Another Response to Anti-Semitism

An Additional Response to Anti-Semitism

by

R.P. Nettelhorst

 

What follows is a response to a letter that we got from an anti-Semite

There is a simple reason for why I reject what you and your friends are saying.  You’re wrong. 

No matter how much you hop around, two and two will always equal four.  You’re never going to convince me that it equals ninety-six.  You may like to imagine I reject what you’re saying because of social pressure, but then you don’t know me very well, obviously.  I lost a job and most of my friends once because I took a stand for what was right and true.  If what you were saying were correct, I wouldn’t mind risking it all again.  But what you say is crackpot.  Unfortunately, it is not the laughable sort of crackpotism that our local flat earthers spout.  It is the sort of crackpotism that inspired jack-booted Nazis to burn a continent and slaughter millions of people.  You think what you’ve sent me is new?  Then why do I find the same statements on any of a dozen neo-nazi and other hate sites?  Why do I find the same stuff in the Nazi propaganda films and books and articles from the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s?   You think this stuff isn’t racist and hate-filled?  Then how else am I to understand crap like this:

 

“We might add something to the statement that "The Israelites were not Jews!" That is, neither were the Judahites J-e-w-s! The people who call themselves J-e-w-s today are an entirely different race of people from Abraham, Isaac, Jakob, and the patriarchs of the original 12 Tribes. This fact is also borne out today in the fact that the people who call themselves J-e-w-s today do not resemble the White (1 Samuel 17.42 & Psalms 51.7), light-haired, light-eyed Israelites of old; and genetic studies show that the majority of them are more genetically kin to the Asiatic Mongoloid than to the Adamic people whom God chose as His special people, to carry the Message of His Word to the rest of the world.”

 

Your friend claims that the Israelites of the Bible were white, light-haired, light eyed, which means, assuming I’m following his argument, that based on what Jews look like today (and all Jews look alike, huh?) that these people claiming to be Jews today can’t possibly be telling the truth, since they don’t look like that.  And what scriptural passages does your friend give to demonstrate the appearance of the ancient Israelites?  1 Samuel 17:42 and Psalm 51:7.  But I am mystified, since neither of these passages describes what ancient Israelites looked like:

 

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)

 

He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him (1 Samuel 17:42).

 

So in 1 Samuel, we find out that Saul thought David unimpressive, that he was just a good-looking little mamma’s boy as far as he could tell.  I’m not sure how ruddy translates into telling us what color skin, hair and eyes David might have had.  And then the passage in Psalm 51 is even more nonsensical, since David is asking God to forgive him for committing adultery and murder, using the same imagery as we find in Isaiah 1:18.  And even if you choose to ignore the context and point of David’s words, I can’t even begin to fathom how one could get anything from it about what the Israelites looked like.

In any case, I was puzzled initially as to what point your friend Phineas Rhinehart was trying to make with insisting on translating the Greek word Ioudaios as Judahite rather than Jew.  After all, as Shakespeare said, a rose would smell as sweet, by any other name.  But then I noticed these couple of lines:

 

“Translators have taken it upon themselves to translate or transliterate at their leisure, aiding Satan's great deception by convincing people that those who today call themselves "Jews" are actually of the same seed-line as the Lord Jesus Christ! It is an abominable thought!”

 

Well, I’ve got bad news for your friend. That “abominable thought” is reality: Jesus was a Jew; the people who call themselves Jews today are descended from Abraham and they are related to Jesus.  Paul himself argues that case rather clearly in Romans  9:1-5:

 

I speak the truth in Christ -- I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit -- I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.  Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

 

Notice also what he says later in Romans 11, especially this point in 11:28-32:

 

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

 

The whole argument over the meaning of this individual word Ioudaios ignores something that your author mentions at the very end of his paper:

 

“Proper translation can only be carried out by specific methods, by the study of words and phrases in their specific and general contexts, by the study of the particular author and his normal usage of the word or phrase, by the word or phrase’s extrabiblical usage, and etc.”

 

            So there is merely a long list of passages in which your author claims that the word Jew must be replaced with the word Judahite or Judean (and his decision for translating it as Judahite or Judean seems to be based on which best fits his anti-Semitic bias), since the biblical people cannot be the same people at all as the people who today call themselves Jews.  And why are the Jews of today not the people of the Bible?  Apparently because he has now chosen to call the people in the Bible Judahites instead of Jews.  Therefore, since the term in the Bible is now different than this modern designation that’s being used, these people are now proven not to be the same as the biblical people.  Does this argument sound a bit circular to you?

            Tell me: how many legs does a horse have?  Four, right?  Now, for the sake of argument, lets say that we call the tail of a horse a leg.  So, given that, how many legs does a horse have?  Five?  Nope.  He still only has four.  Just because you’ve decided to call his tail a leg has no bearing on reality. A horse has only four legs.

