This article is about the history of Christianity and anti-Semitism. Anti-Jewish sentiment has been expressed by many Christians over the last 2000 years, though the great majority of this is generally un-biblical to varying degrees. Christian opposition to anti-semitism is expressed in many other writings of Christian leaders throughout history.

Early origins Edit

There have been philosophical differences between Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism since the outset. Debates between the early Christians - who at first understood themselves as a movement within Judaism, not as a separate religion - and other Jews initially revolved around the question whether Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah or not, which also encompassed the issue of his divinity. Once gentiles were converted to Christianity, the question arose whether and how far these Gentile Christians were obliged to follow Jewish law in order to follow Jesus (see Paul's Letter to the Galatians). It was decided that gentiles did not have to follow Jewish law, but Paul also questioned the validity of Jewish Christian's adherence to the Jewish law in relation to faith in Christ.

The increase of the numbers of Gentile Christians in comparison to Jewish Christians eventually resulted in a rift between Christianity and Judaism, which was further increased by the Jewish-Roman wars (66-73 and 132-135) that drove Jews into the diaspora and further diminished Jewish Christians.

Also, the two religions differed in their legal status in the Roman Empire: Judaism, restricted to the Jewish people, was exempt from obligation to the Roman state religion and since the reign of Julius Caesar enjoyed the status of a "licit religion". Christianity however was not restricted to one people and as Jewish Christians were excluded from the synagogue they also lost the protection of the status of Judaism. Since the reign of Nero Christianity was considered to be illegal and Christians were frequently subjected to persecution, differing regionally. In the third century systematic persecution of Christians began and lasted until Constantine's conversion to Christianity. In 390 Theodosius I made Christianity the new state religion. While pagan cults and Manichaeism were surpressed, Judaism retained its legal status as a "licit religion", though anti-Jewish violence still occurred. In the fifth century, some legal measures worsened the status of the Jews in the Roman Empire.

Assimilation Edit

The assimilation of Jews into majority non-Jewish culture is perhaps the single issue where Christians and Jews differ most sharply. The conversion of a Jewish born person to Christianity may be seen by Jews as a scourge ("silent Holocaust") and by some Christians as a "blessing from God" for the salvation of a non-Christian for their conversion to Christianity. In the reverse situation, though perhaps more rare, similar sentiments among partisans might also apply.

Anti-Judaism Edit

Perhaps best described as 'religious anti-Semitism,' anti-Judaism is a manifestation of a religious hostility toward Jews, based in Christian religious doctrine. Some scholars of Jewish-Christian relations distinguish anti-Judaism from anti-Semitism, regarding the latter as opposition based solely on racial and ethnic considerations. However, "The anti-Judaism of the Middle Ages is shockingly close to Hitlerian racism." [1] "Luther wrote of the Jews as if they were a race that could not truly convert to Christianity." [2] And, "By the end of the sixteenth century, the belief in the importance of one's ancestry in determining group membership and one's behaviour, worth and so on were well articulated in the German-speaking areas of Europe. It is important to note, however, that the portrayal of 'Jewish' characteristics as immutable and inherited occured with a conviction that German characteristics were also immutable and inherited. The difference, of course, is that the Jews were vilified, and the Germans venerated." [3]

Although some Christians have considered anti-Judaism contrary to Christian teaching, it has historically been expressed by Christian leaders and laypersons. In many cases, the practical tolerance towards the Jewish religion and Jews prevailed. Some Christian groups, particularly in recent years, have condemned verbal Anti-Judaism.

During the past 1800 years, many Christians have had anti-Jewish attitudes. Some historians and many Jews hold that for most of its history, most of Christianity was openly anti-Semitic and that the severity, type and extent of this anti-Semitism have varied much over time; the earliest form was theological anti-Judaism.

Some apparently anti-Jewish ideas present among Christians are not a result of specific anti-Jewish Biblical ideals, but instead a manifestation of Christian rejection of other religions as alternative ways to God. In this sense, Christianity owes a debt of gratitude for the past, yet asserts that the time of Judaism is past, therefore invalidating Judaism as a viable means of salvation.

William Nicholls wrote in his book Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate:

"...the very presence of the Jewish people in the world, continuing to believe in the faithfulness of God to the original covenant ... puts a great question against Christian belief in a new covenant made through Christ. The presence of this question, often buried deep in the Christian mind, could not fail to cause profound and gnawing anxiety. Anxiety usually leads to hostility."[1]

The New TestamentEdit

Few Jews consider the New Testament anti-Semitic as such. The main concern of most Jews today is how the New Testament has been used to legitimate or provoke anti-Semitism. Some examples include:

  • the claim that Jews are responsible for the murder of Jesus. This is exemplified by I Thessalonians 2:14-15:
For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judea; for you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men.
  • the claim that the Jewish covenant with God has been superseded by a new covenant.
  • criticisms of the Pharisees.
  • criticisms of Jewish parochialism or particularism.

These elements of the New Testament have their origins in first-century history. Christianity began as a branch of Judaism. Virtually all of Jesus's followers during his life were Jews, and it was even a matter of controversy, many years after his death, as to whether non-Jews could even be considered Christians at all. There is some debate about whether Jesus intended to start a new religion or whether he considered himself a reformer in the prophetic tradition. (See for example the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 5, verses 17-19, and Chapter 16, verse 18.)

Although the Gospels offer accounts of confrontations and debates between Jesus and other Jews, such conflicts were common among Jews at the time. Scholars disagree on the historicity of the Gospels, and have offered different interpretations of the complex relationship between Jewish authorities and Christians before and following Jesus's death. These debates hinge on the meaning of the word "messiah," and the claims of early Christians.

The Gospels make several claims about Jesus: that he was a preacher, faith healer, messiah. The first two claims describe roles popular in first century Judea; were Jesus principally a preacher and healer, there is no reason to think he would have come into conflict with Jewish authorities. The claim that he was the messiah, however, is more controversial. The Hebrew word mashiyakh (משיח) typically signified "king" – a man, chosen by God or descended from a man chosen by God, to serve as a civil and military authority. If Jesus made this claim during his life, it is not surprising that many Jews, weary of Roman occupation, would have supported him as a liberator. It is also likely that Jewish authorities would have been cautious, out of fear of Roman reprisal.

Jesus was considered by Christians to be the Messiah, while for most Jews the death of Jesus would have been sufficient proof that he was not the Messiah. If early Christians preached that Jesus was about to return, it is virtually certain that Jewish authorities would have opposed them out of fear of Roman reprisal.

Such fears would have been well grounded: Jews revolted against the Romans in 66 CE, which culminated with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. They revolted again under the leadership of the professed messiah Simon Bar Kokhba in 132 CE, which culminated in the expulsion of the Jews from the Land of Israel, which Hadrian renamed into Palestine to wipe out memory of Jews there.

At the time, Christianity was still considered a sect of Judaism, but the messianic claims alienated many Christians (including Jewish converts) and sharply deepened the schism.

Another source of tension between early Christians and Jews was the question of observance of Jewish law. Early Christians were divided over this issue: Some Jewish Christians, among which were converts from the party of the Pharisees, believed that Christians had to be Jews and observe Jewish law, while Paul argued that Christians did not have to observe all of Jewish law, and did not have to be circumcised, which was a requirement for male Jews. The issue was settled in the Council of Jerusalem, in which Paul and Barnabas participated as representatives of the church at Antioch. The Council decided that they would not subject Gentile converts to the Law of Moses nor circumcision, but ordered them to stay away from eating meat with blood still on it, eating the meat of strangled animals, eating food offered to idols, and sexual immorality.

Some scholars (influenced by Martin Luther) have interpreted Paul's writings as rejecting the validity of Jewish law. A small number of historians suggest that Paul accepted the authority of the law, but understood that it excluded non-Jews. This is not a generally accepted view.

