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Christian attitudes to Judaism and to the Jewish people developed from the early years of Christianity, the persecution of Christians in the New Testament, and persisted over the ensuing centuries, driven by numerous factors including theological differences, competition between Church and Synagogue, the Christian drive for converts decreed by the Great Commission, misunderstanding of Jewish beliefs and practices, and a perceived Jewish hostility toward Christians.
These attitudes were reinforced in Christian preaching, art and popular teaching over the centuries containing contempt for Jews. In many Christian countries, it led to civil and political discrimination against Jews, legal disabilities, and in some instances to physical attacks on Jews which occasionally ended in emigration, expulsion, and even death.
From time to time, anti-Jewish sentiments within European society were exploited or fomented for internal political purposes and sometimes to extract a financial advantage from Jewish subjects. Such sentiments made the expansion of anti-Jewish measures politically acceptable.
Antisemitism has been described as primarily hatred against Jews as a race with its modern expression rooted in 19th century racial theories, while anti-Judaism is described as hostility to Jewish religion, but in Western Christianity it effectively merged into antisemitism during the 12th century. Scholars have debated how Christian antisemitism may have played a role in the Nazi Third Reich, World War II and the Holocaust. However, "a widespread consensus of historians, church leaders, and academic theologians is that Christian theological anti-Judaism is a phenomenon distinct from modern antisemitism, which is rooted in economic and racial thought, so that Christian teachings should not be held responsible for antisemitism." That consensus position, essentially an exculpation of Christianity for modern antisemitism, is articluated, among other places, by Pope John Paul II in 'We Re member: A Reflection on the Shoah,' and the Jewish declaration on Christianity, Dabru Emet.
Throughout Christian history, some Popes, bishops and some Christian princes stepped up to protect Jews. But it was only in the mid-20th century that the Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations issued major statements repudiating anti-Judaic theology and began a process of constructive Christian-Jewish interaction.
Many Christians do not consider anti-Judaism to be antisemitism. They regard anti-Judaism as a disagreement of religiously sincere people with the tenets of Judaism, while regarding antisemitism as an emotional bias or hatred not specifically targeting the religion of Judaism. Under this approach, anti-Judaism is not regarded as antisemitism as it only rejects the religious ideas of Judaism and does not involve actual hostility to the Jewish people.
Others see anti-Judaism as the rejection of or opposition to beliefs and practices essentially because of their source in Judaism or because a belief or practice is associated with the Jewish people. (But see supersessionism)
Although some Christians in the past did consider anti-Judaism to be contrary to Christian teaching, this view was not widely expressed by leaders and lay people. In many cases, the practical tolerance towards the Jewish religion and Jews prevailed. Some Christian groups, particularly in early years, condemned verbal anti-Judaism.
In Rome and throughout the Roman Empire, religion was an integral part of the civil government. The Emperor was from time to time declared to be a god and demanded to be worshiped accordingly. This created religious difficulties for Jews, who were prohibited from worshiping any other god than that of the Hebrew Bible. This created problems in the relations between Rome and its Jewish subjects, as well as for worshipers of Mithras, worshipers of Sabazius, and Christianity. In the case of Jews, this led to several revolts against Rome and severe persecutions by Rome as punishment.
Many of the early gentile converts to Christianity probably came from and shared this cultural bias. As gentile converts they also were not well acquainted with the internal life of the Jewish community. Hence they read many of the New Testament texts as condemnations of Judaism as such, rather than as internal differences which were commonplace within the Jewish community.
