Posts Tagged ‘martin luther’

NEW BOOKLET: THE REFORMATION: A Brief But Important Look (Some Things You Might Not Know)

2017 marks the 500th year anniversary of the Reformation period in history. This year, orthodox, ecumenical, emergent, liberal, and even secular groups will be “honoring” the Reformation. In this new booklet by Roger Oakland, certain aspects of the Reformation will be discussed, aspects you won’t find in these other circles.

 THE REFORMATION: A Brief But Important Look (Some Things You Might Not Know) by Roger Oakland is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of THE REFORMATION: A Brief But Important Look (Some Things You Might Not Know), click here.

THE REFORMATION: A Brief But Important Look (Some Things You Might Not Know)

By Roger Oakland
A study of church history reveals that the plan by the serpent to infiltrate Christianity has been relentless through the ages. This plan continues today and is accelerating as the apostasy foretold in the Bible unfolds. In my book, The Good Shepherd Calls, I document how the counterfeit bride (what the Bible calls the harlot) is assembling an amalgamation of apostate “Christianity” with the world’s religions for establishing a peace plan. This peace plan will in turn set up a one-world religion in the name of Christ to further the cause of peace. What is happening right now in the political, economic, and religious sectors is a gradual unfolding of this plan that will build up speed and momentum as we approach the coming of the Antichrist.

While it is impossible to accomplish a complete study of church history in one small booklet, I have chosen one period of time that will help us to comprehend a number of principles we are trying to clarify. While Christianity can become distorted and separated from the foundation of the Bible so it is no longer recognizable as biblical Christianity, God always calls out those who hear His voice. As Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10: 27).

Throughout church history, those who are called out form a remnant. Hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd in the midst of a Christianity that has gone astray and then speaking out against this deception is always met with opposition, hostility, and even death. Of course, this would be expected according to the battle described in the Bible between good and evil, God and Satan.

The area of church history we will be discussing in this booklet is a time known as the Reformation when the reformers split from the Roman Catholic Church in an attempt to re-establish what they believed was a Bible-based Christianity. The reformers, and those who followed their lead, then faced what was called the Counter Reformation (by Rome) and were persecuted. In many cases, they were tortured or killed because of their refusal to submit to papal teachings such as those that said Jesus could be found in a wafer (the Eucharist), and they would not pledge their allegiance to Rome or the pope. Many Christians today have either forgotten about the Reformation and the Counter Reformation, do not understand the implications of what took place, or have never even heard about this period of time.

It is also important to point out that those who led the Reformation were not infallible individuals. They were grieved by the way Christianity had departed from Scripture and had a desire to make corrections. But some of their corrections were not biblically based. How tragic it is today that many sheep follow these men (even naming themselves after them) and their ideas more than they follow the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. Even though a correction to the course of Christianity was made, the corrections often did not go far enough, or in some cases veered away from biblical truth altogether. In other cases, some reformers did not want to leave the Catholic Church but rather desired to change some things but leave other beliefs that were just as detrimental intact. Nevertheless, many of these men and women suffered greatly for their efforts to stand for truth.

It is essential that we examine and understand the past because many proclaiming Christians today are being led down the same path as the past, as if they are trying to rediscover the wheel, and they don’t understand that the Bible was written so we don’t have to thrash about aimlessly in the tides of life.

As the reformers discovered, contending for the faith is not an easy road to walk. My prayer is that those believers today who are indeed contending for the faith and trying to warn the deceived can do so in love. Contending is not being contentious. Instead, contending should be sharing the truth in love with the deceived.

The Reformation

One source describes the Reformation in the following way:

The Protestant Reformation was the 16th-century religious, political, intellectual and cultural upheaval that splintered Catholic Europe, setting in place the structures and beliefs that would define the continent in the modern era. In northern and central Europe, reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin and Henry VIII challenged papal authority and questioned the Catholic Church’s ability to define Christian practice. They argued for a religious and political redistribution of power into the hands of Bible- and pamphlet-reading pastors and princes. The disruption triggered wars, persecutions and the so-called Counter Reformation, the Catholic Church’s delayed but forceful response to the Protestants.1

More information from the same document suggests the goal of the reformers was to guide people away from a man-made system of power and control (purported to represent Christ) back to following Christ and His Word alone. We read:

Historians usually date the start of the Protestant Reformation to the 1517 publication of Martin Luther’s “95 Theses.” Its ending can be placed anywhere from the 1555 Peace of Augsburg, which allowed for the coexistence of Catholicism and Lutheranism in Germany, to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War. The key ideas of the Reformation—a call to purify the church and a belief that the Bible, not tradition, should be the sole source of spiritual authority—were not themselves novel. However, Luther and the other reformers became the first to skillfully use the power of the printing press to give their ideas a wide audience.2

The most significant contribution of the Reformation is its illumination and recognition of the true Gospel of justification (salvation) by grace alone through faith in Christ alone apart from earning salvation through works; this fundamental truth exploded as the Word of God (the Bible) became available to the common people. We can even thank the more obscure events, such as the invention of the printing press around 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg and the efforts of Bible translators for making this possible. Meanwhile, many other extra-biblical dogmas and traditions that had reinvented biblical Christianity with outright non-Christian beliefs had been implemented to control the sheep as well. Some of these were:

Selling of indulgences
Purgatory
Praying to dead “saints”
A focus on Mary as the mother of God
The rosary and repetitive prayers to “Mary”
The “Holy doors” opened on Roman Catholic Jubilee for forgiveness
Transubstantiation
The Eucharistic Jesus
Eucharistic adoration
Popery and the infallibility of the pope

While there were many different Reformation leaders in various countries, we will reference only a few.

Germany and Lutherism

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was an Augustinian monk and university lecturer in Wittenberg when he composed his “95 Theses,” which protested the pope’s sale of indulgences in lieu of doing penance. After Luther read and came to understand Romans 1:17 that says, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith,” Luther’s spiritual life was radically changed as he came to realize he was not under this continuous weight of condemnation but through Christ had found justification through faith alone. This understanding helped spark the Reformation.

