A Response to Anti-Semitism

 

A Response to Anti-Semitism

By

R.P. Nettelhorst

 

Introduction:

            The tendency when faced with crackpot ideas is to ignore them.  Since they are so ludicrous to those who know better, it seems unnecessary to refute them.  For instance, there is a Flat Earth Society headquartered in Lancaster, California.  It is unlikely that one will find detailed refutations of their point of view, not because their point of view cannot be refuted, but just because it seems not worth the effort.

            The arguments raised by those who hate the Jewish people generally strike most the same way.  Anti-Semitism is so obviously wrong that spending the time to refute the arguments would seem to make as much sense as bothering with the Flat Earth Society.  Like the Flat Earth Society, the anti-Semitic arguments are long, complex, and filled with so many details that it would take some time to tackle them all point by point.        However, the anti-Semites of the world, unlike those who believe in a flat earth, have historically been dangerous, and are responsible for killing millions of people.  They continue, year after year, to use the same tired arguments that they have been using for years to justify their hatred and desire to persecute the Jewish people.  A search on the Internet of certain key terms in the anti-Semitic lexicon brings up the same articles, virtually word for word, on any number of hate sites.  Therefore, since the arguments are unchanging, once an answer has been given, it won’t be necessary to do it again.  And because of the harm that anti-Semitism has caused, an answer must be given.

One of the most common arguments of the anti-Semites is the charge that the Jewish people aren’t really Jews at all, but some sort of imposters pretending to be Jewish.  Why would the anti-Semites make such a claim?  Since the Bible condemns those who hate the people of Israel, the Jew haters who wish to call themselves Christians are forced to try to prove that the Jewish people aren’t really from Israel, and that the “true Jews” are instead, they themselves.  Thus, they imagine that their anti-Semitism is only proper, because they are simply trying to protect the true Jews (themselves) from the hateful anti-Jews (the people who call themselves Jews) who would seek to destroy them.  They turn the focus of the patriarchal covenant of Genesis 12:1-3 on its head.

            This odd anti-Semitic argument that tries to turn the Jews into imposters may be broken down into three points: first, a linguistic and biblical argument, which attempts to prove that Jews are not part of Israel; second, a historical argument, which attempts to identify the people who are claiming to be Jews as actually being Khazars rather than descendents of Israel; and third, the attempt to identify the Anglo-Saxon people as the true Israelites. 

We will look at each point in turn.  The fundamental problem with the anti-Semitic argument is that not only is it false historically, biblically and linguistically, but more significantly, it stands in violation of the central theme of the Bible, which is to love God and to love people.

 

I. Anti-Semitic Linguistic and Biblical Arguments

 

            A. The Jews Aren’t Really Jewish

Some anti-Semites argue that the word Jew can be applied to people who are not actually, in any way, descended from the ancient people of Israel.  Furthermore, they will try to argue that the Israeli government itself admits this shocking fact, that today’s Jews aren’t really Israelites at all.  Additionally, attempts will be made to convince readers that Paul, and other biblical characters in the New Testament, are not actually Jewish, either.  Consider the following quotations from some anti-Semitic literature:

An important question answered from reason and historic Biblical fact is that the word Jew comes from a Greek word meaning descendent of the tribe of Judah, or someone living in the land of Judea. Today's Jews call themselves Jews to falsely imply that they are somehow descendent and have blood links to the Biblical tribe of Judah.

Most churches today make no distinction between these terms – a fatal mistake! One of their arguments is that the Apostle Paul said in Romans 11:1 that he was an "Israelite," and then in Phil. 3:5 he called himself "a Hebrew of the Hebrews." Therefore, they say, the terms are identical, and by implication they include the word "Jew" as well. However, Paul was also a Benjamite (Rom. 11:1), but the fact that he descended from Benjamin, Israel, and Heber did not mean that all of these men were the same person.

Therefore in summary, we can clearly see that:

·                     All Israelites are Hebrews and Semites.

·                     Only a few of the Israelites were called Jews (or, Judahites, or Judeans).

·                     Many non-Israelites were called Jews (Judahites, Judeans) simply because they lived in Judah or claimed to follow the religion of the Judeans., the self-styled or so-called "Jews" of Judaism are not, nor ever have been Israelites, Hebrews or Semites but rather Khazars (Turkish Mongol Huns). A well-kept secret to substantiate and further the Jews claims to the nation of Palestine and is the principal reason for the never-ending David and Goliath-like struggle between Jewish tanks and helicopter gun-ships and stone throwing Palestinian youths displaying their rage in the only way they can.

The Jews of today are not the Israelites of the Old Testament, but instead are Khazars, Edomites, Babylonians and Canaanites and most definitely not the descendants of Jacob/Israel.

The Jews primary focus and general code of conduct is the Babylonian Talmud and not the Christian Old Testament canonised books of the Bible, simply because they are diametrically opposed. They clearly follow the "traditions of the elders of Zion" (Pharisaic Talmudism) which our Lord Jesus Christ so openly despised!

When asked the question, "Who is Israel? - Who is a Jew?" the Israeli Government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) answered thus:

"The term Israelite is purely Biblical. An Israeli is a citizen of Israel, regardless of religion.  A Jew is a person anywhere in the world born to a Jewish mother, or converted to Judaism, who is thus identified as a member of the Jewish people and religion.."

Notice here that the Jews themselves clearly imply that the term "Israelite" and "Jew" are separate and distinct and where Jews have no relation whatsoever with the Biblical Noahatic bloodline. In fact, under the heading "A Brief History of the Terms for Jew," in the 1980 Jewish Almanac, is the following incredible admission:

"Strictly speaking it is incorrect to call an ancient Israelite a "Jew" or to call a contemporary Jew an Israelite or a Hebrew".

Did you fully comprehend what you just read?….if not, read it again!

A JEW IS NOT TO BE CONSIDERED AN ISRAELITE!

Response:

 

            How is one to respond to the anti-Semitic presentation?  Easy enough, since the argument is without substance, as can easily be shown by simply looking at a few passages in the Bible.  Following the Babylonian captivity, all descendents of Abraham are referred to as Jews.  The origin of the term “Jew” is certainly as a reference to the largest tribe of the nation of Israel, Judah; but by the post-exilic period, it came to be used as a general term for all Israelites, regardless of tribe.  Consider the following points:

 

  • Paul is called a Jew in Acts 21:39

 

  • Jesus is called a Jew in John 4:9.