"This is not an uncommon impression and one finds it sometimes among Jews as well as Christians - that Judaism is the religion of the Hebrew Bible. It is, of course, a fallacious impression. Judaism is not the religion of the Bible." [Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser, Judaism and the Christian Predicament, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967, p. 59, 159]
"The Jewish religion as it is today traces its descent, without a break, through all the centuries, from the Pharisees. Their leading ideas and methods found expression in a literature of enormous extent, of which a very great deal is still in existence. The Talmud is the largest and most important single member of that literature, and round it are gathered a number of Midrashim, partly legal (Halachic) and partly works of edification (Haggadic). This literature, in its oldest elements, goes back to a time before the beginning of the Common Era, and comes down into the Middle Ages. Through it all run the lines of thought which were first drawn by the Pharisees, and the study of it is essential for any real understanding of Pharisaism." [Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 3 pg. 474]
“Pharisaism became Talmudism, Talmudism became Medieval Rabbinism, and Medieval Rabbinism became Modern Rabbinism. But throughout these changes of name, inevitable adaptation of custom, and adjustment of Law, the spirit of the ancient Pharisee survives unaltered.” [Rabbi Dr. Finkelstein, The Pharisees: The Sociological Background of Their Faith, pg. xxi]
"The Talmud is the written form of that which in the time of Jesus, was called the 'Tradition of the Elders,' and to which He makes frequent allusions." [Michael L. Rodkinson, The History of the Talmud: From The Time Of Its Formation About 200 B. C. Up To The Present Time, Kessinger Publishing, LLC (June 8, 2006), ISBN 978-1-4286-3136-6, p. 70]
“The complex of rabbinically ordained practices ... including most of the rules for the treatment of Scripture itself—do not derive from Scripture at all. Rabbinic Judaism's initial concern was with the elaboration and refinement of its own system. Attaching the system to scripture was secondary. It therefore is misleading to depict rabbinic Judaism primarily as a consequence of an exegetical process or the organic unfolding of Scripture. Rather, rabbinic Judaism began as the work of a small, ambitious, and homogeneous group of pseudo-priests ...By the third century (A.D.) the rabbis expressed their self-conception in the ideology of "oral Torah" which held that a comprehensive body of teachings and practices (halachot) not included in Scripture had been given by God and through Moses only to the rabbinic establishment.” (Rabbinic Judaism: Structure and System, Jacob Nuesner, pp. 31–34)
There have been philosophical differences between Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism since the founding of Christianity. Christians acknowledge the roots of Christianity in Judaism. Some claim the entirety of Jewish religious heritage as its own, while interpreting it very differently.
Debates between the Early Christians, who at first saw themselves as a movement within Judaism and not as a separate religion, and other Jews initially revolved around the question whether Jesus was the Messiah, which later encompassed the issue of his divinity. Once gentiles were converted to Christianity, the question arose whether and how far these gentile Christians were obliged to follow Jewish law in order to follow Jesus (see Paul's letter to the Galatians). At the Council of Jerusalem,
The increase of the numbers of gentile Christians in comparison to Jewish Christians eventually resulted in a rift between Christianity and Judaism, which was further increased by the Jewish-Roman wars (66–73 and 132–135) that drove many more Jews into the diaspora and reduced the influence of the Bishop of Jerusalem, leader of the first Christian church. Early Christians also found in the Old Testament, prophecies which seemed to indicate that God's original covenant with the Jews would be expanded to include also the Gentiles, in other words Proselytes, God-fearers, and Noachides. Thus the Church Fathers tend to emphasise that the Church is the new "spiritual" Israel, completing or replacing the earthly Israel which was but its prototype. In modern times, this view would come to be called "Supersessionism".
Also, the two religions differed in their legal status in the Roman Empire: Judaism, restricted to the Jewish people and Jewish Proselytes, was generally exempt from obligation to the Roman imperial cult and since the reign of Julius Caesar enjoyed the status of a "licit religion", though there were also occasional persecutions, for example in 19 Tiberius expelled the Jews from Rome, as Claudius did again in 49. Christianity however was not restricted to one people, and as Jewish Christians were excluded from the synagogue (see Council of Jamnia), they also lost the protection of the status of Judaism, though said protection did have its limits (see for example Titus Flavius Clemens (consul), Akiba ben Joseph, and Ten Martyrs).
From the reign of Nero onwards, who is said to have blamed the Great Fire of Rome on Christians, Christianity was considered to be illegal and Christians were frequently subjected to persecution, differing regionally. Comparably, Judaism suffered the setbacks of the Jewish-Roman wars, remembered in the legacy of the Ten Martyrs. Robin Lane Fox traces the origin of much later hostility to the period of persecution, where the commonest test by the authorities of a suspected Christian was to require homage to be paid to the deified emperor. Jews were exempt from this requirement as long as they paid the Fiscus Judaicus, and Christians (many or mostly of Jewish origins) would say they were Jewish but refused to pay the tax. This had to be confirmed by the local Jewish authorities, who were likely to refuse to accept the Christians as Jewish, often leading to their execution. The Birkat haMinim was often brought forward as support for this charge that the Jews were responsible for the Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. In the 3rd century systematic persecution of Christians began and lasted until Constantine's conversion to Christianity. In 390 Theodosius I made Christianity the State church of the Roman Empire. While pagan cults and Manichaeism were suppressed, Judaism retained its legal status as a licit religion, though anti-Jewish violence still occurred. In the 5th century, some legal measures worsened the status of the Jews in the Roman Empire (now more properly called the Byzantine Empire since relocating to Constantinople).