Although he had hoped to spur renewal from within the Catholic Church, in 1521 he was summoned before the Diet of Worms and excommunicated. Sheltered by Friedrich, elector of Saxony, Luther translated the Bible into German and continued his production of vernacular pamphlets. When German peasants, inspired in part by Luther’s empowering “priesthood of all believers,” revolted in 1524, Luther sided with Germany’s princes. By the Reformation’s end, Lutheranism had become the state religion throughout much of Germany, Scandinavia, and the Baltics.3

Sadly, Luther later turned vehemently against the Jews after becoming discouraged because they wouldn’t convert. Tragically, Adolph Hitler utilized Luther’s anti-Jewish sentiments to help convince the German people to turn against the Jews.4

As far as Luther’s contribution of his discovery of the essence of the Gospel, that justification is through faith and not works, it cannot be understated, and he did suffer persecution for his reform efforts.

Switzerland and Calvinism

The Swiss Reformation began in 1519 with the sermons of Ulrich Zwingli, whose teachings largely paralleled Luther’s. In 1541, John Calvin, a French Protestant who had spent the previous decade in exile writing his Institutes of the Christian Religion, was invited to settle in Geneva and put his Reformed doctrine into practice—which stressed an extreme view of God’s sovereignty and humanity’s predestined fate where man has no control over his fate nor the free will to choose or reject Christ, as these things are predetermined. These teachings have brought much confusion to Christians over the centuries in that Calvin’s doctrine contradicts the message of the Gospel that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) and this verse from the Book of Revelation:

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)

The result of Calvin’s work was a theocratic regime of enforced, austere morality. Calvin’s Geneva became a hotbed for Protestant exiles, and his doctrines quickly spread to Scotland, France, Transylvania and the Low Countries, where Dutch Calvinism became a religious and economic force for the next 400 years.5

Like Luther, Calvin was fallible, and in addition, he was the cause of much human suffering. This can be documented in the writings of Bernard Cottret, a university professor who greatly admired Calvin, and whose book (published by Eerdman’s) was intended to be a favorable portrait of Calvin, yet it describes more than 38 executions attributed to Calvin.

[Cottret] documents the dates of each of John Calvin’s despicable acts and shows that Calvin’s methods included imprisonment, torture, and execution by beheading and by burning at the stake.6

Michael Servetus was a scientist and a theologian who was born in 1511. Calvin had given Servetus a copy of his writings hoping for admiration and a favorable review. When Servetus returned Calvin’s writings to him with review and critique comments in the margins, Calvin was infuriated. On October 27, 1553, at the age of 42, Servetus was burned alive at the stake. To add to his agony, Calvin had Servetus’ own theological book tied to his chest, the flames of which rose against his face. While Michael Servetus’ doctrines may not have all been biblically sound, Calvin’s torture and execution of this man is inexcusable.7

Another problem with Calvinism is that it offers no assurance of salvation. The reason for this is that while the Bible declares “whosoever” may come, Calvin’s grasp and understanding of “predestination” was so all consuming as to become “another gospel” where one gets saved if and only if God has already chosen to save someone; hence, receiving the Gospel according to Scripture is both impossible and of no avail to someone predestined to Hell. It is worth noting that in his will, Calvin wrote a plea to God to save him if He can find it in His will to do so.8 This is completely contrary to Scripture that promises us assurance of salvation:

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)

England and the “Middle Way”

The history of Christianity in England is marked by some extreme highs and lows, often happening simultaneously, where good and evil were always present, clashing with but never eradicating the other. King Henry VIII had a highly questionable personal life, but through the course of related events, broke away from Rome, instituted an English church, and made the Bible available to the people. Below is a brief historical synopsis of this turbulent period of English history:

In England, the Reformation began with Henry VIII’s quest for a male heir. When Pope Clement VII refused to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could remarry, the English king declared in 1534 that he alone should be the final authority in matters relating to the English church. Henry dissolved England’s monasteries to confiscate their wealth and worked to place the Bible in the hands of the people. Beginning in 1536, every parish was required to have a copy.

After Henry’s death, England tilted toward Calvinist-infused Protestantism during Edward VI’s six-year reign and then endured five years of reactionary Catholicism under Mary I. In 1559, Elizabeth I took the throne and, during her 44-year reign, cast the Church of England as a “middle way” between Calvinism and Catholicism, with vernacular worship and a revised Book of Common Prayer.9

Without a doubt, a reformation was needed. And the reformers paid a high price, some with their lives, to help pave a road away from the heresies of the Roman Catholic Church and toward biblical purity. But even though their roles in this were substantial, nevertheless, they were still just fallible men and women who were used of God and in some cases of our adversary. They should not have been put on spiritual pedestals to be esteemed so highly that centuries later, when a Christian challenges their writings, he is sorely ostracized by much of today’s Christian academia.

The Counter Reformation

Understanding some of the history behind Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and the Jesuit agenda to bring back the “separated brethren” to the “Mother of All Churches” reveals one of the darkest periods of church history. Untold numbers (some estimates are in the tens of thousands, others in the tens of millions) of Christians, Jews, and other non-Catholics were tortured and killed if they refused submission to the pope, refused to accept that Jesus Christ was present in the Eucharist, or simply refused to be Catholic.

In fact, at this point, I would suggest our readers either read or re-read a copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. This will give an excellent overview of the suffering and torture imposed on Bible believers during the Reformation and Counter Reformation Period by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. For those who are unable to read the book, we will provide an example, quoting a source that explains who the Huguenots were and the persecution they endured because they desired to follow the Good Shepherd:

The Huguenots were French Protestants. The tide of the Reformation reached France early in the sixteenth century and was part of the religious and political fomentation of the times. It was quickly embraced by members of the nobility, by the intellectual elite, and by professionals in trades, medicine, and crafts. It was a respectable movement involving the most responsible and accomplished people of France. It signified their desire for greater freedom religiously and politically.