Although Gentiles could convert to Judaism and thus be included, the point remained that people could enter this covenant with God only by being Jewish. Some say that by replacing the written law (the Torah) with Christ as the sign of the covenant, Paul sought to transform Judaism into a universal religion. It is evident that Paul saw himself as a Jew, but other Jews rejected this universalism; after Paul's death, Christianity emerged as a separate religion, and Pauline Christianity emerged as the dominant form of Christianity, especially after Paul, James and the other apostles agreed on a compromise set of requirements (Acts 15). Some Christians continued to adhere to Jewish law, but they were few in number and often considered heretics by the Church. One example is the Ebionites, which, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, were "infected with Judaistic errors" (language which Jews find offensive); for instance, they denied the virgin birth of Jesus, the physical resurrection of Jesus, and most of the books that were later canonized as the New Testament.

Many New Testament passages criticise the Pharisees; it has been argued that these these passages have shaped the way that Christians have viewed Jews. Like most Bible passages, however, they can and have been interpreted in a variety of ways.

During Jesus's life and at the time of his execution, the Pharisees were only one of several Jewish groups such as the Sadduccees, Zealots, and Essenes; indeed, some have suggested that Jesus was himself a Pharisee (although this seems unlikely). Arguments by Jesus and his disciples against the Pharisees and what he saw as their hypocrisy were most likely examples of disputes among Jews and internal to Judaism that were common at the time. (Lutheran Pastor John Stendahl has pointed out that "Christianity begins as a kind of Judaism, and we must recognize that words spoken in a family conflict are inappropriately appropriated by those outside the family.")

After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, however, the Pharisees emerged as the principal form of Judaism (also called "Rabbinic Judaism"). All major modern Jewish movements consider themselves descendants of Pharasaic Judaism; as such, Jews are especially sensitive to criticisms of "Pharisees" as a group.

At the same time that the Pharisees came to represent Judaism as a whole, Christianity came to seek, and attract, more non-Jewish converts than Jewish converts. Within a hundred years or so the majority of Christians were non-Jews without any significant knowledge of Judaism (although until about 1000, there was an active Jewish component of Christianity). Many of these Christians often read these passages not as internal debates among Jews but as the basis for a Christian rejection of Judaism.

Moreover, it was only during the Rabbinic era that Christianity would compete exclusively with Pharisees for converts and over how to interpret the Hebrew Bible (during Jesus's lifetime, the Sadducees were the dominant Jewish faction). Some scholars have argued that some passages of the Gospels were written (or re-written) at this time to emphasize conflict with the Pharisees. These scholars observe that the portrait of the Pharisees in the Gospels is strikingly different from that provided in Rabbinic sources, and suggest that New Testament Pharisees are a caricature and literary foil for Christianity. At a time when Christians were only seeking converts, and had no political power in the Roman Empire and were in fact persecuted extensively, such a caricature may not have been in any meaningful sense "anti-Judaist." But once Christianity was established as the religion of the Empire, and Christians enjoyed political domination over Europe, this caricature could be used to incite or justify oppression of Jews.

Some have also suggested that the Greek word Ioudaioi could also be translated "Judaeans", meaning in some cases specifically the Jews from Judaea, as opposed to people from Galilee or Samaria for instance.

In recent years teachers in a few Christian denominations have begun to teach that readers should understand the New Testament's seeming attacks on Jews as specific charges aimed at certain Jewish leaders of that time, and upon attitudes displayed by many, inside and outside Judaism.

However, Professor Lillian C. Freudmann, author of "Antisemitism in the New Testament" (University Press of America, 1994) has published a detailed study of the treatment of Jews in the New Testament, and the historical effects that such passages have had in the Christian community throughout history. Similar studies of such verses have been made by both Christian and Jewish scholars, including, Professors Clark Williamsom (Christian Theological Seminary), Hyam Maccoby (The Leo Baeck Institute), Norman A. Beck (Texas Lutheran College), and Michael Berenbaum (Georgetown University). Most rabbis feel that these verses are anti-Semitic, and many liberal Christian scholars (including clergy), in America and Europe, have reached the same conclusion.

The Church FathersEdit

The following statements have been used to justify persecution of Jews. Many of the following people were recognized as saints by the Church; none of them advocated physical violence or murder, sometimes arguing, like Augustine, that the Jews should be left alive and suffering as a perpetual reminder of their murder of Christ.

  • Eusebius of Caesarea, in 325, blames the calamities which befell the Jewish nation on the Jews' role in the death of Jesus: "that from that time seditions and wars and mischievous plots followed each other in quick succession, and never ceased in the city and in all Judea until finally the siege of Vespasian overwhelmed them. Thus the divine vengeance overtook the Jews for the crimes which they dared to commit against Christ. " [2]
  • Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (340-397 CE) - A bishop was accused of instigating the burning of a synagogue by an anti-Semitic mob, and Emperor Theodosius was preparing to order the bishop to rebuild it. Ambrose discouraged the Emperor from taking this step because it would appear to show special favoritism to the Jews: (1) no action was taken against those responsible for burning the houses of various wealthy individuals in Rome; (2) no action was taken against those responsible for the recent burning of the house of the Bishop of Constantinople; (3) Jews had caused several Christian basilicas to be burnt during the reign of Julian, yet had never been asked to make reparation, and some of those basilicas were still not rebuilt. Ambrose asked that Christian monies not be used to build a place of worship for unbelievers, heretics or Jews, and reminded Ambrose that some Christian laity had said of Emperor Maximus, "he has become a Jew" because of the edict Maximus issued regarding the burning of a Roman synagogue. Ambrose did not oppose punishing those directly responsible for burning the synagogue. He halted the celebration of the Eucharist until Theodosius agreed to end the investigation without requiring reparations to be made by the bishop. [3]
  • Augustine of Hippo in Book 18, Chapter 46, of The City of God wrote "The Jews who slew Him [Jesus], and would not believe in Him, because it behoved Him to die and rise again, were yet more miserably wasted by the Romans, and utterly rooted out from their kingdom, where aliens had already ruled over them, and were dispersed through the lands (so that indeed there is no place where they are not), and are thus by their own Scriptures a testimony to us that we have not forged the prophecies about Christ." [4]
Augustine deems the survival and the scattering of the Jews as willed by God for them to give testimony everywhere that the prophecies that Christians interpret as proving that Jesus is the Messiah are no Christian invention, being preserved also by what he calls the Church's enemies, the Jews. Thus, he says, the survival and scattering of the Jews fulfils the prophecy: "My God hath shown me concerning mine enemies, that Thou shalt not slay them, lest they should at last forget Thy law: disperse them in Thy might."
  • Ephraim the Syrian wrote polemics against Jews in the fourth century, including the repeated accusation that Satan dwells among them as a partner. These writings were directed at Christians who were being proselytized by Jews and who Ephraim feared were slipping back into the religion of Judaism; thus he portrayed the Jews as enemies of Christianity, like Satan, to emphasize the contrast between the two religions, namely, that Christianity was Godly and true and Judaism was Satanic and false. Like John Chrysostom, his objective was to dissuade Christians from reverting to Judaism by emphasizing what he saw as the wickedness of the Jews and their religion. [5] [6]
  • In his Dialog of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew, the Christian scholar Justin Martyr advanced arguments for the truth of Christianity and wrote to his imaginary Jewish opponent: "You think that these words refer to the stranger and the proselytes, but in fact they refer to us who have been illumined by Jesus. For Christ would have borne witness even to them; but now you are become twofold more the children of Hell, as He said Himself." [7]
  • Saint Jerome (374-419 CE) - He denounced Jews as "Judaic serpents of whom Judas was the model." In his The Jews in the Roman Empire (Les Juifs dan L'Empire Romain) [Is this really a work by Jerome, or a modern history?] he wrote: "The Jews seek nothing but to have children, possess riches and be healthy. They seek all earthly things, but think nothing of heavenly things; for this reason they are mercenaries."
  • Saint John Chrysostom (ca 344 - 407 CE) - wrote of the Jews and of Judaizers in eight homilies Adversus Judaeos, Against The Jews (or Against the Judaizers). [8]
"Shall I tell you of their plundering, their covetousness, their abandonment of the poor, their thefts, their cheating in trade? the whole day long will not be enough to give you an account of these things. But do their festivals have something solemn and great about them? They have shown that these, too, are impure." (Homily I, VII, 1)
"But before I draw up my battle line against the Jews, I will be glad to talk to those who are members of our own body, those who seem to belong to our ranks although they observe the Jewish rites and make every effort to defend them. Because they do this, as I see it, they deserve a stronger condemnation than any Jew." (HOMILY IV, II, 4)
"Are you Jews still disputing the question? Do you not see that you are condemned by the testimony of what Christ and the prophets predicted and which the facts have proved? But why should this surprise me? That is the kind of people you are. From the beginning you have been shameless and obstinate, ready to fight at all times against obvious facts." (HOMILY V, XII, 1)
  • Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (467-533 CE) - In his "Writings", written about 510 CE, he states "Hold most firmly and doubt not that not all the pagans, but also all the Jews, heretic and schismatics who depart from the present life outside the Catholic Church, are about to go into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (See also: Extra ecclesiam nulla salus.)

