Christian reading

Issue N39

answers for a jew, valeriy sterkh

Answers for a Jew

At whose hands did the Jews suffer the most?

Question: Tens of millions of Jews were persecuted during the Inquisition and murdered for their refusal to accept Christianity. Over the past few thousand years all of this was done in the name of the New Testament. Why do you, Christians, call your religion a religion of love?

Answer: Even though the Jews handed Jesus over to be crucified, they were not persecuted on that pretext – the disciples of Jesus were Jews themselves. It was the Jews who afterwards started killing the disciples of Jesus. Stephen was stoned to death (see Act 7). James, son of Zebedee, was put to the sword (see Act 12). James, the step brother of Jesus, was thrown down from the temple roof, then stoned to death. But even this didn't cause any hostilities.

In the meantime, the Jews started pitting the Romans against Christians with a view to launching persecution against them. Emperor Claudius responded to such attempts by doing the opposite: «He [Claudius] expelled from Rome those Jews who were constantly vexing about Christ» (Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, "The Life of Twelve Caesars" 5,25,4; compare Act 18:2). Emperor Nero blamed Christians for the fire in Rome, and on that pretext launched persecution against them, putting many to cruel death. Some of the later Roman Emperors continued killing Christians up to the 4th century. False accusations by the Jews were often the key factor in the persecutions. The reputation of the Jews was thus greatly damaged.

The Inquisition is a general term for certain institutions within the Roman-Catholic Church, created for the purpose of protecting Christianity against heresy. The Inquisition did not persecute the Jews directly. On the contrary, after 1451, the Inquisition was charged by pope Nicholas V with the task of overseeing cases of anti-semitic outrage. The role of the Inquisition was not only to punish violators but also to prevent further violence.

During the Middle Ages, Jews were offered a choice in some countries: to accept Christianity or to leave. Those who rejected Judaism and accepted Christianity were, in some cases, under the jurisdiction of the Inquisition. But then, if a trial was due, they were treated as Christians, not Jews. It is likely that a certain number of Jews actually suffered as a result, but the reference to "tens of millions" is an exaggeration which cannot be justified. It is highly improbable that there was such a population of Jews at that time. It must also be added that the Inquisition never acted on such a large scale. For instance, in Spain, the estimated number of people executed under Inquisitor Torquemada was 8-15 thousand people – from all nations.

It is, however, common knowledge that the worst atrocities the Jews suffered at the hands of the German Nazis in the 20th century. The scale of these events does not even compare to the Babylonian exile or Roman occupation. But at the root of this evil was the racist ideology of the National Socialists, not Christianity.

(to be continued)