European Jews and he eliminated six million of them between 1941 and 1945.


Holocaust: It is the state sponsored murder of Jews, about six million of them, by Hitler's Nazi regime. In the Greek, Holocaust means sacrifice by fire.


Inquisition: This is the Roman Catholic Tribunal for discovering and punishing the heresy of the Jews.


Literal Method of Interpretation: A correct understanding of the Bible can only be found in the literal, grammatical, and historical method of interpretation. This is one that is based on the actual words and their ordinary meaning. This is interpreting Scripture without using the allegorical method or spiritualizing unless it is clearly indicated in the passage.
By using the literal meaning of words, assigning to every word the same meaning it would have in its normal usage it allows for the many figures of speech, parables, allegories, types and symbols. These are clearly known by correctly analyizing grammatical relationships of words, phrases, and sentences to one another. With a literal interpretation one can not twist scriptures to mean anything they want, and they get the real meaning, instead of someones thoughts or imaginations.
Looking at a passage grammatically requires us look for the meaning by making sure of the meaning and form of the words, the function of the words, and the relationship of the words.
The correct view of a passage must also take in the historical context. To properly understand the Bible we must look at the historical setting, circumstances of a passage and the culture in the time it was written.

Platonism: A school of thought that was taught by Plato and was the dominant philosophy of the world for about 800 years. See Colossians 2:8.


Pale of Settlement: This was created in 1791 by Catherine the Great to remove Jews, those who would not convert, from Russia. The areas of the Pale included Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, and Poland. Within the Pales the Jews were denied higher education and land ownership.


Pogroms: This is an organized and sometimes officially encouraged attack with destruction, looting of property, murder, rape, and persecution against a minority group, especially the Russian Jews.




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