Liturgy of the Greek Orthodox ChurchEdit

Liturgical texts for Great Thursday, Friday and Saturday (called in the West Holy or Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) contain execrations against the Jewish people as a whole.

The Emperor Constantine the GreatEdit

"... it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul. ... Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way." [9]

Theodoret's Ecclesiastical History records The Epistle of the Emperor Constantine, concerning the matters transacted at the Council, addressed to those Bishops who were not present:

"It was, in the first place, declared improper to follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this holy festival, because, their hands having been stained with crime, the minds of these wretched men are necessarily blinded. ... Let us, then, have nothing in common with the Jews, who are our adversaries. ... Let us ... studiously avoiding all contact with that evil way. ... For how can they entertain right views on any point who, after having compassed the death of the Lord, being out of their minds, are guided not by sound reason, but by an unrestrained passion, wherever their innate madness carries them. ... lest your pure minds should appear to share in the customs of a people so utterly depraved. ... Therefore, this irregularity must be corrected, in order that we may no more have any thing in common with those parricides and the murderers of our Lord. ... no single point in common with the perjury of the Jews."[10]

The Emperor Leo IEdit

The Byzantine Emperor Leo I compiled a code of law, called the New Constitutions of Leo, Constitution LV: "Jews shall live in accordance with the rites of Christianity. Those who formerly were invested with Imperial authority promulgated various laws with reference to the Hebrew people, who, once nourished by Divine protection, became renowned, but are now remarkable for the calamities inflicted upon them because of their contumacy towards Christ and God; and these laws, while regulating their mode of life, compelled them to read the Holy Scriptures, and ordered them not to depart from the ceremonies of their worship. They also provided that their children should adhere to their religion, being obliged to do so as well by the ties of blood, as on account of the institution of circumcision. These are the laws which I have already stated were formerly enforced throughout the Empire. But the Most Holy Sovereign from whom We are descended, more concerned than his predecessors for the salvation of the Jews, instead of allowing them (as they did) to obey only their ancient laws, attempted, by the interpretation of prophesies and the conclusions which he drew from them, to convert them to the Christian religion, by means of the vivifying water of baptism. He fully succeeded in his attempts to transform them into new men, according to the doctrine of Christ, and induced them to denounce their ancient doctrines and abandon their religious ceremonies, such as circumcision, the observance of the Sabbath, and all their other rites. But although he, to a certain extent, overcame the obstinacy of the Jews, he was unable to force them to abolish the laws which permitted them to live in accordance with their ancient customs. Therefore We, desiring to accomplish what Our Father failed to effect, do hereby annul all the old laws enacted with reference to the Hebrews, and We order that they shall not dare to live in any other manner than in accordance with the rules established by the pure and salutary Christian Faith. And if anyone of them should be proved to have neglected to observe the ceremonies of the Christian religion, and to have returned to his former practices, he shall pay the penalty prescribed by the law for apostates."[11]

Later Christian writersEdit

  • Thomas of Monmouth, a monk in the Norwich Benedictine monastery, wrote in 1173 a detailed anti-Semitic tractate, called The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich, holding that Jews tortured to death a Christian child during Passover. [12]
  • Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), not imposing, he said, his own judgment but rather urging the judgment of the experts, declared that, "as the laws say, the Jews by reason of their fault are sentenced to perpetual servitude and thus the lords of the lands in which they dwell may take things from them as though they were their own — with, nonetheless, this restraint observed that the necessary subsidies of life in no way be taken from them."[13]
  • Geoffrey Chaucer (1343?-1400) wrote in "The Prioress's Tale" of his Canterbury Tales of a devout little Christian child who was murdered by Jews affronted at his singing a hymn as he passed through the Jewry, or Jewish quarter, of a city in Asia:
Our primal foe, the serpent Sathanas,
Who has in Jewish heart his hornets' nest,
Swelled arrogantly: "O Jewish folk, alas!
Is it to you a good thing, and the best,
That such a boy walks here, without protest,
In your despite and doing such offense
Against the teachings that you reverence?"
From that time forth the Jewish folk conspired
Out of the world this innocent to chase;
A murderer they found, and thereto hired,
Who in an alley had a hiding-place;
And as the child went by at sober pace,
This cursed Jew did seize and hold him fast,
And cut his throat, and in a pit him cast.
I say, that in a cesspool him they threw,
Wherein these Jews did empty their entrails.
O cursed folk of Herod, born anew,
How can you think your ill intent avails?
Murder will out, 'tis sure, nor ever fails,
And chiefly when God's honour vengeance needs. [14]
However, it should be noted that a considerable body of critical and scholarly opinion holds that this speech, in the mouth of the Prioress, represents an ironic inversion of Chaucer's own sentiments: that is, the Prioress is seen as a hypocrite whose cruelty and bigotry belies her conventionally pious pose -- a situation typical of the indeterminacy of Chaucer's intentions.
  • Martin Luther, founder of the Lutheran Protestant Christian denomination, at first made overtures towards the Jews, believing that the evils of Catholicism had prevented their conversion to Christianity. When his call to convert to his version of Christianity was understandably rebuffed he became hostile to them and preached, in his book On the Jews and their Lies, that they were "venomous beasts, vipers, disgusting scum, canders, devils incarnate. Their private houses must be destroyed and devastated, they could be lodged in stables. Let the magistrates burn their synagogues and let whatever escapes be covered with sand and mud. Let them force to work, and if this avails nothing, we will be compelled to expel them like dogs in order not to expose ourselves to incurring divine wrath and eternal damnation from the Jews and their lies." It is to be noted that the many Lutheran churches and councils across the world have been slow in disassociating themselves from these statements. (See Martin Luther and the Jews and On the Jews and Their Lies)
  • Pope Clement VIII (1536-1605). "All the world suffers from the usury of the Jews, their monopolies and deceit. They have brought many unfortunate people into a state of poverty, especially the farmers, working class people and the very poor. Then, as now, Jews have to be reminded intermittently that they were enjoying rights in any country since they left Palestine and the Arabian desert, and subsequently their ethical and moral doctrines as well as their deeds rightly deserve to be exposed to criticism in whatever country they happen to live."

