Four Hundred Fifty Antisemitic Verses In The Gospels And Book of Acts

Acclaimed Holocaust historian, Daniel Goldhagen, in his most recent book, The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism (Little, Brown & Co. 2013), claims 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, … (70)

He counts 80 antisemitic verses in Matthew alone, and 130 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.

His number seems to be in the ballpark.

An obvious and notorious example: the multi-generational blood libel passage in Matthew: “His blood be on us and our children!” There is little doubt that throughout history the passage caused–and continues to cause–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 in the last chapter of Matthew’s gospel, non-believing Jews are depicted in a stridently antisemitic manner. On Matthew’s account, the Jews supposedly sought to bribe the soldiers guarding Jesus’s tomb to lie about his resurrection. The implication is that no amount of evidence will ever satisfy a Jew, and that even 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 whatsoever. It’s the kind of conspiracy theory that only an antisemite or a person committed to demonizing all resistance to his message could tell. It simply drips with hot hatred for the leadership of non-believing Jews–and therefore of the Jews as a distinct people themselves. (In the Book of Revelation Jews are referred to as belonging to the “synagogue of Satan.”)

Jews are thus the people with the dubious distinction, on Matthew’s account, of not only killing God (and being punished for it with a generational blood curse, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple, and exile into the nations), but of their leadership willfully denying–in the teeth of direct knowledge on their part–the resurrection of Jesus, conspiring to send forth falsehoods about it.

So the passages above are not innocent observations, simply pointing out the so-called “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. Such passages are found throughout the books of the New Testament. They are present across the genres (in its narratives, its epistles, and its apocalypse).

Put another way, Goldhagen’s 450 number doesn’t even count the antisemitic passages in Paul’s letters and the Book of Revelation.

Goldhagen writes the following 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). Now that antisemitism has gone global, it surely must give one pause to call the New Testament divinely inspired.

Can a good tree really produce such bad fruit?

The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism: Daniel Jonah Goldhagen: 9780316097871: Amazon.com: Books

 

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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20 Responses to Four Hundred Fifty Antisemitic Verses In The Gospels And Book of Acts

  1. Jesus was sent to his execution by the Jews.

    The first Christian martyrs where killed by Jews.

    The Jews hounded the first generation of Christians out of their synagogues, as a matter of fact.

    So the problem wasn’t Christian anti-Semitism, it is Jewish hatred for Christians.

    Today, in the modern world, Christians are the greatest champions of Israel, the Jewish homeland.

    Atheists and leftists tend to be anti-Semitic and side with Islamists who have sword to mass murder the Jews and wipe Israel of the map.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Silenceofmind:

      Christian support for Jews and Israel is late, but welcome. And as a secular person, I am pro-Israel. I don’t support Islamic antisemitism directed toward Jews. Your rhetoric above suggests that you are ambivalent about the Jews’ relationship to Christianity–even as you support the state of Israel against Muslim extremists.

      If Jesus was a historical person, it would have been the Romans, not Jews, who sentenced Jesus to execution and carried it out. The fact that the gospel writers depicted Jews as engaged in machinations against Jesus birthed Christian antisemitism. This is a fact. Antisemitism of the extent and sort that evolved in Europe over the past two millenia is simply inconceivable absent the New Testament. It was birthed out of the Christian religion and its most sacred texts. After the Holocaust, it’s important to face this and think about it honestly.

      My question for you is: Why would God let the gospels bring such an evil into the world–and thereby birth such an atrocious historic outcome? European, and now global, antisemitism appears to be a permanent fixture in the world. How can anyone treat the New Testament as inerrant in light of this? Isn’t this evidence of the strongest sort that the gospel writers were not writing under inspiration from God?

      • Yes, I agree… very nicely put. Hitler _was_ doing god’s work after all ? No?

      • conservative and free says:

        santi and silenceofthemind,

        We can talk about Christian antisemitism and we can also talk about Jewish antiChristianity and anti-Gentile sentiments. silenceofthemind made some good points about early Jewish hostility toward Christians, especially Jewish Christians.

        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.

        Your lamenting about antisemites using the New Testament for their ideology and then saying that this is “evidence that the gospel writers were not writing under the authority of God”, is like saying Darwin’s theory of evolution should be dismissed as evil because it also influenced Hitler, much more than Christian theology. Is this not strong evidence that it’s not a scientific theory?🙂

        And what about passages that say good things about Jews in the New Testament?

        Paul said, in Romans if I got this right, that the Jews are “loved [by God] for the sake of their fathers”. He also said “They are great. For to them were given the covenants, the commandments” and so on. Jesus said “salvation is of the Jews”, referring to the Messiah, himself, being Jewish.

        You don’t know these texts or you don’t want to quote them, because they contradict what you said.

