“What Do Christians Do With the Jews?”

Pastor Bob

So the other day I met my friend for coffee and chatting. He’s a pastor. When I arrived at the coffee shop, I saw he was on his laptop.

“Whatcha workin’ on?” I said.

“At my church I’m teaching a five-week class on Romans,” he replied. “So I’m just working on the handout for week four.”

“Can I see it?” I ask. He handed me his laptop, and I spent about fifteen minutes reading the below.

“Whoa,” I said. “This is amazing. I can’t believe how much I just learned. So I’m bitter about that; I think you know how much I loathe learning. But, really, this is crazy rich stuff. I totally want to put this on my blog. Can I?”

“It’s all right with me,” he said. “But why would you want to?”

“Well, for one, because this content is extraordinary. But also because I think it’s good for all of us normal, everyday-type Christians to be reminded that there are people out in the world, like you, who, when it comes to Christianity, really know what they’re talking about. You’re digging deep beneath the surface upon which most of us just happily skip along. I mean, look at this stuff. This is the real deal, man. You’re awesome. Plus, you’re saying some really new stuff here, which is so exciting. I just think it’d be fun for my readers to see this, to be reminded of the quality of work people like you are out here actually doing. They’re a brainy bunch. They’ll dig it.”

Hope I was right about that! Because here’s the hand-out my friend used for his Sunday adult ed. class!

WEEK #4 OF 5 of ROMANS: “THE JEWS?”

THE HOLY LAND: A SERIES OF OCCUPYING EMPIRES

  • Egyptians

o   Controlled the area of Palestine many times over the centuries

o   The Hebrew people or “Israelites” emerged as a people from their bondage in Egypt (~1300 BCE)

  • Surrounding smaller empires

o   Philistines (David and Goliath, ~1000 BCE)

o   Phoenicians (controlled the seas)

  • Assyrians

o   Conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel and sent the members of the social elite into diaspora (722 BCE)

  • Babylonians

o   Conquered the southern Kingdom of Judah (588 BCE), destroyed the 1st Temple in Jerusalem and sent the social elite to Babylon (called the Babylonian captivity)

  • Persians

o   After conquering the Babylonian Empire, the Persians allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem (537 BCE) and for the temple to be rebuilt (2nd Temple).

  • Greeks

o   After conquering the Persians, Alexander and later, his generals occupied the land, but more importantly brought Greek language and culture.

o   In revolt to decrees by a Seleucid King, an independent Jewish Kingdom arose (165 BCE to 63 BCE) called the Hasmonean Dynasty (also known as the Maccabees).

  • Romans

o   Involved during the Hasmonean Dynasty, the Romans began to actively control the region during the Herodian Dynasty (37 BCE – 92 CE) and was responsible for the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem in response to Jewish revolts (~70 & 132 CE)

 

PERSECUTION OF THE JEWS

  • Diaspora = “dispersion”

o   In order to literally dismantle a people’s resistance or influence, and/or out of punishment, conquering powers would disperse the conquered people into other lands—a Diaspora.

o   Assyrians (722 BCE): Exiled Jews from the Northern Kingdom of Israel (“10 Lost Tribes”)

o   Babylonians (~588 BCE): Exiled Jews from the Southern Kingdom of Judah (70 yrs)

o   Romans (70 CE & 132 CE): Jews exiled from Jerusalem after revolts

  • · Under Emperors (Early Christian Church)

o   Constantine (4th century): Capital punishment for teaching the Torah or encouraging conversion to Judaism.

o   Theodosius & Justinian: Jews could not testify against Christians or gather in public.

