Skip to comments.Christian History Corner: Why some Jews fear The Passion
Posted on 02/25/2004 11:17:10 AM PST by Salem
Christian History Corner: Why some Jews fear The Passion
Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ gives Christians the chance to disavow a shameful history of anti-Semitism.
posted 02/20/2004 |
The Passion of the Christ scares Abraham Foxman. The Anti-Defamation League's national director, currently cast in the role of reluctant film critic, has spent months warning anyone and everyone that The Passion will dramatically strain Christian-Jewish relations and revive age-old Christian hatred for Jews. While most Christians in the West balk at this suggestion, Foxman cannot be dissuaded. He knows the grim history.
"For almost 2,000 years in Western civilization, four words legitimized, rationalized, and fueled anti-Semitism: 'The Jews killed Christ,'" Foxman told the ADL national executive committee during a February meeting. "For hundreds of years those four wordsacted out, spoken out, sermonized outinspired and legitimized pogroms, inquisitions and expulsions."
When Foxman envisions Christ's crucifixion, he does not think about love, forgiveness, or hope. He recalls the Holocaust and Hitler's chilling praise for the famed Oberammergau Passion Play in 1934. He does not weep with unexplainable sadness and joy at the sight of humanity's Savior suffering an undeserved death. He'll never forget the horrifying tales of czarist-era Russian Jews fleeing bloodthirsty gangs bent on Holy Week revenge.
"Read the e-mails, read the Web sites encouraging people to see the film," Foxman warned. "How fragile it is out there. What a reservoir of hatred!"
Hatred? Can we possibly be thinking of the same event? How can he watch Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, the ultimate triumph over death and evil, and think of hatred? The answer to this question is impossible for Christians to fully understand. Sadly, the history of Passion play depictions has been marred by shocking violence against Jews.
"The menace of Jewry"
With the bubonic plague once again sweeping across Europe in 1633, the town leaders of Oberammergau, a Bavarian village, gathered together to beseech God for a miracle. If the Lord would spare little Oberammergau, they promised to thank him by performing a play every 10 years to commemorate Jesus' crucifixion.
After this vow, not one Oberammergau villager died of the plague. The town first performed the play in 1634. More than 350 years later, Oberammergau still remembers its promise. In 2000, nearly half of the town's 5,000 residents participated in the fortieth Oberammergau Passion Play, which drew nearly a half million tourists from around the world.
Yet in the late 1970s, Oberammergau began to draw the ADL's ire. Sensitized by the Holocaust, Jews, especially in Germany, turned a more skeptical eye on Passion plays. Oberammergau, in particular, had been a source of tangible pain. Adolf Hitler had visited the 1934 performance, giving it his eager blessing. "It is vital that the Passion play be continued at Oberammergau; for never has the menace of Jewry been so convincingly portrayed as in this presentation of what happened in the time of the Romans," Hitler had said. "There one sees Pontius Pilate, a Roman racially and intellectually so superior, that he stands out like a firm, clean rock in the middle of the whole muck and mire of Jewry."
To make matters worse, the Dachau concentration camp had performed its horrific duty not far from Oberammergau. While Hitler's brand of murderous anti-Semitism owed far more to scientific determinism than Christianity, he preyed on a history of faith-based persecution. When convenient, Hitler and his Nazi henchmen dredged up the anti-Semitic writings of an elderly Martin Luther to justify their hatred for Jews.
Hitler employed Oberammergau in a similar fashion. He remembered that during and immediately following the Middle Ages, enraged Passion play spectators sometimes invaded the ghettos to exact revenge on Jews for killing Jesus. He hoped Christians would react similarly after viewing the Oberammergau Passion Play. This and other Nazi overtures to the racism simmering barely below the surface of German religious culture produced mixed results, with some churchmen eagerly advocating Nazism and others opposing Hitler on Christian grounds.
Yet as Pope John Paul II acknowledged in 1997, many sincere Christians looked the other way during the Holocaust because in their estimation the Jews were getting what they deserved for rejecting Christ. "The erroneous and unjust interpretations of the New Testament regarding the Jewish people and their presumed guilt circulated for too long" and "contributed to a lulling of many consciences at the time of World War II, so that, while there were 'Christians' who did everything to save those who were persecuted, even to the point of risking their own lives, the spiritual resistance of many was not what humanity expected of Christ's disciples," the Pope told a group meeting to discuss "The Roots of Anti-Judaism in the Christian Milieu."
