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Anti-Semitism has a long tenure in world history. From Haman’s plot to kill the Jews in the book of Esther to Nazi Germany’s extermination of nearly six million Jews, Anti-Semitism has been part of the global DNA for a long time.

The US government has recently been criticized because of its negligence to condemn the recent Anti-Semitic acts across the nation. Although asked in the past about the Anti-Semitism in places in the US and the government’s response to it, the current administration only recently made an official statement.

To many, this is a much-needed word from our current leadership on this important issue. But to some within the Jewish community, the current administration’s words against Anti-Semitism are too little too late.

Anti-Semitism in Christianity

Unfortunately, forms of Anti-Semitism have also been pervasive in many Christian circles throughout Christian history. Some of the most Anti-Semitic statements I’ve ever heard have come from certain Christian pulpits, Sunday school classes, or Christian spaces. Statements like “the Jews were legalistic,” “the Jews were evil,” “the Jews were bad people,” “Jew them down to a lower price,” etc. both reveal an incorrect view of ancient Judaism and are, at their core, Anti-Semitic.

Much critical scholarship has been done on ancient Judaism to show that many of the previous Christian understandings of Judaism have been proven false. The above statements are Anti-Semitic because they group all Jews into one ethnic and monolithic, ethical basket without allowing for any diversity amongst the diverse Jewish groups in history and the modern era.

There are always exceptions within any ethnic or religious group, whether that group is black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc. The fact that one Jewish group believed or acted in certain ways in the ancient or modern world does not prove that all Jewish people believed/believes or acted/acts the same.

When those with majority cultural privilege and power begin to categorize a Jewish group as having ethnic or ethical deficiencies because they are known as Jewish, this categorization is Anti-Semitic. And when those in the privileged majority group begin to discriminate against, direct violence toward, or subvert to various forms of mental, emotional, social, or economic oppression due to threats, the privileged, majority group is acting as an agent of Anti-Semitism.

Martin Luther

Too often, certain expressions of Christianity have normalized Anti-Semitism in their Christian spaces to the point that they are numb to it and accept it as sound doctrine. Martin Luther, the German Reformer and one of Protestant Christianity’s greatest heroes, made several terrifying, jaw-dropping, and breathtaking statements about the Jews. Of course, Luther did not have a modern understanding of race and racism. Yet, he spoke many Anti-Semitic statements about the Jewish people in the name of doctrinal and theological fidelity. Just read, for example, his small pamphlet “On the Jews and Their Lies” to see Luther’s Anti-Semitism on full display.

Upon recently re-reading some excerpts, I found myself losing my breath several times. When reading the work, replace the word “Jew” or “Jews” with the word “Asian,” “black,” “Hispanic,” or “white.” Perhaps, then you might see the horror of his language in a fresh way.

Certain Protestants have a hagiographic understanding of Luther’s Anti-Semitic legacy. But the fact is, though we Protestants should praise and celebrate Luther for recovering the gospel of justification by faith for the church and for translating the word of God in the language of the people of God (as we are during this 500-year anniversary of the Reformation), we Protestants should also often rebuke him for his Anti-Semitic statements.

Jesus of Nazareth

As a Christian, who follows and worships a Jewish Rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth, I forthrightly say that every Christian should speak against Anti-Semitism before and after it raises its ugly head in the church and in society. Anti-Semitism is Anti-Christ! If Christians don’t love the Jewish people, I doubt they love their Jewish Savior, for he says “love your neighbor!” This doesn’t mean only love your Christian neighbor!

Jesus was NOT and is NOT a white American. He likely had dark-skin and a dark beard. And he was certainly a Jewish man from the Middle East, who likely had dirt under his fingernails, from working with his hands, and dirt under his toe nails, from walking in sandals.

As a Jewish man, he did Jewish things: celebrated Passover, celebrated Hanukah, worshipped at the temple, celebrated certain Jewish festivals, wore certain kinds of Jewish garments, and performed certain kinds of Jewish rituals. Jesus now and forever remains a Jewish God-man, who sits at his Father’s right hand in heaven and who has been exalted as Lord and Christ forever and ever.

Christians must remember the Christian gospel is the power of God unto salvation for the Jew FIRST, and then for the Greek (Rom. 1:16). Jesus is the Son of David (a Jew) and the Son of Abraham (a Gentile) (Matt. 1:1). Jews are the natural olive branches within God’s soteriological vineyard, but Gentiles have been grafted in as unnatural branches (Romans 11). All (i.e. a large number of) Israel will be saved by faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 11:26), because the Jewish deliverer, Jesus, has come from Zion to Jacob (i.e. Israel) to take away her sins (Rom. 11:26-27).

Christians from every racial and ethnic stripe should stand with Jews against Anti-Semitism. May we pray for the safety of Jews. And may we pray that they would be able to live in peace in their diverse communities.

If Christians truly know and love their JEWISH Savior, Jesus Christ, we should stand against Anti-Semitism, because Anti-Semitism is Anti-Christ.

Dr. Jarvis J. Williams (PhD) is an associate professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He is the author of numerous books and articles, Christ Died For Our Sins (Pickwick, 2015).
He regularly preaches and lectures throughout the country.

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