Did Paul nullify food laws here? Did Paul refer to the Scriptures as a doctrine of demons? What is the doctrine of demons spoken of here? Forbidding to marry? Abstaining from certain foods?
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,
Is the doctrine of demons here referring to the Torah? If so, God’s word is a doctrine of Demons. Is this possible?
2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
These two things are the doctrine of demons: forbidding to marry and abstaining from foods. These were both the doctrine of the Gnostics of the Greek world. They forbid to marry, of which the Torah says the opposite and they were on various diets, including vegetarianism. Both these issues were to bring the body into submission though starving the flesh. These were not Torah commands, but practices of the pagan world.
Also note that the issue emphasizes that they were commanding to abstain from foods that God had created to be received with thanksgiving. In alignment with the Torah (law), this would be the foods that Yahweh already deemed clean. This would not however include those that He already deemed unclean. The unclean was NEVER to be received with thanksgiving, but was actually considered an abomination. Was this a temporary truth, or are we taking away from the eternal Word of God, in declaring all foods OK, even those the LORD determined unacceptable for consumption.
4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
Is this verse then making all foods ok to eat? It does, only if you take it out of context. If taken in context. No food that is already ok’d by the word (Leviticus) is to be refused, because God already told you what foods are good. If you receive them with thanksgiving, it is sanctified, no matter what the Gnostics say.
6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.
Good doctrine is God’s word, which Timothy followed, who was circumcised, by Paul.
7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
Another reference to the Greek religious groups who had many fables and were health and wellness nuts (very similar to the New Age movement of today.) Biblical Godliness was the ideal, above all the doctrines of the world. At any rate, this cannot be used to ok the eating of all foods, in contradiction to the existing Word of God.
If these arguments lead us to the conclusion that these verses cannot be used to support our theology concerning food issues, what is there to support this theology? Is this thus a doctrine and commandment of men that is held over us by tradition? Or is this belief directly supported by Scripture. We must hold our teachers accountable to some standard. God has given and preserved that very plumb line. The “church” has continually cast away that plumb line for thousands of years and our faith has deteriorated and deviated from the truth. We are the modern day Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, Essenes, etc, who hold to the tradition of our elders and compromise the truth of the written Word of God. We are where we are because we are the lawless church. We are reaping the harvest of a church without law.
This is an excerpt from an article entitled Major Misconceptions written by Gary Hoffman.
Did Paul quit keeping Torah for a better, less burdensome life as a follower of Jesus?
15 And after those days we packed and went up to Jerusalem. 16 Also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and brought with them a certain Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to lodge. 17 And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law;
Note: tens of thousands of Jews believed and were still zealous for the law. This is a positive statement. We are commonly lead to believe that only very few Jews followed Jesus and we also assume that the law was done away with. The Biblical record is contrary to this line of thinking.
21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.
This is a false accusation. Paul did no such thing. He actually upheld the Law of Moses.
22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. 23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. 24Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.
Either this was all a front to fake out those accusing Paul, or he actually did regard the Torah as fully in effect even to the point of vows.
25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”
This issue is discussed in the Acts 15 verses.
26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them. 27 Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29 (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesians with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) 30 And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut.
These again are false accusations which no way support that Paul nor any Jew who followed Yahshua ever abandoned the Law, vows, or the temple offerings. (The hair of a person who was completing a Nazarite vow, was to be shaven and burned in the temple as an offering (Numbers 6:3-15). This section of verses support that Paul was keeping Torah and are not support text for his abandoning the “old law” for the new grace.
This is an excerpt from an article entitled Major Misconceptions written by Gary Hoffman.
Did the LORD through Paul nullify the Law for the Gentiles?
1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
The issue that stirred the disciples to go to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders was that certain Judeans were saying that the Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved. They were applying the Jewish oral law called the “ritual of the proselyte,” which meant that you had to become an Israelite, in order to be saved. The only way to be saved, according to the traditional view was to go through the ritual of circumcision. They believed that you were not and could not be saved outside this ritual. This meant that you were now a part of Israel and thus saved. This was in contradiction to the written law, which said that one must be joined to Yahweh.
2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
The question of circumcision as necessary for salvation. To transform the Jerusalem council into something more is adding to the text.
3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. 4 And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.
“These things” are that God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles 14:27. Yahweh saved gentiles who had not gone through this ritual. He did it by His power through faith.
5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
Now in Jerusalem some from the Pharisees said that it is necessary that they be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses. The issue here is not whether the Gentiles should follow Torah after receiving the Holy Spirit, but that they must follow all Torah including circumcision in order to be saved and receive the Holy Spirit, etc… They could not believe that a Gentile could go through this transformation until they had converted to Judaism. This is the essence of the Judaizers. It was not an issue making a “no law for the Gentile” rule, but a clarification of the doctrine of “by grace you have been saved, not of works…” which was the Torah way. See Hebrews 11. It was grace in the Torah for the patriarchs and it is Grace for the gentile.
6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Peter states the case for the Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit by faith. They received the same Holy Spirit that Paul and the other Jews received, even before
they did one thing in alignment with the Torah. God sees the heart. Salvation was always a heart issue and still is, and He saved them because of their heart,
not because of their fulfilling the law. This was the same heart issue of Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 26:37-40. It is the same way to Yahweh. It was and is
and always will be a heart Issue. With the right heart we then follow Yahweh’s commands. To say that the Gentiles had to do anything else to Attain
salvation is false.
10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
What is the yoke and whose neck is it on? Note: The Jews were into evangelism prior to Jesus. They knew that they were to be a light to the Gentiles, all the
way back to Abraham. The problem was that they required the Gentiles to follow Torah and be circumcised in order to be completely converted or accepted into Judaism. And this did not even make you an equal with a Jew. As a reminder again, the Herodian era Jews even erected a fence around the Temple that no Gentile, convert or not, could go beyond. This was the middle wall of partition spoken of in Ephesians 2:14. The yoke is likely the burden of conversion by works. The yoke was possibly the burden of trying to evangelize while making the Gentile keep the law first, when God saved them irregardless of keeping the law. Keeping the law was a life long transition of the true convert who came by faith to the LORD. Once accepted by Gods grace He gives each
the power to pursue a life of obedience to His law.
11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
Paul points out that all are saved in the same manner. Just like Adam, Abraham, Noah, David, etc… were saved by faith, so are we and so are these Gentiles. SAME WAY as always. Saved by grace. Check out Strong’s definition of grace: The divine influence upon the heart reflected in the life.
12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. 13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
God has taken individuals out of the gentiles as a people for His name. The Gentile was coming out of from among gentiles and into the household of Israel. God did not bring the Jew out of Torah to become more like the gentiles, but was opening a door that the Gentile could enter into the faith of the Jew. The Gentile was expected to come OUT of the pagan life and into the Torah life, which is the same today. The question is what does Torah life mean or even look like?
16 ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; 17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD WHO DOES ALL THESE THINGS.’ 18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works. 19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God,
The important word here is “turning”. Do not trouble those from the Gentiles who are turning to God. This is an “in process” transition of repentance. These are NEW believers who are coming out of their pagan life without God and placing their trust in the God of Israel. Do not trouble them by telling them they have to be circumcised and keep the law to be saved, when God has decided that they already are.
20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.
Are these the four things that a gentile must do forever? Does this make sense? What about all the other things like the 10 commandments? Or is this it? This statement cannot be an all encompassing standard for the gentile follower of Jesus. It is however the four main elements in most pagan temple worship. It is a first step away from the pagan world of cult worship. It is very important to note that all four of these commands are Torah commandments given to Israel concerning the separation from pagan idolatry. Is it possible that the council was giving application of the law to these new converts? Giving them a “most important” list of things to do as they are coming out of paganism.
21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
The key and summation of this issue is in this verse. One that few ever remembers reading in this context. What does this mean? To paraphrase: The Torah/law/word of God is preached every Sabbath in a systematic weekly reading schedule. If you come to the synagogue each week, you will learn the word of God. It will all be covered. Yahweh has redeemed these Gentiles from death. They have received the Holy Spirit. They have been chosen by Gods grace “period”. As they turn and come out of their pagan life, they will here the truth of God’s Way each Sabbath as they gather with the congregations. They will be fed the word regularly. They will learn how to live over the long haul. They will grow, as they learn and apply the Word of God to their life. This is the same rule of evangelism today. The new, weak believer needs milk first, then hopefully moves on to eating meat. The new convert will choke on meat. The Gentiles are being saved by faith. God looks at the heart and is giving them the Holy Spirit. Don’t burden the disciples with making them have these new converts be circumcised and keep the whole law as they are turning to God. At least get them out of the pagan worship system for now. They will hear the word weekly as they assemble with us. They will learn how to live through the teaching of God’s law. In time the same God, who has saved them by faith, will transform the rest of their lives, through the Holy Spirit whom they have received. And God forbid that they have to go through the ritual of a proselyte
22 Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren. 23 They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”—to whom we gave no such commandment— 25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell. 30 So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. 31 When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement. 32 Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words. 33 And after they had stayed there for a time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles.
These verses are not license to break the commands of the God of Israel.
This is an excerpt from an article entitled Major Misconceptions written by Gary Hoffman.
Did God, through this vision to Peter nullify the food laws here? Is this the issue within the context or has our tradition become more authoritative than what is actually written in the Scriptures. One of the most powerful yet simple ways to narrow down the actual meaning of a verse is to understand the context of the particular section of scripture. This is sometimes very clear and sometimes takes extensive research into the history, culture and language. In this section of Scripture it is a combination of knowledge of history, but like Mark 7 it is predominantly an issue of context.
1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.
Cornelius was “one who feared God” or literally “a God fearer”. A God fearer was a designation for a gentile who committed himself to following Yahweh, the God of Israel, but who was not circumcised, yet. Because the traditional ritual of becoming a proselyte (a gentile who became an Israelite through a circumcision ritual) was essential to being a member of Israel, a God fearer was still considered a gentile. He was to be treated as a gentile and all the man made rules for interaction with gentiles applied to the God fearer. This was contrary to what the Hebrew Scriptures taught. The Torah stated that anyone who joined themselves to Yahweh was a child of Yahweh See Isaiah 56.