The Pope may have had the Slovakian papal nuncio in mind when making his remarks about the "lulled consciences" during World War II. When asked in 1942 to intervene on behalf of Jewish children slated by the Nazis to be deported to concentration camps, the nuncio refused. "There is no innocent blood of Jewish children in the world. All Jewish blood is guilty. You have to die. This is the punishment that has been awaiting you because of that sin [of deicide]," he replied. Deicide, which means "to kill God," is the foremost "erroneous and unjust" interpretation of Scripture that has incited so much hostility. In Passion plays, a difficult forum for conveying the theological nuance of humanity's collective culpability, the Jews have often become an inviting target.
Unfortunately, deicide has not been the lone charge directed collectively against Jews. As recently as the early twentieth century, pogroms sometimes erupted during Holy Week in Eastern European nations when rumors spread about Jewish crimes. Inflamed by outlandish accusations, such as the claim that Jews killed Christian children and used their blood to make matzo bread for Passover, unruly gangs searched out Jews to kill and maim.
This style of pogrom dates back to the First Crusade. Until this point European Jews largely eluded organized violence, but marauding crusaders on their way to the Middle East in 1096 stopped to slaughter Jews in the Rhineland. One crusader's account recalls, "Behold we journey a long way to seek the idolatrous shrine and to take vengeance upon the Muslims. But here are the Jews dwelling among us, whose ancestors killed him and crucified him groundlessly. Let us take vengeance first upon them. Let us wipe them out as a nation."
Outbreaks of Christian anti-Semitism related to the Passion narrative have been so numerous and destructive that theologian and Holocaust survivor Eliezer Berkovits concluded, "the New Testament is the most dangerous anti-Semitic tract in human history." But neither the New Testament nor The Passion of the Christ is about Jewish deicide or revenge. Each is about God placing the iniquities of us all on his one and only son, who suffered unspeakable brutality to redeem his estranged children. Now is the time for Christians to disavow the history of Passion-linked hatred and show Jews "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ" (Eph. 3:18).
Collin Hansen is editorial resident for Christian History magazine.
Amen, Bob, amen. Thanks for saying! See my comments here, concerning a controversial sign some church has up.
"Jesus was a Jew!"...CORRECTION...
JESUS (YESHUA THE MESSIAH) IS AND WILL ALWAYS BE A JEW FOR ALL ETERNITY.
HE IS The Alef and The Tav...The Beginning and The End.
WARNING: This is a high volume ping list
However, I am a bit concerned over the attitude, displayed by some people on this board, that anyone who expresses any misgivings whatsoever about the impact of this movie, its scriptural and historical accuracy, or Mel Gibson's motivations, is immediately an "anti-Christian bigot." Ironically, it's usually the very same people who complain that they can never criticise Israel without being called "anti-Semitic."
I am also angered by the hysterical comments from some allegedly "Orthodox" Jews (Eli Yisah and Tzvi Weinreb) who ought to know better. I know that viewing this movie is not goint to make me doubt my own religion and run out to become a Christian. What an insult to my faith and my commitment, to claim that it could be swept away by a movie and therefore I shouldn't be allowed to see it!
1) Orthodox Jews who know the Torah is from Heaven and that not one single letter or even part of a letter may ever be erased should show a modicum of sensitivity to people who mistakenly believe that the "new testament" in its entirety is also from Heaven. Until chr*stians are made to understand that the "new testament" is not from Heaven they cannot be expected to disobey or alter it. Jews who refuse to tell chr*stians that their religion is false, but who instead are making absolute demands in relativist terms ("let's forget about who's right or wrong, but you always have to make concessions and we never do") is committing a great chillul HaShem because no Bible-beliving chr*stian is going to associate this hypocritical liberal philosophy with genuine Biblical Judaism. Instead, he will be reinforced in his belief that the Jews apostasized from Biblical Judaism when they rejected J*sus.
2) Abe Foxman is not a nice person. To simple people who know only the composite chr*stian bible (ot/nt) his attacks on the gospels are indistinguishable from his attacks on `Aseret HaDibberot (the Ten Commandments). As a matter of fact, according to Don Feder, Foxman has publicly stated that literal interpretation of the "old testament" is as bad as literal interpretation of the gospels. What do naive chr*stians assume from all this? That Jews are not only against the "new testament" but "against the Bible" as a whole. I hope I am not the only Jew or Noachide on this forum who realizes what a great blasphemy this is.
3) Finally, as a former chr*stian myself who realizes the bind Jews are putting chr*stians in by refusing to speak in absolute terms ("we are the true religion") while demanding chr*stians violate the tenets of their religion, I want to go on record once and for all. J*sus deserved to die!!! Blasphemy is a capital offense and only a secular humanist would disagree with this. Under Torah, a Jew who commits blasphemy is to be executed by strangulation. And when Jews are not in a position to carry out Halakhic executions G-d often intervenes to carry them out Himself. How does crucifixion (which is NOT a Halakhic form of punishment) kill? By strangulation!!! G-d carried out the punishment!!!
