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The Jewish problem, from anti-Judaism to anti-Semitism

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Anti-Judaism in Christian scripture, Part Four: Paul as “Zealot”
 
 
Paul refers to himself as a “zealot” in his epistle to the Galatians, and is described as such in Acts of the Apostles. The suggestion that he was actually a “zealot,” that is an insurrectionist, is widely dismissed in Christianity. Since he wrote in Greek the generally accepted translation of the term “zealous,” as in Galatians 1:14 reads: “I was … extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” But this passage also goes on to describe Paul as persecutor of “Christians,” an ambiguous at best term in a period of insurrection against Rome. Certainly any identification with “Herodian” might well have attracted the attention of the Zealots as anti-Herodians. Josephus describes the “Sicarii” (another term for "Sealots") hunting and murdering members of the Herodian line those within the Temple leadership, as Roman collaborators:
 
“The high priest Jonathan was assassinated by them at the instigation of Felix [a leader of the Sicarii], who did not hesitate to make use of the Sicarii in this way.” 
 
Paul’s epistles were written in Greek and, according to Mark Fairchild in Paul’s pre-Christian Zealot Associations: A re-examination of Gal. 1.14 and Acts 22.3, the Greek word ζηλωτη, 
 
“is a noun, meaning ‘Zealot’. However, interpreters and commentators have always interpreted the term as an adjective, meaning ‘zealous’.” By understanding Paul's statement as an adjective, interpreters and commentators have dissociated Paul from the Zealot movement which was emerging during this period of time within Judaism. However, Paul appears in these passages to claim that the Zealot movement was a powerful influence upon his formative Jewish life and theology and was a motivating factor in his persecution of the Christians.” 
 
In his epistles Paul repeatedly refers to himself and is referred to in Acts as “zealous.” But recalling Fairchild the word ζηλωτη is generally translated as adjective, “zealous,” rather than as noun, “zealot.” 
 
 
V: The accusation
 
“Whether Paul was responsible for all this anti-Jewish writing is far less important than the use Christian theologians from the late empire to the twentieth century made of this material as an ideological paradigm and an emotional attack of Jews…” 
(Robert Michael, 2008, A History of Catholic Antisemitism, p.12)
 
Throughout Paul’s epistles, both attributed to him and those considered written by othres, “the Jews” are described in negative terms. Asked by one of his converts about the demand that males undergo circumcision according to Jewish tradition Paul explodes,  
 
“I wish that the ones who are upsetting you would castrate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12)
 
At some point Paul’s deviations from Judaism resulted in him not being allowed to evangelize during Shabbat services. In 1 Thessalonians 2: 15-16 he rages against “the Jews” as,
 
“displeasing to God…enemies of the whole human race… always commit as many sins as possible… they are receiving God’s anger.”
 
A recurrent theme in Paul’s epistles is that “the Jews” have always disobeyed, dishonored and defied God:
 
“have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me." (Romans 11:3) 
 
Only half of the fourteen epistles appearing under Paul’s name are considered original to him. In my discussion I limit myself to the seven generally agreed “authentic.” First Thessalonians was composed around 51 CE and is generally regarded his first epistle. In it he introduces the charge that would haunt Jewish survival in dispersion for two-thousand years: “the Jews” killed Jesus!” The charge of deicide would find its way into the four gospels; it would become a recurrent anti-Jewish charge by theologians from Augustine to Luther, inspire the emotion driving the eternal Jewish Problem. An inheritance of Western history and culture it would find expression in the twentieth century as the Holocaust, the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem. It was Paul who introduced the charge, Augustine who justified eternal punishment for the Christ-killers” who, 
 
killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets...They displease God and are hostile to everyone…The wrath of God has come upon them at last.” 
 
Dr. Eisenman emphasizes that nowhere, at least not in Jewish scripture, are Jews accused of having murdered their prophets.
 

Next week, Paul, “messianism” and anti-Judaism 

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