God, The New Testament, And The Holocaust

It’s very, very hard to speak of God’s existence and of human history going according to a divine plan after the Holocaust. In 1945, Theodore Adorno famously said that it’s absurd to write poetry after the Holocaust, and it seems equally absurd, post-Holocaust, to write theology as well.

The Holocaust pretty much killed off the traditional God hypothesis. No contemporary religious apologist should be taken seriously who cannot offer a sane account of the Holocaust as part of a personal God’s plan, and there really is no sane account of this on traditional theistic terms. Whatever is said about the Holocaust and God tends to run pretty quickly to the grotesque and morally repugnant. The Holocaust poses difficulties for theology that are more than just the traditional problem of suffering.

Christians have an especially problematic issue here because the Holocaust was the fruit of Christian antisemitism percolating in Europe for millennia. And the New Testament is full of antisemitic tropes (the Jews were responsible for the death of God; Jews are of the Synagogue of Satan; their hearts are hard; their leadership is corrupt; the Antichrist will be a Jew; God destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD because Jews crucified Christ; Jews spread malicious rumors that Jesus never raised from the dead; Jews were the chief enemies of Paul’s preaching; Jews that don’t convert are going to hell; Jesus supersedes the Jewish law; the temple priests of Jesus’s day were vipers, etc.). Hitler just plucked the low-hanging fruit from the Christian tree of historic Christian antisemitism. It was its logical extension put into a nationalist and bureaucratic context. And a tree is known for its fruit.

How then can anyone use the New Testament, after the Holocaust, as an authority for whether an afterlife exists–or for anything else for that matter? If the New Testament has shown itself so disastrously wrong about the Jews in tone and content–and its subsequent historical effect upon Jews has been so pernicious–how can one any longer seriously appeal to it?

Here’s a book by some Christian intellectuals wrestling with this very issue:

http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Glory-Reading-Testament-Holocaust/dp/0415937949/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398836730&sr=8-1&keywords=in+the+shadow+of+glory+holocaust

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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23 Responses to God, The New Testament, And The Holocaust

  1. God had nothing to do with the Holocaust.

    That was totally Adolf Hitler’s doing. And the entire German nation helped him.

    The Holocaust is what happens when mankind forsakes God.

  2. Cloud2013 says:

    i presume you are attempting to deal with the problem of evil in the world. Aside from your polemic (which is based on a very uninformed reading of the New Testament) what is the cause of evil in the world from your perspective and what do we do about it.

  3. Tad Davis says:

    As I mentioned in a reply to this same comment in an earlier blog postt:

    “The problem of suffering and of the Holocaust in particular is too large to tackle in a short reply, so leave it for another day. However I do want to respond to the charges of antisemitism you brought against the NT authors. It looks to me as if you are working with a fairly dubious assumption, viz, that it is antisemitic to accuse a Jewish population of certain short shortcomings. If this were the case then not only the NT writers but also the prophets of the OT would be antisemitic. But in any event there is no good reason to accept this assumption anyway. In general, criticizing a people group for certain sociological traits or wrongful actions does not amount to hate speech about that group. Though many contemporary Jewish leaders would have us believe otherwise, criticizing Israel for say, its occupation of the West Bank, its proliferation of nuclear weapons, and its aggression toward neighboring countries is NOT antisemitic.”

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Tad,

      The critique of Jewish “shortcomings” (your word) is far too polite a characterization of how the New Testament actually talks about Jews who don’t believe in Jesus.

      And as for people criticizing Israel, it’s highly contextual as to whether it’s antisemitic or not. Contemporary antisemitism often gets coupled with an obsessive and rabid hatred for Israel.

      And it should never be downplayed, in discussing Israel, that its very existence is under persistent pressure, surrounded by countries with populations that are as deeply antisemitic and eliminationist in mentality as those in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. This is not hyperbole on my part, but a matter of fact.

      I offer Daniel Goldhagen’s recent book to you for thinking about this issue of religion-driven antisemitism (both Christian and Muslim) and the post-Holocaust revival of global antisemitism:

      http://www.amazon.com/The-Devil-That-Never-Dies/dp/031609787X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1399098207&sr=8-1&keywords=the+devil+that+never+dies

      Goldhagen is the highly respected historian who wrote the once controversial and widely discussed book, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners,” an account of widespread antisemitism among common Germans that most historians today regard as a groundbreaking study of what was once an almost taboo subject.

