“it wasn’t the jews who killed me,” jesus christ explains
visited today by Jesus Christ and our correspondent.
RACHEL Emisoras Latinas is back with you again. We have just now finished our visit to the impressive Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. Accompanying us was Jesus Christ, our special guest.
JESUS So much suffering, Rachel, so much death … I just can’t understand what we saw inside there…
RACHEL It’s a very long story that … that begins with you.
JESUS With me?
RACHEL Let’s just say, Jesus, that your fellow Jews have been persecuted and killed because they were the ones who killed you…
JESUS I still don’t understand, Rachel…
RACHEL You already explained to us that God did not want you to die, but the fact is that they killed you. The Jews killed you. Isn’t that so?
JESUS No, Rachel, the ones responsible for my death were the Romans. Pontius Pilate was the one who passed the sentence.
RACHEL But the Romans were spurred on by the Jews …
JESUS Pilate didn’t need to be spurred. He was a cold-blooded man.
RACHEL But they say that he was doubtful, that he didn’t want to have you killed, but the Jews pressured him, until he washed his hands of it …
JESUS Caiphas, the high priest, and his father-in-law Annas wanted to eliminate me, that’s for sure, but the one responsible was Pontius Pilate.
RACHEL No, I’m referring to the people, the crowds, the same ones that shouted your praises on Palm Sunday and then betrayed you on Good Friday. At the crucial moment they abandoned you. Your own people, the Jewish people, were the ones who asked for your death. “Crucify him! Let his blood be upon our heads.”
JESUS Where did you get that idea, Rachel?
RACHEL From your biography, from the gospels.
JESUS No, it wasn’t that way at all. When the people found out that they’d arrested me, many of them took to the streets, demanding that I be released. I saw them, I heard them.
RACHEL Are you forgetting about Barrabas?
JESUS How can I forget him? He was the famous Zealot leader.
RACHEL And didn’t the Jewish people ask to have Barrabas released and then cry out for you to be crucified?
JESUS Do you really think that Caiphas didn’t recruit a gang of people and pay them to cry out on Barrabas’s behalf?
RACHEL Well, I guess I don’t understand anything then. Since we were kids they told us that the Jews killed Christ. Wait, we have a call … Hello?
ISRAEL This is Israel Finkelstein calling. I’m an archeologist and historian. I’m a Jew, and I am listening to this Jew named Jesus saying something that is totally true it was not the Jewish people who killed Jesus, but their religious authorities. But many years later the Roman authorities spread through the world the calumny that it was the Jews who killed Christ. Since by that time the Roman emperors had “converted” to Christianity, shifting the blame was a way for them to wash their hands of the crime, just as Pilate had done.
RACHEL And how is it that such a lie has lasted so long, right up to the present day?
ISRAEL This seed was tended and watered by the authorities of the Christian church, who received tremendous benefits and wealth from the Roman empire. For more than a thousand years they preached and taught that lie. They sowed hatred of the Jews. Your own people, Jesus, has suffered all types of assaults because of this calumny. Always they have been made to migrate, reduced to ghettos, persecuted, and as you no doubt saw in that museum, slaughtered by the millions in gas chambers, killed just for being Jews.
RACHEL Certainly there must have been other reasons for all those horrors..
ISRAEL Ideology always thinks up economic and political reasons.
JESUS But tell me something, friend. Here in my land, in these days, I have seen that my people take an eye for an eye. Before it was they who suffered, but now they make others suffer.
ISRAEL I’m glad to hear you as a Jew say that, Jesus. Yes, our fellow Jews humiliate the Palestinians. The Jewish people despise the Arab peoples. The Jews are not responsible for your death, but they have killed, and still kill, many others because they arrogantly believe themselves to be a superior people.
JESUS It’s the same arrogance that I saw in my days …
RACHEL Many thanks to our archeologist friend Finkelstein.
JESUS Come on, Rachel, let’s go in there again.
