Unfortunately, the Reformation produced no changes in attitudes toward the Jews. Replacement Theology is contained throughout the reference notes of the Geneva Bible, published in 1557, and it is reflected in the chapter headings of the King James Bible, published in 1611.53 For example, in Isaiah 43 God addresses His promises to “O Jacob” and “O Israel,” but the King James chapter heading reads: “God comforteth the Church with His promises.”
Actually, the Reformation seemed to get off to a good start regarding attitudes toward the Jews. That’s because Martin Luther interjected a breath of fresh air when he took a firm stand against the Church’s mistreatment of the Jewish people. In an essay he wrote in 1523 entitled, “That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew,” he surveyed medieval anti-Semitism and proclaimed: “If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian.” He sincerely believed that the Jewish people would convert en masse to Christianity once they were presented with a Gospel that was free of “papal paganism.”54 He concluded his treatise with these words:55
Therefore, I would request and advise that one deal gently with them and instruct them from Scripture; then some of them may come along. Instead of this we are trying only to drive them by force, slandering them…So long as we thus treat them like dogs, how can we expect to work any good among them? Again, when we forbid them to labor and do business and have any human fellowship with us, thereby forcing them into usury, how is that supposed to do them any good? If we really want to help them, we must be guided in our dealings with them not by papal law but by the law of Christian love…If some of them should prove stiff-necked, what of it? After all, we ourselves are not all good Christians either.
Unfortunately this biblical attitude did not last long. Luther became disillusioned and irritated with the Jews when they continued to resist his reformed Gospel. In 1526 he complained of the Jews’ stubbornness, and by the 1530s he was endorsing the common medieval stereotypes of the Jews, referring to them as “iron-hearted” and “stubborn as the Devil.”56
By the end of his life, Luther had turned against the Jews with a vengeance. In 1543 he wrote a pamphlet entitled “Concerning the Jews and Their Lies.”57 The document was an anti-Semitic diatribe that served to summarize the Jewish hatred that had been accumulating for the past thousand years. In it, he referred to the Jews as:
- “A miserable and accursed people”
- “Stupid fools”
- “Miserable, blind and senseless”
- “Thieves and robbers”
- “The great vermin of humanity”
- “Lazy rogues”
- “Blind and venomous”
Having dehumanized and demonized them, Luther then proceeded to make some startling proposals for dealing with them:
- Their synagogues and schools be burned.
- Their houses should be destroyed.
- Their Talmudic writings should be confiscated.
- Their Rabbis should be forbidden to teach.
- Their money should be taken from them.
- They should be compelled into forced labor.
IX. The Impact on Nazism
Needless to say, the Nazis gleefully quoted Luther as they rose to power and launched the Holocaust. In fact, Hitler referred to Luther in his book, Mein Kampf, as a “great warrior, a true statesman, and a great reformer.”58
In 1924 at a Christian gathering in Berlin, Hitler spoke to thousands and received a standing ovation when he made the following proclamation: “I believe that today I am acting in accordance with the will of Almighty God as I announce the most important work that Christians could undertake — and that is to be against the Jews and get rid of them once and for all.”59
Hitler then proceeded to talk about the influence of Luther on his life:60
Martin Luther has been the greatest encouragement of my life. Luther was a great man. He was a giant. With one blow he heralded the coming of the new dawn and the new age. He saw clearly that the Jews need to be destroyed, and we’re only beginning to see that we need to carry this work on.
At the Nuremberg trials after World War II, the Nazi leader, Julius Streicher, defended himself by saying, “I have never said anything that Martin Luther did not say.”61
The terrible truth that Christians do not like to face, and which many are unaware of, is that the Holocaust was the product of 1,900 years of virulent Christian anti- Semitism.
And the Jews are fully aware of this fact. Thus, Eliezer Berkovits, a renowned Orthodox rabbi wrote in 1984 that the Holocaust was due to the “moral bankruptcy of Christian civilization and the spiritual bankruptcy of the Christian religion.”62 He further observed that “a straight line leads from the first act of oppression against the Jews and Judaism in the Fourth Century to the Holocaust in the 20th.”
X. The New Anti-Semitism
Speaking of the Holocaust, the horror of it tended to mute virulent anti-Semitism among Christian leaders after World War II. But in reality, it continues in a new form called “Anti-Zionism.”
Anti-Zionism is just anti-Semitism in new, sophisticated clothes. Whereas anti-Semitism sought to drive out the Jews from the lands where they lived, anti-Zionism refuses to accept their right to live in their own land.
Knox Seminary Document
A good example of the new form of anti-Semitism can be found in a document issued by James Kennedy’s Knox Theological Seminary in 2002. It was entitled, “An Open Letter to Evangelicals Concerning Israel.”63 It has since been endorsed by hundreds of theologians and pastors, including such luminaries a R. C. Sproul.
The document begins by denouncing those who teach that the Bible’s promises concerning the land of Israel are being fulfilled today “in a special region or ‘Holy Land,’ perpetually set apart by God for one ethnic group alone.”64 It then proceeds to proclaim that the promises made to Abraham “do not apply to any particular ethnic group, but to the Church of Jesus Christ, the true Israel” (emphasis added).65
The document then specifically denies the Jew’s claim on any land in the Middle East by asserting: “The entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to territory in the Middle East called the ‘Holy Land’ cannot be supported by Scripture.” Then, incredibly, the document asserts that “In fact, the land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua.”66
Adding salt to the wounds, the document concludes with the following observation:67
The present secular state of Israel…is not an authentic or prophetic realization of the Messianic kingdom of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, a day should not be anticipated in which Christ’s kingdom will manifest Jewish distinctives, whether by its location in ‘the land,’ by its constituency, or by its ceremonial institutions and practices.