3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. 6 He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” 7 And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually .8 So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa. 9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
Peter is in a trance, has a vision and is told to kill and eat animals. This is a vision. These were not real animals, but a vision. Visions were usually something with a deeper meaning than what was seen. Daniel and Joseph are two who had visions. In Josephs for instance the sickly wheat did not literally eat the healthy wheat. Same with the sickly and healthy cows. The dreams were metaphor for what God was telling Joseph.
14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
Peter says no to the LORD? How can Peter say no here? He can if the voice is contradicting a clear mandate in the Torah. The only standard for obedience that Peter had and which we have to determine proper action is the written Word of Yahweh. Peter also confirms that even after 10 years as a follower of Jesus he still has never eaten anything common or unclean. Now, the LORD is either changing the food laws here or He is using this vision to make a very specific point. Also note that Peter here did not interpret any of Jesus’ words to nullify the food laws, for he was still maintaining them. Peter did not interpret Mark 7 as authorization to eat unclean meats.
15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.
This happens three times and the vision ends. The question is: what did God cleanse and what did Peter call common or unclean? In context this in relation to Cornelius as we will see. This was the Gentile who submitted himself to Yahweh and His Torah. This was not a food issue. We will also see that the issue was not about what Peter was eating, but who Peter was not eating with. One important note here is the word usage of Peter for common and unclean are koinoo for common and akathartos for unclean. The LORD in His response clarifies the issue by only using the word koinoo for common. This is another verification that His intent and emphasis were not on food.
17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate.
Peter was pondering (he was perplexed) this vision and wondering what it meant. It was not obvious. Was God telling Peter that He could now eat any animal and that he was now making all animals ok to eat. Was the unchanging Creator, now rescinding what was recorded by Moses as His law? Was God telling Peter that he could go out and now eat all things?
18 And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there. 19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. 20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”
Peter was still thinking about the vision. He was seeking the meaning of the vision which he had seen. He was waiting for God to reveal the true meaning of the vision.
21 Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, “Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.” 23 Then he invited them in and lodged them. On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends.
We know that Cornelius is a Gentile God Fearer and a devout man, with a good reputation among all Jews 9:1-2. Remember, Cornelius was not a full convert to Judaism according to the traditions of the elders that Jesus has such a problem with in Mark 7. He was treated just like a gentile. As we will see, this means that a Jew could not fellowship and eat with him in his home, because he was considered common. Because of this view, which was in contradiction to the written law, the Jews even went to the extreme of building a middle wall of separation in the temple area. This wall kept the gentile god fearer and the proselyte from coming near the temple itself. This was in total contradiction to the torah of God, which allowed even the gentile to bring sin offerings to the LORD’s alter in the tabernacle. There was a big problem with the oral traditions and commands of men, as there is today.
25 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” 27And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. 28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation.
Peter acknowledges the traditional law. Note: this is not a command of Torah, but one added by the Jews. The Greek word here for unlawful is equal to disgusting, detestable or forbidden.
But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
Peter explains his interpretation of the vision. His interpretation has nothing to do with the food laws of Leviticus, but with gentiles. No MAN is common or unclean. We cannot read into this anything more than what Peter determined this vision to mean. It was his vision. We must consider the implications of determining a meaning of this vision other than what Peter clearly stated. We are adding to the word of God, if we do. This would be like me telling you a deeper more significant meaning to Joseph’s dream and of Daniels interpretation of the king’s dream. It is ridiculous to think of. Yet because of tradition, we allow this to happen here. We simply cannot add more revelation to this vision than what Peter received.
29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?” 30 So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ 33 So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ— He is Lord of all—
Peter again clarifies His interpretation of the vision, that God shows no partiality between the Jew or the Gentile who fears God and works righteousness. The Messiah is LORD of all who fear God and work righteousness. He shows no partiality, they are one in the same. This is clearly an issue about the oneness of the Jew and the Gentile through faith in Jesus. The vision was NOT about food! The context and the conclusion of Peter make this very clear. His interpretation also, though in disagreement with hundreds of years of oral Jewish law, does not contradict the Torah. Again, we have missed the point of this incredibly important section of Scripture.
This is an excerpt from an article entitled Major Misconceptions written by Gary Hoffman.
When someone finds out that my family chooses to eat Biblically or keep certain parts of the Law, the typical response is to quote several portions of Scripture. The following scriptures are typically used as proof text against our decision to maintain a Biblical diet.Mark 7:1-23
Did Jesus nullify food laws or any of the Law Here? Did Jesus make ALL FOODS (those previously listed in Leviticus as unclean and an abomination the LORD) now OK for followers of Jesus to eat?
1 Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. 2 Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. 3 For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders.
The issue here was concerning a traditional manner of washing hands that was not addressed in the written Torah. This was one of the many thousands of man made additions to the Scriptures that the religious leaders of the day came up with in order to keep the Torah. This was called the oral torah and later put in a writing called the Mishnah. During the time of Jesus these teachings were elevated as equal to the written Torah of Moses. According to these man made laws it was necessary to go through a ritual washing of the hands that nullified any possibility of being “defiled” by a food or an item that may have come into contact with something or someone that was by this same law unclean. It is important to note that this was not a commandment of the LORD as written by Moses, but of men or “the tradition of the elders”. This was called a “fence” and was erected, in order that one stay far away from breaking a written commandment. These fences were not in the Scriptures given to Moses, but the fabrication of men. This whole section of Scriptures is specifically focused on this man made law and this is the context and subject of Jesus rebuke. This is NOT and could not possibly be an issue of written Levitical food laws. The context of this entire section is an excellent example of how the context clearly establishes the point of the text.
4 When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. 5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?”
The issue that these Pharisee’s and scribes had with Jesus was that He and His disciples were not following the man made rules and regulations of the religious institution of His day. Again the subject of this dispute is clearly established in the text. This was NOT an issue of following the rules of the written law, but an issue of following the traditions of men, as these Pharisees and Scribes clearly state.
6 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 7And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
To confirm that this is the issue, Jesus uses a quote from the prophets to cement the issue and the error of these men. He condemned them for teaching that their man made traditions were simply man made traditions. His biggest dispute was that they had made these into doctrines that were elevated to that of the law itself. Jesus did not accept these as authoritative, but condemned those who teach and enforce these rules or dogma. Their contention here was in no way suggesting that Jesus broke the laws of Moses, but the commandments and doctrines of men.
8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men— the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”
Jesus goes further in His accusation in implying that they not only made new doctrines that were not Scriptural, but they also laid aside the actual commandments of the LORD (the Torah) to do so. This is the leaven of the Pharisees and the heavy yoke that Jesus spoke of in other texts. The Torah that was given by the mouth of God at Sinai, when observed according the manner in which it was written was never a heavy yoke or legalism.
9 He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.
They not only lay them aside, but reject Yahweh’s word. (Torah or OT). This is where the danger of our man made traditions leads. It becomes our law and we reject Gods law. We become submissive and fear men while rejecting the written law of God. We elevate the traditions of our fathers in higher esteem than that which came from the very mouth of God Himself.
10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, 13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
They even override and make the commandments of no effect through their UN Biblical tradition. Men begin to pursue and focus on these and their importance replaces the original writing in which they are seeking to uphold. I believe that the sole emphasis of this portion of Scripture is a warning anyone who has a doctrine that supercedes the written commandments. I believe that this is the warning for the church today. I believe that we need to ask the LORD to reveal in us any doctrines that we adhere to that He may look at in the same way he is looking at this oral law of the Jews.
14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”
The importance of context must be noted here. This verse has a context in which it is set. To pluck this verse out of this context and interpret it outside of the surrounding verses would be in extreme opposition to the writers intent. I will note that most who use this verse to say that Jesus abolished the food laws must remove it from the surrounding Scripture to do so. This verse simply CANNOT be support text for eating what ever we want.
A study of the word uses here is also in support of this being a different issue than food. The following is a word study on the key word defile. The question is: “Is this the word used to describe unclean foods or any other designation as found in the OT. NOTE: that the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT from Jesus day) never uses this Greek word. Thus it is NEVER the word used in any of the OT passages for “unclean”
DEFILE – 2840 κοινόω [koinoo /koy·no·o/] v. From 2839; TDNT 3:809; TDNTA 447; GK 3124; 15 occurrences; AV translates as “defile” 11 times, “call common” twice, “pollute” once, and “unclean” once. 1. to make common. 1a. to make unclean, render unhallowed, defile, profane. 1b. to declare or count unclean.
“to profane cultically” “to deprive of the capacity for fellowship with God” “to make common
“However, “unclean” in the OT and every instance in Leviticus, especially chapter 11 is represented by the Greek word akathartos which is used numerous occasions in the NT. It is used exclusively in the Gospels in association with demons or literally “unclean (akathartos) spirit, and predominantly in the rest of the NT in the same manner. A good question as a side note is the following: Did the writers of the Septuagint know more about the spiritual issues concerning these unclean animals than simply dietary in nature?
This is the word used in the NT for In all but 5 instances for “unclean spirit”. It is used also to translate a quote from 2 Cor 6:17 from Isaiah 52:11.
The use of koinoo instead of akathartos here is added (very significant) support that Jesus was not implying that all foods, including those already established as unclean (akathartos) are now clean, but simply denouncing the authority of the traditions of men. His point is that food that God already determined to be acceptable can not be made common or unclean by mans influence. Basically your laws are changing the Laws of God.
17 When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understandingalso? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him,
“Whatever” here cannot thus be an all encompassing statement, outside of the context of this argument. Within the context it cannot mean that now all things, including the ones already addressed in Leviticus, are OK as food. It is simply a misunderstanding of ours because of our tradition and the interpretation of men. For the very reason Jesus had to set these religious leaders straight. Their problem is our problem: we have taken the tradition of men and made it into doctrine. A doctrine which we so boldly and vehemently hold to. We cannot make the same mistake as the one group of people that Yahshua so seriously chastised. We MUST look into our own lives and see where our traditions and doctrines are the same, i.e. where “our interpretation” and other teachers (even our church fathers) have a system in place that overrides the Word of God. Look close, they are to numerous to count. We are in bondage to our own traditions and refuse to follow God’s teachings. We are doing the very thing that Jesus is opposed to here. And interestingly we are using the very Scriptures that rebuke this theology to support our breaking of the Law.
