Christian Antisemitism : A History of Hate

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In Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate, Professor William Nicholls, a former minister in the Anglican Church and the founder of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of British Columbia, presents his stunning research, stating that Christian teaching is primarily responsible for antisemitism. As Nicholls states, these conclusions “can now be fully justified by the most up-to-date scholarship, Christian as well as Jewish.”
Nicholls writes, “Many Jewish writers have said, quite simply that the Nazis chose the Jews as the target of their hate because two thousand years of Christian teaching had accustomed the world to do so. Few Christian historians and theologians have been sufficiently open to the painful truth to accept this explanation without considerable qualification. Nevertheless, it is correct.”
Christian Antisemitism traces, over two millennia, the growing domination of Western culture by the Christian “myth” (as Nicholls calls it) about the Jews, and shows how it still exerts a major influence even on the secularized “post-Christian world.” Nicholls shows, through scrupulous research and documentation, that the myth of the Jews as Christ-killers has powered anti-Judaism and antisemitism throughout the centuries. Nicholls clearly illustrates that this myth is present in the New Testament and that “it has not yet died under the impact of modern critical history.”
Also included in this remarkable volume is Nicholls’ research regarding the Jewishness of Jesus. He writes, “Historical scholarship now permits us to affirm with confidence that Jesus of Nazareth was a faithful and observant Jew who lived by the Torah and taught nothing against his own people and their faith…the Romans, not the Jews, were the Christ-killers.”
In Part I, “Before the Myth,” Nicholls explores the life of Jesus and his teachings as found in the New Testament. Was Jesus the founder of Christianity? Did he offer teachings against his people? Did he believe himself to be the Messiah? In Part II, “The Growth of the Myth,” Nicholls looks at the impact made by Paul and documents the slow but steady relegation of the Jews to a position of hatred and victimization and their role as scapegoat. Also included in this section of the book is a close look at the development of the notion of the Jew as a player in Christian theology. In Part III, “The Myth Secularized,” Nicholls observes the “secularization” of antisemitism, from the age of Napoleon to the present. His conclusion is a pessimistic one, noting that “the Holocaust has not brought an end to anti-semitism. It still pervades European and North American culture.”
Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate is an extraordinary document of historical research. It is also a moving statement by a former Christian theologian who has come face-to-face with the most painful aspects of the religious tradition in which he was raised.

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