 

  • Peter is called a Jew in Acts 10:28

 

  • Mordecai was called a Jew in Esther 2:5

 

It is clear that both Paul and Mordecai, for instance, are not from the tribe of Judah, but of Benjamin.  It is certainly not the case that the Greek word translated Jew merely means Judean and that a person living in Judea would be considered a Judean regardless of his ethnicity.  As a simple example of this, consider Acts 18:2:

 

There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them,

 

Aquila is a native of Pontus.  Where’s that?  It is a province in what is today northern Turkey, which is not anywhere near Judea.   In Acts 18:24 we learn of a Jew named Apollos, who is a native of Alexandria. That’s in Egypt, not Judea.

One finds the term Jew being used frequently in the New Testament as a contrast to Gentile: for instance in Acts 10:28, Romans 1:16, or  Romans 2:9, just as examples.

In Romans 11:1 Paul makes the point that he is an Israelite, descended from Abraham, and of the tribe of Benjamin, and yet, as we’ve already seen, both he and others were quite insistent that he was a Jew.

            The quotations from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs are being given a very odd twist by the anti-Semites; it seems obvious that the Israelis are in no way trying to imply that Jewish people and the ancient Israelites are different people, except in terms of where they live from a chronological standpoint.  They are simply explaining that the modern usage of the term Israeli is ordinarily applied to citizens of Israel, regardless of ethnicity, while Israelite is used for Jewish people in the Bible, and Jew is a general term that can be used for Jewish people living anywhere, including in Israel today.  They are not trying to argue that Jews are not descended from the Israelites of the Bible.  They are simply discussing where and when Jewish people are living and what terms might be applied.  Only an idiot would think they are arguing that they are not descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, especially if one bothers to pay a little more attention to what they say, rather than to create specious arguments based on semantic games, dependent upon pulling a few quotes out of their broader context.  After all, consider this section taken from the Declaration of Israel’s Independence, announced by David Ben-Gurion in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948:

 

The land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.

Exiled from Palestine, the Jewish people remained faithful to it in all the countries of their dispersion, never ceasing to pray and hope for their return and the restoration of their national freedom.

Impelled by this historic association, Jews strove throughout the centuries to go back to the land of their fathers and regain their statehood….

 

            Jewish people do not argue that they are not descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  They do not argue that they are not descended from the ancient Israelites.  Quite the opposite; they are consistent in identifying themselves as the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the people of ancient Israel, the Israelites. 

B. Jesus Didn’t Actually Come to the Jewish People

Additionally, the anti-Semite wishes to convince us of the following, that Jesus did not come to the Jews at all, and especially not to the Pharisees: 

In no place does Jesus indicate that He came as a Messiah for the Jewish people. He told His disciples: "I am not sent, but to the LOST SHEEP of the HOUSE OF ISRAEL." (Emphasis added.) According to Strong's Concordance, #575, the word "lost" as used here comes from the Greek word "appolumi". This is made up of two root words "apo", meaning: "separation or departure," and "ollumi", meaning: "as punishment." Put these two together and we get the meaning that Jesus came, not to the "unsaved" members of the House of Israel (remember these are not Jews), but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel who had been "scattered and put away as punishment for their disobedience." This can be seen in the Epistle of James which is addressed to the "twelve tribes which are scattered abroad," (James 1:1).

JESUS DID NOT COME TO THE TALMUDIC PHARISEES OF HIS DAY. IN FACT HE CALLED THEM "children of your father the devil." (John 8:44). HE DID NOT COME TO THE "synagogue of Satan," MENTIONED IN REV. 2:9, "They which say they are Jews, or Judeans, and are not." He came to his own sheep, those who would hear his voice and follow him. In John 10:2, he said to them: "He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep . . . and the sheep hear His voice, and He called His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out . . . and a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him . . ." Then in vs. 26, speaking directly to the Pharisees, (leaders of the Jews) He said very plainly: "Ye believe not, BECAUSE YE ARE NOT OF MY SHEEP . . . How much plainer can HIS words be?

Response:

If Jesus did not come to the Pharisees of his day, or the Jewish people of his day, then how do we explain the fact that he kept eating at their houses, going to their parties, and spending time with them?  How do we explain the fact that both Jesus and all his disciples were Jewish?  And how do we explain then Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin (see John 3:1, 7:50, and 19:39), yet became a follower of Jesus?  And what are we going to do with Acts 15:5 which indicates that there were many Pharisees who became Christians?

The anti-Semites also wish us to believe that Jesus did not claim to be the Jewish Messiah.  How odd then, when we consider the story of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well.  Notice that he identifies himself as a Jew, tells her that salvation is of the Jews, and then tells her that he is the Messiah:

 

"Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."

Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."

Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he." (John 4:19-26)

 

Jesus didn’t come to the Jewish people?  Really?  Then how are we to explain the comment made by the Magi when they came to Herod:

 

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." (Matthew 2:2)

 

And why did Jesus respond this way to Pilate:

 

Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"

"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. (Matthew 27:11)

 

And many Jews accepted Jesus and hailed him as King of Israel:

 

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.  They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!"

(John 12:9-13)

 

And of course, on the day of Pentecost we have Peter speaking to people who had gathered in Jerusalem for a Jewish holiday.  In Acts 2:5 we are informed that Jews from every nation had gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost.  In Acts 2:14 he addresses this crowd as “fellow Jews” identifying both his audience and himself as Jewish.  In Acts 2:22 he calls them “men of Israel” and in Acts 2:36 he calls Jesus the Messiah (using the Greek equivalent) and identifies the crowd as “Israel”.  In Acts 2:41-42, we learn that over three thousand of them repented and became Christians.  In Acts 6:1-2, we are told of a dispute among the Christians, who are identified as being Jews.

The fundamental problem with the whole argument here against the Jews is that it is at odds with what Paul himself said in Romans 11:1-29, which tells us that the Jewish people have not been cut off, that they are loved by God, and that his call and gift to them is irrevocable.  And since we know that Paul was called a Jew and identified himself as a Jew, it is specious to try to argue that Israel doesn’t mean the Jewish people.  It is very clear that in the New Testament, and in fact, in any part of the Bible post-Babylonian captivity, that to be Jewish is synonymous with being an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham, or however else you might want to express it.  In fact, Jews have always been part of Israel and Israelites, even before the captivity.  After all, Judah is one of the twelve tribes.

