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 The Sickness Of Anti-Semitism

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Issachar
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PostSubject: The Sickness Of Anti-Semitism   Fri Oct 12, 2007 1:07 pm

THE SICKNESS OF ANTI-SEMITISM

Since the days of the Patriarchs the world has run a low-grade fever. At given intervals that fever has become a burning sickness that has inflamed peoples and nations. This lingering, unexplainable, and irrational sickness was only given a name in the last century. It is called anti-Semitism. The disease may be defined simply as prejudice, discrimination, or persecution against the Jewish people.

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Relief at Yad Vashem depicting Jewish Suffering

Obviously, the persecution of Israel was not possible before the covenant was fully established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But since those ancient days, peoples and nations have come repeatedly against the people of God in order to destroy them. The Bible is replete with evidence of these attacks. While sojourning in Egypt they were oppressed by Pharaoh. This evil monarch, in his attempt to destroy God's chosen, commanded that all the newborn males be slain (Ex. 1:15-16). He oppressed and enslaved God's people until they were miraculously delivered by the hand of God.

After their deliverance from Egypt, and on their way to the promised land, the people of Israel were quickly oppressed by their own kinfolk, the Amalekites (Ex. 17:8), the Edomites (Num. 20:18), and the Moabites (Num. 22:2-6). Once in the land, the attacks against the small and struggling nation were endless. The long centuries were filled with wars with all the surrounding nations. Time and again the Edomites, Moabites, Amalekites, Ishmaelites, Ammonites, Midianites, and Philistines came against the people of God. All these enemies are carefully recorded in Psalm 83. Also recorded for us is their sworn purpose. It is said of them; "They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against the hidden ones. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance" (Psa. 83:3-4). Throughout the painful saga of Israel's history she was also bitterly attacked by the stronger nations in the area such as the Egyptians, Syrians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, and finally the Romans.

Once the nation of Israel was destroyed and its people dispersed by the Romans in the wars of AD 70 and 135, one would think that the "Israel problem" would have been put to rest, and that the world would have been able to go on to other concerns. Such was not to be the case. The fever and agitation continued as even the pagan writers of that period, such as Lysimachus, Apion, Tacitus, and Juvenal, continued to attack and slander the Jewish people. Riots and persecutions erupted in various cities of the pagan world. All this could be understood much more readily than the attacks which came from another quarter - from the newly founded Christian Church.

CHRISTIANS INFECTED

Perhaps it stemmed from jealousy or fear, or from some of both, nevertheless, shortly after apostolic times the Church allowed itself to become infected with the virus of anti-Semitism. Early Church fathers such as Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus, and Cyprian made highly inflammatory statements concerning the Jews. Their statements were made in contradiction to what seems to be clear biblical admonitions in Romans 11:17-18 and in many other passages of the New Testament.

Ignatius, at the beginning of the second century, certainly had discouraging words for those Christians who wished to learn about their Hebrew heritage. Ignatius remarked, "if anyone celebrates the Passover along with the Jews, or receives emblems of their feast, he is a partaker with those that killed the Lord and His apostles." Later, Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, declared that the Jews were "disinherited from the grace of God." The most popular preacher of early Christian times, John Chrysostom, labeled the Jews as murderers. He said that their synagogue "is not only a brothel and a theater; it is also a den of robbers and a lodging for wild beasts."

The questionable teachings offered by these early fathers and preachers continued to inflame the Church in its formative centuries. In the year 325, Constantine the new "Christian" ruler of the Roman Empire, immediately forbade Jews to live in their own city of Jerusalem. Following his example, later Byzantine rulers such as Heraclius, Leo III, and Basil I promoted forced conversions of the Jews. The trend went on both in the eastern and western portions of the empire. The Byzantines disrupted synagogue services and forbade Jews to hold governmental posts. In the west, kings such as Chilperic the Frank, in the sixth century, set an ugly precedent by ordering forced baptisms for large numbers of Jews.

The crowning tragedy that Christians imposed upon the Jews in early times, came as a result of agitation caused by the Crusades. This began shortly after the Council of Clermont in 1095, and lasted for over a hundred years. At the beginning of the first Crusade, restless adventurers began to test their swords upon the Jews in their midst. In cities such as Speyer, Worms, Cologne, and Prague, the Jews were massacred. When the Crusaders finally reached Jerusalem in 1097, they rounded up its remaining Jews into one of the synagogues and set it on fire. By the end of the First Crusade thousands of Jews were dead. The other Crusades followed the same violent patterns.

