Antisemitism and the New Testament

I had a conversation a fellow bus friend yesterday.  During our conversation, he asked about the New Testament's antisemitism.  My first response was that it could be conceived as a response to the Jewish persecution of the infant church.  That is, the first followers of Jesus were persecuted by the Jews.  The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Saul (whom later becomes Paul) had letters from the Jewish authorities to go and find people of 'The Way' and bring them back for trial.

Upon reflection this morning, however, I pose a question: Can someone be labeled 'antisemitic' if they are Jewish?  That is, the writers of the New Testament make it clear that the first converts to 'The Way' were Jewish people.  Jesus, himself, was a Jew.  His execution was not at the instigation of the Romans but his fellow Jews.  The imprisonment, torture, and execution of those first followers of Jesus was brought about by Jewish people.  Granted, those things were carried out by the Romans, but the genesis of the persecution was from the Jews.

Now, if these persecution were started by the Romans or some other Gentile group, or if the writing of the New Testament were strictly written by Gentiles, then I could see the accuracy of the antisemitic claim.  Just like if I, being 'white' make derogatory remarks about African Americans, I would be called a racist.  Or if I, being male, made degrading remarks about women, I would be labeled a sexist.  But, a black person can use the 'n' word and a woman comedian can talk, very frankly and disrespectfully, about women.  And those things are consider alright.  But someone on the outside can't talk like that.

Furthermore, people don't seem to mind the 'antisemitism' found in the Jewish Scriptures.  We have prophets coming forward time and again stating the their fellow Jews are just as bad as the surrounding Gentiles (read Amos for an example of this).  Jewish people don't seem to have any problems with this found in their own scriptures.  Why?  I submit it's because it is coming from inside their tradition.

Likewise, look at what St Paul wrote in Romans:

With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness.  My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it.  My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters.  I would be willing to be forever cursed — cut off from Christ! — if that would save them.  They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children.  God revealed his glory to them.  He made covenants with them and gave them his law.  He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises.  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned.  And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise!  Amen.
Does that sound like the heart of an antisemitic person?  Absolutely not!  Therefore, I believe that the charge of antisemitism in the New Testament is unfounded.  Precisely because it was written from those within that tradition. Jewish people were making comments about their fellow Jews.  They were pointing out the glaring problems within their own tradition.  This is not antisemitism.  These are a prophets trying to bring their people back to the foundations of their faith.


~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,


Jack

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