By Yaffah Batya daCosta
If you’ve been following my recent articles, you can probably anticipate that my understanding of the “root cause” of Nazi anti-Semitism will be a distinct form of Romanism. And not just from the term “Third Reich” – referring to the 3rd Realm or Empire, wherein the 1st was the Holy Roman Empire and the 2nd was the German Empire. It goes much further back to the writings of a fourth century Church Father named John Chrysostom. And goes back even further to the fourth Gospel (of the 1st century writings) called the “Gospel of John” where it was written that the Jews are the “synagogue of Satan” (Jn 8:44). That phrase is still used to this day … it was very recently seen on an anti-Semitic flyer thrown onto lawns in Beverly Hills, CA inside of sand bags thrown from a moving car in the wee hours of the morning. It was also seen on anti-Semitic banners on the 405 freeway (in Los Angeles) hanging from an overpass (Jn 8:44, & Rev 3:9). Another banner read Kanye is right about the Jews. But I digress …
I will first explain about Saint John Chrysostom (347 – 407 C.E.). He was born in Antioch, Turkey and later became the Archbishop of Constantinople. He wrote very hateful homilies against the Jews and Judaizers. He wanted to prevent members of his Romanized Christian flock from attending synagogues, and from observing Jewish custom and practices. In his writings he also attacked Judaism and the Jewish way of life. He continued the charge of “deicide” against the Jews (meaning those who killed God). Apparently, in his days, Antioch had a sizable pro-Jewish (or philo-Semite) Christian population there, who were still on good terms with the Jews of Antioch (from the earliest community in the 1st century). John’s sermons and writings were successful in their influence on the local population in becoming more anti-Jewish. There were mob pressures from these writings that led to pogroms. We can also see this through anti-Jewish legislation in terms of political, legal, religious, social, and economic restrictions against the Jews from the 4th to 6th centuries. The Nazis imitated some of these and also studied how the Spanish had dealt with the “Jewish problem” during the Inquisitions (but the majority of Holocaust Museums do not teach about this).
Scholars have shown how John’s writings also influenced Hitler, and Nazi Ideology, who used these polemics for their own ideology. They had moved the marker from religious anti-Semitism to racist anti-Semitism, wherein all non-Aryan peoples (e.g. Gypsies, Africans, Jews, etc.) were classified as “inferior” beings by the Nazis. However, they especially focused on the Jews. This was easy to do in post-WW1 Germany given: 1) the extreme economic conditions, and 2) an historic baseline of religious anti-Semitism in Europe from medieval times.
John Crysostrom’s theology was definitely “suppercessionist” – or what is also called “replacement theology” – as was the theology of the majority, of the early Church Fathers, from the 2nd century onward. It means that according to the development of Romanist Christianity, Christians had replaced the Jews in God’s plans and purposes. Instead of the metaphor of Paul, in Romans Chapter 11, where the non-Jews were grafted into the Olive Tree and did not replace the Jew (the natural branches). Christians with an Antioch (philo-Semite) orientation accept Paul’s position even today about the Jews relative to non-Jewish God-fearing peoples in that both are included in God’s plans and purposes.
The scholars of the writings of the Church Fathers of the 4th century view these vitriolic statements as a form of polemic (strongly worded attacks) that was used against any and all viewpoints that were different from their own narrative. The intention was to vilify the “opposition” in whatever manner shape or form that they could muster. They were bitterly critical of Jews, and Judaism, not because of what we know of today as anti-Semitism and hatred without a cause. It was more from a fear of the “competition” (a marketing term). But it was also due to a concern that non-Jews in their flock might become fully Jewish, and then suffer under Roman rule just like the born Jews had been suffering terribly for at least 5 centuries under Roman rule.
Some might even go so far as to say that the birth of Romanized Christianity itself (in early 2nd century C.E.) was born from a fear of Roman rule, perceived power of the Roman gods, the power of the Roman magistrates, the excessive use of propaganda as well as censorship, and the vicious brutal “cancel culture” dealt to anyone found to be in opposition to the Roman elite. The population of the Levant had already borne witness to the Roman-Jewish wars, the destruction of the 2nd temple in 70 C.E., the exile of the Jewish people from their land in 135 C.E., and the conflict between pro-Jewish as well as anti-Jewish sentiment in terms of their suffering.
There was a belief that Jews were being punished by GOD. The Romanized Christians taught that this punishment was because the normative Jews did not believe in the Galilean as King of Israel (Messiah). Those Jews believed their punishment was because of violations of the covenant with GOD that was prophesied in the Torah itself. It was right after the destruction of the 2nd temple that this conflict widened and increasingly caused the separation (split) of God-fearing Jews and non-Jews.
Even the transformation of non-Jewish philo-Semitism into the Romanized anti-Semitism was (as some might say) a means to protect people from the Roman “cancel culture”. The people would be able to hide their pro-Jewish feelings, and stay safe from Roman persecution of the Jews, by becoming a Romanized Christian. This transformation took at least 3 centuries to be created, from the late 1st century to late 4th century. It was started circa 90-110 C.E. with the writing of the Gospel of John.
