Legacies of Anti-Semitism

Lecture Notes for Holocaust Lecture Series

History of Persecution: Sandy Lowe, PhD.

The Roots of Anti-Semitism:

March 13, 2001 Lecture

The theological origins and history of anti-Semitism is a long, complex story and not a very pretty one. Because our time together in class is so short, I have prepared some references for you to consider which otherwise I would like to cover with you one by one. In fact I will pull a few examples from this material, but you should have read it all and formulated some questions and thoughts before we meet.

Included are the following:

1. Anti-Jewish arguments and selections from the New Testament.

2. Representative anti-Semitic arguments in the early church which come to be known as the Adversus Judaeos (The Argument Against the Jews).

3. Bible passages from Matthew 27 and Matthew 23

4. A table comparing the parallels between Canonical (Official Church) and Nazi anti-Jewish measures.

5. Contemporary Vatican teachings and guidelines in the matter of anti-Semitism especially as it relates to the New Testament narrative.

6. A recommended reading list Selections from: The New English Bible. 1971


Anti-Jewish arguments and selections from the New Testament


`How dull you are!' he answered. `How slow to believe all that the


prophets said! Was the Messiah not bound to suffer thus before entering


upon his glory?' Then he began with Moses and all the prophets, and


explained to them the passages which referred to himself in every part of


the Scriptures.


`I know that you are descended from Abraham, but you are bent on


killing me because my teaching makes no headway with you. I am revealing


in words what I saw in my Father's presence; and you are revealing in

action what you learned from your father.' They retorted, `Abraham is our


father.' `If you were Abraham's children', Jesus replied, `you would do as

Abraham did. As it is, you are bent on killing me, a man who told you the


truth, as I heard it from God. That is not how Abraham acted. You are


doing your own father's work.'

They said, `We are not base-born; God is our father, and God alone'

Jesus said, `If God were your father, you would love me, for God is the


source of my being, and from him I come. I have not come of my own

accord; he sent me. Why do you not understand my language? It is


because my revelation is beyond your grasp.

`Your father is the devil and you choose to carry out your father's desires.


He was a murderer from the beginning, and is not rooted in the truth:

there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie he is speaking his own language,

for he is a liar and the father of lies. But 1 speak the truth and therefore you


do not believe me. Which of you can prove me in the wrong? If what I say


is true, why do you not believe me? He who has God for his father listens


to the words of God. You are not God's children; that is why you do not



ACTS 13, 14

On the following Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the


word of God. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealous


resentment, and contradicted what Paul said, with violent abuse. But Paul


and Barnabas were outspoken in their reply. `It was necessary', they said.

`that the word of God should be declared to you first. But since you reject

it and thus condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn

to the Gentiles. For these are our instructions from the Lord: "I have


appointed you to be a light for the Gentiles, and a means of salvation to

earth's farthest bounds."'



For there is a deep truth here, my brothers, of which I want you to take


account, so that you may not be complacent about your own discernment:

this partial blindness has come upon Israel only until the Gentiles have

been admitted in full strength; when that has happened, the whole of


Israel will be saved, in agreement with the text of Scripture:

`From Zion shall Come the Deliverer;

he shall remove wickedness from Jacob.

And this is the covenant I will grant them,

when I take away their sins.'


In the spreading of the Gospel they are treated as God's enemies for your


sake; but God's choice stands, and they are his friends for the sake of the

patriarchs. For the gracious gifts of God and his calling are irrevocable.


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Rejection of the Jews, Election of the Gentiles

Why was the temple made desolate? Was it on account of the ancient fabrication of the calf? Or was it on account of the idolatry of the people? Was it for the blood of the prophets? Was it for the adultery and fornication of Israel? By no means, for in all these transgressions they always found pardon open to them. But it was because they killed the Son of their Benefactor, for He is coeternal with the Father. [Hipp. C. Jud. 7]

Hippolytus c. 220 CE


If someone had killed your son. could you stand the sight of him or the sound of his greeting? Wouldn't you try to get away from him as if he were an evil demon; as if he were the Devil himself? The Jews killed the Son of your Master......... Will you so dishonor Him as to respect and cultivate His Murderers, the men who crucified Him? [Chry. Or. C. Jud. I, 7]

John Chrysostum C. 390 CE

Sibling Rivalry

Today the glory has passed front the people of Israel and they stand among the nations ashamed, as Cain was, at their unnatural deed. [Eph. Rhy. C. Jud. 8)

