The Church Fathers and the Jews - Part 2

Last week, we covered the first two centuries after the closing of the biblical record. As we will see in part two, the trend continued to pick up more momentum and become very lethal as we progress through history, culminating in the Holocaust. I am not saying that the Holocaust was caused by the Christian Church, but 2000 years of misconceptions, misinterpretation and bigotry have certainly helped pave the way to the greatest Jewish catastrophe. The Church Fathers have helped to make the faith stronger and have helped to protect Christianity from many heresies, and this is invaluable. We owe a great debt of gratitude to these pioneers of the faith who wrote so many volumes to erect theological and doctrinal protective fences around a young Christianity. This being said, let us look at the legacy of three more Church Fathers that to this day, remain key pillars of the defense of the faith, Origen, Chrysostom and Augustine.

Origen of Alexandria - AD 185-254

Origen was a Church Father who contributed to the early formation of Christian doctrines. He further developed the allegorical method of interpretation, always looking for a deeper, mysterious meaning in Scriptures that was not literal. As with other of the early Church Fathers, Origen also made major contributions, despite erring when it came to preaching hatred towards the Jewish people. He also wrote On First Principles, the first systematic theology, and contributed to the establishment of the biblical canon; which was a gradual process that reached into the fifth century.

Additionally, In his work Contra Celsus, “Against Celsus,” he paints the Jewish people as “Christ-killers” in an effort to present a rebuttal to the pagan philosopher Celsus, who had befriended Jewish rabbis: "We may thus assert in utter confidence that the Jews will not return to their earlier situation, for they have committed the most abominable of crimes, in forming this conspiracy against the Savior of the human race…hence the city where Jesus suffered was necessarily destroyed, the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election."

Again, Origen had to ignore the Jewish nature of Yeshua, His followers, His Great Commission and His forgiveness to the Jewish leaders and others who were involved in His death. He had to ignore all the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 12:1-3; 15; 17), as well as one-third of unfulfilled Scriptures regarding God’s promises to restore and save Israel as a nation and a people in the End Times (Ezekiel 36-37). He had to ignore all the New Testament teachings of Yeshua on loving others. He had to ignore Yeshua's teaching on reaching out to “the least of these my brethren” when hard times would come and they would be thirsting, naked and in prison.

It is ironic that such an intelligent and educated man, who helped develop the field of theology, could overlook so much when the Word of God was available to him. However, it is relatively easy to make that mistake if the Jewish roots of God’s Words are forgotten and replaced with a culture devoid of Hebraic concepts. Without its roots, the tree is bound to shriveling down to nothing!

Utilizing the allegorical approach opened up a can of worms that allowed for subjective interpretations to creep into theology. The result is a disconnect from God’s Word and His salvation story from Genesis to Revelation regarding Jews and Gentiles. In this disconnect, the great blessings of love and kindness available to all the families of the earth are forgotten. In Genesis 12:3, God specifically promised blessings to all who bless the descendants of Abraham (as well as curses on all who curse the Jewish people), and that is not all. God promised to bless all the families of the earth because of Abraham’s faith, and we know that promise to be God’s unparalleled offer of salvation. Once again, the same allegorical approach towards the Scriptures in the hands of rabbis has blinded the eyes of many Jewish people to God’s literal plan for salvation for all. God instituted a literal sacrificial system which He ultimately fulfilled with Yeshua the Messiah as the Sacrificial Lamb of God.

John Chrysostom  - AD 344-407

Chrysostom is still considered one of the greatest of all Church Fathers and is still known as “The Golden-Mouthed Orator.” Much of what was written against the Jews by previous Church Fathers is dwarfed by Chrysostom’s contribution. He hoped to show the Jews and the synagogue in their "true colors" to discourage Christians from engaging in relationships with Jewish people or even attending synagogue services. His descriptions of the Jewish people were very abrasive:

"The synagogue is worse than a brothel…it is the den of scoundrels and the repair of wild beasts…the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults…the refuge of brigands and debauchees, and the cavern of devils. It is a criminal assembly of Jews…a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ… a house worse than a drinking shop…a den of thieves, a house of ill fame, a dwelling of iniquity, the refuge of devils, a gulf and an abyss of perdition.… I would say the same things about their souls… As for me, I hate the synagogue…I hate the Jews for the same reason.… men who are lustful, rapacious, greedy, perfidious bandits…inveterate murderers, destroyers, men possessed by the devil,… they have surpassed the ferocity of wild beasts, for they murder their offspring and immolate them to the devil."

