Millions Still Believe ‘The Jews’ Killed Jesus

December 16, 2013 12:33 am 10 comments

A painting of Jesus teaching in the Temple. Photo: Photobucket.

Just when I thought that society had gotten over the bizarre charge that Jews were collectively responsible for the death of Jesus, an equally bizarre missive has come along to challenge my complacency. A newsletter from one of America’s most prestigious universities has revived the accusation. Here’s what the “anonymous” author, reportedly a Jewish convert to Christianity, wrote in Ichthus, the Harvard Christian undergraduate newsletter: “We, the Jews, collectively rejected God and hung Him up on a cross to die, and thus we deserved the punishments that were heaped on our heads over the last 2000 years.”

Stunned by the critical media response, Aaron Gyde, editor-in-chief of Ichthus, offered a lame apology for statements that were explicit: “…it was not the intent of the writer, nor of Ichthus, to present a piece that is anti-Semitic in nature or in interpretation.”

This incident should not have surprised me considering that 26 percent of Americans still believe that the Jews Killed Jesus, according to a 2013 survey by the Anti-Defamation League. And the actual figure is surely higher because people are often reluctant to admit they hold politically incorrect views. How many would admit to disliking black people or distrusting all Muslims even if those were their views?

Nevertheless, it’s puzzling why the indictment of Jews persists – defying facts, logic, and the consensus of bible experts and researchers. The charge only appears to make sense if you read it as: “The Jews killed Jesus — facts to follow.” But there never are any credible supportive facts. That’s because the accusation is a code for hatred – and hatred stands alone.

Even if one Jew, Judas Iscariot, was a turncoat (although the recently deciphered Gospel of Judas disputes that), that doesn’t mean the Jewish people were collectively responsible. Indeed, the single fact that all of Jesus’ devotees were Jewish should be enough to quash the accusation.

Other details are similarly suspicious. Why did the Jewish authorities pay an informer to locate Jesus? The Gospels tell us that the Sanhedrin could have seized Jesus at one of his outdoor gatherings or in a synagogue, where he regularly prayed and taught Torah. Jesus makes that very point to the arresting party in Gethsemane Garden: “Everyday I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me.” Matthew. 26:55

The Gospel of Matthew explains that they feared a riot if they dared to arrest Jesus at a public gathering — that the “multitude” of Jews would rise up to defend him. (Matt. 26:3-5 ) And the Jews were against him?

I’ve often wondered how many Jews were actually clamoring for Jesus to be crucified. Popular belief says it was a huge mob. Hollywood films like The Passion of the Christ reinforce that notion. It’s hard to believe that every Jew in the land gathered around, chanting “crucify him, crucify him.”

In poring over the Gospels for an answer, I was surprised to discover that few if any Jews were present at the trial and condemnation of Jesus, other than the Jewish officials: “And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.” (Mark 14:53; also in Luke 22:54; Matthew 26:57; and John 18:13) There were so few bystanders present (who may have been part of the arresting officials) that the disciple Peter was promptly identified by one of the maids, who asked him if he was a follower of Jesus (Peter’s first denial of Jesus).

Why would ordinary Jews be in attendance? Jesus’ arrest was a clandestine operation. Only the Jewish officials knew about it. Also, it was Passover eve, and Jews were busy with purification and other preparations for the festival.

The next morning, according to the Gospels, Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate at his palace. Again, there’s no indication of any Jews present other than the Jewish officials. This makes sense. The populace still didn’t know that Jesus was in custody, and even if they had known, crowds were unlikely to have swooped down on the palace on the holy day of Passover.

