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Did Congress really just 'criminalize Christianity' or make parts of the New Testament illegal?
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Did Congress really just 'criminalize Christianity' or make parts of the New Testament illegal?

Several Republican lawmakers and political commentators are expressing concern that a controversial new law could criminalize parts of the New Testament.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), for example, said on Wednesday that she voted against the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023 because it "could convict Christians of antisemitism for believing the Gospel that says Jesus was handed over to Herod to be crucified by the Jews."

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) — and commentators like Tucker Carlson and Charlie Kirk — voiced the same concern.

"The Gospel itself would meet the definition of antisemitism under the terms of this bill!" Gaetz claimed.

It's true the bill uses a working definition of "anti-Semitism" established by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which claims that contemporary anti-Semitism includes:

Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

So does the bill criminalize parts of the New Testament, or at least expose Christians to the possibility of breaking the law?

According to Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), one of the bill's co-sponsors, absolutely not.

"Those pushing that nonsense are truly idiotic and irrational. The bill does not criminalize Christianity — I’m Catholic. It’s [sic] gives contemporary examples of potential antisemitism," Lawler said. "Calling all Jews Christ killers is a form of antisemitism. Believing in the gospel is not."

In an interview on CNN, Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) echoed what his Republican colleague said.

"I want Christians to be able to practice however Christians deem that they need to, and we're not interested in messing with the gospel nor does this language do that," Moskowitz, a co-sponsor of the bill, explained.

As a matter of historical fact, the Jews — a collective reference to all Jews — did not kill Jesus. In fact, the only person with the authority to order an execution and dispatch Roman soldiers to carry it out in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus' death would have been the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.

Moreover, the fact that Jesus was crucified — not stoned — is clear evidence that Jesus died at the hands of Romans, not Jews. Crucifixion was a form of Roman execution that is not Torah-authorized.

It is true, however, that a relatively small group of powerful Jewish leaders colluded to have Jesus killed, and thus it's accurate to say that both Romans and Jews ultimately played a role in Jesus' death.

But to claim "the Jews killed Jesus" raises the obvious question: Which ones? Jesus himself was a Jew, all of his disciples were Jews, and the first generations of the Christian movement were mostly composed of Jews. Did those Jews play a role? Almost certainly not.

And yes, it's true the Apostle Paul refers to "Jews who killed the Lord Jesus" in his letter 1 Thessalonians. But it's impossible that Paul was deploying a broadside against all Jews; Paul himself, after all, was a Pharisaic Jew. Rather, Paul was almost certainly referring to his contemporary zealous Jewish opponents, who persecuted early non-Jewish followers of Jesus or enacted on them Torah observances that Paul did not believe gentile followers should — or, in many cases, could — perform.

Meanwhile, it's true that throughout history, Christians were often the biggest perpetrators of violence against Jews, and the claim that "the Jews killed Jesus" has been used to justify anti-Semitism.

But the bill does not establish a criminal statute, and it does not outlaw Christianity or any part of the New Testament. Christians, therefore, have no reason to fear the bill regarding its potential implications on the Bible or their faith.

A more prudent concern, however, are the free-speech implications of the bill should it become law.

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Chris Enloe

Chris Enloe

Staff Writer

Chris Enloe is a staff writer for Blaze News
@chrisenloe →