What Was the Jewish Charge Against Jesus? (part one)

imagesOver the past weeks, we have engaged in a close look at Jesus’ arrest, trial and execution, in an effort to figure out how and why it happened, and who was to blame. We are doing this as part of a longer effort to understand the roots of Christian anti-Judaism, and perhaps even Jewish anti-Christianity. So far, we’ve gotten only so far as Jesus’ arrest, concluding that it was probably a joint Jewish-Roman project. Not only was the arresting force (probably) made up of Jewish Temple police and Roman soldiers, but it also appears that the arrest itself was ordered by Jewish leadership (probably the high priest Caiaphas) together with Roman leadership (probably the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate). We’re not sure yet whether the arrest was sought by the Romans (and the Jews cooperated) or by the Jews (and the Romans cooperated).

The next logical question might be, why was Jesus arrested? The problem with this question is, it’s too broad. The question is too broad as a general matter, because every legal system contains prosecutorial discretion: not everyone who breaks the law (or is suspected of having broken the law) is arrested and punished. You may have had the experience of being pulled over by the Highway Patrol for speeding, and as you watched traffic racing by you at speeds well in excess of the posted limit, you asked yourself, why me?  The only answer is, why not you? You were speeding (allegedly). The cops can’t ticket everyone who speeds. Law enforcement has the right (up to a point) to arrest some scofflaws and not others. Yes: we can and should protest when prosecutorial discretion is exercised in a discriminatory manner – against racial or ethnic minorities, for example. But the truth is, you’ll never know why you were unfortunate enough to be the one person speeding to be pulled over. Maybe you were driving a red sports car, and the cop didn’t like red sports cars. Maybe it’s the day of the Michigan-Ohio State football game, and you happened to be driving through Ohio with Michigan plates.

If prosecutorial discretion is a difficult question in all cases, it’s particularly difficult in Jesus’ case. Why was Jesus arrested? Jesus gives us the answer: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” In other words, the question of why Jesus was arrested is a theological question. If Jesus is not arrested, then he is not tried, convicted and crucified, there is no atoning death, no resurrection, no ransom for many, and of course, no Christianity. Jesus himself made it clear: it had to happen the way it happened.

But G-d’s plan for the salvation of humankind is not within the purview of this post. We’re trying to understand Jesus’ arrest in more ordinary terms. So let’s not ask, why Jesus was arrested. Let’s ask instead: what was the charge against him? What law did Jesus (allegedly) break? What crime did he (allegedly) commit? When Jesus was taken into custody, did the arresting officer say to him, “Jesus, we arrest you for the crime of ….”

The short answer to these questions is: we don’t know. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ arrest don’t say why Jesus was arrested. Earlier in the Gospels, where the Gospels discuss the decision to arrest Jesus … there’s no legal charge mentioned there, either.

The longer answer to this question is … long. We’ll need a few posts to get into it. I’ll try to post more often than my usual once a week, so that we don’t bog down on this point. But in essence, to get to the longer and (hopefully) more satisfying answer to this question, we need to skip ahead in the Gospels, past the accounts of Jesus’ arrest, and look at what the Gospels say about Jesus’ trials before the Jewish and Roman authorities. In doing this, I’ll have to skip over important material that we’ll address in later posts.

In this post, we’ll start our examination of what the charges might have been against Jesus when he appeared before the Jewish authorities. We’ll look here only at the first of these appearances before the Jewish high priest and elders. (Luke tells us that Jesus also appeared before the Roman-appointed Jewish ruler of Galilee, Herod Antipas.) I am also leaving for later an examination of what charges are mentioned when Jesus appeared before Pontius Pilate. What I’m interested in here are the specific accusations made against Jesus at the earliest point following his arrest, as these are the most likely accusations to reflect the original charge against Jesus.

Let’s start with Mark:

They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled … Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?”  But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”  Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses?  You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death.

Matthew’s version of the trial before Caiaphas is nearly identical to Mark’s:

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered … Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of G-d and to build it in three days.’” The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living G-d, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of G-d.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.”