 

II. Anti-Semitic Historical Arguments

 

            A. The Khazars

 

            The anti-Semites are desperate to prove that Jews really are not Jews at all, that they are in fact some other group of people who are, in essence, only pretending to be Jews; they want to prove that most, if not all the Jews on the planet are actually Khazars.  Here is a quote describing the anti-Semitic point of view:

 

The Jews of today are not the Israelites of the Old Testament, but instead are Khazars, Edomites, Babylonians and Canaanites and most definitely not the descendants of Jacob/Israel.

A close study of the Scriptures will show that in no way can the Jews, or anyone else for that matter, prove themselves to be pure-blooded relatives of Abraham. The majority of people we know as Jews today do not possess a single drop of Abrahamic blood in their veins and are not even remotely Semitic. From mostly Jewish sources, we have seen where the majority of Jews today come from Eastern Europe, where they descended from a Turco Mongolian people from Russia, known as Khazars, who were converted to Judaism in the 8th Century AD.

Response:

            An underlying presupposition of the anti-Semitic argument for trying to identify the Jewish people as Khazars grows out of the odd thought that people who convert to Judaism are somehow not “real” Jews.  That is akin to saying that my children, whom I have adopted, are not “my” children; that somehow they are not “real.”   Yet Ezra 8:17 tells us that converts to Judaism are Jews:

In every province and in every city, wherever the edict of the king went, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.

 

Are these people not Jewish then, because they are converts?   Then I must not be a Christian, since I am a convert; in fact, there must not be any Christians at all, since every Christian is a convert.   This is a silly argument from the very outset.

It is certainly the case that the Khazars converted to Judaism.  It should be pointed out, however, that their conversion was the consequence of their exposure to Jewish people who lived with them.  They did not become Jewish just by waking up one morning and deciding that circumcision was the thing to do today.   

From a very early time the Khazars were a diverse and generally tolerant people. An order listing people being called up for military duty from the early days of the Khazar kingdom indicates that there were people with all sorts of hairstyles, living quarters, and lifestyles in the country. But it would be a mistake to interpret the Islamic sources by arguing that the Khazars were not Jews. Rather, the inhabitants of Khazaria were of diverse origins - Iranians, Turks, Slavs, Greeks, Goths, and others - and we cannot expect them to have always followed the faith of the ruling Khazar tribe, because the Khazar king never forced the religion of Judaism upon them.

It seems that after the fall of their kingdom, the Khazars adopted the Cyrillic script in place of Hebrew and began to speak East Slavic (sometimes called "Canaanic" because Benjamin of Tudela called Kievan Rus the "Land of Canaan"). These Slavic-speaking Jews are documented to have lived in Kievan Rus during the 11th-13th centuries. However, Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants from the west (especially Germany, Bohemia, and other areas of Central Europe) soon began to flood into Eastern Europe, and it is believed that these newer immigrants eventually outnumbered the Khazars. Thus, Eastern European Jews predominantly have ancestors who came from Central Europe rather than from the Khazar kingdom. The two groups (eastern and western Jews) intermarried over the centuries. This idea is not new. In a footnote in Chapter 2 of History of the Jews in Russia and Poland Volume 1 (English translation, 1916), the Ashkenazic historian Simon Dubnow writes: "It is quite possible that there was an admixture of settlers from the Khazar kingdom, from the Crimea, and from the Orient in general, who were afterwards merged with the western element." (page 39).

The Ashkenazi Jews are also the direct descendants of the Israelites. Genetic tests seem to indicate some ancestry from the regions known today as Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, and Iraq. Mediterranean Fever, for example, is found among some Ashkenazi Jews as well as Armenians and Anatolian Turks. It is now asserted that many Ashkenazi men who belong to the priestly caste (Kohenim) possess a "Kohen" marker on the Y-chromosome.

A genetics study released in May 2000, led by Michael Hammer, contends that the results show that Ashkenazi Jews are more closely related to Yemenite Jews, Iraqi Jews, Sephardic Jews, Kurdish Jews, and Arabs than they are to European Christian populations, and that hardly any intermarriage or conversion has occurred to affect the Jewish groups over the centuries.

Additional, more comprehensive genetic testing may help us to understand the extent of any Khazar contribution to the Ashkenazi gene pool. For now, it is clear that the Israelite traces among the East European Jews came from three sources: first, Sephardic Jews fleeing Spain and Portugal and resettling in Lithuania and Poland; second, Roman Jews, and third, Khazarian Jews who merged with Israelites, just as the Schechter Letter states "they became one people". The Khazars and the Israelites mixed with each other.

Are all Jews around the world descended from the Khazars? Certainly not.  But, it is rational to conclude that some of them are, just as there are African and European elements in the Jewish population.

Jewish people have been scattered all over the world; wherever they were forced to wander, they made converts, they intermarried, they lived their lives; but they maintained themselves as Jewish.  Converts to Judaism are not less Jewish for the fact that they converted.  David’s great grandmother was Ruth; she was from Moab.  Did that make David not Jewish? 

B. Conspiracy Theories

            Another favorite of the anti-Semites is to bring in negative comments on the Kabala, and mix in some conspiracy theories.  So as an example, consider the following:

Cabbala, Kaballah, Quabalah, and Qabal are all reference of what is commonly referred to as "Jewish (Gnostic) Mysticism." Jews believe that the Hebrew Moseretic Version of the Torah was written by God [Tetragrammaton] himself, prior to the creation. They believe that when Moses went to the top of Mt. Sinai, God gave Him the written Torah as well as oral instructions for Cabbalism. The primary written document concerning Cabbalism is the Zohar, which is contained in the Jewish Talmud. Kaballah texts are only written in their original Hebrew, so non-Jews hopefully cannot read them.

