Were the Earliest Christians Antisemitic?

JudaismThe Christian church has had an unfortunately bad relationship with the Jewish synagogue at various times in their history. But is Christianity antisemitic at it’s core? The earliest Christianity can be found in the documents of the New Testament.

There have been many accusations of antisemitism regarding the New Testament. Are these claims true?

The first thing we need to remember is that all of the earliest Christians, including their leader Jesus of Nazareth, were Jews. Christianity was initially based in Jerusalem led by James, also a Jew.

Yes we see some conflict between followers of Jesus and other Jews, such as the work of Saul of Tarsus, the later Apostle Paul. But this wasn’t about one religion vs another religion. Christianity was still a sect of Judaism. This was about conflict among different interpretations within Judaism.

In the final book of the New Testament, Revelation, we begin to see the parting of the ways in the letters to the seven churches. There is a reason for this. Not only had more Gentiles entered the church, there were other things going on.

Judaism had certain rights as a legal religion within the Roman Empire. At first the Christians, as Jews following Jesus, benefited from this. Then certain things happened. There was the Jewish War of 67-70 AD. This was also a time when the Christians were getting on the bad side of the Romans. It was in the Jewish best interest to distinguish themselves from the Christians.

As we get into the second century, there is a growing anti-Jewish sentiment among some Christians. This can be seen in the Epistle of Barnabas (not actually written by Barnabas).

Sadly, antisemitic feelings continued to grow within the church. Some terrible things have been done to the Jews in the name of Jesus. But whatever happened later in history was not reflective of the earliest Christians.

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