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The Persecuted Church


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The Churches past and current history with the Jews

Matt 11:6 “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

The emergence of Christianity has always been understood that it was an outgrowth of Judaism, a fulfillment of the Jewish prophets.

Persecutions took place from the reign of Caesar and then Emperor Trajan (98-117 A.D.) Other Roman Emperors who followed not only eliminating Christians, but collected the books of scripture to destroy them by having them burned. Despite all this attack the church and the Scriptures survived. But somewhere along the way the church forgot the Scripture came by the Hebrew prophets, that the 12 apostles were Jews commissioned to take to the world the gospel in the same way the nation of Israel was to live and take the law of Moses.

Judaism failed in winning many non-Jews prior to Jesus first coming, after the first century the church became more Gentile than Jewish. It failed to win Jews and then resorted to force for conversion. Hellenistic Judaism was predominated among the Jews outside their homeland, modified by the pervading Greek culture, and the very same thing happened to the church to a certain degree that removed them from the Jewish origin of the Scripture.

The synagogues were center of Judaism, once the Jews were evicted from the land  and there was no temple they became the main meeting place, it was essential to perpetuate their religion. The Dispersion of Jews from the land had also helped the spread of Christianity, as the faith began to grow among the Gentile converts by Jews bringing the gospel. Until this time it was not tolerated in the Roman Empire, attempt after attempt tried to have the bringers of the gospel extinguished by persecution.

Though Christianity was underground it was widespread, but soon some took notice. Emperor Galerius brought an end to the persecutions, then along came Constantine and made Christianity to be a legal religion, the Church was allowed to be united with the State, the Roman Empire. Some may argue of Constantine’s converting to Christ but it is more accurate to see him do this for political expedience. There was no Roman “Catholic” Church ruling Christianity before Constantine, because Christianity was an illegal religion and an underground practice. It took a couple of hundred more years for a Roman bishop as the head of the Church, making it an official Roman Church functioning similar to today's Catholic system.

As Kenneth Latourette makes the point in his “The First Five Centuries’ “ It is suggested that Constantine wished to conciliate the East, where Christians were extremely influential, without alienating the pagan majority in the West. Certainly, as we shall see, he did not go over completely to the Church, but remained in part pagan. In 314, when the cross for the first time appeared on his coins, it was accompanied by the figures o Sol Invictus and Mars Conservator. To the end he retained the title and office of Pontifex maximus and so remained the head of the pagan state cult.” (p.145)

Many of the citizens of the Empire become Christians, (joining the church made them Christian). What at first seemed like God ended this travail was really Satan at work. While this all seemed beneficial at first, those bringing relief to the persecuted. For more than a millennium the church would allow the world and other religious practices to enter the official visible church. As the church became more worldly, exercising its ecclesiastical power, there were those who were true followers of Christ that would challenge it from within.

This change of status through the reign of Constantine affected of Christianity outside the bounds their Empire, Asia Minor had tremendous growth. Christianity was now politically correct. All types of people joined the Church for reasons other than Christ. Constantine knew little about the actual Religion nor was he equipped to understand it. He accepted all, making peace with all. But within this new legality the true Christians debated vigorously the counterfeits. But counterfeits seemed to have an upper hand. Constantine received Eusebius of Nicodemia on his deathbed, and was baptized an Arian (337 A.D.) supporting Arius' view, he rejected the Triune view of God, Jesus being an eternal Son. Constantine's son Constantius, banished Athanasius (and followers) in 339 A.D. who debated on Jesus not being a created being. Thus Christian orthodoxy was under attack by the state, the church that made it a legal religion.

When Constantine established Romanized Christianity, the organized church became an official religion of the Roman Empire (approx. 312 AD.) Christians were no longer concerned about persecution. However, for the Jews, it was another story. He issued many anti-Jewish laws. Jews were forbidden to accept converts; much pressure was used to make them forsake Judaism. Later in 325 AD he said, ‘It is right to demand what our reason approves and that we should have nothing in common with the Jews.’ The association that was held between Christianity and Judaism were severed. Constantine ordered the persecution of Jews, including Jewish followers of Christ. Constantine issued laws forbidding Jewish believers to keep Saturday as the Sabbath, celebrate Passover, and circumcise their children, etc. The punishments included imprisonment, and even death.

