November 25, 2023

The Council of Nicaea, The Medieval Church, And The Origins of Antisemitism


The crimes of the past should not be emotionally utilized to justify the crimes of the present.


An excerpt from, "Constantine and the Foundations of Anti-Semitism" The Messianic Prophecy Bible Project: 
The faith of the Jewish and Gentile followers of Yeshua was originally called “The Way.”  And for the first 300 years of “Christianity” the Gentile followers of Yeshua kept the Passover (there was no celebration of Easter or Christmas).

Some historians list “The Way” with the four other main Jewish sects of the time:  the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes and Zealots.

The Romans who saw the members of The Way enter the Temple also considered them to be Jewish, and that gave them certain protections to practice their Jewish faith as a legally recognized religion (as opposed to a cult or superstition that was not recognized by the government).

However, not long after the last apostle (John) died, around 99 AD, “Ignatius of Antioch (c.40–117 AD) told his followers, “It is absurd to profess Christ Jesus [Messiah Yeshua] and to Judaize [practice Jewish laws and customs]”  (“To the Magnesians,” VIII, 10).

One wonders how Yeshua who practiced the laws and customs in the Torah, was even allowed into this new religion called “Christianity.”

By the time the apologist and theologian Justin Martyr (c.100–165) arrived on the scene, the Greek and Roman Christians accused the Jewish people of Deicide — the killing of a Divine being, Yeshua.

Justin wrote:  The “tribulations were justly imposed upon you, for you have murdered the Just One”  (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho).

However, Yeshua said, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”  (John 10:18)

Justin was supposedly the first person to apply the term, “true Israel,” to the Church.  (Claudia Setzer, in “Jewish Responses to Early Christians”).

Many Greek-minded Gentile leaders emerged, such as Augustine and Chrysostom, who taught against keeping the Lord’s Biblical holy days described in Leviticus 23.

They disinherited the Jewish people from the Land of Israel by saying God has now given it to Christians;  and they continued to speak derogatorily about Yeshua’s brethren, the Jewish People.

Then Constantine stepped in and codified these sentiments into the laws of the land.

An excerpt from, "Amazing and Antisemitic: The Council of Nicaea was both" By Ron Cantor, October 26, 2022:

For any believer committed to the triune nature of God, Nicaea was definitely a positive event of great consequence; however, there were also overt anti-Jewish sentiments at the council that had far-reaching ramifications for Jewish people. And these attitudes were pushed by Emperor Constantine—the first Roman emperor to become a Christian. 

1. If you read the entire text of the Nicene Creed, there is no reference to this God being the God of Israel. Without God’s calling of Israel, there is no Nicaea. The stories begins with Abraham. In Matthew 15:31, when the people saw the lame walking and blind seeing, they “praised the God of Israel.” John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, exclaimed, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them” (Luke 1:68).

2. There is no mention of the Jewish ethnicity of the Messiah.

3. One of the purposes of the Nicaea Council was to change the date for the celebration of the resurrection from the Jewish calendar, that is, Passover (or the Sunday closest to Passover), to “Easter,” which “was to be on the Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring equinox.” In other words—it was to have no connection with the Jewish Passover. 

4. At the time, they were roughly 1,800 bishops in the Church. Approximately 120 of them were of Jewish heritage. Dr. Jen Rosner notes, “From all accounts that we have, these Jewish Yeshua-believing bishops were not present at the council of Nicaea, and moreover, they were not invited—which we can understand from Constantine’s posture towards the Jewish people.” Just over 300 bishops attended Nicaea, but, as far as we know, none with Jewish ethnicity. 

Constantine supported the separation of the date of Easter from the Jewish Passover (see also Quartodecimanism), stating in his letter after the First Council of Nicaea (which had already decided the matter):
"... it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul ... Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way."
According to Mark DelCogliano, “it was not the quartodeciman practice that Constantine sought to eliminate, but rather the so-called 'Protopaschite' practice which calculated the paschal full moon according to the Jewish lunar calendar and not the Julian solar calendar".