      In Goldhagen’s most recent book, on page 70, he writes the following about the New Testament:

      “The Christian bible contains four hundred fifty antisemitic verses just in the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, …”

      He counts 80 verses in Matthew alone, and 130 verses in John. Your mileage may vary in the way you count up the antisemitic verses, but it’s hard to quarrel with the basic thrust of Goldhagen’s observation: malicious rhetoric is directed at Jews throughout the New Testament, and that malicious rhetoric is pervasive and spawned the subsequent history of Christian antisemitism.

      An obvious and notorious example: the multi-generational blood libel passage in Matthew: “His blood be on us and our children!” There is no doubt that, throughout history, the passage caused enormous damage to the Jewish people, implicating Jews not even alive at the time of Jesus with the murder of God. And here’s Jesus’s characterization of Jews in John: “You are of your father the devil.”

      And read Matthew’s description in the last chapter of his gospel of the Jews who (supposedly) sought to bribe the soldiers to lie about the resurrection of Jesus. The implication is that no amount of evidence will ever satisfy a Jew, and that in the teeth of knowing the truth directly and firsthand, Jews will still engage in the most despicable behavior against it. Matthew’s story is grotesque, libelous, defamatory, and offered up without the least sourcing or evidence of any kind. It’s the kind of story that only an antisemite or a person committed to the texts infallibility could ever take seriously or defend. It simply drips with hot hatred for non-believing Jews as a people.

      So the passages I mention above are not innocent observations, simply pointing out the “shortcomings” of Jews. Their cumulative effect is to dehumanize and demonize a class of people in a manner that we all recognize today as antisemitic. And such passages are pervasive throughout the books of the New Testament. And by putting these texts together and calling them holy scripture–and thereby interpreting them in the light of one another–the psychological complex for antisemitism was born. It became a toxic brew readily read out of the texts. One could point to Matthew’s blood libel passage, then to demonizing passages, then to superseding of the law passages, then to hard heart passages, then to God’s dispersal of the Jews for killing Jesus passages, then to God murderer passages, then to Jews as liars and opposers of the truth passages, etc. This poison shadows Christianity with a dark, dark historical legacy and a readily identifiable psychological complex–antisemitism.

      Goldhagen puts it this way at the end of his book: “Antisemitism, the real devil that Christianity spawned, has not died and shows no prospect of dying anytime soon” (458). And now that antisemitism has gone global, adopting the tropes and complexes first found in the New Testament, it surely must give one pause to see its texts as divinely inspired. And we haven’t even raised the issue of Paul’s rhetoric surrounding unbelieving Jews.

  4. Longtooth says:

    Anyone who believes that anti-Semitism wasn’t practically epidemic throughout Europe at the time and that it wasn’t a consequence of long standing Christian dogma are seriously deluded. The chronic blaming the Jews for the death of Jesus stemmed from NT scripture’s coloring of history for situational political gain. Specifically, the alleged meeting between Jesus and Pontus Pilot never happened. Roman Governors, including Pontus Pilot, didn’t operate that way. On any given day scores of people could get crucified for sedation and their death orders were signed without any audience with Pilot. Doesn’t it seem a little odd that the people of Jerusalem cheered Jesus’ entry into the city, but a short while later were baying for his death? The alleged trial where Pilot washes his hands of accountability by giving Jesus’ fate over to the crowd to decide was a complete fabrication. It was fabricated by a Roman gentile who intended to make the struggling new religion more palatable and sellable to the Roman public and powers that be. Component to that agenda was diverting responsibility for the death of Jesus away from Rome by putting it more exclusively on the backs of the Jews en mass. I take this accounting of things in rough paraphrase from the book “Zealot” by Reza Aslan.

    • conservative and free says:

      We can talk about Christian antisemitism and we can also talk about Jewish antiChristianity and anti-Gentile sentiments. In the Talmud, there are passages which teach that Jews are spiritually and ethnically superior to Gentiles. A famous rabbi in rabbinical Judaism, Simon ben Yohai, said that “even the best of Gentiles should be killed”. And that’s just one example of hatred coming from pious Jews, and overlooked by the secular liberals. There are also horrible passages in Talmudic literature and Jewish rabbinical tradition where Jesus is cursed for no other reason than being disliked and rejected by the religious leaders of the first century. And keep in mind that those passages and Jewish traditions were written long before there was an inquisition or any persecution of Jews even took place.

      longtooth, antisemitism was and still is epidemic throughout the Middle East and Muslim countries. There was no Christianity there, at least it didn’t have a strong influence for the past 1400 years, so how do you explain that? Muslims are famous for their hatred against Jews and Christians.

      Hitler had different reasons for his antisemitism, than did some of the Catholic or Orthodox clergy. The Third Reich was a secular state, it didn’t have anything to do with religion.