Suddenly, though, Pilate “asks the multitudes” (the Jews) whether he should free Barabbas or Jesus, and they unanimously vote to free Barabbas and condemn Jesus. But who are the multitudes and where did they come from? Is this scenario thrown in to please a growing audience of pagan converts to Christianity (by blaming the Jews rather than the Romans for the death of Jesus) many decades after the crucifixion, when the Gospels were written? Otherwise,the narratives make no sense unless “multitudes” in this instance refers to the large assembly of Jewish officials presiding at the interrogation of Jesus, as indicated in Luke 23:1 (seventy-one members of the Sanhedrin, plus elders, rabbis, and other officials). New Testament scholarCandida Moss noted that “Flash mobs of thousands of people do not miraculously assemble and offer complicated answers in unison without the assistance of smartphones.” She goes on to add that there’s even Papal agreement: “In Jesus of Nazareth: Part Two, Benedict XVI asked, ‘How could the whole people [Jews] have been present at that moment to clamor for Jesus’ death’?”

According to the descriptions in the Gospels, it’s likely that the number of Jews who sided with the Sanhedrin and other Jewish officials who were present and called for crucifixion numbered zero or at most a scant few, who, no doubt would have been lackeys of the Sanhedrin; hardly a “multitude” or mob. Contrast this with Jesus’ Jewish followers, which at times swelled to fifteen thousand Jews or more.

Even if the number of Jews who opposed Jesus was greater than I’ve estimated, it still would be insignificant in the context of the Jewish population of Judea, Galilee, and surrounding areas in Jesus’ time. Estimates run between 500,000 and 600,000, with some as high as a million. Add to that another million Jews in Egypt at the time, according to Jewish Hellenic philosopher Philo. These Jews most likely knew nothing about Jesus, and therefore could not have been against him. Jesus’ ministry spanned only three years and news traveled slowly in the ancient world.

How mind boggling the lethal consequences for Jews over the centuries for the charge “Christ Killers” if indeed only a scant number of Jews called for the crucifixion, while far more embraced him, and most never heard of him. Only if you read the Gospels through the eyes of hatred can you conclude that the Jews killed Jesus.

So how can the code for hatred be broken? Only when we all fully grasp the Jewish foundations of Christianity.

That’s why I’ve organized an art exhibit, “Putting Judaism Back in the Picture:Toward Healing the Christian/Jewish Divide.” The massive number of Medieval and Renaissance artworks conditioned the way Christians and others perceived Jesus and Jews over the centuries. Moreover, they have placed a wedge between Christians and Jews by depicting Jesus as exclusively Christian, without a hint of his Jewish origin. Their legacy continues to reverberate today, as in the Harvard newsletter.

In vaporizing Jesus’ Jewish identity these artworks have falsified biblical history. Jesus and his family typically appear as blond fair-skinned Northern Europeans living in palatial Romanesque settings surrounded by Medieval and Renaissance Christian saints and other anachronisms. This imagery has fed the illusion that Jesus and Jews were of different religions and ethnicity - and were in conflict. These false implications run counter to the depiction of the thoroughly Jewish Jesus in the Gospels.

For this exhibit, artists are invited to submit artworks that restore Jesus’ Jewish identity and introduce balance by presenting the two sides of the Jesus story: Jesus the faithful Jew and Jesus whose life and teachings inspired a new religion that developed after the crucifixion. The premise of the exhibit is that the historic alienation of Christianity and Judaism will not be healed until Jews look at Jesus and see a faithful Jew (even if not accepted as the Messiah) and Christians look at an orthodox Jew and see Jesus.

Bernard Starr is a psychologist, college professor, and journalist. He is the author of Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew. Website: click here.

10 Comments

  • let the whole world get lost the god made the earth for jewish . see the old-testament . that explain every things the god will stood stand to our side that why we are the highest rice on earth .

  • The whole issue is a paradox. If, as all the Christians believe and propagate, Jesus came to die, why then accuse and blame Judas for betraying and the Jews for killing him???? Shouldn’t they instead receive some regognition for the heroic deed for killing the Messiah, so that he could fulfill his mission he came for????

  • To solve these problem read the book The Exposition of the Divine Principle.Then decide after reading the whole book.