Fabricated quotesEdit

Many websites have lists of supposed quotes by Christian leaders and saints. For example, one page on More Christian Jew Haters claims to list "quotes that reveal shocking hatred against the Jewish people and false accusations against the Jews by popes, 'saints' and other Christian religious functionaries". Many of these quotes turn out to be partly or completely fabricated by people seeking to discredit Christianity. Amongst the victims of these misquotations is Gregory of Nyssa, along with ethnically Jewish Christians, who criticized the religion of the rabbis on religious grounds, among them Tomás de Torquemada and the Catholic saint Teresa of Ávila. Some sources even go as far as to claim Edith Stein, a Jewish philosopher who became a Carmelite nun, was an "anti-Semite", because of her conversion and a prayer written by her, that Jahweh God might accept her death in a National Socialist concentration camp to free all of the Jews ("my brethren") of their pertinacious error, hatred and blindness towards Messiah Jesus Christ.

Expulsion of Jews from England and SpainEdit

Edward I of England expelled all the Jews from England in 1290 (only after ransoming some 3,000 among the most wealthy of them), on the accusation of usury and undermining loyalty to the dynasty.

n 1481, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the rulers of Spain who financed Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World just a few years later in 1492, declared that all Jews in their territories should either convert to Christianity or leave the country. While some converted, many others left for France, Italy (including the Papal States), Holland, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, and North Africa. Some sources claim estimates that say that between four and eight thousand Jews who had formally converted, were burnt alive based on the accusation that they were still secretly practising Judaism. It is arguable whether this constitutes anti-Semitism in the racist sense, since it was directed at recent (though forced) converts from Judaism.

19th- and 20th-century Christian anti-SemitismEdit

In the Papal States, which existed until 1870, Jews were required to live only in specified neighborhoods called ghettos. Until the 1840s, they were required to regularly attend sermons urging their conversion to Christianity. Only Jews were taxed to support state boarding schools for Jewish converts to Christianity. It was illegal to convert from Christianity to Judaism. Sometimes Jews were baptized involuntarily, and, even when such baptisms were illegal, forced to practice the Christian religion. In many such cases the state separated them from their families. See Edgardo Mortara for an account of one of the most widely publicized instances of acrimony between Catholics and Jews in the Papal States in the second half of the 19th century.

In the 19th and (before the end of the second World War) 20th centuries, the Roman Catholic church adhered to a distinction between "good anti-Semitism" and "bad anti-Semitism". The "bad" kind promoted hatred of Jews because of their descent. This was considered un-Christian because the Christian message was intended for all of humanity regardless of ethnicity; anyone could become a Christian. The "good" kind criticized alleged Jewish conspiracies to control newspapers, banks, and other institutions, to care only about accumulation of wealth, etc. Many Catholic bishops wrote articles criticizing Jews on such grounds, and, when accused of promoting hatred of Jews, would remind people that they condemned the "bad" kind of anti-Semitism. A detailed account is found in historian David Kertzer's book The Popes Against the Jews.

However, many scholars seriously dispute Kertzer's findings. Jose Sanchez, history professor at St. Louis University criticized Kertzer's work as polemical and exaggerating the papacy's role in anti-Semitism. [15] Scholar of Jewish-Christian relations Rabbi David G. Dalin criticized Kertzer [16] for selectively using evidence. Ronald J. Rychlak, lawyer and author of Hitler, the War, and the Pope , also decried Kertzer's work for omitting strong evidence that the Church was not anti-Semitic. [17]

Christians in Nazi GermanyEdit

Collaborating ChristiansEdit


Opposition to the HolocaustEdit

The Confessing Church was, in 1934, the first Christian opposition group. The Catholic Church officially condemned the Nazi theory of racism in Germany in 1937 with the Encyclical "Mit Brennender Sorge", signed by Pope Pius XI, and Michael Cardinal von Faulhaber led the Catholic opposition, preaching against racism. However, there was not enough organized resistance by Christian groups to prevent the Nazis' anti-Semitic policies.

Many individual Christian clergy and laypeople of all denominations had to pay for their opposition with their life, including:

By the 1940s, fewer Christians were willing to oppose Nazi policy publicly, but many secretly helped save the lives of Jews. There are many sections of Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Museum, Yad VaShem, dedicated to honoring these "Righteous Among the Nations". See also: Christian opposition to anti-Semitism#Pius XII

The "White Power" movementEdit

The Christian Identity movement, the Ku Klux Klan and other White supremacy groups have expressed anti-Semitic views. They claim that their anti-Semtism is based on purported Jewish control of the media [18], international banks, radical left wing politics, and the promotion of multiculturalism, anti-Christian groups, liberalism and perverse organizations. They rebuke charges of racism and claim Jews who share their ideology maintain membership in their organizations. A racial belief common among these groups, but not universal, is an alternative history doctrine, sometimes called British Israelism. In some forms this doctrine absolutely denies that modern Jews have any racial connection to Israel of the Bible. Instead, according to extreme forms of this doctrine, the true racial Israel and true humans, are the Adamic (white) race.

Anti-Semitism in modern-day nationsEdit

Anti-Semitism in Europe remains a substantial problem. The entry on Religious freedom in Poland discusses the current state of religious tensions in predominantly Catholic Poland. Anti-Semitism exists to a lesser or greater degree in many other nations as well, including Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and the occasional tensions between some Muslim immigrants and Jews across Europe. Some European nations have singled out Jewish dietary practices for regulation; at least five nations have banned the production of kosher meat. The US State Department reports that anti-Semitism has increased dramatically in Europe and Eurasia since 2000. [19]

While in a decline since the 1940s, there is still a measurable amount of anti-Semitism in the United States of America as well, although acts of violence are rare. The 2001 survey by the Anti-Defamation League reported 1432 acts of anti-Semitism in the United States that year. The figure included 877 acts of harassment, including verbal intimidation, threats and physical assaults. [20]

Current attempts to convert Jews to ChristianityEdit

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant Christian denomination in the U.S., has explicitly rejected suggestions that it should back away from seeking to convert Jews, a position that critics have called anti-Semitic but that Baptists see as consistent with their view that salvation is found solely through faith in Christ. In 1996, the SBC approved a resolution calling for efforts to seek the conversion of Jews "as well as for the salvation of 'every kindred and tongue and people and nation.'"

Most Evangelicals agree with the SBC position, and some have similarly been supporting efforts specifically seeking Jews' conversion. At the same time these groups are among the most pro-Israeli groups. Among the controversial groups that has found support from some Evangelical churches is Jews for Jesus, which claims that Jews can find their Jewish faith become complete by accepting Jesus as the Messiah.

By contrast, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, and the United Church of Canada have ended their efforts to convert Jews.

The Roman Catholic Church formerly had religious congregations specifically aimed to conversion of Jews to the Messiah Jesus Christ. Some of these were founded by Jewish converts themselves, like the Community of Our Lady of Zion, which was composed of religious sisters and ordained priests. Many Catholic saints were noted specifically because of their missionary zeal in converting Jews to the Mashiach, like saint Vincent Ferrer. After the Second Vatican Council many missionary orders aimed at converting Jews to Christianity, did no longer actively seek to missionize (or proselytize). Traditionalist Roman Catholic groups, congregations and clergymen however continue to support mission to the Jews after the traditional patterns, sometimes with success (e.g. Society of St. Pius X which has notable Jewish converts among their faithful, many of whom have become traditionalist priests).