NOTE: The NIV ads in parenthesis: (in saying this Jesus declared all food “clean”) this is an extremely disturbing addition to the Word of God, designed to sway the reader to make a conclusion that is no where evident in this passage. These Greek scholars “knowingly” chose to create doctrine that is non existent.
Another important note to point out here is that the dietary prohibitions in Leviticus list certain animal’s ad food and certain others as NOT FOOD. To say that there are unclean foods and clean foods is missing the emphasis of the LORD. He is clearly saying that some animal meat is not to be considered food. What God has determined as clean to eat is food and what He has determined as unclean is not food. The issue with the Pharisees and Scribes is that they are making what God has called food, unclean by contact with a gentile or a gentile’s food ware, which was not possible according to the Law.
19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?”
The process that purifies all foods is our own body system. This portion of text is clearly concerning the God given processes of the body to eliminate the byproducts of food through the excretion of waste. Not about changing food laws or about making what is not food now food.
20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
This is and always was and always will be a heart issue. Is your heart clean? These things all come from your heart. It is these that make us (koinoo) common and deprives us of the capacity for fellowship with God. This points to the focus of this section of Scriptures is about evil things and not food. It is not saying that what we eat is of no concern.
We must read the Word of God and check all our interpretations of a verse, first with the context or the sentence, then the paragraph, then the chapter, then the book, then with the NT, then with the OT. If there is any deviation or contradiction, WE are the ones who are wrong in our interpretation, not the writers or the Creator.
Let us not forget that there is one law and one law giver (James 4:12.)
This is an excerpt from an article entitled Major Misconceptions written by Gary Hoffman.
Last month, we explored the first 1,000 years of Christian history in relation to the Jewish people and Israel. What we discovered wasn’t a pretty picture! And, it only became worse. While the first 1,000 years displayed judeophobia, it was primarily limited to the clergy who were always trying to keep their flocks away from the Jews. However, later, the rank and file, growing middle class would be the main source of anti-Semitic activity, spurred on by the Church and its edicts. The pattern had been set.
This month, let’s consider these questions:
Why did historical events such as the Crusades and the Inquisition ultimately focus on persecuting Jews?
Did you know that Martin Luther was sympathetic toward the Jewish people in his early years and then became the source of vile anti-Semitism in his later years?
Did you know that Adolph Hitler found precedent for his evil actions against the Jewish people right out of the annals of Church history?
What can we do to change the last 1,800 years of historical anti-Jewish attitudes and actions of the Church? So, let’s continue our pilgrimage on this trail of contempt.
The First Crusade began in the year 1096. This was a period of strife for the WesternChurch. There were two Popes, one considered an anti-Pope who was claiming the position. When one died, the other, Urban II, needed a unifying cause. So, he called for a Crusade, or Holy War, against the Moslems in the Holy Land, who were persecuting Christians and desecrating the holy places and Jerusalem. In the summer of 1096, an undisciplined rabble of 200,000 peasants and artisans assembled in France. However, there were no Moslems near at hand. So the “champions of the cross” turned their attention to the Jews, who, in their eyes, were just as much “infidels” and enemies of Christianity as the Moslems. They found they could begin the Crusade on the spot. Cruelty, instead of charity, began at home.
As the Crusaders marched through Europe on their way to the Holy Land, they literally raped, pillaged and plundered the Jewish communities along the way. Faced with the wild cries of the Crusaders, “The Jews crucified our Savior, and they must return to Him or die,” the Jews had the alternative of baptism or death. Thousands preferred the death of martyrs. While the Church did not officially sanction this activity, it nevertheless took place with very little to stop it. Many local clergymen and bishops did give some Jews protection and refuge from the rabble. Unfortunately, others actually participated in the executions.
For example, at Mainz, in Germany, the Archbishop invited 1,300 Jews into his palace for refuge. This proved to be an invitation to slaughter, for under his supervision, they were all killed. He even shared in the spoils confiscated from the corpses. Incidentally, Emperor Henry IV heard of this massacre, confiscated the property of the Archbishop, and permitted the Jews who had been forcibly baptized in his realm to return to Judaism. When the Crusaders finally arrived in Jerusalem three years later, they were 600,000 strong. They besieged the city and on July 15, 1099, broke through the walls. They killed the Moslems in the city, along with many Christians whom they mistook for Moslems because of their Middle Eastern appearance. The herded the Jews into their synagogues. Crusaders with shields decorated with large crosses placed wood around the synagogues and burned alive all inside as they sang, “Christ, We Adore Thee!”
Is it any wonder that, for the Jewish people, the cross is a symbol of hatred and death, not love, reconciliation and salvation? The cross has literally been taken and used as a sword against the Jewish people. In all, there were nine Crusades. The last was in 1291, when the Moslems once again took possession of the Holy Land.
The Fourth Lateran Council
In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council of the Church was held. During this council, the doctrine of Transubstantiation was crystallized. Transubstantiation is the doctrine that the flesh and blood of Christ becomes present in the consecrated host (bread) and wine. This doctrine is still believed in the Catholic Church today. This doctrine, together with other statements of the Fourth Lateran Council, became a new source of Christian anti-Semitism.
Host Desecration: For centuries to follow, accusations of host desecration by Jews were circulated. The “Host Desecration Libel” is that the Jewish people would try to steal a consecrated host and then stab, torment, and burn it in an effort to recrucify Christ. Many illustrated stories showing this fabricated phenomenon were circulated, particularly in Germany, during the 1400s and 1500s. This teaching is not dead. Let me share a personal example. In the mid-1970s, the children of a Catholic friend came home from a parochial school (in Boston, MA) with this story told them by a nun trying to teach them respect for the communion host (bread wafer): “A Catholic boy and a Jewish boy went into a Catholic church, and the Jewish boy talked the Christian boy into stealing a communion host. They took it home and went into a closet and stuck it with a pin. The host began to bleed, filled up the closet with blood, and drowned the boys!” This is a variation of the old blood libel charge, particularly since the culprit in the story is a Jew.
Blood Libel: An offshoot of the host desecration libel is the “blood libel.” The blood libel contends that Jews murder non-Jews, particularly Christians, in order to obtain blood for the Passover or other rituals. It was also purported that Jews needed to drink Christian blood so that their appearance could remain human looking, and Christian blood would also help eliminate the distinctive foetor judaicus, “Jewish smell,” which was converse to the “odor of sanctity” possessed by Christians. Another version of this accusation is that Jews would kidnap Christian babies, kill them, and grind up their bodies to cook in their matza (unleavened bread) for Passover. These libels are easily refuted when one has only the slightest understanding of Jewish dietary laws. Jewish people are forbidden to eat the blood of any animal, much less human blood or flesh. The fact that such a doctrine could come into being shows complete contempt and ignorance of Jewish lifestyle, and the lack of any Christian-Jewish relations and dialogue. Again, these accusations can still be found today. Not too many years ago, a young boy was kidnapped in a town north of Minneapolis. JoAnn Magnuson, our BFP Education Director in the US, has a copy of a flyer that was put on windshields in the area claiming that Jews had kidnapped the child for their Passover rituals. It sounds absurd that such a thing could be claimed in the 1990s, but anti-Semitism does not die an easy death.
Distinguishing Marks: Another canon promulgated by the Fourth Lateran Council required Jews to wear a distinguishing mark. The form of the mark varied in different countries, but usually took the form of a badge, or a three-cornered or pointed hat. In this way, Christians could be sure not to inadvertently come into contact with Jewish people. Even in Medieval art, Jews were depicted in paintings and woodcuts with a circle on their clothing or wearing pointed hats. It is important to realize that during this period, many lay and ecclesiastical authorities tried to protect the Jewish community from persecution. Much of the anti-Semitism was now promoted by a rising middle-class. However, the attitudes were based on Church teaching of the past.
The next historical event to blemish world history is the infamous Inquisition promoted by the Church in Spain and Portugal. According to Canon Law, the Inquisition was not authorized to interfere in the internal affairs of the Jews, but to seek out Christian heretics who had backslidden. However, this law was rescinded on the grounds that the presence of Jews caused heresy to develop in the Christian communities.
In the mid-1400s, the Spanish Inquisition began to identify and prosecute backsliders in the Church. It then spread to the Jewish community. Its first focus was the tens of thousands of Jews who had been forced to be baptized. These baptized Jews were known as Conversos or New Christians. Because of this, they were considered Christians and expected to behave as Christians, even though conversion was not their choice. If a mouse is caught in a cookie jar, this does not make him a cookie. So too, force-baptizing anyone does not make him a Christian. Many of these New Christians took upon themselves a Christian facade in order to live and work in the Christian society of Spain and Portugal.
Others did not, and were persecuted for their faith. Many were still practicing Jewish customs, such as lighting candles on Friday evening, changing the linen on the Sabbath, abstaining from pork and scaleless fish, observing the Feast Days, etc. According to the Inquisition Laws, to be caught practicing any one of 37 Jewish customs was grounds to be brought before the Inquisition Court. Christians were to watch for these signs and report any such backsliders. Once before the court, there was no way out of punishment:
If you confessed and did not repent, you were burned alive.
If you confessed and repented, you were publicly humiliated. Any subsequent slip-ups resulted in certain death.
If you did not confess, even if you were innocent, you were tortured until you confessed and then were burned.
The Church was not allowed to execute the victim, so they passed them to a secular arm of the Inquisition Court. Blood was not allowed to be shed, thus burning was the execution of choice. This they justified by a text from John 15:6, “If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered, and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”
Incidentally, all their property was confiscated, enriching the Inquisition Court. Finally, practicing Jews (not Conversos) were eventually brought to the Inquisition Courts, as it was believed that they were Judaisers and a bad influence on the Conversos. They too were tried and burned. The Inquisition in Spain lasted from 1481-1820. Over 350,000 Jews suffered punishment.
Finally, we hope for a breath of fresh air. Reformers recognized many errors inherent in the Church and challenged the leadership, the Pope, the bishops, the priests — the whole ecclesiastical body. The Reformation brought about complex and even contradictory repercussions to the evolution of anti-Semitism. One branch of Protestantism, namely the Calvinists and their offshoots, proved less judeophobic than Catholicism until the 20th century.
