In the Pauline epistles, besides attacks on the Torah, there were direct, personal, verbal assaults on Jews. In Paul's very first epistle, 1 Thessalonians, which was written around 50 C.E., a scurrilous accusation against Jews of deicide is found. Many scholars claim that this is an interpolation by a later editor or redactor of the letter. This charge, however, was stated in all four Gospels, and figured prominently in Matthew and Acts. Scholars also claim that the Lukan indictment is the result of an alteration by an editor. Many, if not most, Christian believers have difficulty in accepting these scholarly claims and read the Christian Scriptures as coming in entirety from the hand of the person to whom the work is attributed.
A barrage against the Jews was unleashed in 1 Thes. 2:14- 16 as the speaker addressed his converts:
For you brothers, become imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus. You suffered from your countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved.
Either Paul or the later Christian editors of his letters endeavored to discredit the Jews as savage killers of men based on the fiction that they had killed the prophets. Although generations had passed since the prophets had lived, Jews were indicted. Thus the Jews were accused of killing people who had not been killed, at a time that they, the alleged killers, had not been alive. Parallel to the guilt imposed on Jews in the first century for the death of prophets they had not even known is the charge laid on Jews for 1900 years of deicide against a man they had never known.
Another unsubstantiated charge was that Paul had been driven out of Judea. From all that he and others wrote, Paul chose to leave Jerusalem on his missionary journeys to spread his word and establish his religion. Nor is there any foundation to the inference that the Nazarenes suffered from their fellow Jews. No evidence exists of Jews persecuting Christians in Judea.
In the most serious accusation, deicide, Paul or his interpolator carefully avoided any mention of Roman culpability. In fact, he made no reference to the Romans at all, even though everyone knew of their presence and power in Judea and the kind of capital punishments they meted out. This reticence concerning the Romans can be understood as prudence born of fear. While he cannot be faulted for that fear, neither can he be lauded for the resultant behavior. Regardless of how scared he was of the Romans, Paul or his ghost writer was not justified in blaming Jews for the Romans' crimes.
Aside from being dishonest, this accusation of deicide is the most heinous and wicked in the epistles. It has had immeasurable repercussions and caused untold harm and human suffering. This false charge was repeated down through the ages after Paul by evangelists and patristics, by popes and Christian leaders, and by rank-and-file devotees in pogroms, crusades, and concentration camps.
In Phil. 3 there is an hateful attack, the object of which were the "Judaizing Christians." Since they are not identified by name but by description as "those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh," most readers of, and believers in, the New Testament understand this last term to be a code word for Jews since they were the only people practicing circumcision. There were no Moslems yet. This is how verses 3:19-20 read:
their god is their stomach and their glory is in their shame; their mind is on earthly things.
And by contrast, Paul wrote about himself and his associates in the next verse:
But our citizenship is in heaven.
This portrayal, whether of Gentile Judaizers or Jews, has fixed a picture of Jews in the minds of Christians as carnal creatures, concerned only with the satisfaction of their material and bodily needs. From Chrysostom to Luther these same words were used to defame Jews. It was easy, for centuries afterward, to assault such beings physically and verbally because they were not in the same category of humanity as the spiritual Christians. Western literature is full of Jewish fictitious characters which fit Paul's description. From Shakespeare's Shylock to Dickens' Fagin, from the unsavory Jews drawn by Voltaire to Balzac's Jewish usurer, Gobseck, we see the stereotyped caricatures of Jews which had their genesis in Paul's depiction. To suggest that this was merely the rhetoric of the day neither excuses nor justifies it. Hitler's inflammatory speeches were also the rhetoric of the day. Moreover, neither Paul nor the evangelists nor the editors of the New Testament found a precedent for such rhetoric in the Hebrew Scriptures. No similar, spurious accusations were part of the Tanakh.
Another criticism leveled at Jews by way of an unflattering comparison with Christians is found in 1 Cor. 1:22-23 in which Paul wrote,
"Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom but we preach Christ crucified..."
Not only is this a false charge, it is curious coming from the father of a religion based on miracles.
Answer for yourself: What is Jesus' resurrection if not a miraculous occurrence which Christians must believe as dogma?
