God Killed Jesus, Just Ask the Gospels

February 20, 2013 1:06 am 6 comments

A depiction of the crucifixtion of Christ. Photo: wiki commons.

One of the most potent sources of the Jewish-Christian divide is the historic charge that “the Jews killed Jesus.” That’s why in writing my new book, Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew, I wanted to know more about this puzzling accusation. How could the Jews have killed Jesus when all of his followers were Jewish? It was clear to me that there would be no Christianity if not for Jews who embraced Jesus and his teachings. Yet, as I discovered, belief in the guilt of all Jews for the death of Jesus still lingers–often beneath the surface, now that it is no longer politically correct.

I was reminded of that by a friend who described her first encounter with her college roommate, a young woman from rural upstate New York where she had little contact with Jews. When she learned that my friend was Jewish, she half jokingly blurted out: “Oh, you killed our lord.”

That accusation was no joke for the untold numbers of Jews throughout history who were slaughtered based on that indictment. How did the bizarre conclusion blaming all Jews come about, I wondered? Even if one Jewish disciple, Judas Iscariot, was a turncoat (although the recently deciphered Gospel of Judas says otherwise), why did that make all Jews responsible for Jesus’ death? Would anyone claim that the Americans killed Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, or John F. Kennedy? Yes, those murders were committed by Americans. But Americans in general were never accused–or worse, punished. Yet only Jews have been indicted and persecuted for the death of Jesus–with the charge making its way to upstate New York two thousand years later. More puzzling and disturbing, I discovered that in modern times opinion has been divided among biblical experts and pundits about who was primarily responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. But even these mixed opinions have had little impact on general perceptions. The Jews are always the perpetrators.

The lineup is composed of the usual cast of suspects: Judas Iscariot, the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of Judaism), Caiaphas (the head of the Sanhedrin), Pontius Pilate (the Roman Prefect)–and by extension all Jews and all Romans. The preponderance of biblical experts blame the Romans (the only ones who could order and carry out the execution)–but there is, to my knowledge, no historical evidence of even a single incidence of marauders storming a village crying, “Execute those Roman killers of our Lord.” Only Jews have suffered the brutal consequences of that charge.

In my search for answers, I pored over the New Testament. Maybe there’s something I missed in my previous readings, I thought. And indeed, I discovered revelations that were even more puzzling and shocking.

Let’s begin with Judas Iscariot receiving 30 pieces of silver. I asked myself, Why did the Jewish authorities have to pay someone to locate and identify Jesus? Remember, the Sanhedrin was out to get this famous rabbi because he was a thorn in their side — a relentless outspoken critic of the Jewish leaders for not representing the spiritual core of Judaism and the Torah. More bothersome to them was that Jesus was gaining in popularity. “Multitudes” were coming to him for his teachings and healings. They arrived from all over the Jewish world — Syria, and beyond Jordan (Matthew 4:24-25). Jesus was so famous and loved by his Jewish followers that the authorities were hesitant to arrest him at one of his open-field gatherings for fear of a riot (Mark 14:1-2). (Jews protecting Jesus? And the Jews Killed Jesus?).

That’s why they sought Jesus at a private meeting with his disciples in Gethsemane Garden. And it was so urgent for the authorities to capture this famous rabbi that they were willing to pursue him at one of the holiest times for Jews — during the Passover celebration. Is it likely then that not one of the Jewish Temple guards, Temple priests, and other Jewish officials who came to arrest Jesus could identify the celebrated rabbi who headed their most wanted list (Luke 22:52; Matthew 26:47; Mark 14:43)? Is it plausible that they needed Judas Iscariot to point him out with the famous “kiss” (Luke 22:47-48; Matthew 26:48-49; Mark 14:44-45)? That this makes no sense whatsoever is punctuated by the Gospel of John, in which Jesus identifies himself and there is no kiss: “… then as he had said unto them, I am he…” And “Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he” (John 18:1, 4, 5, 7, 8). Yet this brief illogical narrative launched centuries of persecution of Jews.

There’s more. As I read further, I was stunned to realize that the Gospels tell exactly who killed Jesus, that they in fact leave no room for argument. How is it possible that the debates about who killed Jesus have left out the actual perpetrator?

The Gospels — and several other passages of the New Testament — state explicitly that God killed Jesus. God sacrificed his only son for the redemption of man according to Scripture:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
…but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Galatians 1:4)
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us… (Romans 8:32)

And with his earthly work finished, didn’t Jesus know that he had to leave and return to God?

I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. (John 17:4)
Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father… Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God(John 13:1, 3).

And didn’t Jesus willingly give his life for the redemption of mankind, according to Christian doctrine? Surely God, or Jesus, could have stopped the unfolding sadistic torture. Jesus confirms that:

Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? (Matthew 26: 53-54)

Jesus adds:

Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:17-18)

The firm Christian belief that the crucifixion and resurrection are fulfillments of biblical prophesies, particularly Isaiah 53, reinforces that it had to happen as it did. Accordingly, the actors–Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, and others–were merely props in a divinely orchestrated play. It thus demeans Christian theology to usurp God and reduce a divine plan to base human motives and emotions that demand retribution.

Trumping any accusatory finger are the compelling words of Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

This compassionate statement in the context of Jesus accepting his fate, can be interpreted as: “Forgive them Father for they know not that this has to be; they may think they are responsible but my death is inevitable as part of your [God's] plan.”

Moreover, Jesus’ death established the foundation for Christianity. In other words, no crucifixion, no resurrection means no Christianity. What would remain is pure Judaism. Taking this scenario a step further, it occurred to me that from the Christian perspective, the accusation of anyone but God for the death of Jesus should have been met with condemnation, and even excommunication of the accuser for denying God’s plan. Christians have been excommunicated for lesser blasphemies.

