You must login to vote
Origins of Anti-Semitism
by Jason Guile
As we enter into the 21st century, a supposedly more enlightened generation is still ensconced with the narrow-mindedness so prevalent in our forebears. In times of peace, educated souls can look upon these “idiosyncrasies of the degenerate” with a kind of amusement. However, in times of crises, such as the ones which seem almost assured to lie ahead for a generation which will be the first since the Great Depression to have a lower standard of living than the generation that proceeded it, even the intelligentsia can become enamoured with such troglodytic half-thoughts. And one that always seems to lead the pack in such times are those relating to anti-Semitism. Before the coming onslaught, before rationality is a fondly forgotten attribute of a lost generation, it is important that we do what we can in the short time we have now to eradicate such ancestral leanings from our society, lest the mistakes of the past revisit themselves tenfold. It was with this thought in mind that the following essay was written . . .
From the time Judeo-Christian theology came to the western world, ie Rome, anti-Semitism has seemed to follow proportionately. Why does the Jewish culture seem to inspire such hatred amongst the people whose religion is owed to them? The one attribute that is perhaps most endemic in the Jewish culture is that of guilt. This is especially true when one compares the Jewish culture to the hedonist cultures of Ancient Greece, Rome and to a lesser extent Egypt.
When the Roman Empire conquered the lands of Israel, the Jewish culture over several generations began to introduce itself to Europe in the form of Christianity. Originally, because Judeo-Christian beliefs were so in contrast with the pagan/hedonistic lifestyles of the Romans, this movement faced violent opposition and Christians and Jews both were violently persecuted. The question then becomes why it was that Christianity eventually gained acceptance, but anti-Semitism remains strong even to this day? And why is it that the Christians, who understood persecution and could empathise with the Jewish plight, continued the Anti-Semitic tradition?
To answer these questions one must look at what happened to Rome as Christian theology began to overtake pagan ritual, this of course being the decline of the Roman Empire, and the eventual emergence of two separate empires: the Byzantine Empire in the west, and the Holy Roman Empire in the East. Both empires adopted Christianity, though the Holy Roman Empire eventually became the central province in Catholicism, and the home of the Papacy.
As Rome declined, Christianity grew in proportion. There are no coincidences in the course of history, and one must simply contrast the goal of Rome -- that is to spread civilisation and to make progress in all of life’s endeavours -- and the mission of Christianity, which is to concentrate energies towards the afterlife, sacrificing the pleasures of this world. As the Christian epidemic continued (and based on the results, what else could one refer to it as?), roads and other modes of transportation deteriorated. The architecture, art, philosophy, scientific learning and culture of old Rome was sacrificed to build lavish churches and other shrines to the Christian sky-god. This is how, over time, the Roman Empire became the Holy Roman Empire. Rome and its territories, even the barbarian hordes, had almost fully accepted Christians and their teachings. Yet anti-Semitism only grew. It seems confounding, and yet, it is completely in line with human nature, because along with Christianity, the Jews also brought with them the concept of guilt, that is the concept of feeling bad about something that makes one feel good. A concept previously foreign to Rome and its territories. In fact, it is concept almost uniquely and strangely Semitic. This isn’t to say other cultures were completely unfamiliar with guilt, but only for doing something that in some way harmed someone or something else, a completely linear and rational response. But to feel guilty about doing something pleasurable, that in no way harmed anyone else, and in fact may give pleasure to others as well as to oneself: this was unheard of, particularly in Rome.
Most people would theorise that Anti-Semitism is routed in the New Testament, specifically the Gospel of Matthew, wherein the Jews are said to be solely responsible for the death of Christ. However, this is not the origin, but is rather systemic of anti-Semitism.
