Jesus Against the Scribal Elite

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Who Killed Jesus? - Le Donne

This author attempts to move past the historical and traditional answers toward a theological claim:

God killed Jesus.

As a Christian, I must say that I'm relieved that we're discussing this topic inter-religiously and with tones that reflect a bit of sanity.  As a historian, I'm a bit worried that the Romans are being let off the hook, so to speak. As a human, I'm troubled by a God who "kills" his child.

-anthony

15 comments:

  1. Bernard Staar might want to give Rene Girard a read.

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  2. I'm also troubled by the notion of "God killing Jesus." I'm much more inclined to agree with Moltmann's interpretation of the crucifixion that "God killed God," or, I guess more appropriately, "God allowed God to die at the hands of the Romans."

    When I was a kid, I had a preacher who always used to follow the question "Who killed Jesus?" with the answer, "I did." It was pretty silly and anachronistic.

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  3. Who kills today? With so many easy targets throughout the world - the poor, the afflicted, the hapless, the killing ultimately comes down to our actions and our complicity. I doubt it can ever be a blame game. Precious in the eyes of יהוה
    is the death of those under his mercy. (Psalm 116) - leading up to Psalm 118 for Easter Day.

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  4. When Mel Gibson's "Passion" came out, I did some (no doubt very amateurish) studying of the Gospel records to see if I could make sense of the events of the final week. It appeared to me that Jesus's ministry took place mostly in Galilee (even if the Johannine account is correct). Therefore, Jesus would have been largely unknown in Jerusalem and regarded as a country-hick preacher and trouble-maker. It seems that what was stopping the Temple authorities from arresting him was the presence of the Galilean crowd, which seemed to support Jesus and was highly unpredictable. And since Jesus would retire to the safety of Bethany every evening, there didn't seem to be an easy way to arrest him without creating a disturbance and possible riot. Their one opportunity came when Jesus decided to spend the evening in Jerusalem to have the Passover Seder (or pre-Seder?) with his disciples. But it's unlikely they would know that he had planned to do this, and would have needed to be informed by Judas that it was taking place and where they could find Jesus, isolated from the Galilean crowd.

    I imagine that Pontius Pilate's hesitancy to authorize the execution of Jesus could only be explained by something like his wife's message not to have anything to do with it. We might know about this if servants in Pilate's household became Christians later on and shared inside information with the Jewish-Christian community.

    So I think the New Testament account of the arrest, trial and execution of Jesus could be fairly reliable. But then, I'm only an amateur.

    As to God killing his only Son: Why would God ask Abraham to do something that God himself wasn't willing to do?

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  5. OK. Let it fall to a Jewish comment-er to make the obvious point: just because an event occurs as part of God's plan does not eliminate human responsibility for the event. If I get a parking ticket, I cannot plead God’s immanence, omnipotence, omniscience and sovereignty as a defense. Rabbi Akiva may have said it better: everything is foreseen, yet free will is given.

    No, I don't think "the Jews" killed Jesus. But we can't make God the scapegoat.

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  6. It's too bad that he doesn't really explore why Jews have been persecuted for supposedly killing Jesus. He asks the question and then answers it by demonstrating that God is in fact the one responsible, so he doesn't actually explain how the idea was born and thus why Jews were persecuted as a result. (Perhaps he does this in his book, in his defence.)

    He's right to say that a whole group of people cannot be blamed for what a few people have done. However, when the question "Who killed Jesus?" is asked, what people usually mean is "what is the ethnicity of the persons ultimately responsible for Jesus' death?"

    In a sense it would be just as wrong to blame the Romans! The people who killed Jesus were really just Roman soldier x, y, and z. But that is essentially uninteresting, and betrays the fact that what is meant in the question, "Who killed Jesus?" is a lot more than the basic answer one can give.

    It is also interesting to me that Jews blamed each other / themselves? for killing the prophets.

    I'm curious also what he would make of the following passages:

    Mark 14:21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

    John 18:35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”

    John 19:11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

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    1. John, I'll give you a brief insider's view of being Jewish: you would not believe the crazy stuff we blame each other for.

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  7. I'm very troubled by a God who killed Jesus, but I get off the hook by saying that's all post-crucifixion stuff. I don't think Jesus said it, I think it's an attempt on the church's part to explain the events to itself. I think it's pretty clear that Jesus' death was organised by the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem (the people the 4th Gospel calls 'the Jews') and the Roman aurhtorities, working together.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. 1) You seem to want to neatly disentangle interpretation from fact in this case. I don't think that this is possible.

      2) Even if it were possible to disentangle fact from interpretation, on what purpose does it serve to bracket out the Christian interpretation from the conversation?

      3) On what basis do you privilege the FG's account? Shouldn't John's voice be heard as one among many at the table?

      -anthony

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  8. This reflects my own pet interests and is a bit off topic but:

    Bernard Starr writes: "Jesus’ death established the foundation for Christianity. In other words, no crucifixion, no resurrection means no Christianity. What would remain is pure Judaism."

    I have a problem with the notion that there ever was such a thing as "pure Judaism" apart from inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations. No doubt, Xty and Judaism have existed within each other's gravitational pull for a long time and thus the impact of the crucifixion cannot be understated... but "pure Judaism" is that even a thing?

    -anthony

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    1. An easy question! The answer is "no". The closest we ever came was 99 44/100% pure.

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    2. FWIW, is "pure Christianity" a thing? Is there a pure anything? Probably not, right?

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    3. Only baseball, John. Only baseball.

      -anthony

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  9. Waitaminit. "The Romans" killed Jesus!?!?

    Oh, man. I am so mad at my uncle Linguini right now...

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