I think the question is very misleading because it simply asks, "Were Jews responsible for the death of Jesus?" What if the question had been:(1) Were any Jews responsible for the death of Jesus? [or](2) Are the Jews responsible for the death of Jesus?Question #1 is more of a historical question. Question #2 is more an indication of ethnic denigration. I suspect the question in the poll blurred these two issues in an unfortunate way. I suspect many people said "yes" in the poll thinking they were answering question #1, while Candida Moss assumes they were answering question #2.And this is why I caution my students about being very careful about how they speak about Jewish-Christian relationships. Too many people have said unfortunate and hurtful things without realizing how their words might sound or be taken.
My apologies to Prof. Moss, she does distinguish in the second half of her article, although I disagree with some of her interpretation of the matters.
Thank you for your gracious tone Anonymous. Thank you also for your careful reading and willingness to retract where necessary.Would that more would follow your example.anthony
I think I would still stick with my interpretation of events: Jesus the Galilean Jew was highly popular among the crowd of Galilean Jews visiting in Jerusalem. He was less well known among Judean Jews, and therefore not as popular. I think the Temple authorities saw Jesus as a potential threat to the peace (which they saw as their responsibility to maintain in Jerusalem), but didn't see an easy way of dealing with him. Do they alert the Roman authorities, who might immediately arrest Jesus and perhaps cause a riot by the Galilean Jews? Do they try to arrest him themselves, and perhaps also cause a riot among the Galileans? Jesus's decision to have the Passover (or pre-Passover) supper in Jerusalem, and thus isolated from the protection of the Galilean crowd, gave the Temple authorities the opportunity they needed to arrest, interrogate and decide to hand Jesus over to the Roman authorities. If Pilate hesitated in authorizing the execution of Jesus, I think the story of the message from his wife that he should not to have anything to do with Jesus would be the best explanation. If there was a crowd involved, I would suspect it was composed of natives of Jerusalem, the ones most likely to be hostile to the country bumpkin Galilean preacher who disrupted and threatened to destroy their prized Temple.I'm not insisting that the New Testament narratives about these events are historical, but given my interpretation, I don't they are necessarily improbable.
Mr. Baggins, you no doubt know that your interpretation is not yours alone. For more on the differences and hostilities between the urban elite and the larger population of countrified Jews, see the important works of Gerd Theissen. I would add, however, that there is a great deal of evidence that the Temple was prized as much or more by diaspora and rural Jews.-anthony
Hi Anthony, Actually, I didn't know that others shared my interpretation. I came up with it on my own. Glad to know there is at least one scholar who agrees. Interesting point about who valued the Temple more. It seems counter-intuitive. But maybe a modern example would help: the State of Liberty. I suspect that New Yorkers take it for granted, while visitors make a point of trying to see it and ooh and aah over it. However, if someone seemed to be threatening to destroy it, I imagine New Yorkers would become very defensive and hostile towards that person, as someone who not only threatened an American symbol, but a New York symbol. I suspect that Jerusalemites might have had a similar disposition.
Moss writes: " But, as Reza Aslan put it to me, “the method of execution settles the question once and for all. Crucifixion was a strictly Roman punishment for crimes against the state.” This is the second time in a short period that I have read this from Aslan (it's in a WaPo article if his too) I have never heard this claim before and I haven't been able to easily verify it. Does anyone know one way or another about this?
I confess I'm surprised she would defer to Aslan on this with scholars like Hengel and Chapman waiting in the wings. Crucifixion was typically Roman and, in Roman usage, typically reserved for treasonous individuals and non-Romans. It was not exclusively Roman, however. According to Josephus, the Jewish leader Alexander Jannaeus crucified 800 Pharisees while he was eating with his concubines (Ant. 13.14.2). Now in no way does this indicate that Jews actually crucified Jesus. It was definitely a Roman cross upon which Jesus died and a Roman who ordered him nailed to it. That there was no, or even minimal, Jewish involvement in the precipitating factors seems implausible to me, though. There must have been serious skirmish in the Jewish community for Rome even to care about it.
Well, Josephus describes many crucifixions. But in Greek, he uses the noun σταυρος to describe Haman's gallows (Ant. 11.261) and the verb ανασταυροω to describe Potiphar executing the baker in the story of Joseph (Ant. 2.73). Most certainly, that's not intended as Roman-style crucifixion. So when Josephus says that AJ "crucified" 800 Pharisees (Ant. 13.380), was that Roman-style crucifixion or some other non-Roman form of execution. He does say that he executed their wives and kids while they were still living, so possibly it was, but it could've been a different method since we don't have any other evidence of Jews using crucifixion. But maybe this is the exception. Hope this is helpful.
It does help. Thanks. It seems to me to indicate primarily, though, that there was a variety of methods of crucifixion. So the point would still stand that Romans weren't the only ones who crucified. Right?
Reza told me this on the phone. He did add that the Romans executed people at other times but not during Jesus' lifetime. I think we probably all agree that Roman soldiers held the nails and Pilate issued the sentence so I didn't track down more on this for this article (word count, single thesis, etc)
Candida, thanks for your response. I had just logged back on in order to clarify what I said earlier because I thought it might be open to misunderstanding. When I said, "Now in no way does this indicate that Jews actually crucified Jesus," I meant that comment for anyone who might want to cite the Jannaeus tradition in order to say that it was Jews, not Romans, who killed Jesus; i.e., it wasn't aimed at you or your essay. My larger point was that crucifixion wasn't an exclusively Roman practice. I can only imagine the difficulty of trying to keep a topic like this in a limited word count, though. And of course I agree with the larger point about the disasterous inaccuracy of blaming Jews categorically for Jesus' death. I couldn't tell from the essay, though, whether you would preserve a role for some, such as Caiaphas. My Doktormutter is Helen Bond, so I'm of course interested in this topic!
