Published Date: July 01, 2018
In the center of the campus of the University I attended was a tower, and on that tower was a Bible verse from the New Testament book of John 8:32. It reads:
“Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”
UT Tower (Photo: Wikicommons)
On the face of it, this is the motivation that Ray Montgomery and I had in mind when we offered last week to combine our two lists of Jewish persecutions by Christians throughout the centuries. We asked you the question: would you be willing to spend time looking at that truth on the 9th of Av, the day of Jewish fasting?
We will send you the truth that we discovered so that you to can consider it with us. Our recommendation is not that you rush out and try to fix it, but that in the same spirit of mourning as the prophet Jeremiah took in the book of Lamentations — the book Jews read on this tragic day — that you join us in owning our Christian past.
Ray and I have no intention to stay in that dark cave, and neither should you, but we need to enter the cave before we look for its exit. Jeremiah’s exit was to ask for God’s restoration, but not until the final two verses of that book! Indeed, he stayed in that dark cave for a while asking unanswerable questions, like those that near the end of the book that still hang in the air when the book is read:
“Why do You forget us forever? Why do You forsake us so long?” Lam 5:20
“Then” the Truth
When Christians walk below that phrase on the UT Tower, those who know the Bible often remark that the quote on the building is not the complete verse; it omits one word! The actual verse reads:
“Then you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” John 8:23
That single word highlights the point of this column. Truth does not exist in a vacuum, it exists in context and in sequence.
As we walk down the path of time towards the 9th of Av, we must understand that the truth of the history of the persecution of the Jews by Christians, in the wrong hands, can be deadly — and in fact, was deadly. Consider Hitler: a self-proclaimed Christian who was fond of quoting Martin Luther and his recommendations of how to persecute the Jews. The truth is that Martin Luther did say those things, and his writings were used by Hitler – until Hitler took them even further.
In my study of the list of Jewish persecutions by Christians, I have noticed two truths, two patterns if you will, that emerge from the large body of evidence. When you receive this list for yourself, you may notice them as well. One is quite scary, and one is hopeful. Let us share these two truths right now, even before you begin.
The Scary Truth
In the pattern of our history with the Jews, it has happened many times that:
That which is spoken or written about Jews in one century, becomes an action in a later century.
Let us demonstrate this through two examples coming from famous figures in history: Emperor Constantine and Martin Luther.
In 325 AD, The Council of Nicea approved a foundational document for Christians that includes the Nicene creed. But not that alone. This document, which Constantine considered so important that he personally drafted much of it himself, quotes Constantine’s advice regarding Jews:
“Let us, most honored brothers, withdraw ourselves from that detestable association.”
He justifies this by saying of the Jews:
“…they are not led by any rational motive, but by an uncontrollable impulsiveness, wherever their innate fury might drive them…”
Those words would become law two hundred years later. In the 500s we find a series of restrictions being put in place by Emperor Justinian:
- The Justinian code prohibited Jews from building synagogues, reading the bible in Hebrew and assembling in public.
- Jews were banned from ever testifying against Christians.
- In the council of Clermont, Jews were banned from being judges and administrators, and from ever holding public office.
- In the council of Orleans, Jews were banned from appearing on the streets in the four days prior to Easter, and were no longer able to own Christian slaves or to employ Christian servants.
For our second example of this idea, let us fast forward one thousand years. Thanks to the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in about 1440, Martin Luther had access to the scriptures and is widely credited as starting a reformation in the Christian world. While he was a horrible anti-semite, he did well to encourage the Church to read the scriptures for themselves. This positive development began with a letter he wrote in the year 1517 containing 95 theses, or statements of error he observed in the Catholic church.
I have personally written articles and produced videos that connect the year of the Protestant Reformation in 1517, to the taking of Jerusalem by the Ottoman empire in 1517, to the pivotal events of the British Balfour declaration and capture of Jerusalem exactly 400 years later in 1917, and exactly 430 years later to the UN vote in 1947 to approve a Jewish State, and exactly 450 years later to the 1967 reunification of Jerusalem. It is fun to write about such patterns, and their connection to the Hebrew Bible.
However, not until this series of articles, did my jaw drop upon my discovery of another pattern of history.
Luther’s most famous anti-semitic work, the book On the Jews and Their Lies, was written exactly 400 years before the Holocaust.
The year of its publication was 1543. By the anniversary of that publication 400 years later in 1943, a full two-thirds of the Jews that would be killed in the Holocaust were gone. That burst of evil would peak in 1942 because of all the completed infrastructure for that Final Solution, combined with the pressure to accelerate the killings as the war began to turn against Germany.
[NOTE: Bible students may also notice another numerical connection — the number 390 is also in play here. The year 1543 + 390, reaches the year 1933, the year that all seven of Luther’s recommendations in his evil book were implemented on Luther’s birthday no less.]
The Hopeful Truth
But we shall not leave you with only these awful examples, because there is a more hopeful fact that bubbles up from the historical record, waiting to be noticed. And that is:
The record of mandatory restrictions over Christian interaction with the Jews in history is long and repeated.
Think about that for a moment. Does it sound very hopeful? Perhaps not. But, think again.
Let us approach it from another angle. How about this fact:
France expelled its Jews so many times, one can easily lose count!
Are you getting it yet? Do you see any hope buried within those statements? I do, but let me first offer the caveat that this is an opinion that I cannot prove.
The hope is this: there were so many repeated restrictions on Christian-Jewish contact, and there were so many expulsions in France, because there had to be. Many Christians were routinely ignoring such restrictions!
Why? Because they knew better! Something was stirring in their hearts — I would call it the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit — that told them that the TRUTH of the Jews was different from the lies they were taught. The people knew better — at least some of them.
The truth that sets us free is this: if our heart is already in the right place, then knowing the truth is as simple as opening our eyes. That is why this idea coming from Ray and me is not going to help everyone. But we do pray it helps you!
In the next column, Ray has agreed to tell you his personal story as well.
P.S. If you haven’t yet decided to pray about and consider the Christian atrocities committed against Jews throughout the centuries, please click here.