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A number of passages in the New Testament may be considered as a rejection of Judaism given a certain interpretive approach. Among them are:
These elements of the New Testament have their origins in 1st-century history. Christianity began as a revision of Judaism. Many of Jesus' followers during his life were Jews, and it was even a matter of confusion, many years after his death, as to whether non-Jews could even be considered Christians at all, according to the way some[who?] interpret the Council of Jerusalem.
Although the Gospels offer accounts of confrontations and debates between Jesus and other Jews, such conflicts were common among Jews at the time. Scholars disagree on the historicity of the Gospels, and have offered different interpretations of the complex relationship between Jewish authorities and Christians before and following Jesus' death. These debates hinge on the meaning of the word "messiah," and the claims of Early Christians.
Christianity says that Jesus is the Messiah which Judaism does not accept. The Gospels claim that Jesus was a preacher, healer, and messiah. There is no reason to think Jesus would have come into conflict with Jewish authorities in 1st century Judea on account of his preaching and healing[dubious ], yet part of the gospel record is the Cleansing of the Temple. However, claims that he was the Messiah were more controversial. The Hebrew word mashiyakh (משיח) typically signified a man, chosen by God or descended from a man chosen by God, to serve as a civil and military authority. If Jesus made this claim during his life, it is not surprising that many Jews, weary of Roman occupation, would have supported him as a liberator. It is also likely that Jewish authorities would have been cautious, out of fear of Roman reprisal.
Jesus was considered by Christians to be the Messiah, while for most Jews the death of Jesus would have been sufficient proof that he was not the Jewish Messiah. If early Christians preached that Jesus was about to return, it is virtually certain that Jewish authorities would have opposed them out of fear of Roman reprisal.
Such fears would have been well grounded: Jews revolted against the Romans in 66 CE, which culminated with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. They revolted again under the leadership of the professed messiah Simon Bar Kokhba in 132 CE, which culminated in the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem, which Hadrian renamed into Aelia Capitolina in an attempt to wipe out memory of Jews there.
At the time, Christianity was still considered a sect of Judaism, but the messianic claims alienated many Christians (including Jewish converts) and sharply deepened the schism.
Another source of tension between early Christians and Jews was the question of observance of Mosaic Law which was also debated among Proselytes. Early Christians were divided over the issue: Some Jewish Christians or so-called Judaizers argued that Christians were bound to observe Mosaic law, while Paul perhaps argued that only some of Mosaic Law applied to Christians, though the issue of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism is still hotly debated with some advocating complete abrogation. The issue was argued especially in the context of whether Gentile converts were obligated to undergo circumcision, which was a requirement for Jewish boys. The issue was hotly debated in the 1st century and settled at the Council of Jerusalem, in which Paul and Barnabas participated as representatives of the church at Antioch. The Council decided that Gentile converts were not subject to most Mosaic Law, including circumcision, but required them to stay away from eating meat with blood still on it, eating the meat of strangled animals, eating food offered to idols, and sexual immorality. See also Noahide Law and Proselyte.
Many have interpreted Paul's writings as other parts of the New Testament as ending the requirements of the Jewish law. See Proselyte and New Perspective on Paul for more details. An example of another view is represented by the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Judaizers:
After Paul's death, Christianity emerged as a separate religion, and Pauline Christianity emerged as the dominant form of Christianity, especially after Paul, James and the other apostles agreed on a compromise set of requirements.
Many New Testament passages criticise the Pharisees and it has been argued that these passages have shaped the way that Christians viewed Jews. Like most Bible passages, however, they can and have been interpreted in a variety of ways.