Josephus on Jesus: " Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross ". I consider this passage a quite short and reasonable summary of what *may* have possibly happened. Regarding the reliability of the Testimonium, I can just highlight the fact that the specific text I quoted is considered by the majority of scholars as *not* interpolated. Kind regards
I say the following with all due respect to the accumulated wisdom, learning and good intentions evident in this discussion ... but the above is missing a point, perhaps "the" point. The key word in the ADL's survey is "responsible". The question posed (agree or disagree) is whether “Jews were responsible for the death of Christ.” The question relates to history, but it's not an historical question. For lack of a better single word, the question is one of jurisprudence. The question is whether it is fair, or right, or just, or moral, or ethical, to assign Jews responsibility for the death of Christ. If you prefer, we can put it in simpler terms: can Jews be blamed for the death of Christ?This is where (I think) the ADL expressed surprise, and rightfully so. The Gospels indicate that there were Jews who participated in the process that led to Jesus' execution. Caiaphas was Jewish. We can argue the historicity of this, but it's not implausible to imagine Jewish collaboration in a process that led to the crucifixion. The key question is not that of the history, but of the responsibility. If we place the focus on where it belongs, then the absurdity of Jewish responsibility for Jesus' death should come into clear focus. Here are the things that Jews were responsible for: Jews were responsible for Jesus' birth, education, feeding, clothing, housing and general upbringing. Jews provided Jesus with his friends and his adversaries (few or none of which were deadly), his holy scripture, his traditions and his memories. Jesus worked for Jews, and sold his labor and his wares to Jews. Jesus' ministry was totally Jewish: Jewish in its audience, in its followers and in its means of support. Whatever responsibility lay outside of Jesus for the trajectory that took him from infancy to the gates of Jerusalem is 100% Jewish. About the only act of significance in Jesus' life where a non-Jewish agency participated to a significant degree was in his death. But even if we could somehow remove the Romans from the picture, it's absurd to say that Jews were responsible for the death of Christ, just as it is absurd to say that Americans were responsible for the death of Martin Luther King. Jesus was Jewish. It's high time we stopped acting like Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus (if, indeed, there was any such responsibility) is a matter of something inflicted on Jesus by an outside agency. With apologies to "The Wizard of Oz", Jesus was as true of a Jew, if ever a Jew there was. The question of Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus is anachronistic, imagining as it does a Christian Jesus, born of a Christian woman, surrounded by Christian disciples who betrayed him but whose Christianity absolves them from responsibility. Sorry people. There are nothing but Jews here, and if we're to say that Jews are responsible for Jesus' death, then high on the list of those Jews is Simon Peter.The question of responsibility hangs over this discussion. I think it's the question Anthony has laid on the table. I do not consider Jews to be responsible for the death of Jesus. 26% of my fellow Americans disagree. Discuss.
Larry writes and I wholeheartedly agree: "Jesus was Jewish. It's high time we stopped acting like Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus (if, indeed, there was any such responsibility) is a matter of something inflicted on Jesus by an outside agency."Of course, we should see Rome as an outside agency. If we want to get literal: Rome killed Jesus.But what if we want to get theological? I wonder what the heuristic value might be of this statement:Jesus was the person most responsible for his death.This would not let Rome off the hook in anyway. I am not suggesting that any action warrants a death penalty. But, according to my Gospels, Jesus saw the writing on the wall. Jesus walked right into the storm. Jesus prayfully accepted the necessity of his death in the garden. Indeed, theologically speaking, the God of Israel moves around political tyrants like pawns on a chessboard.So both literally and theologically, assigning "the Jews" blame is misses the mark.-anthony
Good point, Larry.
"26% of Americans"? Isn't 26% a low number? I would have expected a higher number, even if only those who have read the gospels were polled, so I find it strange that the essay finds the number 26% alarming.
The Jews didn't kill Jesus; the Romans didn't kill Jesus; Mark killed Jesus. His story requires it, and Paul was there before him.Mark has to provide a death for his messiah commensurate with his status as a king and a son of God. He needs a public execution preferably one high up above the crowd. A crucifixion is called for, and to accomplish that Mark can't avoid bringing the Romans into the story. N.B. It's a very exceptional, very kingly crucifixion -- short time dying, no time hanging around, and no carrion birds lurking about.Since his argument is with certain Jews and not with gentiles, Mark deftly removes the Romans represented by Pilate and the centurion from the argument. Of course it must be the Jews who reject and kill Mark's messiah. If they hadn't, if they'd followed his teaching, the Jews wouldn't have suffered as they did in the two wars. That's the point Mark's making. Rabid Jews seduced by and running after warrior messiahs bring desolation.If Mark were a secularist, he could have relied on recent history for support and left it there -- that is, stupid, stiff-necked Jews. But a Jew isn't going to cast his lot with Mark's peace and love messiah over a warrior messiah unless it can be shown that God prefers the former. Not an easy task. The voice at the Jordan, the Transfiguration, and a bit of Paul is about all he has to offer to declaim God's choice.When are we going to stop reading Christian doctrine back into Mark?
Anonymous, please, just tell us your agenda. I'm having trouble identifying it.