As I concluded in my book: “If Jesus returned today to speak to those who have accused Jews for his sacrifice and crucifixion, he might cry out, “Please, read the Gospels!”

I wondered if this understanding will finally put to rest the indictment of Jews for the death of Jesus. More important, will it foster healing of the Christian-Jewish divide?

Bernard Starr is a psychologist, journalist, and college professor. He is author of Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew, which is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other major outlets.

6 Comments

  • you can visit http://sangarbasirat.blogfa.com/post/2
    about jesus in islam and quran
    thanks

  • biblically speaking yes these things were part of Gods Devine plan. however Pilate wanted to release Jesus. it the jews I.E. the sanhedrine and the Pharasees who wanted him dead. not only that but in your reading you should have come across the passage speaks of Pilate asking the mob(Jews) if they wanted Jesus released or Berabus and they screamed for Berabus a miserere to be released going so far as to say they would take all responsibility even up to their children’s children. God did not actually kill the son of God the Romans were the only ones who could carry out a death sentence. but was the Jews who yelled crucify him repeatedly. so besides the Jewish people who loved him it was in fact still the whole Jewish nation who accepted full responsibility for his death it’s very plainly written. and Judas Iscariots kiss was to fulfill prophecy. what happened was planned before the earth was ever created. but it was man( the Jews) who precipitated his death and the Romans were the ones who carried it out as per the wishes of the Jews if you remember Pilates wife told him to have nothing to do with Christ as she was tormented in her dreams about him. The Jews are guilty of not only the death of the messiah but of rejecting him. this why currently the nation of Israel is still in the condition they are presently in. but that will all change with the second coming its days they will cry out to God and he will gorgive them if their sins and restore them to their previous illustrious state when Christ sets up his millennial reign of a 1000years along with the Gentiles I.E. the church. the Gentiles were brought into the picture to make the Jews jealous and the would repent and come back to God. but all the suffering they’ve been through the last 2000 years is because of their rejection of the Mesiah. so yes they did kill him, not God. everything that happened was to fulfill prophecy

  • Michael McKelvey

    Have Christians really persecuted Jews because they believe that the Jews killed Jesus, or have they believed that the Jews killed Jesus because they wanted a justification for persecuting them? For centuries, Jews have lived in separated communities throughout Europe, near to the Christianized natives but maintaining a distinctive identity through religion, language, dress, customs, even cuisine. Even without the charge of deicide, this would have been enough to mark them as outsiders, which is all that was ever needed to persecute Africans, Arabs, Gypsies, Germans, Slavs, Celts, Irish, or any of the other groups that did not fit in at one time or place. Although the religious aspect of anti-Semitism has certainly put a perverse spin on the oppression, the underlying motivation is the primal fear and hatred of the “other” in our midst.

  • The sad part is that the Jews have been persecuted by christians for thousands of years based on a myth. The only historian to ever mention the myth was Josephus and only a few lines was born well after the supposed life of the christian savior. Plenty of historians have written about all the characters on the world stage at that time but nothing of the miracle working savior of the world?

  • Because everyone was Jewish at the time, I think it’s technically correct to say that the Jews put one of their own to death via the help of the Romans in power, but I believe most Christians now understand that the Jewish people represented all of mankind… who have done evil in the sight of God, are powerless to correct the rift between heaven and earth, and who need God to fix the situation because we are so helpless.
    I wonder if the prejudice against the Jewish people preceded the event, which then became a handy weapon to use against them? I say that because by this time, the Jewish people had distinguished themselves as rejecting a circular view of history…contrary to what every other people thought. They also rejected the many gods of the polytheistic empires who conquered them (Roman, Greek, and Egyptian, etc.) And they not only rejected these gods but had the nerve to suggest that they were the chosen people of the one true God. That kind of hutzpah may not have settled well in the minds of their conquerers. “Salvation is From the Jews” is an excellent book by Roy Schoeman.
    Jesus said, “Salvation comes from the Jews.” (John 4, I think) so the people who want to disagree with him are just wrong. I totally agree with John Paul II that the Jewish people are our elder brothers and sisters. Christianity grew organically from Judaism and I am grateful that he said that. I know very few Christians who have any animosity toward your people.
    Jesus also said that the greatest act of love was to lay one’s life down for others. Remember, Christians believe that God is one God in three persons (kind of like you can see only one person when you look at me, but I’m a mother, daughter, and a wife. In those 3 different capacities, the people I’m in relationship with see me differently and might disagree with one another about who I really “am”, but no one really knows me unless I choose to reveal myself. And some days I’d love to clone myself but can’t…I don’t have the power of God to do that)… That’s our understanding of who God is in a very simplistic example. Anyway, if Jesus chooses to die for mankind, it’s really all of God doing it for us. Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit are inseparable even though they are distinct. They have one mind, one heart, one soul (so to speak). Why would God die for us? Maybe the same reason Abraham would kill his own flesh and blood. The one thing we know about a soldier who throws his body over a live grenade is that he loves his friends, right? So while fear of God may be the beginning of wisdom, love is the end of it. God is love. And in order to love, we have to forgive first and trust that God will give us the strength to love the person who hurt us.
    I’ve tried to explain as much as I can from my perspective. I’m always concerned about this kind of communication and would much rather be able to see you and to have you hear the tone of my voice. I hope you will forgive me if I’ve said anything offensive to you.

  • And why the gospels says so? because the only way to have true forgiveness to Israel and nations it is with the sacrifice of the Lamb (Isa 53). After all, the gospel only relates in base to the Tanak.

    It is a good work teach the Christians about their roots. This is a cure for the anti-Semitism. Israel (Jews) should be the light for the nations.

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