Matthew and John--Anti-Semitic?

Are the gospels of Matthew and John anti-semitic?

  • Please do not discuss whether anti-simitic is a proper term for prejudice against Jews.

Unless I’m mistaken, Matthew 27:25 was essentially written to shift blame to the Jews from the Roman government. A government which put a monster like Pilate into power in the first place, and which early Christians wanted to placate. 27:25 is designed to foist racial guilt upon the Jews, in perpetuity. That sure seems to fit the definition of anti-Semitism.

Matthew appears to have been written as an appeal to Jews to accept Christianity. As such, it employed many references to prophecies that Matthew perceived in the Hebrew Scriptures, (even if no educated Jew would have perceived the same prophecies in the same texts). He also attempted to explain why the Jewish people had not embraced Jesus of Nazareth in terms of them simply missing the “Truth.” As part of that story line, he portrays a scene in which the Jewish people, (represented without democratic elections by the mob outside the Roman court), rejected Jesus, tying that in with the consequences of the rebellion of 68 and the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. His point was that the calamity that befell Judaea was the result of rejecting Jesus.

John, writing even later, at a time when Christians and Jews had already developed an unhealthy antipathy, probably was trying to deflect blame from the Roman authorities, not so much in a effort to stigmatize the Jewish people, per se, (although that was certianly the de facto result), but to ensure that any Roman official looking over his work would not perceive it as a rant against Roman authority.

What oddness. Matthew is antisemitic because of one verse and the condemnation of the Pharisees?

Yeah, it’s saying that the rejection of Jesus caused the downfall of Israel. And the Pharisees were mostly condemned for being hypocrites, not for being Jews.

Failed to add:
If Israel rejecting God’s plan and being punished is antisemitic, then a large portion of the Hebrew Scriptures is also antisemitic.

One verse about Jews being personal, willing Blood Guilt in perpetuity for killing Jesus.

Do you have a citation for that? My understanding is that while that was a factor, the issue of Blood Guilt was deliberately used for centuries to demonize Jews. No? Is that issue that you’re saying the writer of Matthew didn’t intend that but it was put to anti-Semitic uses?

That assumes that there is a God, and that the NT accurately reflects his plan and Jew’s tense to it.

Further, the view of the Pharisees is not historically accurate. Their social position is not
depicted accurately–they did not hold such a significant positron until after the Romans crushed the revolt.

A lot of people don’t know what “if” means. You are one of them.







Am I misunderstanding your argument?

Yes. I am saying that Matthew’s message suffered from the Law of Unintended Consequences. That the Gospel of Matthew was directed toward a Jewish audience has been recognized from the earliest days. (Around 150, the heretic Marcion–Christianity’s first open anti-semite–explicitly excluded Matthew’s Gospel as one of the works that was too “Jewish” for inclusion in his selection of Scripture.) He makes the most use of references to the Hebrew Scriptures as predicting and justifying the life and actions of Jesus, (shaping many of them for his own needs, of course), and he employs the most language that is directly based on Jewish terms, sometimes taken from the Greek-speaking diaspora and sometimes his own translations of Judaean phrases from the Aramaic.

Once his scene at the trial of Jesus was in circulation, of course, it was ready ammunition for those who chose to scorn the Jews for future generations.

So, then, quasi philo-Semitic sorta kinda maybe, but the anti-Semitic implications were a consequence of how people used it? So the bit about Blood Guilt was solely intended to be a ‘prophecy’ about the fall of Jerusalem, in terms of the original text’s intention?

That is pretty much the accepted interpretation. There is too much pro-Jewish effort (and Jewish directed effort) in the overall gospel for Matthew to have simply decided to tell his audience that they were monsters who deserved damnation.

John’s Gospel comes closer to taking an actual anti-Jewish stance, with his constant references to “the Jews” while rarely distinguishing among the Pharisees and Sadducees or the Sanhedrin and the priests or any specific leaders or opponents. I am not sure that he intended to stir up hatred, so much as that he apparently lived in a time and place where the antipathy had already developed and he simply used the “characters” in his story with whom he was familiar, (with an eye to not offending the Romans). While Christianity started out as a rather tiny Jewish heresy, its expansion into Syria and Asia Minor–originally among Jewish communities–led to hard feelings on both sides. There are a number of near curses against Christians associated with the synagogue services from Asia Minor and expulsions from synagogues were well recorded. Of course, the Christians were heretics, but they still did not enjoy being expelled or cursed. (Of course, later Christians would also take those out of context and say, “See how those Jews have always persecuted us!” but it sets a scenario that more easily explains the attitude of the author of John.)

Cool, thanks for clearing up my ignorance.