While the early church apologists argued in favor of the new covenant and against the law keeping of the old covenant, they overstepped the bounds, making Judaism the same as the Jewish people, both were to be rejected.

Paul wrote in his epistle to the Roman’s to non-Jewish believers, that God had not rejected His people Israel and for the Gentiles not to be arrogant, and boast against the natural branches. Rom. 11:13-23 “For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.”  V.25 warning “you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.’

Origen of Alexandria wrote that the Jews “have committed the most abominable of crimes” in conspiring against Christ, and for that reason “the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election”. …and 'the blood of Jesus falls not only on the Jews of that time, but on all generations of Jews up to the end of the world.'

We have the first vestiges of replacement theology, they believed the Jewish people have no future in God’s plan, they forfeited it completely and the Church has taken the place of the Israel.

Later in the 4th century a “Christianity” was being formed within the Greco-Roman churches that was contrary to the original Judeo-Christianity passed on from the apostles. By the 5th century, this church was in control of the “Christianity” for the masses. Over the centuries they eliminated all the other forms of Christianity that would be more biblical or Hebraic based, taking out the competition.

Chrysostom whose Homilies were used in seminaries and schools:"The Jews sacrifice their children to Satan....they are worse than wild beasts. The synagogue is a brothel, a den of scoundrels, the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults, a criminal assembly of Jews, a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ." "I hate the Jews because they violate the Law. I hate the synagogue because it has the Law and the prophets. It is the duty of all Christians to hate the Jews." (Chrysostoms "Homilies against the Jews" Patrologia Graeca pp.843-942.)

In the early 4th century, Eusebius who we know as the church historian wrote that the promises of the Hebrew Scriptures were for Christians and not the Jews, the curses were for the Jews. This became the prevailing view as the Post-Nicene fathers wrote after Nicaean council, this where we find the most animosity.

This attitude continued throughout the centuries and there was anti - semitism in the church as well as outside. ‘The Jews are the most worthless of all men. They are perfidious murderers of Christ. The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ and for killing God there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. God always hated the Jews. It is incumbent upon all Christians to hate the Jews. (John Chrysostom, Saint, Church Father, 4th-5th century)

The Christians were no longer persecuted as Roman Catholicism became the main visible organized accepted church, yet the Jewish people began to suffer continual persecution. In Spain (613 AD) all Jews who refused to be baptized were forced to leave the country. Later the remaining Jews were made as slaves by Christians.

Instead of giving the gospel of Israel’s Messiah there was continual animosity. A Jew who accepted public office necessarily had to convert (The council of Clichy 626–627). This forced conversion continued from Rome.

In Vicars of Christ, Jesuit historian Peter deRosa (a Roman Catholic) writes of those early days: [Catholicism] will become the most persecuting faith the world has ever seen. They will persecute the race from which Peter and Jesus sprang...[and] order in Christ's name all those who disagree with them to be tortured, and sometimes crucified over fire. They will make an alliance between throne and altar; they will insist that...the throne (the state) impose the Christian [Roman Catholic] religion on all its subjects. (Quoted in The Berean call July 1993)

History shows popes, such as Benedict XIV, Pius VII, Leo XII, Pius VIII, Gregory XVI, Pius IX, continued the persecution of Jews.

“We hear of no persecution of Jews in Gaul until the severe enactments of the third and fourth Councils of Orleans (538, 541), a generation after the conquest of Arian Visigothic Gaul by the orthodox Christian Clovis. Before the Crusades the active persecution of Jews in medieval Europe was sporadic. The Byzantine emperors continued for two centuries the oppressive policies of Justinian toward the Jews. Heraclius (628) banished them from Jerusalem in retaliation for their aid to Persia, and did all he could to exterminate them. Leo the Isaurian sought to disprove the rumor that he was Jewish by a decree (723) giving Byzantine Jews a choice between Christianity or banishment. Some submitted; some burned themselves to death in their synagogues rather than yield. Basil I (867-86) resumed the campaign to enforce baptism upon the Jews; and Constantine VII (912-59) required from Jews in Christian courts a humiliating form of oath- more Judaico - which continued in use in Europe till the nineteenth century (p.498 The Age of Faith, Will Durant)

