Canadian Prime Minister ignores mention of Jews in Holocaust Statement

Yesterday, January 27 2016, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued the following statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day;

“On this day, we pay tribute to the memory of the millions of victims murdered during the Holocaust. We honour those who survived atrocities at the hands of the Nazi regime, and welcome their courageous stories of hope and perseverance.

The Holocaust is a stark reminder of the dangers and risks of allowing hate, prejudice, and discrimination to spread unchallenged. It also reminds us that silence must never be an option when humanity is threatened.

As we pause to educate ourselves and our families on the bitter lessons of the Holocaust, we also strengthen our resolve to work with domestic and international partners to continue defending human rights and condemning intolerance.”

Most notable was the Canadian Prime Minister’s blatant omission of any reference to the Jewish people or to the anti-Jewish ideology which fueled the Nazi’s systematic extermination of 6 million Jews.

While others were also murdered at the hands of the Nazi (including Roma, homosexuals, people with mental or physical disabilities, etc.), for the Canadian Prime Minister to neglect to make explicit reference to the anti-Jewish nature of the Holocaust fails to bring to mind ‘the bitter lessons of the Holocaust’ which the Prime Minister called in his statement for the Canadian people to educate themselves of.

For the Prime Minister to state that “silence against hate, prejudice, and discrimination cannot remain unchallenged” while simultaneously remaining silent himself with regards to the anti-Jewish ideology and atrocities committed against Jews during the Holocaust — is both astounding and of great concern (especially in light of the documented rise of antisemitism in Canada and around the world).

A society cannot address what it will not speak of.


Note: We have written the Prime Minister’s office to express the above concerns to him and would encourage you to send your comments to him either by fax or email at:

Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Fax: 613-941-6900

[email protected]

 

Reference

http://pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2016/01/27/statement-prime-minister-canada-holocaust-remembrance-day#sthash.HaeK6PuF.dpuf

Understanding Matthew’s Genealogy – Old Testament Overview

Introduction

When genealogies are read today, the tendency is to view them as recording of the details of history but to superimpose that paradigm onto the genealogy in Matthew’s Gospel would fail to consider the culture into which it was given, as well as the purpose of it.

The Gospel of Matthew’s genealogy, begins with Abraham and looks forward to the birth of Jesus.  This is quite intentional and as with the rest of the details found in Matthew, the purpose of the genealogy is the same; highlighting the prophetic significance pertaining to the coming of Messiah.

This was a patriarchal society, where one’s lineage was of central concern for defining status and identity which is why in Scripture, people are often referred to as “so-and-so, son of [blank]” as in David, son of Jesse or Isaac, son of Abraham.  In a Biblical context, someone is not simply an “individual” — but is seen as “someone,  son of another guy” — and who that other guy is strongly dictated how their offspring was viewed and treated.  This is relevant to understand the genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew as recorded in the first 17 verses of Matthew Chapter 1.

1 The historical record of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:

2 Abraham fathered Isaac,
Isaac fathered Jacob,
Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar,
Perez fathered Hezron,
Hezron fathered Aram,
4 Aram fathered Amminadab,
Amminadab fathered Nahshon,
Nahshon fathered Salmon,
5 Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab,
Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth,
Obed fathered Jesse,
6 and Jesse fathered King David.

Then David fathered Solomon by Uriah’s wife,
7 Solomon fathered Rehoboam,
Rehoboam fathered Abijah,
Abijah fathered Asa,
8 Asa fathered Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat fathered Joram,
Joram fathered Uzziah,
9 Uzziah fathered Jotham,
Jotham fathered Ahaz,
Ahaz fathered Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah fathered Manasseh,
Manasseh fathered Amon,
Amon fathered Josiah,
11 and Josiah fathered Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the exile to Babylon.
From the Exile to the Messiah
12 Then after the exile to Babylon
Jechoniah fathered Shealtiel,
Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel fathered Abiud,
Abiud fathered Eliakim,
Eliakim fathered Azor,
14 Azor fathered Zadok,
Zadok fathered Achim,
Achim fathered Eliud,
15 Eliud fathered Eleazar,
Eleazar fathered Matthan,
Matthan fathered Jacob,
16 and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary,
who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were 14 generations; and from David until the exile to Babylon, 14 generations; and from the exile to Babylon until the Messiah, 14 generations.

Matthew 1: 1-17

According to the introduction to the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels, it is more common in Hebrew texts for lists of generations to be of children, not ancestors.  Why then might this be different with the genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew?

