Monday, August 28, 2017


Scholars generally do not spell out all their reasons for upholding the view that the Jewish people as a whole (in Jesus’s time, that is) cannot be blamed for the Roman execution of Jesus. (How well they stick to this view is another issue, as most scholars claim Jesus was offensive to many Jews, but I will return to this another time.) If they had to give reasons for not blaming Jews generally, I think the following three would be the ones they would fasten on:

First, there is no historical context for it; Jews never called on Roman governors to execute one of their own. Second, there are contradictions to this in the Gospels which show popular support for Jesus (e.g., Mark 11:18; 12:12, 37; 14:2); such support is more historically believable. Third, a good case can be made that blaming all Jews was done out of anger by Jesus’ followers (because most Jews did not accept Jesus as Messiah) and a desire to deflect blame from Rome in order to avoid Roman persecution.

The odd thing is that these same scholars who exonerate the Jewish people will continue to blame the Jewish leadership of the time, despite the fact that the same three reasons exonerate the leaders as well. Jewish authorities never called on Rome to get rid of Jewish troublemakers, and they certainly never arrested and prosecuted Jews for the sake of Rome. There is no historical context for what they supposedly did to Jesus. The anger that was projected onto Jews as a whole could equally well have been projected onto Jewish leaders and distorted their role in this; the desire to deflect blame from Rome also operates here. Moreover, there are considerable clues in the Gospels to corroborate all this and vindicate ancient Jewish leaders which I go over in detail in both my books. The reasoning, or rather lack of it, which convicts any Jews of complicity in Jesus’ death is as anti-Jewish as it ever was. It is only being applied now to a smaller group of Jews, the Jewish leadership, particularly the priests. (Actually, as mentioned above, the reasoning has not really grown smaller, as most scholars still think Jesus offended a large body of Jews, not just Jewish leaders.)

If it is recognized that this was anti-Jewish reasoning when it was applied to the whole Jewish people, then it is just as anti-Jewish when applied to a smaller group. What makes it anti-Jewish is not the size of the group that the bad reasoning is applied to, but the very nature of the reasoning: 1) it promotes false facts about these Jewish leaders; 2) it defames an important part of the culture of the time; and 3) it is part of a pattern depicting Jews as uncomprehending of and violent towards Jesus (the pattern may have grown smaller, although not really as I have already said). Something went wrong, phenomenally wrong, in Christian-Jewish history a long time ago. It is still in operation and it has the power to make us blind to evidence that is right under our noses. That is what we have to grapple with. That is the thing that is so hard to accept—so hard to say and to see. We want to diminish what went wrong and think it is something easily patched up. It is not.

© 2017 Leon Zitzer

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