“…the dislike for the Jews and the violence against them increased with time is difficult to determine. Any region which contained many of them witnessed waves of persecution which were often accompanied by attempts at compulsory conversion. In years of high emotional mass tension or fear, the Jews, as a peculiar people, might be singled out for attack.” (p.213, A History of The Expansion of Christianity, Kenneth S. Latourette)

Over the centuries thousands of Jews were blamed for the death of Christ, as if they were there and personally responsible. The Bible teaches Jesus mission was to come to earth to be crucified, so they did not know their own Bible. He would have had to die for our sins no matter what, that was his mission. Some blamed the high priest in Jesus’ day others blamed the whole nation, not distinguishing what the Scripture itself says of the Pharisees, that the multitudes were following him and the Pharisees were going to lose their power and influence. It was these teachers of the law, not the everyday people that came against Jesus. You could say the established religion of his day (that was teaching their own traditions not Moses’ Mk.7).

Because of the increase tortures and killings of the Jewish people, the Jews began to view Jesus, not as a Jew, as someone who hated the Jewish people, they blamed him for their misery.’ I know my mom held this view for most of her life. The Devil was at work prompting the Gentiles to make Christianity another religion divorced from its original founding, instead of a continuation and fulfillment of the Jewish religion, its feast days and prophets.

This false view is still perpetuated today, blaming the Jews for nearly everything possible. The first Crusade in 1096 saw zealous persecution of Jewish communities as the Crusaders began their journeys to the ‘Holy Land’ to liberate it from the Muslims. They said, ‘We are going to fight Christ’s enemies in Palestine (i.e. the Muslims), but should we forget his enemies in our midst (i.e. the Jews)?’ 12,000 Jews were killed in the cities along the Rhine River. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 they massacred all the Jews and the Muslims.

In 1215 Pope Innocent III condemned the Jews to eternal slavery by decreeing, ‘The Jews against whom the blood of Jesus Christ calls out, although they ought not to be killed, lest the Christian people forget the Divine Law, yet as wanderers ought they remain upon the earth until their countenance be filled with shame.’

The first ritual murder charge against the Jewish community was in Norwich in 1144 when the Jews were accused of killing a Christian child at Passover time to drain his blood in order to make Passover matzos. This ridiculous rumor persists, adopted by Muslim’s to incite hatred of the Jews today.

In 1290 King Edward I expelled all Jews from England. In 1478 the Spanish Inquisition was directed against heretics – Jews and non Catholic Christians. In 1492 Jews were given the choice of forced baptism or expulsion from Spain. 300,000 left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Columbus a converted Jew sailed to find a new land

Martin Luther had hoped he would win the Jews to his protest, a reformed Roman faith. But they rejected his attempts to convert them, he turned on them showing the same hatred of the church he had protested.

Martin Luther: What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews?

Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. What shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of the Jews? First their synagogues should be set on fire. Secondly their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed. Thirdly they should be deprived of their prayer books and Talmuds. Fourthly their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more. Fifthly passport and travelling privileges should be absolutely forbidden to the Jews. Sixthly they ought to be stopped from usury. Seventhly let the young and strong Jews and Jewesses be given the flail, the axe, the spade, the distaff, and spindle and let them earn their bread by the sweat of their noses. To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one, so that you and we may all be free of this insufferable devilish burden – the Jews.’ (The Jews and Their Lies (excerpts) 1483-1546)

I'm certainly not saying that what the Jews believe is all right or accurate, it wasn't in Jesus' day. But this does not make them an enemy that one wants to remove them as some want. These same sentiments were adopted by the Nazis in their propaganda. Hitler used whatever was available to promote his final solution. And this continues today with Islam and their religious competition.

Rom. 11:28-29 “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable

Far be it from what Paul wrote in Rom. 15:9-12: “and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: “For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, and sing to Your name.” And again he says: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!” And again: “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!” And again, Isaiah says: “There shall be a root of Jesse; and He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in Him the Gentiles shall hope.” Again he is referring back to being grafted in as Paul states,

“brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Rom. 11:25-27).

Eventually Europe was engulfed with Christianity, or more accurately the church/state religion. Anti-semitism reached its height in the Middle Ages, with pogroms. The Jews often became scapegoats for many natural catastrophes, anything that went wrong they were to be blamed.