Jews and Jewish organizations have described evangelism and missionary activity directed specifically at Jews as anti-Semitic. [21] [22] [23] [24]

Christian opposition to anti-semitism Edit

Sicut Judaeis Non BullEdit

This "Constitution for the Jews" was the official position of the papacy regarding the Jews throughout the Middle Ages and later. Alexander III is the author of the oldest existing version of the bull. The bull was reaffirmed by many popes, even hundreds of years after Alexander III. Excerpts from the translation of the bull follows:

"[The Jews] ought to suffer no prejudice. We, out of the meekness of Christian piety, and in keeping in the footprints or Our predecessors of happy memory, the Roman Pontiffs Calixtus, Eugene, Alexander, Clement, admit their petition, and We grant them the buckler of Our protection. For We make the law that no Christian compel them, unwilling or refusing, by violence to come to baptism. But, if any one of them should spontaneously, and for the sake of the faith, fly to the Christians, once his choice has become evident, let him be made a Christian without any calumny. Indeed, he is not considered to possess the true faith of Christianity who is not recognized to have come to Christian baptism, not spontaneously, but unwillingly. Too, no Christian ought to injure their persons, or with violence to take their property, or to change the good customs which they have had until now in whatever region they inhabit. Besides, in the celebration of their own festivities, no one ought disturb them in any way, with clubs or stones, nor ought any one try to require from them or to extort from them services they do not owe, except for those they have been accustomed from times past to perform. ...We decree... that no one ought to dare mutilate or diminish a Jewish cemetery, nor, in order to get money, to exhume bodies onces they have been buried. If anyone, however, shall attempt, the tenor of this degree once known, to go against it...let him be punished by the vengeance of excommunication, unless he correct his presumption by making equivalent satisfaction."

(from: Synan, Edward. The Popes and the Jews in the Middle Ages. 231-232.)

Beginnings to 1094Edit

  • Pope Gregory I
    • "For it is necessary to gather those who are at odds with the Christian religion the unity of faith by meekness, by kindness, by admonishing, by persuading, lest these...should be repeled by threats and terrors. They ought, therefore, to come together to hear from you the Word of God in a kindly frame of mind, rather than stricken with dread, result of a harshness that goes beyond due limits." (Synan,The Popes and the Jews in the Middle Ages,p.45)
    • June 591 "Censure of Virgil, bishop of Arles, and Theodore, bishop of Marseilles, for having baptized Jews by force. They are to desist. (Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.4)
    • November 602 "Admonition to Paschasius, bishop of Naples, to ensure that the Jews are not disturbed in the celebration of their religious festivals." (The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.23)
      • "TO PASCASIUS, BISHOP OF NAPLES: Those who, with sincere intent, desire to lead people outside the Christian religion to the correct faith, ought to make the effort by means of what is pleasant, not with what is harsh, lest opposition drive afar the mind of men whom reasoning...could have attracted. Those who act otherwise...demonstrate that they are concerned with their own enterpises, rather than with those of God!

Now, the Jews dwelling in Naples have registered a complaint with Us, asserting that certain people are attempting, in an unreasonable fashion, to restrain them from some of the solemnities connected with their own feast days, as it has been lawful for them to observe or celebrate these up to now, and for their forefathers from long ages past...For of what use is this, avails nothing toward their faith and conversion?...One must act, therefore, in such a way that...they might desire to follow us rather than to fly from us...Rather let them enjoy their lawful liberty to observe and to celebrate their festivities, as they have enjoyed this up until now." (Synan, 217).

  • Pope John XVIII 1007 "The Jews of France, victims of persecution, are taken under papal protection."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.34)

  • Pope Alexander II

1063 "Praise for Winfred, archbishop of Narbonne, for defending the Jews." 1063 "Praise for Berengar, viscount of Narbonne, for protecting the Jews." 1065 "Admonition to Landulf, lord of Benevento, that the conversion of Jews is not to be obtained by force." (The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.35,36,37)

1094 to 1200Edit

With the dawn of the First Crusade, a burst of anti-Semitism also flared up. However, there was also much opposition to this behavior. "Bishops and princes [were] mostly on the side of the [Jewish] victims, but proving for various reasons, powerless to protect them effectively." (Catholic Ency.p.393).

  • Pope Calixtus II 1119-1124 "The Jews are taken under papal protection."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.44)

With the Second Crusade (1147-1149) hatred erupted again. Yet, many would not tolerate the bigotry. The German prelates, Pope Eugenius III, and St. Bernard protested against this eruption of anti-Semitism:

    • Pope Eugenius III 1145-1153 "The Jews are taken under papal protection."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.47)

    • Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (letter to Archbishop Henry of Mainz, 1146) "Is it not a far better triumph for the Church to convince and convert the Jews than to put them all to the sword? Has that prayer which the Church offers for the Jews...been instituted in vain?"

(Carroll, Warren; The Glory of Christendom, 62).

Things settled down the next fifty years; "in Italy...Pope Alexander III was favourable to them, and the Third Latern Council (1179) passed decrees protecting their religious liberty." (Cath.En.p.393).

  • Pope Clement III

10 May 1188 "The Jews are taken under papal protection." (The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.66)

Once again, when a new crusade (1202-1204) was preached in 1198 anti-Semitism came about again. Some crusaders caught up in misguided enthusiasm massacred Jews. In other areas they were forced out of their towns. "The Jews appealed to [Pope] Innocent III to curb the violence of the crusaders; and in answer the pontiff issued a Constitution which rigorously forbade mob violence and forced baptism, but which apparently had little or no effect." (Cath.En.p.393).

  • Pope Celestine III 1191-1198 "The Jews are taken under papal protection" (Sicut Judeis...)

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.68)

1200 to 1300Edit

  • Pope Gregory IX
    • 6 April 1233 "Mandate, if facts are established, to the archbishops and bishops of France to induce the Christians in their dioceses to stop persecuting the Jews, who had complained to the pope that they were being maltreated and tortured by certain lords, imprisoned and left to die. The Jews are willing to forsake usury. They are to be set free and are not to be injured in person or in property."
    • 3 May 1235 "Protection provided to Jews by standard formula of Sicut Judeis."
    • 17 August 1236 "List of charges against Emperor Frederick II includes the "matter of the Jewish communities of which certain churches were deprived."
    • 5 September 1236 "Mandate to Gerald de Malemort, archbishop of Bordeaus, Peter, bishop of Saintes, John Builloti, bishop of Angouleme, John de Melun, bishop of Poitiers, Hugo, bishop of Sees, William de Saint-Mere-Eglise, bishop of Avranches, Peter de Colmieu, bishop-elect of Rouen, Juhellus de Mathefelon, archbishop of Tours, Geoffroy de London, bishop of Le Mans, William de Beaumont, bishop of Angers, Alan, bishop of Rennes, Robertus, bishop of Nantes, Ramilf, bishop of Quimper, and Philip Berruyer, archbishop-elect of Bourges to force the crusaders of their dioceses who had killed and robbed Jews to provide proper satisfaction for the crimes perpetrated against the Jews and for the property stolen from them. They had complained to the Pope."
    • 5 September 1236 "Request to Louis IX, king of France, to punish the crusaders, murderers and despoilers of the Jews, and to compel them to make restitution."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.143,154,162,163,165)

  • Pope Innocent IV
    • 7 October 1246 "Request and admonition to Thibaut I, king of Navarre, to continue protecting the Jews from persecution and preventing the forced baptism of their children."
    • 22 October 1246 "Confirmation of the protective Bull Sicut Judeis."
    • 12 June 1247 "Admonition and exhortation to Thibaut I (IV), king of Navarre and count of Champagne, to ensure that the Jews of Champagne are reimbursed by their debtors."
    • 5 July 1247 "Mandate to the prelates of Germany and France to annul all measures adopted against the Jews on account of the ritual murder libel, and to prevent accusation of Jews on similar charges."
    • 6 July 1247 "Admonition and exhortation to Thibaut I (IV), king of Navarre and count of Champagne, to ensure that the Jews of Champagne are reimbursed by their debtors."
    • 25 September 1253 "Mandate to the dean of Wurzburg to protect the local Jews from molestation by the citizens, who are in conflict with Hermann of Lobdenburg, the bishop."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.188-189,193-195,208)

    • 1247; writes, "Certain of the clergy, and princes, nobles and great lords of your cities and dioceses have falsely devised certain godless plans against the Jews, unjustly depriving them by force of their property, and appropriating it themselves;...they falsely charge them with dividing up among themselves on the Passover the heart of a murdered boy...In their malice, they ascribe every murder, wherever it chance to occur, to the Jews. And on the ground of these and other fabrications, they are filled with rage against them, rob them of their possessions without any formal accusation, without confession, and without legal trial and conviction, contrary to the privileges granted to them by the Apostolic See...Since it is our pleasure that they shall not be disturbed,...we ordain that ye behave towards them in a friendly and kind manner. Whenever any unjust attacks upon them come under your notice, redress their injuries, and do not suffer them to be visited in the future by similar tribulations"

Yet these protests by the pontiffs appeared to go generally unheeded by the Christian states. (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition, p.393-394).