And how about these as examples of the evidences of conspiracy that the anti-Semites love to disseminate:

"The Jewish people as a whole will become its own Messiah. It will attain world dominion by the dissolution of other races, by the abolition of frontiers, the annihilation of monarchy and by the establishment of a world republic in which the Jews will everywhere exercise the privilege of citizenship. In this New World Order the children of Israel will furnish all the leaders without encountering opposition. The Governments of the different peoples forming the world republic will fall without difficulty into the hands of the Jews. It will then be possible for the Jewish rulers to abolish private property and everywhere to make use of the resources of the state. Thus will the promise of the Talmud be fulfilled, in which is said that when the Messianic time is come, the Jews will have all the property of the whole world in their hands." -Baruch Levy, Letter to Karl Marx, 'La Revue de Paris', p.574, June 1, 1928

"The great ideal of Judaism is that the whole world shall be imbued with Jewish teachings, and that in a Universal Brotherhood of nations — a greater Judaism in fact — all the Separate races and religions shall disappear." - The Jewish World, Feb 9, 1883

Response:

I suppose there might be some Jewish people who believe that the Masoretic text was written by God himself prior to the creation, but that is hardly the norm.  After all, most scholars know that the Masoretes were Jewish scholars who lived in Babylonia and Palestine, who strove to reproduce, as far as possible, the original text of the Hebrew Old Testament.  Their intention was not to interpret the meaning of the Scriptures but merely to transmit to future generations the authentic word of God.  To that end, they gathered whatever manuscripts and oral traditions they could find.  Between the sixth and tenth centuries AD, these scholars living in Tiberius, on the coast of the Sea of Galilee also invented the current vowel points that have been added to the Hebrew text; prior to this time, all copies of the Bible were written only with consonants. To insure that non-native speakers of the language would be able to get the pronunciation right, the Masoretes developed a remarkable system of dots and dashes that represent the vowel sounds.  These are placed above and below the letters of the consonantal text. They used dots and dashes, rather than creating new letters of the alphabet, because they viewed the consonantal text as sacred and did not feel comfortable changing it in any way.

What is interesting about the comments on the Kabala, or for that matter the quotes used to substantiate the idea that some huge Jewish conspiracy has designs on ruling the world, is the implication that all Jews think the same way and believe the same things.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It doesn’t even begin to make sense.  It would be like imagining that all Christians think the same way on all issues.  There is an old saying about Baptists that where you have two Baptists, you have three opinions.  The same thing can be applied to Jewish people, or for that matter, any group of human beings.  We could pull up quotes from white, Anglo-Saxon Americans who say the exact same things that the anti-Semites imagine is true of all Jews.  We can find any number of people from any particular group you’d care to pick, who could be found saying things that other Americans or other people would find reprehensible.  I’m sure we could take some statements by Christians in the context of the value and need for evangelizing, and convince others that Christians are part of a worldwide conspiracy seeking a political take over of the world.   No group of people is homogenous.

III. Anti-Semites and British Israelism

            The romance of the ten northern tribes of Israel, apparently lost from the pages of history, has caught the fancy of numerous speculators. The same school of thought which imagined that the wandering Israelites turned into the Afgans, the Nestorians, the Japanese or the Indians of North America has given rise to the British-Israelite theory. Anti-Semites propose that the Anglo-Saxons are the physical descendants of the Israelites and that Great Britain with her daughter America has inherited all the covenant blessings given to Abraham.  

A great conglomeration of Biblical passages, ancient texts, linguistic arguments and legends are offered as proof. However, British Israelism is like a mirage: from a distance it appears solid, but when it is approached and examined it disappears like a vapor. 

What is offered in support of British Israelism? On the basis of 2 Kings 17:18, its proponents insist that when the Northern Kingdom was destroyed in 721 B.C. ALL the people of the ten tribes were taken to Assyria. Only Judah, that is the Jews, were left in Palestine. Later Judah was exiled too. When, after seventy years, she returned to rebuild the temple, ONLY the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi came back. Additional proof for the disappearance of the Northern tribes is supposedly found in 2 Esdras 13 and in Josephus' Antiquities.   

What became of Israel? According to a British Israel writer named Worth Smith, the ten tribes remained captive in Assyria less than one hundred years. Becoming too numerous for their captors to control, they moved out of bondage about 661 B.C. and headed north toward southeastern Europe. Originally calling themselves "the Sons of Isaac," they ultimately became known as the Saxons and later invaded England.    

One of the major proponents of British Israelism in recent years was Herbert W. Armstrong, the leader of the then cultic Worldwide Church of God.  He claimed that there are many verses in the Bible which support Worth Smith's contention that Israel would move north to occupy a new promised land. According to him, Amos 9:8, 9 indicates Israel will be sifted among the nations; Hosea 3:4 predicts that Israel will abide many days without a king; and 2 Samuel 7:10 and 1 Chronicles 17:9 foretell that Israel will dwell in a permanent place of her own.    

Taking off from these four passages Armstrong argues, "Notice carefully how all these prophecies fit together! After being removed from the Holy Land, after being sifted among all nations, abiding many days without a king, losing their identity, they are to be 'planted' in a far-away, strange land now to become their own. And . . . they are to move no more!" Using an amalgamation of verses, Armstrong then tries to prove that the "faraway strange land" is England, and that "our white, English-speaking peoples today — Britain and America — are actually and truly the Birthright tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh of the 'lost' House of Israel. . . ."    

Proof is supposedly offered by Genesis 17:4 which indicates Abraham was to be the father of many nations (obviously Britain and America) and by Genesis 28:14 which records his seed was to spread in all directions. British Israelites go on to declare that the promises to Abraham were twofold:

 

• First, there were the kingly and spiritual promises, consisting of the promised royal line and the promised Messiah. These are called the "scepter" promises; they went to Judah (Genesis 49:10). These promises which culminated in Christ are acquired by grace.

• Second, there were the material and national promises consisting of wealth, prosperity and power which are called the "birthright" promises. Birthright "has to do with RACE, not grace," according to Armstrong; it is acquired simply by being born. The right of the firstborn was never given to Judah (the Jews) — it was given to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:2) —therefore, according to the British-Israelite position, Judah was to receive none of the material promises. Joseph — who became Britain and America — received them all.

  

Other Biblical promises and blessings: Verses are presented which are intended to show the "obvious" parallels between Israel's promises and the blessings now upon the Anglo-Saxon peoples. Based on Genesis 22:17, British Israelites see that the descendants of Abraham clearly must possess the gate of their enemies. What is a gate? Armstrong explains that it is "a narrow passage of entrance or exit. When speaking nationally, a 'gate' would be such a pass as the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, or the Strait of Gibraltar."    

To British Israelites, Genesis 28:13,14 indicates Israel will spread worldwide; Genesis 26:1-5 promises Israel "all these countries"; Micah 4:7 predicts Israel will become a powerful nation; Isaiah 24:15 foretells Israel will be an island or coast people; and Hosea 2:6 states that Israel will be blind to their origins. Therefore, to what could all these Scriptures refer but Britain and America?    

Extra-Biblical materials are used by British Israelites to help shore up the contention that Britain is Israel.