Jewish Dispora and Suffering

You can hear the wailing and lamentations of each of the prophets, wailing and lamenting characteristically over the calamities which will overtake the Jewish people because of their impiety to Him who had been foretold. How their Kingdom . . . would be utterly destroyed after their sin against Christ; how their Father's law would he abrogated, they themselves deprived of their ancient worship, robbed of the independence of their forefathers, and made slaves of their enemies instead of free men. How their royal metropolis would be burned with fire, their. .. holy altar undergo flames and extreme desolation, their city be inhabited no longer by its old possessors, but by races of other stock, while they would be dispersed among the Gentiles throughout the whole world with never a hope of any cessation of evil or breathing space from trouble (Euseb;D. E. I, 1]

Eusebius c. 340 CE

Sign of a Curse

For the circumcision according to the flesh; which is from Abraham, was given for a sign, that you may be separated from other nations and from us, and that you alone may suffer that which you now justly suffer, and that your land may be desolate and your cities burned with fire, and that strangers may eat your fruit in your; presence and not one of you may go up to Jerusalem.'

Justin Martyr C. 160 CE

Rejection and Substitution

It is because you killed Christ. It is became you stretched out your hand against the Lord. It is because you shed the precious blood, that there is now no restoration, no mercy anymore and no defense. Long ago your audacity was directed against servants, against Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah. If there was wickedness then, as yet the wont of all crimes had not been dared. But now you have eclipsed everything in the past and through your madness against Christ, you have committed the ultimate transgression. This is why you are being punished worse now than in the past. . . . If this were not the case God would not have turned his back on you so completely. . . But if it appears that He has utterly abandoned you; it is evident from this anger and abandonment that He is showing even to the most shameless that the One who was murdered was not a common lawbreaker, but was the very Lawgiver Himself, and the Cause, present among us, of innumerable blessings. Thus you who sinned against Him are in a state of dishonor and disgrace, while we who worship Him, though we once were less honored than any of you [i.e., as gentile pagans), are now established through the grace of God in a more respected position than any of you and in greater honor. [Chry. Or. C. Jud. VI, 2-3)

John Chrysostum c. 390 CE

Debauched, Animal Jews

I know that many people hold a high regard for the Jews and consider their way of life worthy of respect at the present time. This is why I am hurrying to pull up this fatal notion by the roots. . . . A place where a whore stands on display is a whorehouse. What is more, the synagogue is not only a whorehouse and a theater; it is also a den of thieves and a haunt of wild ....... not the cave of a wild animal merely, but of an unclean wild animals . . . . The Jews have no conception of [spiritual] things at all, but living for the lower nature, all agog for the here and now, no better disposed than pigs or goats, they live by the rule of debauchery and inordinate gluttony. Only one thing they understand: to gorge themselves and to get drunk. [Chry. Or. C. Jud. I, 3,4; PG 48, 847, 848]

John Chrysostum C. 390 CE

Fit for Slaughter

When animals have been fattened by having all they want to eat, they get stubborn and hard to manage. . . . Another prophet intimates the same thing when he says "Israel ran about madly like a heifer stung by a gadfly" and still another calls her "an untrained calf." When animals are unfit for work, they ate marked for slaughter, and this is the very thing which the Jews have experienced. By making themselves unfit for work, they have become ready for slaughter. This is why Christ said, "Ask for my enemies, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me." [Chry. Or C. Jud. 1.2; PG 48, 846)

John Chrysostum C. 390 CE

Selections taken from: Ruether, Rosemary Radford. Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism. 1974.

Matthew 27 and Matthew 23


When morning came, the chief

priests and the elders of the nation met

in conference to plan the death of

Jesus. They then put him in chains and

led him away, to hand him over to

Pilate, the Roman Governor.

Jesus was now brought before the

Governor, and as he stood there the

Governor asked him, 'Are you the

king of the Jews?' 'The words are

yours' said Jesus; and to the charges

laid against him by the chief priests ,

and elders he made no reply. Then

Pilate said to him, Do you not hent

all this evidence that is brought against

you?'; but he still refused to answer

one word, to the Governor's great


At the festival season it was the

Governor's custom to release one

prisoner chosen by the people. There

was then in custody a man of some

notoriety, called Jesus Bar-Abbas.

When they were assembled Pilate said

to them. 'Which would you like me to

release to you, Jesus Bar-Abbas, or

Jesus called Messiah?' For he knew

that it was out of malice that they had

bought Jesus before him.

While Pilate was sitting in court a

message came to him from his wife:

'Have nothing to do with that innocent

man; I was much troubled on his

account in my dreams last night.'