So, removing the word “Jew” from the Bible and replacing it with the word “Judahite” doesn’t much prove a thing as far as I can see, anymore than choosing to call a rose a thorn bush now means that roses don’t smell sweet.

            And then there is another inconsistency. 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 is used to prove that the Judeans killed Jesus and therefore deserve to be persecuted; and yet, at the same time, the author tries to prove that the Judeans and Judahites of the Bible are not the same people as the Jews today.  Sorry.  One cannot have it both ways. If the Jews of today are not the Ioudaios of the New Testament, then 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 cannot be talking about them, can it?  Of course, the passage is being taken out of context if one imagines that this passage is justification for hating the Jewish people.  There’s the little matter of what Paul argues in Romans 11 to consider, after all, which may alter one’s understanding just a hair of what he might mean here in 1 Thessalonians.

            You might notice as you read through the New Testament that Paul uses Jew and Israelite indiscriminately.  For example, in Romans 11:1 Paul writes:

 

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.

 

What is really interesting is what he then says in Acts 22:3:

 

"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.

 

If you notice, Paul uses that Greek word Ioudaios -- you know, the one that your friend wants to translate in his idiosyncratic way.  Paul claims to be one, just as in Romans 11:1 he claimed to be a Benjamite.  So let’s see: Paul is not descended from the Tribe of Judah.  And he very clearly is not an inhabitant of Judea, either.  So what can we make of this?  Maybe that your friend is mistaken and that the word Jew is a general term for Israelite?

            Notice also Acts 2, where we are told that a bunch of Jews have gathered together for Pentecost, and that they are from all over the place; and what does Peter do?  In Acts 2:22 he addresses them all as “Men of Israel.”  Oh, and then in 2:23 he says that these men of Israel, together with “wicked men” (that is, the Romans, who actually carried out the execution itself) put Jesus to death.  Think back to that passage in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15; only Judeans did this?  But here it says it was “men of Israel”.

            Of course, I suppose since the anti-Semites wish to refer to Jews as “Christ killers” that we should just ignore the fact that the Romans are the ones who actually killed him; and we should also ignore the fact that, according to Luke 23:34, Jesus prayed and asked his Father, “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  He must have been delirious, right?  Jesus really wants us to hate them and never forgive them, right?  That’s what he really meant, huh?

            Ah, and then we should mention something from the Old Testament, just in passing, as we think about the use of the word Jew.  If we look at Esther 2:5 it reads this way:

 

Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish,

 

I suppose the author was just confused and didn’t really mean to tell us that Modecai, of the tribe of Benjamin, was a Jew, since that wouldn’t be accurate, huh?

And simply changing the word from Jew to Judahite doesn’t change reality, I’m afraid, any more than calling his tail a leg suddenly gives a horse five legs.  It is simply an attempt to justify hatred of the Jewish people by attempting to obscure the fact that the people who are called Jews are the same people that gave us the Bible and Jesus.  If one can argue that they really aren’t descended from Abraham, if they really aren’t Jewish at all, if the Anglo-Saxons are the actual descendents of Israel, then hatred of the Jews doesn’t violate Genesis 12:1-3 (and other scriptures).

And you need to face up to what this is all about: hatred of a specific group of people because they are that group of people.  You are not successfully sugar coating this.  This is racism, pure and simple.  If you chose to hate the Jews, then again, understand very clearly that you are violating the central point and theme of the Bible: loving God, and loving your neighbor as yourself.  And again, if you claim to love God, whom you haven’t seen, but hate your neighbor, whom you have, how can the love of God really be in you?

It tires me to see the inconsistency in the argument your friend makes.  He says,

 

Never receive anything as truth from anyone who does not accept Jesus as the Christ!” and “And when commentators and translators disregard these verses by taking the word of "liars," such as the ones who claim descent from the tribes of Israel, yet reject Christ—and are indeed His most virulent adversaries—we must reject the places in their commentaries and translations where they have believed these "liars"!”

 

And then he happily quotes the Jewish Almanac to bolster his position that the Jews aren’t Israelites: 

 

Strictly speaking, it is incorrect to call an ancient Israelite a Jew or to call a contemporary Jew an Israelite or Hebrew." (Jewish Almanac, 1980)” 

 

So we’ll ignore what the Jewish people say when it is inconvenient, but when they happen to say something we like, then we’ll take it as true? 