 

Linguistic "evidence" is offered: according to British-Israel adherents, the word British is derived from the Hebrew words Brit, covenant, and ish, man. Thus the word British means covenant man. In a similar way, the word Saxon is shown to have a hidden significance. Armstrong writes, "The name 'Isaac' is the English form of the Hebrew word more exactly transliterated Yishaq. How . . . [easy] for the . . . unstable, semi-vowel 'y' to drop, leaving Shaq or Saac. ... Is it only coincidence that 'Saxon' sounds the same as 'Saac's sons' — sons of Isaac?"

Tea Tephi: Another interesting "substantiation" of British Israelism is the legendary Tea-Tephi of Ireland, who is supposed to be the daughter of the last king of Judah. Jeremiah was responsible for getting her to Ireland, where she ultimately became the ancestor of the British Royal family.

The coronation stone of England, the legendary Stone of Scone, is purported to be the stone Jacob used as his pillow. It was supposedly brought to Ireland by Jeremiah and is equated with the Lia Faif of Irish myth. Edward Hine explains that, "Tephi, herself, who became the Queen . . . was crowned upon it; so were all the monarchs to Fergus the First of Scotland, who had the stone taken there, and so were all the monarchs from Fergus to James the First, and from James the First to Victoria. ..."    

        

Appeal is made to tradition. That the ten tribes were distinct and maintained their identity after the Assyrian captivity is an old idea. It goes back to at least the second century B.C., the date of composition given to an apocryphal book called Tobit. The story in this book centers around Tobit, a member of the tribe of Naphtali, "who in the days of Shalmaneser, king of the Assyrians, was taken into captivity from Thisbe. ..." The action of the drama takes place primarily in Nineveh.    

In the pseudepigraphal 2 Baruch, a composite work produced in the latter half of the first century A.D., the author claims to be Baruch, the secretary of Jeremiah (cf. Jer. 36:4). In 2 Baruch 78:1 the author begins a letter "to the nine and a half tribes, which were across the river Euphrates. ..."   

In the apocryphal work 2 Esdras, composed toward the end of the first century A.D., there is mention of the ten tribes in 13:39-45: "These are the ten tribes which were led away from their own land into captivity in the days of King Hoshea, whom Shalmaneser the king of the Assyrians led captive; he took them across the river, and they were taken into another land. But they formed this plan . . . that they would ... go to a more distant region, where mankind had never lived  . . .  [to] Azareth."    

According to A. Cohen, it was generally believed by the rabbis of the Talmud that the ten tribes would come back and be united with the rest of Israel, usually through the work of the Messiah. There were a few rabbis, though —for example Tosifta (in Sanhedrin XIII. 12)—who stated that "The ten tribes will have no share in the World to Come." According to Jacob Meyers, writing in the Anchor Bible, 2 Esdras 13:45 evidenced the attitude of the Jewish people at the time of its composition, that the ten tribes were in a remote place, since for many years there had been no contact with them. The Mishna, in Sanhedrin 10:3, also expressed this idea.    

Rabbi Louis Isaac Rabinowitz mentions the interesting old legend (also in the Talmud and in Ginzberg's series, the Legends of the Jews, Vol. 4) of why the ten tribes were unable to rejoin their fellow Israelites: they were exiled beyond the river Sambatyon. During the six days of the week the water was rough and impassable. On the Sabbath, the water was quiet, but the laws of the Sabbath   made it impossible for Israel to cross then.    

Josephus (first century A.D.) also mentions the ten tribes in his Antiquities: "Wherefore there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while   the ten tribes are beyond the Euphrates till now, and are   an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers" (XI, V, 2), Jerome, writing in the fifth century A.D., believed the ten tribes were still in the land of their captivity.    

Why England? It is clear, therefore, that the belief in ten lost tribes has a long tradition behind it. Since the Middle Ages many works have been written "locating" the lost tribes among various peoples. But where exactly did the theory that the lost tribes are in England originate?   Anton Damns writes that British Israelism can be traced back to a Protestant apologist, Dr. Abadie of Amsterdam who, in 1723, is quoted as stating: "Unless the ten tribes have flown into the air or have been plunged into the center of the earth, they must be sought for in the north and west, and in the British Isles."    

Founders of the movement: Generally though, the British-Israel theory itself is traced back to Richard Brothers, born in 1757. Brothers was a lieutenant in the British navy for awhile, but quit the service in 1789. Because he refused to accept his half-pay on account of religious scruples, he found he was forever short of money; ultimately he was forced to labor in a workhouse.    

In 1790 Brothers says he received his first call from God. On May 12, 1792, he sent letters to the King of England, the ministers of state, and the Speaker of the House of Commons. In these letters he warned them that on May 17 he would declare the imminent fulfillment of Daniel 7. Sometime later Brothers proclaimed that the king would die and that the crown would be given to him, "the nephew of the Almighty, and prince of the Hebrews, appointed to lead them to the land of Canaan."      

Soon after predicting the king's death he was committed to Newgate, where he claimed to have received poor treatment. He did not remain there long, and the experience did not seem to hurt his career. He wrote fifteen books, most arguing for an Israelite ancestry for the English, including A Correct Account of the Invasion and Conquest of This Island by the Saxons. Because he made a series of political predictions, some of which came true, he was able to attract numerous followers. These he talked into selling their property so they could accompany him to his New Jerusalem, which he planned to build on both sides of the Jordan River beginning in 1795. Though his followers included mainly the poor and ignorant, he did attract a few educated and respectable people, such as Nathanial Brassey Halhed, the orientalist; a  member of Parliament from Lymington; and Sharp, an engraver.     

Things did not continue to go well for Brothers, for by order of the government he was finally committed to Bedlam as a dangerous lunatic. Released in 1806, he lived for nearly two more decades, but when he died in 1824 his New Jerusalem was still unbuilt.     

In 1840, following the path blazed by Brothers, John Wilson of England published Lectures on Our Israehtish Origin. Apparently fairly popular, the book went through several editions, the fifth being issued in 1876.     

Five years before Wilson's fifth edition appeared, Edward Hine published his Identity of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel With the Anglo-Celto-Saxons, in which he expounded the basic tenets of British Israelism. Hine's book was very successful, selling more than 250,000 copies.   Like Brothers, he occasionally got carried away with his own importance. While he was editor of a magazine called The Banner of Israel, a peculiar statement appeared on its pages: the reference in Isaiah 60 which indicates a deliverer would come out of Zion to bring the glory of the Lord to Israel was applied to Hine himself—a rather strange exegesis of the Scripture, to say the least.