Meanwhile the chief priests and

elders had persuaded the crowd to ask

for the release of Bar-Abbas and to

have Jesus put do death. So when the

Governor asked, Which of the two do

you wish me to release to you?', they

said, Bar-Abbas. 'Then what am I to

do with Jesus called Messiah?' asked

Pilate; and with one voice they

answered, Crucify him!' 'Why, what

harm has he done?' Pilate asked; but

they shouted all the louder. 'Crucify


Pilate could see that nothing was

being gained, and a riot was smarting;

so he took water and wasbhed his hands

in full view or the people, saying, 'My

hands are clean of this man's blood;

see to that yourselves.' And with one

voice the people cried, 'His blood be

on us, and on our children.' he then

released Bar-Abbas to them; but he

had Jesus flogged, and handed him

over to be crucified.


Jesus then addressed the people and

his disciples in these words 'The


doctors of the law and the Pharisees

sit in the chair of Moses; therefore do


what they tell you; pay attention to

their words. But do not follow their

practice; for they say one thing and do

another. They make up heavy packs


and pile them on men's shoulders, but

will not raise a finger to lift the load

themselves. Whatever they do is done


for show. They go about with broad

phylacteries and with large tassels on

their robes; they like to have places of


honour at feasts and the chief seats in

synagogues, to be greeted respectfully


in the street, and to be addressed as


'But you must not be called "rabbi";


for you have one Rabbi, and you are

all brothers. Do not call any man on


earth "father"; for you have one

Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must


you be called "teacher"; you have one

Teacher, the Messiah. The greatest


among you must be your servant. For


whoever exalts himself will be humbled;

and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Alas, alas for you, lawyers and


Pharisees hypocrites that you are!

You shut the door of the kingdom of

Heaven in men's faces; you do not

enter yourselves, and when others are

entering, you stop them.

'Alas for you, lawyers and Pharisees


hypocrites! You travel oversea and

land to win one convert; and when you

have won him you make him twice as

fit for hell as you are yourselves.


Alas for you, blind guides! You say,


"If a man swears by the sanctuary,

that is nothing; but he swears by the

gold in the sanctuary, he is bound by

his oath." Blind fools! Which is the


more important, the gold, or the

sanctuary which sanctifies the gold?

Or you say, "If a man swears by the


altar, that is nothing; but if he swears

by the offering that lies on the altar, he

is bound by his oath." What blindness!


Which is the more important, the

offering, or the altar which sanctifies

it? To swear by the altar, then is to


swear both by the altar and by what-

ever lies on it; to swear by the sanctuary


is to swear both by the sanctuary and

by him who dwells there; and to swear


by heaven is to swear both by the

throne of God and by him who sits

upon it.

Alas for you, lawyers and Pharisees,


hypocrites? You pay piles of mint and

dill and cummin; but you have

overlooked the weightier demands of

the Law, justice, mercy, and good

faith. It is these you should have

practiced, without neglecting the others.

Blind guides! You strain off a midge,


yet gulp down a camel!

Alas for you, lawyers and Pharisees,


hypocrites! You clean the outside of

cup and dish, which you have filled

inside by robbery and self indulgence!

Blind Pharisee! Clean the inside of the


cup first; then the outside will be clean


'Alas for you, lawyers and Pharisees:


hypocrites! You are like tombs covered

with whitewash; they look well from

outside, but inside they are full of dead

men's bones and all kinds of filth. So


it is with you: outside you look like

honest men, but inside you are brim

full of hypocrisy and crime

'Alas for you, lawyers and Pharisees,


hypocrites! You build up the tombs

of the prophets and embellish the

monuments of the saints, and you say,


"If we had been alive in our fathers'

time, we should never have taken part

with them in the murder of the

prophets." So you acknowledge that


you are the Sons of the men who killed

the prophets. Go on then, finish off


what your fathers began!

'You snakes, you vipers' brood, how


can you escape being condemned to

hell? I send you therefore prophets,


sages, and teachers; some of them you

will kill and crucify, others you will

flog in your synagogues and hound

from city to city. And so, on you will


fall the guilt of all the innocent blood

spilt on the ground, from innocent

Abel to Zechariah son of Berachiah

whom you murdered between the

sanctuary and the altar. Believe me,


this generation will bear the guilt of it


'0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that


murders the prophets and stones the

messengers sent to her! How often have

I longed to gather your children, as a

hen gathers her brood under her wings

but you would not let me. Look, look


there is your temple, forsaken by

God." And I tell you, you shall never


see me until the time when you say,

"Blessings on him who comes in the

name of the Lord"'

Prophecies and warnings

Jesus was leaving the temple when

his disciples came and pointed to the

temple buildings. He answered, 'Yes,

look at it all. I tell you this: not one

stone will be left upon another; all will

be thrown down.