  • · Middle Ages

o   Crusaders (1096-1292): Jewish communities slaughtered by Crusaders and others

o   1215: Jews have to wear different clothes than Christians

o   Driven out of England (1290), France (1306 & 1394), Austria (1420), and Spain (1492)

  • · Reformation & Counter-Reformation

o   Protestants and Catholics (1500’s): Persecute Jews and segregate them into ghettos and many Jews end up in Poland

  • · Late 1800’s up to WWII

o   Russians: Numerous “pogroms” (anti-Jewish riots) against Jews in Russia and elsewhere

o   Nazis (1930’s to 1945): Holocaust of Jews resulting in the death of 6 million

o   Soviets under Stalin carry out programs that lead to the death of an estimated 10 million Jews

  • · Reflections on Anti-Semitism

o   Jews have continually been oppressed, openly persecuted, driven from their homes and killed.

o   The reasons for persecution include:

§  Being a minority community: Jews, as a minority population who often isolated themselves from the majority population (for their own protection and maintaining of identity) became scapegoats for any problems, including the bubonic plague!

§  Jealousy and greed: Jews traditionally took on the role of bankers (because loaning with interest, “usury,” was forbidden for Christians at the time (and for Muslims), therefore Jews also often served as the trade brokers between Christians and Muslims. Nations would drive out the Jews to avoid paying their debts.

o   Two large groups of Jews:

§  Sephardic Jews: Largely flourished under Islamic rule in Spain (700’s – 1300’s) and driven out by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain (1492), they settled in the Ottoman Empire and other places in Europe.

§  Ashkenazic Jews: Named from the Hebrew word for “German,” these Jews settled in Poland, which by the 16th century extended to the Baltic Sea and into the Ukraine.

 

WHAT DO CHRISTIANS DO WITH THE JEWS?

  • There have been a number of responses

o   Earliest followers of Christ were Jews

§  Jews who understood Jesus as the Messiah, a Jewish sect

§  With Gentile converts, there became a Jewish-Christian, Gentile-Christian distinction

§  Jewish religious leaders (obviously early on!) realized the distinctive claims of Jewish and Gentile Christians regarding Jesus as the Son of God

§  Any connection of the emerging Christian church being “Jewish” was being lost certainly by the 60s and definitely the 70s after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem

o   Persecute the Jews

§  As Christians gained power and became a majority instead of a minority, they unfortunately used the Jews as their “scape goat” using Jesus’ crucifixion centuries before as reason enough to treat Jews with distain, de-humanizing language and treatment, as well as active pogroms that moved or destroyed whole Jewish communities—as well as stealing their land and resources.

§  Between Hitler and Stalin during the 30s and 40s it is estimated that some 16 million Jews were killed. Enough said.

§  There are a number of Anti-Semitic organizations (who also understand themselves to be Christian) at work today that use similar or the exact same language as the Nazis to dehumanize the Jews and other groups such as LGBT and currently in the news—Muslims. Groups like the KKK, Skinheads, and Arian-Nation related groups are overtly active in their persecution of Jews and these other groups.

  • Interestingly, despite the enmity caused by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jews in the U.S. are in the beginning stages of publically defending the rights of Muslims who are the current targeted group for defamation of character, dehumanization and active hate crimes. Jewish Americans are realizing that this kind of treatment is all too familiar…

 

o   Supersessionism

§  Treat Judaism as simply the foreshadowing of Christianity, a stage in the development of Christianity

§  This in effect is to treat Judaism as a kind of former religion, one that was useful but gone astray and therefore not really valid by itself.

o   Christianize the Jews

§  Actively proselytize Jews

§  This has been the hope of Christianity from its beginnings (certainly in Paul; Rom 10:14-17)—that the Jews would claim Jesus as their Messiah.

§  Martin Luther thought that his new understanding of the gospel in terms of justification by grace through faith alone would cause Jews to embrace Christ, but later he became bitter when it did not happen.

§  In 1973, the “Jews for Jesus” movement began in the U.S. as a Christian evangelical expression of Judaism. Members understand themselves as Jewish and either have Jewish ancestry or are married to a Jew. They are “Jews for Jesus” in that they believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and part of the Holy Trinity. Their mission is to actively proselytize all the Jews and they are evangelical in their approach and in their relationship with other Christian groups. The Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed and Reconstructionist Jewish communities are publicly critical of the Jews for Jesus movement.

o   Jews are the People of God’s Continuing Covenant

§  Jews haven been and will be the beloved chosen people of God’s covenant (also very Pauline; Rom 11:1-5).

