My purpose in writing this monograph was to gather material on why and how antisemitism became incorporated into Gentile Christianity. It became clear to me that antisemitism was not a peripheral or tangential attachment to Gentile Christian development but served important purposes. Among these, as many scholars have noted, the need to gain status as an antique divinely revealed religion prompted Gentile Christianity to demonize Jews and replace them as heirs to the ancient Jewish Scriptures.

I realize this view, if taken seriously, will discomfort Christians who accept or ignore long-standing Christian anti-Jewish mythology. But since this mythology is not innocent of its terrible effects, I hope such Christians will seek a more truthful and more rational history of their religion and be willing to discard its mythological evils.

I pursued two related themes. 1) What explains the origin and persistence of Christian antisemitism? 2) In the wide gap that developed between Gentile Christianity and Judaism, what claims did Christians make against Jews, and what features of Christianity were rejected by Jews? Although this monograph may appear overly critical of Christian claims and doctrines, I believe it necessary for Christians to understand why Jews failed to adopt Christianity — a reason that was commonly given to justify antisemitism.

Organization of the monograph is based on a thesis followed by a series of explanatory Notes, each indicated in the thesis by a numbered superscript. I felt that although the main concepts can be briefly stated, somewhat fuller explanations supporting these arguments should include some of the historical backgrounds, events, literature, and attitudes that markedly affected Jews and Christians. Though a few major points may seem repetitive, it is difficult to treat some areas related to early Christian antisemitism without encountering the same agents.

For many fruitful discussions of content and organization, I am indebted to my wife, Ursula Rolfe, sons Paul and Neal, and Linda Oppen. I am grateful to the Graduate Theological Union Library, University of California, Berkeley, for access to their extensive collection of books and journals.

A version of this monograph can be found on the Internet at

M. W. S.

April, 2019

Berkeley, California

Full references to sources cited in the Notes are in CITED REFERENCES. Biblical quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version, Oxford University Press. References to New Testament Gospels ascribed to the four evangelists (“Gospel of ……) are shortened to their names: St. Mark, St. Matthew, St. Luke, and St. John. Unless otherwise attributed, the abbreviations “ANF” and “NPNF” are used for translation sources; see CITED REFERENCES. Among more general surveys of the history of Jesus and early Christianity are books by Crossan (1991), Ehrman (1999), Fredriksen (1999), Horsley and Silberman, and the volumes edited by Esler (2000).