St. John Chrysostom’s Discourse Against Judaizing Christians are eight homilies or sermons with a unifying theme: the correction of certain abuses in a fourth-century Christian community. Judged by modern tastes the Discourses may seem lengthy, and Chrysostom himself admits that they taxed his energies when he complains of having become hoarse. In Antioch of the late fourth century two highly divisive forces contributed to deteriorating Judaeo-Christian relations: very successful Jewish proselytizing, and Christian Judaizing. Both activities profoundly disturbed a vigilant leader and eloquent preacher such as Chrysostom was.
These Discourses, frequently interrupted by applause from the audience, present in their historical context one facet of the deteriorating relations. Antedating Chrysostom by some two centuries, emerging views that the Jews were a people cursed and dispersed in punishment for their unbelief and deicide were gaining credence; witness some statements by Irenaeus in Lyons and Tertullian in northern Africa. In the course of time certain passages of sacred Scripture began to be reinterpreted, when occasion presented itself, in such a way as to endow the polemics with divine authority.
A simplistic view of the complex problem of anti-Semitism raised the cry, almost a century ago, that the Church nurtures hatred against the Jews and at the same time protected them from the fury she had unleashed. However, on October 28, 1965 Vatican Council II issued a decree: Declaration on the Church’s Attitude Toward Non-Christian Religions (cf. Acta apostolicae sedis 58 (1966) 740-44). Therein the Council officially re-affirmed the common religious patrimony of Jews and Christians. It clearly rejected any alleged collective guilt of the Jewish people for the death of Christ and their alleged rejection of God.