The phenomenon of the new anti-Semitism

A new and unique anti-Semitism has arisen in today's world that is of a different phenomenal strand than the anti-Semitism of ages past. The revival of global anti-Semitism has its ideological sources in a new caldron of global upset. A confused world is responding with far too great a sympathy for the more recent perpetrators of anti-Jewish sentiment the world over. As those committed to God's eternal purposes, Pentecostals are under biblical obligation to awaken to this new outbreak of anti-Semitism and formulate a godly response. The focus of chapter three of my doctoral dissertation, “Pentecostals and the New Anti-Semitism: Walking in the Fruit and Fullness of the Spirit for the Sake of the Jewish People” was to track the potential deadly effect of twenty-first century anti-Semitism upon contemporary World Jewry and to generate a sound Pentecostal response to this threat. This Web site offers a sampling of some of the findings and resources of that doctoral study.

Robert Wistrich has called anti-Semitism “the longest hatred.”1 Suspicion and mistreatment of Jews has transpired for more than two millennia. Antipathy toward these monotheists with strange customs such as circumcision and observing Shabbat was a recurring theme in the pagan world.2 Jews often found themselves in conflict with pagans, who viewed them as outsiders. To be sure, this millennia-old phenomenon has been the subject of hundreds of books on the causes, history, expressions, and implications of anti-Semitism in the pagan, classical, Christian, and modern worlds.

Fred Wright provides an excellent overview of the early parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity and the resulting apologetics of the Church Fathers characterized by replacement theology.3 He examines Roman Church edicts against Jews and Judaism, the development of anti-Semitism in the medieval period through the Reformation. (Important events in this period include the Crusades, which brought about the death of thousands of Jews.) Wright addresses the Church’s assault on Jews during the Inquisition, the development of modern (scientific, racial) anti-Semitism, and the German Church Struggle during the Holocaust.4 Recurring themes within Christian anti-Semitism include the following: deicide (the Jews killed Jesus; i.e., all Jews everywhere for all time are responsible for the death of Jesus and are rejected by God because of this act); God has rejected His previously chosen Israel, revoking their gifts and callings, and has established the Church as the new or “true” Israel; Jews remain only as a testimony to the truth of Christianity; and Jews are dangerous, evil, race defilers who must be kept separate from others.5 Though space does not permit full consideration of the vast number of anti-Semitic themes, additional themes to those mentioned above include desecration of the host, blood libel/ritual murder charges, accusations that Jews poisoned the wells to kill Christians during the Black Plague, the idea that Jews are devils, that Jews eat the excrement of pigs, and so on.

Essentially, Jews became the scapegoats (in primarily European nations) and were repeatedly attacked in every way possible, facing constant threats that ranged from aggravation and deprivation to expulsion or annihilation. This process of exterminatory anti-Semitism, implemented over history by certain pagans, particular elements within the Church, and many secular domains, included antipathetic attitudes and sentiments, defamation, withdrawal and avoidance, denunciation, primary social exclusion, legislative and statutory exclusion, anti-Jewish political and/or religious ideology, economic sanctions and boycott, deprivation of primary health care, medical facilities and welfare, removal of legal protection and human rights, extermination, and ethnocide.6 Plainly, the majority of anti-Jewish measures employed by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s were similar to threats of annihilation the Jews had experienced for centuries.

With such a sordid history of hatred toward the Jews, culminating in the European context with the horrors of the Holocaust, one would think that finally this diabolical activity could be put to rest. However, the reality of the daily news today is that anything but that has happened. In fact, the anti-Semitism of the past has morphed into something new—and in many ways uglier—and stands as a threat not only to the existence of the State of Israel and the Jewish people but also to Western civilization as a whole. Essentially the literature describes six groups responsible for the new anti-Semitism: Islamic reactionaries; “the Left” (a catch-all phrase for intellectuals/academics—including university students and faculty, progressives, elites, the media, academics, journalists, and scientists who hold anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli views); “the extreme Right” (neo-Nazi, skinhead, Holocaust-denying, Ku Klux Klan, White supremacist types); certain African-Americans (e.g., Nation of Islam); the Christian world (the extreme Christian Right and denominations divesting in Israeli economics and/or academics); and "self-hating" Jews (such as Chomsky and friends).

Understanding the nature of this evil is vital for members of the civilized world and especially for the Christian Church, which must not once again forfeit her opportunity to portray proper biblical behavior toward "All Israel."

It is my hope that this Web site will serve as a resource for those interested in fighting anti-Semitism in any form wherever it may rear its ugly head. Please check the links page and bibliography page for resources that will help you keep up-to-date on what is going on, and ways you can respond. Check back from time to time for additions to this Web page.

"But let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream!" (Amos 5:24).

1Ron Rosenbaum, ed., Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism (New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2004), xv. The question arises as to whether or not anti-Semitism is indeed the “longest” hatred. Certainly there are older hatreds; unfortunately, in the Judeo-Christian context, anti-Semitism has had a life of its own—raising its ugly head again and again throughout the centuries.

2For more on pagan anti-Semitism, see Robert S. Wistrich, Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred (London: Mandarin Paperbacks, 1992) 3-12.

3For examples of anti-Jewish polemics among the Church fathers, see Justin Martyr (160 C.E.), Irenaeus (177 C.E.), Tertullian (160-230 C.E.), Eusebius (fourth century), John Chrysostom (fourth century), Jerome (347-407 C.E.). See Wagner, Where Was Love and Mercy?, 34, for a succinct overview of replacement theology. Essentially it is the idea that the Church is the new or “true” Israel, which has replaced and superseded the Jews as God’s chosen people. All the covenants and blessings of the Old Testament no longer apply to the people of Israel but to the Church. In place of being a people through whom God will fulfill His covenant with Abraham, Jews are now uniquely subject to the Torah’s promised curses (e.g., Deut. 28) as the direct result of the Jewish corporate involvement in the crucifixion of Jesus.

4This struggle was with regard to the question of response to the Nazi onslaught, both in general and with reference to the Jews. Responses in the Church ranged from apathy/indifference to ambivalence/double mindedness to actual sympathy for and collaboration with the Nazis. Much has been written about the silence of the pope during this period, as well as the overall failure of the Church. The Church, by its inaction and complicity, says Franklin Littell, apostatized during this period.

5Supersessionism, the original second-century, extra-biblical theology of the replacement of Israel with the Church in God’s economy, was the invention of Justin Martyr and other highly motivated Church Fathers. They sought to eliminate Jewish influence upon Christians and fully distinguish the Church from its Jewish rootedness. This replacement theology represented a radical departure from apostolic Christianity. The idea of the new or “true” Israel—considered a given in many modern Christian circles—is fundamentally anti-Semitic at its theological core. Though traditionally taught “innocently enough,” in the Church, the fact remains that neither phrase, “new Israel” nor “true Israel,” occurs in Scripture—and certainly not in reference to the Church. There is simply no biblical support for replacement theology and its consequential disinheriting of the Jewish people in God’s salvation economy. Though the concept has been received as true since about year A.D. 150, it is not only erroneous in terms of biblical interpretation but also unethical, as it has been used at times by the Church as justification for Christian maltreatment of Jews for centuries.

6Fred Wright, Father, Forgive Us: A Christian Response to the Church’s Heritage of Jewish Persecution (Grand Rapids: Monarch Books, Olive Press, 2002), 36-45.

Another excellent resource is the Anti-Defamation League's Web site on the threat of Global Anti-Semitism. At this site is an excellent resource called, "Global Anti-Semitism: 90 Ways You Can Respond."

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