RACHEL You want to go back to the museum?
JESUS Yes, now I understand. And I want to pray before my dead paisanos, so that my people learn that there is no chosen race, that all peoples are equal before God.
RACHEL From the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, this is Rachel Perez for Emisoras Latinas.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
*More information about this polemical topic…*
The Romans: imperialist, wicked, and cruel
Pontius Pilate was the one person most responsible for Jesus’ death. Without his approval the death sentence of the Sanhedrin would have had not validity. History bears this out, and it has become part of the formula of the Christian creed: He suffered under Pontius Pilate. The sung Credo in the Misa Campesina Nicaragüense also proclaims it: The Roman, imperialist, wicked, and cruel, who by washing his hands sought to erase his error …
Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea during the years 26 to 36. Appointed to rule the provinces of the empire, the governors could hold the post of senator, with the title of legate, or they could be non-senators, with the title of prefect or procurator. This latter was Pilate’s case. Within his province the governor could arrest, torture and execute anyone according to the Roman laws, although he could not act the same way with Roman citizens.
Historical evidence does not corroborate the image sometimes given of Pilate: an intellectual with a certain humane stature, even if cowardly. All the information given by both Jewish and Roman historians of that time – Philo, Flavius Josephus and Tacitus – confirm that he was a cruel man, hated by the Israelites for his continual provocations. He was placed in the high post he held because of his close friendship with Sejanus, a military officer who had the favor of the emperor Tiberius and was one of the most influential persons in Rome during those years.
Knowing how opposed the Jews were to images for religious reasons, Pilate had images of Caesar Tiberius paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, and he set them up in the old palace of Herod the Great. The protests of the people were so great that they had to be removed. Pilate also profaned the sanctuary several times and robbed money from the Temple treasury for his construction projects. Since Galilee was the principal focus of the anti-Roman movements in the country, Pilate was more ruthless in his persecution of the Galileans, who were always suspect of being Zealots.
Barrabas: a Zealot
Along with the Roman governor, the ones most responsible for Jesus’ death were the religious authorities of Jerusalem. During the trial in which Jesus was sentenced to death, it was not the people who suggested or asked for the release of Barrabas. The gospels make it clear that the ones who asked for the release of Barabbas were the priests and their hangers-on (Mark 15,11; John 19,6). Barrabas was a Zealot leader whom the authorities had arrested because of his participation in violent uprisings which resulted in Roman soldiers being wounded or killed.
The origins of the prejudice
The belief that it was the Jewish people as a whole who killed Jesus, not the Roman authorities and the Jewish religious leaders, is an ancient, deep-rooted prejudice.
At the beginning of the Christian era, there were thought to be about eight million Jews in the world, living not only in Judea and Galilee, but also in Alexandria, Cyrene (northern Africa), Mesopotamia, Antioch, Ephesus and Rome. This Jewish population, dispersed in a mainly Hellenistic culture, was already experiencing in some places anti-Jewish attitudes because of their commercial astuteness, their different religious beliefs, and their political attitudes. Even so, they succeeded in holding important public posts in some of those cities.
There are traces of anti-Semitism in Paul (1 Thessalonians 2,14-16), who, even though he was a Jew himself, had a strong Hellenistic formation and dedicated his life to announcing Christianity to non-Jewish peoples. There are also gospels texts which can be used to foster anti-Semitism. According to the Jewish historian Daniel Goldhagen, there are 40 anti-Semitic passages in Mark, 80 in Matthew, 130 in John, and 140 in the Acts of the Apostles.