§  There are variations on this theme:

  • Following Paul, some believe that it is through the Christians that the Jews will eventually (inevitably?) turn towards Christ and be saved (Rom 11:11-12).
  • More strongly, it is understood that God would simply not forsake God’s covenant with God’s people—even if they have broken that covenant (also Paul; Rom 11:25-26). Therefore, the Jews will be claimed as God’s children just because it is God’s will (Paul leaves this option open; Rom 11:28-36). “For who has known the mind of God?” (Rom 11:34).

o   The destiny of Jews and Christians are bound together in the modern State of Israel

§  A growing group, particularly comprised of evangelical Christians, believe that Judaism as expressed in the modern-day State of Israel plays a key role with Christians in the End Times.

§  Using a selective reading of the Biblical Books of Daniel and Revelation (particularly Rev. 20:4-6), combined with a concept developed in the mid-1800s called “dispensationalism” by John Nelson Darby, and with observations about the creation of the modern State of Israel, these Christians perceive the world as ending in this sequence:

  • Christ returns for the “rapture” that extracts the true believers instantly into heaven (interpreted from Mt. 24:36-42).
  • The remaining people (who are not true believers—nominal Christians, the Jews, and everyone else) suffer through a time called the “tribulation,” an apocalyptic time where some feel that the Jewish Temple must be rebuilt in order for Christ to return again.
  • After the Jewish Temple is built, and among other things, an unblemished calf is sacrificed, etc., Christ will return and establish an earthly kingdom for 1000 years, hence “millennialism,” which will conclude with the general resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgment.

§  These Christians believe that the creation of the modern State of Israel is a sign from God that the End Times are upon us, that Christians are to work to convert the Jews, work with the Israelis to rebuild the Jewish Temple, and hope to be among the chosen for rapture.

§  This conception has been popularized in the Left Behind book and movie series. It is alive and well in America and plays a key role in religious and political perceptions.

o   We just don’t know. Love them?

§  Christians naturally tend to use their own Christian lenses when viewing Judaism. This means a few things:

  • We view Judaism in terms of 1st century practices as seen through the Bible and miss the two millennia that have followed.
  • We transfer our own expectations of faith, worship and piety upon the Jews (and other religions), which distorts our perceptions and understanding.
  • We tend not to really “listen” to Jews because we “already” understand them.

§  Treat Judaism as a separate religion unto its own.

  • Christians miss the obvious point that we are the odd duck among the monotheistic faith traditions with our Trinitarian language for God. This does not mean that we should not claim Christ as our Lord and Savior with every fiber of our being, but rather, we should not miss (as our Bible declares) that this appears as “foolishness” to the world. Therefore, it is in humble faith that we declare Christ as God, not in pride, but as Paul says, “in awe”.

“So do not become proud, but stand in awe.” (Rom. 11:20b)

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://gaychristiangeek.blogspot.com Rainicorn

    That’s really fantastic stuff! I’m Jewish on my mother’s side, and when I was becoming a Christian one of my major questions was “what about the Jews?”. I’ll never forget the horror I felt when one Christian told me, “Jews are almost more culpable than other non-believers, because they so nearly get it right.” Luckily a close friend was on hand to tell me very firmly that the Jews are God’s chosen people and they all get saved.

    I think that was the moment I truly realized that Christianity isn’t a monolithic faith system – that there isn’t a whole legalistic set of beliefs (about Jews, unbelievers, gay people, eating fish on a Friday, etc.) that you have to embrace in order to “be a real Christian”. Of course, some people will tell you there is, but they’re wrong. All you need to do is love God and love your neighbor: Jesus said that, and Rabbi Hillel said that, and ultimately Christianity and Judaism are absolutely on the same page.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thank you, Rain! I know my friend (who was pretty shy about putting this up here) will really and truly appreciate this … well, encouragement to his work. Thanks!

