I was nine, the first time someone accused me of being a ‘christ killer’.
It happened at school, and I had no idea who ‘christ’ was, but was fairly confident that whoever it was, I hadn’t murdered them…
Later that day, when I asked my mother about it, she paled. After all, it’s pretty tough having to explain to a young child that millions of Christians worldwide still hold you accountable for the death of a man who lived over 2000 years ago…
And it is this one myth about Jews which, above all others, has induced hatred and violence down through the ages. The weary, terrible old charge of ‘deicide’.
I can personally testify to the fact that *some* Christians still harbour hatred towards Jews because of this belief. I’ve received emails accusing me of being a ‘christ killer’ on several occasions. And in numerous online forums, I’ve responded to that same accusation.
Happily, two Popes and many contemporary Christian leaders and theologians have publicly acknowledged that the Jews had no hand in the death of Jesus. But that still leaves many Christians being taught that the Jews ‘killed god’.
Hardly going to induce warm fuzzy feelings towards Jews, is it…?
Joseph C. Hough, Jr., a Christian theologian, writing in the June 2002 issue of Bible Review, states:
“By the end of the second century, anti-Judaism and the Christ-killer myth had become prominent in the teachings of church leaders. The early church fathers perpetuated this with even greater vehemence than John did in his gospel.
By the fourth century, Augustine and John Chrysostom were among those who gave credence to the awful depiction of Jews as the enemies of G-d who crucified Christ. The power of the ‘Christ-killer’ myth created a cultural climate in which hatred and killing of Jews occurred with impunity. What emerged was a relentless and continuing persecution of Jews . . .”
1 – Christian accounts of the trial were all written decades **after** the event. They are **not** eyewitness accounts.
The Jews & Jesus
Contrary to what some of the Christian scriptures say, there was no particular enmity between Jesus and his fellow Jews. Why would there be?
Jesus taught basic Judaism. Sure, he sought to reform certain aspects of the faith, but that was nothing new. There already, at that time, existed several different sects within Judaism – all of whom bitterly disagreed with each other. The Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t find consensus on much, while the Essenes disagreed with both of them. And the Zealots disliked all of them.
Debate and disagreement between Jews was common then – as indeed it is now. In fact the debates between Jesus and the Pharisees can easily be seen as standard Jewish practice.
The only people who actually viewed Jesus as a threat were the Romans. Jesus apparently sauntered around claiming to be ‘the most powerful man in Rome’. He was one of many young Jewish preachers who posed a threat to Roman rule over the unhappy and ‘rebellious’ Jews.
Many Jewish men proclaimed themselves ‘maschiach’. Yet other than in the Christian Gospels, no one in the entire history of the Jews was ever accused of ‘blasphemy’ for declaring to be the Maschiach.
Judaism always outlawed this manner of killing. Although in theory there was a death penalty under Jewish law, it was stoning, and it was rarely if ever used. In fact it’s said that if one person in every seventy years was killed for violating the Jewish laws, this was ‘excessive’.
The Romans, on the other hand, had a real passion for crucifying anyone who irritated them. Some 250,000 Jews met their death in that way.
Is it not logical to suppose that Jesus was simply one of them…?
For anyone who can’t quite absorb how many Jews were crucified by the Romans, here are some figures that should leave you in no doubt.
Josephus, the historian during this era reports many incidents of crucifixion: Antiochus IV crucified Jews in Jerusalem who would not relinquish their faith (Ant., 12:256).
Two thousand rebels were crucified by Quintilius Varus (Ant., 17:295). Seven years later (about 52 C.E.) there was another wholesale crucifixion of zealots at the hand of Quadratus (Wars, 2:241)
Felix crucified not only zealots and rebels, but also citizens suspected of collaborating with them (Wars, 2:253).
Think about that – 500 Jews a day were crucified.