However, ninety percent of France was Roman Catholic, and the Catholic Church was determined to remain the controlling power. The Huguenots alternated between high favor and outrageous persecution. Inevitably, there were clashes between Roman Catholics and Huguenots, many erupting into the shedding of blood.

Thousands of Huguenots were in Paris . . . on August 24, 1572. On that day, soldiers and organized mobs fell upon the Huguenots, and thousands of them were slaughtered. . . .

On April 13, 1598 . . . the newly crowned Henry IV [who favored the Huguenots] . . . issued the Edict of Nantes, which granted to the Huguenots toleration and liberty to worship in their own way. For a time, at least, there was more freedom for the Huguenots. However, about one hundred years later, on October 18, 1685, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. Practice of the “heretical” religion was forbidden. Huguenots were ordered to renounce their faith and join the Catholic Church. They were denied exit from France under pain of death. And, Louis XIV hired 300,000 troops to hunt the heretics down and confiscate their property.10

Nothing New Under the Sun

This brief study of the Reformation and the Counter Reformation opens a window to the past that has either been forgotten or ignored. We know that most Catholics today would be totally against people being tortured and burned at the stake, and while it is not our objective to open old wounds or to be called “Catholic bashers,” it is important to understand what happened in the past from a biblical perspective with the hope it won’t happen again.

Unfortunately, something is happening in the Protestant church today that would shock and horrify those believers who have gone before us suffering torturous deaths because they would not bow the knee to the Catholic Church. Many of today’s Protestants, who at one time agreed that the Reformation needed to take place, have now proclaimed that the Reformation has no relevance anymore and that Protestantism and Catholicism need to see themselves as one church. While the same unbiblical dogmas, traditions, and ideas are being taught by the Catholic Church (and being labeled as harmless by many Protestant leaders), the martyrs of the Reformation are now considered by some to be anti-ecumenical crackpots who endured tremendous suffering and death for what is now seen as trivial and unnecessary.

The church that once relied on the Word of God now follows men who have compromised the truth or ignored the truth entirely. Church history is being repeated, perhaps for the last time, and many have fallen asleep or are willingly ignorant.

The last-days delusion is upon us. Many Christians who are attempting to maintain biblical integrity and not “go with the flow” of megachurch madness cannot even find a church to attend that has not compromised the faith. Denominations and associations of fellowships that were once on track have been derailed.

If we have heeded the warnings and instruction of Scripture, we must expect this attack on biblical faith. Like those who were willing to speak the truth in the past and suffer the consequences, the Good Shepherd is calling those who are willing to take a similar stand today.

To order copies of THE REFORMATION: A Brief But Important Look (Some Things You Might Not Know), click here.

Endnotes:
1. History.com; The Reformation: http://www.history.com/topics/reformation.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Toward the end of his days, Luther became profoundly anti-Semitic, and the publishers and author of The Good Shepherd Calls and this booklet wish to dissociate themselves utterly from the views he expressed on the Jewish people during these final few years. As Perry, Peden, and Von Laue point out, “Initially, Luther hoped to attract Jews to his vision of reformed Christianity. In That Jesus Was Born a Jew (1523), the young Luther expressed sympathy for Jewish sufferings and denounced persecution as a barrier to conversion. He declared, ‘I hope that if one deals in a kindly way with the Jews and instructs them carefully from the Holy Scripture, many of them will become genuine Christians . . . We [Christians] are aliens and in-laws; they are blood relatives, cousins, and brothers of our Lord.’”  Based on this point, Luther went on to say: “if it were proper to boast of flesh and blood, the Jews belong more to Christ than we. I beg, therefore, my dear Papist, if you become tired of abusing me as a heretic, that you begin to revile me as a Jew.”  Thanks in no small part to the appalling extent of Rome’s past persecution of the Jews ‘in the Name of Christ’, the vast majority of Jews did not convert to Christianity, and this, combined with Rome’s many false teachings about the Jews, prompted Luther toward his violent diatribes against them. It should also be borne in mind that he lived in a very anti-Semitic time, and in a very anti-Semitic part of the world. Tragically, centuries later, Adolph Hitler utilized the anti-Semitic sentiments of Luther to help justify to the Germany people his atrocities toward the Jewish People, which resulted in over six million Jewish deaths.  For further information on Luther’s views of the Jews, read William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
5. http://www.history.com/topics/reformation, op. cit.
6. B. Kirkland D.D., Calvinism: None Dare Call it Heresy (Sarnia, ON: Local Church Ministries, www.fairhavensbaptist.com), p. 4.
7. Ibid.
8. Norman F. Douty, The Death of Christ, Rev. And Enlarged (Irving, TX: Williams & Watrous Pub. Co, 1978), p. 176.
9. http://www.history.com/topics/reformation, op., cit.
10. The Huguenot Society of America, “Huguenot History,” http://huguenotsocietyofamerica.org/?page=Huguenot-History.

To order copies of THE REFORMATION: A Brief But Important Look (Some Things You Might Not Know), click here.

Remembering the Holocaust – NEW BOOKLET – Who Really Killed Jesus?

Who Really Killed Jesus? written by Tony Pearce is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail.  Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Who Really Killed Jesus?, click here. This month, April 2013, is Holocaust Remembrance month. To remember the Holocaust, Lighthouse Trails has created this booklet and also Anita Dittman’s booklet, When Hitler Was in Power.

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailWho Really Killed Jesus?
by Tony Pearce

Sadly for millions of Jewish people the idea that Jesus could be the one to bring peace and reconciliation seems ridiculous and offensive.

I used to visit a Jewish lady who was born around the beginning of the 20th century and brought up in a small town in Poland. Her first memory of the name of Jesus was when her parents told her to hide in a cupboard in their home because it was “Good Friday,” and on that day, the Roman Catholics would come out of their church services into the Jewish quarter to throw stones at the Jews “to avenge the death of Jesus.” Not surprisingly, it was hard for her to see Jesus as anyone who had an answer to anything. As far as she was concerned, Jesus was “someone who hated us and is responsible for our misery.”

