The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Perspectives on Racism:
Anti-Semitism in Canada
Realities, Remedies & Implications for Anti-Racism
Dr. Karen Mock

The Christian Roots of Anti-Semitism

A detailed history and analysis of the evolution of anti- Semitism is beyond the scope of this chapter, but some mention of the role of the Christian church is essential.

Jesus was a Jew, faithful to the law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. He was called 'Rabbi'; his last words on the cross were from the psalms. Like other Jews who were religious nationalists, the Roman government considered Jesus a threat because of his preaching and the increasing size of his following.

On Jesus' Passover trip to Jerusalem the Roman procurator ordered his arrest and execution. His followers, the Nazarenes, continued to practise Judaism until many years later, when Paul, who had never met Jesus, transformed his teachings, removed most of the traditional Jewish practices, and laid the foundation for a Christianity that became separate from and hostile to the very Judaism out of which it emerged.

By the time the Gospels were written they reflected this increasing bias against traditional Judaism, and told the story of Jesus in such a way that it seemed the real enemies of Jesus were not- Gentiles, or even the Romans who put him to death, but the Jews. With each successive author of the Gospels, the Jews were increasingly, though falsely, painted as the persecutors of Jesus and those who drove him to his death. According to Patterson (1982) it was in this way that hostility against the Jewish mainstream resulting from the fierce competition in the first century between early Christianity and Judaism (or, until Paul, between two different sects of Judaism) became a permanent part of the Christian Bible and later of Christian teaching and ritual.

Thus, generations of Christians to this day have grown up influenced by the negative pictures of Jews painted in these scriptures (and literally painted as menacing stereotypes of evil in frescos and murals on church walls) - sources that many Christians, with no understanding of either the historical context or the historical facts, consider to be sacred and infallible accounts of history.


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