Is the New Testament Reference to the Hostility of “the Jews” Anti-Semitic?

While a considerable number of New Testament passages refer collectively to the hostility of “the Jews” (e.g., John 7:13; 19:12, 38; Acts 9:22, 23; 26:21; 2 Corinthians 11:24 ), collective references to Israel also appear frequently in the Old Testament. The prophets of Israel almost always referred to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as a group:

“The Lord said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed!’” (Deuteronomy 9:13-14 NIV).

“The Lord told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king’” (1 Samuel 8:7-8 NIV).

“But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, ‘No, set a king over us’” (1 Samuel 10:19 NIV).

“But My people would not listen to Me; Israel would not submit to Me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. If my people would but listen to Me, if Israel would follow My ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their foes!” (Psalm 81:11-14 NIV).

“They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations; so I also will choose harsh treatment for them and will bring upon them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in My sight and chose what displeases Me” (Isaiah 66:3-4 NIV).

When taken in context, the prophetic references of neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament refer to all Jews. Further, primarily Jewish writers who had a deep love for their own countrymen wrote both the Old and New Testaments. We can be sure that their criticism was written out of a spirit of family love and concern.

In both the Old and New Testaments there is always a faithful remnant (Exodus 32:7-13; Numbers 14:27-34; Isaiah 10:21-23; Romans 9:27; 11:2-5, 23-29 ). Passages referring to the shortcomings or sins of “Israel,” “the people,” or “the Jews,” refer to a particular subset—usually the political and cultural leaders—that is in rebellion against the spirit and purpose of the law.

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