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THE NEW TESTAMENT IS ANTI-SEMITIC!

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  August 8, 2014 — 2 Comments

The New Testament is one embarrassing book. How can anyone believe it? Not only is preterism anti-Semitic, but so is the New Testament. Christianity needs just to fold up, pack it away, and leave the world alone.

This New Testamen= anti-Semitism charge is according to secularists and liberal “theologians,” that is. But ironically, those evangelicals who charge preterism with anti-Semitism because of what they read among the secularists and liberals are shooting themselves in the foot.

To criticize the preterist interpretation of Revelation as anti-Semitic because of its strong teaching against the Jews requires that you also criticize the Gospels and Acts on the same basis. Those liberals who charge that Revelation’s denunciations of Israel are anti-Semitic must also charge the Gospels and Acts as such. In fact, virtually every contemporary academic study dealing with the history of anti-Semitism traces the roots of modern anti-Semitism to these books. See for example:

• John Dominic Crossan, Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995) .
• Dan Cohn-Sherbok, The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Anti-Semitism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992).
• T. A. Burkill, “Anti-Semitism in St. Mark’s Gospel,” NT 3 (1959): 34-52.
• W. R. Farmer, Anti-Judaism and the Gospels (Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity, 1999).
• Riemund Bieringer, Didier Pollefeyt, and Frederique Vandecasteele, eds., Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel (Louisville, Kent.: Westminster John Knox, 2001).
• L. T. Johnson, “The New Testament’s Anti-Jewish Slander and the Conventions of Ancient Polemic,” Journal of Biblical Literature 108 (1989): 419-41.

The New Testament in general
Jack T. Sanders writes that “whether or not Christian writers cringe at applying the term ‘anti-semitism’ to part of the New Testament, we must realize that it is that hostility that we are describing” (Sanders The Jews in Luke-Acts [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987], xvi).

The Gospel of Matthew
Some scholars view Matthew a the “most severely ‘anti-Jewish” Gospels. For instance, Jewish scholar David Flusser comments on Matthew 8:11-12 regarding the “sons of the kingdom” being cast out: “This is a vulgar anti-Judaism of many members of the early Gentile church” (Judaism and the Origins of Christianity [Jerusalem: Magness, 1988. xxiii]).


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Regarding Matthew 27:25, Galambush (an apostate Christian) (p. 59) laments: “It is hard to imagine a more anti-Jewish account than this ‘most Jewish’ gospel.” She also states that 1Th 2:14-16 “was slanderous in its original context and, in later years, disastrous in its consequences” (Julie Galambush, The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament’s Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book [San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005], 125).

Matthew 27:25 is of such concern that it played prominently in the following story. A May 21, 2000 Associated Press article commented on the re-writing of the decennial Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany (which dates back to 1634). It was written so as to remove “anti-Semitic” aspects of the crucifixion account: “When enraged Temple leaders shouted ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ during a climactic scene at the premiere Sunday of the world’s most famous Passion play, dissenters defended Jesus for the first time: ‘Set him free!’ The revision is among a series of thoughtfully scripted changes introduced for the millennial production of the Oberammergau Passion play, acted roughly every decade since 1634. Many of the story’s most ardent critics now declare this version a milestone in decades-long efforts expunge negative images of Jews. ‘I can say positively that it is a turning point,’ said Irving Levine, an interfaith expert for the American Jewish Committee, which has been working with the Anti-Defamation League since the 1960s to remove Jewish stereotypes from the Oberammergau play.”

In his article “Mel Gibson and the Gospel of Anti-Semitism” Charles Patterson (JewishVirtualLibrary.Org) writes: “The trouble with Mel Gibson’s film ‘The Passion’ is not the film itself, but the gospel story on which it’s based. The gospel story, which has generated more anti-Semitism than the sum of all the other anti-Semitic writings ever written, created the climate in Christian Europe that led to the Holocaust. Long before the rise of Adolf Hitler, the gospel story about the life and death of Jesus had poisoned the bloodstream of European civilization….” To ameliorate the situation, Gibson edited the film to drop the offending image.

In February 4, 2004, the New York Times published an article by Sharon Waxman titled: “Gibson To Delete A Scene In “Passion.’” That article also charged that Matthew 27:25 was anti-Semitic and dangerous. She writes: “Mel Gibson, responding to focus groups as much as to protests by Jewish critics, has decided to delete a controversial scene about Jews from his film, ”The Passion of the Christ,” a close associate said today. A scene in the film, in which the Jewish high priest Caiaphas calls down a kind of curse on the Jewish people by declaring of the Crucifixion, ‘His blood be on us and on our children,’ will not be in the movie’s final version, said the Gibson associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity…. Jewish leaders had warned that the passage from Matthew 27:25 was the historic source for many of the charges of deicide and Jews’ collective guilt in the death of Jesus.”

The Gospel of Luke
Weatherly opens his important defense of the historicity and moral character of Luke’s writings with these words: “Is the New Testament anti-Semitic?. . . As the question as been posed and answers sought, the Lukan corpus has become a particular focus of investigation” (Jon A. Weatherly, Jewish Responsibility for the Death of Jesus in Luke-Acts [Sheffield: Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplemental Series 106, 1994], 13).

Luke repeatedly blames the Jews for Christ’s death: Lk 24:20; Acts 2:22-23, 36; 3:13-15a; 4:10; 5:28, 30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-29; Ac 26:10. And this is deemed the seed of full blown anti-Semitism by Josef Blinzler (The Trial of Jesus: The Jewish and Roman Proceedings Against Jesus Christ Described and Assessed from the Oldest Accounts. [Trans from 2d ed. by Isabel and Florence McHugh. Westminster, Maryland: Newman, 1959]) who writes: “It was repeatedly stated on the part of the Jews that, when all was said and done, modern antiSemitism was nothing else than the logical result of the Christian thesis that the Jews were guilty of the death of Jesus.”

The Gospel of John
Many critical scholars argue that John is the most anti-Semitic of the Gospels. For example:

• Rosemary Ruether, Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism (New York: Seabury, 1974), 111-16.
• R. Fuller, “The ‘Jews’ in the Fourth Gospel,” Dialog 16 (1977): 35.
• E. J. Epp, “Anti-Semitism and the Popularity of the Fourth Gospel in Christianity,” CCAR Journal, 22:4 (Fall, 1975), 35-52.
• M. A. Getty, “the Jews and John’s Passion Narrative,” Liturgy 22:3 (March 1977): 6ff.

For anyone to charge preterism with antiSemitism requires that they also discredit the New Testament is antiSemitic. But that price should be too high for the Christian, just as its charge is too low for the liberal and secularist.

Conclusion
Evangelicals need to be careful in jumping on the bandwagon to charge preterism with anti-Semitism. They are using the same form of argument that secularists and liberal “Christian” theologians bring against the New Testament itself.


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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

2 responses to THE NEW TESTAMENT IS ANTI-SEMITIC!

  1. Why stop with the New Testament? I have been reading through the Prophets lately. What anti-Semites those guys were. No wonder they were persecuted. Always talking about judgment on the people of Israel and Judah.

    It seems to me that the condemnations of the NT are against what Jesus referred to as “this generation.” After they were judged the next generations of unbelieving Jews would fall under the warnings to anyone who does not believe, whether they be Jew or Gentile.

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