Is the Church the really best it could have been … ?
Was the 'greatest preacher' an anti-semite?
Returning to history, we can trace how Replacement Theology became Christian practice. Although the Jews, by then, were largely living in exile, they were a constant embarrassment to the Church Fathers, who were eager to show the triumph of Christianity over Judaism and Christian over Jew and what better way than to directly attack the very heart of Judaism, the religious practices.
The day of rest and worship changed to the Sunday, the Lord's Day, in honour of Jesus' resurrection. Despite the fact that there was no direction from God on this and that Sunday was a pagan Roman day of sun-worship, it was the first step away from the roots and towards the pagan community in which they lived. This, with the later adoption of December 25th as Christmas Day (The Roman day of Saturnalia, a day of orgy and revelry) and Easter (a pagan fertility festival), went totally against the teaching of Jesus who told them to 'be in the world, but not of the world'.
Then it started to get personal.
In the 4th Century AD, lived John called Chrysostom, literally 'the golden-mouthed' by his friends and followers on account of his eloquence in promoting modest Christian principles. He was probably the best known preacher of the day. What did he think of the Jews? Here are his words:
'The synagogue is not only a whorehouse and a theatre; it is also a den of thieves and a haunt of wild animals ... not the cave of a wild animal merely, but of an unclean wild animal ... The Jews have no conception of things at all, but living for the lower nature, all agog for the here and now, no better disposed than pigs or goats, they live by the rule of debauchery and inordinate gluttony. Only one thing they understand: to gorge themselves and get drunk'
Can you believe these words? Chrysostom wasn't alone in expressing these sentiments, it's just that his writings have survived longer than those of his contemporaries. You can imagine a small rabble meeting in a darkened room in a sordid part of town and spewing out such views out of ignorance and hatred, but coming from the mouth of the 'greatest of Christian preachers', who was renowned for his moral teaching, it is unbelievable! We are now entering a situation that becomes very difficult to understand from a natural standpoint. It would be understandable for this Christian leader to preach his views on the 'rejection of the Jews', but then, out of common humanity, also urging forgiveness and understanding. After all, this is what Jesus taught! But, alas ...
Chrysostom continues. 'As for me, I hate the synagogue ... I hate the Jews ...'
Now you may think that I have been uncharitable to Chrysostom, because, after all, we only picked on some of his writings, ignoring the rest of his life's work. Perhaps we can allow him one little lapse, he may have been having a 'bad hair day' when he wrote those horrible things ... no, certainly not! We can only judge historical figures by the effect they have on the World, and the anti-Semitic writings of Chrysostom, along with many other Church fathers such as Augustine, Tertullian, Origen, Irenaeus, and others, set the tone for treatment of the Jews in subsequent years.
But then there's another way to see the Galut. Was this exile to be permanent? After all, when the people of the northern nation of Israel were led into captivity by the Assyrians, they disappeared from history - unless you truly believe they re-emerged as Red Indians, Salt Lake Mormons, Rastafarians or Prince Charles!
As my argument went in an earlier article, the main purpose for the 'kingdom of priests' was to fulfil the plans of God. A 'separated' people had to be nurtured, protected and directed so that the Messiah of mankind could appear at a point in history. Jesus of Nazareth had to come to fulfil the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures and for this to happen, the blood-line of David had to survive the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans. Despite attempts by Herod the Great to kill him before he had a chance to start his ministry (Matthew 2:16), Jesus was born to a people under harsh Roman occupation, but a people intact after centuries of persecution and hardships.
So that should have been that. Jesus had arrived and now we see, just 40 years after his crucifixion, his people had been sent out into exile, into Galut. If the Jews were now a spent force, like a wolf spider male, devoured by the female after mating, then the sensible thing for God was to make this second exile a permanent one. Surely, some say, the Jews were now finished. The Messiah had come and most of them had rejected him, so they'd had their day and they'd blown it!
But not so. We'll find out more next week.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation )