Pseudo-religious nonsense about the Jews, unfortunately, goes back to the early Christian church fathers, who saw the Jews as the murderers of Jesus Christ. Because a crowd of Jews in 33 CE cried out, “Crucify him!” when the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate presented them with Jesus, some Christians in every age have persisted in blaming all Jews everywhere and throughout time as guilty of killing Jesus.
Several of the early Christian church fathers are quoted by Yehuda Bauer on pages 8 and 9 of the main history text for our course, A History of the Holocaust. The words of these church fathers are horrifying.
For example, church father John Chrysostum states, “The synagogue is . . . a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ,” and, “It is the duty of all Christians to hate the Jews.” I might point out that John Chrysostum lived in the 4th Century CE, at which time no Jew in the crowd before Pontius Pilate in 33 CE could possibly have been alive. I might also point out that the Jews of 33 CE did not, in fact, kill Jesus Christ. The Roman procurator Pontius Pilate issued the order for Jesus to be crucified, and the order was carried out by Roman soldiers.
Yet, 900 years later, in the 13th Century CE, we have church father Thomas Aquinas saying, “It would be licit, according to custom, to hold Jews, because of their crime, in perpetual servitude.” Thomas Aquinas believed that the Jews of his time were responsible for an event involving their ancestors 1200 years previously! I find this unbelievable.
I also find it unbelievable that these men are canonized saints in the Roman Catholic Church: SAINT John Chrysostom and SAINT Thomas Aquinas. After Vatican Council II in the 1960s, some canonized saints lost their sainthood because it was found that their stories were legends and that they probably never actually existed. One such is Saint Christopher, patron of travelers, who is said to have borne the Christ Child across a deep river on his shoulders. I think that saints should also lose their sainthood when they are found to have held extremely anti-Christ-like views and to have promoted hate-filled actions.
Protestant leaders, unfortunately, have followed in the same vein as the Catholic “saints.” Here is what Martin Luther had to say about the Jews, quoted by Bauer on page 22: “First, their synagogues or churches should be set on fire,” and “Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed.”
The Nazis, being anti-religious, were perhaps not much interested in blaming modern Jews for having killed Jesus in 33 CE, but they certainly capitalized on the fact that many European Christians did. Amazingly, in 20th Century Europe, this crazy belief was widespread. Surely, it is the height of nonsense to blame the Jews of the 20th Century for something that was done nearly 2000 years previously!
My next post will look at a second crazy pseudo-religious belief.