The other branch, Lutheranism, developed a continuing strain of anti-Semitism due to Luther’s later anti-Jewish views. An immediate consequence of the Reformation was to aggravate the position of the Jews in regions that remained Roman Catholic. The popes were determined to restore order by the strict application of Canon Law. This naturally affected the Jewish people negatively. One result was that from the second half of the 16th century, ghettos were introduced, at first in Italy, and afterward in the Austrian Empire. The ghetto was actually the name of an island in Venice that was an abandoned foundry. The Jews of Venice were rounded up and moved there so they could be separated and watched. This practice spread to other parts of the Catholic world. Adolph Hitler reinstituted the ghetto in the Third Reich for the same purpose. G. E. Roberti, an 18th century Catholic publicist, stated: “A Jewish ghetto is a better proof of the truth of the religion of Jesus Christ than a whole school of theologians.”
Martin Luther: Martin Luther is the father of Lutheranism. During the first period of his ministry, 1513-1523, Luther often condemned the persecution of the Jews and recommended a more tolerant policy toward them, based on the spirit of true brotherhood. In 1523, he wrote a pamphlet, “That Christ Was Born A Jew,” in which he argued that the Jews, who were from the same stock as the founder of Christianity, had been right in refusing to accept the “papal paganism” presented to them as Christianity. He added, “If I had been a Jew and had seen such fools and blockheads teach the Christian faith, I should rather have turned into a pig than become a Christian.”
However, when they did not accept his version of Christianity and convert, Luther turned increasingly hostile to the Jewish people. By the 1530s in his Table Talk Series, he referred to them as “the stiffed-necked Jews, ironhearted and stubborn as the devil.”
Finally, it happened. He printed two pamphlets, in 1542, “On the Jews and Their Lies,” and in 1543, “On The Shem Hamephoras” (The Ineffable Name). These two pamphlets contain some of the most abhorrent and vile language ever written against the Jewish people. Five hundred years later, Hitler found many of his ideas and justifications for his treatment of the Jewish people and the Holocaust in these writings. After all, if the father of the LutheranChurch, who was a German, stated these things, who was to argue with him? For Luther, it was certainly a case of “sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind.”
The Enlightenment And Emancipation
As we move into the era of Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries, we find the Jewish people still suffering from a legacy of prejudice. As long as Christianity held unchallenged sway in Europe, Jews could exist only on the margin of European social life, and were not even allowed to own property. The term, the Wandering Jew, found its definition in the fact that the Jewish people were forced from city to city, and country to country. For this reason, the Jewish people gravitated to occupations of the intellect, commerce and the arts, professions they could take with them if forced to leave.
Not being able to buy property, they often put their wealth into jewelry or other easily transportable commodities. This and their vocation in banking and money lending, forced upon them by Church authorities since the 12th Century, gave them an undeserved reputation of being obsessed with money.
They became the scapegoat for the ills of the world. When the people of Europe were dying from the Black Death (Bubonic Plague), the Jews were blamed for poisoning the wells. Lacking knowledge regarding germs and disease, and seeing most of the Jewish people free from infection (which was due to their dietary habits and cleanliness), the conclusion of the non-Jewish citizens was that the Jews were the source of the problem. After all, the Jews were still being pictured as evil and prompted by the devil to do evil deeds. Or, they were caricaturized as creatures with pointed tails, horns, and devilish features.
As we move into the era of Emancipation, the newer 19th century version of anti-Semitism arose on soil, which had been well watered for many centuries in Europe by Christian theology and popular myths about the Jewish people. For centuries, Christians had persecuted Jews for theological reasons, and this “teaching of contempt” had set the seal on the most ancient of all anti-Semitic themes: that the Jews were a uniquely alien element within human society and the enemy of the modern secular state. The end of the Medieval era of faith and politics did not mean the end of anti-Semitism.
The Pogroms Of Russia
From 1881 to 1902, there was a series of pogroms against the Jews of Russia. The Pogroms were a series of attacks, accompanied by destruction, the looting of property, murder, and rape, perpetrated by the Christian population of Russia against the Jews. Civil and military authorities stood by and watched, and at times participated. The Church was silent at best, and even endorsed some of the attacks. It was during this period that we find the infamous publication, The Protocols Of The Learned Elders Of Zion. The Protocols, first printed in Russia in 1905, is a supposed conversation between Jewish leaders on how they were to take over the world. The original publication was printed under the auspices of the secret police on the press of Czar Nicolas II of Russia, who made no secret of his personal membership in the anti-Semitic organization, the Black Hundreds. Even though this booklet has been proven over and over again to be false, it can still be found in print around the world and in many languages.
It is difficult to assess the full scope of the pogroms and the number of victims they claimed because of a civil war affecting Russia at the turn of the century. However, partial data is available for 530 communities in which 887 major pogroms and 349 minor pogroms occurred; there were 60,000 dead and several times that number of wounded. (Dubnow, History of Russia.)
This brings us to the Holocaust, the culmination of 1900 years of bad teaching in Christian society. The Holocaust was Hitler’s Final Solution of the Jewish people. Germany was one of the most enlightened, intellectual, and cultured societies in the world at that time. Yet, this so-called Christian society stood by and watched the extermination of the Jews of Europe, and some even participated.
Six million Jews including 2,000,000 children were violently murdered by Hitler and the Nazis. His Final Solution was to rid the world of the “Jewish vermin,” as he portrayed them in literature, speeches, and films. Hitler concluded that there was an evil in society and the common denominator was Jews who could be found in every city and in every country of Europe. To Hitler, they were an ever-present and evil burden to society. They were the killers of Christ. They needed to be controlled and segregated from the rest of society and wear distinguishing badges. They should only work in menial tasks and be barred from medicine, the arts, sciences, law, education, etc. Their synagogues and prayer books should be burned, their property confiscated, and ultimately, they should be killed. Doesn’t that sound vaguely familiar? Every one of these persecutions had a precedent in earlier centuries when the Church controlled politics. Hitler really did not do anything new, he only did it on a grander scale, and more “efficiently.” Sadly, he learned his lesson from Church history.
Hitler and his agents were certainly not true Christians. Nazi philosophy was influenced more by pagan mythology. But most Nazis were members in good standing in either Lutheran or Catholic churches. They perpetrated these acts in a historically Christian nation…and there was a deafening silence from the Christian world. Even during the decade before the Final Solution exterminations began, the “Christian West” rejected Jewish emigrants fleeing from the growing Nazi menace, and even prevented them from going to Eretz Israel,their ancestral homeland. These decisions resulted in the death of millions.
Father Neimoeller, writing of this sad chapter of history, said: “First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out – because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out -because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
The Holocaust in all of its severity is unique to the Jewish people. While non-Jews were killed in Hitler’s killing machine, they were killed for political or social reasons, such as being mentally ill, prostitutes or homosexuals. The Jewish people as a whole were targets: mothers, children, peasants, doctors, musicians, rabbis, professors, etc. None were exempt, and they were all exterminated JUST BECAUSE THEY WERE JEWS. Fortunately, there were some Christians who acted with compassion to hide or help Jews to escape, e.g. Corrie Ten Boom and the Christians of Le Chambon in France. However, their numbers were far too few to make a significant difference.
Hitler is gone. Nazi Germany has ceased to exist. However, the “apple of God’s eye” (Zech. ), the Jewish people, are alive, and Israel is a fact.
Anti-Semitism In The Last 50 Years
From this historical account, it can be seen that the concept of Christian-Jewish relations is a very recent phenomenon. The effort to build genuine Christian-Jewish relationships has only begun in a serious fashion during the last 40 years. Forty years out of nearly 2,000 is not a long time. Much of this effort is in response to the Holocaust; nevertheless, it is happening. Will it last? Only if you are a part of making it last. There is still a battle to be fought. Anti-Semitism isn’t gone, and can be seen or heard in every community. While some would have you believe the world is becoming a better place and anti-Semitism is on the wane, this is not true. Since 1990, anti-Semitic acts around the world have increased, even showing up in places where hardly any Jews live, such as Japan.
We also see how Israel receives a great deal of media reporting that is tainted with a perpetually negative bias. Israel has become a bastion of self-determination for the Jewish people, and many in the world cannot accept it. A “weak underdog” Israel was more acceptable. But a strong Israel, on equal par in the world, is unacceptable. In my estimation, world opinion of Israel is trapped in the old pit of anti-Semitism. After World War II, as the facts of the Holocaust came to light, many enlightened individuals and groups began to speak out for the Jewish people, albeit too late to save the 6,000,000 who perished. While it was no longer “fashionable” to be anti-Semitic, that did not make the problem go away…it only drove it underground. Currently, it is showing itself in world opinion of Israel, as people and governments have transferred their anti-Semitic feelings to a national or political level in the disguise of righteous indignation against the “aggressive ZionistState.” The new anti-Israel, or anti-Zionist trend, is nothing more than the old anti-Semitism in new clothing.
How can we counteract this? We can take a stand, know our facts, and be a collective Christian voice of support and encouragement. This is something that hasn’t been done during all Church history. Yes, there have been Christian individuals who spoke out, but now I believe we have a chance to make a difference because we can show solidarity as a group.
What Should This Mean To Us?
The Jewish people know this history well, while most Christians often ignore it. We prefer to forget about it, because it is an indictment against us. Rev. Dr. Edward Flannery, in his book, The Anguish of the Jews, says that “the only chapters of Christian history known by the Jews were recorded on pages the Church has torn out of the history books and burned.” What does Paul mean in Romans 11 when he points out that the Jewish people are “beloved for the sake of the Fathers,” and that “by our mercy, they will receive mercy?”