In the late 19th century Russia instigated the pogroms, these were violent attacks on Jewish communities. They burned houses, mass murder, and rape. ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ alleges a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. Many believe it was anti-Semites from Russia that produced the pamphlet. This was adopted as fact by the Nazis and became part of their propaganda effort as they implemented the ‘Final Solution.’ 6 million European Jews were exterminated, by mass killings and being put in ovens through the Holocaust. Today the same lie is being promoted in the Muslim world to incite hatred for Israel and the Jewish people.

The history of Jewish suffering shows a number of things. First - that God has his hand on them and has kept them from extinction (a book called the Indestructible Jews is a good read). Second- most of this has come from people who claimed Christianity but were not practicing it, instead carrying out instructions from men, not God (like Popes). One of the main accusations that had been brought against the Jewish people by these professors of Christianity is to say ‘The Jews killed Jesus.’ But ignore what god actually says.

Flawed teaching in the church has turned this whole matter upside down. they use the verse in Matthew’s Gospel, ‘His blood be upon us and upon our children’ (Matthew 27.25), to claim that the suffering of the Jewish people is the result of a self inflicted curse and even that Christians are therefore justified in persecuting the Jewish people in Jesus’ name. This is what has subtly taken place in the church, Israel is removed from its rightful place.

Peter speaks Acts 2:23-24 “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”

In other words the lawless men among the Jews as well as the Romans took part in his death, but God had planned it before the world began. To blame all the Jews alive as responsible for the crucifixion is certainly prejudice. Because Peter himself was Jewish, as were all the followers at that time. Peter was saying that the people alive who with lawless hands listening to Peter speak were responsible.

Subsequent generations of Jews who had no connection with the decision to call for Jesus’ death should not be held responsible as the Rome through its ecclesiastical church had declared.

1 Peter 1:20 “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.

I Jn. 3:8: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” That would be sin and death that was introduced from the beginning of the fall.

At his hour of trial in Gethsemane John 12:27: “But for this purpose I came to this hour.”

Heb. 12:2-3 “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”

Notice he says sinners. That includes everyone, not a certain group of people. We are all guilty of sin and He went to the cross for all of us.

Paul says, 1 Cor. 2:7-8 “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

There are but a few churches who are active in support of Israel and the Jews. Most of the churches unknowingly still hold to the prejudices that developed after Constantine and the Ecclesiastical state church. I have heard people say Jesus was a Christian, or a believer in all faiths.

Some want to remove Jesus from his Jewish identity and thus separate him from the Jewish covenants. The very first verse of the New Testament tells us of the ‘genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham’ (Matthew 1.1). Throughout the New Testament his Jewish identity is stressed. He was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2.21), brought up in an observant Jewish home (Luke 2.41) and learned the Torah from his youth (Luke 2.46-49).

He told a Samaritan woman that ‘salvation is of the Jews’ (John 4.22) and he kept the Jewish feasts (John 7.2, John 10.22). He told his disciples in their first preaching mission not to go to the Gentiles, but ‘rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 10.6). He had conflict with the religious leaders of his day, as did the Hebrew Prophets before him, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and others.

Whoever hates the Jew’s hates Jesus. God has said that gentiles are grafted into the covenant. If the Jews were eliminated there would be no church. If God does not keep His promise to Israel what makes you think he will keep it to the church? In other words, without believing what Gen.12: 1-4 says, one falls into the category of denying God’s faithfulness.

When a Church believes they have replaced Israel, they are unable to see God's complete redemptive plan that spans from Genesis to Revelation with all people. Bible prophecy cannot make sense, especially for our day. They find no place for end time prophecies of Israel that would be fulfilled (and are today) an attitude of elitism to anti-Semitism permeates their church They become arrogant, they boast against the Jews and Israel as Paul warned in Rom. 11.

In fact they confuse many New Testament passages with the old and cannot explain the actual meaning that was done from the Hebraic perspective (not that this is necessary for everything but some). They cannot distinguish what is for Israel or the church and the Bible becomes a confused theological book.

And most importantly is the effect on the churches work. The Church forfeits any opportunity to participate in God's plan toward Israel and her people, to give them the gospel that came through the Jews and bless them when in need.

Rom. 15:26-27 “For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.”

Once the church gets it head on straight we my see an actual revival as the times of the Gentiles comes to its close. But if we refuse to include the Jewish people and the nation Israel then we will not be doing the Lord’s will as stated in the Bible.



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