Florus had Jewish judges tortured and crucified before his eyes (Wars, 2:306–8). When Jerusalem was besieged, ***Titus ordered all Jewish prisoners of war to be crucified on the walls of the city and there were as many as 500 crucifixions a day ***(Wars, 5:449–51)
According to Frank K. Flinn, Ph.D., professor of religious studies at Washington University in St. Louis, the Jews had nothing to do with killing Jesus – the Romans are actually to blame:
“Had the Jewish authorities been directly involved, Jesus would have been stoned, as Stephen was in Acts 7. Only Roman authorities could authorize crucifixions and they often did so on a gruesome, massive scale.”
Jesus just happened to be one of the many, many Jews who were murdered in this way by the Romans.
Some Christians argue that the Jews ‘pressured’ the Pilate into killing Jesus. This has to be the most absurd of all the arguments.
Pilate held his position for over a decade; he was brought in precisely because he had a reputation as a brutal and uncaring individual!
He was eventually removed for excessive cruelty.
Pilate was the one signing the death orders for the thousands of Jews who were crucified. ***To suggest that he was simultaneously cowed by the same minority he was busy killing is devoid of all logic and common sense!***
The major Jewish historians of the period, Josephus and Philo, discuss Pilate at length. Philo, who was Pilate’s contemporary, wrote an appeal to the emperor Caligula that included a description of Pilate.
Philo wrote of “the briberies, the insults, the robberies, the outrages and wanton injustices, the executions without trial constantly repeated, the **endless and supremely grievous cruelty“** of Pilate’s rule.
To reiterate: Pilate was eventually dismissed from office because of complaints of his widespread and injudicious executions.
Yet according to the Christian scenario, the oppressed Jews, the ones *being* crucified left, right and centre, were somehow able to ‘make’ Pilate kill Jesus?
It’s truly absurd.
Jesus & The Romans
Jesus was one in a series of Jewish religious-political rebels bent on destroying the Roman empire and the status quo at Jerusalem in the name of the kingdom of G-d.
These Jewish messiah-figures described by the Jewish historian Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities (especially in Books 17, 18 and 20) often used religious symbols and traditions to gain a popular following and to begin an uprising. The Roman governors dealt with them swiftly and brutally.
I want to reiterate this key point: **Jesus was one of several messianic figures who were crucified by the Romans.**
* Theudas: claimed to be a prophet and a would-be maschiach. He is mentioned in Josephus (Antiquities, 20:97).
In 44 C.E. he was crucified by the Romans.
* Judas of Galilee: led Jewish uprising against Rome, 6.C.E. Mentioned in Josephus (Wars, 2:118). He tried to liberate the Jews from Roman rule – his followers called him the Saviour, and the Messiah.
He was crucified by the Romans.
* Benjamin the Egyptian: Mentioned in Josephus (War 2.261263). He claimed to be the Maschiach, and he inspired rebellion against Rome.
He too was crucified by the Romans.
* Menachem: grandson of Judas the Galilean, 67.C.E. Outspoken, zealot, leader, claimed to be the Maschiach.
He was crucified by the Romans.
Whitewashing The Romans
Flinn, an expert on Catholicism, notes that our earliest accounts of the crucifixion, such as the Gospel of Mark written circa 60-70 C.E., make clear that it was Pilate who had Jesus crucified:
It was the Gospels written much later, such as those of Matthew and Luke, which reflect different interests and viewpoints, and each places more and more blame on the Jews.
Matthew puts the ultimate blame squarely on the shoulders of the Jewish authorities. In Luke, the ‘whitewash’ of the Romans becomes nearly complete.
By the Middle Ages, the epithet ‘Christ-killers’ became the verbal club to justify the ghettoization, persecution, and murder of Jews. We all know the end-term of this lamentable history.”
The Gospel of John, as most scholars maintain, stands by itself but one of the signs of its lateness in its present form (ca. 100-110 CE) is that John does not lay Jesus’ death so much on Pilate, or Pilate Jewish authorities, or even the Jewish authorities alone, but “Jews” as a whole (John 19:12).