During Jesus' life and at the time of his execution, the Pharisees were only one of several Jewish groups such as the Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes; indeed, some have suggested that Jesus was himself a Pharisee. Arguments by Jesus and his disciples against the Pharisees and what he saw as their hypocrisy were most likely examples of disputes among Jews and internal to Judaism that were common at the time, see for example Hillel and Shammai. (Lutheran Pastor John Stendahl has pointed out that "Christianity begins as a kind of Judaism, and we must recognize that words spoken in a family conflict are inappropriately appropriated by those outside the family.")
Professor Lillian C. Freudmann, author of Antisemitism in the New Testament (University Press of America, 1994) has published a detailed study of the description of Jews in the New Testament, and the historical effects that such passages have had in the Christian community throughout history. Similar studies of such verses have been made by both Christian and Jewish scholars, including, Professors Clark Williamsom (Christian Theological Seminary), Hyam Maccoby (The Leo Baeck Institute), Norman A. Beck (Texas Lutheran College), and Michael Berenbaum (Georgetown University). Most rabbis feel that these verses are antisemitic, and many Christian scholars, in America and Europe, have reached the same conclusion. Another example is John Dominic Crossan's 1995 Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus.
Patristic bishops of the patristic era such as Augustine argued that the Jews should be left alive and suffering as a perpetual reminder of their murder of Christ. Other Church Fathers, such as John Chrysostom went longer in their condemnation. Ephraim the Syrian wrote polemics against Jews in the 4th century, including the repeated accusation that Satan dwells among them as a partner. These writings were directed at Christians who were being proselytized by Jews and who Ephraim feared were slipping back into the religion of Judaism; thus he portrayed the Jews as enemies of Christianity, like Satan, to emphasize the contrast between the two religions, namely, that Christianity was Godly and true and Judaism was Satanic and false. Like John Chrysostom, his objective was to dissuade Christians from reverting to Judaism by emphasizing what he saw as the wickedness of the Jews and their religion.
While in Christian Europe Christianity had the upper hand as the religion of state, under Islam Jews and Christians were on a more even footing.
"Jews shall live in accordance with the rites of Christianity. Those who formerly were invested with Imperial authority promulgated various laws with reference to the Hebrew people, who, once nourished by Divine protection, became renowned, but are now remarkable for the calamities inflicted upon them because of their contumacy towards Christ and God; and these laws, while regulating their mode of life, compelled them to read the Holy Scriptures, and ordered them not to depart from the ceremonies of their worship. They also provided that their children should adhere to their religion, being obliged to do so as well by the ties of blood, as on account of the institution of circumcision. These are the laws which I have already stated were formerly enforced throughout the Empire. But the Most Holy Sovereign from whom We are descended, more concerned than his predecessors for the salvation of the Jews, instead of allowing them (as they did) to obey only their ancient laws, attempted, by the interpretation of prophesies and the conclusions which he drew from them, to convert them to the Christian religion, by means of the vivifying water of baptism. He fully succeeded in his attempts to transform them into new men, according to the doctrine of Christ, and induced them to denounce their ancient doctrines and abandon their religious ceremonies, such as circumcision, the observance of the Sabbath, and all their other rites. But although he, to a certain extent, overcame the obstinacy of the Jews, he was unable to force them to abolish the laws which permitted them to live in accordance with their ancient customs. Therefore We, desiring to accomplish what Our Father failed to effect, do hereby annul all the old laws enacted with reference to the Hebrews, and We order that they shall not dare to live in any other manner than in accordance with the rules established by the pure and salutary Christian Faith. And if anyone of them should be proved to have neglected to observe the ceremonies of the Christian religion, and to have returned to his former practices, he shall pay the penalty prescribed by the law for apostates."
Not all early Christians were antisemitic though. Some, such as Pope Gregory I, spoke out against the antisemitism of their day.
Sicut Judaeis (the "Constitution for the Jews") was the official position of the papacy regarding Jews throughout the Middle Ages and later. The first bull was issued in about 1120 by Calixtus II, intended to protect Jews who suffered during the First Crusade, and was reaffirmed by many popes, even until the 15th century.
The bull forbade, besides other things, Christians from coercing Jews to convert, or to harm them, or to take their property, or to disturb the celebration of their festivals, or to interfere with their cemeteries, on pain of excommunication.