      The meeting between Jesus and Pontus Pilot never happened.”

      How do you know that? You sound so sure, as if you were there.🙂

      You might want to spell Pilate, the correct way.

      I think Pilate saw that Jesus was unusual for a Jewish prophet, in that he didn’t preach hatred against the Romans. He probably saw something noble and worthy of respect in him, in Christ. That’s why he talked to him personally.

      The reason many of the people turned against Jesus only a few days later, is because he didn’t meet their expectations. On Palm Sunday they were enthusiastic about his coming to Jerusalem, because they thought he would literally walk into the city and proclaim himself as King of Israel. They shouted “Hosanna”, which means “Save us”. “Save us from the Romans” was most likely what they meant. Most of them didn’t think about a spiritual and moral salvation first and foremost, they just wanted political salvation. Since that didn’t happen, they thought Jesus wasn’t worth following. That’s what happens when people want God to act according to their expectations and wish lists. They become disappointed and find excuses for rejecting God.

      I think you should consider these arguments and think about them, before you jump to conclusions about Christianity, antisemitism and the accuracy of the Gospels.

      • Longtooth says:

        “How do you know that? You sound so sure, as if you were there. :)”

        I supplied a reference in support of that conclusion. You can take it or leave it. I afford myself the same privilege toward that flaky old tomb you so blindly worship. Beyond the reference alone though, the alleged meeting makes no historical sense. Picture a Roman governor abdicating his authority to a crowd of Jewish rabble. Come on, get real.

    • conservative and free says:

      longtooth,

      I didn’t say Pilate abdicated his authority and in no way can that be inferred from the New Testament texts. He didn’t abdicate his authority at all, by meeting with Jesus and having a short discussion. In fact, by refusing to condemn Jesus right away as the Jewish leaders expected of him, Pilate showed them who was in charge.🙂 The fact that he did not want to give in to their demands right away, but rather analyze the situation himself and talk to Jesus, proves that he used his authority as governor. So, you’re missing the point.

      There was no evidence to Christ’s “sedition”, he didn’t have a reputation of preaching hatred and violence against the Romans. If we look at the big picture, and judge this in its context, we can see why Jesus might have had a fairly good reputation with the Romans. He healed the servant of a Roman centurion, it’s recorded in the Gospels. In fact, it says that some of the elders of the Jews came to Jesus and asked him to heal the servant. They told him that the centurion helped them build their synagogue. By the way, that synagogue, its ruins are still in Capernaum today. So, Pilate might have heard that Jesus was friendly to some of the Romans. Maybe that’s why he wanted to talk to him personally. Also, it’s important to remember that Pilate already had trouble with the Jewish religious leaders in the past. On one occasion, they sent a delegation to Rome to complain to the emperor. The emperor warned Pilate to avoid conflicts with the Jewish leaders. It was a tense political situation from Pilate’s point of view, that’s why he acted the way he did. It makes sense then, that he felt kind of cornered in this situation and eventually bailed out of the whole thing. That makes much more sense than to say he couldn’t have talked to Jesus or cared about what the Jewish leaders were saying to him. Historically, any governor of Judea did have some dialogue with the Jews, and it wasn’t always an easy task, as it is always in situations like that.

      Let me remind you that atheists even denied that Pilate existed as a historical figure, until it was confirmed by archaeological discoveries. That should be enough to show their foolish presumptions and theories, but it’s not. If there’s one thing that scares atheists, it’s when HISTORICAL TRUTH and research confirm the Bible. Then they have to make up other excuses, as some revisionist scholars did when archaeological discoveries over time confirmed many details in the Book of Acts, in the New Testament.

      • Longtooth says:

        No, I said it. If you believe the story as alleged in your bible (which you shouldn’t) than Pilate very well did abdicate his authority to the mob. What on earth do you call handing the decision as to who was to live versus who was to die over to them?! I didn’t miss any point worth making. Your “interpretation” is pathetically off the mark of believability. You are right about one thing though, I wasn’t there to personally witness the events in question. I’ve never directly seen the back side of the moon either, although the indirect evidence affords me a high level of confidence that the moon actually does have one.

        Maybe all there is in support of my position is the evidence and conclusions of a well versed Muslim scholar. But that’s more than you got. The oldest extent versions of the gospels were written long after the meeting in question allegedly occurred. Moreover, the alleged meeting is not confirmed by any historical records external to those gospels. To the contrary, the preponderance of external historical evidence is unsupportive of confirmation. I’m therefore comfortable in concluding that the meeting never happened, rather being a fabrication created by Roman Christians with an agenda.