Its modern proponents: Today there are many groups and individuals who have promoted British Israelism. British Israelism is not a sect nor is it a cult in the normal sense of the term. The movement is interdenominational and normally does not try to persuade its members to abandon other beliefs. The movement is loosely organized, being divided into widely scattered groups, therefore there is generally little control over the members.   

According to John Wilson, British Israelism is "an appendage to orthodoxy, existing on the periphery of what is normally  believed.  ,  .  ."  Not too surprisingly, therefore, British Israelites will often remain members of orthodox churches.      

Yet, one of its most persistent dangers is the ease with which British Israelism justifies and fosters racial pride, prejudice, and hate. 

 

• One of the best-known proponents of British Israelism was Herbert W. Armstrong and his Worldwide Church of God. Armstrong's presentation was different from that of most teachers of the doctrine, as he was the head of a cult, and British Israelism was simply one part of his mixed-up theology. Therefore, some other peculiar doctrines were added to the standard British-Israel message.  Armstrong's teachings were propagated through the Plain Truth magazine and on The World Tomorrow broadcast. His book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy contained the major elements of British Israelism as preached by Armstrong. Since the mid-1990s, the World Wide Church of God has repudiated British Israel teaching.

• Bertrand Comparet, a British Israelite who lives in San Diego, has a radio program and has written some literature on the subject of British Israelism.

• Destiny Publishers is a firm that specializes in printing literature dealing with British Israelism. The head of the firm, Howard Rand, has written some literature on the subject.

• Anti-Semites in general, have adopted this concept and propagate it on the Internet and other publications.     

 

Response:

 

British Israelites make a number of claims and offer a substantial amount of "proof" for them. The foundation of their belief is found in their insistence that Israel was removed from the land in 721 B.C.; that only the tribe of Judah—the Jews—was left. However, we find that the Biblical record precludes any possibility of the other tribes being lost. Thus a close examination will reveal their beliefs to be without basis.

A Scripture often used by British Israelites to support their claim that all Israel was taken captive is 2 Kings 17:18: "Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only." At first glance, this plain statement of Scripture might indeed seem to indicate that no one was left except the tribe of Judah. However, it must be remembered that Levi and Benjamin were also left behind, as clearly indicated by such passages as 2 Chronicles 34:30,32. Even some British Israelites admit to this fact. Therefore, 2 Kings 17:18 must be interpreted as referring to Judah as a kingdom and to the end of the Northern Kingdom as a separate entity.   Remember, that under Solomon’s son, Reheboam, the nation of Israel split into two political units, divided north and south, with the Southern Kingdom continuing to be ruled by descendants of David, while the Northern Kingdom was ruled by several unrelated dynasties.  The Southern Kingdom came to be called Judah, because that was the largest tribe in the south, while the Northern Kingdom retained the name Israel.  This split only lasted about two hundred years, until the destruction of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians.

Scripture refutations: The end of the Northern Kingdom did not mean an end to the ten tribes, as a brief review of Israel's history will show. In the ninth year of Hoshea's reign the people of Israel were exiled to Assyria (2 Kings 17:6). This corresponds to the sixth year of the reign of Judah's King Hezekiah (18:9-11). Hezekiah was then followed by Manasseh  (20:21-21:18),  Amon (21:19-23) and Josiah (21:24).   

Beginning in the twelfth year of Josiah's reign, the Bible records the following: "And he [Josiah] burned the bones of the priests upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks [in their ruins] round about. . . . Now in the eighteenth year of his reign ... he sent Shaphan . . . Maaseiah . . . and Joah. . . . They delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites that kept the doors had gathered of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and of all Judah and Benjamin; and they returned to Jerusalem" (2 Chronicles 34:5-9). It is very clear from this passage that Judah was not alone. Here, more than ninety years after the fall of the Northern Kingdom, the Levites were able to collect money from Manasseh, Ephraim and the remnant of Israel.     

King Josiah was determined to keep the Passover as it should be kept. In 35:18 we are told that "Neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a Passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem." Obviously, then, Judah was not alone in keeping the Passover either. People from the Northern Kingdom kept it as well.  Historical records from the time also indicate a large number of the ten tribes remained in the land.    

In Ancient Near-Eastern texts Sargon's record of the conquest of Samaria makes it clear that most of the Israelite people were not taken to Assyria: "I besieged and conquered Samaria [Sa-me-ri-na], led away as booty 27,290 inhabitants of it. I formed from among them a contingent of fifty chariots and made remaining [inhabitants] assume their [social] positions."    

Archaeological evidence indicates that the "remnant" mentioned in 2 Chronicles 34:9 was not a small group. According to recent archaeological findings, as the Northern Kingdom fell, thousands of refugees fled south to Judah in order to escape the Assyrians. From the death of Solomon until the end of the eighth century B.C. the city of Jerusalem grew very little. But suddenly, around the end of the eighth century, the population exploded, expanding three or four times its original size, growing from 7,500 to about 24,000.   

The evidence for an influx of refugees is not confined to Jerusalem. Numerous settlements in the Judean hills around Jerusalem, in the Negev, in the Judean desert and along the Dead Sea were heavily settled for the first time in the eighth century B.C. Therefore the lost tribes are found where the Assyrians left them: in the land of Palestine.    

But what about 2 Esdras 13 and Josephus' Antiquities which are both cited by British Israelites as proof of their theory? So far as 2 Esdras is concerned, its reliability is open to considerable doubt. A composite work in three parts composed at different times from the 1st century to mid-2nd century A.D., the book is known only from translations. Both the Semitic original and almost all the Greek texts are lost.    

There are also historical inaccuracies in the text. For example, 3:1 records that "In the thirtieth year after the destruction of our city, I Salathiel, who am called Ezra, was in Babylon. ..." The problem with this verse is that thirty years after the destruction of Jerusalem in 585 B.C., Ezra had not yet been born and would not appear on the scene for another hundred years when he led a group back in 458 B.C. So the historical accuracy of anything in the book is open to serious question.

Even if the statement in 2 Esdras 13, so often quoted by British Israelites, that "the ten tribes...formed this plan...that they would leave the multitude of nations; and go to a more distant region" is accepted, it offers little if any real support. After the movements of the ten tribes to a distant land are described, we read in 13:46: "Then they dwelt there until the last times; and now, when they are about to come again, the Most High will stop the channels of the river again, so that they may be able to pass over." This verse seems to indicate that the tribes were about to come back, supposedly in the time of Ezra; this conflicts with British Israelism, which sees the ten tribes as remaining in a distant land.

