(JTA) — Britain’s chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, accused the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins of relying on an anti-Semitic view of the Bible in his recent book.
Speaking at a debate filmed by the BBC earlier this month in Salford, Sacks said that a remark in Dawkins’s best-selling book "The God Delusion" was based on “centuries of prejudice.”
"I read it as a profoundly anti-Semitic passage,” the chief rabbi said.
Sacks was referring to a passage in the book that said the God of the Old Testament was the “most unpleasant character in all fiction.”
Dawkins, a professor at Oxford University, dismissed the allegation as “ridiculous” and said he was not “anti-Jewish,” just “anti-God.”
Dawkins said he was joking when he asserted that the stories of the Old Testament suggested that God was “jealous,” “petty,” “pestilential,” a “megalomaniac” and a “bully."
“There are Christian atheists and Jewish atheists, you read the Bible in a Christian way," Sacks said in response. "Christianity has an adversarial way of reading what it calls the Old Testament — it has to because it says ‘We’ve gone one better, we have a New Testament.’ "