    • conservative and free says:

      You’re ignoring the fact that Pilate was already warned by Caesar. And when the leaders of the Jews said “If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar”, that most likely worried Pilate. He didn’t abdicate his authority, he wanted an easy way out of the situation. He didn’t care anymore.

      As to the fact that the account was written long after it took place, that’s no different than things written about other historical figures and events. The things written about ancient emperors and kings, like Alexander or other rulers, were written hundreds of years after their time, and they are accepted by secular historians. The Gospels were written much sooner after the events, most likely decades, not centuries like those other accounts.

      “It was most likely the fabrication of Roman Christians”.

      That’s the typical ignorant atheistic line. A person who thinks critically applies the presumption of innocence when examining something. You don’t just start by saying something is a “fabrication” based on a subjective opinion. You don’t have any evidence that it’s a fabrication, other than the popular opinion of other atheists and scoffers, who call themselves experts and scholars.

  5. Staffan says:

    The Holocaust isn’t exceptional in any way. It was preceded by the Armenian Holocaust and no doubt many similar events throughout history. But it happened to a very influential group so now we are all supposed to feel guilty (and as a reference to my earlier comment, this works only in guilt cultures, the Chinese couldn’t care less) about what happened and donate generously to the whole Holocaust industry – which is the sort of shenanigans that have made the Jews so unpopular in the first place.

  6. Alan says:

    Lawrence H. Keeley in ‘War Before Civilization: the Myth of the Peaceful Savage’ and Jarred Diamond in ‘Guns Germs and Steel’ trace genocide back to Paleolithic Hunter Gatherers. Include with this Homer’s tales of Bronze Age war and a multitude of historic Roman conflicts. The notable difference with Hitler’s mass executions of gypsies, Jews et all was its purely gratuitous nature – this was not to ‘settle’ any preexisting conflict. Second, it is nonsensical to characterize Arab or Palestinian Semites of antisemitism for hating on Israel. Even the Persians of Iran are selective of the Semites they hate on.
    The ‘traditional’ Christian explanation for acts of man is Free Will.

  7. conservative and free Christian says:

    You’re quoting the usual left wing antiChristian stereotypes. Medieval Christendom was antisemitic, especially the Vatican, but to try to connect that to the New Testament and blame the Gospels, is exaggerated and malicious. But that’s what secular left wingers always try to do. They attack the New Testament and Christianity. If they are concerned about antisemitism, which they are not, they are just using it as an excuse to attack conservatives and Christians, they should examine their own hatred against Israel. They are always sympathetic to the Muslims and even their terrorist organizations in some cases. They don’t even care that most Muslims don’t recognize the legitimacy of Israel’s existence as a nation in the Middle East. It’s a fact that most leftists have, to use your words “an obsessive hatred against Israel”.

    The so-called anti-semitic passages in the New Testament, that’s bs. What’s your definition of antisemitism? Because they said that the majority of Jews at that time rejected Christ, that makes the writers of the New Testament anti-semitic? That’s like saying the Old Testament is anti-semitic in the books of the Law, because it says that the majority of the Jews that came out Egypt, rebelled against God and tried to kill Moses. It’s funny how those who are blinded by their ideology, don’t like to see the facts. Start thinking on your own instead of copying and parroting what you hear from others, who have an agenda and are looking for ways to score political points.

  8. conservative and free Christian says:

    Darwin wrote in the “Descent of Man” that some races were more advanced than others. “The time will come, in the not too distant future, when the more civilized races of men will exterminate and replace the savage and primitive ones”.

    We can talk about the unintended consequences of Darwin’s godless philosophy or theory, but that’s another discussion. used Darwin’s theory to justify his own racism. Stalin used Darwin’s theory to justify Communist imperialism, claiming that the marxist system was superior and like a stronger animal, would devour the weaker animal, capitalism. Darwin was not evil. He was naïve and stupid. His theory was applied by secular humanists to economics, politics and science, always with negative consequences. That’s the unfortunate thing about Darwin’s legacy.

    • conservative and free says:

      I was talking about Hitler where I wrote that he used Darwin’s theory to justify his own racism. I just want to clarify that.

  9. conservative and free Christian says:

    You said on another occasion, santi, something about Christian, the character in Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”.

    “Christian covers his ears and flees from modernism”. You compared that to Christians who reject the theory of evolution among other things.

    Christian doesn’t flee from modern things. He flees from temptation. How did you come up with this twisted interpretation of Bunyan’s classic?!