The details given of Matthew’s Gospel are meant to contextualize the life of Jesus in terms of the prophetic fulfillment of promises made by God to the Jewish people for generations beforehand.  In a patriarchal society such as this one, it was important to mention who a person’s ancestors were; especially in the context of making the claim that this person was the long-awaited Messiah. That is why Chapter 1, verse 1 of Matthew opens with the statement:

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham”

This genealogy spans almost the entire Tenakh (Old Testament); from the calling of Abraham, to the re-building of the Second Temple under Zerubbabel, to the birth of Jesus.  Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at these specific people in this genealogy, at different points in Jewish history;

  1. Abraham
  2. Isaac
  3. Jacob
  4. Judah
  5. David
  6. Solomon
  7. Josiah
  8. Zerubbabel
  9. Joseph

…but to understand who these people were and the significance of them being mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy, it is necessary to be familiar with the history of the entire Old Testament.

It has been our experience that most Gentile Christians we know, have never read through the entire  Old Testament even once. They’ve read bits and pieces here and there, such a Psalms or Proverbs and sometimes a whole section if it was taught or they read a study of it.  Even when churches offer classes to help familiarize Gentile Christians with the Old Testament, they are given from the perspective of the Church looking backward to the Law rather than from the perspective of creation looking forward to the coming of Messiah.  While the material may “start” with the book of Genesis, the starting point is rooted in theological assumptions about the relationship between God and the Jewish people that significantly alters how these events are understood.

Without even the most basic understanding of Old Testament history it is impossible to begin to fully appreciate the significance of the coming of Jesus as described in Matthew’s Gospel, so we will give a brief overview of Old Testament history, here.

Overview of Old Testament History

The easiest way to understand the bulk of Biblical history from creation to the coming of Jesus is to think of them in terms of eras, and then to see events and specific people as specific to that era or period of history.

For the purposes of our study, the main eras are;

  1. The Beginning: (~60,000 BC-3000 BC)
  2. Days of the Patriarchs: (~2000-1500 BC)
  3. The Twelve Tribes: (~1500-1200 BC)
  4. Judges to Kingdom: (~1200-930 BC)
  5. The Two Kingdoms: (~930-586 BC)
  6. Exile and Return: (~586-332 BC)
  7. The Inter-Testamentary Period: (~332-37 BC)
  8. Coming of Messiah: (~37 BC-30 AD)
  9. The Jews, the Gentiles and the Kingdom: (~100-400 AD)

1.  The Beginning: (~60,000 BC-3000 BC)

  • Creation, early human civilization, and various early event accounts
  • Note: we hold to an “old earth” creation view, best summarized by Newman and Eckelmann in “Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth”; based on the concept of “a day” (“yom” in Hebrew embodying more than a 24-hour period)

2. Days of the Patriarchs: (~2000-1500 BC)

  • The lives of Israel’s famous ancestors [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob]
  • the changing of empires
  • ‘Exodus-lead-up-events’ in Egypt during the Middle Bronze Age

3. The Twelve Tribes: (~1500-1200 BC)

  • Exodus from Egypt
  • to the 40 years wondering in the desert
  • to the conquest of the Promise Land

4. Judges to Kingdom: (~1200-930 BC)

  • transition from a tribal confederation with the Judges
  • to a unified kingdom under Saul, David and then Solomon (who built the First Temple)

5. The Two Kingdoms: (~930-586 BC)

  • The split of the unified kingdom after the death of King Solomon
  • Kingdom of Israel in the North with Samaria as its capital
  • Kingdom of Judah in the South with Jerusalem as its capital
  • Assyrian Empire conquers the Northern Kingdom of Israel around the 7th century BC, takes Israelites captive, essentially never to be seen again
  • Babylonian Empire conquers Southern Kingdom of Judah around the 5th century BC, takes some of the population into exile
  • destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, around 586 BC

6. Exile and Return: (~586-332 BC)

  • Jews are consoled by the bitterness of the Babylonian exile by numerous promises of God through the Law and the Prophets of a coming Messiah and the promised return from captivity that will be accompanied by the restoration of Israel.
  • fulfillment in itself and also a foreshadowing of the end of days
  • during this era is when we encountered the Persian Empire aka the Medes.
  • It is around this time that the Second Temple is built by Zerubbabel during the reign of King Darius I (~515 BC).