      • DR

        Tell him thank you.

  • JulieD

    This is such a concise presentation of a LOT of great information. I think I may have to print this off and show it to MY adult ed. Sunday school class.

  • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    An old friend of mine met through anime-fandom was an Orthodox Jew. I’ve actually hung out with her in person, not just online, but I haven’t been chatty with her in a long time. She was actually a gentile convert to Orthodox Judiasm, and I think she’s Conservative now because she started having some problems with some of Orthodoxy (one of her main things was she didn’t really think gay was a sin…)

    I remember having a conversation with her regarding what she thought of the “Jews for Jesus” thing. Both she and her (then) husband didn’t like them on the grounds that “They aren’t really Jewish at that point, they ought to just call themselves Christians.” I understood and agreed with her – I mean, I don’t think becoming a Christian means you need to “become gentile” – a person can totally keep their ethnic and faith traditions, it’s just that if they’re a follower of Christ, I think they probably ought to just say they are, but that they keep to their traditions/ethnic identity. I mean, if you follow Jesus, it doesn’t mean you automatically have to start eating bacon.

    Great, now I’m hungry.

    • Allen

      Well, if someone is going to follow Christ and “totally keep their ethnic and faith traditions”, why couldn’t they call themselves a Jew for Jesus? I’m not a fan of that organization, but the name seems to fit your logic. I myself am often referred to as a Gay Christian, which provides a context for my Christianity as well as for my, well, my gayness. There are some (in each camp, actually) who would have me renounce the one to be “really” the other. Too bad for them, life’s complicated and so are people.

      • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

        Allen,’

        Good point

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com/ Ric Booth

    Thanks for this history lesson. I don’t seem to remember much of any of this from world history class. Strange.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      That’s because my friend totally makes this stuff up. He thinks it makes him seem smart. Which it does! But still.

      • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com/ Ric Booth

        haha. I seriously doubt that. Perhaps the anglo-gentile-Christian history books were a bit vague on the detail wrt to their ancestry.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Yikes: I better be perfectly clear: I was joking. Of course my friend doesn’t make this stuff up. But you knew that. Thanks for checking out what he wrote, Ric.

  • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

    Yes this is good stuff, I would have liked to have sat in his class. It is interesting the whole relationship of the chucrh and Israel and what Paul means by the “Israel of God” and “not all those of Israel are Israel”. There is indeed a difference between a Jew by genetics and a “spiritual” Jew. Jews need to be born-again, just like the Gentile. Genetic Jews are as sinful as a Gentile – All need the salvation of the Messiah.

  • Sandro

    This is the real deal! There are believers all over the world that start to realize what role Israel plays and that God keeps His covenants. I’ve heard genuine believers say that local churches must understand this role of the Jews and Israel in order to prosper.

    You might want to check out: http://www.c4israel.org/

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    (Hey, I want to thank you guys for giving my friend’s work such a warm/enthusiastic response. If you want, I’m sure I could persuade him to let me run the other four lessons of his plan here. I’ll ask him! Anyway, thanks. I know he’ll appreciate knowing his work reached that many more people.)

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

    what a great outline. Thanks for sharing that with us John.

  • Mindy

    I love this, John – thank your friend. Two of my best friends are Jewish, and it has always rankled me to hear them dismissed by Christians. Not that all Christians do, of course, but I’ve heard it more than once. I’d love to read more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1272493011 Paul Schroder

    In John 4.42Jesus speaks to the woman at the well and says “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, [u]for salvation is from the Jews[/u].” Christians know that Jews are the chosen ones. I think most modern Christians accept this. The ones who don’t are also the ones who condemn gays and have a very narrow view of biblical interpretation. There are still Christians who use the bible to thump other people over the head with rather than to actually read.