    Temptation is something we all deal with, in different forms. Adultery, indifference to things that matter in life, dishonest financial gain, things like that. That’s what Christian flees from. And if you think you’re modern and advanced just because you are a secular social liberal, you’re wrong.

    Social liberals are more like ancient pagans, than modern people. Their tree-hugging, radical environmentalism is the postmodern version of ancient pantheism and animism. And that’s just one example.

    Progressives, and that includes left wingers and social liberals with a secularist humanistic worldview, start from a false premise. Their fundamental dogma goes something like this: “I am guided by reason. Therefore, I am morally good and intellectually superior”.

    Not necessarily. People can use reason for good or bad. It’s naïve to assume that because you reject the existence of God and His revelation, that automatically guarantees that you have a reasonable and logical mind. If you look at some of the decisions made by secular humanists in the education system, you’ll see that those decisions are not reasonable and logical. It’s not rational or reasonable to teach kids that there are no absolute moral truths, to distribute condoms, and then to lament over violence in schools and over the fact that many kids, especially girls, drop out of high school due to teen pregnancy. This is not a logical approach. It’s a very good example of foolishness.

    So, you might want to stop worshipping the pseudo-reason of secularism, and ask God to give you some true reason or real logic, also known as wisdom. Proverbs 2:6

  10. conservative and free says:

    santi,

    If you really want to know who influenced the Nazis, you should watch this documentary.

    You can also try this link

    It presents some less known facts about World War II. Like the friendship between the Soviet Marxists and the Nazis. Hitler was fascinated with Stalin’s efficiency at exterminating millions of people in a relatively short period of time. So fascinated, that in 1935 or ’36, he sent a delegation to Soviet Russia, to see the Soviet concentration and extermination camps, and get some useful advice from the Soviets. The Soviet Communists welcomed the Nazi delegation and gave them a tour of the Gulag. In the film, you’ll see documented evidence about this.

    But wait, there’s more. Antisemitism in the Soviet Union also played a role. Stalin ordered a group of Jewish refugees who crossed the border into Russia, to be deported back to the Nazis. This is one of the many facts about the war, that left wingers have always denied or tried to find excuses for it. Russian officials are still finding excuses for some of Stalin’s crimes, even today. That’s another thing you’ll see in the film.

    In some of the interviews with Gulag survivors, it doesn’t have subtitles. I can tell you what some of them are saying, I had someone translate to me. One woman said that she went to a cemetery where her son was buried, murdered by the Communists. “That’s the last time I saw my son’s grave” she said. I think she said her son was 14 years-old.

    You quote notorious Marxists on your blog, and you even agree with them. That makes me say you’re not an honest supporter of freedom. As an American who claims to be on the side of freedom, you should not admire those who were always the enemies of freedom. I doubt your sincerity, santi tafarella.

  11. conservative and free says:

    I see that one of my comments is still awaiting moderation. What’s the matter santi? Are you afraid of something?… It’s just a link to a documentary, that’s all. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_IeHiE1SMc&list=PLRWeTfUHBAP4tPEAYapqB4aRDrq-DrNW1

    You are an American who believes in freedom, right?…

  12. conservative and free says:

    It’s incredible, that neither santi, nor longtooth or any other atheist or “free thinker” who posted anything in this discussion, mentioned “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. That was the single, most popular piece of antisemitic literature in the 19th and 20th centuries. You don’t say anything about “The Protocols” and their role in antisemitism, but you blame everything on the New Testament!

    There’s not a single word about “THE PROTOCOLS ” in your thread, although it’s a fact that they were used by antisemites in Europe as “evidence” for so-called Jewish control of the world.

    You blame Christians for two thousand years of anti-Semitism, exactly in the same manner like some Christians blamed Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus.

    That shows either ignorance or anti-Christian fanaticism. You people are always looking for reasons to hate Christians and to incite people against the Bible, especially against the New Testament and Jesus. It’s always the fault of the New Testament, Jesus Christ, the writers of the New Testament and Christians in general.

    Never mind that Christians like Corrie Ten Boom and her family helped Jews by hiding them in their home, during the occupation of Holland. Completely ignore the fact that Christians who believed the Bible, played an important role in helping create the state of Israel and getting Jews safely there.

    When the going gets tough, you atheists and other “brave” leftists who hate Christians and hate God, are going to remember this. You’ll remember this verse, “God is not mocked”. During a time of crisis, like a war or an economic collapse, you’ll wish you had some born again Christians around you! But you’ll be surrounded by “humanists” turned into beasts who will kill you for a loaf of bread.

    You won’t call out to Marx or Darwin then. You’ll most likely cry out to God, but there’s no guarantee that He will answer you.

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