By Hank Hanegraaff
Liberal scholars today are forwarding the notion that the canonization of the New Testament was driven by anti-Semitic motives. In fact, it has become increasingly popular to assert that the story of Judas’s betrayal of Christ was invented because Judas allegedly meant “Jew.” In reality, anti-Semitism had nothing to do with the canonization of the New Testament. Early dating, eyewitness attestation, and extrabiblical corroboration did (see “Is the New Testament canon authoritative or authoritarian?” on p. 198).
First, as is obvious to any unbiased person from scholar to schoolchild, the New Testament is anything but anti-Semitic. Jesus, the twelve disciples, and the apostle Paul were all Jewish! In fact, Christians proudly refer to their heritage as “the Judeo- Christian tradition.” And, in the book of Hebrews, Christians are reminded of Jews—from David to Daniel—who are members of “the faith hall of fame.” Indeed, Christian children grow up with Jews as their heroes!
Furthermore, the New Testament writers clearly proclaimed that salvation through the Jewish Messiah was made available first to the Jewish people and then to the rest of the world (Matthew 15:24; Romans 1:16). Additionally, Peter’s vision followed by Cornelius’s receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 10) and the subsequent Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) clearly demonstrate both the inclusive nature of the church as well as the initial resistance of Jewish Christians to Gentile inclusion (see also Galatians 2:11– 14). While the early Christians were certainly not anti-Semitic, at least some Jewish believers initially manifested the opposite prejudice. Far from being anti-Semitic, the New Testament simply records the outworking of redemptive history as foretold by the Jewish prophets who prophesied that one of Christ’s companions would betray Him (Psalm 41:9; John 13:18). There is nothing subtle about the crucifixion narrative. The Jewish gospel writers explicitly state that it was their leaders who condemned Christ of blasphemy. They had no motive for fabricating a fictional Judas who would represent the quintessential Jew.
Finally, the whole of Scripture goes to great lengths to underscore that when it comes to faith in Christ, there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile (Galatians 3:28), and that Jewish people throughout the generations are no more responsible for Christ’s death than anyone else. As Ezekiel put it, “The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). Truly, liberal scholars owe the world an apology for inventing an idiosyncratic brand of fundamentalism that foments bigotry and hatred by entertaining the absurd notion that the New Testament is anti-Semitic.
I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
Romans 1:16 NKJV
For further study, see Hank Hanegraaff, “The Search for Jesus Hoax,” Christian Research Journal 23, 2 (2000).
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