Now, the Gospel of John is very different from the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) in the Christian canon (which was decided upon in the 5th century). And of course, by the time of the transformation of Christianity to the Romanized variant (forced by the emperors at the point of a sword) the theology of John was already entrenched. This is mostly likely why the Gospel of John was included in the canon, despite how different it is from the Synoptic Gospels.
John’s Gospel is both anti-Jewish (Jn 8:44) as well as supersessionist. And given the approximate date of its writing (definitely well after the destruction of the 2nd temple) modern scholars have taken a different view of what might have caused his departure from the other Gospel narratives.
The Gospel of John is intentionally provocative and anti-Jewish. Whereas the Synoptic Gospels are neither. The Gospel of John has the highest Heavenly Christology (i.e. study of the nature and meaning of Christ, as the Christian Messiah) whereas the Synoptic Gospels have a much more human, earthly Christology. The Gospel of John is considered to be spiritual (or symbolic) and the Synoptic Gospels literal. In the Gospel of John, the Galilean is killed at the same time as the Passover lambs are being slaughtered, consistent with the beginning of his Gospel with John the Baptist proclaiming the Galilean to be the “Lamb of GOD” which is never mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels. And if the Galilean is the “Lamb of GOD” – what then is the need for a temple, and lambs brought for the slaughter ever again? In John’s Gospel the writer alleges that the Galilean told his followers to drink his blood, which is strictly against the Jewish dietary laws to drink ANY blood. Why was John’s Gospel so antagonistic to Jewish law and tradition? There is no back story for this view in any of the other writings of the 1st century.
Modern Christian scholars think the apparent baseless hatred of the writer (of the Gospel of John) actually did have a base, or a cause. Some scholars like to call the 1st century writings the documentation about what they refer to as the Jesus Movement. But that movement was a sect within Judaism, not outside of it. With the exception of John’s Gospel – which again was placed into the Romanized Christian canon with the other 1st century writings during the 5th century C.E. long after the Christian world was no longer Jewish, and was actually blatantly anti-Jewish.
Paul may have anticipated this. In his writing to the Galatians I, Paul was always making a distinction between GOD the Father, and the Galilean. And he had warned his readers about a “different Gospel”. He wrote to them that if anyone tries to teach them a Gospel different from the one he taught, let them be accursed. Paul was not fooling around. He was very keen on protecting his communities (of followers and believers in the Kingdom of God) from either pressure to convert to Judaism, or the false claims of another Gospel.
So, there was some kind of a switch between the time of Paul (before the temple’s destruction) and the time John (after the temple’s destruction … and some people attribute that switch to the trauma caused by the actual destruction of the 2nd temple, after Paul had died in Rome. It may very well be the case that Roman cancel culture, the forcing onto the population in thought, word and deed of what was required of them by the elite, and the Roman Empire’s mentality of PAX ROMANA (a 200-year period of Roman history from 27 B.C.E to 180 C.E.) was the root cause of the switch. The PAX ROMANA (peace for Rome, quiet in the territories) was their raison d’etre (reason for existence). And during that 200-year period, the Roman Empire had reached its largest expansion of occupied territory and also its largest numerical population.
After the PAX ROMANA had ended, the empire started to decay. But anti-Jewish sentiment that the Roman magistrates created lingered on, and has been used, to this very day, to continue persecution of Jews. Today’s readers, of 1st century documents, are mostly unaware of the politics, religious conflicts and insistent protection of the Roman Imperial Cult by the elite of those times. The magistrates were engaged in censorship of all documents that could threaten the empire, and engaged in propaganda that justified the PAX ROMANA.
With no understanding of the context of the Roman occupation of Judea, it’s just too easy to reinterpret, or misinterpret, the documents (gospels and letters) of the 1st century. Christian scholars and theologians of course know all of these things and discuss/debate the finer points. Perhaps that is why in 1965 at the Church Council called Vatican II, the Pope declared that no longer would all Jews, of all times, be charged with the outrageous concept of “deicide”. And the affirmative idea that the Jewish people are the “elder brother” of Christians in faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The question remains … however … was that statement sufficient in order to undo the damage that was done historically, and while current day anti-Semitism continues to rage on?
Excerpts from a new book (to be published later this year) by Yaffah Batya daCosta called “The Riddle of Calling a Dog’s Tail a Leg: Cancel Culture from Ancient to Modern Times”. She is a descendant of Portuguese Crypto Jews (Bnei Anousim). She returned to the faith & traditions of her Sephardic Jewish ancestors (by halakha) in 2000. She is also the founder and CEO of an Israel International non-profit (Ezra L’Anousim in their 18th year) who helps the returning Crypto-Jews, worldwide. Their website is bneianousim.org