  • Don Rappe

    I agree that these historical details and others like them form a very important context for understanding and interpreting the stories in the Bible. Somewhere I have heard a story that in the captive times in Babylon, after the destruction of the Temple, God’s people used to gather together in each others homes to worship.without benefit of temple or priestly class. Lay teachers, who came to be known as Rabbis would lead. There was a lighted lamp present which would be carried home lighted by the host(ess) of the next meeting. It served to identify the next meeting place and it never went out, simply being refilled with oil when needed. It came to represent the presence of God, in the absence of the ark and the temple which held it. I accept the myth (sacred story) that this fire, once lighted in Babylon, still burns in every synagogue and liturgical church. This flame was already alight when the anonymous prophet, who wrote second in the Isaiah scroll, reaffirmed the Covenant with the words “Comfort, comfort, ye my people …” speaking for God and indicating that the exile was coming to an end. It was lighted in the time of Rabbi Jesus physical presence. It remains lighted to this day. It influences strongly my understanding of the relation between Christian and Jewish faith. Just as the “Kyrie eleison” shows the continuous link of our churches to the apostolic church in

    • Don Rappe

      (I guess my computer thought I had run out of gas) … The apostolic church in Greece, the ever burning candle shows our link to the houses in Babylon.

  • anne

    hi john, love this blog. i AM a jew, married to a christian man. this is great, and i plan on checking out the rest of this site. thanks for co-existing. why is it so hard for so many to do so? thanks again.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thank you, Anne. I’ve forwarded your comment to Pastor Bob (the guy who wrote this). I know he’ll appreciate it.

  • Richard W. Fitch

    John, is there some site we can find all five parts? I think this is really great stuff and Pastor Bob should be very proud of his presentation, enough to share it with the widest possible audience. The book of Romans is pivotal to so many discussions today. Any new, insightful commentaries are worth attention.

  • Ninetailedfox

    Sighs. My husband and father are the historians of the family. As far as the roots of christianity goes, here is what my husband said: first christians were Russian Orthodox, Then Roman Catholic, then Greek Orthodox, Gnostics, Jews for Jesus etc. came much later. Most of history is lost, and I can thank conquerers for that. My husband has been reincarnated several times, and so have I. I can tell you I was a sailor, a bartender, a private investigator and an animal in most of my lifetimes. I really dont care if you believe me or not, because I know who I am. Oh and Edgar Cayce……..dont ask where he went, because you probably wont believe me about that either.

  • Maxwell

    As the grandson of a holocaust survivor, I thank you for compiling this. Christians and the rest of the world should know that Jews do not define themselves in contrast to Christianity, any other religion, or as a rebellious insubordination. All we have wanted is to be respected, left alone, and ideally, to live peacefully with our Christian brothers. It does not make sense that the two religions in the world that are the closest should experience the most tension.

  • http://www.osakawayne.com Wayne

    I like Jews and all, but I’m very flummoxed by the contemporary Zionist idea that Israel has every right to banish the former inhabitants of the land to the far edges, into desperation and poverty because “God gave us this land 5000 years ago and we decided to come back” could you do a post explaining why this is ok, fair, equitable etc? I just can’t see the occupation of Israel militarily and the apartheid against palestinians as ‘God’s will’.

    help me out.

    • cat rennolds

      there’s a little more history to it than that. on both sides of the last World War, Israel LEGALLY obtained pretty much all the land that Palestine has now either gotten back illegally, by just moving back in or by force, or by screaming that they ought to be given it back because they didn’t really mean it. Palestinians flat out sold them a lot of it piecemeal before the war. Then the Allies divided up the rest during the peace settlements. that’s a very simplified version, look it up.

      Still, the militaristic Zion fringe have some Biblical support. After all, it was only their land 5000 years ago by virtue of killing or running off every man, woman and child ON it, because God told them to.

  • Emmit

    Really Good Article!!!!! :)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X