Antisemitism in popular European Christian culture escalated beginning in the 13th century. Blood libels and host desecration drew popular attention and led to many cases of persecution against Jews. Antisemitic imagery such as Judensau and Ecclesia et Synagoga recurred in Christian art and architecture.
In Iceland, one of the hymns repeated in the days leading up to Easter include the lines,
In 1492 Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the rulers of Spain who financed Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World just a few months later in 1492, declared that all Jews in their territories should either convert to Catholicism or leave the country. While some converted, many others left for Portugal, France, Italy (including the Papal States), Netherlands, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, and North Africa. Many of those who had fled to Portugal were latter expelled by King Manuel in 1497 or left to avoid forced conversion and persecution.
Martin Luther at first made overtures towards the Jews, believing that the "evils" of Catholicism had prevented their conversion to Christianity. When his call to convert to his version of Christianity was unsuccessful, he became hostile to them.
In his book On the Jews and their Lies, he excoriates them as "venomous beasts, vipers, disgusting scum, canders, devils incarnate." He provided detailed recommendations for a pogrom against them, calling for their permanent oppression and expulsion, writing "Their private houses must be destroyed and devastated, they could be lodged in stables. Let the magistrates burn their synagogues and let whatever escapes be covered with sand and mud. Let them force to work, and if this avails nothing, we will be compelled to expel them like dogs in order not to expose ourselves to incurring divine wrath and eternal damnation from the Jews and their lies." At one point he wrote: "...we are at fault in not slaying them..." a passage that "may be termed the first work of modern antisemitism, and a giant step forward on the road to the Holocaust."
Luther's harsh comments about the Jews are seen by many as a continuation of medieval Christian antisemitism. In his final sermon shortly before his death, however, Luther preached: "We want to treat them with Christian love and to pray for them, so that they might become converted and would receive the Lord."
In accordance with the anti-Jewish precepts of the Russian Orthodox Church, Russia's discriminatory policies towards Jews intensified when the partition of Poland in the 18th century resulted, for the first time in Russian history, in the possession of land with a large Jewish population. This land was designated as the Pale of Settlement from which Jews were forbidden to migrate into the interior of Russia. In 1772 Catherine II, the empress of Russia, forced the Jews of the Pale of Settlement to stay in their shtetls and forbade them from returning to the towns that they occupied before the partition of Poland.
Throughout the 19th century and into the 20th, the Roman Catholic Church still incorporated strong antisemitic elements, despite increasing attempts to separate anti-Judaism (opposition to the Jewish religion on religious grounds) and racial antisemitism. Pope Pius VII (1800–1823) had the walls of the Jewish ghetto in Rome rebuilt after the Jews were emancipated by Napoleon, and Jews were restricted to the ghetto through the end of the Papal States in 1870. Official Catholic organizations, such as the Jesuits, banned candidates "who are descended from the Jewish race unless it is clear that their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather have belonged to the Catholic Church" until 1946.
Brown University historian David Kertzer, working from the Vatican archive, has argued in his book The Popes Against the Jews that in the 19th century and early 20th century the Roman Catholic Church adhered to a distinction between "good antisemitism" and "bad antisemitism". The "bad" kind promoted hatred of Jews because of their descent. This was considered un-Christian because the Christian message was intended for all of humanity regardless of ethnicity; anyone could become a Christian. The "good" kind criticized alleged Jewish conspiracies to control newspapers, banks, and other institutions, to care only about accumulation of wealth, etc. Many Catholic bishops wrote articles criticizing Jews on such grounds, and, when accused of promoting hatred of Jews, would remind people that they condemned the "bad" kind of antisemitism. Kertzer's work is not without critics. Scholar of Jewish-Christian relations Rabbi David G. Dalin, for example, criticized Kertzer in the Weekly Standard for using evidence selectively.
In 1916, in the midst of the First World War, American Jews petitioned Pope Benedict XV on behalf of the Polish Jews.
On April 26, 1933 Hitler declared during a meeting with Roman Catholic Bishop Wilhelm Berning of Osnabrück:
“I have been attacked because of my handling of the Jewish question. The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them in ghettos, etc., because it recognized the Jews for what they were. In the epoch of liberalism the danger was no longer recognized. I am moving back toward the time in which a fifteen-hundred-year-long tradition was implemented. I do not set race over religion, but I recognize the representatives of this race as pestilent for the state and for the Church, and perhaps I am thereby doing Christianity a great service by pushing them out of schools and public functions.”