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Prohibition of intermarriage and of sexual intercourse between Christians and Jews. Synod of Elvira. 306

Law for the Protection or German Blood and Honor. September 15, 1935

Jews and Christians not permitted to eat together. Synod of Elvira. 306

Jews barred from dining cars (Transport Minister to Interior Minister, December 30.1939)

Jews not allowed to hold public Office. Synod of Clermont, 535

Law for the Reestablishment of the Professional Civil Service. April 7, 1933

Jews not allowed to employ Christian servants or possess Christian slaves, 3d Synod of Orleans, 538

Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor. September 15, 1935

Jews not permitted to show themselves in the streets during Passion Week. 3 (1 Synod of OrlEans, 538.

Decree authorizing local authorities to bar Jews from the streets on certain days (i.e. Nazi holidays), December 3, 1938

Burning of the Talmud and other books, 12th Synod of Toledo. 681

Book burnings in Nazi Germany

Christians not permitted to patronize Jewish doctors, Trullan Synod. 692

Decree of July 25,1938

Christians not permitted to live in Jewish homes, Synod of Narhonne, 050

Directive by Göring providing for concentration of Jews in houses, December 28, 1938 (Bormann to Rosenberg, January 17, 1939)

Jews obliged to pay taxes for support of the Church to the same extent as Christians. Synod of Gerona, 1078

The "Sozialausgleichsabgabe" which provided that Jews pay a special income tax in lieu of donations for Party purposes imposed on Nazis, December 24, 1940

Jews not permitted to be plaintiffs, or witnesses against Christians in the Courts, 3d Lateran Council, 1179, Canon 26

Proposal by the Party Chancellery that Jews not be permitted to institute civil suits, September 91942 (Bormann to Justice Ministry, September 9,1942),

Jews not permitted to withhold inheritance from descendants who had accepted Christianity, 3d Lateran Council, 1179, Canon 26

Decree empowering the Justice Ministry to void wills offending the "sound judgment of the people," July 31, 1938.

The marking of Jewish clothes with a badge, 4th Lateran Council, 1215. Canon 68 (Copied from the legislation by Caliph Omar II [636-644], who had decreed that Christians wear blue belts and Jews, yellow belts)

Decree of September 1, 1941

Construction of new synagogues prohibited, Council of Oxford, 1222

Destruction of synagogues in entire Reich. November 10, l938 (Heydrich to Göring. November 11, 1938)

Christians not permitted to attend Jewish ceremonies, Synod of Vienna. 1267

Friendly relations with Jews prohibited. October 24, 1941 (Gestapo directive)

Jews not permitted to dispute with simple Christian people about the tenets of the Catholic religion. Synod of Vienna. 1267

Compulsory ghettos. Synod of Breslau, 1267

Order by Heydrich, September 21, 1939

Christians not permitted to sell or rent real estate to Jews. Synod of Ofen, 1279

Decree providing for compulsory sale of Jewish real estate. December 3, 1938

Adoption by a Christian of the Jewish religion or return by a baptized Jew to the Jewish religion defined as a heresy. Synod of Mainz, 1310

Adoption of the Jewish religion by a Christian places him in jeopardy of being treated as a Jew (Decision by Oberlandesgericht Königsberg. 4th Zivilsenat. June 26.1942)

Jews not permitted to act as agents in the conclusion of contracts, especially marriage contracts between Christians. Council of Basel, 1434. Sessio XIX

Decree of July 6.1938. providing for liquidation of Jewish real estate agencies. brokerage agencies, and marriage agencies catering to non-Jews

Jews not permitted to obtain academic degrees. Council of Basel, 1434, Sessio XIX

Law against Overcrowding of German Schools anti Universities. April 25, 1933.

(from Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of European Jews. 1985)

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By Eugene J. Fisher
Executive Secretary, Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations
National Conference of Catholic Bishops

The following chart lists several areas in which the wording of the 1975 Vatican Guidelines and the more recent "Notes" have specifically clarified wording left "creatively vague" by the Second Vatican Council, thus determining how Nostra Aetate is today to be read. Many of these, it will be noted, are directly responsive to critiques made of Nostra Aetate and the 1975 Guidelines in the dialogue between Catholics and Jews sparked by the Council It is to be expected that the "Notes" will undergo a similar process of clarification through dialogue.

