Invective against the Jews is endemic in the the New Testament, especially in the Gospel of John and Acts. Who can say how much of the anti-Semitism inherent in our culture arose from that source? A great deal, if not nearly all. Nevertheless, the real harm arose and continues to arise, not from what is contained in its pages, but from what is heard proclaimed aloud in church.
Most Christians do not read the Bible these days, and so, except for what they hear in church, they would be unaware of the invective. Those who do read the Bible generally have a scholarly interest in their religion. They will probe the history of the New Testament’s defamation of Jews. To learn that history is to weaken its power to instill prejudice against the Jews.
The great majority of Christians learn what they know of the New Testament from attending church services; and they do so in an uncritical frame of mind. They accept what they hear. What they hear, time and again -- and have for two thousand years -- are passages from the New Testament that defame Jews. Repetition is bad enough, but if it is followed by “The Word of God,” and is heard in a sacred setting, how can the worshiper not be affected for the worse? It instills not only vicious prejudice against another people and another religion, but also corrupts the soul of the one who listens.
The time has come to acknowledge the harm that these readings-in-the-liturgy do: to see the way they engender and reinforce bigotry; to concede that as acts of violence they help to perpetuate a violent society. The time has come to say, “Stop!”