Anti-Semitism is the hatred of the Jewish people. The term was first used by a German in 1879, William Marr, who founded the League for Anti-Semitism

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sermons or homilies _ A group of writings which was "especially directed against the Jews" (Parkes, 71). They served to warn Christians of the dangers of associating with the Jewish people and were developed as an absolute condemnation of the Jewish people, religion, and cultural practices. Example: Church Father John Chrysostom _ Adversus Judaeos, eight sermons preached at Antioch in 386-388 (Parkes, 119).

By the second century C.E., both Judaism and Christianity were trying to distinguish each from the other in the eyes of Rome, as both had unique political concerns. Judaism by then had attained legal status in the Roman world as a religion and did not want Christianity, with its loyalty to a King other than Caesar, to be associated with it. The church, now largely Gentile, also wanted to obtain legal status in the eyes of Rome so that it would not be identified with the Jews, who had rebelled against Rome under Bar Kochba. Once it was clear to Rome that Christianity was not a sect of Judaism, Christianity was regarded as an illegal sect and was no longer under the protective umbrella of the legal status of Judaism. With the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire by Constantine in the fourth century, however, Christianity soon began to enjoy a position of superiority over Judaism which caused serious consequences for Judaism. The new "Christian" empire began to enact such changes as:

  • The removal of former religious and governing privileges

  • The curtailment of Rabbinical jurisdiction

  • Prohibition of missionary work

  • Jews were no longer allowed to hold high offices or have military careers (e.g. legislation in 537 C.E. which prohibited local Jewish people from serving on municipal bodies).

Negative theological attitudes began to abound, such as the idea that Jews had lost their right to exist; Jews only exist as a testimony to the truth of Christianity; Jews are suffering justly at the hands of the Gentiles because God is angry with them, etc. Various church councils drew up damaging anti-Jewish legislation such as:

  • banning contact with Jews

  • the forbidding of the reading of the Torah exclusively in Hebrew (553 C.E.) (see Parkes, 251ff, 392).

  • confiscation of Jewish property and the prohibition of the sale of Christian property to Jews (545 C.E.).

Subsequent writings by church fathers (and church leaders throughout church history) condemned Jews, accusing them of being idolaters, torturers, spiritually deaf, blasphemers, gluttons, adulterers, canibals, Christ-killers, and beyond God's forgiveness. Church Father John Chrysostom in particular pushed the idea of Jewish sensuality, gluttony, stubbornness and rejection by God.

With the rise of the Church-State, certain religio-political attitudes such as Jesus ruling the world through the Roman Christian government became evident in the Church. This attitude of superiority, flamed by the ever-increasing integration of the Church into Roman government, continued on into the Middle Ages and was translated into repeated actual restrictions on Jews, as is evidenced by the following examples.

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