by Dr. Theresa Newell
[Reprinted from Heart's Cry 4, no. 4 (November 2014).]
In his seminal book THE ANGUISH OF THE JEWS: Twenty-three Centuries of Antisemitism by Edward H. Flannery (a revised edition was published by Paulist Press in 1985), Flannery notes that even in the Greco-Roman world which predated the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth there were anti-Jewish realities in the Mediterranean world based on culture and politics.
And while Jesus, his apostles, disciples and the early Church were thoroughly Jewish and seen as a sect of Judaism, once Christianity began to spread to gentiles across the Roman world a new kind of theological anti-Semitism sprang up. This stand against the Jews began as early as the 2nd century AD by people like Marcion who claimed that the God of the Jews, Yahweh, was not the Father of the Lord Jesus! He said that those who worshiped the Old Testament God (i.e. Jews) were idol worshipers.
By the 4th century, following the early Councils of the Church which defined the basic doctrines of the Christian faith in documents like the Nicene Creed, the Jews were defined successively as “a perpetually perverse people, despised by God” (Hilary of Poiters) and the synagogue a “harlot” (St Ephraim). St. Gregory of Nyssa (AD 331-96) described the Jews as “slayers of the Lord . . . advocates of the devil . . . congregation of demons . . . haters of goodness.” Thus began the charge against Jews as “Christ-killers” which led to countless Jewish deaths across the centuries. St. John Chrysostom, in a series of sermons preached in Antioch in the fall of AD 386 during Jewish High Holy Days, accused the Jews “of their rapine, their cupidity . . . inveterate murderers, destroyers, men possessed by the devil.”
Is it 1938 again? Are we seeing a rise is a movement of hatred toward the Jewish people that is deeper and larger even than Hitler’s “Final Solution”? Will I stand with the Jewish people in their time of need that is fast approaching? Will I pray and work to share the love of the Jewish Messiah with them at this critical point in history? Will I pray “for the peace of Jerusalem”*? Today is a day of decision for each believer in the Jewish Messiah Jesus on this critical issue of our day.
*[And today, especially, will I pray for Pittsburgh?]