The roots of this hatred go back a long way. John Chrysostom, considered a saint and church father who lived in the 4th century, wrote:

The Jews are the most worthless of all men. They are lecherous, greedy and rapacious. They are perfidious murderers of Christ. The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ and for killing God there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. Christians may never cease vengeance and the Jews must live in servitude forever. God always hated the Jews. It is incumbent upon Christians to hate Jews.1

When Constantine established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in 312, he issued many anti-Jewish laws. Jews were forbidden to accept converts, while every enticement was used to make them forsake Judaism. At the Council of Nicea in 325, he said, “It is right to demand what our reason approves and that we should have nothing in common with the Jews.”

As Christianity in its Roman Catholic form became the dominant religion of Europe, those who rejected it became the forces of anti-Christ. The main group of rejecters was the Jewish people who therefore were considered by the church to be the “anti-Christ” suffering continual persecution. In Spain in 613, all Jews who refused to be baptized had to leave the country. A few years later the remaining Jews were dispossessed and given to wealthy “pious” Christians as slaves.

The first Crusade in 1096 saw fierce persecution of Jewish communities as the Crusaders began their journeys to the “Holy Land” to “liberate” it from the Muslims. They said, “We are going to fight Christ’s enemies in Palestine (i.e. the Muslims), but should we forget his enemies in our midst (i.e. the Jews)?” 12,000 Jews were killed in the cities along the River Rhine alone. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, they massacred all the Jews and Muslims they could find.

In 1215, Pope Innocent III condemned the Jews to eternal slavery by decreeing:

The Jews against whom the blood of Jesus Christ calls out, although they ought not to be killed, lest the Christian people forget the Divine Law, yet as wanderers ought they remain upon the earth until their countenance be filled with shame. (Epistle to the Count of Nevers)

The first ritual murder charge against the Jewish community was in Norwich in 1144 when the Jews were accused of killing a Christian child at Passover time to drain his blood in order to make Passover matzos. This hideous and ridiculous charge has resurfaced time and again, most recently in the Muslim world, leading to massacres of the Jews. In 1290, King Edward I expelled all Jews from England.

In 1478, the Spanish Inquisition was directed against heretics—Jews and non-Catholic Christians. In 1492, Jews were given the choice of forced baptism or expulsion from Spain. 300,000 left penniless.

Martin Luther hoped initially he would attract Jews to his Protestant faith, understanding that they could not accept the superstitions and persecutions of Rome. But when they rejected his attempts to convert them, he turned on them and uttered words of hatred used word for word by the Nazis in their propaganda:

What shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of the Jews? First their synagogues should be set on fire. Secondly their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed. Thirdly they should be deprived of their prayer books and Talmuds. Fourthly their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more. Fifthly passport and traveling privileges should be absolutely forbidden to the Jews. Sixthly they ought to be stopped from usury. Seventhly let the young and strong Jews and Jewesses be given the flail, the axe, the spade, the distaff, and spindle and let them earn their bread by the sweat of their noses. To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one, so that you and we may all be free of this insufferable devilish burden—the Jews.2

In the late 19th century, the Russian Orthodox Church instigated the pogroms, violent attacks on Jewish communities of the kind portrayed in the film Fiddler on the Roof. They devised a solution to the “Jewish problem”—one third extermination, one third forcible conversion to Christianity, and one third expulsion.

Russian anti-Semites produced the libelous pamphlet, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion alleging a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. This fiction was treated as a proven fact by the Nazis and was part of their propaganda effort to prepare people for the “Final Solution,” the extermination of six million members of European Jewry in the ovens of the Holocaust. Today the same libel is being peddled in the Muslim world to whip up hatred for Israel and the Jewish people.

This brief history of Jewish suffering shows the terrible truth that most of it has been instigated by people who claimed to be Christians. The main accusation that has been brought against the Jewish people by the professing church is that “the Jews killed Jesus.”

Who says the Jews killed Jesus?
Back in 1978, I was working as a French teacher at the Hasmonean School, an Orthodox Jewish grammar school in north London. One day I was covering for an absent teacher, minding my own business while the class got on with their work. One of the boys put his hand up and said, “Please sir, I want to ask you something. You’re a Christian. Why do you Christians say we killed Jesus?”

I answered him as best I could, saying that I personally did not say this, but agreed that much of the professing church had done so because they did not really understand the faith they claimed to represent or who Jesus really was. This let loose an outburst of questions and comments from the boys on what was obviously an explosive issue to them. News of this discussion got back to the Rabbis in the school, and the next day one of them came to me and said, “Mr. Pearce, we know you are a sincere Christian and are friendly to our people, but please do not mention the founder of Christianity again in this school.”

As I prayed about it afterwards, I realized how much hurt there is in the hearts of Jewish people over the way they have been persecuted in the name of Jesus. I also became aware of how much deeper is Jesus’ own hurt over the cruel misrepresentation which has been given to the Jewish people by His supposed followers down through the centuries, leading to a massive wall coming between Him and His own people.

The very first verse of the New Testament tells us of the genealogy of “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). Throughout the New Testament, His Jewish identity is stressed. He was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21), brought up in an observant Jewish home (Luke 2:41) and learned the Torah3 from His youth (Luke 2:46-49).

He told a Samaritan woman that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22), and He kept the Jewish feasts (John 7:2, John 10:22). He told His disciples in their first preaching mission not to go to the Gentiles but “rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6). Sure, He had fierce controversies with the religious leaders of His day, but so did the Hebrew prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and others.

Concerning the crucifixion, the New Testament does not put the blame on “the Jews” and certainly never even hints that succeeding generations of Jews should be persecuted on account of it. There is a problem with John’s Gospel in its use of the term “the Jews” to describe the opposition to Jesus, but an intelligent reading of the text shows that John is talking of the Jewish religious leadership, not the entire Jewish people.