It is important to realize that scarcely 40 years after Jesus’ death – and the gospels were written even later than that – Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by Roman troops, and the Jewish people became even more dispersed into the “diaspora”. From that time on the Jews closely embraced their scriptures as a sign of national identity. Given their uprooted situation, they viewed the emerging Christian communities as dissidents that might divide the Jewish people and disperse them even further. An anti-Christian prejudice was consequently engendered also among the Jewish people. The unfortunate separation of Jews and Christians kept growing, and since that time anti-Semitism has been persistent as a religious, social, cultural and political prejudice. Once Christianity became the official religion of the empire, a form of “ecclesiastical, Christian anti-Semitism” developed and joined forces with the anti-Jewish feelings that already existed in the pagan world.
A Jewish movement
Jesus never conceived of anything resembling the Christianity that we know today. He was a Jew who, within his culture and religion, led a movement for change, transformation, and renovation. After his death that movement was concentrated in Galilee and in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem community was led by James, a brother of Jesus, whom the high priest Ananias had killed in the year 62. Several years later, in 70, the Temple was destroyed, Jerusalem was razed, and the Jewish Diaspora began.
Even before this catastrophe occurred, Christians had spread through practically all of the Roman empire, in large part because of Paul’s tenacious organizing. However, most of those first Christians were actually Jewish Christians, followers of the Jewish Jesus. They viewed him as a man who had striven mightily to renew Judaism with a new vision of God and with a call to religious practice based not on laws or rites or hierarchies, but on justice and compassion in human relations.
The process of separation and growing antipathy between Judaism and Christianity accelerated with the death of James, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the reign of the emperor Nero, who judged the Jewish Christians in Rome to be enemies and persecuted them fiercely. Meanwhile, Christianity fell ever more under the influence of Greco-Roman culture and finally became the official religion of the empire.
One single fact expresses this evolution well: the first followers of Jesus were basically Jews who spoke Aramaic, the language Jesus himself spoke. Just three centuries later, at the Council of Nicea, when the Christian Church was officially established, with its headquarters in Rome, the leaders of that Church spoke only Greek, and a smattering of Latin.
An antagonism that would have broken the heart of the Jewish Jesus
According to the British journalist Lesley Hazleton, a Jewish Christian, if there was one cause of the definitive separation of Christianity from Judaism, it was the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in the year 70. She describes that moment thus: The greater part of the Sadducee priestly elite was massacred, leaving the way free for the Pharisee movement. During the next 200 years, first on the Mediterranean coast and then in Galilee, their descendents laid the foundation of the rabbinical Judaism which we know today. Without a material temple or any hope of possibly reconstructing one, the first rabbis rationalized the conception of the temple, creating in its place a vast philosophical structure of legal and ethical norms: the Mishnah, and later the Talmud.
The Palestinians who followed Jesus’ teachings and saw in him a prophet of Jewish renewal were dispersed during the chaos that ensued after the destruction of the Temple, but by that time the extraordinary organizing genius of Paul had created a non-Jewish movement which was growing rapidly in all the rest of the Mediterranean basin. This movement, which quickly gave evidence of being solidly grounded, soon began to eclipse Jewish Christianity. The Palestinian prophet was converted into the Christ, a divine being with a Hellenistic aura, and his Jewish character was deemphasized. Furthermore, despite the fact that Paul himself was a Pharisee, the authors of the gospels gravely misrepresented the role and character of the Pharisees, since they wished to avoid incurring the antagonism of the authorities by blaming Rome for what had happened to Jesus. Instead of the Romans, the Jews were portrayed as the real adversaries.
The New Testament faith began to define itself over against the Old Testament. The Jews were seen as different from the Christians, and the Christians lost their Jewish roots. Instead of religious renewal there was separation, instead of continuity there was rupture. No doubt all this would have broken the heart of Maryam, and even more the heart of her son Jesus.
“The Jews”: a mistaken concept
According to the European association called Jewish-Christian Friendship, created after the Second World War and the horrors of the Holocaust, the frequent use of the term “the Jews” in the gospel of John (found there 71 times, many more than the other three gospels) has contributed to Christian anti-Semitism. John’s gospel was written when the tensions between the first Christian communities and the Jewish communities were about to provoke a definitive break.