It is grievous to think that Satan’s greatest tool against God’s covenant people, the apple of His eye, has been the Church. To say that these historical churchmen who did these terrible things were not real Christians is not accurate, for many of them were. Let us learn a lesson from Martin Luther. No one can doubt his devotion to the Lord, yet he wrote and spoke some of the most terrible anti-Semitic material in history. Like Luther, some of the greatest anti-Semites started out as great supporters of the Jewish people, and then became disappointed when Jews did not fulfill Christian expectations. Apparently, their love was not genuine, but had an ulterior motive. Anti-Semitism is sin and we must constantly guard against it in our hearts and lives. I fully believe that anti-Semitism is the epitome of evil, and the fight against it is a spiritual, as well as a physical, battle. Since the Jews are a God-called, covenantal people, to fight against them is to fight against God. This may be understandable for those of the world, but a tragic error for Christians who believe in the God of Israel. As Ogden Nash wrote, “How odd of God to chose the Jews, but not so odd as those who chose the Jewish God and spurn the Jews.”
Now that we have heard the truth on this subject, it is time for the Church to grow up and learn to respect God’s covenant people, our elder brothers, and Judaism, the parent faith of our faith. Isaiah the prophet said, “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord; Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him, he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many. The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins…” (Isa. 51:1-3). Paul says, “…if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: you do not support the root, but the root supports you” (Rom. -18).
Paul is clear about God’s natural branches, the Jewish people, when he says of them in Romans , “They are beloved for the sakes of the Patriarchs, for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.” Christians need to remember, it was by the Jewish people, God’s Chosen people, that Jesus was born, and we received our salvation. They were chosen to live in God’s land, Israel, to worship God and be blessed by Him, thus showing the world the blessedness of serving the one true God. They were also chosen to receive and record God’s Word so we could have the Bible. Yes, they should be loved for what they have given to us, not hated.
As Gentile Christians, we have a Jewish connection. In Ephesians 2:11-13, Paul tells us that we Gentiles have been “brought near” by the blood of Jesus to the covenants of the promises, hopes and faith of Israel, and even made citizens of Israel. Further, we must remember that Jesus was Jewish. His actual name was Yeshua, and He was a rabbi who taught in the synagogues. His disciples and the writers of the New Testament, except Luke, were Jewish, and the apostles and early disciples were Jewish. They worshipped on Shabbat, celebrated the feasts, and attended Synagogue.
Paul tells Christians, “that by our mercy they shall receive God’s mercy.” This love and mercy towards the Jewish people is more than a warm feeling of appreciation. As Christians, we have a debt to Israel. In Romans 15:27, Paul says we need to demonstrate our love and mercy with action, when he says, “For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessing.” In Matthew 25, Jesus Himself takes a stand on this issue when He equates how we treat His brethren, the Jewish people, with how we treat Him. In verses 34-40, Jesus says He was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, in need of clothes, sick and in prison. He then declared that His disciples attended to all of these needs. They answered, “Lord, when did we see You in these situations?” And, He replied, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these My brothers, you did for Me.”
Zechariah 2:8 says of God’s love towards the Jewish people, “He that touches you, touches the apple of His eye.” Today, we can read the Bible for ourselves, and see God’s love for His people, Israel. Therefore:
It is time for Christians to break with historical anti-Jewish teachings, and make a change for the future. We must act, not out of guilt, but in a humble spirit of love.
It is time to reinforce God’s covenant WITH His people, and show tangible love and respect to the Jewish people around the world.
It is also time to join God in His plan for the nation of Israel today, as He is literally moving heaven and earth to fulfill His prophetic promises of Messianic blessing, as we await the soon coming of the Lord.
As Christians, let us take up the challenge and put aside the anti-Jewish hatred of generations, wherever it may be found around us — be it in our communities, in our churches, in our families, and yes, even if it rises up in our own hearts.
The destiny of the Church is intertwined with the future of Israel and the Jewish people. For too long, Christians have been silent. For too long, the Jewish community has had to fight its battles alone. It is time for each one of us to speak up for the people who gave us the Bible and our salvation.
Ephesians chapter two, as well as many other portions of Paul’s letters, has been misinterpreted and misunderstood almost from its beginning. Although I believe the LORD has given a small bit of revelation to me about these Scriptures, I in know way want to leave the impression that I’ve “learned it all” and “have all the
answers”. The LORD opening my eyes to this portion of Scripture was a huge milestone in my walk with Him and it came during a Bible college course that was teaching a dispensational perspective of this very text. So, as you read bear with me, and go to the Father to see if He doesn’t confirm this in your heart.
8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Paul begins this section by establishing a solid foundation for Biblical salvation. True salvation from God is BY grace. The Father extends His grace to us. This grace is simply the ability to choose to walk in faith according to His covenant. The second part of this formula is the faith just mentioned. There are many in the
church today that would shout GRACE, GRACE! But they miss the true definition of grace as well as its symbiotic relationship to faith. Grace is faith in action. God gives us His grace that we might trust Him to work His covenant out through our lives. We are, after all, His Body. And so we see Paul using the term THROUGH.
It’s BY grace and THROUGH faith. The two are inseparable! The next thought seems so natural; it is a gift of God. God made a promise that He would write His Word on our hearts and then cause us to walk in it. This leads us to the next point…it’s not of works, and if it was; we would boast. God is the Initiator and Finisher. He’s the one working in us. The purpose of His working is “for good works”. There are some who would say that God sent His Own Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we could simply call ourselves “Christians”. Not so! We were re-created in Christ Jesus so that we might walk in the Word of God which brings glory to our Creator.
Establishing the context is paramount for a proper understanding of the following verses. Primarily, we must remember that Paul is speaking to the church in Ephesus. History tells us that the believers in Ephesus were predominantly Gentiles. This single fact enables us to correctly understand the context.
11Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—
“Therefore”…based upon what Paul has taught us so far regarding the salvation that is a gift from God, BY grace and THROUGH faith. Gentiles were, and are, identified by the fact that the males are not circumcised and not natural descendants of Abraham. The Jews of Paul’s time were the Circumcised.
12that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Paul gives us a great key to understanding this portion of Scripture when he shares with us the timeframe in which these Gentiles existed. He says, “At that time”. What time? … the time that they were uncircumcised and identified as such by the Jews. The Gentiles knowing nothing of God’s covenant or plan of salvation were aliens from the covenant that God made with Israel. They knew nothing of the promises and blessings of the
LORD. This IS a hopeless place to be!
13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
“But now in Christ Jesus”…possibly the greatest words in the Bible! This is in contradiction to the hopelessness and alienation that the Gentiles were in the midst of. Take note that Paul identifies these Ephesian Gentiles as being “in Christ Jesus” and not “in Israel”. In Yeshua the distance that was between the Gentiles and the Father has been removed. This came at a great price though. The very blood of the Messiah filled and removed this chasm.
You may already be weary of this article and be ready to put it down…please don’t. We’re about to jump into the real heart of it.
14For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
Paul has already been speaking of two parties, the Jews and the Gentiles. In Messiah, these two entities have been made one. In Messiah, there is no Jew or Greek. 1 Corinthian 12:13…13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. Paul also says that the “middle wall of separation” has been broken down. What? What is this middle wall of
separation? Specifically, there was an actual wall that separated the Jews and Gentiles worship. There is no place in the Scriptures that we can find God commanding His people to erect such a wall. In fact we see the opposite. As we’ll read, the wall was only a physical representation of a “wall” of rules and regulations that the Jews had created to keep the Gentiles from the Father. At the time of the writing of this letter a well established practice was the ritual of joining oneself to God. The Jews defined this as being circumcised, being baptized, and thus BECOMING an Israelite. There focus and hope was in their heritage rather than the saving work of the coming Messiah. We need to take a slight detour to establish this Biblically. Let’s look at a few portions of Scripture that will show us the existence of this wall of separation. We’ll be picking on the “foot-in-mouth” disciple…Peter.
Acts 10…1There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms enerously to the people, and prayed to God always. 3About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” 4And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. 5Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. 6He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” 7And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. 8So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.
It’s a known fact that Peter, as well as the rest of Jews, viewed the Gentiles as unclean, unfit, and completely unable to have a relationship with God in their current state. Peter probably saw the Gentiles in the same light that he saw a swine on the side of the road…vile creatures destined for destruction. This is where the creation of the middle wall of separation and the rite of a proselyte came from. The Jews believed that the ONLY hope for
a Gentile was to BECOME a Jew! They could not be saved as Gentiles. So, with this in mind, how do you think Peter will respond to the messengers from the Gentile Cornelius? Let’s keep reading…
9The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, escending to him and let down to the earth. 12In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” 15And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.
A quick read of this portion of Scripture and you may say, “Oh yes, this is when God rebuked Peter for trying to keep the food Laws and abolished them completely.” But a more careful examination and you’ll see that God is actually challenging the middle wall of separation that Peter was accustomed to. This portion of Scripture
begins with the LORD speaking to a Gentile. I believe that our Abba knew that Peter would need a serious “kick-in-the-pants” to receive the message that Cornelius’s servants were bringing. And so the vision… Throughout this vision Peter, in a sense, rebukes the LORD. The LORD continues to reveal His heart to Peter.
And we get a real understanding of what the vision was all about when we continue reading and hear Peter’s own interpretation of the vision.
17Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate. 18And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there. 19While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. 20Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.” 21Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, “Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?” 22And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.” 23Then he invited them in and lodged them.
Notice the underlined verse. Peter invited these Gentiles into his home. SOMETHING has happened to Peter!!! Let’s keep reading…
On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” 27And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. 28Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
Where is it found in the Torah that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to keep company with or to one of another nation? Search long and hard, you won’t find it! So, we must conclude that Peter is speaking of another law…the only other law that Peter could be referencing is the Mishna and Talmud. Notice the word that Peter uses…”but”…but what? But God, in contradiction to the law just mentioned, has shown me that I should not call any MAN common or unclean. Wait a minute you might say…I always thought that God “freed” us from the burden of the dietary laws in the text. Not so, Peter clearly understood the purpose of the vision. He says
clearly that God had shown him that he was no longer to call any MAN common or unclean. If the dietary laws had been abolished through Peter’s experience, don’t you think that’s what he would have said? But instead, Peter begins to understand the true heart of the Father…and that’s to include ALL who will approach Him by
faith with open arms. Let’s keep reading…
29Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”
Again, notice that Peter came without objection. You see, without the revelation through the vision, Peter would have objected to the invitation based upon the standard of the Mishna and Talmud.
30So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ 33So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.” 34Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.
Again, Peter gives us further clarification of his vision and his newly changed heart. Peter learned that God shows no partiality and receives those who fear him and work righteousness.