Despite these statements, when the anti-Zionists are accused of being anti-Semitic, they deny the accusation vehemently. Here’s how Dennis Prager, radio host and political commentator, has replied to their denials in his book, Why the Jews?:68
The contention that anti-Zionists are not enemies of Jews, despite the advocacy of policies that would lead to the mass murder of Jews, is, to put it as generously as possible, disingenuous. If anti-Zionism realized its goal, another Jewish holocaust would take place…Therefore attempts to draw distinctions between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are simply meant to fool the naive.
In recent years a new form of this anti-Zionism has raised its ugly head in the form of the Christian Palestinian Movement that Dr. Paul Wilkinson has spoken about several times.
James Showers, Director of The Friends of Israel, has defined the movement in the following words:69
Christian Palestinianism claims modern Israel has no biblical connection with or justification for owning the Promised Land; therefore, it concludes, Israel has become an apartheid state, occupying territory belonging to the Palestinian Arabs.
The Movement’s most prominent leaders over the past few years are the following:
Stephen Sizer — Anglican vicar of Christ Church in Surrey, England.
Gary Burge — Ordained Presbyterian minister and professor of New Testament at Wheaton College.
Donald E. Wagner — Ordained Presbyterian minister and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at North Park University in Chicago, Illinois.
John Stott — The late theologian and rector emeritus of All Souls Church in London.
Hank Hanegraaff — President of the Christian Research Institute and host of the “Bible Answer Man” radio program.
Tony Campolo — Baptist minister, author, and professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University in Pennsylvania.
Lynne Hybels — Wife of Willow Creek Church senior pastor and founder, Bill Hybels.
Naim Ateek — Founder of Sabeel, the Palestinian Ecumenical Liberation Theology center in Jerusalem.
Mitri Raheb — Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem.
Stephen Sizer is the recognized champion of the Christian Palestinian Movement. He has denounced Israel as an “apartheid state” which he claims is guilty of ethnic cleansing, and he has demonized Christians who support Israel as “heretical Armageddonites” whose interpretation of the Bible “provides a theological endorsement for racial segregation, apartheid and war.”70
One of the movement’s greatest propaganda tools is the Kairos Palestine Document adopted in 2009. It declares “that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity…” And it further asserts “that any theology, seemingly based on the Bible or on faith or on history, that legitimizes the occupation, is far from Christian teachings, because it calls for violence and holy war in the name of God Almighty…”71 That’s a mouthful when you consider the fact that it is Muslims, not Christians, who are calling for Holy War in the name of God.
The proponents of the movement hold Christian Zionists in open contempt. John Stott denounced Christian Zionism as “biblically anathema to the Christian faith.”72 Hank Hanegraaff wrote, “Christian Zionist beliefs and behaviors are the antithesis of biblical Christianity.”73
One British journalist, Alan Hart, who supports the Christian Palestinian Movement, went so far as to state on his website:74
It’s time to give Israel’s hardcore Zionists their real name. They are the New Nazis…If Europeans and Americans don’t stop the New Nazis, it’s likely their endgame will be the extermination of millions of Palestinians.
And so you have it — an overview of the sad and sordid history of Christian anti-Semitism rooted in Replacement Theology and continuing to this day under the guise of anti-Zionism.
In the seventh part of this study on how Replacement Theology has resulted in the historical abuse of the Jews by the Church, we’ll go to Scripture for the authoritative answer on whether the Jews have been replaced in God’s plan for the ages.
53) Andrew D. Robinson, “The Error of Replacement Theology, Part 1: Times and Seasons,” Magazine of the Prophetic Witness Movement International, July 2012, p. 1.
54) David A. Rausch, A Legacy of Hatred: Why Christians Must Not Forget the Holocaust, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), p. 28.
55) Martin Luther, “That Jesus Was Born A Jew,” translated by Walter I. Brandt in Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1962), pp. 200-201, 229.
56) Rausch, p. 28.
57) The Jewish Virtual Library, “Martin Luther: The Jews and Their Lies (1543),” www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semi tism/Luther_on_Jews.html.
58) Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf, Volume 1 (1925), Chapter VIII.
59) Phyllis Petty, “Christian Hatred and Persecution of the Jews,” www.therefinersfire.org/antisemitism_in_church.htm.
62) Michael L. Brown, p. 91.
63) Knox Theological Seminary, “An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel,” www.knoxseminary.org/Prospective/Faculty/WittenbergDoor/index.html.
64) Ibid., introduction.
65) Ibid., section IV.
66) Ibid., section IX.
67) Ibid., conclusion.
68) Dennis Prager, Why the Jew? (New York, NY: Touchstone, 2003).
69) James A. Showers, “The New Anti-Semitism,” Israel My Glory magazine, January-February 2013, p. 15.
70) Andrew D. Robinson, “The Error of Replacement Theology, Part 1: Times and Seasons,” Magazine of the Prophetic Witness Movement International, July 2012, p. 3.
71) World Council of Churches, “Kairos Palestine Document,” section 2.5, www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/other-ecumenical-bodies/kairos-palestine-document.
72) Donald E. Wagner, Anxious for Armageddon (Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1995) p. 80.
73) Stephen Sizer Blog, “Sixty Academics Endorse Christian Zionism Book,” www.stephensizer.blogspot.com/2008/10/sixty-academics-endorse-christian.html.
74) Alan Hart, “The New Nazis,” January 13, 2009, www.alanhart.net/the-New-Nazis.