Can Jew and Christian now transcend their ugly recent past? Can new respect for religious freedom launch them toward mutual understanding without surrendering a vigorous Judaeo-Christian dialogue?
The rise of Christianity kindled bitter hostility in non-Christian Jews first against Christian Hebrews, then against Christian Gentiles. Jewish religious leaders stoned Stephen to silence his testimony to Jesus Christ (Acts 6:8–7:60). The high priest empowered Saul of Tarsus to bind and bring to Jerusalem any Christians found in the synagogues of Damascus (9:1–2). Discovering that the Jews approved of his murder of James the brother of John, King Herod took Peter prisoner (12:1–3). In his study of The Church in the First Three Centuries, Alvan Lamson asserts that “The worst enemies of the Christians were the Jews, more implacable than the Heathen” (Boston: Horace B. Fuller, 1869, 2nd ed., p. 90). He calls attention to the testimony of Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, and others, and concludes that the calumnies propagated by the Jews throughout the civilized world, and their slander of Christians during the first three centuries, “could have originated only in the bitterest hatred … hatred as thorough as ever rankled in the human breast.”
On the other hand, the Christian era must acknowledge no less ugly hostility and persecution of the Jew. “To the Jews,” one rabbi recently summarized, “Jesus as the Christ has meant these 2000 years of history.” Then he spoke of the Crusaders who slaughtered the Jews to “redeem the Holy Land”; of the Romanist Inquisition with its forced conversions; of the third and fourth Lateran Councils which anticipated many of Hitler’s persecution tactics; he spoke of the Nazi episode. A very fresh ...1
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