John 5:18 states, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” Since the Gospel makes it clear that Jesus Himself (John 4:9) and the disciples are Jewish, the use of the term “the Jews” in John 5:18 and elsewhere in the Gospel cannot possibly mean the entire Jewish people. It means the Jewish religious leadership.

In many ways, John is the most Jewish of the Gospels showing the connection between Jesus’ teaching and Jewish festivals and customs. In John’s Gospel, Jesus makes it clear who is responsible for His death:

Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:17-18)

The implication of this is clear. Jesus Himself takes responsibility for His own death. It happens at the time and manner of His choosing, in order that He might fulfill the Father’s will by dying as the sacrifice for the sins of the world and rising again from the dead to give eternal life to those who receive Him. No human being, Jewish or Gentile, has the right or the power to take Jesus’ life from Him against His will.

This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 53, which states concerning the sufferings of the Messiah, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10). In chapter six of my book, The Messiah Factor, we look at the different arguments about this prophecy, but taking the view that it is about the sacrificial death of the Messiah fulfilled in Jesus, the responsibility for the Messiah’s sufferings is placed on God Himself. “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him” means that Jesus was put to death to fulfill the will of God.

The Gospels take up this idea as we see Jesus submitting Himself to the will of God in order to redeem the world. He prayed in Gethsemane:

O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39)

“This cup” refers to the suffering which He knew lay ahead. It was necessary for Him to go through this suffering in order that He might be “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

According to the Book of Hebrews, those who believe come to “Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24). The blood of Abel spoke of vengeance for Cain’s sin of murder (Genesis 4), but the blood of Jesus speaks of mercy and forgiveness.

Wrong church teaching however has turned this on its head and used the verse in Matthew’s Gospel, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matthew 27:25), to claim that the suffering of the Jewish people is the result of a self-inflicted curse and even that Christians are therefore justified in persecuting the Jewish people in Jesus’ name.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus Himself prayed from the cross, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), thus expressing God’s will that even those responsible for the death of Jesus, whether Jewish or Gentile, should find forgiveness through His name. Do we base our theology on the words of an enraged crowd or on the words of the Lord Jesus?

The answer to Jesus’ prayer was to be found not long afterwards through the preaching of the Apostles. Peter did place human responsibility for the death of Jesus on those who had called for Him to be crucified:

The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. (Acts 3:13-15)

This was not to say that every Jew alive was responsible, because Peter himself was Jewish as were all the followers of Jesus at that time. It was certainly not to say that subsequent generations of Jews who had no connection with the decision to call for Jesus’ death were responsible. It was to say that there were people alive, who were actually listening to Peter speak at that very moment, who were responsible.

But even to them there was a message of hope and forgiveness. Explaining the meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter said:

And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. (Acts 3:17-19)

The people who called for the death of Jesus were responsible for the miscarriage of justice that took place. However, they were ignorant of the spiritual meaning of it, hence Jesus’ words, “They know not what they do.” The purpose of the preaching of the Apostles was to tell them why Jesus died and rose again and to show them how they too could find forgiveness and eternal salvation by repenting of their sin and believing in His name.

As all the people hearing this message and the many thousands who responded to it in the early chapters of Acts were Jews, Jesus’ prayer for the forgiveness of those who had Him crucified was being answered. It is clear that the message of the Gospel was from the beginning intended to be “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek [Gentile]” (Romans 1:16).

Both Jews and Gentiles had to make a choice, whether to believe in the salvation offered by the Messiah or to reject it. Of course, many Jewish people did reject the apostles’ message, exactly as happens when the same message is presented to people around the world, to whichever race they belong. There was a division amongst the Jews of Jesus’ day about Him between those who were for Him and those who were against Him. Exactly the same division takes place today among all people of the world wherever the Gospel is preached.

The statement that really tells us who was responsible for the death of Jesus is to be found in Acts 4:24-28:
[The apostles] lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

In this prayer all categories of people are implicated, Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles and the people of Israel. The Gentiles are actually mentioned before the people of Israel, therefore they have no right to claim any superiority or judgmental attitude towards the Jews. It is clear that the physical act of crucifying Jesus was carried out on the orders of the Roman governor, by Roman soldiers in the Roman way. Strangely, no one has ever suggested that the Italians killed Jesus and should be placed under a curse because of this!

All this happened “to do whatever your hand and your purpose determined before to be done,” in other words to fulfill the predetermined plan of God. So again, the ultimate responsibility for the death of Jesus rests with God Himself in order to fulfill His purposes.

Any persecution of the Jews by the churches is a terrible distortion of the truth and a betrayal of the real Messiah Jesus. Unfortunately, the church did the exact opposite of what Paul taught in his letter to the Romans, where he spoke of Israel and the Jewish people being the root, which supports the “olive tree.” By this he meant that the Christian faith is based on the revelation given to the world through the Jewish people in the Jewish Bible and fulfilled in the Jewish Messiah. His message has been communicated to the Gentiles by His Jewish disciples who wrote the New Testament. Therefore, if Christians want to have true spiritual life, it is essential to acknowledge the debt they have to Israel and to repay that debt with love for the Jewish people.

In Romans 11, Paul makes it clear that whether the Jewish people accept Jesus or not, they are still “beloved for the father’s sakes” (i.e. the patriarchs of Israel and the covenant God made with them). He goes on to say that “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance [irrevocable]” (Romans 11:28-29). On this basis, Christians have a responsibility to love the Jewish people and treat them with justice and kindness, no matter what they believe about Jesus. Significantly, Paul wrote this letter to Christians living in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire and the city that was to dominate Christendom in the following centuries.

What went wrong? As the church became dominated by large numbers of Gentiles joining it, Jewish believers in Jesus became a minority. The Christians began to move away from the pattern of living given them by Jesus and the Apostles, forming a religious institution which bore little resemblance to the original model given in the New Testament. They also wanted to ingratiate themselves with the Roman authorities who were hostile to the Jewish people following the failed Jewish revolts against Rome in 70 and 135. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Roman Catholicism emerged as the dominant force in Europe, and the Bishop of Rome became the Pope, taking on much of the power and character of the Roman Emperor (even one of his titles—Pontifex Maximus). This produced a tragic distortion of the Christian message dominated by a corrupted clergy with vast wealth at its disposal, exploiting and corrupting the people of Europe in the name of Christianity.

