Where Did All of the Jews Go?

Have you ever wondered why there are no Jewish families attending your local Christian Church? 

 


Any reader of the Bible, whether of the Old Testament or the New Testament will quickly realize that the Bible contains the history of the Hebrew people. One of the main stars of this Bible story is Abraham and Genesis 14:13 records the fact that Abram was a Hebrew. Abraham had a son Isaac and Isaac had a son Jacob.

At one point in Jacobís life, he got into a wrestling match with God and he prevailed with God and God changed his name from Jacob to Israel. "And He (God) said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed" (Genesis 32:28).

Jacob had twelve sons (Genesis 35:22-26) and one of his sonís names was Judah (Verse 23.) Within the first book of the Bible we see the terms Hebrew, Israel and Judah established.

In the book of Exodus we see where God is called the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: "Moreover He said, "I am the God of your father; the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Exodus 3:6). In the New Testament we see Peter using this same phrase in his sermon on Pentecost: "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go" (Acts 3:13).

As Christians we worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Our saviour, Jesus Christ, was Jewish: "For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood" (Hebrews 7:14).

Letís notice some more background: Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus back to David and Abraham: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1).

Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus back to Adam (Luke 3:28-33.)

Jesus was Jewish and He Kept Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication: "Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. {23} And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch" (John 10:22-23).

Jesus was the Messiah: "He (Andrew) first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated, the Christ)" (John 1:41).

"The woman (at the well who was a Samaritan) said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will tell us all things" (John 4:25).

There are more than three hundred prophecies in the Old Testament that predicts the coming of the Messiah. Jesus Christ has and will fulfill them all perfectly.

Jesus kept the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (Luke 22.) Jesus was the Lamb of God: "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).

Jesus was the Passover Lamb that was sacrificed for us: "Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. {8} Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

Jesus kept the feast of Tabernacles (John 7) and the great day of the feast: "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink" (John 7:37).

Jesus died for all mankind, Jews and Gentiles: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

It is through Jesusí life that all mankind will be resurrected to eternal life: "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." (John 11:25). "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. {10} For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:9-10).

The New Testament Church was founded on Pentecost. After PeterĎs inspired sermon, three thousand Jews were baptized: "When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1). "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them (Acts 2:41).

When the New Testament Church began it was Jewish. Most of the apostles were Jewish. Most of the writers of the New Testament were Jewish. Jesus, our Messiah, was Jewish. We worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God is the God of the Hebrews.

Our Christian religion has Hebrew and Jewish roots.

Our question remains: Where did all of the Jews go?

PAUL, THE APOSTLE TO THE GENTILES

The Apostle Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin and a Pharisee, a Hebrew of Hebrews: "I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin" (Romans 11:1). "circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee" (Philippians 3:5).

Now letís notice that it was Paulís custom to go to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles: "But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down" (Acts 13:14). Paul continued his traveling and "Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed" (Acts 14:1). Later Paul came to Thessalonica: "Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. {2} Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures" (Acts 17:1-2). 

THE MESSIANIC MOVEMENT  

When the book of Acts was written, there was a strong Jewish element in the Christian Church. The history of the book of Acts ends right before the death of the apostle Paul. The Messianic Jewish movement was growing, then events brought it to a standstill. The main event was in 70 A.D. when the Temple and Jerusalem was destroyed.

Jacob Jacz sites three reasons why the Jewish Christians disappear from the total Christian economy:

1. "The departure of the more prominent members of the Christian communities served to weaken the Jewish influence." The Jewish apostles left Jerusalem and went into the world to preach the gospel (Matthew 24:14, 28:19-20.)

2. "The rapid deterioration of the political situation in Palestine." There were problems in Judea. In 66 A.D. the Jews revolted against Rome.

3. "The Temple struggle which followed brought the Messianic movement to a standstill."