When the fathers of Roman Catholicism were taking religious texts to place in the bible, they elected which articles would be excluded, among these were at least three known Gospels of Christ. The reasoning behind the exclusions of these Gospels, which, in most bibles, are still excluded to this day, vary from things such as “dark imagery” that the assemblage didn’t want associated with the New Testament, to the date when the text had been written, being that it was too far removed from the actual event to be taken at face value. Keeping in mind that the Gospel according to Matthew was written over ninety years after the death of Christ, whereas the other Gospels were written no more than seventy years AD, some as early as 40 or 50 AD. This alone would have been reason enough to exclude Matthew’s Gospel, especially when one considers the discrepancies, rather near contradictions, between Matthew’s and the other Gospels. Most notably among these discrepancies is the fact that Matthew’s Gospel explicitly places upon the Jews the responsibility for Jesus’s death; whereas the other Gospels make it clear that all man, Romans, Jews and even Jesus’s own disciples, were in some way responsible for Jesus’s death, and were subsequently forgiven by Jesus for this and all sins prior. Thereby, in addition to being more out-of-date, fundamentally anti-Semitic and used to insight hatred, something which is most antithetical to the Christian doctrine “Love thy neighbour”, Matthew’s Gospel also contradicts one of the major edicts of the Roman Catholic Church; “Jesus died for our sins.”, for how could Jesus forgive those who were not responsible for the ultimate sin of killing the Son of God? Other texts, it should be noted, were excluded from the Bible for far lesser reasons. In fact, the only reason to include Matthew in the New Testament is precisely that it offers an interpretation different from the other Gospels, an interpretation that could be used to insight hatred toward the Jews. “The Jews killed Christ” has long been the rallying call of anti-Semites for generations, and one must assume that those who had been charged with the great responsibility of crafting the New Testament must surely have been able to foresee such an outcome. In other words, anti-Semitism had to have been already prevalent in at least some levels of the new Christian empire for Matthew’s Gospel not to have been considered for exclusion. And if this be the case, than the New Testament could not, therefore, be the origin.
When one thinks of Ancient Rome and Greece, perhaps first is the culture, civilisation, philosophy, art and technology that they developed and spread throughout the world. But closely second was their hedonistic appetites. Roman and Greek life was centred around enjoying everything this world had to offer: their gods were the gods of wine, love, virility, and strength; the Jewish god is the god of Guilt. Considering then this contrast, one can now begin to understand why Romans, even after converting to Christianity, rather especially after converting to Christianity, had such contempt for the Jews. A culture that was once carefree had now been gilded in the cage of Judeo-Christian doctrine. A culture whose people formerly enjoyed orgies, homosexuality, incest, great gluttonous feasts, warring and fighting, now could not so much as think of such things without feeling pangs of guilt and embarrassment. The “pleasures” of life were taken from them, and who was to blame? After all, their new and omnipotent, all-knowing God could not be at fault, nor their lord and saviour Jesus Christ and his followers. But the Jews, the people who according to the Gospels betrayed Christ and allowed him to die on the cross, they could shoulder the blame for the Roman peoples’ newfound frustration and fear of a previously unknown afterlife, in which every action, and even every thought, of this life will be used to judge them. The Jews are the ones who let people know about this afterlife, it is their sky-god who threatens to send them to hell if not properly obeyed. It is then their fault, as far as the Romans were concerned, that they now lived with constant fear and guilt.
As Roman society continued to deteriorate, Rome and its territories gradually fell into what has become known as the Dark Ages. It is during this bleak period that Christianity is at its peak in Europe, and not coincidentally so too was anti-Semitism.
I've already posted this in the writing forums, but I've heard such good things about the writers and critics at Lit that I had to see if you guys could live up to the hype. This essay is in its initial stages, and will be 'beefed up' during the second run through, which I intend to do as soon as all the reviews are in and I've done some thorough research (I would also appreciate any reliable sources for research that can be recommended). This is the beginning of what will be a far-reaching book (a collection of inter-related essays), so I want to get all the hiccups out of the way before I dive in, especially since this will be my first non-fiction book (your advice will of course be applied to the entire book where applicable). If you want to know more about the book, or see what others have already said about this piece, check out the writing forums under non-fiction. For example, one person already said that he thought I was going 'back-and-forth' between the concept of guilt and anti-Semitism, and this made it confusing to see my point. I argued that guilt and resentment (ie Anti-Semitism) go hand-in-hand, and also the point would be more clear after I did the second run through. Any thoughts? Advice on both the content and the writing itself are equally appreciated. Thank you.
"Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman - a rope over an abyss." ~Nietzsche