By Joel Hess –
In 2020 the little town of Oberammagau, Germany will once again offer to God their famous passion play (a play depicting the passion of Christ). It all began in 1634. As the bubonic plague ravished Europe, the citizens of this God fearing city proposed a deal with their Creator. They believed that if they performed a drama portraying Christ’s journey to the cross, they would be spared from the disease. Though God did not respond specifically to this bargain, they began to perform it every year. And sure enough, they observed that less of them succumbed to the bug compared to other cities. So they began to produce this play once a year, just in case. (If you live by the law, you will eventually be a slave to the law). However, because it grew in popularity they quickly realized this feat could only be accomplished every 10 years. I don’t know if their union reps hashed this out with God’s reps; but hey, they haven’t seen the plague since.
While the passion play began as a sacrificial offering to appease an angry God, today it has become a performance to appease the angry mob. Specifically, the angry mob that protests that the play, along with the whole New Testament, is anti-Semitic. Therefore, every decade the play (and the actual Gospel story, really) endures severe editing in order to remove any sense that the Jews were enemies of Jesus; let alone that they had anything to do with His death on the cross.
Now, to be sure, plays like these definitely went over the top in the Middle Ages. They sadly and narrowly placed the blame for Jesus’ death upon the Jews as an ethnicity. Even worse, there is plenty of evidence that the Jews in these plays were made to look especially ugly and creepy. Certainly these depictions encouraged anti-Semitic attitudes and actions, and even Nazism. So, Europeans should repent. I get it.
However, today, not only are plays like these accused of anti-Semitism, but the whole New Testament is said to be anti-Semitic! That’s crazy right?
Humorously some Christians perform logical gymnastics to demonstrate that the New Testament isn’t really anti -Semitic at all. They twist scripture to argue that it was really Pilate and the Roman government who killed Jesus. He died, after all, on a Roman cross, right?
Another argument (and better one) against labeling the New Testament anti-Semitic lies in the fact that much of it was written by Jews! So at worst, these holy writings should be considered inter-religious/ethnic squabbles, but certainly not anti-Semitic as we know it today.
But you know what? After reading the New Testament several times, I have to agree; it is anti-Semitic. In fact, the whole Bible is anti-Semitic!
Try it yourself! Close your eyes, pick a page and read it! Time and time again you will find the Jewish people depicted as foolish or evil! Joseph’s brothers try to kill him out of jealousy! Moses tries to save his people and they grumble the whole way! Sure God calls them His chosen people, but more often than not, they speak and behave like idiots. They are called an adulterous wife, a crappy vineyard, a stubborn people and worse! Finally God’s patience ran out, and He allowed other nations to crush them.
The anti-Semitism of the New Testament is well established in the Old. These same rebellious people reject Jesus just as they rejected the prophets of old. Now, for sure not every Jewish person rebelled. The rejects of Israel, the outcast, the despised, they welcomed Jesus – or more importantly, Jesus welcomed them. But the Jews didn’t really consider those people Jews anyways. They didn’t have the pedigree.
And yes, I’m sorry to you people involved in interfaith dialogue, but the New Testament authors make it abundantly clear that it was Jewish leaders who wanted Jesus dead, not Roman! Pilate could care less and even fought for Jesus’ release! Jewish people killed Jesus! They brought the charges. They convinced Pilate. They chanted, “Crucify him”.
That’s that! You can’t wiggle out of it! The bible is clearly anti-Semitic.
Oh, but wait a second. It ain’t so favorable toward other ethnicities either! What about the flood? Or laws against hanging out with anyone who isn’t a child of Abraham? Isaiah says “The people in darkness have seen a great light”, so the Bible writers considered people who weren’t Jewish as those who live in darkness? That’s a little elitist! Right?
It certainly doesn’t get better in the New Testament. A couple of Sundays ago, many of us heard Jesus call the Canaanite woman a dog who doesn’t deserve the food from the children’s (Israel’s) table!
Sorry folks, the Bible isn’t just anti-Semitic; it’s anti-every–itic! It’s an equal opportunity offender. Nobody gets out of it clean. And the Lord casts some big stereotypes, too!
St. John records at the end of chapter 2 of his Gospel, “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”
Oh really, Jesus! You think we are all the same? You think you know me?!
Uh yeah! Jew, Gentile, German, Michigander, Arab, even the Swiss you are ugly, hate-filled, hate-spewing, lusting, envious, prideful, sons of guns (and daughters of guns).
No matter who you are, if you read Holy Scripture, you will be offended! That’s God’s hope at least!
Yet, just as the Lord equally cuts down every ethnicity, He also loves each one all the more. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son! Jesus died for ALL! Jesus died and rose so that ALL peoples may be brought back to God AND each other! Barriers of sin are broken, barriers of race, language, culture are torn down. Barriers that started with our first parents, Adam and Eve. Jesus came so that there will no longer be any anti-anything between peoples. So that we shall dwell one day in a City! A City that won’t be Jewish or Gentile, German or Ethiopian – but humankind sharing all things as God shares all things with us!
Lord, feel free to cut me down, offend me, break me. Only to lift me up and heal me along with all my brothers and sisters in Christ with your grace, mercy, peace and hope. Come, Lord Jesus!