Jesus' seemingly magical cures of lepers, cripples, and the blind and the even more remarkable revival of the dead Lazarus, were considered miracles which served as proof of his divinity or divine powers. His ability to walk on water, to turn water into wine, along with a host of other wondrous happenings are crucial to Christianity. All the "mysteries" in Christianity must be understood in terms of the miraculous. Judaism, by contrast, does not depend on miracles for its validity. Although many miraculous events are recorded in the Tanakh-the parting of the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds), Joshua's halting of the sun and moon in their paths, Elijah's and Elisha's dividing of the waters and the latter increasing the oil supply of the widow, Daniel's safety in the lion's den, etc.--there was a tendency from early Talmudic times to rationalize and allegorize the miracles. Judaism has disparaged miracles as props of faith (Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, Judaism and Christianity: The Difference, p. 36). In later centuries there arose certain Hassidic sects whose members revered "miracle workers." However, neither the miracles nor the workers have any authority in Jewish law--even among their admirers. Already in the Torah came the warning against heeding a prophet who performs miracles and urges people to follow other gods. "You shall not pay attention to his words" is the admonition in Dt. 13:4. It was not Jews who needed miracles or magic to bolster their faith in God and their Bible. The value of the latter was in its ethical teachings. If Jews depended on signs and miracles, the laws would not have held such sway over them.
As Solomon Schechter stated, "In the whole of Rabbinic literature there is not one single instance on record that a Rabbi was ever asked by his colleagues to demonstrate the soundness of his doctrine, or the truth of a disputed Halachic case, by performing a miracle....Not a single miracle is reported for Hillel and Shammai both of whom exercised such an important influence on Judaism" (S. Schechter, Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, pp. 6-7). Stories in the Midrash, Haggadah, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and Philo have no religious authority in Judaism. Even if some midrashic ideas and works were extant in Paul's time, his knowledge of Hebrew and association with Jewish scholars were too limited for him to be acquainted with these concepts. This shows how unfamiliar Paul was with contemporary Judaism despite his self-description as a knowledgeable Pharisee.
Paul's complaint in Romans that Jews bragged about their relationship to God (2:17) and boasted about the Law (2:28, 3:27) was discussed earlier in a previous article in terms of the Chosen People concept. The apostle's description of Jews as bragging and boastful was his way of depicting them as arrogant. This was one more taunt and personal attack. If Jews were proud that God had conferred the Torah on them and that they had accepted it and lived up to its precepts, their pride was justifiable. It might be compared to the pride which Paul and his followers expressed about the gospel that they proclaimed. Paul took pride in disdaining the Law and asserting the impossibility of abiding by it or gaining forgiveness through it. Jews have demonstrated their appreciation of the divine gift by their pride in it, as well as by their efforts to fulfill the laws and cling to them in the face of criticism by Paul and his successors.
It is a bit surprising that Paul accused Jews of boastfulness when he was vulnerable to this charge by his own admission in 2 Cor. 11. There he told of all he had endured-- hunger, thirst, cold, danger, and being beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and shipwrecked. It seemed that his recital of his hardships was due to a wish to impress his respondents with his suffering and self-sacrifice. By relating this, Paul may have also expected to convey to his listeners the idea that through his agony he came closer to Jesus in the latter's final anguish. All of this is human and understandable and immodest. But Paul displayed an even greater tendency to bragging in his insistence that he was selected by God to spread the gospel. He made this claim when he thought his teachings were under attack. Here are his words:
Answer for yourself: How is this claim of chosenness different in essence from that of the Jews?
Moses did not boast of his special role in receiving and transmitting the Torah as did Paul in his capacity as disseminator of the gospel.
Before leaving this section of the epistles, we should say a few words about the "antichrist." Some scholars insist that the antichrist was someone within the Church. Martin Luther, for example, considered the pope of his day to be the antichrist. Many Christians have labeled their adversaries who are coreligionists by this name. Nevertheless, the Jews, both in the past and present, have been the prime target of this epithet. This term is used in letters 1 and 2 John. 1 John 2:22 says:
Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is Christ. Such a man is the antichrist--he denies the Father and the Son.
In 2 John 7 the antichrist is described as the deceiver.
The Johannine letters did not start out primarily as anti-Jewish. They reflect a bitter intra-Christian dispute caused by a schism in the Johannine community. Invectives and name-calling were rife. Much of this history is unknown to lay Christians.
In later generations the Church used the term against Jews. Consequently, it did not require a great leap of imagination for readers of these short letters to connect the antichrist to Jews who do not recognize Jesus as the christ or the deity. As a result, in the Christian mind, lying and deception become the trademarks of Jews, the "deniers" and "unbelievers."
Jews, as portrayed in the epistles, had no redeeming qualities. Whether written by Paul, or disciples whose thoughts are extensions of his, the letters depict Jews as deicidal, murderous, brutal, carnal, superstitious, arrogant, and deceitful. A litany of worse traits would be hard to assemble. In short, Jews constituted a composite picture of the enemy. In Rom. 11:28, again a passage not in the original Romans until 180 A.D., a pro-Paul writer actually used the Greek word for "alienated" to describe the Jews which, significantly, has been rendered as "enemy" in the overwhelming majority of translations of the letter. For that is how Paul's characterization of Jews impressed his readers and sadly has done so for over 1900 years at present.