Nostra Aetate, 1965

Vatican Guidelines, 1975

"Notes for Preaching and Catechesis," 1985

"The Church decries hatreds, persecutions and manifestations of anti-Semitism directed against Jews at any time and by anyone."


- "condemn, as opposed to the very spirit of Christianity, all forms of anti-Semitism and discrimination."


- "The urgency and importance of precise, objective and rigorously accurate teaching on Judaism for our faithful follows too from the danger of anti-Semitism, which is always ready to reappear under different guises." VI 26 reaffirms the condemnation of anti-Semitism.

"- makes no reference to traditional false stereotyping of the Pharisees or to misunderstandings which can arise from reading the N.T. or in the liturgy."

"- mandates an `overriding preoccupation' in liturgy and education to provide adequate background for Scriptural readings `which Christians, if not well informed, might misunderstand because of prejudice,' and specifies John's Gospel and the treatment of the Pharisees."

"Two major sections of the text (III and IV) spell out the issues in detail, e.g., Jesus `extolled respect for 'the Law' and `invited obedience to it.' He shared 'with the majority of Palestinian Jews of that time,' central elements of pharisaic doctrine.




"... references hostile or less than favorable to the Jews have their historic context in conflicts between the nascent Church and the Jewish community. Certain controversies reflect Christian-Jewish relations long after the time of Jesus."

Makes no reference to the Holocaust of European Jewry.


Refers to the Holocaust as the "historical setting" of Nostra Aetate and the present Jewish Christian dialogue.

Mandates the development of Holocaust curricula in religious education programming:: "Catechesis should... help in understanding the meaning for the Jews of the extermination (Shoah) during the years 1939-45, and its consequences."

No reference to State of Israel.





* 4

No reference to State of Israel.





"Speaks of the `religious attachment' between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel as one that `finds its roots in the Biblical tradition' and as an essential aspect of Jewish covenantal `fidelity to the one God.' Affirms `the existence of the State of Israel' on the basis of `the common principles of international law,' while warning against biblical fundamentalist approach to contemporary 'political options' in the Middle East."

Presents the Church as the new people of God.




Avoids supercessionist implications and states instead: "The Old Testament and the Jewish tradition founded on it must not be set against the New Testament in such a way that the former seems to constitute a religion of only justice, fear and legalism with no appeal to the love of God and neighbor."

Jews are to be presented as "the people of God of the Old Covenant, which has never been revoked by God," and "a chosen people." Both Jews and Christians "are driven...by the command to love our neighbor."


No direct reference to joint witness to the world, though the possibility is implicit in the affirmation that God "does not repent of the gifts he makes or of the calls he issues.

"Jewish and Christian tradition, founded on the Word of God.. will work willingly together, seeking social justice and peace on every level.


"We must also accept our responsibility to prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah by working together for social justice.. To this we are driven by a common hope for the Kingdom of God."


1. For additional comments on anti-Semitism and racism, see Analysis of "Notes," Department of Interreligious Affairs, November, 1985, p. 9,10.

2. Ed. note: For additional comments on typology as a method of biblical interpretation, see Analysis of Notes, p. 11-13.

3. Ed. note: For additional comments on Holocaust see Analysis of Notes,,p. 17, 18.

4. Ed. note: For additional comments on Israel see Analysis of Notes, p. 10, ll.

5. Ed. note: For additional comments on Election and Chosenness, see Analysis of Notes, p. 11.

6. Excerpts from this paper, which was presented by Dr. Fisher at a meeting of the International Vatican-Jewish Liaison Committee, October, 1985.

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Dr. Sanford Lowe

Santa Rosa Junior College

 Recommended Reading

Ruether, Rosemary Radford. Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism. New York: The Seabury Press,1974 (1979).

Klein, Charlotte. Anti-Judaism in Christian Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978.

Davies, Alan T., ed. Anti-Semitism and the Foundation of Christianity. New York: Paulist Press, 1979.

Oberman, Heiko A. The Roots of Anti-Semitism: In the Age of Renaissance and Reformation. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.

Gager, John G. The Origins of Anti-Semitism: Attitudes Toward Judaism in Pagan and Christian Antiquity. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Prager, Denis and Telushkin, Joseph. Why the Jews: The Reason for Anti-Semitism. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983.

Crossan, John Domlnic. Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1995.

Back to the Holocaust Lecture Series Schedule page

All information from: Lowe, Sanford. A Theological History of Anti-Semitism. Lecture handout, Holocaust Lecture Series, Sonoma State University 1998.

created 2/3/99 by Carolyn Williams.
Updated 3/1/2001