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The blame game

Are the Jews responsible for Christ's death?

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Posted on: 
1 Apr 2011
The blame game

The question of the “collective guilt” of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus has once again come to the fore with the Vatican’s recent release of excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s newest book, Jesus of Nazareth – Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. In it, the pope issues a broad exoneration of the Jewish people for the crucifixion of Christ, instead laying the blame on a narrow band of “Temple aristocracy” and supporters of Barabbas.

The Catholic Church had already officially abandoned its historic charge of Deicide against the Jews in the authoritative document “Nostra Aetate,” adopted by the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Sadly, this break from the Church’s traditional position of contempt for the Jews came far too late to save countless innocent lives which fell victim to this odious doctrine. The same is true of the current pope’s new book, yet its potential to finally reach the Catholic masses with this vital corrective message is being applauded by Jewish leaders. Even Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu sent the pontiff a warm note of thanks.

The last time this issue received such wide play was during the controversy over Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ,” released in 2004. It turned out Gibson’s father belonged to a conservative Catholic sect that had yet to come to terms with the sea changes wrought by Vatican II. Indeed, the film exposed that there are still more than a few Christians who consider the Jews to be “Christ killers” – and thus rejected and cursed by God.

Meantime, other Christians offered alternative views that would deflect responsibility away from the Jewish people. “The Romans killed Jesus,” said some. “It was my sins that placed him there,” explained others.

These are all valid points, but the problem is that the New Testament is quite clear in squarely fingering the Jewish people of that day for playing a central role in his death. The list of verses that take this view are too many to ignore or explain away.

In Acts 3:12-18, for starters, the Apostle Peter addresses the “men of Israel” with the accusation, “you… killed the Prince of life.”  But Peter adds, “yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.”

That is, he implicated his fellow Israelites in the death of Jesus, but he did not pronounce any guilt or curse over them as a consequence. Rather, Peter declared that this had all happened by the foreordained purpose and will of God concerning the things that the Messiah must endure.

Peter issues the same challenge in Acts 4:8-10 to the “rulers of the people and elders of Israel,” saying “let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified…”

We see it when Peter leads a corporate prayer in Acts 4:27-28, and again in Acts 5:30, where certain Apostles tell the Sanhedrin that, “the God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.”

And if that is not enough, in Acts 7 we find that Stephen the martyr decreed to his “brethren and fathers” that they were “betrayers and murderers” of the “Just One.”
So it is hard to avoid their point, repeatedly stated in the preaching of the Apostles. They boldly confronted both Jewish commoners and their leaders of that day for helping put Jesus on the cross. But his disciples also laid no guilt or curse on their fellow Israelites as a result; rather, they held that the Jewish people were doing exactly what God wanted of them in that fateful hour.

So as we approach the Passover season once more, it is good to consider that the Bible teaches the Jewish people were the only priestly nation which could offer up the sacrifice Lamb for the sins of the world. And we are told to rejoice in that priceless and predetermined act and to be totally grateful for it, while holding no animosity towards the Jews on account of it – whether then, now or ever!

Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem;
This article first appeared in the April 2011 issue of
The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition;  


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