    • Longtooth says:

      “Today, in the modern world, Christians are the greatest champions of Israel, the Jewish homeland.”

      What might the motive be for these predominantly Christian fundamentalist “champions”? Is it pure Samaritan concern for their Jewish buddies? Or would it more likely have everything to do with New Testament end-time prophecy and the “second coming”?

      http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/End-Times/On-The-Road-To-Armageddon.aspx

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        Good point, Longtooth. Christian notions of Jesus’s return do not entail a “free visitation” to Jews that don’t follow Jesus. The choice for Jews is conversion beforehand or slaughter at the Second Coming. If the Christian apocalypse ever came about, there would be no Jewish community after it happened. There would be no Jews anywhere, only followers of Jesus. Judaism (and all other world religions) would be utterly superseded by a universal and totalitarian Christianity that is not ruled by democracy, but by a king stationed in a New Jerusalem–a new Jerusalem absent of non-Christians. That king, of course, would be Jesus.

        So the ultimate Christian vision is for Jews is to be a part of this plot pattern: (1) the supercession of Judaism in the Church era; (2) Judaism’s elimination–along with other religions–in a cleansing apocalypse; and (3) a Jesus-ruled millennial era. Doesn’t sound too friendly to Jews, does it? Muslims, of course, share in similar totalist and Jew-free fantasies; One-True-God-ruling fantasies.

        Atheists, however, shouldn’t get too smug here. When John Lennon sings, “Imagine no religion,” it’s a totalist fantasy of a world where everybody shares the same worldview–monism/atheism. It’s human to imagine that if only “x” or “y” is eliminated, things will be fine and we can get on with building paradise.

        But somehow we’ve got to move, with regard to culture, from valuing utopia to valuing diversity (as we do with ecosystems). A world consisting of only one cultural plant is bad for the same reason that a world consisting of only one biological plant is bad. Diversity makes culture and ecosystems more robust and adaptive. And it accords better with human dignity and respect for conscience.

        But what if your conscience dictates the elimination of all opposition to your God? There’s the rub, of course. Everybody seems to want the good, and to want their version of the good to be achieved maximally. A God centrally concerned with morality drifts toward a totalist God.

        So it’s equally utopian to think that humans can ever really accept one another’s competing ideologies for the simple fact that we all want our beliefs taken to their logical conclusions (which in many cases is a reductio ad absurdum). The best we can hope for, then, is toleration. We don’t have to like each other especially, or want one another’s ideas to flourish, but we will exchange goods and services with one another, and trade with one another, and be interpersonally kind to one another individually. What we can achieve that is not utopian is a world with a balance of powers; where those balances of power mean that no religion or ideology is in a position to have a final victory over one or another opposing side. Because if that opportunity presents itself, history shows that people take it. The Holocaust is exhibit A.

  2. Cloud2013 says:

    Wow, and I thought Jesus WAS a Jew. And that Paul was a Jew. What am I missing here?

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      What you’re missing is that the gospels were written, not in Hebrew, but in Greek, as were the letters of Paul, and that the New Testament was a document pitched to Greek-speaking Gentiles not living in Israel. This meant (for example) that Jews, not Romans, got blamed for bringing about the crucifixion of Jesus (even if that may not have been the way it really happened). When in Rome preaching, you don’t preach against the Romans qua Romans. Jews are an easier target for blame; a scapegoat for the death of Jesus.

      And Christianity, by the second century, was far more a Gentile religion than a Jewish religion focused on traditional Jewish ideas (keeping the law, worshipping one unitary God, keeping the Sabbath, etc.). The messiah as God-in-the-flesh superseding the Hebrew Bible and law, the trinity, etc. are not in accord with traditional Judaism. Christianity is a syncretism of Judaism with Paul’s innovative ideas and Greco-Roman/Gentile sensibilities about God.

      Christianity, in this situation, demonized Judaism (Freud would call it the narcissism of small differences that made the two bitter enemies), and it is the New Testament that captures a moment in time when that fracturing with Judaism was happening. Consequently, rhetoric was at the boiling point. That rhetoric continued to get read by Gentile Christians long after the original disputes had played out.

      So by turning the New Testament texts into infallible and sacred scripture, it made the rhetorical flourishes and themes against Jews in the texts the norm for Christian sensibility. The New Testament became the source for Christian antisemitism, and Christian antisemitism, after percolating in Europe for two millennia, made possible the conditions for the Holocaust to occur. After this came the subsequent rise in global antisemitism. Contemporary global antisemitism adopts all the old antisemitic Christian tropes and Nazi tropes, and adds new ones as well, but the evolution from the New Testament to Christian antisemitism, Christian antisemitism to the Holocaust, and the Holocaust to 21st century global antisemitism is unmistakable. You can’t remove the New Testament from this evolutionary tree. It is its root and raises a serious question: Can the New Testament be taken as an infallible revelation after one realizes that it birthed, historically, antisemitism?