7. The Inter-Testamentary Period: (~332-37 BC)

  • The conquest of the Holy Land by Alexander the Great during this time, led to the development of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures
  • Alexander the Great’s Greek Empire split into three after his death around the 2nd century;
    • the Antigonids in Greece
    • the Ptolemies in Egypt
    • the Seleucids in the rest of the Middle East (including parts of N.W. India)
  •  the first four of the Syrian Wars (between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids) took place between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC.
  • also around the same time period,  the first two Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage took place

Important event:

  • 175-164 BC;  Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucids took over the Jewish Temple, sacrificed a pig on the alter, spilling its blood on the Torah scrolls
  • led to the famous Maccabean Revolt between ~166-160 BC by the Jewish family the Maccabees (aka the Hasmoneans)
  • The Maccabean Revolt successfully set up an independent Jewish government known as the Hasmonean Dynasty that was able to govern between ~142-63 BC; almost a century!
  • plagued by war with neighbours, political infighting, terrorism, murder and conflict between the Pharisees and the Sadducees
  • This Hasmonean Dynasty finally ends with the Holy Land coming under the control of the Roman Empire by ~63 BC under the leadership of famous general Pompey the Great
  • that same year Gaius Octavius (aka Augustus Caesar) is born.
  • Gaius Octavius take power of the Roman Empire as its head around 31 BC under the title “Augustus” and rules until around 14 AD
  • Augustus Caesar brings important reforms during his rule that prosper the empire and strengthens the military

8. Coming of Messiah: (~37 BC-30 AD)

  • the events of and leading up to Messiah’s birth, ministry, death and resurrection recorded by the four Gospels

9. The Faithful Remnant: (~30-100 AD)

  • The early Nazarenes (Jewish believers) are commissioned by Messiah after His resurrection to bring the Gospel message to the Gentiles; beginning the ‘time of the Gentiles’ as promised
  •  Jewish revolt over Roman taxation around 66 AD
  • led to the Roman desecrating of the Temple (by going where non-Jews were not to be) to take the holy things of the Temple as an  equivalent value of unpaid taxes, led to the massacre of thousands of Jews
  • a failed revolt by the Zealots  attempting to take over and forcefully build an independent Jewish state completely free from Roman rule leads to the Siege of Jerusalem, by the Romans
  • This revolt was an attempt by the Zealots to reproduce what the Maccabee brothers did in the previous century, except now with the Romans
  • This led to what is known as the First Jewish-Roman war (~66-73 AD)
  • Not long after this,  the Second Jewish Temple was destroyed in 70 AD at the end of a long Siege of Jerusalem

Also around this time;

  • a new-Sanhedrin was re-established at Jamnia
  • led by former leading Pharisee Yohanan ben Zakkai under exclusively Pharisaic control
  • around 72-73 AD, Gamaliel II (grandson of the Gamaliel referred to in the book of Acts)  introduced changes in the Jewish liturgy of the synagogue designed to expose what he considered “minim” or heretics (including the Essenes and Nazarenes)
    • added a line into the Amidah or ‘standing’ prayer (the central prayer of the liturgy of synagogue) cursing the “mimin” (heretics) and thereby identifying anyone who couldn’t in good conscience say ‘amen’ in ascent, resulting in excommunication
    • called euphemistically “blessing of the heretics” or “blessing of the minim
    • Nazarenes (Jewish believers in Jesus the Messiah) no longer able to continue to gather in the synagogue because they couldn’t say the revised Amidah

10. The Jews, the Gentiles and the Kingdom: (~100-400 AD)

  • The Jewish sect of Nazarenes are pushed further and further into obscurity by the growing divide and hostility between the Gentile Church in Rome and the Pharisee-controlled synagogues of Judea; both of whom will eventually declare these Torah-observant Jewish-believers heretics

Note: to understand how Christianity (as a religion independent of Judaism) and rabbinic Judaism came to be, we’d encourage you to read our last post; “Christianity and Judaism as siblings, not parent and child ” [http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/christianity-and-judaism-as-siblings-not-parent-and-child/]

  • ~ 132 AD the Emperor Hadrian  threatened to rebuild Jerusalem as a pagan city dedicated to Jupiter
  • led to leading members of the Sanhedrin supporting a rebellion led by Simon bar Kochba — became known as “the Bar Kochba Revolt
  • Bar Kochba Revolt ended around 135 AD in defeat
  • the vast majority of Jews (including Nazarenes who were seen as a sect of Judaism) were sent into exile
  • with the Jews scattered in the Diaspora, there was an effort to preserve the Oral traditions of the elders (what the Pharisees call the “Oral Torah”) ~ 200 AD, Judah haNasi edited the judgements and traditions of the elders into an authoritative code, called the Mishnah.
  • Later expansions of the Mishnah became the Jerusalem Talmud (~400 AD) and Babylonian Talmud (~500 AD).
  • The writing of the Mishnah and Talmuds was the final transformation of Second Temple Judaism into Rabbinic Judaism

Simultaneously to this;