The break with Judaism is nigh complete. The stereotype is set for the later, fateful charge that “the Jews killed Jesus”.
The Trial Of Jesus
Oh, where to begin…?
The contradictions within the New Testament itself on the ‘trial’ are numerous. And again, note that all the accounts were written decades *after* Jesus died. These are *NOT* eyewitness accounts!
The entire description of Jesus’ death is in fact odd – why would the Romans have allowed a convicted felon to be almost immediately removed from his cross and put in a tomb?
Crucifixion was chosen precisely to make a public point that the most cruel and humiliating form of punishment awaits those who oppose Rome’s will. Roman disposition on this point was perhaps best summed up by Quintilian (AD 35-95, Decl 274) when he wrote that:
“Whenever we crucify the guilty, the most crowded roads are chosen, where most people can see and be moved by this fear. For penalties relate not so much to retribution as to their exemplary effect.”
Reverend Kenny Nailimup has made the following points:
The real, the historical Pontius Pilate was arrogant and despotic. He hated the Jews and never delegated any authority to them.
However, in Christian mythology, he is portrayed as a concerned ruler who distanced himself from the accusations against Jesus and who was coerced into obeying the demands of the Jews. Pontius Pilate was singularly crass in his treatment of the Jews, offending them repeatedly. He was spiteful, unjust, greedy and indiscreet.
As soon as he was appointed, he carried Roman standards bearing the image of Caesar into Jerusalem, and possibly into the temple, knowing the Jews would have been incensed.
He strongly favored the Priestly Party of the Sadducees—disliked by the masses—and its leaders, the Annas family.
According to Christianity, every Passover, the Jews would ask Pilate to free any one criminal they chose. *This is of course a blatant lie.*Jews never had a custom of freeing guilty criminals at Passover or any other time of the year.
According the myth, Pilate gave the Jews the choice of freeing Jesus the Christ or a murderer named Jesus Barabbas. The Jews are alleged to have enthusiastically chosen Jesus Barabbas.
This story is a vicious anti-Semitic lie, one of many such lies found in the New Testament (largely written by anti-Semites). What is particularly disgusting about this rubbish story is that it is apparently a distortion of an earlier story which claimed that the Jews demanded that Jesus Christ be set free!
The name “Barabbas” is simply the Greek form of the Aramaic “bar Abba” which means “son of the Father.” Thus “Jesus Barabbas” originally meant “Jesus the son of the Father” – *in other words, the usual Christian Jesus.*
When the earlier story claimed that the Jews wanted Jesus Barabbas to be set free it was referring to the usual Jesus.
Somebody distorted the story by claiming that Jesus Barabbas was a different person to Jesus Christ and this fooled the Roman and Greek Christians who did not know the meaning of the name “Barabbas.”
Luke tells us in chapter 26 that Jesus was taken in the middle of the night to the home of Caiaphas for questioning. There are several problems with this gospel account:
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was probably during the Feast of the Tabernacles, not Passover. (the palm leaves strewn in front of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem would not have been in bloom during Passover) The Sanhedrin would not have met during the eight-day festival for any reason.
The Elders of the Sanhedrin would no more strike or spit on an accused person, than would the Supreme Court of the U.S. hearing a case! Luke’s account is completely out-of-context and shows *remarkable ignorance* as to the machinations of Jewish Law.
If the gospel of John is to be the authority, this account disagrees with the synopticists since the High Priest Caiaphas interrogates Jesus alone and charges him with sedition, not blasphemy, as the synoptic Gospels allege.
Clearly, the pseudipigraphical author of John is not as ignorant of Jewish Law as are the synopticists because his account is in context with the findings thus far revealed. If Jesus were charged with sedition, then a gathering of the Sanhedrin would not be necessary; the affair would be preliminarily investigated by the High Priest before turning the matter over to the Roman authorities. Caiaphas would not wish to involve the Sanhedrin if Jesus really was seditious.
The authors of the world’s greatest fairy tale go to great lengths to defame the Jews and falsely accuse the Sanhedrin of condemning the fictional Jesus to death.