      • Keith Riggle says:

        Nice summary. Bart Ehrman’s latest book, “How Jesus Became God,” goes into much more detail for those who are interested. Yes, Jesus was a Jew, would have considered himself a Jew, and was a rabbi. The Gospels, Acts, and Epistles are not eyewitness historical accounts. Their authors wrote them for ideological purposes.

      • Cloud2013 says:

        Far be it from me to deny the manifest anti-Semitic theology of the middle ages. On first century theology and history you are not on firm ground. The synoptic Gospels are indeed written in Greek. Most works were at that time. This should not be used as an excuse to overlook the intra-Jewish character of the conflicting religious arguments presented between Mark, Luke, and Matthew. Going down the road you are travelling could end up in Labeling the arguments presented in the Dead Sea Scrolls as anti-Semitic.
        I have my own doubts about Paul, but he was a Jewish Christian”.
        Personally I see more of conflicts between the Zealot party (of which John the Baptist may have been a member of) and the first century Pharises (who the Zealots may have viewed as Roman collaborators!)
        Again I must note, please keep your centuries separate – orthodoxy came much later than than Mark, Mathew, Luke, and John.
        I note some windmill chasing here. To note the historical first century context of these authors is not my intention to turn these texts into ‘infallible and sacred scripture’
        Personally I lay the National Socialism more at the feet of modernism than religion, but that’s just me.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        National Socialist ideology as directed at the Jews was a syncretism of eugenic/Nietzschean/Darwinist (degeneracy; will to power; survival of the fittest) views and traditional Christian antisemitism.

        As to Middle Age theology with regard to Jews, it took its justification from the New Testament. This is a historical fact. Whatever the intentions of the original authors were, the outcome of their writings as they ping-ponged through history proved grim.

  3. Staffan says:

    If the Bible was such an instigator we would expect to see a correlation between Christian faith and antisemitism. But Russia and Hungary has plenty of antisemitism but aren’t very religious. And wouldn’t America be more antisemitic than Europe? I get the distinct impression it’s the other way around.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Of course we do see, historically, a correlation between both Protestant and Catholic faith and antisemitism. Google what Martin Luther (for example) said about Jews in his tract, “On the Jews and Their Lies.” And Russia is a Russian Orthodox country. And I suppose you could Google Billy Graham and Richard Nixon and hear their antisemitic conversations via the Nixon tapes archives. Or learn about Mel Gibson’s father’s old school Catholicism, which is deeply antisemitic. Or read about Henry Ford, an antisemite as crass in his views of Jews as Hitler was. I simply have no idea what you’re talking about, frankly.

      I’m glad that Americans are far, far less antisemitic post-WWII than they were prior to it. And I’m glad that American Christians have set aside a good deal of their overt antisemitism. But any review of two millenia of Christian history shows American Christianity to be an exception to the rule.

      • conservative and free says:

        It’s strange that atheists and left wingers blame Luther for the Holocaust. They never blame Darwin for the Holocaust, in spite of the fact that Hitler believed in evolution and placed Jews at the bottom of the evolutionary ladder. They attack Luther because he believed in God, he was a Christian. I don’t think either Darwin or Luther should be blamed. Whatever they wrote and said, could be quoted and used by people, but that can be said of anyone’s sayings or writings.

  4. Staffan says:

    There is antisemitism within Christianity, especially historically. No argument there. But is this a living legacy and is it the actual cause of antisemitism? I very much doubt that. According to PEW only some 15 percent say religion is very important as compared to more than 50 percent of Americans. And America is a 320 million people exception and Russia adds 145 million to contradict this theory.

    I think you may confound cause and effect. The cause of this type of attitude is highly heritable and most likely originates in an evolutionary adaptation against disease, as suggested by Haidt. It may be an evolved mechanism by which people not only vary individually in how tolerant they are but the attitude may also have evolved to vary with the risk. America saw amazing improvements in public health during the 1900s which coincide with more tolerance. And gay people were actually fairly well off in Russia until Perestroika and the dramatic increase in infectious diseases that followed. Look at world maps of infectious disease and racism/homophobia – they are practically identical.

    There is a funny TED on this by Haidt’s colleague David Pizarro, in case you haven’t seen it,

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      I haven’t seen that TED talk; I’ll have a look. And I see no reason to deny your infectious disease/disgust theory as among the reasons for why humans generate out-group scapegoats, etc.

      Psychologically, I can see how Jews can function to make Christians and Muslims doubt the value of their own religions. Christians and Muslims are in the same situation in relation to Jews as Mormons are to Christians. They are branches of the father religion that got rejected by the father. The difference is that Mormons are not vastly larger numerically than the father religion. If they were, it’s conceivable that they, as the larger group, would come to demonize the tiny father religion minority and have fantasies about eliminating what was left of them utterly. This would be especially true if the minority group navigated the secular world successfully and intelligently, and were not closeted about their identity. That would generate fear and resentments in people who are temperamentally conformists.