How different it would have been if the Roman church had paid attention to the letter to the Romans! As the church lost its understanding of the Jewish people, it became cut off from its roots. Therefore the fruit it produced was not the fruit of the Holy Spirit—“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23)—but the works of the flesh manifested in the cruel and corrupt church of the Middle Ages and beyond.

When I was a student, I remember seeing a film of Bernard Malamud’s book, The Fixer, which made a great impression on me. In this story, Yakov Bok, a Jew living in Tsarist Russia is wrongly accused of murder and imprisoned. The case is a typical example of the anti-Semitism rife in Russia at the end of the 19th century. The authorities involve the Russian Orthodox Church in their interrogations of Bok, by trying to force him to convert to Christianity. They give him a New Testament to read, which he does. When the Russian Orthodox priest comes to interrogate Yakov to find out what he has learned from the New Testament, he states simply, “Jesus is Jewish. So whoever hates the Jew hates Jesus.” This is absolutely true, and hatred for the Jews demonstrates a spirit of force, tyranny, and prejudice which is the absolute opposite of the true spirit of Jesus the Messiah.
Notes:
1. John Chrysostom (c307-407), “Homilae Adversus Iudaeos.”
2. Martin Luther, (1483-1546), the founder of the German Reformation, Concerning the Jews and Their Lies.
3. Torah—the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Pentateuch. Considered by Judaism to be the most important section of the Bible and read in its entirety in the Synagogue every year.

This booklet is an extract of Tony Pearce’s book, The Messiah Factor. Tony Pearce is the director of a ministry in the U.K. called Light for the Last Days. There are two ministry websites you may wish to visit: http://www.lightforthelastdays.co.uk and http://messiahfactor.com, both of which have many articles, book extracts, and much valuable information. Also, his Light for the Last Days website is available in several different languages. You may e-mail Tony at enquiries@lightforthelastdays.co.uk.

A Question and Answer—The question was put to Tony Pearce: Do you believe that the Jewish people need salvation through Jesus Christ and thus need evangelizing. Tony answered by stating: Jesus is the Savior who fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah. Whether Jewish or Gentile, one must accept salvation through Jesus the Messiah!

Who Really Killed Jesus? (A word to those who hate the Jews)

by Tony Pearce
Light for the Last Days Ministries
(excerpt from The Messiah Factor)

Sadly for millions of Jewish people the idea that Jesus could be the one to bring peace and reconciliation seems ridiculous and offensive.

Nikki used to visit a Jewish lady who was born around the beginning of the 20th century and brought up in a small town in Poland. Her first memory of the name of Jesus was when her parents told her to hide in a cupboard in their home because it was ‘Good Friday’ and on that day the Roman Catholics would come out of their church services into the Jewish quarter to throw stones at the Jews ‘to avenge the death of Jesus.’ Not surprisingly it was hard for her to see Jesus as anyone who had an answer to anything. As far as she was concerned Jesus was ‘someone who hated us and is responsible for our misery.’

The roots of this hatred go back a long way. John Chrystostom, considered a saint and church father who lived in the fourth century, wrote: ‘The Jews are the most worthless of all men. They are lecherous, greedy and rapacious. They are perfidious murderers of Christ. The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ and for killing God there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. Christians may never cease vengeance and the Jews must live in servitude forever. God always hated the Jews. It is incumbent upon Christians to hate Jews.’ (1).

When Constantine established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in 312 he issued many anti-Jewish laws. Jews were forbidden to accept converts, while every enticement was used to make them forsake Judaism. At the Council of Nicea in 325 he said, ‘It is right to demand what our reason approves and that we should have nothing in common with the Jews.’ The links between Christianity and Judaism were broken as the Sabbath was changed from the seventh to the first day of the week and the date of Easter was separated from Passover.

As Christianity in its Roman Catholic form became the dominant religion of Europe those who rejected it became the forces of anti-Christ. The main group of rejecters were the Jewish people who therefore were considered by the church to be the ‘anti-Christ’ suffering continual persecution. In Spain in 613 all Jews who refused to be baptised had to leave the country. A few years later the remaining Jews were dispossessed and given to wealthy ‘pious’ Christians as slaves.

The first Crusade in 1096 saw fierce persecution of Jewish communities as the Crusaders began their journeys to the ‘Holy Land’ to ‘liberate’ it from the Muslims. They said, ‘We are going to fight Christ’s enemies in Palestine (i.e. the Muslims), but should we forget his enemies in our midst (i.e. the Jews)?’ 12,000 Jews were killed in the cities along the River Rhine alone. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 they massacred all the Jews and Muslims they could find.

In 1215 Pope Innocent III condemned the Jews to eternal slavery by decreeing, ‘The Jews against whom the blood of Jesus Christ calls out, although they ought not to be killed, lest the Christian people forget the Divine Law, yet as wanderers ought they remain upon the earth until their countenance be filled with shame.’

The first ritual murder charge against the Jewish community was in Norwich in 1144 when the Jews were accused of killing a Christian child at Passover time to drain his blood in order to make Passover matzos. This hideous and ridiculous charge has resurfaced time and again, most recently in the Muslim world, leading to massacres of the Jews. In 1290 King Edward I expelled all Jews from England.

In 1478 the Spanish Inquisition was directed against heretics – Jews and non-Catholic Christians. In 1492 Jews were given the choice of forced baptism or expulsion from Spain. 300,000 left penniless.