This is obviously a baseless series of vicious accusations against the Jewish people, their customs and their practices. Chrysostom was trying to discourage Christians of his time from participating in anything Jewish, as he truly believed it was perverse. He actually called Jewish practices a disease.

"What is this disease? The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts…I wish to drive this perverse custom from the Church right…now that the Jewish festivals are close by and at the very door if I should fail to cure those who are sick with the Judaizing disease. I am afraid that, because of their ill-suited association and deep ignorance, some Christians may partake in the Jews’ transgressions; once they have done so, I fear my homilies on these transgressions will be in vain. For if they hear no word from me today, they will then join the Jews in their fasts; once they have committed this sin it will be useless for me to apply the remedy."

Chrysostom had to forget that Yeshua, His family, His followers and those who came to faith in Acts 2 were all Jewish people celebrating Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks) in Jerusalem. For those who would accept it, the biblical Jewish holidays tell the story of God’s salvation plan for the Jewish people. Being grafted into the olive tree (God’s faithful remnant like those mentioned in Romans 11) means that Gentiles, as well as Jews, receive God’s many blessings:  His Word, His promises, His love, His grace and His salvation. Yet they are wise to be aware that they have been grafted into the 0live tree, and God has intended that those roots be part of how those blessings are passed on to them. (See Romans 11:17.)

Augustine - AD 354-430

Augustine was a contemporary of John Chrysostom. He was a Christian theologian and philosopher who influenced Western Christianity in ways still felt today. He was unique in the fact that his treatment of the Jewish people reflected some ambivalence. He highly respected the writings of the Apostle Paul and often quoted Romans 9-11, yet he couldn’t understand, let alone accept, the Jewish people’s blindness and animosity towards Christianity. Of the Jewish people’s treatment of Yeshua, he wrote:
"The Jews held him, the Jews insulted him, the Jews bound him, they crowned him with thorns, dishonored him by spitting upon him, they scourged him, they heaped abuses upon him, they hung him upon a tree, they pierced him with a lance… because of the divine malediction they have called upon themselves, they are destined to be slaves."

Furthermore, in “Confessions,” he claims:"How hateful to me are the enemies of your Scripture! How I wish that you would slay them (the Jews) with your two-edged sword, so that there should be none to oppose your word! Gladly would I have them die to themselves and live to you."

Yet, paradoxically, he felt very strongly about Christians having an obligation to love Jewish people and share the Gospel with them. The result of his own dichotomy is that as much as he is remembered as a great contributor to the faith, he is also remembered as a profound anti-Semite.

Starting with Constantine and under Augustine’s rule based on the earlier two edicts of AD 315-325, laws began to be passed against the Jews. They were only the starting point of a long strain of judicial streamlining aimed at controlling, ostracizing, demonizing and eventually annihilating the Jews. A few of these are listed below:
•     Death penalty for the circumcision of slaves.
•     Jews were forbidden to own Christian slaves.
•     Death penalty for embracing the Jewish faith.
•     Death penalty for Jews versed in the Law who aided them.
•     Death penalty for marriages between Jews and Christians.
•     Death penalty for attending Jewish religious assemblies.

Many Christians were killed if they held a view different from the newly adopted official view of the Empire on the Trinity. In a sense, Nicaea was connected to the compromising union of Church and State.

Additionally, the AD 325 Council of Nicaea decided to split off the celebration of the Jewish Passover by adding the celebration of Easter (most likely named after the fertility goddess Ishtar) and changing the timing of this celebration to a solar calendar event instead of keeping its place on the lunar Jewish calendar, according to the biblical direction.

Until that time, the Christian celebration of the death and resurrection of the Messiah was closely related to the Jewish Passover celebration, as it should be. After all, the Last Supper was Yeshua’s last Passover Seder of the three he performed in His public ministry (Matthew 26:1-5, 17-30; Mark 14:1-2, 12-26; Luke 22:1-2, 7-20; John 13:1-30). While the decision to no longer celebrate the Jewish Passover was made official in AD 325, it was not fully implemented until the Council of Antioch in 341. It was stated:

For it is unbecoming beyond measure that on this holiest of festivals we should follow the customs of the Jews. Henceforth let us have nothing in common with this odious people...We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews...our worship follows a....more convenient course...we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews...How, then, could we follow these Jews, who are almost certainly blinded?…We further proclaim to you the good news of the agreement concerning the holy Easter; that this particular also has through your prayers been rightly settled; so that all our brethren in the East who formerly followed the custom of the Jews are henceforth to celebrate the said most sacred feast of Easter at the same time with the Romans and yourselves and all those who have observed Easter from the beginning.

