How to Respond to Anti-Semitism in Christian Biblical Interpretation

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Distinguished panelists will discuss how Christians can respond to anti-Semitism in Christian biblical interpretation.

Over 55 years ago, the Roman Catholic Church promulgated Nostra Aetate, or "In Our Times," which opened up relations between Catholicism and non-Christian religions. In particular, this landmark document repudiated anti-Semitism and the charge that Jews were collectively guilty for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This document has had positive implications for Catholic and Jewish relations and more broadly for Christian and Jewish relations.

In recent years, however, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents throughout North America, including the horrific murder of eleven people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018. The terrorist who carried out these murders even cited biblical passages from the New Testament in defense of his actions. All people of goodwill renounce this sort of evil behaviour, but in recent New Testament textbooks and popularizing books on the New Testament, one can still find subtle anti-Semitic tropes and themes in discussions of Jesus, the Pharisees, and “the Jews.” Ordinary readers and churchgoers can take in this sort of biblical interpretation without realizing that what’s being said or written runs counter to official Church teaching and good historical understanding of the New Testament. The goal of this panel is to shed light on why it’s important that Catholics and Christians generally know how to recognize, respond to, and speak against biblical interpretation that is anti-Semitic.





Rabbi Dr. Laura Duhan-Kaplan holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Brandeis University, Ph.D. in Philosophy and Education from Claremont Graduate University, Rabbinic Ordination from ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, and Graduate Diploma in Spiritual Direction from the Vancouver School of Theology. She is Rabbi Emerita of Or Shalom Synagogue in Vancouver and Professor Emerita of Philosophy at UNC Charlotte. Rabbi Laura is the author or editor of ten books. Recently, she authored Mouth of the Donkey: Re-imagining Biblical Animals (Cascade, 2021) and The Infinity Inside: Jewish Spiritual Practice Through a Multi-Faith Lens (Albion-Andalus, 2019). Recent co-edited projects include Encountering the Other: Christian and Multi-faith Perspectives (Wipf & Stock, 2020) with Dr. Harry Maier and Spirit of Reconciliation: A Multi-faith Resource (Canadian Race Relations Foundation, 2020) with Dr. Ray Aldred.

Dr. Matthew Thiessen is an associate professor of religious studies at McMaster University. He earned his PhD in Religious Studies with a focus on the New Testament and Early Judaism at Duke University in 2010. After teaching for four years at Saint Louis University, a Jesuit university in Missouri, he returned to Canada, where he is associate professor of religious studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He is the author of three books: Contesting Conversion, which was awarded the Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise, Paul and the Gentile Problem, and Jesus and the Forces of Death. He has a popular-level book on the apostle Paul, entitled A Jewish Paul: The Messiah's Herald to the Gentiles, coming out in early 2023, which seeks to situate the apostle within and not in opposition to early Judaism. Professor Thiessen grew up in the Mennonite Brethren church and is now active in Mennonite Church Canada.


Dr. John Martens is a Professor of Theology and the Director of the Centre for Christian Engagement at St. Mark's College at UBC. His research interests are in the New Testament and Second Temple Judaism.


Contact Dr. John Martens, Director of the Centre for Christian Engagement

[email protected]

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