Jerusalem was destroyed and the power base of Hebrew Christianity went with it. The brethren were scattered through out the Greco/Roman world. They became part of the various congregations that did not have a Hebrew emphasis that was found in the Palestinian Hebrew Christianity.

With Jerusalem as past history, it was only a question of time till the church would lose itís Jewish distinctiveness. In a short period of time the gospel took on a new form, the gospel truth was expressed through Greco/Roman reasoning. Logic and reasoning became the main means of expressing the gospel. The Messiahís message was hung on a Greek flavored philosophical framework. In short, the Messiah became Jesus instead of Yeshua.

The Jewish distinctiveness was not only eventually forgotten, it was eventually despised.

Rabbi Sanbell said: "We see evidence of the advanced self awareness of Christianity, that it finally had grown outside of Judaism and it is now both independent of it and also itís determined rival."

Following Jesusí death and resurrection, His teaching yielded much fruit in Jerusalem and in the surrounding districts amongst the Jewish people

The New Testament records many thousands coming to the faith. The messianic movement became an organization and was able to grow in spite of the tensions between them and the traditional Jewish populace.

The Judean Church was strong and served as the capital for many churches developing throughout the Roman Empire. Jesus indicated that the capital being at Jerusalem would be short lived. Jesus said: "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. {21} "Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. {22} "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. {23} "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. {24} "And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:20-24).

THE DEMISE OF THE MESSIANIC MOVEMENT  

In the late 60's A.D. a revolt broke out against Rome which resulted in the destruction of the Temple and hundreds of thousands of Jewish people were killed. Jerusalem was in utter ruins.

Jesus instructed His followers to be ready to depart from Jerusalem. When the Romans came in and besieged the city, the Christians departed Jerusalem beforehand and thus escaped the awful destruction that decimated all the Jews there.

The Jewish Christians who escaped resettled in other parts of the Roman Empire. These areas were non-Jewish. The cultural makeup of the congregations changed as more and more non-Jews were converted and joined the Christian faith.

The gospel was bearing fruit in the Roman world. How do you share the gospel with a Gentile? They could not do it by "Proving that Jesus was the Messiah of the Old Testament." The Gentiles did not know who Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel were. The evangelists had to teach scripture by defending the gospel and showing how it was superior to Greek philosophy. They would reason how the pagan deities were false. They had to talk in a language that the Gentiles could understand.

ANTI-JUDAISM

During 66-70 A.D. the Roman legions of Vespasian and Titus, in response to Jewish rebellion, destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, killing about 1.2 million Jews.

Likewise, the Roman Emperor Hadrian, in 132-135 A.D., sought to exterminate the Jewish people. He resolved to destroy Judaism by outlawing circumcision, observance of the Sabbath, and the celebration of Jewish festivals.

These persecutions resulted in a dispersion (Diaspora) of the Judean Jewish population throughout the known world. There were persecutions of Messianic Jews by the Romans, and many of the non-Jewish believers began to drop or change religious practices that would identify them with Judaism.

"History reveals that it was because of political and social pressures that the Sabbath was gradually abandoned for Sunday- long after the time of the Apostles. Severe anti-Jewish attitudes developed in the Roman world during the first and second centuries. As acts of repression, the Romans outlawed circumcision, sacrificing, Sabbath keeping and other Jewish practices. Consequently, Christians, particularly at Rome, found it expedient to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the Jews, to demonstrate to the Romans that they were not Jewish. One way they did this was to work on the Sabbath. Sunday, which was already used by many Romans as a holiday, was a convenient substitute." For a detailed account of this substitution, see the book From Sabbath to Sunday by Samuele Bacchiocchi (Gregorian Pontifical University Press, 1974). 

Web address:    www.biblicalperspectives.com

With King Constantineís victory at the Milvian Bridge outside Rome (312) he was made emperor in the West; according to legend, a cross and the words in hoc signo vinces ("In this sign, conquer") appeared to him there and he forthwith adopted Christianity. He opposed heresies, notably Donatism and Arianism, and he convoked the important Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.