I know my last point will offend many of you, but that is far better than telling you to go ahead and believe J*sus is G-d but don't obey him. What an unspeakably cruel demand to make of anyone!!! You don't have to obey him or believe the "new testament" because they are not true, and those "tolerant, compassionate" people who will not tell you this but still expect you to change your beliefs and practices are cruel.
You are being led to believe that Judaism opposes the gospels because it opposes Absolute Truth. In fact, it is because it is dedicated to Absolute Truth that it opposes them. I suppose it had to take a non-Jew and a former chr*stian to tell you all this.
But that was not their central reason.
Do not let political opportunism cloud your reason.
The pope has gone senile.
It appears to me that the author of the screed you linked does not understand the Bible, nor God.
Apparently the website owners do not agree with the presentation because they put up a disclaimer. However it is certainly possible for someone to have a knowledge of scripture and a deep faith in G-D without being a Christian.
May the Jewish People, the people eternally chosen by G-d to serve mankind in the capacity of a priesthood, speak words of G-dliness and assuredness to all mankind and shine so brightly that there will never be any doubt that HaShem is G-d, the Torah is His Word, and Israel is His holy people.
To me, it is not the Christians that have rejected Jesus.
End of discussion.
I might agree that it is a legitimate concern, but do not agree that what happened should be defended as a current problem nor should Jews be collectively blamed then or now.
As to now, having seen the film, I believe that if you went in antisemitic, you would come out that way.
If you went in without any hate, you would come out that way.
Gibson, in no way guided the viewer to consider blaming anyone this in the film. No, quite the contrary, he guide the viewer to understand that Jesus died for our/my sins and forgave those who contributed in any way to his death. He forgave all, individually and collectively.
Believe me, as one who understands where you stand and how what I wrote must have wounded you, your words here are the highest compliment I could receive.
To tell non-Jews that Devout Jews want them to believe that religion doesn't matter is unconscionable. If I have accomplished nothing else in the years I have been on this forum at least let it be known that the reason Torah True Jews reject chr*stianity is for the sake of Heaven, just as you accept him for what you feel is the same reason.
The country... no, scratch that. The world is poised at a precipice not unlike that of 1939, or 1914... or perhaps an amalgam of both incredibly awful periods.
I'm trying to avoid saying "Can't we all just get along together", but really, folks (I'm not talking to "everyone", but the few I'm addressing know who you are), we're about to fall over the cliff, and we're too busy bickering over doctrinal purity.
At the risk of sounding trite, let's save the world first, and then bicker over who helped the most after the nightmare's over.
Note: "save the world" is meant in the colloquial sense, not the spiritual sense, OK? I really do see the world facing the kind of instability it did in the months leading up to WWI, with the kind of horror waiting in the wings that WWII delivered.
Well, maybe; but I don't see how you could make that determination on the basis of the text you quoted. Am I missing something here?
When did that happen?
I think a lot of it is blowback from the ACLU/Hard Left attack on Christianity in all quarters in America over the last four decades. "The Passion" has put that which the cultural Marxists have fought so hard to bury right back in the middle of the American consciousness. It is at the core of the Culture Warsand it is indeed a war, and American Christians fight back.
"I know that viewing this movie is not going to make me doubt my own religion and run out to become a Christian. What an insult to my faith and my commitment, to claim that it could be swept away by a movie and therefore I shouldn't be allowed to see it!"
I applaud your objectivity and caliber. The entrance of this movie into the American cultural experience has perhaps presented some risk to the Jewish/Christian alliance in advocacy for the Nation of Israel. But it also has provided opportunity to overcome that. May we choose wisely. I know we will.
I'll be up front with you ZC, although coming from a "simpleminded" Christian like me, I doubt it will have any impact.
You wield your head knowledge like a club and flaunt it like a peacock fanning its tail. But you have no wisdom or depth of heart.
Over the years, I've gone round and round with guys like you, in other venues and over other issues, and learned the hard way it doesn't do any good. So I don't do it anymore. Our time here is too short and too valuable.
You would do well to learn from the Jews at Free Republic who carry weight in my sphere of influence, like Yoni, SJackson, Yehuda, Slings and Arrows, Nachum, Nix 2, and Alouette. With me they model patience, grace, compassion, restraint and wisdomthe attributes of the Heart of G-d.