Josephus also proves to be of little help to their cause for the ten tribes mentioned in his Antiquities are certainly not lost, as a reading of the entire passage and especially the following lines makes clear: "So when Esdras had delivered these things to the priests, he gave to God, as the appointed sacrifices of the whole burnt offerings, twelve bulls on account of the common preservation of the people." Josephus speaks of the "common preservation of the people” and twelve bulls, one for each of the twelve tribes, is sacrificed.  Again, there is no indication that the ten tribes were lost.

Thus British Israelism is seen to lack a foundation.  What, then, will happen to the edifice built upon this non-existent foundation when we examine it closely?

Abraham, father of many nations: According to British-Israel teaching, Israel moved north after her exile in Assyria. The verses used as proof, upon examination, are seen to be wrenched from their context and it is a wonder that those of the British-Israel persuasion can find any support in them.    

Abraham, according to Genesis 17:4, was to be the father of many nations. British Israelites think they see Britain and America here, forgetting that Abraham had several   sons. Not only was there Isaac, but there was also Ishmael, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah.   And these many sons, with their sons, were to become the progenitors of many nations. However, those "many nations" do not include Britain or the United States.     

Biblical "proofs" examined: Many Scripture verses are given by British Israelites to support their contention that Great Britain is Israel. Basing the argument on passages which promise certain blessings to Israel, they claim Britain has been blessed in the same way so Britain must be Israel!  However, the verses upon examination are found to be Millennial promises — to be fulfilled when Messiah reigns, not in this Christian dispensation.   

British Israelism divides "scepter" promises from "birthright" promises, with the scepter promises of the Throne of David and Messiah reserved to Judah, while the birthright promises of material blessings are reserved to Joseph. However, a quick look at Deuteronomy 27-30 is enough to dispel this myth.    

Not only is all of Israel promised material blessings (28:1-14), but all twelve tribes are also promised cursings (28:15-68) — not just Judah, as some in British Israelism try to claim. Furthermore, there will be no restoration of blessings until Israel returns to the promised land, which is the land of Palestine alone (30:1-5; cf. Genesis 15:18-21; 17:7,8: Ezekiel 37). Even if the people of Britain and America were the Israelites they could not have the blessing of God until they were back in the land of Canaan.    

Unsupported studies of word origins: British Israelites look for some extra-Biblical proofs of their beliefs, attempting to make use of philology—the study of languages.

 

• "Saxon" is said to mean Saq's sons—Isaac's sons.   However, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "Saxon" is from the old English Saexan, the old High   German Sahsun and the Greek Saxones; the name may   be derived from Saho, the name of the weapon used by the Saxons. One thing is certain: "Saxon" is not related to the Hebrew Yits-haq, which sounds nothing like Sax. In Hebrew the word for son is ben, as in Benjamin. The form "sons of Isaac" would be expressed in Hebrew as ben-ei Yits-haq (cf. "sons of Jacob" ben-ei Ya-acov, Genesis 34:27) —certainly not "Saq's sons."

• "British," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is nothing at all like the "covenant man" British Israelism tries to make of it. The word British is divided into two parts: 1) Brit comes from the Old English Bret-a Briton which is derived from the old Celtic and Latin Britto: 2) the ending ish is a suffix formed from the Gothic isles and from the old High German, old Saxon, Icelandic and Dutch isch, a cognate of the Greek isk-os. British, therefore is not from Hebrew. If it were, to form the phrase covenant man in Hebrew the word order would have to be changed and the definite article added, forming Ish-Habrit, which is not anything like British.    

 

The history of England, like the history of Israel, lends no support to the view that the descendants of Abraham invaded the island. Arthur Cross tells us that the Celts, one of the earliest groups that invaded Britain, first arrived 1,000 years before Christ was born and more than 200 years before the Northern Kingdom fell. Not only that, but from the history of the English language itself it is clear that there is no relation between it and Hebrew, or the English people and the Israelites. Roland G. Kent writes, "The English language, despite its present simplicity and grammatical structure, is of an almost unbelievable complexity in its origins, in fact of a complexity quite unrivaled by any of the better known languages of any period."     

In the fourth century, A.D., the Angles and Saxons began raids on Britain, bothering the Romans who were already there. When the Romans finally abandoned Britain the Angles, Saxons and Jutes moved in. They soon became the masters of the island, driving out or enslaving the Celts who were already there. They remained the   masters until 1066 when the Normans arrived and subjugated the Angles and Saxons.  It is clear, therefore, that the people of Great Britain are not from any one stock of ancestors but are as much a mixture as their language.    

So far as the legends associated with Tea-Tephi and the Stone of Scone are concerned, there is no historical basis for any of the claims British Israelism attributes to   them. Tea-Tephi is a composite of the names of a mythical queen of Ireland and a mythical queen of England.   Despite the claims of British Israelism that the Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny was Jacob's pillar, the stone did not originate in Palestine at all, nor is the Stone of Scone the Lia-Fail of Ireland. It is just a piece of sandstone from Scotland.

The supposed supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race is used as further proof that they are the lost ten tribes — a chosen people. A rather horrible example of this racism is found in W.A. Redding's book, The Millennial Kingdom:     

 

I shall therefore take a shorter route through the subject by calling your attention to some facts, as they exist, which will convince you, without history, that the Anglo-Saxons are the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.       

Go over the earth and collect together all the Anglo-Saxon people and put them in a bunch to themselves; then collect together all the other races of people, such as the Chinese, Japanese, Egyptians, Hindoos, Malays, Negroes, Indians, Arabians and many other kinds of human beings, and put them all together in a bunch to themselves. Then compare the one congregation with the other. In the Anglo-Saxon bunch you will see high foreheads, long, slim, intellectual noses, brilliant eyes, fine texture of the skin, well-proportioned physical frames and fine, smooth hair. Turn to the other group of races. There you will see the low, flat foreheads, heavy, short, thick noses, vicious eyes, coarse hair, and uncomely features. 

  

A false view of salvation is another danger that often arises from British Israelism. Walter Martin notes that British Israelism sometimes leads its proponents to teach, at least by implication, salvation by race as well as by grace.

The tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were never lost to begin with, so the whole foundation of British Israelism is removed. But then, when examination is made of the system constructed upon this nonexistent base—whether history, linguistics, the Bible or science is researched — nothing is found to support British Israelism and everything is found to be against it.