  • what did cheese ass write?

  • Jesus was a political threat to the Jewish religious elite and their ‘self-imposed’ keepers of all things ‘Jewish’. He threatened their authority.

    The Romans in cahoots with Jewish authorities put him to death. It was a carefully crafted snare by the Jews to trump up charges against him, namely blasphemy and as many historians have pointed out, the last thing Pilate wanted was unrest in his province during Passover and him looking weak in the eyes of Caesar. But let’s be clear, Jesus ‘gave’ himself up. He wasn’t brought down by any one group. How many times in the Gospels did he tell his disciples, ”We are going to Jerusalem and they will crucify me.” Doesn’t sound like a guy who doesn’t understand his mission.

    I see the authors point.

    If I grew up Jewish and had been told since day 1 that this ‘Jesus’ guy was just another false prophet, that would be my narrative and my slant in all situations! Jesus tried to tell the people of his day that the old law of do’s and don’ts were being abolished and replaced with something that could be for all nations and all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. What was that?

    Salvation by grace earned by faith in him and not by works or laws. The old law was a “DO” religion and still is to this day. Do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t eat that. Works…works…works. The Jewish elders added hundreds and hundreds of new restrictions all made up by them to control and wield their own power, both financially and politically.

    But in one perfect sacrifice…a blood sacrifice on Passover…in Jerusalem no less, the mission was accomplished. How the parallels are not recognized all the way back to Abraham being asked to sacrifice ‘his’ only son continues to baffle me as follower of Christ.

    But we close our eyes to what we don’t want to see. As C.S. Lewis points out, he was either a lunatic or was in fact exactly who he claimed himself to be which was the son of God. He left no room for other interpretations of who and what he was.

    Nobody practicing a religion wants to be told that policies and tenants of that religion were partly the reason that the creator of the universe had to step off his throne, be made a man and suffer and die on a cross to better close the old chapter and open a new and better one.

    Let’s just call him a ‘false prophet’ and be done with it. It’s easier to swallow.

    Because if Jesus, was in fact the messiah and not the political messianic figurehead the Jews were looking for along the likes of David who would restore Jerusalem and its power as a nation, to quote a Seinfeld episode, “That’s be a big Matzo ball hanging out there” for Judaism.

    So I would imagine as a practicing Jew, the amazing miracles of the old testament like the great flood,10 plagues, the parting of the red sea, manna from heaven, Mt Sinai and the 10 commandments, the fall of Jericho, Samson’s strength, tower of Babel and the languages, Jonah and the whale, pillars of fire raining down on Sodom and on and on and on.

    That this same God could not or would not show up big again but this time with “boots on the ground”.

    Healing lepers, walking on water, changing water to wine, raising Lazarus, feeding thousands and his biggest one…resurrecting! Oh he would NEVER do that!

    What? The old testament miracles are somehow more credible? Since when are miracles of any kind credible? That’s why they are INcredible. So to a Jew, Joshua who wrote that “The sun and the moon stand still” is more believable than say Peter or Paul writing about Jesus’s deity and all that he did and that they witnessed? They were Jews! I guess ‘those’ Jews were just “misguided”?

    Seems a little disingenuous to cherry pick and support those “Pre-Jesus” Jews and to completely discount all the writings from “Post-Jesus” Jews who actually walked with him and new him and claimed to have seen him after death. So convinced of these facts that they went to the ends of the earth telling this story and lost their lives doing so. Who does that?

    Someone who knows the truth, that’s who does that.

  • We don’t even know if Jesus really existed, so why the does the belief that the Jews killed him persist? Because the world needs a scapegoat, and who better than Jews? There’s no proof that the prophet Moses ever existed, but no one is claiming that Moses was a deity incarnate, either.

    That said, most Christians believe that the Jews killed Jesus, which is why Jewish people have suffered throughout history – antisemitism is their supposed punishment. At the same time, Christians claim that Jesus had to die to atone for the sins of humanity. These Christians will also say that the bible is absolutely true, word for word.