  • the mostly Gentile Church formally rejected the Jewish practices of the Nazarenes and adopted decidedly “Christian” practices
  • As early as 110 AD, Sabbath observance on Saturday was changed to Sunday (called in Scripture the “Lord’s Day”) by Ignatius of Antioch
  • Around ~135 AD, Justin Martyr said that the Jews defeat in the Jewish Roman Wars and the destruction of the Second Temple were God’s visitation and a deserved punishment for rejecting the Messiah — sewing the seeds for replacement theology (aka supracessionism — a theological belief that God rejected the Jews and chose the Church instead
  • Around 240 AD, replacement theology obtained further support when Origen of Alexandria wrote that the Jews “have committed the most abominable of crimes” in conspiring against Christ and for that reason “the Jewish nation was driven from its country and another people was called by God to the blessed election
  • the observance of the death of Jesus (known as the “Paschal feast”) continued on 14 of Nisan (i.e. same day as the Jewish Passover) as observed by Church Father Polycarp and the Church at Jerusalem and Antioch until it was disputed by Bishop Victor
  • Polycarp and several other bishops where almost excommunicated from the Roman Church for continuing to observe the Lord’s death on the Jewish Passover, as they maintained that the Apostle John had taught them
  • Bishop Victor later became Pope Victor I around ~189–199 AD
  • any Christian celebration on what was called the “Jewish Passover” was formally rejected at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD
  • After the First Council of Nicea (325 AD) any observance of the death of Jesus was exclusively to be on the first Sunday following Passover and was renamed “Easter

Inter-Testamentary Period – the context leading to the time of Messiah

The ‘Inter-Testamentary Period’ is the immediate contextual background leading into the time of Messiah, and the events of this time are important to understand the culture immediately before the Gospel events take place. The details of these events affected everything from cultural norms, to economic opportunities, to the political situation, etc.

One example of this is the common use of several of the names of the famous Maccabean brothers or their sons, including Simon, Judas, and John.

How many of you knew that several of the original 12 Disciples of Jesus had names that in the previous century been associated with Jewish revolutionaries and their sons who ruled a Jewish Dynasty?

Kind of changes the way one sees the Disciples doesn’t it?

To a first century Jewish mind, the name Simon the Zealot (aka Simon Peter) brought to mind this type of image;

Simon Peter - Jewish version

Yet when one mentions the name Simon Peter to Gentile Christians, the image that comes to mind is more like this;

St. Peter - Gentile version

It is our hope, that as we look next into some of the individuals listed in the genealogy of Matthew chapter 1, that we will re-impart an understanding of the first century Jewish context into which Messiah came.

Context and Timelines

One final word on what seems to us to be a very different concept of timelines between Jewish believers and many Gentile Christians.

For most Gentile Christians, everything important starts with the birth of Jesus. That is, the “timeline” for Gentile Christians begins with the birth of Jesus and goes until today; following the red line below.

Gentile Christian perspective
Gentile Christian timeline – begins with the birth of Jesus

[this is taken from a photo of the whiteboard from our LifeGroup, which is summarized in the charts below]

Daniel's white board Matthew 1 overview

For Jewish believers however,  the “timeline” into which we understand the birth of Jesus — into which Matthew’s Gospel places the birth of Jesus — begins with Abraham and goes forward from there, following the much longer path of the blue line, below;

Jewish perspective
Jewish believer’s timeline — begins with Abraham through to the birth of Jesus

 

Christianity and Judaism – siblings, not parent and child

INTRODUCTION

We’ve often heard it said that Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism; as if Judaism is the parent and Christianity, the child. We believe a more accurate analogy is to see Judaism and Christianity as siblings, twins in fact, born out of the same event.

The belief that Christianity was born out of Judaism fails to take into account that the Judaism of the Second Temple period (i.e. right up to the time of Jesus and the Apostles) was not a single, uniform faith. There was the Judaism of the Pharisees, of the Sadducees, of the Essenes, of the Zealots and of the Samaritans, and numerous smaller sects, as well. Then at the beginning of the 1st century CE, there were the Nazarenes; Jews that believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

[see article Jewish Sects During the Second Temple Period http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jewish-sects-second-temple-period/]

Jewish Sects; a Matter of Identity, Purity, and Boundaries

Of the three main sects of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes each maintained their individuality by meticulously erecting walls around itself to separate itself from members from other sects, ordinary Jews and Gentiles. This social separation was rigorously mandated in a variety of ways; one of which was a strict defining of identity; which defined who members of the group were — and what defined those who were not members.

For example, the Essenes living in Qumran had very strict guidelines for entry into this sect, as well as the harsh punishment for those who failed to keep its rules. They were determined to maintain what they viewed as their ‘pure’ communal standards at all costs.

The Pharisees separated themselves from the ‘ordinary Jews’ and other sects by means of laws defining the havurah i.e. the community; with the stringent of rules for both membership and separation from ‘am haaret’ – the ordinary Jew.

Another means both of these groups had for separating themselves from others was through the strict observance of purity regulations which were very important to both the Essenes and the Pharisees. These purity regulations served to restrict any kind of social contact with those outside one’s group, including Jews of other sects and of course, Gentiles (who were viewed as idolaters, and thus impure).

When one became ‘defiled’ by a dead body, a discharge such as blood or by other means outlined in the (Written) Law of Moses (Essenes) or for the Pharisees, by a breach of either Oral Law or Written Law, ritual purification was necessary.  This need for constant purification in both communities is evidenced by the ritual of mikvah (ritual immersion) that was accomplished through large constructed ‘baths’ used for the purpose of ritual immersion. (These baths are the origin of the ‘baptistery tanks’ seen in many denominations of churches). All around the Temple in Jerusalem were a multitude of miqva’ot (plural of mikvah) that were used for purification rituals as well as throughout Qumran, where the Essenes were centered. In fact the Essenes at Qumran practiced daily immersion in a mikvah before the communal meal and there was even an entire liturgy that accompanied it.

This segregation naturally prevented the groups from assimilating.  They didn’t have contact with each other, except under proscribed circumstances therefore there was no point in time in which these groups “merge”. During the time of Jesus and the Apostles, there was no one single group which can be spoken of as “the Jews”.

Destruction of the Temple – the turning point

In 66 CE, the Jewish community as a whole, initiated by the Zealots protested Roman taxation which resulted in the Romans plundering the Temple and killing of 6,000 Jews.  This was the start of the first Jewish-Roman war (66-73 CE).

At this time, the Nazarenes were seen as a Jewish sect by the Romans and fared no better than non-believing Jews. As a result of the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the Jews fled Jerusalem.  Since the Temple was the place of God’s presence, its destruction was seen as His defeat, both by the Romans and later on, by the largely Gentile Church.

After the destruction of the Second Temple, Rome governed Judea through a Procurator at Caesarea and a Jewish Patriarch. The first Patriarch was a former leading Pharisee (Yohanan ben Zakkai) and he re-established the Sanhedrin (Jewish court of judges) at Jamnia under Pharisaic control. Instead of giving tithes to the priests and sacrificing offerings at the Temple, the rabbis instructed the Jews to give money to charities and to study in local synagogues.

With the Temple destroyed, the Nazarenes who were accustomed to attending synagogue to hear the Law and the Prophets read continued to do so until changes in the synagogue liturgy made by Gamaliel II (grandson of the Gamaliel referred to in Acts 5) in 72-73 CE made it impossible.

In 132 CE, the Emperor Hadrian threatened to rebuild Jerusalem as a pagan city dedicated to Jupiter. Some of the leading members of the Sanhedrin supported a rebellion led by Simon bar Kochba – which became known as “the Bar Kochba Revolt”.

The revolt ended in 135 CE when Bar Kochba and his army were defeated.

Pharisees – the last group standing

At the end of the Jewish-Roman wars and the Bar Kochba Revolt, the Zealots were wiped out.

Many of the Sadducees came to faith in Jesus (Acts 6:7) as did some of the Pharisees (Acts 15:5) and along with the thousands of Jews that became Nazarenes (Acts 21:20) soon found themselves to be considered heretics by the only surviving sect, the Pharisees.

Changes in the Jewish liturgy were designed to expose what Gamaliel II considered “minim” or heretics, including the Essenes and Nazarenes and was accomplished by adding a prayer to the Amidah (the central prayer of the liturgy) cursing the “mimin” (heretics); which the Nazarenes could neither say, nor respond ‘amen’ to it.

It is important to understand that heresy from a rabbinic perspective is not seen primarily as incorrect theology but a separation from the community. Unlike the Qumran community, which was a minority group setting laws of seclusion or in their own words of separating themselves from the rest of society, the rabbinic laws of minim are those of a majority and are the laws of exclusion.

The rabbinic authorities drew boundaries and defined deviance from those they viewed as infidels; setting out they defined as right and wrong.

Forty years after Jesus’ death, the synagogue was no longer open to Jewish believers. Nazarenes, Jewish believers in Jesus as the Messiah were now excluded from the Jewish community.

Biblical Support for the banning of the Nazarenes from the Synagogue

It is thought by scholars that there are two clear references in the Gospel of John regarding the Jewish believers “being put out of the synagogue” by the Jewish leadership and that this was a reference to the introduction of the “blessing” (cursing) of the heretics during the early second century.

“His parents said these things because they were afraid of the Jews, since the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him as Messiah, he would be banned from the synagogue.”

John 9:22

“Nevertheless, many did believe in Him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, so they would not be banned from the synagogue.”

John 12:42

Jesus Himself also warned the Jewish believers that they will be made “outcasts from the synagogue”, but there was coming a day when there will be those that will kill them, thinking they are offering service to God;

These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. “These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me”.