  • Pope Alexander IV
    • 1 February 1255 "Exemption to a group of Jewish merchants of Rome from the payment of tolls in the Papal States and the kingdom of Sicily."
    • 22 September 1255 "Protection to Jews by Sicut Judeis Bull."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.211)

  • Pope Urban IV

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.219)

  • Pope Gregory X
    • 7 October 1272 "Protection of Jews by Sicut Judeis Bull, with additional clauses: a mixed group of witnesses, including a Jew, is to be required to convict Jews; the evidence of a Christian was not to be admissible against Jews accused of ritual murder; in the unlikely event of such a murder being committed, a Jew may be arrested only if caught in the act."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.242)

    • 1273; writes in "an encyclical to all Christians forbidding them to baptize Jews by force or to injure their persons, or take away their money, or to disturb them during the celebration of their religious festivals." (Horace K. Mann, Lives of the Popes in the Middle Ages, Volume XVI [London, 1929], p. 496)

As quoted from:

    • 7 July 1274 "Confirmation to all Christians of a mandate to protect Jews of Germany against ritual murder libel."
    • 10 September 1274 "Renewal of Sicut Judeis Bull."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.245-246)

  • Pope Nicholas III
    • "Renewal of Sicut Judeis Bull."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.249)

  • Pope Martin IV
    • 1 March 1281 "Reissue of Sicut Judeis Bull
    • 2 August 1281 "Reissue of Sicut Judeis Bull, with the additiion of a clause limiting the freedom of action of the Inquisition with regard to Jews."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.254)

  • Pope Honorius IV
    • 1285-1287 "Reissue of Sicut Judeis Bull."
    • 17 September 1285 "Confirmation of the provisions and laws promulgated for the government of the kingdom of Sicily, including the punishment for the murder of a Christian, a Jew, or a Moslem."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.260)

  • Pope Nicholas IV
    • 1288-1292 "Reissue of Sicut Judeis Bull."
    • 29 August 1288 "Request and admonition to Emperor Rudolf I to set free Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg."
    • 30 January 1291 "Mandate to the papal vicar in Rome to protect the Jews."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.265,266,278)

1300 to 1500Edit

  • Pope John XXII
    • 9 July 1320 "Request and exhortation to all princes, rulers, officials and local authorities to protect the Jews in the papal territories in France under their jurisdiction against attacks by Shepherds."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.319)

  • Pope Benedict XII
  • 26 June 1335 " Hugo de Vienne, archbishop of Besancon, to grant dispensation to and impose penitence on Vivetus Grosseti de Poligny, a cleric in the archbishop's diocese, who at the age of fifteen, carried wood to help burn Jews at the stake in the village of Arbois, in the diocese of Besancon."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.368)

  • Pope Clement VI
    • 18 December 1345 "Mandate to Hugues de la Roque, rector of the Comtat Venaissin, to allow the Jews who had recently settled there to dwell unmolested, and to let other Jews join them."
    • 8 May 1347 "Request to King Philip VI of France to set free Bernard de Lipasse, bishop of Dax...and others, including Jews, taken prisoner at sea by the French."
    • 5 July 1348 "Reissue of the Bull Sicut Judeis."
    • 26 September 1348 "Mandate to all prelates and other clergy to act against those who persecute the Jews, especially in connection with the outbreak of the plague, admonish them to desist and threaten them with punishment."
    • 1 October 1348 "Reissue of the protective Bull against the persecutors of Jews, especially in connection with the outbreak of the plague."
    • 20 October 1349 "Mandate to all prelates to adopt suitable measures for the suppression of the Flagellants and their supporters, accused of various crimes, including the persecution of the Jews."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.389,392,396,398-399)

    • "While the fearful scourge, known as the "Black Death", desolated Europe. The report that the Jews had caused the scourge by poisoning the wells used by Christians, spread rapidly and was believed in most towns of Central Europe, despite the Bulls issued by Clement VI in July and September, 1348, declaring their falsity. Despite the fact, too, that the same pontiff had solemnly ordered that Jews be not forced into baptism, that their sabbaths, festivals, synagogues, and cemeteries be respected, that no new exactions be imposed on them, they were plundered and murdered in many countries of Central and Northern Europe."
  • Pope Urban V

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.430)

  • Pope Clement VII
    • 10 July 1381 "Mandate to the subcollector of papal hand over 400 French francs and 80 German florins to Simon de Nantua, a Jew...These sums were confiscated from Ysaac of Tulette...for 'excesses and crimes.' The money belonged to Simon, and Amadeus VI, count of Savoy, had interceded on his behalf."
    • 13 August 1387 "Approval of petition presented by the Jews in the towns of Arles, Avignon, Maguelonne, Uzes and Nimes to revoke the mandate to have them make restitution to their debtors, in view of the harassment to which they had been exposed following its implementation."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.483,500)

  • Pope Boniface IX
    • 1389-1404 "Renewal of the Bull Sicut Judeis.
    • "In Germany (1384), and in Bohemia (1389, 1399), the Jews were likewise persecuted. Boniface IX had protested, but in vain, against such outrages and slaughters (1389); and it is only in his states, in Italy, and in Portugal, that the Jewish race had any measure of peace during these years of carnage."
    • 23 October 1392 "Appointment of Salamon de Metasia de Sabaduchio, a Jew in Perugia, to status of member of the papal household, and grant of papal protection."

(The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.507,512)

  • Pope Martin V
    • he declared in 1419: "Whereas the Jews are made in the image of God and a remnat of them will one day be saved, and whereas they have besought our protection: following in the footsteps of our predecessors we command that they be not molested in their synagogues; that their laws, rights, and customs be not assailed; that they be not baptized by force, constrained to observe Christian festivals, nor to wear new badges, and they be not hindered in their business relations with Christians"
    • After the Austrian and German Jews appealed to him, he spoke in their favor in 1420 and "in 1422, confirmed the ancient privileges of their race."

  • Alexander VI (1492-1503)
    • When the Jews of Rome refused to admit the Jewish refugees from Spain and offered him a bribe of a thousand ducats, he threatened the Roman Jews with expulsion, demanded two thousand ducats from them, and forced them to allow the Jewish refugees entrance. (Synan, 145).
    • "Alexander made a place at his court for Jewish physicians...One eminent Jew who held such as post was...Maestro Boneto...Expelled from Provence in 1493, he had taken refuge in the papal city of Carpentras, in order to profit by the friendly reception generally to be expected by Jews in towns under the control of the popes. Since this rabbi [also] possessed...remarkable competence in was possible for him to give striking evidence of his gratitude to the Pope. This he did by dedicating to him a work called The Astronomical Ring...By 1499, Maestro Boneto had become...personal physician to Pope Alexander VI, an office he would retain under Leo X." (Synan, 146-147).

1500 to 1900Edit

"The early Roman pontiffs of the sixteenth century had Jewish physicians and were favourable to the Jews and the Maranos of their states."