I didn't come to be a Christian 24 years ago lightly; through whimsical, vacillating notions or superficial terms, nor am I "led to believe" by any man. I met the Living God, and I know exactly what I am talking about. But you're going to straighten me out, huh? Amazing.
Buddy, all you have is religious head knowledge. Let me point this out to you, by using Alouette for example. She's the real deal, a Daughter of the House of Israel. She risks something every day of her life for the Lord, every time one of her kids gets back on a plane and flies into the Land of Israel to live thereand fight there. She stands, not in simple head knowledge, but a faith that impacts the real world, trusting in a living G-d that He will watch over and protect them in the middle of a situation few would willingly golet alone build a life in.
Therefore, the Orthodox community she represents has my respect and admirationand speaking on behalf of the Evangelical Christian community, our tangible and vocal support. They are living it. They are dying for it. Their faith isn't an intellectual contest and a pompous pretense to look down their nose at others, it is building a home and a life in The Land because G-d led them so, and they obey.
Studying it till you know it front and back, up and down, forward and backward, doesn't make the grade when the transit buses start blowing up and the Palestinian rockets and bullets are incoming, or you have family living any where near it, any time of the day or night.
The Jewish community knows were I stand. I know where they stand. We stand together because the Nation of Israel is quickly becoming ground zero in the contemporary history of mankind.
Whatta' you got? Who are you?
If you'd like to be on or off this
Christian Supporters of Israel ping list,
please FR mail me. ~
There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had
spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:45)
Letter To The President In Support Of Israel ~
'Final Solution,' Phase 2 ~
Be faithful now then . . describe the Messiah when comes to Jeruselum. Describe the Lion of Judah in human form as he will appear when he stands on Mount Olive.
...on behalf of the Evangelical Christian community, our tangible and vocal support. They are living it. They are dying for it. Their faith isn't an intellectual contest and a pompous pretense to look down their nose at others, it is building a home and a life in The Land because G-d led them so, and they obey. I couldn't have said it better.
ZC... I do, however, appreciate the sincerity of your point, and the committment to your beliefs. Although we might strongly disagree on many of the details, I have no doubt that we share the fundamentals, and that afterall, is most important. Pardon me, however, if I do not submit to being "...made to understand..." your point of view. Such condescension offends my secular sensibilities much more than your insight troubles my religious beliefs. That being said, I respectfully withdraw my three word response where you, Sir, are concerned, as I respect your point and the considerate way that you attempted to express it.
But, it is Mr. Joe that has scored a undisputed homerun on this thread, imo. "The world is poised at a precipice not unlike that of 1939, or 1914... or perhaps an amalgam of both incredibly awful periods." 35. Well put, Sir Don.
As I have said on a related thread..."The story of the Passion far surpasses religion, ethnicity, nationality and individual personalities. Christ's ordeal should be a warning to humanity of what happens when popular opinion, fed by irrational rhetoric and lies, fuel fear churned into violence and madness turned against anybody; whether they be a group like the Templars (ca. 1307), individuals like Galileo, a sect like the Mormons (ca. 1820), a people like the Jews (ca.1939), honorable leaders like George W. Bush, or a courageous story teller like Mel Gibson." 405
We may disagree about a good many things. And religion is certainly no 'petty' difference to be disregarded, as this current struggle suggests. But, we must keep our eye on the ball, so to speak. The world is erupting before us and the sides of humanity are being clearly differentiated between those who despise Man, and those who cherish the gift of life. Currently, the haters of Man would love nothing better than to divide their enemy with silly dogs of straw... bickering about irrelevant issue that they themselves (the Haters) have manufactured to disguise their own dogs of war.
If anything, the advent of The Passion should serve to remind both Jews and Christians (Neo-Jews, if you will) what happens when you allow your passions to be manipulated by heathens (Romans) and their lifeless sensibilities.
I'll end this by restating, Salem's own profound point, because I think that it needs to be said again...
The Jewish community knows were [Christians] stand. [We] know where they stand. We stand together because the Nation of Israel is quickly becoming ground zero in the contemporary history of mankind. Again... Well said, Sir.
Many Jews have many fears about the movie and time will prove whether they are grounded or not.
When a group of evangelical Christians visited Jerusalem earlier this year, they were spoken to by Sharon who said in his speech that their support for Israel and Jews in Israel is very much appreciated. He even said that "We love you too", in responding to their love of Israel.
There is a storm brewing and we had better know who our friends are.
But I also am still stunned by the info in the article about Hitler and Oberammergau.
I feel so sorry as a Christian for our past.