                         

Conclusions

 

Besides being bereft of linguistic, biblical or historical justification, anti-Semitism has an even more fundamental problem: hatred of others is simply not justifiable for Christians.

There are those who argue that God hates sinners.  They have a collection of verses that they like to use, most notably: Psalm 5:5-6, 11:5; Leviticus 20:23, 20:13, 26:30; Deuteronomy 32:19; Malachi 1:3 and Romans 9:13.  The fundamental problem with the use being made of these verses is that every last one of them is being taken out of context, both their specific context in place, as well as the broader context of the biblical revelation. 

In physics, scientists struggle to find what they describe as a theory of everything, or the grand unified theory that will explain all the physical laws.  When it comes to the Bible, we already have such a thing: love God and love people.

 

Matthew 22:34-40 reads:

 

 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (see the parallel account in Mark 12:28-34)

 

Paul writes in Romans 13:8-10:

 

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."  Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

 

Or Galatians 5:14:

 

The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

 

And finally James 2:8:

 

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right.

 

Any interpretation of the Bible which results in a conclusion contrary to this basic tenant of love is necessarily wrong.  No ifs, no ands, no buts.  Thus, to suggest that God hates, rather than loves sinners or Jews or any other group, creates an absurdity: a contradiction with the very theme of the Bible, as well as some very explicit verses, the most basic being Romans 5:5-8:

 

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

One should also consider 1 John 4:19-21:

 

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

 

            Thus, the interpretation that God hates sinners or Jews or some other group, or that he desires to see bad things happen to them, simply is an untenable interpretation of the verses used by the hate groups. 

Some will try to tell me, I suppose, that we are only supposed to love our brother, and who is, our brother, anyhow, but only those who believe like us, or look like us.

I would suggest that those who would react like that are exactly like the expert who, in response to Jesus' suggestion that he should love his neighbor asked "who is my neighbor?"

Let's look at the story in Luke 10:25-37:

 

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."

Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

 

            The problem for us moderns is that Jesus' story of the good Samaritan doesn't really resonate with us.  What is a Samaritan, anyhow?  To put it simply, Samaritans were apostates from Judaism.  They were the result of mixed marriages between Jews and pagan idolaters who had moved into Palestine during the period of the Babylonian captivity.  Thus, they were worshiping falsely and were considered significant sinners by definition according to the religious establishment in Jerusalem.  Thus, they were one of the most despised groups around, according to the religious establishment.

            So let's update things.  If Jesus were asked the same question today, his response would be to tell the story of how a Baptist preacher and a famous televangelist ignored the rape victim in the gutter, in contrast to the Jewish transvestite from San Francisco who helped her.

Maybe I just don't get it.  Jesus died for all sinners of all races and all colors.  All of us are sinners, and that simple fact doesn’t change, regardless of our ethnicity.  Sinners is what we'll all be — every last one of us — till the day we die.  Are certain sinners or certain races irredeemable?  Whosoever will may come, unless you're gay or a Jew?  Since when has the church become an exclusive club?  Are we supposed to have bouncers at the door making sure everyone has a tie and that they're "the right sort of people" before we let them in?

            Maybe I just don't understand the gospel and the mission of the church.  But I don't think so.  I think it's the haters that just don't get it.

           

The Gospel Message

 

So, what is the minimum requirement to become a Christian?  That is, what is the lowest common denominator?  The Bible is quite clear that salvation is by faith, through grace, alone (cf. Eph. 2:8-10).  But what does that mean?

            It means, that there are no pre- or post-requisites to salvation.  Acts 2:21 should be our guide (it is a quotation of Joel 2:32):

 

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

 

            Salvation is not the consequence of right doctrine, right knowledge, right behavior, right attendance, or any of the thousand and other lists and regulations and expectations set up by human beings to determine the validity of a salvation.  Salvation is something God does, and he does it with the least bit of provocation.

            To argue that right behavior or right doctrine is necessary or a part of salvation creates contradictions, scripturally.  As an example, consider one of the individuals listed in Hebrews 11 as a great man of faith: Jephtha.  His behavior and understanding of theology was low, even given the level of special revelation available in his time period.  Jephtha acknowledged the existence of gods other than Yahweh (cf. Judges 11:23-24) and wound up sacrificing his daughter as a burnt offering (Judges 11:30-31; 35-39).  Certainly it would have been to both his advantage and the advantage of his daughter had his theology been straight and his ethics a little more enlightened, but neither of those things have anything to do with his relationship with God or his salvation.

            Likewise, Lot, nephew of Abraham, is described by the author of 2 Peter as a "righteous man" (cf. 2 Peter 2:7-8); yet, when we examine the narrative about him in the Old Testament (Genesis 19), we find Lot reluctant to leave Sodom, we see that he suggests that a mob have a chance to rape his daughters, and we discover that he has little positive influence over either his family or his society: no one will listen to him or take him seriously.  Then, sometime later, we find his own daughters getting him drunk so that they can have sex with him, thereby making them pregnant (to say nothing of the questions raised about his parenting that they would have thought of doing such a thing with him).  By even his own standards, he was morally bankrupt, let alone by modern standards.  Yet, since salvation is by grace through faith, and since our righteousness is "in Christ" (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Philippians 3:8-9; Galatians 2:20-21), we are forcibly reminded again that though it may be beneficial to be "good" (both for the sake of those around us, as well as for our own happiness), our behavior isn't what makes us righteous and it's not what's going to get us (or anyone else) into heaven.

            God is not trying to keep people from getting into heaven.  Rather, he wants as many as possible to get there, and he has done everything in his power to make it easy.  He is not standing there, tapping his foot, waiting to see what someone will do, frowning and clucking and looking through the application, nitpicking to find something that will keep the applicant out.

            Heaven is not an exclusive club trying to keep "those kind" out, with St. Peter as a three hundred pound bouncer.  God did and does everything he can to get people into heaven (he's dying to let people into heaven, after all).

The anti-Semites of the world are badly mistaken.  If they still want to hate Jewish people, they need to know that they are doing so because they are irrational, bitter, hate-filled people who are in desperate need of the love of God.  It is not a point of view that is consistent with the Bible.  In fact, hate at all, for anyone, puts you outside of Christianity.  The term heretic gets used too often for slight disagreements on disputable matters.  It should be reserved for clear violations of orthodox norms.  I believe that those who are anti-Semitic, those who hate other people, are at best heretics.  John seemed to be a bit more harsh:

 

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.

Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him. (1 John 2:9-11)

 

Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. (1 John 3:15)

 

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:15-21)

 

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