Complaints of antisemitic abuse among doctors have surged since October 7, with reports of some medics “celebrating Hamas attacks” according to The Times. Following Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day which took place earlier this week, Rev Tim Guttman says Christians must learn from history, and redouble their efforts to stand in solidarity with Jewish people 


Source: amanda rose / Alamy Stock Photo

As a pastor of an amazing church in North London, I love the body of Christ. I unequivocally believe in and champion the Church, which has been at the forefront of significant and positive societal reform from the abolishment of slavery to the establishment of countless orphanages, hospitals, hospices and schools. 

However, the sad fact is that under the banner of the cross, Christians have also perpetrated truly horrific atrocities.

Christian antisemitism is often the elephant in the room when we connect with Jewish people. Though many Christians may be unaware of our lamentable history, often the Jewish people we are speaking to are not. 

Jesus said, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). It was Jewish apostles who reached out in love to the non-Jewish world – often at the cost of their own lives. But after those first Jewish apostles had passed, all too soon the early Church fathers began to espouse an ideology of hatred towards the Jews. They introduced antisemitic tropes still common today, including the Christ-killer trope. This teaching led to acts of genocide and persecution.

St Ambrose, who was Bishop of Milan in the first century, wrote, “The Jews are lecherous, greedy…the perfidious murderers of Christ. They worship the devil…the odious assassins of Christ…Christians may never cease vengeance…God always hated them…it is essential for Christians to hate them.”

In the same time period, St John Chrysostom stated, “They (Jews) are invertebrate murderers possessed by the devil, their debauchery gives them the manners of a pig…this is why I hate the Jews.”

Christian antisemitism soon became widespread and rampant. Historically, during the Passion Week, thousands of Jews were slaughtered by Christians on the false belief that Christian children were murdered so the Jews could use their blood ritualistically.

Blood Libel massacres began in England in the 12th century and spread quickly throughout Europe. Even today many Jewish people have the ‘child-killer’ trope levelled at them.

At the end of the 13th century, a Christian knight claimed a heavenly vision revealed that Jews had stabbed the communion wafer (Host Desecration) to mock Christ. He asserted that God instructed him to eradicate the Jews. Again, around Easter time, up to 100,000 Jews were savagely slaughtered and burned in pyres. Entire Jewish communities were exterminated.  

The Crusades led to multiple massacres, as Crusade leader, Godfrey of Boullion, rallied soldiers to his cause by inciting them to “go on this journey only after avenging the blood of the crucified one…completely eradicating any trace of those bearing the name Jew”. The Jews were also accused of poisoning the wells in order to kill Christians during the black death.

Sadly, even the reformer, Martin Luther, perpetuated this hideous antisemitic legacy in his work, On the Jews and Their Lies. Luther instructed that Jewish synagogues, schools and homes should be burned down; Jewish people reduced to servitude and finally, Jews should be expelled. 

In the 19th century German church leaders introduced the world to racial antisemitism by damning the Jewish race as inherently evil. Adolf Stoecker, an Evangelical Lutheran Minister and founder of the Christian Socialist Party in Germany, chillingly claimed, “the struggle between the Aryan’s and the Semites can only end with the extermination of one of them”.  

Centuries of antisemitic violence and Jew-hatred paved the way for the Holocaust. Luther’s antisemitism was wided lauded among the Nazi leadership. Europe’s Christians were silent or complicit when the Final Solution was enacted, save for a few shining examples.

Not on our watch

Israel observed its day of commemoration, Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), earlier this week. 

None of us can change this terrible past. However, we can learn from it. We can say “not on our watch” - we will not be silent and inactive during the Jewish people’s time of need.  

The worst antisemitic pogrom since the Holocaust took place on October 7, 2023, with a barbaric slaughter reminiscent of medieval Christian persecution in times past.

Every generation has its own form of antisemitism

In the months since that tragedy antisemitism worldwide has exploded. The UK has seen an increase in antisemitic violence of some 1300% and this escalation is repeated around the world. Jews now feel unsafe in city-centres and on university campuses, leading the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to intervene this week and invite the vice-chancellors of Britain’s leading universities to Downing Street in order to discuss how to “keep Jewish students safe on campus”.   

Every generation has its own form of antisemitism, be it religious antisemitism, racial antisemitism or today’s anti-Zionism. The belief that Jews have no right to self-determination or access to their constantly lived in and indigenous land, has fuelled Jew-hatred globally. It tells of where we are morally, when so many see the murder of Jews as righteous acts of justice and ‘resistance’.

Our personal message to the Jewish people is simple: “We love you. We stand with you and we will stand alongside you.” Wherever this message is conveyed with Christian love and sincerity, many have been truly impacted and spoken of its healing message.

Love leads; it cares; it shares and it shows itself in many consistent kindnesses. Surely, this is God’s heart for the Church and for his eternally chosen people – the Jews.