      But what I am saying is that the New Testament was central to the evolution of antisemitism. It triggered a set of contingencies that evolved into the global antisemitism that we observe today. I don’t think you’ve refuted that (if you meant to). Religion plays an obvious role in sustaining antisemitism in the world.

      • conservative and free says:

        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.

        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 should watch this documentary, if you are honest about your opposition to totalitarianism, as you claim.

        [i]”Religion plays an obvious role in sustaining antisemitism in the world[/i].”

        Really?

        Then why are secular left wingers so antisemitic?

  5. conservative and free says:

    Head over to “Four hundred antisemitic verses in the Gospels” and read something about Marx’s anti-Semitism. Marx was an antisemite. If some of you didn’t know that until now, this may come as a shock.

    Author Saul K Padover, in his book “Karl Marx: An Intimate Portrait, said this about Marx’s anti-semitism.

    “Marx’s personal correspondence was replete with anti-Semitic remarks, like “Jewish nose”, “dirty Jew” etc. For Marx, anti-Semitism was a canker that neither time nor experience could eradicate”.

    Marx was an anti-Semite and an anti-Christian bigot. He hated God and in his own words, his goal was to “dethrone God”.

  6. conservative and free says:

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

  7. conservative and free says:

    In this thread, where you attack Christianity and blame it for virtually every single bad thing that happened to Jews over the last two thousand years, you list other so-called anti-Semitic teachings in the New Testament Scriptures. I’m surprised you don’t blame the fall of the Jerusalem in 70 AD and the dispersion of the Jews, on the Christians, too!

    Let’s look at this honestly and logically.

    I’d like to rephrase or clarify something I said before. I said there is anti-Semitism in Christianity. I wanted to say that some Christians are anti-Semitic, but there is no anti-Semitism in Christian teaching, in the Bible. I also said that Orthodox Jews would stone people if they had political control in Israel. I don’t mean all Orthodox Jews, just some of them. Not all Orthodox Jews are fanatics.

    I’ll answer some of your allegations about supposed Christian anti-Semitism, here. These may not be exact quotes, but these are the main ideas of what you stated.

    “The Jewish leaders were corrupt because they rejected Jesus”.

    So you’re saying the Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and Saducees in the first century were not corrupt?

    The Jewish religious leaders handed Jesus, their own Messiah, over to their enemies, the Romans, to be killed. They brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery and demanded that she would be stoned, without bringing the man who committed adultery with her, although the law of Moses was clear that both were equally guilty, see Deuteronomy 22:22. They turned the Temple courts into a marketplace. They made money off the people by selling them doves and lambs for sacrifices.

    And you’re telling me that observing this corruption is “antisemitism”?!

    “The Jews hardened their hearts”.

    The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel said the same thing in the Old Testament. So, what’s the big deal? Were they antisemitic, as well?

    “Jews are called liars”.

    You think Jews are not capable of lying? You mean they are not just humans like the rest of us, with a corrupt (sinful) nature?

    “The messiah as God-in-the-flesh superseding the Hebrew Bible and law, the trinity, etc. are not in accord with traditional Judaism.”

    Yes, it is. The Old Testament or Hebrew Bible is full of that. God appeared as a man to many Old Testament characters including Joshua, Gideon, and Abraham. It may not be in accord with the Talmud and rabbinical Judaism that came later, but it was certainly in accord with the Old Testament. Also, the Hebrew word used for God in many places in the Old Testament, starting with Genesis, is “elohim”. That is plural for God. It literally means “gods”. It shows the plurality of God’s nature, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    “Jerusalem was destroyed and Jews were dispersed because they rejected Jesus”.

    I suggest you read Deuteronomy chapter 28, in the Old Testament, where you have the opportunity to see some really horrible things foretold as warnings to the Jews, in their own Scriptures. It’s far worse than anything in the New Testament. According to your criteria, Deuteronomy should be considered anti-semitic literature. Ironically, Jews read from it in their synagogues. How come they and liberals like you, don’t have a problem with that? It’s in the Old Testament, that’s why. You attack the New Testament.

    Even religious Jews admit that the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans and the dispersion of the Jews, were due largely to the moral corruption of the religious leaders and many of the people.

    And yes, Jerusalem was destroyed because they rejected Jesus as the Messiah and persecuted Jewish Christians. God is not mocked.

    The message of the New Testament is not that Christ was killed by Jews. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost” 1 Timothy 1:15. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him, should not perish, but have eternal life” John 3:16. That is the message of the New Testament. It’s summed up in these verses.

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