Martin Luther hoped initially that he would attract Jews to his Protestant faith, understanding that they could not accept the superstitions and persecutions of Rome. But when they rejected his attempts to convert them, he turned on them and uttered words of hatred used word for word by the Nazis in their propaganda:

What shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of the Jews? First their synagogues should be set on fire. Secondly their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed. Thirdly they should be deprived of their prayer books and Talmuds. Fourthly their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more. Fifthly passport and travelling privileges should be absolutely forbidden to the Jews. Sixthly they ought to be stopped from usury. Seventhly let the young and strong Jews and Jewesses be given the flail, the axe, the spade, the distaff, and spindle and let them earn their bread by the sweat of their noses. To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one, so that you and we may all be free of this insufferable devilish burden – the Jews. (2).

In the late 19th century the Russian Orthodox Church instigated the pogroms, violent attacks on Jewish communities of the kind portrayed in the film Fiddler on the Roof. They devised a solution to the ‘Jewish problem’ – one third extermination, one third forcible conversion to Christianity and one third expulsion.

Russian anti-Semites produced the libellous pamphlet, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion alleging a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. This fiction was treated as a proven fact by the Nazis and was part of their propaganda effort to prepare people for the ‘Final Solution’, the extermination of 6 million members of European Jewry in the ovens of the Holocaust. Today the same libel is being peddled in the Muslim world to whip up hatred for Israel and the Jewish people.

This brief history of Jewish suffering shows the terrible truth that most of it has been instigated by people who claimed to be Christians. The main accusations that has been brought against the Jewish people by the professing church is that ‘the Jews killed Jesus.’

Who says the Jews killed Jesus?

Back in 1978 I was working as a French teacher at the Hasmonean School, an Orthodox Jewish grammar school in north London. One day I was covering for an absent teacher, minding my own business while the class got on with their work. One of the boys put his hand up and said, ‘Please sir, I want to ask you something. You’re a Christian. Why do you Christians say we killed Jesus?’

I answered him as best I could, saying that I personally did not say this, but agreed that much of the professing church had done so, because they did not really understand the faith they claimed to represent or who Jesus really was. This let loose an outburst of questions and comments from the boys on what was obviously an explosive issue to them. News of this discussion got back to the Rabbis in the school and the next day one of them came to me and said, ‘Mr Pearce, we know you are a sincere Christian and are friendly to our people, but please do not mention the founder of Christianity again in this school.’

As I prayed about it afterwards I realised how much hurt there is in the hearts of Jewish people over the way they have been persecuted in the name of Jesus. I also became aware of how much deeper is Jesus’ own hurt over the cruel misrepresentation which has been given to the Jewish people by His supposed followers down through the centuries, leading to a massive wall coming between Him and His own people.

The very first verse of the New Testament tells us of the ‘genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham’ (Matthew 1:1). Throughout the New Testament His Jewish identity is stressed. He was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21), brought up in an observant Jewish home (Luke 2:41) and learned the Torah (3) from His youth (Luke 2:46-49).

He told a Samaritan woman that ‘salvation is of the Jews’ (John 4:22) and He kept the Jewish feasts (John 7:2, John 10:22). He told His disciples in their first preaching mission not to go to the Gentiles, but ‘rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 10:6). Sure, He had fierce controversies with the religious leaders of His day, but so did the Hebrew Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and others.

Concerning the crucifixion, the New Testament does not put the blame on ‘the Jews’ and certainly never even hints that succeeding generations of Jews should be persecuted on account of it. There is a problem with John’s Gospel in its use of the term ‘the Jews’ to describe the opposition to Jesus, but an intelligent reading of the text shows that John is talking of the Jewish religious leadership, not the entire Jewish people.

John 5:18 states: ‘Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.’ Since the Gospel makes it clear that Jesus Himself (John 4:9) and the disciples are Jewish the use of the term ‘the Jews’ in John 5:18 and elsewhere in the Gospel cannot possibly mean the entire Jewish people. It means the Jewish religious leadership.

In many ways John is the most Jewish of the Gospels showing the connection between Jesus’ teaching and Jewish festivals and customs. In John’s Gospel Jesus makes it clear who is responsible for His death: ‘Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from my Father’ (John 10:17-18)

The implication of this is clear. Jesus Himself takes responsibility for His own death. It happens at the time and manner of His choosing, in order that He might fulfil the Father’s will by dying as the sacrifice for the sins of the world and rising again from the dead to give eternal life to those who receive Him. No human being, Jewish or Gentile, has the right or the power to take Jesus’ life from Him against His will.

This fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah 53, which states concerning the sufferings of the Messiah, ‘It pleased the Lord to bruise Him, He has put Him to grief’ Isaiah 53:10. In chapter 6 we will look at the different arguments about this prophecy, but taking the view that it is about the sacrificial death of Messiah fulfilled in Jesus, the responsibility for Messiah’s sufferings is placed on God Himself. ‘It pleased the Lord to bruise Him’ means that Jesus was put to death to fulfil the will of God.

The Gospels take up this idea as we see Jesus submitting Himself to the will of God in order to redeem the world. He prayed in Gethsemane:

O my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will. (Matthew 26:39)

‘This cup’ refers to the suffering which He knew lay ahead. It was necessary for Him to go through this suffering in order that He might be ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29)

According to the Book of Hebrews those who believe come to ‘Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel’ Hebrews 12:24. The blood of Abel spoke of vengeance for Cain’s sin of murder (Genesis 4), but the blood of Jesus speaks of mercy and forgiveness.

Wrong church teaching however has turned this on its head and used the verse in Matthew’s Gospel, ‘His blood be upon us and upon our children’ (Matthew 27:25), to claim that the suffering of the Jewish people is the result of a self inflicted curse and even that Christians are therefore justified in persecuting the Jewish people in Jesus’ name.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus Himself prayed from the cross, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do,’ (Luke 23:34) thus expressing God’s will that even those responsible for the death of Jesus, whether Jewish or Gentile, should find forgiveness through His name. Do we base our theology on the words of an enraged crowd or on the words of the Lord Jesus?