John 16:1-3

Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism – the birth of twins

For the first two or three centuries of their common lives, Judaism in all of its forms (including the Nazarenes) coexisted with the emergence of Gentiles coming to believe in Jesus – the birth of Christianity.

Rabbinic Judaism and (Gentile dominated) Christianity were twins in a womb — contending with each other for identity and precedence. Both emerged out of the same event; the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE — as much a reaction to each other and to Rome as defined by themselves.

Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism – the first twin

After the suppression of the Bar Kochba Revolt, the vast majority of Jews were sent into exile.

In an effort to preserve the Oral traditions of the elders, around 200 CE Judah haNasi edited together judgements and traditions of the Oral Law into an authoritative code, called the Mishnah. This was the final transformation of the Judaism of the Second Temple period into Rabbinic Judaism – a form of Judaism that is centered on the belief that the Written Law of Moses cannot be properly understood without the Oral Law (the Mishnah).

The Rabbinic midrashim (plural of Midrash) refers to many groups they viewed as deviants of various types; Samaritans, Gnostics, Sadducees, Boethusians, and other sects. Out of 30 passages in these midrashim, only one is said to refer unequivocally to Nazarenes, the Jewish believers in Jesus.

The interpretation of this Rabbinic literature focuses on what behavior is deemed to be sanctioned by the Law; and this body of interpretations is called “halakha” (the way).

Christianity and Abandonment of Jewish Practice – the second twin

The decision of the Jerusalem Counsel (Acts 15) that Gentile Christians did not need to be circumcised seemed inconsequential when the bulk of the believers were Jews, but when Gentiles Christians outnumbered Jewish believers (Nazarenes), not being circumcised delineated Christianity as being “not Jewish”.

Rabbinic Judaism wasn’t alone in its declaring of “heretics”.

The now largely Gentile Church formally rejected the Jewish practices of the Nazarenes and adopted decidedly “Christian” practices.  Sabbath observance on the 7th day of the week (Saturday) was changed to Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the dead, as early as 110 CE by Ignatius of Antioch.

As discussed in an earlier article, the continued observance of the death of Jesus (in what was known as the “Paschal feast”) by Church Father Polycarp and the Church at Jerusalem and Antioch continued on 14 of Nisan (the same day as the Passover for Jews) until it was disputed by Bishop Victor (who later became Pope Victor I between 189–199 CE. Polycarp and several other bishops came very close to being excommunicated by the Church simply for continuing to observe the Lord’s death on the Jewish Passover, as they maintained the Apostle John had taught them.

The dominantly Gentile Church formally rejected any Christian celebration on Passover at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE.  From that time onward, the observance of the death of Jesus was exclusively to be on the first Sunday following Passover — and was renamed “Easter”. Conversation and fellowship with Jews was also forbidden.

Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel were forced to “convert” to Christianity and to be baptized as “Christians” and to assimilate into the Gentile-dominated Church and in the 4th century, Jews that tried to obstruct the conversion of other Jews to Christianity incurred the death penalty.

The “discourses of heresy” of both Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity eventually led to the two becoming separate entities, with the Jewish believers being welcome in neither.

Anti-Jewish Sentiment in the Church

Anti-Jewish sentiment started early and continued through the centuries.

Here are but a few examples from the early Church;

In ~135 CE, Justin Martyr, said that the Jews defeat in the Jewish Roman Wars and the destruction of the Second Temple were God’s visitation and a deserved punishment “For ye slew the Just One and His prophets before Him, and now ye reject, and … dishonor those who set their hopes on Him and God Almighty and Maker of the universe who sent Him”.

In 240 CE, Origen of Alexandria wrote that the Jews “have committed the most abominable of crimes” in conspiring against Christ and for that reason “the Jewish nation was driven from its country and another people was called by God to the blessed election“.

In 248 CE, St. Cyprian wrote that the Jews “have fallen under the heavy wrath of God because they have departed from the Lord and have followed idols”.

Anti-Jewish sentiment continued in Christian Byzantine society (529-553 CE), where Jews were forbidden to read the Torah in Hebrew in synagogue, and the Mishnah and other rabbinic literature were banned. In the third Council of The Council of Orleans, synods held in the Frankish kingdom (538 CE), decreed that Jews could not be seen in the streets during Passover Week. In 681 CE, The Synod of Toledo ordered the burning of the Talmud and other books.

The history of anti-Jewish sentiment in the Church did not end with the Reformation.

The leader of the Reformation, Martin Luther initially hoped that the Jews would be enthusiastic at the prospect of his reformed version of Christianity but when they did not convert, Luther denounced the Jewish people and called for their persecution and destruction. In a paragraph from his “On the Jews and Their Lies”, Luther wrote “What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews“. If that were not enough, Luther made a horrific list of what Christian should do to Jews;

“First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools … This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians …”

“Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed.”

“Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.”

“Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb …”

“Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside …”

“Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them …”

“Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow … but if we are afraid that they might harm us or our wives, children, servants, cattle, etc., … then let us emulate the common sense of other nations such as France, Spain, Bohemia, etc., then eject them forever from the country …”

Actions flow from Beliefs

The Church not only held anti-Jewish sentiments, it persecuted the Jewish people – in fact, often treating us worse than the Muslim Arabs that ruled before or after the Christians.  For example, when the Arabs conquered Jerusalem in 638 CE, the majority of the population was Christian.  Umar, the first Caliph (Islamic representative) lifted the almost 500 year ban against Jewish residence that had been imposed by the Christians under the Byzantine Empire and invited the Jews to return, live and worship once again in Jerusalem. Muslims permitted Jews access to Jerusalem, yet the Christians banned us.

Christians, regained control of the Holy Land in 1099 CE and once again prevented the Jews from living in Jerusalem.

When Jerusalem fell to the (Muslim) Ottomans in 1517 CE, Jews were allowed once again to practice their religion and the Holy Land became a refuge for Jews fleeing persecution of the Christian Crusaders in Europe.

In fact, it was under Ottoman rule of the early 1900’s, that the first waves of Jewish immigrants from Russia were permitted to build a better life for themselves in the Holy Land – yet how many so-called “Christian” nations closed their doors to Jews fleeing the Nazis – including Canada.

What people believe about Jews affects how they treat them.

What the Church today believes about Jews also determines how they treat them now and in the days ahead.

Some Final Thoughts

While many Gentile Christians now would distance themselves from the virulent anti-Jewish sentiment and actions of the past, how inclusive is the Church for Jews today?

The Jerusalem Counsel of Acts 15 established that Gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism, be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses to follow Jesus, but does the Church of today expect Jews to “convert” to Christianity, renounce the everlasting Covenant God made with their forefathers at Sinai and abandon the Law and the Prophets that Messiah Himself taught and explicitly upheld?

What would Paul think of a church that teaches that they replace the Jews as God’s chosen people – while using his own letters to the early Church for justification?

What would Jesus have to say about Jewish believers keeping Torah being referred to as having “fallen from grace” — when He Himself taught that he who keeps these things will be called “great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:17-19).

The Reformation was intended to bring the Church back to its roots, but how is that possible devoid of its Jewish context?

References

Brothers Estranged: Heresy, Christianity, and Jewish Identity in Late Antiquity, by Adiel Schremer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010

McIver, Robert K., Roennfeldt, Ray C. W. Text and Interpretation: Christian Understandings of Authoritative Texts in the Light of Social Change, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 2009; 20(3):257-276

Peter J. Tomson – review of Brothers Estranged: Heresy, Christianity, and Jewish Identity in Late Antiquity, (2012), Review of Biblical Literature, Society of Biblical Literature, Judaism: Rabbinic and Medieval

Tomson, Peter J, Jewish Food Laws in Early Christian Discourse, Semeia,1999; Issue 86, p193

 

Jewish Sects During the Second Temple Period

Judaism of the Second Temple period — right up to the time of Jesus and the Apostles, was not a single, uniform faith. There was the Judaism of the Pharisees, of the Sadducees, of the Essenes, of the Zealots and of the Samaritans, and numerous smaller sects, as well and then at the beginning of the 1st century CE, there were the Nazarenes; Jews that believed that Jesus was God’s promised Messiah.

 

The Pharisees were predominantly laymen and scribes who existed since the time of the Maccabean wars (167 – 160 BCE) and were the ruling religious party during the latter part of the Second Temple period (515 BCE – 70 CE). They believed that they were the keepers of the Oral Law that was said to have been given to Moses on Mount Sinai by God during the 40 days and nights he remained on Mount Sinai after he was given the (written) Law, including the Ten Commandments and all the other Laws.

During the exile, there was no Temple and it was during this time that the Pharisees began to rise to a position of much influence.  Without a Temple and finding themselves outside of Jerusalem, the worship of God focused on prayer and the study of God’s Law in the synagogue. As a result, the synagogue became the central place of Jewish religious life.

When the second Temple was rebuilt under Ezra and Nehemiah, sacrifices once again were offered with the Sadducees officiating, with the synagogues continuing to remained centers of Jewish life in the cities around the land.

During Herod’s rule [37-4 BCE], the Pharisees numbered around six thousand men.

The Scribes and Pharisees were tasked with the responsibility to “sit on Moses’ seat” (Matt 23:2) which was generally understood to mean that they had the authority to teach the Law of Moses. The Pharisees belief in the equal authority of so-called “Oral Torah” and “Written Torah” [i.e. the written Law of Moses] was a lightning rod for Jesus’ strong words.