Theodoret's Ecclesiastical History records The Epistle of the Emperor Constantine, concerning the matters transacted at the Council, addressed to those Bishops who were not present:
"It was, in the first place, declared improper to follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this holy festival, because, their hands having been stained with crime, the minds of these wretched men are necessarily blinded. ... Let us, then, have nothing in common with the Jews, who are our adversaries. ... Let us ... studiously avoiding all contact with that evil way. ... For how can they entertain right views on any point who, after having compassed the death of the Lord, being out of their minds, are guided not by sound reason, but by an unrestrained passion, wherever their innate madness carries them. ... lest your pure minds should appear to share in the customs of a people so utterly depraved. ... Therefore, this irregularity must be corrected, in order that we may no more have any thing in common with those parricides and the murderers of our Lord. ... no single point in common with the perjury of the Jews."
An excerpt from, "Jews and the Ecumenical Councils" By Solomon Grayzel, The Jewish Quarterly Review, 1967:
Somewhat more definite information is available about Jewish preparation for the IV Lateran, the twelfth Ecumenical Council, in I2I5. We learn that, under the leadership of Don Isaac Benveniste of Barcelona and the Nasi R. Levi of Narbonne, a meeting of communal delegates from northern Spain and southern France took place at St. Gilles just before the Council was scheduled to meet. These were among the most important Jewish communities of the day; these also were the districts to which Jewish refugees must have fled from the crusade against the Albigensians a few years before. The meeting was called to pick representatives to go to Rome for the purpose of obviating anti-Jewish decisions by the Council. Unfortunately there was no one in Rome with the influence that Yehiel had exerted a generation previously. Besides, the pope now was Innocent III, who could not be swayed from what he considered ecclessiastical imperatives. He knew better than any of his line how to make the Church supreme.

The Jews could do nothing to prevent the adoption by the Council of a number of regulations which the pope had prepared and which went far toward reducing their status in Christian society. Canons 67 to 70 dealt directly with the Jews; and the call for volunteers to the on-going crusade in the Holy Land also mentioned them. The four canons became part of Canon Law. The first dealt with the growing preoccupation of the Jews with moneylending. The statement pointed out that, the more successful the Church was in persuading Christians to abstain from the practice of usury, the more the Jews became addicted to the business. It expressed the fear that before long the Christians would be ruined, and the regulation was therefore made for the protection of the common man; the princes (who derived advantage from Jewish wealth) were urged to compel the Jews to abstain from immoderate usury. At the same time, Jews must be made to pay the tithe to the local churches for property formerly owned by Christians and now fallen into the hands of Jews. The princes were not too eager to respond to the urgings of this canon, so that the regulation on usury was enforced only when it was to their advantage. 

Canon 68 dealt with the question of keeping Jews and Christians apart. This was the notorious regulation establishing the Badge. It is startling that its reasoning appears to condone immorality by objecting only to immorality that may result from mixed religious company. There are places, it says, where the inability to distinguish between Jews and Christians leads to sinful mingling of the sexes, Christian men and women not being able to, tell whether their companions are Jews or Saracens and vice versa. Non-Christians must therefore be made to wear garments that will reveal their religious affiliation. Cruel as it sounds, it is typical of the mentality of Innocent III further to justify such a separation between Jews and Christians by a reference to the Mosaic obligation of fringes on the garments of Jewish males. He implies that these were meant to separate Jews from Gentiles, which of course was not the case at all. Coupled with this separation was the further complaint that at Easter time, and such other Christian festivities, Jews go about in holiday attire, thereby mocking the lamentations of the Christians. The frequent coincidence of Passover and Easter now led to results completely different from those which concerned the earlier Ecumenical Councils. 

Canon 69 re-asserted the prohibition against Jews holding public office. It added that whatever profits the Jewish official made from such employment must be confiscated for the use of the Christian poor. The reference is apparently to the employment of Jews in various parts of Europe as tax collectors and managers of monopolies like flour mills or mines. Canon 70 deals with converts from Judaism to Christianity, who must be compelled to stay within the Christian fold. The regulation takes on added significance from the forced conversions which must have accompanied the Albigensian crusade and the anti-Jewish activities of the crusaders on the way to the Holy Land. 

