Since 1962 when Pope John XXIII initiated Vatican II, Christianity has entered a process of reconciliation with Judaism to address ancient wounds after a long history of Anti-Semitism. In recognition of the bond between the two faiths, Pope Francis recently proclaimed: Inside every Christian is a Jew.
At his Sunday sermons, megachurch televangelist Joel Osteen holds up the Christian Bible and says what most Christians believe: "It's the word of God."
Tragically, anti-Semites have not paid careful attention to the "word of God." If they had, they would know that Jesus was a dedicated practicing Jew throughout his life, as confirmed by a consensus of biblical scholars.
Like the Jews who were slaughtered at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Jesus attended Shabbat services at a synagogue on the Sabbath, where he worshiped and read from the Torah.
The Gospel of Luke tells us: "And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read" (Luke 4:16).
Had the Pittsburgh murderer attacked a synagogue in Galilee in the early first century, he might have killed Jesus and his followers, putting an end to Jesus' fledgling ministry.
The Pittsburgh murderer is not alone in his ignorance of the "word of God." His tirade "Kill all Jews," uttered as he fired an automatic weapon on peaceful worshipers, has a long history. So do his social media attack words: "Jews are the children of Satan."
The fourth century Eight Homilies Against the Jews (387 CE) by St. John of Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, comprises more than 100 pages. Among his diatribes, he declares: "The Jews are more savage than any highwaymen" and "are the most miserable and wretched of all men." His vicious attacks on synagogues include: "The synagogue is a dwelling of demons " the synagogue is not only a brothel " it also is a den of robbers and a lodging for wild beasts " must you not despise it, hold it in abomination."
These themes have echoed throughout the centuries. They reached a crescendo 1,200 years later with Martin Luther, the German theologian who initiated the Protestant Reformation. In his publicationOn theJews and Their Lies(1543 CE), Luther calls Jews "base and whoring people" full of the devil's feces." He incited his followers to "set fire to their synagogues or schools," and proposed that "their rabbis should be forbidden to teach on pain of loss of life and limb."
The following centuries witnessed atrocities against Jews driven by these and other anti-Semitic rants, which many commentators believe paved the way for Hitler's genocide.
Throughout the centuries, marginalized, ghettoized, and persecuted Jews were routinely blamed for societal woes. In medieval times, Jews were charged with "poisoning the wells" to spread the black plague (1347-1351 CE),resulting in the massacre of more than 200 Jewish communities.
When children died under suspicious or unknown circumstances, Jews were accused and often tortured and executed on the bogus charge that they extracted blood from these victims for Passover matzah and other religious rituals (the blood libel).
The Pittsburgh murderer was incited by this latest "Jewish conspiracy." He envisioned himself as a foot soldier in the patriotic vigilante army striking back at the Jews, including a 97-year-old woman praying in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. And what a danger this "invasion" must pose if the president of the United States is mobilizing the vast resources of the most powerful army on the planet to meet the threat.
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