Sadducees

As the priests, the Sadducees were involved in the affairs of the Temple and were predominantly located in Jerusalem.  Unlike the Pharisees, they did not recognize Oral Law as having authority. For them – “the Law” was the written Law of Moses.

The Sadducees, were comparatively few in number when compared with the Pharisees. In addition to being the Temple priests, they also held important positions in the community.  They were from aristocratic and wealthy families and had considerable influence.

Essenes

The Essenes are believed to be a splinter group of Sadducees and also originally priests – descendants of Aaron. The Essenes separated themselves from the rest of the Jewish community and congregated in communities dedicated to asceticism (celibacy, voluntary poverty and ritual daily immersion). They were concentrated in the Judean Desert as well as throughout the country and were located in Jerusalem as well.  Qumran, a settlement on the shores of the Dead Sea served as headquarters for the Essenes in Second Temple times.

They flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE and numbered approximately four thousand men and are best known as the keepers and preservers of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Zealots

The Zealots were considered a fourth sect according to Jewish historian Josephus and were relatively new at the time of Jesus.  The Zealots did not see themselves under the religious leadership of either the Pharisees or Sadducees, although from a theological perspective, they held many of the same beliefs as the Pharisees. The Zealots were opposed to Rome’s authority and believed that they should have no other Ruler and Lord besides God. The Sicaraii were considered to be a more militant subgroup of the Zealots.

The Zealots were responsible for initiating an unsuccessful revolution in Galilee in 66 CE which soon swept the whole region, known as the First Jewish War. Although Jerusalem fell in 70 CE, the last bastion of the Zealots, Masada, held out until 73 CE. At this time the Masada community (nearly 1000 persons, including women and children) preferred mass suicide to capture by the Romans.

At the end of First Jewish War, over 1 million Jews starved in the siege, were killed in battle, were crucified or enslaved.

Samaritans

The Samaritans saw themselves as having the ‘true religion’ of the ancient Israelites from before the Babylonian exile.  They saw themselves as preservers of the original form of Judaism which they believed starkly contrasted with the Judaism that was brought back from the Babylonian exile.

The Samaritans believed that they were the descendants of the “Ten Lost Tribes” taken into Assyrian captivity and that their temple on Mount Gerizim was the original place for the worship of God.  This is in contrast to the Pharisees and Sadducees who believed that Jerusalem was the chosen place to worship God and that it was the only place where sacrifices could be offered.

The Pharisees and Sadducees taught that Jews were forbidden to have contact with Samaritans and the Samaritan religious leaders taught that it was wrong to have any contact with the Jews in Jerusalem.

Nazarenes

The Nazarenes were the early Jewish followers of Jesus (Jesus was referred to as Jesus the Nazarene – Mark 1:24; John 18:5). The Nazarenes continued to live as Jews; keeping the Jewish dietary laws, going to the synagogue on Sabbath — as was Jesus’ and Paul’s custom (Luke 4:16, Acts 17:2).  Like other Jews of the time, they continued to go to the Temple for the appointed feasts, just as their Messiah did for the feast of Passover (John 2:13-22, John 5), the Feast of Tabernacles / Booths (John 7), and the Feast of Dedication (John 10). The term “Nazarene” simply meant that they were followers of “Yeshua Natzri” (Jesus of Nazareth), as the Hebrew term “Nosri” still does.

The Pharisees did not initially consider the Nazarenes as heretics, due to their adherence to Torah.

Paul was considered to be the “ringleader” of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5) and was accused of teaching against the Law of Moses (Acts 21:28-30) and of desecrating the Temple (Acts 24:6). Paul, in his own defense said before the Sanhedrin that he ‘worships the God of his fathers’ according to the Way –which they call a sect, and believes in all the things that are written in the Law and in the Prophets’. (Acts 24:14-17).

The term Nazarene was used for this Jewish sect of followers of Jesus from the first until the fourth century CE, until Constantine.

Scripture records that many of the Sadducees came to faith in Jesus (Acts 6:7) as did some of the Pharisees (Acts 15:5) and these, along with the thousands of Jews that became Nazarenes (Acts 21:20).  Some people raise the objection, that if Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, why didn’t Jews believe in Him. Scripture as well as both Jewish and Roman history, says otherwise.

Taking a very conservative number that there was only 1,000 Nazarenes in the year 40 CE (and clearly we can see from these Scriptures alone that there were significantly more than that!) and with a growth rate of 40 % per decade until 300 CE, at the end of the first century the total Nazarene population would have been around 7,500 people, mostly Jews.  Early on, Gentiles who came to believe in Jesus would be affiliated with the larger group of Jewish Nazarenes.