We could fast forward to the 1500s and look at Martin Luther's controversial legacy that was picked up and put on steroids by Adolph Hitler, but that will take us beyond the scope of this article. The difficulty when assessing the Church Fathers' contribution to Christianity is to recognize the positive side of their legacy in light of the damaging writings they produced against the Jews. While they probably didn't have destructive intentions such as the Crusades or the Holocaust, their diatribes still paved the way for much of the antisemitism of the centuries that followed.

Studying the Church Fathers is necessary to understanding how Christianity developed and how the divide between Jews and Christians widened over time. We must be informed about what helped antisemitism grow in a soil that was already fertile by virtue of the fallen human nature. This will greatly help us understand why the Jewish people are so Gospel resistant and are for the most part ignoring the promised Messiah who can be so easily found in the Bible (Isaiah 52:13-53-12).

The Church Fathers and the Jews - Part 1

To understand the relationship between Christians and Jews, it is crucial to survey some of the Church Fathers to understand how their early exegetical deviation paved the way for modern anti-Semitism. As many of them performed allegorical interpretations of God’s word, the early Church Fathers developed a warped view of Israel and the Jews. They had a distorted understanding of biblical Judaism. The perceived monstrosity of the children of Israel was their main concern. As they saw it, Israel had been a continual disappointment to God who had done so much for them. They needed to separate the “evil” from the “righteous,” or the “sinful” from the “holy,” so they started to demonized and ostracize the Jewish people.

Christianity would soon claim all the virtuous actions in the Old Testament for some kind of pre-existent Church. Replacement Theology was emerging as a new doctrine, even though it would be named, structured and codified centuries later. All these views influenced the tragic enactments made against the Jews early on. The unconditional and eternal covenants that God made with ethnic Israel only, were arbitrarily transferred to the Church against God's will and in essence, making God a liar and a covenant breaker.

The vast majority of the Church Fathers have left a negative legacy as it pertains to their understanding and treatment of the Jewish people. It becomes clear that they often misunderstood the loving Gospel message of the Messiah. By promoting flawed doctrine, the early Church Fathers introduced a major source of hatred into the founding of the Church.

While the unfortunate result of their exegetical faux pas led to much persecution and the unnecessary deaths of millions, we still need to refrain from painting with broad strokes; not all Church Fathers were guilty of antisemitism, and even those who were, also happened to be great contributors to the growth and preservation of orthodox Christianity. Nevertheless, history is our witness; and Jewish history, in particular, has been punctuated by acts derived from this early departure from the truth. Albeit only theologically driven, anti-Semitic hatred, and the basis for tolerating hatred towards others, emerged from the least likely of all places:  The Church itself.

I want to look at the negative impact of several key theologians among the early Church Fathers who helped to shape the Church as it went from a humble, underground, persecuted base of believers to an organized body that eventually was even aligned with and protected by the State.

It goes without saying that they represent quite a departure from a balanced, literal and contextual interpretation of the Bible. While most of the Church Fathers would not have condoned the systematic killing of Jewish people, their words carried more weight and their negative effects have lasted longer than they could have imagined. They became the foundation of a much more aggressive form of Jew-hatred that kept growing and morphing over the centuries. This hatred towards the Jewish people and Israel still persists today.

Briefly, Ignatius, relying on Greek philosophy, introduced the mystical idea that the Church was pre-existent to Israel and the Jewish people as God’s chosen people. Therefore, all the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were always meant for the Church and not the Jewish people. Justin Martyr introduced the error of Replacement Theology, using an allegorical approach. For him, the existence of Jacob was simply a parable that really pointed to the Church and not the Jewish people.

Tertullian, in addition to being a founder of Western Christian theology, including the doctrine of the trinity, made a wrong turn in the road with his work “Against the Jews.” Origen of Alexandria, likewise made important contributions to Church theology; but also injected a special brand of unforgiveness that targeted Jewish people as “Christ-killers.” That term is one that almost every Jewish person alive has heard at one time or another, not to mention that many Jewish men, women and children have been persecuted and killed after being called Christ-killers by none other than Christians. John Chrysostom placed an additional stumbling block for many to trip over; vicious teachings to turn Gentile believers away from the very Jewish culture God used to convey His salvation message in His Word. Let's look at the first three on the list.

Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (AD 35 or 50 – 98 or 117)
Ignatius of Antioch was an Apostolic Father, the third Bishop of Antioch, and was also a contemporary and student of the Apostle John. He said: For if we are still practicing Judaism, we admit that we have not received God’s favor…It is wrong to talk about Jesus Christ and live like Jews. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity.

The anti-Semitism might not be as obvious in this statement by Ignatius as it is in the later examples, but the progression in intensity and abrasiveness shouldn’t be missed. Here, the reader is simply told that it is wrong to practice Judaism since it has apparently been replaced by Christianity. The suggestion is planted that Christianity preceded Judaism; although, of course, history shows that Christianity was a Jewish movement that Gentiles joined. Yeshua, Himself, was a Jew; and all the writers of the New Testament (except Luke) were Jewish. It would take willful acts to theologically cut off the Jewish roots of the faith from the theology and culture of the first-century Church as founded by Yeshua, the Jewish rabbi who became the Savior of the world. Yet, we actually see people who today are cutting all the Jewish roots of the Bible to go as far as attaching it back to a Palestinian narrative.

Justin Martyr (AD 103-165) - Dialogue with Trypho.
Justin Martyr was an early Christian apologist who is still revered in Church circles today. He is the author of the most important and most complete Christian tract against Jewish people in the second century, if not in all of the early Church Fathers’ writings, entitled Dialogue with Trypho in which he attempts to prove that Christianity has supplanted Judaism. Justin Martyr might also have been the first to erroneously claim that the Church was true Israel (making him possibly the father of Replacement Theology).

He first quotes Isaiah 42:1-4 and then introduces his reasoning for how the Church replaces Abraham’s descendants in God’s covenants: "Jacob is my servant, I will uphold Him; Israel is my elect, I will put my Spirit upon Him, and He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry, neither shall anyone hear His voice in the street: a bruised reed He shall not break, and smoking flax He shall not quench, but He shall bring forth judgment to truth: He shall shine, and shall not be broken till He have set judgment on the earth. And in His name shall the Gentiles trust." (Isaiah 42:1-4)

"Again in Isaiah, if you have ears to hear it, God, speaking of Christ in parable, calls Him Jacob and Israel. As, therefore, from the one man Jacob, who was surnamed Israel, all your nation has been called Jacob and Israel; so we from Christ, who begot us unto God, like Jacob, and Israel, and Judah, and Joseph, and David, are called and are the true sons of God, and keep the commandments of Christ." (Justin Martyr's commentary.)

In this instance, Justin Martyr used the allegorical approach to change a literal teaching into a subjective one, yielding a conclusion not supported by the Word of God. We can always prove our own points using an allegorical approach, but is God convinced?

Tertullian (AD 160-220)
Tertullian was a Christian author who produced a large body of literature in Latin. He was also an apologist who taught against heresy. Tertullian has been called “the father of Latin Christianity” and “the founder of Western theology.” He was one of the first Church Fathers to formulate Trinitarian terminology.

In his work “De Adversus Judaeos,” “Against the Jews,” Tertullian’s theological anti-Judaism is purely ideological. He might have gotten some of his inspiration from earlier works by Justin Martyr. He uses the Hebrew Scriptures to methodically disprove the relevancy of the Mosaic Law, and then goes on to prove that all blessings to ethnic Israel are now passed on to the “other nation” of God:  The Christians.

Writer David Efroymson, in his work on Tertullian, his influence and legacy, stated that many followed after Tertullian with their anti-Jewish diatribes and added this profound statement, alluding to the distant, but destructive, impact that Tertullian’s teachings had: "The road from here to Auschwitz is long and may not be direct, but one can get there from here." And indeed the road to Auschwitz was slowly but steadily being traced by this and other early Christian pioneers of anti-Semitism.

We have only covered the first two centuries after the closing of the biblical record. The trend will continue and even pick up more momentum and become quite abrasive and lethal as we progress through history. For a Jewish believer like myself, it is quite a challenge to balance the good and the bad. The valuable contributions that all Church Fathers have made to the faith and how it has helped to protect Christianity from many heresies cannot be ignored. We owe a great debt of gratitude to these pioneers of the faith who wrote so many volumes to erect theological and doctrinal protective fences around a young Christianity. But, we must also recognize that these men were human and that their writings were not inspired like the Bible was (2 Timothy 3:16-17.)