  • 1758, Benedict XIV appoints Cardinal Lorenzo Ganganelli (future Pope Clement XIV) to investigate the accusation of blood libel. After a year of investigation, the cardinal reports back that the accusations are false


  • Pope Gregory XVI
    • 1837, "when, seeing how poverty and high taxes plunged the [Jewish] community into bankruptcy, he rubbed out all their debts, and helped them with medical aid during the cholera epidemic of that year" (Chadwick, Owen/A History of the Popes 1830-1914/Oxford University Press/2003/p.129).
  • Pope Leo XIII
    • 1892, Leo XIII defends the Jews in a newspaper interview (Ibid.).
    • Leo XIII supports French Jewish officer Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who has been accused of treason and "publicly condemned the anti-Semitic campaign against him" (Ibid).
    • "Protestants everywhere condemned the papacy for the Dreyfus Affair, though the papacy had nothing to do with the matter. So far as he expressed an opinion publicly, Leo XIII was on the side of Dreyfus. In March 1899 he was said to have compared Dreyfus to Jesus on Calvary" (Chadwick, Owen/A History of the Popes 1830-1914/Oxford University Press/2003/p.385).

Under the pontificate of Pope Pius X, many condemned anti-Semitism: "In the Catholic Church the leaders were against any such [anti-Semitic] attitudes towards the Jews. In Vienna one cardinal after another, from Rauscher onwards, tried to prevent race-hatred and especially anti-Semitism in the Church. As political anti-Semitism...grew in Vienna, the bishops issued a joint pastoral letter against anti-Semitism and racialism... In 1895 the rector of the university of Vienna was a Catholic priest, Laurenz Mullner...In a debate on money for the medical school, an anti-Semite attacked the university as Jew-infested. Mullner took the speaker to pieces: 'Read Dante, and what he said about Averroes, a Semite; he was a great spirit. Read Thomas Aquinas, a noble mind and a saint. Even where they do not agree with Jewish scholars they speak in a very different spirit. Every year it is my duty to refute Spinoza. Though I refute him, yet I bow before that great spirit and noble mind.'" (Chadwick, Owen/A History of the Popes 1830-1914/Oxford University Press/2003/p.379,381)

1900 to todayEdit

  • Pius X denounces the accusations against the Russian Jew Mendel Beilis (Ibid.).

Benedict XVEdit

  • 1916, when the American Jews petitioned Benedict on behalf of the Polish Jews, Benedict responded: "The Supreme Pontiff.... as Head of the Catholic Church, which, faithful to its divine doctrines and its most glorious traditions, considers all men as brothers and teaches them to love one another, he never ceases to indicate among individuals, as well as among peoples, the observance of the principles of the natural law, and to condemn everything that violates them. This law must be observed and respected in the case of the children of Israel, as well as of all others, because it would not be comformable to justice or to religion itself to derogate from it solely on account of divergence of religious confessions" 1

Pius XIEdit

  • 1928, Vatican issues a statement later cited by rescueworkers during the Holocaust: "[J]ust as [the Church] reproves all rancours in conflicts between peoples, to the maximum extent condemns hatred of the people once chosen by God, the hatred that commonly goes by the name of anti-Semitism" 1.
  • Nov. 1931, Pius XI is thanked by the chief rabbi of Milan for opposing anti-Semitism.
  • "In the spring of 1933, the year Hitler took power, Pius XI met with Rabbi Allesandro da Fano of Milan to express his solidarity with the Jewish community. The Jewish Chronicle reported: 'The pope...had a long private talk with them about the situation of the Jews in Germany. It is understood that the pope was extremely concerned about the sufferings imposed on the Jews and expressed his sympathy with them and his desire to help. Rabbi da Fano, who is eighty-six years of age, is a personal friend of the pope, and was his teacher of Hebrew when the pope was Director of the Catholic Ambrosian Library in Milan' ('The Pope's Desire to Help,' Jewish Chronicle , May 12 1933, p.28)." From: (Dalin, David G. & Bottum, Joseph/The Pius War/Lexington Books/2004/p.115-116)
  • 6 September 1938, he says to some Belgian pilgrims that anti-Semitism "is a hateful movement, a movement that we cannot, as Christians, take any part in...Anti-Semitism is inadmissible" (Chadwick, Ibid.).
  • 1939 issue of B'nai B'rith's National Jewish Monthly features him on the frontcover and writes, "Regardless of their personal beliefs, men and women everywhere who believe in democracy and the rights of man have hailed the firm and uncompromising stand of Pope Pius XI against Fascist brutality, paganism, and racial theories. In his annual Christmas message to the College of Cardinals, the great Pontiff vigorously denounced Fascism...The first international voice in the world to be raised in stern condemnation of the ghastly injustice perpetrated upon the Jewish people by brutal tyrannies was Pope Pius XI" (Chadwick, Ibid.).
  • "Also of note is Pius XI's support for British efforts to help Jewish and other refugees...the Holy See sent out requests to its representatives throughout the world to assist those fleeing oppression and racial persecution; see Cardinal Pacelli's circular telegrams of November 30 1938, and January 10 1939 in Actes et Documents 6, pp.48-50, and Pius XI's letter to the cardinal archbishops of Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Quebec, and Buenos Aires, pp. 50ff" (Pius War, p.119).
  • Jan. 1939, The Jewish National Monthly reports "the only bright spot in Italy has been the Vatican, where fine humanitarian statements by the Pope have been issuing regularly" 2.
  • "When Mussolini's anti-Semitic decrees began depriving Jews of employment in Italy, Pius XI, on his own initiative, admitted Professor Vito Volterra, a famous Italian Jewish mathematician, into the Pontifical Academy of Science...(see 'Scholars at the Vatican,' Commonweal , December 4 1942, pp.187-188). When Lord Rothschild, a prominent British leader, organized a protest meeting in London against Kristallnacht...Eugenio Pacelli, Vatican secretary of state, acting on behalf of Pius XI, who was then ill, sent a statement of solidarity with the persecuted Jews; the statement was read publicly at the meeting" (Pius War, p.119).
  • When Pius XI died on February 10 1939, the world praised him for his opposition to the Nazi and Fascism regimes, as well as for his opposition to anti-Semitism (Quotes below from: Ibid. p.120,121).
    • 12 February 1939, Bernard Joseph wrote on behalf of the Executive Jewish Agency to the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem: "'In Common with the whole of civilized humanity, the Jewish people mourns the loss of one of the greatest exponents of the cause of international peace and good will...More than once did we have occasion to be deeply grateful...for the deep concern which he expressed for the fate of the persecuted Jews of Central Europe. His noble efforts on their behalf will ensure for him for all time a warm place in the memories of the Jewish people wherever they live' (Pinchas Lapide, Three Popes and the Jews , p.116)"
    • 17 February 1939, the Jewish historian Cecil Roth publishes the obituary "Pope Pius and the Jews: A Champion of Toleration" in the Jewish Chronicle of London, in which he "wrote movingly of his private audience with the aged pontiff, during which Pius XI assured Roth of the papacy's opposition to anti-Semitism. Roth hailed Pius XI as that 'courageous voice raised unfalteringly and unwearingly...protesting oppression, condemning racial madness...This was an aspect which he appreciated to the full, and earned his memory an undying claim to the gratitude of the Jewish people'" (Pius War, p.120-121)

Pius XIIEdit

Pius XII was pope during World War II. In recent years there has been a flood of books on Pius XII’s actions surrounding the Holocaust. The most popularly read ones have tended to view him as a staunch anti-Semite and are generally accepted by the mainstream media. However, there are many other scholars who see numerous errors with this view.