36The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—37that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, hom they killed by hanging on a tree. 40Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” 44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, 47“Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the
Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.
The Father affirms the words of Peter by placing the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles. Notices, those of the circumcision were astonished. Why were they astonished? Because previously they didn’t believe that the Gentile could experience the covenant without FIRST becoming a citizen of the nation of Israel. This is the very wall of separation that Paul is speaking of in Ephesians 2.
To further establish the existence of the wall of separation, we must consider a few more portions of Scripture.
Acts 11:1-18… 1Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
The apostles and brethren bring a railing accusation against Peter based upon the Mishna and Talmud. Peter has some explaining to do if he hopes to get out of this one.
4But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: 5“I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the arth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ 9But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ 10Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” 18When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
After reading this there is no way that we can look at Acts 10 as the proof text for the abolishment of the dietary laws. No, we must take it for what it says. God used a vision to communicate His heart for ALL people to His chosen people Israel. Somewhere along the line they had ignored critical portions of Scripture that spoke of the Father’s heart for ALL nations. Let’s consider some of those Scriptures briefly.
Exodus 12:49…49One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you. Isaiah 42:1-7…1“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. 2He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. 3A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth. 4He will not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law.” 5Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it: 6“I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, 7To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.
How did they miss this? I suppose the Father will tell us one day. Let’s continue laying the Biblical foundation for the wall of separation. Just like you and I, it took Peter more than once to lay down his sin.
Galatians 2:11-16…11Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they 6came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Why is Paul so upset? What did Peter do to incur such rebuke? A close look at this Scripture and we’ll see that Paul is rebuking Peter for leaving the impression that the Mishna and Talmud still had something to do with the salvation of the Gentiles. Again, the Mishna and Talmud both say that a Jew cannot eat with a Gentile. Peter was calling these Galatian believers common and unclean which was in direct disobedience to what God had shown him in the vision on the rooftop.
Why consider so many Scriptures? Why make such a big deal about this? Simple, we cannot properly understand Ephesians 2 without first accepting that the wall of separation was a reality during this time. So, now that we have a Biblical understanding of the wall of separation, let’s go back to Ephesians 2. Refer back to the first 14 verses if necessary. But, Paul had just told us that in Messiah those who were far away have been brought near.
15having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances,
Once again, this portion of Scripture is used to further an antinomian mindset. But after our considering the context it’s easier to understand what this enmity was. This enmity was the wall of separation…the disdain, the judgment, and exclusivity that the Jews burdened the Gentiles with. Notice that Paul even clarifies what law he’s talking about with the term “contained in ordinances”.
so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.
On each side of the wall of separation there was a people group who were rarely at peace. But, in Messiah, these two have been made one…it takes two to fight…so thus the peace that came from the union with Messiah.
18For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
This was GREAT news to the Galatian believer! Through faith in Messiah they too had access to their Abba. Despite what generations of Jews had been telling them, they had access too!
19Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
This holy temple that our Father is building is being made with Jewish stones and Gentile stones. And yet, when they come in contact with the rest of the building, there former identity is consumed by the Chief Cornerstone, Yeshua! In these last days Abba is building a house for His great name! This house has not been, nor will ever be, built by the hands of men. No, the Spirit is writing the covenant of the Father upon the hearts of those who
have chosen to believe and the Father is Masterfully building, building, building…building a place for His Holy Name!
John 10:14-16…14I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one lock and one shepherd.
Galatians 3:26-29…26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Romans 10:11-13…11For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
How many times have you heard someone say regarding the Bible, “Everyone has their own interpretation” or “That’s your interpretation, not mine.” Little do they realize that such comments are in direct conflict with what the Bible says about itself:
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit 2 Peter 1;20,21
What most people do not realize is that over the past 2500 years, specialists in the “science of meanings” have developed eight basic rules of grammatical interpretation, which provided a standard set of rules for consistent interpretation of literature. They apply equally to legislative and theological language. They apply equally to legislative and theological language. They are the basis of all critical analysis and are used by interpretive
scholarship. When properly used, they ensure that the reader will always derive meaning intended by the original writer.
THE EIGHT RULES FOR GRAMMATICAL INTERPRETATION
The Rule Of Definition: Words have definite meanings which are to be taken in their literal or idiomatic force, and the grammatical setting. Meaning is not determined by each individual interpreter. The interpreter should conscientiously abide by the plain meaning of the words.
The Rule Of Usage: Words and phrases have usages which are affected by culture, traditional, national, social considerations. Authors write to a specific audience in the usual custom and vernacular of that audience. Interpreters are not to insert their own notions upon the literature, but rather to seek understanding of the usage that existed when the literature was written.
The Rule Of Context: The meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph must be derived from the context. Many words and phrases derive their meaning and force from the connection in which it stands. Therefore there must be a careful consideration of that which comes before and after.
The Rule Of Historical Background: The historical back ground, including the manner and customs of the day enables the interpreter to understand what circumstances and events influenced the thinking of the author. The writing was for real people, in real situations, in the real world.The interpreter must pay close attention to these facts as they cast light on the understanding of the literature.
The Rule Of Logic: Interpretation is merely logical reasoning. Literature should be interpreted by a rigid application of the laws of language and grammatical analysis.
The Rule Of Precedent: Precedent is something previously done or said that serves as a guide for future rule or example. Words and phrases which have a known usage should be interpreted in that historical and grammatical context.
The Rule Of Unity: Documents are written as a whole. Interpretation of any of its parts, must be done with consideration to consistency with the whole.
The Rule Of Inference: Inference is a fact reasonably implied from another fact. It is a logical consequence, a conclusion drawn from a given fact or premise, a conclusion drawn from evidence. Interpretive conclusions, regarding things not specifically stated, are allowable if they are logically consistent with the other rules of interpretation.
5 THINGS OF WHICH TO BEWARE
Beware of… Fanciful, complex, unique interpretations which were not available to the hearers/readers of the day.
Beware of… Eisegesis: An interpretation that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text.
Beware of… Basing an entire doctrine or concept on one passage.
Beware of… Not interpreting a text literally, as much as possible. The only exception is when the meaning is obviously allegorical, metaphorical or figurative.
Beware of… Any new insight or interpretation that is not consistent with the rest of scripture.
Some time ago I learned a simple poem which has served me well as a simple guide for Bible interpretation:
IF THE LITERAL SENSE,MAKES GOOD SENSE,
SEEK NO OTHER SENSE,
LEST YOU END UP WITH NON-SENSE!
The Christmas tree has been a part of Christmas for hundreds of years. But what
is its origin? Why are they used in observance of the birth of the Messiah? Is
there anything in the Bible about their use? In this brief overview we will attempt
to answer these questions. For a detailed study of this subject contact the office.
What is its origin?
The earliest origin of the “Christmas tree” comes from the fable of “St. Boniface”
(Bonifacious), who allegedly destroyed the great oak of Jupiter at Geismar in
Hesse, Germany, and supposedly built of the wood a chapel to “St. Peter.” The
legend says Boniface (actually, an early English missionary named Winfrid),
while traveling through northern Germany, found a group of heathens at their
sacred oak preparing to sacrifice little Prince Asulf to their god, Jupiter. Allegedly,
Winfrid stopped the sacrifice and cut down the tree. As the fable grew, the oak
allegedly fell, not without protest, and instantly a young fir tree appeared! Winfrid
told the heathens that the fir was the “tree of life” and represented Christ! The
pagans were delighted to believe in this new myth, which is an almost identical
replica of the ancient fable concerning the cutting down of a huge oak
representing the life and death of Nimrod (Tammuz, or the sun god), and the idea
that a young tree sprang out of the ancient log overnight, thus representing the
rebirth or reincarnation of Nimrod as “Tammuz,” or the god of the sun!
How did its use gain entrance into the Church? The decorated Christmas tree may have originated with Martin Luther.
Legend has it that he was walking home one evening when he noticed the stars
shining brilliantly through some trees. It seemed like the stars had settled on the
boughs themselves. He cut down a small tree, took it home, and placed small
candles in metal holders on the branches. From this meager beginning, the
Christmas tree developed, complete with ornaments, garlands, colored lights
etc… German Lutherans brought the tree custom to America, much to the
consternation of early Puritans. Both in England and New England, the Puritans
were successful in banning such remnants of the Saturnalia from public view. But
eventually the Christmas tree, stocking and Santa Claus (borrowed from the
Dutch) became thoroughly entrenched in the American “holiday” tradition…
What does the Bible say about tree use in worship?
It is ironic that in Genesis (the first book of the Bible) in chapter 3, we see that
man’s very first act of disobedience toward his Creator involved a tree! Its also
fascinating that our SAVIOR was nailed to a cross made from a tree (Acts 5:30)
AND that in the very last book of the Bible (Revelation 22:14) we see the
significance of the tree. God created trees and HE has nothing against them
unless HIS people are using them improperly in worship. Especially when they
are used to replace TRUE worship of the TRUE GOD with practices that stem
from paganism. The Bible is replete with references of HIS displeasure with
these pagan practices. Here are just a few to consider:
Deuteronomy 12:1-4 These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4You shall not worship theLORD your God with such things.
1Kings 14:22-24 Now Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked Him to jealousy with their sins which they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. 23For they also built for themselves high places, sacred pillars, and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. 24And there were also perverted persons in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.
Jeremiah 10:1-4 Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. 2Thus says the LORD: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, For the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers So that it will not topple.
Ephesians 5:8-10 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
But that’s not how I look at a Christmas tree!
After looking at it’s origins and possible uses, we might be tempted to say “sure, I
understand that GOD would not want us to participate in practices where we
would worship a tree, but that’s not how I look at it’s use regarding Christmas. I
have my own perspective of what it represents.” That’s true. However, when we
consider how detailed GOD is in HIS WORD when HE was instructing Israel as
HOW HE was to be worshipped, are we so naive to think that now WE can
contrive methodology and practices that originate in pagan worship and “redeem”
them as practices that are blessed by GOD? Rather than being preoccupied with
“how we look at” shouldn’t we be more concerned with how “HE looks at it?” After
all, it is HIS SON that is to be remembered, isn’t it?