The call for enlistment in the crusading army which was appended to the Council's regulations was couched in terms of a ready formula. One of its paragraphs called upon the secular authorities to compel the remission by Jews of debts owed them by those who took the cross. In view of the numbers who thus escaped paying their debts, whether they really went on a crusade or not, this regulation was probably a
cause of considerable loss both to the Jewish creditor and to his prince. 

IV Lateran marked the high-point of Church authority over State; it also laid the foundations for the position the Jews were to occupy in Christian Europe for centuries to come. The implementation of the policy it set forth was taken up by the local and national councils. It is not surprising, therefore, that the following Ecumenical Councils had considerably less to say about the Jews.
The Fourth Council of the Lateran or Lateran IV was convoked by Pope Innocent III in April 1213 and opened at the Lateran Palace in Rome on 11 November 1215. Due to the great length of time between the council's convocation and its meeting, many bishops had the opportunity to attend this council, which is considered by the Catholic Church to be the twelfth ecumenical council. The council addressed a number of issues, including the sacraments, the role of the laity, the treatment of heretics, and the organization of the church.
Let me make a brief note here about the term antisemitism. It was a term that was coined only in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr, and I see it as slightly different from anti-Judaism.
Wilhelm Marr, a German journalist who was a Jew-hater, popularized the term in the late nineteenth century. He contended that Jews, including those who had converted to Christianity, were incapable of assimilating. Once a Jew, always a Jew. According to Marr, Jews were dangerous because their goal was “to harm Germanic identity” and to destroy “the Germanic.” Nothing could alter their foreign-ness, including changing their religion. Consequently, Marr rejected the term Judenhass, Jew-hatred, because even Jews who now considered themselves Christians were still objects of his hatred. Seeking a word that had a racial and “scientific” connotation rather than a religious one, he chose Antisemitismus (capitalized because all nouns are capitalized in German). For him and the legions of people who adopted this word, it meant one thing and one thing only: hating members of the Jewish “race.”
In other words, Marr didn’t want to merely hate Jews for their religion but for their existence. The Church Fathers did not believe that Jews were irredeemable. They wanted the Jews to convert and find peace with God. By definition, antisemitism is more connected to race than religion; it believes there’s something defective genetically with the Jew. Hence, Hitler was deeply worried that his grandfather might have been Jewish. If true, it was something irreparable. 

Hitler referred to it as “blood poisoning.” While Encyclopedia Britannica does say that antisemitism is about religion as well as race, it goes on to say that antisemitism “targeted Jews because of their supposed biological characteristics.” It would be unfair to accuse all the Church Fathers of being antisemitic, but most were very much anti-Jewish/Judaism.
Marr's speeches and articles showed first indications of antisemitism in 1848. He was influenced by the Burschenschaft movement of the early nineteenth century, which developed out of frustration among German students with the failure of the Congress of Vienna to create a unified state out of all the territories inhabited by the German people. The Burschenschaft rejected the participation of Jewish and other non-German minorities as members, "unless they prove that they are anxious to develop within themselves a Christian-German spirit" (a decision of the "Burschenschaft Congress of 1818"). While they were opposed to the participation of Jews in their movement, similarly to Heinrich von Treitschke later, they did allow the possibility of the Jewish (and other) minorities to participate in the German state if they were to abandon all signs of ethnic and religious distinctiveness and assimilate into the German Volk.

According to Moshe Zimmermann in Wilhelm Marr: The Patriarch of Anti-Semitism, a book written 100 years after the fact, toward the end of his life Marr came to renounce anti-semitism, arguing that social upheaval in Germany had been the result of the Industrial Revolution and conflict between political movements. He "openly requested the Jews' pardon for having erred in isolating the problem". In Testament of an Antisemite supposedly attributed to Marr but not published until Zimmerman's book, Marr explained the history of his thinking, asserting that he had originally been a "philo-Semite", having rejected "the miserable Romantic madness of Germanism". He complained that modern anti-Semitism was becoming merged with German mysticism and nationalism. Marr condemned "the beer drinking leaders, the gay 'Heil' shouters of modern anti-Semitism" and crude prejudice against Jewish writers and thinkers.