Thursday, March 04, 2004

Are the Gospels anti-Semitic?

Most defenders of The Passion of the Christ are prone to claiming that the film isn't any more anti-Semitic than the Gospels themselves, since it's supposedly taken directly from them.

Of course, as we've pointed out repeatedly, the film in fact deviates from the Gospels in many respects and adds material clearly not in the Gospels -- a fair portion of which is suggestively anti-Semitic.

More to the point, the Gospels can be anti-Semitic if you want them to be. Or they can blame the Romans. It all depends on which passages you select and how you use them.

Robert M. Jeffers made this point really quite cogently over at Atrios' comments:
Let me pick up on the point that the Gospels are "anti-Semitic."

An odd point, since they are (save for Luke's) written by Jews. Jews who, for the most part, were ostracized from a broken Jewish community (all were written after 70 A.D., the fall of Jerusalem that gave rise, eventually, to rabbinic Judaism, v. Temple Judaism). It's a time of turmoil, change, and people staking out their place.

The most "anti-semitic" gospel, actually, is John's, where the writer speaks openly (and disparagingly), of "the Jews."

But Luke doesn't do that. Matthew only does it at the Crucifixion. Mark doesn't do it. Luke, in fact, shows the way for Gentiles and Jews (and believers in Jesus as the Messiah would make themselves "non-Jews" almost immediately, in those days) to be joined. But that's laid out in the Book of Acts, so let's not broaden this too much.

But "the gospels are inherently anti-Semitic"? Balderdash. They've been used for that. They've also been used to justify war, violence, hatred, any number of things. That doesn't mean the gospels promote those uses. Simply that people will do what they want to do, and reach for any justification they can get their hands on.

But don't say the actors weren't responsible, that the "message" made 'em do it.


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