For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.(1 Thessalonians 2:14-16)
Antisemites have used the verses in the above passage throughout the centuries as a basis for persecuting the Jewish people. These verses have been interpreted to undergird the belief that the entire Jewish people are guilty of killing the Messiah and are eternally cursed for rejecting Him. Yet, this could not be further from the truth, as a deeper reading of the text will reveal.
The Apostle Paul is Jewish himself, so certainly he understood that the text does not refer to all Jews at all times or to them allegedly being under a curse for committing deicide—the crime of killing God. Actually, the Thessalonians were also suffering at the hands of their hostile, non-believing Gentile fellow citizens just as the Jewish believers in Judea were suffering at the hands of those Jewish people who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.
In verse 15, Paul is referring to this group in Judea when he writes that they “killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out” and who “are not pleasing to God but hostile to all men.” Paul is describing those specific individuals who were persecuting the Jewish believers at the time the letter was being written and not every Jewish man, woman, and child at any time or place in history.
Understanding the above as a general statement about all Jewish people would conflict with Romans 9-11, where the Apostle Paul’s tender heart toward his own Jewish people and future hope for them is poignantly expressed. Also, and, perhaps, most important to remember is that the Jewish people did not kill the Messiah! In John 10:18, Yeshua tells His disciples, “No one has taken [my life] away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.” It was predicted that the Messiah would die for the sins of the world and that His own people would reject Him. This is true.But, clearly there were also many Jewish people who embraced Him as Messiah. While He was actually slain by Romans, in the end no human could put Him to death unless He wanted to die.
Keeping these truths in mind will help us to clearly see that 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16was never meant to be applied to all Jewish people.
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