A commission of Jewish, Catholic and Protestant theologians confirm this opinion, stating that the use of the term “the Jews” causes, at the very least, confusion. Sometimes the term is used to refer to the religious authorities of the people of Israel, other times it refers to the people as a whole, and still other times to the inhabitants of the region of Judea, as opposed to the Galileans of the north. The commission has proposed that other translations be used, at least in the Christian liturgical texts of Holy Week. For example, the literal text, It is not long since the Jews were wanting to stone you (John 11,8), could be rephrased, It is not long since the people of Judea were wanting to stone you. The founders of Jewish-Christian Friendship are committed to avoiding the use of the word “Jews” when it indicates enemies of Jesus or indiscriminately designates the whole Jewish people.
The “perfidious Jews”
The history of anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church is long and persistent. In 1555 Pope Paul IV promulgated his bull “Cum nimis absurdum”, in which he states that the Jews, who through their own fault have been condemned by God to eternal enslavement … dare not only to live among us, but also near our churches, without anything about their clothing to distinguish them. This Pope viewed such behavior as “insolence” and ordered a series of norms against the Jews: they were to be confined to ghettos; forced to sell their properties to Christians at ridiculous prices; prohibited from holding almost all posts and from engaging in most profession, starting with medicine; forbidden to play, eat or converse with Christians; and obliged to wear something distinctive on their clothing.
For centuries, in one papal bull after another, the Catholic Church instilled in the collective conscience of Christendom a spirit of discrimination, rejection and hatred against the Jews. Until the year 1962 the Good Friday liturgy of the Catholic Church included a prayer “for the perfidious Jews”; it was finally suppressed by Pope John XXIII. In 1965 one of the key declarations of the Second Vatican Council was “Nostra Aetate”, which was approved only after encountering many obstacles, because of the enduring ecclesiastical anti-Semitism. That document stated, finally, that what happened in the passion of Christ cannot be blamed indiscriminately on all the Jews who lived then or on the Jews who are living today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be portrayed as rejected or cursed by God, as if this were something stated in the sacred scriptures. … The Catholic Church, conscious of the inheritance it shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by spiritual love of the Gospel, deplores the hatred, the persecution and all anti-Semtic displays directed by any person against the Jews of any epoch. Many bishops fought fiercely against this document and rejected its basic tenets.
Since the Council the relations between Rome and the Jewish people have had their ups and downs. The pontificate of John Paul II was plagued with ambiguities. They are recounted with an acutely critical vision by the British researcher David Yallop in his book The Power and the Glory (Carroll and Graf, 2007).
The “Christian” Adolph Hitler
Adolph Hitler, the most emblematic of history’s anti-Semites, was brought up a Christian. He disseminated an idea that originally appeared in the first-century, namely, that Jesus had been the son of a soldier belonging to one of the Roman legions stationed in Palestine. According to Hitler, Jesus was not a Jew, since that soldier was of the Aryan race, the “pure race”.
Taking advantage of the anti-Semitism that had been rife in Christianity for centuries, Hitler decided to exterminate the Jewish race from Europe. The horrendous logic of this abominable crime is described well in Frank Pierson’s bone-chilling film, “Conspiracy” (2001), which portrays the debates which took place among the Nazi regime’s highest officials at Wansee Castle, on the outskirts of Berlin, in January 1942. Their aim was to organize the “final solution”, the wholesale extermination of all the Jews of Europe in gas chambers.
Well before gaining absolute power in Germany and invading other countries in Europe, Hitler had already contemplated such a “solution”. In a speech in Munich on April 12th, 1922, he uttered these words: With unlimited love as a Christian and a man, I have read the passage which tells us how the Lord rose up in power and wielded a whip to drive from the Temple that race of vipers and serpents. What a magnificent struggle he waged against the Jewish venom for the sake of the world! Today, two thousand years later, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever the fact