    If this is the case, then why would God punish a people for carrying out the divine will? Throughout the bible we find that God punishes people for being disobedient. Yet, if Jesus had to die then someone had to be responsible for his death – whether it was the Jews, Romans, Greeks, whomever. If a group of people were responsible for “killing” Jesus, then why should they be punished if it was the divine will that Jesus be put to death? If the bible is true and is the word of God, then why punish a people for doing exactly what was pre-determined, especially if God is a just and righteous god? It makes no sense. Nowhere else in the bible do we find that God punishes people for following the divine plan. The myth that the Jews should be punished for the death of Jesus is just that, a myth. It persists because it gives antisemites a reason to openly hate Jews, and it makes those Jews who convert to Christianity feel less guilty about abandoning Judaism.

    • So Gloria under that assertion, did Caesar exist? Did Alexander the Great exist? Genghis Khan? Socrates? Shall I go on? I have 100 more.

      If Jesus Christ didn’t exist than neither did any of these people because the only way we know any of them existed is because people wrote about them. Don’t pick and chose what’s real and what’s not. Jesus was every bit as real as you are sitting and reading this post.

  • Nice try, but your skewed analysis cherry picks bits of information and ignores the big picture. Of course the Jewish leadership was against Jesus (and that is stated in the article)—he was persistently criticizing them for not representing the spirituality of the Torah. However, many noted biblical experts maintain, with some credible arguments, that the Romans wanted Jesus out of the way because his criticisms of the Roman occupation were inciting insurrection. Also, crucifixion was reserved by the Romans for escaped slaves and armed insurrectionists. Crucifixion was not a Jewish practice-it was a hated practice by the Jewish populace,since tens of thousands of Jews were crucified—thousands by Pilate(and Pilate was eventually recalled for cruelty by the Roman emperor). The notion that multitudes of Jews would be screaming “crucify him, crucify him” is preposterous.
    You also ignore what I pointed out.The Jewish population did not know about the seizure of Jesus and the “trial.”—it was a secret operation–secret because the Sanhedrin feared that Jesus’ Jewish followers would riot to protect him (and the Jews did it?. How could multitudes have spontaneously appeared—on Passover, no less? Add to that the fact that even Jesus close followers were in hiding for fear that they would be persecuted. So if any Jews other than the Jewish hierarchy were present they would have been lackeys of the Sanhedrin. There are other details that make the charge against the Jewish people silly (to use your word). Even Pope Benedict XVI, who is quoted in the article, ridiculed the notion that hordes of Jews swarmed on Pilate’s palace to condemn Jesus. All of Jesus followers were Jews. Without Jewish followers there would be no Christianity and Jesus would have faded into obscurity—as have other Jewish “Messiahs” who were contemporaneous with Jesus. Charging the Jewish people for the crucifixion–disguised by the argument that some Jews were against him–can only be understood through the code off hatred.

  • I find all this kind of silly, quoting scriptures and trying to point out “surely every jew wasn’t against Jesus,” when the fact remains that it was, indeed, JEWS that pushed forward Jesus’ “trial” and ultimate death. Jews are quick to shout that the whole lot didn’t “kill” Jesus…and that’s true…but nothing will change the fact that it was a group of jews who saw His death to fruition. Just admit that and stop trying to fight the truth. It wasnt the Romans. It wasnt Pilot….jewish priests ultimately did it. Period. Why’s that so hard to admit? No one’s saying ALL the jews got together on a Tuesday evening before lunch and stoned Him to death. Its not an anti-semetic slander to point out a group of jews made sure Jesus was killed.

    • Tell that to the untold numbers of Jews throughout history–that may add up to hundreds of thousands if not more–who were slaughtered on the belief and charge that “the Jews (collectively) killed Jesus. And that’s not silly!!

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