As a typical American Jew who was born in the 1950s, most of my knowledge of Christian theology comes from having memorized every song in Jesus Christ Superstar when I was in high school. As I understand it, Christians believe that Jesus, the son of God, was born in Bethlehem in the Roman province of Judea a little over two thousand years ago. After amassing a substantial following as a political and religious reformer, Jesus was crucified at the age of thirty-three. Three days later, he rose to Heaven and will someday return to usher the world into eternal paradise.
Ever since Jesus was crucified, Jews have been collectively accused by most Christians of committing deicide, or killing God. Based primarily on that charge, Jews have been repeatedly persecuted by Christians. As a particular example, Passion Plays, in which the Jews are clearly blamed for Jesus’s death, have a very painful history of instigating violence against Jews by Christians.
On the other hand, I understand that the Roman Catholic Church has, within the past fifty years or so, issued doctrinal statements that the Jews are not to be held collectively responsible for Jesus’s death. For that and for any other similar efforts, pronouncements, and teachings by Christians, I and my fellow Jews are very grateful.
Now obviously I don’t know because I wasn’t around at the time, but I can believe that some of Jesus’s fellow Jews two thousand years ago were happy to see him removed from the scene. After all, he was challenging the status quo and, whenever that happens, those whose positions are threatened more often than not rise up in opposition. I can even believe that there might have been some corrupt Jews who had positions of power within the Roman occupation and actually conspired with the Romans to have Jesus killed. After all, one of the keys to the success of the Romans throughout their vast empire was their effective recruitment of duplicitous “locals” to act as their henchmen. At the very least, Judas was a Jew, right? So, at least one Jew shares at least some responsibility for the death of Jesus.
But here’s what I don’t understand:
According to Christian theology, didn’t Jesus have to die? Wasn’t this supposed to be all part of God’s plan? Wasn’t he supposed to die for our sins?
Did the individuals who were responsible for Jesus’s death have a choice, or did they have to kill Jesus?
If Jesus had not been crucified, would he have eventually died of old age, or would he have lived forever?
If Jesus had not been crucified, would the world already be in eternal paradise?
Given that Jesus could heal the sick, turn water into wine, walk on water, and even revive the dead, couldn’t he have prevented himself from being crucified if he wanted to?
Because Jesus didn’t stop his crucifixion, does that mean that he wanted to die or that he at least let himself be killed? If so, does that have any implication on the guilt of those “responsible” for his death?
What does it even mean to “kill God”? How can God be killed?
If Jesus was resurrected, isn’t he still alive?
Even assuming for the sake of argument that some of Jesus’s fellow Jews were in favor of and perhaps even contributed to his death, why should that implicate other Jews alive at that time, let alone all Jews living since then?
Why is it more reasonable to blame me, a Jew living in the twenty-first century, for Jesus’s death than to blame Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and all those other Jews who happened to live before Jesus?
In fact, if all Jews are to blame for Jesus’s death, then wouldn’t Paul and all the other Jewish disciples be liable as well?
If your father had murdered someone, should you be held responsible?
Never mind your father. If your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather had murdered my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, would that make you a murderer?
Wasn’t crucifixion a favored form of execution by the Romans?
Wasn’t Jesus just one of over two hundred thousand Jews crucified by the Romans during their rule over Judea?
Considering certain individual Romans certainly have Jesus’s blood on their hands, why doesn’t anyone blame modern Italians for killing Jesus?
Doesn’t that make as much sense as blaming modern Jews?
It seems to me that, for too many Christians throughout the past two thousand years, the real “crime” committed by the Jews is not that we killed Jesus; it’s that we do not believe in Jesus.
As a typical American Jew who was born in the 1950s, most of my knowledge of Christian theology comes from having memorized every song in Jesus Christ Superstar when I was in high school. As I understand it, Christians believe that Jesus, the son of God, was born in Bethlehem in the Roman province of …