The Council of Nicaea was attended by 318 bishops. There were about twenty Jewish bishops and none of them were invited to the Council. By the time of this Council anti-Semitism was wide spread in the "Church." Constantine, in his letter to the Christian bishops at the Council of Nicaea exemplifies the marked anti-Judaic motivation for the repudiation of the Quartodeciman Passover. He writes: "We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews, for the Saviour has shown us another way ... in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews."

Eusebius includes a statement in his Life of Constantine from the Church Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., "Let us then have nothing in common with the Jews, who are our adversaries... avoiding all participation in the false conduct of the Jews."

Later the Church Council of Laodicea in 364 A.D. proclaimed in Canon 29, "Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, the Sabbath, but shall work on that day; but the Lordís day they shall especially honor, and, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ."

The councils of the Church were anti-Judaic, and they made it heresy for Christians to observe the seventh day Sabbath.

This is where anti-Semitism actually became church policy.

THE MIDDLE AGES  

As we travel through the "middle ages" the Jews found little welcome from their Gentile neighbors. The Jews experienced problems under Muslim rule and under Christian rule. Historically there have been a lot of incidents against the Jews. Throughout the "middle ages" thousands of Jews were killed and many were expelled from the countries they were living in and their property was seized. In some cases they were forced to accept Islam or Christianity or be killed.

MARTIN LUTHER, THE FATHER OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION

Martin Luther wrote a tract by the title: "On Jews and their Lies" and he said: "What shall we do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? I shall give you my sincere advice:

First: to set fire to their synagogues and to their schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever that will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone of cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christodom.

Secondly: I advise that their houses be burned to the ground and destroyed.

Thirdly: I advise that all of their prayer books and Talmudic writings and writs such as idolatry, lies, cursings and blasphemy be taken from them.

Fourthly: I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach hence forth on pain of loss of limb or even life."

JUSTIN MARTYR

Justin Martyr was a pagan, born in Palestine and studied philosophy before becoming a Christian in 132. One of the earliest Christian Apologists, he was the first to blend Greek philosophy and Christian doctrine. He wrote a Dialogue with Trypho in which he tried to prove the truth of Christianity to a scholarly Jew named Trypho. This anti-Semitic dialogue was circulated throughout the church: "You Jews are to be separated from the world and from us the church, that you may suffer that which you justly deserve and that you may be desolate and your cities burned with fire. These things have and will happen to you, for you have slain the Just One, the Lord Jesus Christ."

EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA

Eusebius was a fourth century bishop and historian of early Christianity. He became bishop of Caesarea 313 A.D. Accused of Arianism, he was excommunicated in 325 A.D. but was soon exonerated by the Council of Nicaea. He was a staunch supporter of Constantine I's attempts to unify and standardize Christian doctrine.

His anti-Semitic comment goes as follows: "Jews are always cursed by God and thus doomed to perpetual punishment."

SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

John Chrysostom was an early church father and was the archbishop of Constantinople. He was raised as a Christian and lived as a hermit until his health gave way, after which he returned to Antioch and was ordained a priest. He earned a reputation as a great preacher (Chrysostom means "golden-mouthed").

His anti-Semitic comments goes as follows: "Jews sacrifice their sons and daughters to devils."

"Jews are worse than wild beasts."

"Jews are forever and eternally under Godís curse."

"Not only every synagogue, but every individual Jew as well is the temple of the devil. And I would say the same thing about their souls."

THE BLACK DEATH

This fierce and widespread outbreak of plague, probably bubonic and pneumonic, ravaged Europe during the 14th century. About one-third of the European population, or a total of 25 million people, died in this Black Death.

The Black Death plague thrived on unsanitary conditions. The Jews practiced Biblical health laws and did not have many of their people that were dying. The Catholic Church came up with an answer for the plague. They said that the Jews poisoned the water.