The answer to Jesus’ prayer was to be found not long afterwards through the preaching of the Apostles. Peter did place human responsibility for the death of Jesus on those who had called for Him to be crucified:

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of Life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. (Acts 3.13-15)

This was not to say that every Jew alive was responsible, because Peter himself was Jewish as were all the followers of Jesus at that time. It was certainly not to say that subsequent generations of Jews who had no connection with the decision to call for Jesus’ death were responsible. It was to say that there were people alive, who were actually listening to Peter speak at that very moment, who were responsible.

But even to them there was a message of hope and forgiveness. Explaining the meaning of the death and resurrection of the Jesus, Peter said, ‘Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Messiah would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out.’ (Acts 3.17-19)

The people who called for the death of Jesus were responsible for the miscarriage of justice that took place. However they were ignorant of the spiritual meaning of it, hence Jesus’ words, ‘They know not what they do.’ The purpose of the preaching of the Apostles was to tell them why Jesus died and rose again and to show them how they too could find forgiveness and eternal salvation by repenting of their sin and believing in His name.

As all the people hearing this message and the many thousands who responded to it in the early chapters of Acts were Jews, Jesus’ prayer for the forgiveness of those who had Him crucified was being answered. It is clear that the message of the Gospel was from the beginning intended to be ‘the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (Gentile).’ (Romans 1.16)

Both Jews and Gentiles had to make a choice, whether to believe in the salvation offered by the Messiah or to reject it. Of course many Jewish people did reject the Apostles’ message, exactly as happens when the same message is presented to anyone in the world, whatever race they belong to. There was a division amongst the Jews of Jesus’ day about Him between those who were for Him and those who were against Him. Exactly the same division takes place today among all people of the world wherever the Gospel is preached.

The statement which really tells us who was responsible for the death of Jesus is to be found in Acts 4:24-28:

They (the Apostles) raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord you are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them, who by the mouth of your servant David have said, ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and His Messiah.” For truly against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever your hand and your purpose determined before to be done.”

In this prayer all categories of people are implicated, Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles and the people of Israel. The Gentiles are actually mentioned before the people of Israel, therefore they have no right to claim any superiority or judgmental attitude towards the Jews. It is clear that the physical act of crucifying Jesus was carried out on the orders of the Roman governor, by Roman soldiers in the Roman way. Strangely no one has ever suggested that the Italians killed Jesus and should be placed under a curse because of this!

All this happened ‘to do whatever your hand and your purpose determined before to be done’, in other words to fulfil the predetermined plan of God. So again the ultimate responsibility for the death of Jesus rests with God Himself in order to fulfil His purposes.

Any persecution of the Jews by the churches is a terrible distortion of the truth and a betrayal of the real Messiah Jesus. Unfortunately the church did the exact opposite of what Paul taught in his letter to the Romans, where he spoke of Israel and the Jewish people being the root which supports the ‘olive tree’. By this he meant that the Christian faith is based on the revelation given to the world through the Jewish people in the Jewish Bible and fulfilled in the Jewish Messiah. His message has been communicated to the Gentiles by His Jewish disciples who wrote the New Testament. Therefore if Christians want to have true spiritual life they have to acknowledge the debt they have to Israel and to repay that debt with love for the Jewish people.

In Romans 11 Paul makes it clear that whether the Jewish people accept Jesus or not, they are still ‘beloved for the sake of the fathers’ (i.e. the patriarchs of Israel and the covenant God made with them). He goes on to say that ‘the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable’ (Romans 11:28-9). On this basis Christians have a responsibility to love the Jewish people and treat them with justice and kindness, no matter what they believe about Jesus. Significantly Paul wrote this letter to Christians living in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire and the city which was to dominate Christendom in the following centuries.

What went wrong? As the church became dominated by large numbers of Gentiles joining it, Jewish believers in Jesus became a minority. The Christians began to move asway from the pattern of living given them by Jesus and the Apostles, forming a religious institution which bore little resemblance to the original model given in the New Testament. They also wanted to ingratiate themselves with the Roman authorities who were hostile to the Jewish people following the failed Jewish revolts against Rome in 70 and 135. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Roman Catholicism emerged as the dominant force in Europe, and the Bishop of Rome became the Pope, taking on much of the power and character of the Roman Emperor (even one of his titles – Pontifex Maximus). This produced a tragic distortion of the Christian message dominated by a corrupted clergy with vast wealth at its disposal, exploiting and corrupting the people of Europe in the name of Christianity.

How different it would have been if the Roman church had paid attention to the letter to the Romans! As the church lost its understanding of the Jewish people it became cut off from its roots. Therefore the fruit it produced was not the fruit of the Holy Spirit, ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control’ (Galatians 5:22-3), but the works of the flesh manifested in the cruel and corrupt church of the Middle Ages and beyond.

When I was a student I remember seeing a film of Bernard Malamud’s book, The Fixer, which made a great impression on me. In this story, Yakov Bok, a Jew living in Tsarist Russia is wrongly accused of murder and imprisoned. The case is a typical example of the anti-Semitism rife in Russia at the end of the 19th century. The authorities involve the Russian Orthodox Church in their interrogations of Bok, by trying to force him to convert to Christianity. They give him a New Testament to read, which he does. When the Russian Orthodox priest comes to interrogate Yakov to find out what he has learnt from the New Testament, he states simply, ‘Jesus is Jewish. So whoever hates the Jew hates Jesus.’ This is absolutely true and hatred for the Jews demonstrates a spirit of force, tyranny and prejudice which is the absolute opposite of the true spirit of Jesus the Messiah. (chapter 2 of The Messiah Factor)

Notes:

1. ‘Homilae Adversus Iudaeos’. John Chrysostom (c307-407) was a preacher with great powers of oratory from Antioch.
2. ‘Concerning the Jews and their lies’. Martin Luther (1483-1546), the founder of the German Reformation.
3. Torah – the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Pentateuch. Considered by Judaism to be the most important section of the Bible and read in its entirety in the Synagogue every year.

Related Articles:

The Nazis and God by Tony Pearce

Holocaust Remembrance 2011 – Those Who Stood

If Rob Bell and Neale Donald Walsch are Right, Then Hitler Will Be in Heaven!


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