The transcript of this discussion contains no response by Bishop Berning. Martin Rhonheimer does not consider this unusual since, in his opinion, for a Catholic Bishop in 1933 there was nothing particularly objectionable "in this historically correct reminder".
The Nazis used Martin Luther's book, On the Jews and Their Lies (1543), to claim a moral righteousness for their ideology. Luther even went so far as to advocate the murder of those Jews who refused to convert to Christianity, writing that "we are at fault in not slaying them"
Archbishop Robert Runcie has asserted that: "Without centuries of Christian antisemitism, Hitler's passionate hatred would never have been so fervently echoed...because for centuries Christians have held Jews collectively responsible for the death of Jesus. On Good Friday Jews, have in times past, cowered behind locked doors with fear of a Christian mob seeking 'revenge' for deicide. Without the poisoning of Christian minds through the centuries, the Holocaust is unthinkable." The dissident Catholic priest Hans Küng has written that "Nazi anti-Judaism was the work of godless, anti-Christian criminals. But it would not have been possible without the almost two thousand years' pre-history of 'Christian' anti-Judaism..."
"Nazism was not a Christian phenomenon. Without the long history of Christian anti-Judaism and Christian violence against Jews, Nazi ideology could not have taken hold nor could it have been carried out. Too many Christians participated in, or were sympathetic to, Nazi atrocities against Jews. Other Christians did not protest sufficiently against these atrocities. But Nazism itself was not an inevitable outcome of Christianity."
According to American historian Lucy Dawidowicz, antisemitism has a long history within Christianity. The line of "antisemitic descent" from Luther, the author of On the Jews and Their Lies, to Hitler is "easy to draw." In her The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945, she contends that Luther and Hitler were obsessed by the "demonologized universe" inhabited by Jews. Dawidowicz writes that the similarities between Luther's anti-Jewish writings and modern antisemitism are no coincidence, because they derived from a common history of Judenhass, which can be traced to Haman's advice to Ahasuerus. Although modern German antisemitism also has its roots in German nationalism and the liberal revolution of 1848, Christian antisemitism she writes is a foundation that was laid by the Roman Catholic Church and "upon which Luther built." Dawidowicz' allegations and positions are criticized and not accepted by most historians however. For example, in "Studying the Jew" Alan Steinweis notes that, "Old-fashioned antisemitism, Hitler argued, was insufficient, and would lead only to pogroms, which contribute little to a permanent solution. This is why, Hitler maintained, it was important to promote 'an antisemitism of reason,' one that acknowledged the racial basis of Jewry." Interviews with Nazis by other historians show that the Nazis thought that their views were rooted in biology, not historical prejudices. For example, "S. became a missionary for this biomedical vision... As for anti-Semitic attitudes and actions, he insisted that 'the racial question... [and] resentment of the Jewish race... had nothing to do with medieval anti-Semitism...' That is, it was all a matter of scientific biology and of community."
The Confessing Church was, in 1934, the first Christian opposition group. The Catholic Church officially condemned the Nazi theory of racism in Germany in 1937 with the encyclical "Mit Brennender Sorge", signed by Pope Pius XI, and Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber led the Catholic opposition, preaching against racism.
Many individual Christian clergy and laypeople of all denominations had to pay for their opposition with their life, including:
By the 1940s fewer Christians were willing to oppose Nazi policy publicly, but many secretly helped save the lives of Jews. There are many sections of Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Museum, Yad Vashem, dedicated to honoring these "Righteous Among the Nations".
See (Pope Pius XII and Judaism). Before becoming Pope, Cardinal Pacelli presided as Papal Legate over the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest on 25–30 May 1938. At this time antisemitic laws were in the process of being formulated in Hungary. Pacelli made reference to the Jews "whose lips curse [Christ] and whose hearts reject him even today".
The 1937 encyclical Mit brennender Sorge was issued by Pope Pius XI, but drafted by the future Pope Pius XII and read from the pulpits of all German Catholic churches, it condemned Nazi ideology and has been characterized by scholars as the "first great official public document to dare to confront and criticize Nazism" and "one of the greatest such condemnations ever issued by the Vatican."