(For a more comprehensive study on Christmas and the practices surrounding it,
as well as studies on other holidays, go to the Media/Teaching page and select the series entitled Fables, Myths, and Traditions.)
Did you know that the early Church was predominantly Jewish?
What happened to disconnect the Church from its Jewish roots and create an almost entirely Gentile Church?
Why did the Church enact so many anti-Jewish edicts?
Are the Jewish people “Christ killers,” as they have been called in Christian circles?
Has the Church replaced Israel?
Why did historical events like the Crusades and the Inquisition ultimately focus on persecuting Jews?
Did you know that Martin Luther had a very positive relationship with the Jewish community, and then became one of the vilest anti-Semites in history?
Did you know that Adolph Hitler found precedent for his evil actions against the Jewish people right out of the annals of Church history?
What can we do to change the last 1,800 years of historical anti-Jewish attitudes and actions of the Church?
We Christians sing the chorus, “They will know we are Christians, by our love, by our love….” In Romans 11, Paul tells Gentile Christians of our relationship towards the Jewish people. He tells us not to be “arrogant” towards them (v. 20), that they are “beloved for the sake of the Patriarchs” (v. 28) and that “through [our] mercy, they shall obtain mercy” (v. 31). Sadly, the Jewish community, living in close proximity to Christians throughout the last 1,900 years, has rarely felt any love or respect from Christians or Christianity. For the most part, they received hatred, contempt, persecution, and
even death at the hands of Christians. Where was love and mercy?
Generally, very little of this very vivid and tragic history is known to most Christians. Yet, it is well known by the Jewish community, because they remember these sad chapters of history all too well. Instead of showing love and mercy to the Jewish people, many Christians turned the cross into a sword against the Jews. It has been said by Dr. Edward Flannery, in his book, The Anguish of the Jews, that the only chapters of Christian history known by the Jews were recorded on pages the Church has torn out of the history books and burned. In researching this article, I checked volume after volume of books, encyclopedias and dictionaries of Church History, and there was barely a reference to be found about the large quantity of material written by the Church against the Jewish people. They exist as part of the proceedings and conclusions of most Church Councils and Edicts up until this century, but most writers preferred not to write about these passages because it was not flattering. Rather, we have simply swept it under the carpet because it is all too uncomfortable to deal with. This is why I want us to do something a little different for the next two Israel Teaching Letters. Instead of looking at a right understanding and interpretation of Scripture, we are going to see the results of wrong interpretation and the havoc it wreaked. Because this is so central to our Christian relationship to Israel and the Jewish community, it is very important to study this together. While it is lengthy topic, I assure you that you will not be bored.
When we examine the last 2,000 years in historical perspective, I feel it is safe to say that organizations and individual Christians who express Christian solidarity with the Jewish people, and are educating the Church about the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, are a historical rarity. Let me put this assessment in perspective: During approximately 1,800 years of the nearly 2,000 years of Church history, any attempt to teach Christians about Jews, Judaism, Jewish roots of Christianity, or even to celebrate the Levitical Feasts, would result in Christians being subject to a good tonguelashing or excommunication at best, and in many cases, death. And, any member of the Jewish community participating would be considered Judaisers and penalized by Church authorities with punishment and even death. Certainly an article of this kind was not allowed. While history is complex (and there were certain historical moments of religious freedom), this assessment can be considered an accurate generalization.
Fortunately today, we are free to discuss the Jewish roots of Christianity, as well as our own sad record against the Jews, without retribution. We can even come together with Jews to learn from one another on these topics. The trend is definitely positive. This study is not intended to be a mere history lesson, but a lesson in history. Furthermore, I am not trying to impose guilt on anyone, for we are exceptions to the historical rule. On the other hand, I am trying to instill a sense of responsibility, so that we will not allow history to repeat itself.
In this presentation, I will be referring to early Church Fathers, the Catholic Church, Martin Luther, and other Church leaders and Church edicts. Please don’t be offended by the historical facts presented. They are being presented to help us to learn, grow, and move ahead in our faith walk, not to insult any particular denomination or group. So, let’s get started on our journey into understanding.
The First Four Centuries A.D.
In the first century AD, the church was well-connected to its Jewish roots, and Jesus did not intend for it to be any other way. After all, Jesus is Jewish and the basis of His teaching is consistent with the Hebrew Scriptures. In Matthew 5:17-18 He states: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven
and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
It is also known that the writers of the New Testament, except Luke, were Jewish. The apostles and early disciples were Jewish. They worshipped on Shabbat (Sabbath), celebrated the feasts, and attended Synagogue. Even the membership of the early Church in Jerusalem and surrounding Judea, Samaria, and Galilee was predominately Jewish. We know, for example, that no non-Jewish names appeared in leadership of the Jerusalem church until after AD 135, when a Greek name appears. We will see why this happened in a moment. Congregations in other parts of the Roman Empire also had relatively strong Jewish or Hebraic roots, as they found their source of guidance from the Jerusalem
School of Thought. This is illustrated by the names of many of the New Testament epistles: The Letters TO the Corinthians, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, originated from the Jerusalem community. The writers of the other Epistles were also connected to the Judeo-Christian congregation in Jerusalem.
Before the First Jewish Revolt in AD 66, Christianity was basically a sect of Judaism, as were the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. The Christians were also known as Nazarenes. Before the First Jewish Revolt that ended with the Second Temple being destroyed and Jerusalem razed by the Romans in AD 70, there was room for debate within Judaism in the bustling, cosmopolitan city of Jerusalem. So, what happened to cause such a split between the Christian and Jewish communities that exists even unto today?
The Separation Begins: Initially, it began as a result of religious and social differences. According to David Rausch in his book, A Legacy of Hatred, there were several contributing factors: 1) the Roman intrusion into Judea, and the widespread acceptance of Christianity by the Gentiles, complicated the history of Jewish Christianity; 2) the Roman wars against the Jews not only destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem, but it also resulted in Jerusalem’s relinquishing her position as a center of Christian faith in the Roman world, and; 3) the rapid acceptance of Christianity among the Gentiles led to an early conflict between the Church and Synagogue. Paul’s missionary journeys brought the Christian faith to the Gentile world, and as their numbers grew, so did their influence, which ultimately disconnected Christianity from its Jewish roots.
Many Gentile Christians interpreted the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem as a sign that God had abandoned Judaism, and that He had provided the Gentiles freedom to develop their own Christian theology in a setting free from Jerusalem’s influence. Unfortunately, the Judeo-Christians had disassociated themselves from the war against the Romans and from the tragedy that had come upon the nation. Believing that the war with the Romans was a sign of the end, they fled to Pella, east of the Jordan River, leaving their fellow Jews to fend for themselves.
After the war and the virtual destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the Jewish sages who managed to survive the Roman victory assembled in Jabneh, a city in the Sharon Plains near Joppa. As they entered the post-Temple period, they realized the need to consolidate the practice of Judaism and halacha, or Law. Judaism adopted the Bet Hillel School of rabbinical practice, which was most closely linked to the Pharisaic sect of Judaism. The Pharisaic teachings were most interested in the relationship of each individual to God, and encouraged the masses to holiness based on a scrupulous
observance of the Torah, unlike Sadducean teaching that was more interested in Temple ritual practice. Even though Pharisaic Judaism had shown tolerance to Judeo-Christians or Nazarenes prior to the destruction of the Temple, the assembly at Jabneh called for a separation between Christianity and Judaism.
Hadrian’s Contribution: Later, in AD 132, when the Jewish zealot, Bar Kochba, orchestrated the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome, the Judeo-Christians had another reason not to participate. Bar Kochba was proclaimed the Messiah by Rabbi Akiva. Since the Christians saw Jesus (Yeshua) as Messiah, for them to participate in the revolt under the leadership of Bar Kochba would be considered a denial of their beliefs. In AD 135, when the revolt was crushed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, he expelled all Jews from Jerusalem, allowing them to return only one day each year, on Tisha B’Av, an annual day set aside to mourn the destruction of the Temple. This prohibition was also true for Judeo-Christians, and thus we find recorded the first Greek name in the leadership of the Jerusalem Church. At this point, the Hebraic influence of the Jerusalem Church was lost to world Christianity, which influenced the direction of the Church.
Hadrian also rebuilt Jerusalem into a Roman city, naming it after himself, Aelia Capitolina, his family name being Aelius. As one considered a god by his subjects, this was a supreme insult to the God of Israel who chose Jerusalem as His city. Hadrian also changed the name of Judea, Samaria and Galilee to Syria Palestina (Palestine), ascribing to the land a name connected to the arch-enemies of the Jewish people, the Philistines. Both gestures were done by Hadrian to erase any Jewish connection with the city of Jerusalem and the land of Israel. This legacy is still haunting Israel today.
Christianity and Judaism Separate: By this time, the Church had effectively separated itself from Judaism. Theological and political power moved from Jewish Christian leaders to centers of Gentile Christian leadership such as Alexandria, Rome, and Antioch. It is important to understand this change, because it influenced the early Church Fathers to make anti-Jewish statements as Christianity began to disconnect itself from its Jewish roots. As the Church spread far and wide within the Roman Empire, and its membership grew increasingly non-Jewish, Greek and Roman thought began to creep in and completely change the orientation of Biblical interpretation through a Greek mindset, rather than a Jewish or Hebraic mindset. This would later result in many heresies, some of which the Church is still practicing today.
Once Christianity and Judaism began to take separate paths, the void became greater and greater. The Romans had effectively suppressed Judaism; however, Christianity was spreading quickly. This became a major concern to Rome, and ultimately political pressure became a major factor in the
widening rift between Christians and Jews. Under Roman law, Judaism was considered a religio licita, a legal religion, as it predated Rome. To unify the Roman Empire, everyone was to worship and sacrifice to the Roman gods including the Emperor who was considered a god. Obviously, the Christians could not ascribe to this pagan worship and refused, angering the central Roman authority. Christianity post-dated Rome, and therefore was considered a religio ilicita. The practice of Christianity was a punishable offense. During this time, we find Christians being used for sport in the Roman coliseums and circuses, as gladiators or thrown to the lions and other wild beasts. The Emperor Nero even used Christians as human torches to light up his gardens at night. Christians were dipped in pitch, tied to poles and set afire. For protection against arrest, the symbol of the fish, rather than the obvious symbol of the cross, was used between Christians as a sign of identification during this period. The Greek anagram of the slogan, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” spelled the word, ICTHUS, or fish in Greek.