Reasons for Perceived Anti-Semite Church LegislationEdit

Defenders of the Catholic Church argue that many actions of the Church that are perceived to be "anti-semitic" were actually not intended to be anti-Jewish in any way. For example, the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia argues that the obligation that Jews wear a badge was instituted "to prevent effectively moral offences between Jews and Christian women. The decrees forbidding the Jews from appearing in public at Eastertide may be justified on the ground that some of them mocked at the Christian processions at that time; those against baptized Jews retaining distinctly Jewish customs find their ready explanation in the necessity for the Church to maintain the purity of the Faith in its members, while those forbidding the Jews from molesting converts to Christianity are no less naturally explained by the desire of doing away with a manifest obstacle to future conversions...The inhibition of intermarriage between Jews and Christians, which is yet in vigour, is clearly justified by reason of the obvious danger for the faith of the Christian party and for the spiritual welfare of the children born of such alliances." Another source of friction was that Christians actively sought the conversion of Jews. While some Jews have and still perceive this to be anti-semitic, this is not a universal opinion. However, it is generally regarded that there is nothing morally wrong with trying to peacefully change another person's beliefs. While at times the Christian desire for conversion did indeed turn anti-Semitic by utilizing violence and forcible conversion, many pontiffs and Christians protested these efforts. Nonetheless, at other times many Christians utilized peaceful means of conversion. The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia offers a defense of the actions of the Church in regard to conversion efforts:

[Church] authorities generally deprecated the use of violence for the purpose. [History] bears witness, in particular, to the untiring and energetic efforts of the Roman pontiffs in behalf of the Jews especially when, threatened or actually pressed by persecution they appealed to the Holy See for protection. [History] chronicles the numerous protestations of the popes against mob violence against the Jewish race, and thus directs the attention of the student of history to the real cause of the Jewish persecutions, viz., the popular hatred against the children of Israel. Nay more, [history] discloses the principal causes of that hatred, among which the following may be mentioned:

  • The deep and wide racial difference between Jews and Christians which was, moreover, emphasized by the ritual and dietary laws of Talmudic Judaism;
  • the mutual religious antipathy which prompted the Jewish masses to look upon the Christians as idolaters, and the Christians to regard the Jews as the murderers of the Divine Saviour of mankind, and to believe readily the accusation of the use of Christian blood in the celebration of the Jewish Passover, the desecration of the Holy Eucharist, etc.;
  • the trade rivalry which caused Christians to accuse the Jews of sharp practice, and to resent their clipping of the coinage, their usury, etc.;
  • the patriotic susceptibilities of the particular nations in the midst of which the Jews have usually formed a foreign element, and to the respective interests of which their devotion has not always been beyond suspicion.

In view of these and other more or less local, more or less justified, reasons, one can readily understand how the popular hatred of the Jews has too often defeated the beneficent efforts of the Church, and notably of its supreme pontiffs, in regard to them.

Vast improvements have occurred in Jewish-Catholic relations since the Second Vatican Council, and especially under the leadership of the late Pope John Paul II, as evidence that the Church opposes anti-semitism. The 1991 Catholic Encyclopedia (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing) includes none of the above arguments, and instead speaks of "a building up of friendship and understanding [between Jews and Catholics] to overcome prejudices based on ignorance and also to repent for unjustifiable, sometimes horrendous, victimization based not on Church teaching but on hatred and greed." [pg. 534]

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Kevin MacDonald's theory of Christian anti-Semitism Edit

Professor Kevin B. MacDonald has attempted to account for Christian anti-Semitism within a broader theory of historical antagonism between Jews and gentiles, which he reads as a paradigm of more general conflicts between competing groups of human beings over evolutionary time. His reading of the Spanish Inquisition, for example, is that it was an attempt by Spanish Christians to reverse the gains in economic and political power made by Jews who had converted, sometimes unwillingly, to Christianity in the medieval period. His wider conclusions are that Christian anti-Semitism has been at some times and in some ways a "mirror image" of the ethnocentrism, religious exclusivism, and "in-group" solidarity by which he accounts for Jewish success in finance and politics. MacDonald's analysis has been heavily criticized by the scientific community, Slate magazine and others, including Steven Pinker and John Tooby, past president of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, as lacking in scientific foundation, and based on the discredited notion of group-selection theory; others have accused him of misrepresenting evidence. His theory has, however, received acclaim from white supremacists.


  1. William Nicholls: Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate (Jason Aronson, 1993) ISBN 1568215193. p.90
  2. Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History: Book II, Chapter 6: The Misfortunes which overwhelmed the Jews after their Presumption against Christ
  3. From the 40th and 41st Epistles of St. Ambrose of Milan. Catholic Encyclopaedia entry on Ambrose
  4. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus by Philip Schaff
  5. Ephraim the Syrian and his polemics against Jews
  6. Analysis of Ephraim's writings
  7. Early Church Fathers: Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers Series 1, 14 Vols. By Philip Schaff, ed. (Hendrickson Publishers)
  8. Saint John Chrysostom: Eight Homilies Against the Jews (Medieval Sourcebook) These quotes are translations from the original Greek posted by Paul Halsall: other researchers give slightly different translations.
  9. Eusebius, Life of Constantine Vol. III Ch. XVIII Life of Constantine (Book III) (Catholic Encyclopedia)
  10. Ecclesiastical History by Theodoret. Book 1 Chapter 9
  11. The Civil Law. The Constitutions of Leo Translated from the original Latin and edited by S. P. Scott, A. M.
  12. Excerpt from the Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich by Thomas of Monmouth
  13. Thomas aquinas's letter to margaret of flanders
  14. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  15. Book review The Popes Against the Jews. The Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism By David I. Kertzer
  16. Template:Cite news
  17. Daniel Kertzer's The Popes Against the Jews by Ronald J. Rychlak (The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights)
  18. Updated: Who Rules America? by Kevin Alfred Strom and National Vanguard staff (National Vanguard) November 20, 2004
  19. State Department Report on Anti-Semitism: Europe and Eurasia: anti-Semitism in Europe increased in recent years (2005 report)
  20. ADL Audit: Anti-Semitic Incidents in U.S. Declined in 2001 Americans Reject Conspiracy Theories Blaming Jews for 9/11 (2002 report)
  21. Keeping Faith. Scottsdale Progress by Kim Sue Lia Perkes (Religion Editor, The Arizona Republic) December, 1982
  22. 1998 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents: Missionaries and Messianic Churches (Bnai Brith Canada)
  23. Portland Jews Brace for Assault by 'Jews for Jesus' by Paul Haist (Jewish Review) May 15, 2002
  24. Questions on Christian Anti-Semitism: Jews for Jesus by Lewis Loflin (Sullivan County)

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

Further readingEdit

  • "Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate" by William Nicholls, 1993. Published by Jason Aronson Inc., 1995.
  • "Mature Christianity: The Recognition and Repudiation of the Anti-Jewish Polemic in the New Testament" Norman A. Beck, Susquehanna Univ. Press, 1985
  • "The Satanizing of the Jews: Origin and development of mystical anti-Semitism" Joel Carmichael, Fromm, 1993
  • "The Origins of Anti-Semitism: Attitudes Toward Judaism in Pagan and Christian Antiquity" John G. Gager, Oxford Univ. Press, 1983
  • "What Did They Think of the Jews?" Edited by Allan Gould, Jason Aronson Inc., 1991
  • "The New Testament's Anti-Jewish Slander and Conventions of Ancient Polemic", Luke Johnson, Journal of Biblical Literature, Volume 3, 1989
  • "Three Popes and the Jews" Pinchas E. Lapide, Hawthorne Books, 1967
  • "National Socialism and the Roman Catholic Church" Nathaniel Micklem, Oxford Univ. Press, 1939
  • Theological Anti-Semitism in the New Testament", Rosemary Radford Ruether, Christian Century, Feb. 1968, Vol. 85
  • "John Chrysostom and the Jews" Robert L. Wilken, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 1983
  • "Anti-Semitism in the Church?" by Julio Dam
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