ANTI-SEMITISM

Anti-Semitism is doing well on planet earth. Over one third of the earthís population is Muslim and they hate the Jews. A lot of Jewish hatred is done in the name of the cross and in the name of Christ. The Jews are Jesus Christís unsaved relatives. 

JEWISH PEOPLE AND THE CHURCH TODAY  

Today there are a few "outreach ministries" to the Jews:

The American Board of Missions to the Jews also known as the Chosen People Ministries.

Jews for Jesus.

American Messianic Fellowship.

Friends of Israel.

Ariel Ministries.

Jewish Voice Broadcasts.

Zola Levitt Ministries.

BLESSINGS IF YOU SHOW LOVE TOWARDS THE JEWISH PEOPLE

God called Abraham for something very special. He was to become a great nation and all of the families of the earth were to be blessed of Abraham and his seed. "Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you. {2} I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. {3} I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-3).

In this covenant are two blessings given to Abraham, one is the physical blessing of being a great nation and the other is the spiritual blessing of the Messiah.

Abraham passed this covenant blessing onto Isaac (Genesis 17:19-21) and then Isaac passed it on to his son Jacob (Genesis 27:27-29.)

Since the Jewish people are the physical descendants of Abraham, it stands to reason that verse 3 of Genesis 12 is still in effect as to those who bless Abraham and his descendants will be blessed and those who curse them will be cursed.

How can you bless a Jewish person more than telling them about Jesus?

Another way to bless the Jewish people is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you" (Psalms 122:6). Everyone knows the horrible activities of the Palestinian terrorists in Israel.

A third way to bless the Jewish people is to be kind to them.

The Council on Theology and Culture of the Presbyterian Church in the United States has shown an act of kindness to the Jewish people. Their 1983 General Assembly issued a paper titled: "Christians and Jews: A Unique Relationship." Article III paragraphs 1 & 3 states: "We confess our past perpetuation of the teaching of contempt for Jews, our labeling them as a "decide race" and "Christ-killers" our insistence on forced conversions, and our attempts to justify such actions by resort to Holy Scripture. We disavow and repudiate such tactics for the future." ... "Christians have created attitudes and done deeds that have led to the vilification of Judaism and the persecution of Jews. We repudiate such actions as denials of the teachings of Jesus and the life to which he calls his followers. We make this confession not only out of shame for the past, but in hope that God will use us in the creation of a humane future for Jews and all people."

CHURCH HISTORY AND THE JEWS

When one studies the subject of Church history and the Jews, they should learn of a long record of kindness extended by Christians, but, such is not the case.

Dr. Billy Graham wrote an introduction to a book written by Leonard Yaseen titled: "The Jesus Connection." Billy Graham said: "I realize that the record of the relations between Christians and Jews makes unpleasant and at times horrifying reading. The institutional church has sinned through much of its history and has much to answer for at the judgment, especially for the anti-Semitism practiced against the Jewish people."

In Conclusion: The Hebrews, Israelites and the Jewish people have played a very important role in the pages of the Bible and the formation of the New Testament Church. In this article we have tried to present a very brief history of what happened to the Jews in the last two thousand years since the time of Jesus Christ.

What is the answer to our question: Where did all of the Jews go? Christians, particularly at Rome, found it expedient to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the Jews, to demonstrate to the Romans that they were not Jewish. At the time of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. anti-Semitism was very prevalent and wide spread in the "Church." In the final documents of the Councils of Nicaea and Laodicea the anti-Semitic comments rang loud and clear where they wanted the Jews expelled from the "Church." With all of the Churchís hatred toward the Jews, itís no wonder that they donít want to have anything to do with Christianity. True Christians need to repent of any anti-Semitic feelings and then we should extend the gospel message of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God as the apostle Paul did, to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles.


Note: Most of this article is based upon notes taken from an audio taped Bible Study Course from the Institute of Jewish - Christian Studies. The lectures were presented by Jeffery L. Seif. You can contact him at P.O. Box 12268 - Dallas, TX 75225

Web address:    www.levitt.com/corresp.html