*This just proves their ignorance of all things Jewish*.
Let us look at the laws of a Jewish Sanhedrin which judged capital cases. The sources are Talmud tractate Sanhedrin and Miamonides Laws of Judges:
No capital cases were allowed to be tried outside the court chamber in the Temple, certainly not in a private home. Forty years before the destruction of the Temple the Sanhedrin was exiled from the chamber of hewn Stone and from that point on ceased ruling on capital cases as well as on monetary cases involving fines;
No capital cases were tried at night; nor on the festival; nor the eve of a festival, as the guilty party had to be put to death the following day and executions were not allowed on Sabbath or festivals.. Anyone arrested on the eve of Sabbath or a festival was held in custody till after the Sabbath or holiday and then tried.
No defendant could be convicted on his own testimony or confession No defendant could be convicted unless he was warned by two qualified witnesses and then within seconds of the warning he ignored the warning and committed that sin which he was warned not to commit.
Then we have the question of what sin was Jesus accused. Was he a blasphemer or was he a Maysit U Maydeeach ― one who persuades a Jew to worship idols? To be a blasphemer one must curse god using the ineffable name, which Jesus did not do. Thus one more flaw in the fairy tale.
We also must discuss the issue of a Jew who turns over another Jew to gentile authorities to be killed. One who does this is called a mosair ― an informer and is punished by death. So any Sanhedrin that turned a Jew over to the Romans was signing their own death warrant.
Last but not least one must know that Sanhedrin had only four prescribed methods of execution:
Crucifixion was not one of them! Regarding crucifixion, most historians agree that that the Romans tied their victims to the cross and did not use nails.
Once an accused was convicted, Sanhedrin then sent out messengers for 40 days to announce that so-and-so was convicted of such-and-such crime and sentenced to be executed. During that time witnesses who had proof of the accused’s innocence were allowed to come testify.
According to Jewish law, convicting someone of a capital crime requires a Sanhedrin of 23 judges. After hearing testimony from eye-witnesses, the judges vote. If at least thirteen of the judges vote “guilty” the defendant is executed.
There is a surprising exception to this; however if ALL the judges vote guilty, then the defendant is acquitted. Here is why:
There are two ways to look at everything. There is no situation in this world without some merit or positive side. If not one judge was able to see the good side and declare the defendant innocent, something is wrong. The positive side of the case must have been missing during the presentation of the evidence. Therefore, he is acquitted.
It is blatantly obvious that the Christian accounts of the ‘trial’ are inaccurate. Jewish trials did not occur in the dead of night, in a private home, with no witnesses. Nor did they ever take place during Passover!
Why Were The Jews Blamed For The Death Of Jesus, Then?
In a word: Politics.
The Christian authors of the Gospels knew they would be living under Roman rule for quite some time. They could hardly demonise the Romans in their literature. Far easier and far safer to switch the blame onto the Jews.
This also meshed very nicely with the Christian notion that – having stated that Jesus was not their maschiach – the Jews were ‘guilty’ of ‘disappointing’ G-d. Killing ‘the son of god’ fit perfectly.
We must also remember that Pagans were quite often drawn to Judaism, and the early Christians saw the Jews as competition. It was politically convenient, for the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to thus malign the Jews and scapegoat them for the crucifixion of Jesus.
And never mind that the accusation went against all historical and theological *fact*!
Let’s leave the last word to Historian William Nicholls, who ends his detailed examination of the Christian scriptures with this statement and appeal to all Christians:
The time has come, and came long ago, for Christians to drop all accusations against the Jewish people in the death of Christ. … There can be no doubt that the Romans bear the responsibility for Jesus’ death, which they and not the Jews brought about.
If any person is to blame for Jesus’ death, it is Pontius Pilate, so implausibly represented in the Gospels as his defender. In any scholarly inquiry, many conclusions remain uncertain. This is not one of them. The Jews are innocent of Jesus’ death.