In his second chapter, Horner gives an overview of Christian anti-Judaism through the centuries. He will go on to get more modern and specific in chapters 3 and 4, with examples from American Christianity and then from British Christianity.
I love a few of the statements Horner makes summarizing the situation of the church’s shift from its Judaic background to a Greco-Roman/anti-Judaic stream:
Now the mother Jewish church would be trodden down for an indefinite period, and her latter Gentile children would begin to assert themselves to the point of maternal neglect, even denigration of their Jewish parentage. (pg. 17).
The stage was now set for the arrogant self-assertion of the reconciled Gentile prodigal children of the far country over the weakened seed of the impoverished Jewish elder brother. (pg. 18).
In these statements he is talking about the Roman slaughter of Jews during the Second Jewish Revolt (132-135 C.E.) and the effect it had, scattering Jews and Messianic Jews, weakening the home base of Judaism, and effectively removing the Jerusalem congregation from its role as the center of the Jesus movement.
When those of us who love Israel and who call Christians back to the Jewish origins of our common Jesus-faith make statements like the above, I know that some people feel as though something they love deeply is being insulted. It is insulting to think that Christianity has strong roots in a kind of theological racism.
This is not to denigrate the beauty and grace brought to the world through Christian teaching, writing, and action. Absolutely there is beauty.
But there is far more to repent for than to rejoice about in Christian history. Sorry, but this is an indisputable fact.
Christianity may have brought to the world hospitals for treating lepers and other good things, but the larger legacy has been Crusades, Inquisitions, wars, and an evil blend of religion and state seeking power to rule and dominate.
I sometimes point out to people that Christianity’s record is not any better than Israel’s record in the Bible. I’ve heard plenty of sermons and talk about Israel’s very public failures, that Israel’s history is recorded to show us how NOT to live, and so on. I’ve heard almost no talk and definitely no sermons about Christianity’s failures.
Perhaps it is because there is no sequel to the New Testament in which God’s prophets and apostles comment on the sad history of the Jesus movement.
Let’s see, Israel kept whoring after idols and ignoring God’s laws.
Well, Christendom made Jesus the law of the land instead of the savior of the world. Do you think jihad was a Muslim invention? Christendom mixed power politics, state control, and brutal enforcement with the message of the savior who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Horner goes on to give example after example of Christian anti-Judaism. He talks about the forced expulsion of Jews from most European nations, about blood libels, and accusations of wafer desecration!
Most importantly, he shows that the biblical view of Israel is not merely some hyper-literalist eschatological scheme, but is about ethics and following the moral will of God.
Horner shows us what the true legacy of Christian interpretation of the Bible really is. There is a definite line from writing Israel out of the Bible to the Christian participation in the Holocaust.
Yes, that’s right.
From 1919 on 70-80% of German pastors were part of the anti-Judaic German National People’s Party. Bonhoeffer, one of the few who loved Israel, said of his fellow German pastors and theologians, “the most sensible of people have lost their heads and their entire Bible” (cited in Horner, pg. 35).
German Bishop Otto Dibelius said, “One cannot fail to appreciate that in all the corrosive manifestations of modern civilization Jewry plays a leading role” (cited in Horner, pg. 34). Dibelius proudly declared that he had always been an anti-Semite.
It does not matter if an individual Christian persecutes a Jew. Merely by accepting the anti-Judaic grid that is falsely superimposed on the philo-Judaic Bible a person aligns with the horrors that anti-Judaism has created in history and in the present.
As surely as an American who buys into racist ideology, so buying into historical Christian anti-Judaism is a theology that requires repentance.