Antisemitism in Christianity

This Site Explores the Presence of Antisemitism in Christianity

Christian antisemitism is commonly ascribed to claims that "the Jews" betrayed Jesus to a terrible death because they refused to recognize Jesus as the savior of humanity, and that the satanic Jews helped denounce and persecute Christians through three hundred years of Roman history. Christians thus believed (and many still believe) that their antisemitism developed as no more than an appropriate response to Jewish malevolence.

Although long propagated, it is important to show that these antisemitic claims were not based on reality. By the standards of the time (including circumcision, temple worship, holiday observances, and food purity laws), Jesus was, and remained, an observant Jew, as did his disciples. From what we know of Jesus' life and teachings, his main adversary was not "the Jews," but an exploitative society governed by Roman rule and its aristocratic henchmen. If anything, Jesus' compassionate concerns were for the impoverished majority of Palestine's Jews who were the oppressed subjects of Rome and its supporters. Also, there is no evidence that Rome ever conferred political power on the Jews to persecute Christians.

I believe it is also necessary to show that Christian antisemitism arose from a basic need for Christianity to gain standing and credibility by presenting itself to the Roman public as a non-Jewish anciently-sanctified religion. Thus, a major reason for denigrating Jews was the Christian need to claim the historic Jewish Bible as their own -- that the Jewish Bible can be re-interpreted (by Christians) to support the doctrine that Jewish patriarchal figures such as Abraham were already Christian, and that the coming of Jesus the Christian savior had been biblically prophesied.

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