In the summer of 1942, Pius explained to his college of Cardinals the reasons for the great gulf that existed between Jews and Christians at the theological level: "Jerusalem has responded to His call and to His grace with the same rigid blindness and stubborn ingratitude that has led it along the path of guilt to the murder of God." Historian Guido Knopp describes these comments of Pius as being "incomprehensible" at a time when "Jerusalem was being murdered by the million". This traditional adversarial relationship with Judaism would be reversed in Nostra Aetate issued during the Second Vatican Council.
Prominent members of the Jewish community have contradicted the criticisms of Pius and spoke highly of his efforts to protect Jews. The Israeli historian Pinchas Lapide interviewed war survivors and concluded that Pius XII "was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands". Some historians dispute this estimate.
The Christian Identity movement, the Ku Klux Klan and other White supremacy groups have expressed antisemitic views. They claim that their antisemitism is based on purported Jewish control of the media, international banks, radical left wing politics, and the promotion of multiculturalism, anti-Christian groups, liberalism and perverse organizations. They rebuke charges of racism and claim Jews who share their ideology maintain membership in their organizations. A racial belief common among these groups, but not universal, is an alternative history doctrine, sometimes called British Israelism. In some forms this doctrine absolutely denies that modern Jews have any racial connection to Israel of the Bible. Instead, according to extreme forms of this doctrine the true racial Israel and true humans are the Adamic (white) race.
These groups are often rejected and not considered to be Christian groups by mainstream Christian denominations as well as the vast majority of Christians around the world.
Antisemitism in Europe remains a substantial problem. Antisemitism exists to a lesser or greater degree in many other nations as well, including Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and the occasional tensions between some Muslim immigrants and Jews across Europe. The US State Department reports that antisemitism has increased dramatically in Europe and Eurasia since 2000.
While in a decline since the 1940s, there is still a measurable amount of antisemitism in the United States of America as well, although acts of violence are rare. The 2001 survey by the Anti-Defamation League reported 1432 acts of antisemitism in the United States that year. The figure included 877 acts of harassment, including verbal intimidation, threats and physical assaults. Antisemitic pronouncements still occur, however. John Hagee, a leading proponent of "Christian Zionism," reiterated a view—the popularity of which is very hard to gauge but must nonetheless be considered not simply isolated—that the Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves by angering God.
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant Christian denomination in the U.S., has explicitly rejected suggestions that it should back away from seeking to convert Jews, a position that critics have called antisemitic, but that Baptists see as consistent with their view that salvation is found solely through faith in Christ. In 1996 the SBC approved a resolution calling for efforts to seek the conversion of Jews "as well as for the salvation of 'every kindred and tongue and people and nation.'"
Most Evangelicals agree with the SBC position, and some have been supporting efforts specifically seeking Jews' conversion. At the same time these groups are among the most pro-Israeli groups. (For more, see Christian Zionism.) Among the controversial groups that has found support from some Evangelical churches is Jews for Jesus, which claims that Jews can "complete" their Jewish faith by accepting Jesus as the Messiah.
The Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, and the United Church of Canada have ended their efforts to convert Jews. While Anglicans do not, as a rule, seek converts from other Christian denominations, the General Synod has affirmed that "the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ is for all and must be shared with all including people from other faiths or of no faith and that to do anything else would be to institutionalize discrimination".
The Roman Catholic Church formerly had religious congregations specifically aimed to conversion of Jews. Some of these were founded by Jewish converts themselves, like the Community of Our Lady of Zion, which was composed of nuns and ordained priests. Many Catholic saints were noted specifically because of their missionary zeal in converting Jews, such as Vincent Ferrer. After the Second Vatican Council many missionary orders aimed at converting Jews to Christianity no longer actively sought to missionize (or proselytize) among Jews. Traditionalist Roman Catholic groups, congregations and clergymen, however, continue to support missionizing Jews according to traditional patterns, sometimes with success (e.g., the Society of St. Pius X which has notable Jewish converts among its faithful, many of whom have become traditionalist priests).
In recent years there has been much to note in the way of reconciliation between some Christian groups and the Jews. Most of this reconciliation has occurred between the Jewish community and the Catholic Church, and evangelical Christian organizations.