In the midst of a positive legacy, people are still remembered for some damaging contributions they made. I have found that most students and teachers of the Church Fathers, in their praise of these men, are quick to ignore the damaging legacy they left as it pertains to the Jewish people. I don't expect anybody to dismiss the works of these theologians simply on the basis of their faulty/allegorical view of Israel and the Jews in the Bible, but at the very least, their exegetical faux pas must be mentioned, if only to let our Jewish friends know that we are not turning a blind eye on what led to a lot of lethal anti-Jewish sentiment.

How "Jewish Christian" became an oxymoron!

There are words that just don't co-exist very well, and "Jewish Christian" is definitely one of these dysfunctional couples that we call oxymorons. People say that you cannot be Jewish and Christian at the same time, because the two terms are mutually exclusive. Christians are often confused about Jewish people who have placed their trust in Yeshua (Jesus), while most Jews are simply upset that other Jews who trust Yeshua would dare to continue calling themselves Jewish, so definitions are in order.

We first hear the term "Christian" in the New Testament, in Acts 11:26: and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers, and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. A simple definition of the term would be "a follower and disciple of Yeshua of Nazareth." The word Christian comes from the word "Christ" which is the English translation of the Greek "Christos", or Hebrew "Mashiach", meaning "Messiah" or "anointed." Becoming a Christian involves a decision on the part of the person to follow the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus) and obey His commands. One is not born a Christian since it requires an act of the will to become one.

As to who is Jewish, many interpretations have surfaced over the centuries, trying to define who is a Jew. From having two Jewish parents to just one, particularly a mother who is Jewish, or even just grand-parents. Some say that you have to be religious or live in Israel or even both. What about one who converts to Judaism, does that act make them Jewish?

Biblically speaking, a Jewish person is a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through one of the twelve tribes of Israel. In the Bible, the lineage went through the father or both parents. The change to being Jewish if the mother is Jewish was a medieval rabbinic decision made at a time when many Jewish villages were pillaged, men killed and women raped. In fear of losing their Jewish identity and the Jewish people as a whole, rabbis decided that if a woman was Jewish, the child from their womb had to be as well. This wasn't a bad decision from the standpoint of preserving the Jewish people, but it departed from the biblical definition when for some Jewish people it became exclusive.
Regardless of being from one parent or both, or even just through the mother, were are faced with a further need for defining who is a Jew, simply because too often people confuse Judaism and Jewishness. A clear understanding of both terms will help us with many misconceptions.

When one speaks of being Jewish, it is implied that they speak of their Jewishness which is an ethnic identity carried through the bloodline and coming from Jewish biological parents. There is nothing one can do to lose their Jewish bloodline connection. One is born a Jew and regardless of their level of observance, they will die a Jew. It could be argued by some that a "good Jew" is one that practices Judaism, but logic dictates that by these standards, even if you are not a "good Jew", you remain a Jew. This leads us to the need for defining the word "Judaism."

Judaism is a religion or a set of spiritual beliefs that one adheres to, to the best of their ability. Within Judaism, there are different levels of observance from very nominal to ultra-religious, and everything in between. The practice of Judaism isn't simply reserved to those who were born ethnically Jewish (Jewishness), but rather it is made available to all who choose to place themselves under the regulations of the Mosaic Law. So, you can be a Jew practicing some level of Judaism or a gentile doing the same, without ever losing your ethnic identity. By the same logic, A Jewish person can also choose to practice Hinduism or Buddhism and continue being Jewish ethnically.

Over the years, the only faith that has become taboo for Jewish people is Christianity, and frankly, this has a lot to do with what happened to Jewish people over the centuries in the name of "Christ." Consider the names that my people were called by some of the early Church Fathers who–while they helped structure and protect early Christianity–also left a stain on the Jewish psyche. Jewish people have been called:
• MURDERERS (Origen)
• CHRIST KILLERS (St Hyppolitus)
• POSSESSED BY THE DEVIL (Chrysostom)
• DEGENERATE (Chrysostom)
• CURSED BY GOD (Hilary of Poitiers)
• DEMONS (Gregory of Nyssa)
• REJECTED AND CONDEMNED (Martin Luther)

To add insult to injury, my people have also been accused of many ills over the centuries. We have been accused of using the blood of Christian children for Passover rituals, poisoning the wells of Europe to start the Black Plague, attempting to take over the world, controlling the banks, having horns and a vile stench. All these false accusations can easily be debunked, even though people an increasingly less interested in factual truth when it comes to Israel and the Jewish people.
So the word Jewish Christian did become an oxymoron for two reasons. First, because people do not have a clear understanding of the difference between Jewishness and Judaism. Second, because much harm has been done to my people over the centuries in the name of Christianity. But just because many have misrepresented true biblical Christianity to the Jews, it doesn't take away what real Christianity stands for.