And when it comes to scholarship, don’t make me laugh.  If your friend knew how to translate, he wouldn’t argue for translating the same word the same way in all situations.  Does your friend know any languages other than English?  Has he even paid attention to English enough to notice that the same word can have entirely different meanings in different contexts?  Do you suppose there is a one to one correspondence between languages and that translation is merely a matter of replacement?  If that were the case, machine translations would actually make sense.  I must say that your friend’s use of Strong’s concordance as the basis for his argument makes me suspicious of his linguistic abilities.  Most scholars I know, myself included, don’t use Strong’s when we translate, nor do we base our arguments on what definitions appear in Strong’s dictionary.  There are a few other materials we might use, like the actual Greek and Hebrew texts, and oh, perhaps the major lexicons and such.

You tell me that what your friend wrote is “a brilliant piece of scholarly work”.  Sorry.  Scholars don’t write things like “J-e-w” and “J-e-w-s”, putting hyphens between the letters of a common word and underlining it every time instead of just writing it out normally; they don’t write sections of their paper with red letters, and they don’t descend to disgusting ridicule like this:

 

But instead of being called Judahites, we are to believe that Judah's offspring are J-e-w-s. If that translation is proper, then in order to be consistent, the offspring of the tribe of Ephraim, instead of becoming Ephraimites, should become Eews! Benjamin's offspring should be known as Bews instead of Benjamites! Instead of Levites, Levi's offspring should become Lews! Simeon's children would become Sews instead of Simeonites! And Zebulunites would become Zews!

 

And then there is this quoting of 1 John 2:22-23 as if John’s statement, that anyone who denies that Jesus is the Messiah is a liar and the antichrist, should be applied strictly and solely to the Jews and their supporters:

 

Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist -- he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

 

In the first place, the context of the passage might be important, don’t you think? In verse 19 John writes:

 

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”

 

So one would gather from that that John in 2:22-23 might be talking about apostates; that is, those who claim to be followers of Jesus, but actually aren’t. 

But beyond that, any non-Christian would also fall into the category of denying that Jesus is the Messiah, don’t you suppose?  Gee, many non-Christians might not even have heard of him at all, one way or the other.  Don’t you suppose that might be the point of passages like Matthew 28:19-20:

 

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

 

If someone doesn’t believe, then our calling is to love them and bring the message of hope to them, not to write them off, call them liars and denounce them as the antichrist.  I have found it very rare that someone decides to accept Jesus as their Savior when I punch them in the nose and call them names first.

And finally, you seem stuck with some odd ideas of who I am.  Since you don’t know me, let me enlighten you just a bit.  Maybe you can “minister” to me more effectively if you don’t have a caricature to work with.  Besides, it will be easier to make fun of me if you know me, don’t you suppose? 

I’m of German descent; I am not a Freemason.  I currently attend a very small Baptist church, where I am a deacon.   I don’t think that we Baptists are Luciferian.  Having been involved in a couple of exorcisms, I don’t think I am personally demonized.  I teach an adult Sunday School class. I am the founder of Quartz Hill School of Theology; I am given a very small stipend for my teaching and administrative duties.  I am a member of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature.  I am listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, and Who’s Who in Religion; I have published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.  My undergraduate degree was in history, from a small Baptist college called Los Angeles Baptist College, which is now the Master’s College.  I taught history briefly at Christian Heritage College in El Cajon and then Bible, Theology, Hebrew and Aramaic at The Master’s College in Newhall California.  I now teach those same subjects at Quartz Hill School of Theology.   I have been teaching Hebrew for nearly twenty years now; my Master’s Degree is in Semitic languages from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles).   I have three daughters, all adopted.  I have been married for 18 years.  I write novels; enter my last name on Amazon (make sure you spell it right); you’ll see.

But I do have a personal relationship with the Jewish people; I spent two summers in college working on a kibbutz in Israel; I spent most of my undergraduate work involved in evangelistic work with the Jewish people; I have many friends who are Jewish.  I am the legal guardian of a young Jewish woman who just graduated from Desert Christian High School.  Oh, gee; she also happens to be a Christian.  Hmmm.  And she has blonde hair and blue eyes.  But she’s Jewish.  Fancy that.   Of course I know some other Jewish people whose hair and eyes are different colors.  Of course, I’ve found Germans come in different colors, too.  One of my daughters is a quarter Indonesian, half Philippino, and a quarter white.  I am surrounded by all sorts of different shapes, genders and colors of people who are my family and friends.  Needless to say, I do take what you are saying quite personally.  And I find it extremely offensive, on top of the simple fact that the arguments presented in your friend’s paper simply fail to come into contact with reality.  The “facts” that you and other neo-nazis spout simply are not true: linguistically, historically, and biblically the facts are other than you try to present.  And fundamentally, and I cannot repeat this often enough, racism violates what Jesus said in Matthew 22:36-40:

 

"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."

 

What you have sent me also violates what John wrote:

 

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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