In an attempt to alleviate this persecution, Christian apologists tried in vain to convince Rome that Christianity was an extension of Judaism. However, Rome was not convinced. The resulting persecutions and frustration of the Christians bred an animosity towards the Jewish community, which was free to worship without persecution. Later, when the Church became the religion of the state, it would pass laws against the Jews in retribution.
Replacement Theology: This animosity was reflected in the writings of the early Church Fathers. For example, Justin Martyr (c. AD160) in speaking to a Jew said: “The Scriptures are not yours, but ours.” Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon (c. AD 177) declared: “Jews are disinherited from the grace of God.” Tertullian (AD 160-230), in his treatise, “Against the Jews,” announced that God had rejected the Jews in favor of the Christians.
In the early 4th century, Eusebius wrote that the promises of the Hebrew Scriptures were for Christians and not the Jews, and the curses were for the Jews. He argued that the Church was the continuation of the Old Testament and thus superseded Judaism. The young Church declared itself to be the true Israel, or “Israel according to the Spirit,” heir to the divine promises. They found it essential to discredit the “Israel according to the flesh” to prove that God had cast away His people and transferred His love to the Christians.
In this, we find the beginnings of Replacement Theology, which placed the Church triumphant over the vanquished Judaism and Israel. This Replacement theory became one of the main foundations on which Christian anti-Semitism was based, even to this day. Incidentally, the New Testament speaks of the Church’s relationship to Israel and her covenants as being “grafted in” (Rom. 11:17), “brought near” (Eph. 2:13), “Abraham’s offspring (by faith)” (Rom. 4:16), and “partakers” (Rom. 15:27), NOT as usurpers of the covenant and a replacer of physical Israel. We Gentile Christians joined into what God had been doing in Israel, and God did not break His covenant promises with Israel (Rom. 11:29).
The Church Triumphant: At the beginning of the 4th century, a monumental event occurred for the Church. In AD 306, Constantine became the first Christian Roman Emperor. At first, he had a rather pluralistic view and accorded Jews the same religious rights as Christians. However, in AD 321, he made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. This signaled the end of the persecution of Christians, but the beginning of discrimination and persecution of the Jewish people.
Already at a council in Elvira (Spain) in AD 305, declarations were made to keep Jews and Christians apart, including ordering Christians not to share meals with Jews, not to marry Jews, not to use Jews to bless their fields, and not to observe the Jewish Sabbath. Imperial Rome, in AD 313, issued the Edict of Milan, which granted favor to Christianity, while outlawing synagogues. Then, in AD 315, another edict allowed the burning of Jews if they were convicted of breaking the laws. As Christianity was becoming the religion of the state, further laws were passed against the Jews:
The ancient privileges granted to the Jews were withdrawn. – Rabbinical jurisdiction was abolished or severely curtailed. – Proselytism was prohibited and made punishable by death. – Jews were excluded from holding high office or a military career.
These and other restrictions were confirmed over and over again by various Church Councils for the next 1,000 years.
In AD 321, Constantine decreed all business should cease on “the honored day of the sun.” By substituting Sunday for Saturday as the day for Christian worship, he further advanced the split. This Jewish Shabbat/ Christian Sunday controversy also came up at the first real ecumenical Council of Nicea (AD 325), which concluded Sunday to be the Christian day of rest, although it was debated for long after that.
Overnight, Christianity was given the power of the Imperial State, and the emperors began to translate the concepts and claims of the Christian theologians against the Jews and Judaism into practice. Instead of the Church taking this opportunity to spread its Gospel message in love, it truly became the Church Triumphant, ready to vanquish its foes. After 321, the writings of the Church Fathers changed in character. No longer was it on the defensive and apologetic, but aggressive, directing its venom at everyone “outside of the flock,” in particular the Jewish people who could be found in almost every
community and nation.
The Middle Ages
Now let’s look at the next 700 years of history, from the time of Constantine to the First Crusade in AD 1096. This period is known as the Middle Ages, or Dark Ages. The Holy Roman Empire was seeking to expand the new faith in the pagan tribes of Western Europe, the Ostrogoths in the north and east, the Visigoths in the West, and the Frankish Empire which included an area roughly surrounding France today. During this period, we find more examples of anti-Jewish bias in Church literature written by church leaders:
Hilary of Poitiers (AD 291-371) wrote: “Jews are a perverse people accursed by God forever.” – Gregory of Hyssa (died AD 394), Bishop of Cappadocia: “the Jews are a brood of vipers, haters of goodness…” – St. Jerome (AD 347-407) describes the Jews as “… serpents, earing the image of Judas, their psalms and prayers are the braying of donkeys.”
John Chrysostom: At the end of the 4th century, the Bishop of Antioch, John Chrysostom, the great orator, wrote a series of eight sermons against the Jews. He had seen Christians talking with Jewish people, taking oaths in front of the Ark, and some were keeping the Jewish feasts. He wanted this to stop. In an effort to bring his people back to what he called, “the true faith,” the Jews became the whipping boy for his sermon series. To quote him, “the synagogue is not only a brothel and a theater; it is also a den of robbers and a lodging for wild beasts. No Jew adores God… Jews are inveterate murderers, possessed by the devil, their debauchery and drunkenness gives them the manners of the
pig. They kill and maim one another…”
One can easily see that a Judeo-Christian who wanted to hold on to his heritage, or a Gentile Christian who wanted to learn more about the parent of Christianity, would have found it extremely difficult under this pressure. Further, Chrysostom sought to separate Christianity totally from Judaism. He wrote in his 4th Discourse, “I have said enough against those who say they are on our side, but are eager to follow the Jewish rites… it is against the Jews that I wish to draw up my battle… Jews are abandoned by God and for the crime of deicide, there is no expiation possible.”
Chrysostom was known for his fiery preaching against what he saw as threats to his flock, including wealth, entertainment, privilege and outward adornment. However, his preaching against the Jewish community, which he believed had a negative influence on Christians, is inexcusable and blatantly anti-Semitic in its content.
The Christ Killers: Another unfortunate contribution Chrysostom made to Christian anti-Semitism as to hold the whole Jewish people culpable for the killing of Christ. The label of “Christ-killers,” as applied to the Jewish people, was to be reaffirmed by anti-Semites for the next 16 centuries. Let’s look at this issue for a moment and squash it once and for all. To justify this label of “Christkiller,” Matthew 27:25 has been cited. In this passage, the Jewish people are shown admitting their collective responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus, “Then answered all the people and said, ‘His blood be upon us, and our children.’” First, the collective responsibility of an entire people for all generations cannot be validated by the words of a few. They were speaking for themselves, not all
Israel or all the Jewish people.
Secondly, if they were held responsible for the death of Jesus for their participation, then the non-Jewish world is also guilty of the same responsibility because it was Roman Gentile soldiers who actually carried out the crucifixion and drove the nails into Jesus and hung Him on the cross. Well, if not all Gentiles, at least we can hold it against all Italians!! I think you can see how ludicrous this argument is. Thirdly, Jesus willingly gave Himself up to die for the sins of mankind. So ultimately, it was our sin that nailed Him to the cross — not a Jewish mob, or a Roman army, and, Fourthly, before Jesus died, He said, ”Father forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:24). If Jesus forgave both the Jewish and Roman players in this event, then who are we to do any less?
The Jews as a Witness People: Moving ahead in this period of the Middle Ages, we find some church leaders perplexed. If the Jews and Judaism were cursed by God, as they had been teaching for centuries, then how can you explain their existence? Augustine tackled this issue in his “Sermon Against the Jews.” He asserts that even though the Jews deserved the most severe punishment for having put Jesus to death, they have been kept alive by Divine Providence to serve, together with their Scriptures, as witnesses to the truth of Christianity. Their existence was further justified by the service they rendered to the Christian truth, in attesting through their humiliation, the triumph of the Church
over the Synagogue. They were to be a “Witness people” – slaves and servants who should be humbled.
The monarchs of the Holy Roman Empire thus regarded the Jews as serfs of the chamber (servi camerae), and utilized them as slave librarians to maintain Hebrew writings. They also utilized the services of Jews in another enterprise – usury, or money-lending. The loaning of money was necessary o a growing economy. However, usury was considered as endangering to the eternal salvation of the Christian, and thus forbidden. So, the church endorsed the practice of lending by Jews, for according to their reasoning, their Jewish souls were lost in any case. Much later, the Jewish people were utilized by the Western countries as trade agents in commerce, and thus we see how the Jewish people
found their way into the fields of banking and commerce.
So, by the Middle Ages, the ideological arsenal of Christian anti-Semitism was completely established. This was further manifested in a variety of precedent-setting events within the Church, such as Patriarch Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria expelling the Jews and giving their property to a Christian mob. From a social standpoint, the deterioration of the Jewish position in society was only beginning its decline. During this early period, the virulent judeophobia was primarily limited to the clergy who were always trying to keep their flocks away from the Jews. However, later, the rank and file, growing middle class would be the main source of anti-Semitic activity.
While we have only reviewed the first 1,000 years of Christianity, I think you can see the tragedy of a broken relationship between the Church and the Jewish people. Paul says of them in Romans 11:28, 31 “They are beloved for the sakes of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable…[and that] by your mercy, they shall receive mercy.” This is a message the Church never preached until recently. Join me next month when we look at the second 1,000 years of Church history in relation to the Jewish people. We will find out why the Church forced Jews to wear identifying badges, accused them of “blood libel” and “host desecration,” and put them in ghettos. We will also see how the Jews suffered under the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reformation inspired by Martin
Luther’s very anti-Semitic writings, the Pogroms and the ultimate horror of the Holocaust.
While I know this is difficult information to read, we Christians will now know what many Jews already know about Christianity and it relationship to the Jewish people. Is it any wonder that they are afraid of us? This lesson, while historical and post-biblical shows us how we can misuse the Scriptures. And, now that the damage is done, we will see at the conclusion of our next letter, some suggestions about what we can do to present a positive expression of Christianity to Israel and the Jewish community around us.