The Jewish Messiah can be found all over the Tanach (Old Testament) in places such as Genesis 3:15; 49:10, Psalm 22, Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7; 52:13-53-12 and Zechariah 12:10 to name just a few. True Christianity is simply a healthy and balanced fulfillment of biblical Judaism.

So maybe "Jewish Christian"–not my favorite choice of words to start with– isn't such an oxymoron after all! Remember that Jewishness is on the inside and Judaism is on the outside, and they are not necessarily connected. Christianity is a faith and Jewishness is an ethnic state. They absolutely do not have to be mutually exclusive!

When fighting antisemitism, it is never too little or too late!

While they have the same source, roots and much of the same history, Christianity and Judaism have been at odds for as long as man can remember. To say that the two religions are at odds really is an understatement. The early Christian Church comprised mostly Jewish men and women who had found in Yeshua (Jesus) the long awaited Messiah of Israel. For over three centuries until the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, the Jewish roots of the Christian faith were very much a part of early Christianity. To run the risk of oversimplification, it is around that time that life became difficult for Jewish people. Over a long period of time, being Jewish progressively went from challenging to complicated to dangerous to lethal.

What started as simple theological anti-Judaism, slowly morphed into antisemitism. From early Christianity, the Jews were told "You have no right to leave among us as Jews", forcing conversions on us. This went further when we were eventually told "You have no right to live among us", forcing expulsion on us. Eventually, it became "You have no right to live", culminating in annihilation.

Many of the Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Chrysostom, Augustine and others set the stage for Christianity to alienate Judaism by reinterpreting the Bible. Slowly, laws were passed and enforced. Jewish life became hard and often near impossible, but against all odds and because of God's grace, the Jewish people are still here today. In spite of the Middle Ages Blood Libel, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Pogroms and the Holocaust, we are still standing.

Christianity–in any of its denominations– has had a difficult relationship with the Jewish people, so much so that the default mechanism for most Jewish people today is to believe that all Christians are antisemitic. That is why, whenever a Christian figure makes a repentant statement in favor of the Jewish people, it should be noted.

It just so happened that the105th Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby made such a statement. He recently stated "The fact that antisemitism has infected the body of the Church is something of which we as Christians must be deeply repentant." This would appear to be a simple statement, but it isn't. Welby contributed to a series of essays on what we can learn from the Holocaust. He wrote a powerful piece titled "Vigilance and resolution: Living antidotes to an ancient virus." in which he says "It is a shameful truth that, through its theological teachings, the church, which should have offered an antidote, compounded the spread of this virus." Welby appears to be trying to bridge the gap between Christians and Jews. This gap really is more like a great divide, a chasm , a canyon of hatred. Welby also wrote "All humans are made in the image of God. Antisemitism undermines and distorts this truth: it is the negation of God’s plan for his creation and is therefore a denial of God himself. There is no justification for the debasing and scapegoating of other people. Antisemitism is the antithesis of all that our scriptures call us to be and do, to work together for the common good and to seek the flourishing of all.

It wasn't until 1965 that the Catholic Church officially announced that the Jewish people were exonerated of deicide (killing God.) This doesn't prevent many people today from calling Jewish people "Christ Killers." The Church of England–as a part of Christendom– also has an antisemitic reputation. Welby's contribution to the new booklet for the Holocaust Educational Trust comes at the right time simply because when it comes to educate about and fight against the Holocaust and antisemitism, it is never too little and never too late. Let's hope that his words of wisdom in favor of the Jewish people would truly lead many Christians around the world to repentance over their views of and actions against them and Israel.

The simplest antidote to antisemitism can be found on the pages of the entire Bible. Many of its readers have re-interpreted it to exclude and even damn the Jews and Israel. Many more chose to not even read it and buy into fabricated stories with no foundation on factual and/or biblical truth. Justin Welby's statement was bold, necessary and hopefully will lead to more of the sort by other Christian figures around the world. The baggage that the Christian Church has carried for over 2,000 years is impossible to ignore. Like Justin Welby recently did, it must be acknowledged. Maybe I am hopelessly optimistic, but this could help in preventing further damage in Judeo/Christian relations. We certainly could use a little respite, and this is a good way to start the New Year... Shanah Tovah to everyone!