Anti-Semitism continued to flourish within Christendom with Inquisitions and expulsions of whole Jewish populations from many European states. In the period between the 11th and 19th centuries, the Jews were expelled at least 34 times from major Christian cities and states. Along with this came many other harassments. In the year 1215, the Church at its Fourth Lateran Council ordered Jews to wear distinctive garments. These garments took many forms such as patches of cloth sewn to clothing or the forced wearing of funny hats. Jews were forbidden to engage in trades, to own land, to intermarry with Christians, and even to live in the midst of Christians. As a final insult they were not even allowed to die in the midst of Christians, and commonly Jewish graves were desecrated.

In the 12th and 13th centuries the Church doctrine of transubstantiation gained wide acceptance. This doctrine affirmed that the actual flesh and blood of Christ became present in the consecrated Host and wine. Miraculous tales in connection with the Host began to circulate and soon the Jews began to be charged with desecration of the Host. Another common charge of the Church in this period was that the Jews kidnapped Christian children, killing and torturing them in order to obtain blood for their Passover ritual. No one seemed to know or even care that partaking of blood was totally forbidden by Jewish law, yet the myth persisted even as late as 1936 in Nazi Germany. Jews were commonly charged with practicing magic, with poisoning wells, and with many other atrocities.

It would relieve us somewhat if we could say that Christian anti-Semitism was confined only to Catholicism and to the dark ages of Christian history. Unfortunately this is not the case. Even the great 16th century reformer, Martin Luther, had a few things to say about the Jews. "First their synagogues or churches should be set on fire," he said, "and whatever does not burn up should be covered or spread over with dirt so that no one may ever be able to see a cinder of stone. And this ought to be done for the honor of God and of Christianity." He went on to say that Jewish homes should be likewise destroyed, along with their Talmuds and prayer books; that their rabbis should be forbidden to teach; that their traveling privileges should be suspended and their money and valuables should be taken from them. These were just a few of his suggestions.* It is of note that Luther's remarks were used in the defense of Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trials.

The bitter seed that had been sown in Christendom for almost two thousand years became ripe during the Holocaust of the twentieth century. In the midst of enlightened Europe, even in the very cradle of the great reformation, six million Jews were coldly and cruelly murdered while most Christians simply shrugged. Even Jews who had escaped Hitler's grasp sailed along America's shores begging to be given asylum. "Christian" America simply shut its eyes and sent them back to the gas chambers.

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A Railroad Car to Nowhere at Yad Vashem

SYMPTOMS STILL PERSIST TODAY

Strangely, even today in the modern Church and in the "enlightened" modern world, the disease of anti-Semitism still persists. Now that the Jewish people are being re-gathered to their land, anti-Semitism often takes the form of anti-Zionism, or anti-Israel or pro-Arab sentiment. One can note this trend by the numerous times Israel is condemned in the press or on TV, or the times she has been censured by the United Nations. Israel, whose population constitutes only one-thousandth of the world's total, has been the object of an amazing one-third of all UN Security Council resolutions. This international "Israel bashing" reached one of its zeniths in 1975 when the UN declared Zionism to be racism. In effect it declared illegal the biblical hope of returning to Zion nurtured through the ages, both by Israel and by the Church.

As the Jewish people return home and become more and more concentrated in their land, this trend will undoubtedly increase. The prophet Zechariah declares that someday all the nations of the earth will be whipped into one last frenzy and will surround the tiny nation of Israel in order to take care of this "problem" once for all (Zech. 14:1-3). At that point God himself will personally intervene and demonstrate to the nations their folly.

We would think that surely now the Church would separate itself from this madness. Yet, even today in the modern Church there remains a persistent coolness and an unexplainable hardness toward the Jewish people and toward the nation of Israel. Although it seems incomprehensible, some Christian groups in recent years even have gone so far as to express open support for the PLO. How could such attitudes prevail in light of biblical teaching?

Perhaps my query in this regard is summed up best in these simple lines written by two different people. The first part was written by William Norman Ewer, a British writer. Later the sequel was written by Cecile Brown, an American businessman.
The little lines go:

How odd of God to choose the Jews!

But not so odd as those who choose a

Jewish God, But spurn the Jews


Jim Gerrish, Church & Israel Forum
http://www.churchisraelforum.com/index.html
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