Luke’s version differs substantially from Mark and Matthew:

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of G-d.” All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of G-d?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”

John’s version of events is more complicated than that found in the other three Gospels. John’s Gospel does not describe a single appearance before the high priest and others, but instead contains two appearances, one before the high priest Caiaphas, and an earlier appearance before Annas, the former high priest and father-in-law of Caiaphas. But John tells us nothing about the appearance before Caiaphas – we’re given details only concerning the appearance before Annas:

So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year …. Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Frustratingly, John’s Gospel tells us only that Jesus was questioned about his teaching and his disciples. That gives us no picture of the charges brought against Jesus. Fortunately, the prior three Gospels tell us more. Mark and Matthew indicate that the proceedings against Jesus began with testimony concerning Jesus and the Temple: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” Both these Gospels indicate that the trial went badly for the prosecution on this point, as the witness testimony did not agree. The trial changed course when the high priest asked Jesus if he was the Messiah, and Jesus replied with an alleged blasphemy. It is for this blasphemy, according to Mark and Matthew, that Jesus was sentenced to death.

The trial in Luke’s Gospel proceeds differently. Luke’s account omits any mention of Jesus and the Temple, focusing solely on the question whether Jesus is the Messiah. Luke’s trial scene also omits any mention of blasphemy. In Luke, Jesus appears to have been sentenced to death solely for claiming to be the Messiah.

We thus have three possible charges against Jesus at his arrest: (1) He blasphemed. (2) He claimed to be the Messiah. (3) He threatened to destroy the Temple. Which of these charges, if any, seem to be plausible historically? We’ll look at the first two of these possible charges here, and the third (the most complex) in my next post.

Was Jesus Charged by the Jews with Blasphemy?

I think we can dismiss the charge of blasphemy relatively quickly. Yes: the question of whether Jesus committed blasphemy at his trial is complicated. This question has been the topic of serious study, and it will require detailed analysis (another day!) in order for us to understand the issues. For the moment, let’s simply acknowledge the possibility that Jesus did commit blasphemy at his trial. But there is no evidence that Jesus was arrested for blasphemy. Mark and Matthew both indicate that the Jewish trial of Jesus was initially focused on a different issue, Jesus’ statements about the Temple. While both Mark’s and Matthew’s Gospels contain accusations of blasphemy made against Jesus during his ministry, these accusations concerned Jesus’ ability to forgive sins, and not (as during the trial) Jesus’ identity as Messiah, Son of Man or Son of God. Moreover, these Gospels do not claim that Jesus was questioned about these earlier incidents of alleged blasphemy – it does not appear that the Jewish authorities at Jesus’ trial even knew of Jesus’ (alleged) claim that he could forgive sin. Instead, Jesus is convicted in Mark and Matthew of a blasphemy he committed at the trial.

(NOTE: Luke’s Gospel contains essentially the same accusation we find in Mark and Matthew, that Jesus was accused of blasphemy during his ministry – but not during his trial – because he claimed the power to forgive sin. John’s Gospel contains a different accusation of blasphemy against Jesus, that he claimed during his ministry to be G-d. The claim of blasphemy in John is related to the one we find in Jesus’ trial in Mark and Matthew, that Jesus purportedly claimed an exalted status. But again, we have no evidence that the blasphemy mentioned in John was the reason for Jesus’ arrest.)

So, regardless of whether Jesus was convicted of blasphemy, it appears that he must have been arrested for some other (alleged) crime.

Was Jesus Charged by the Jews with Claiming To Be The Messiah?

Luke’s Gospel indicates that Jesus was initially questioned about whether he thought he was the Messiah. Was it a crime under Jewish law to claim to be the Messiah? Well … how could it be? The Jewish people (or more accurately, many Jewish people) have been eagerly awaiting the coming of the Messiah for more than 2,000 years. How can the Messiah come if the Messiah cannot tell us who he (or she!) is? The scholars I’ve read all agree: it was not a crime under Jewish law to claim to be the Messiah – not even a supposedly false claim of messiahship was against Jewish law. “It was not a crime in ancient Judaism to claim to be Messiah,” declares the conservative Christian website BibleGateway. ThinkApologetics.com proclaims: “According to Jewish law, the claim to be the Messiah was not a criminal, nor capital offense, [or] even a blasphemous claim.” Ed Kessler writes on the BBC website that “To claim to be the Messiah, if it was an offence against Judaism at all, was certainly not (as the Gospels contend) an offence against Jewish law for which Jesus could have been put to death.”

So: let’s sum up where we are: we’ve looked at two of the three possible charges that the Jewish authorities might have brought against Jesus. We’ve concluded that Jesus may have been convicted for blasphemy, but this was not the charge against him that led to his arrest. We’ve concluded that Jesus was not charged with claiming to be the Messiah, because claiming to be a Messiah was not a crime. We’re left with a third possible charge, that Jesus was arrested for anti-Temple activities. Evaluating the historical plausibility of this charge is a complex matter. It deserves a post of its own. And a post of its own it will get! Next time.

In the meantime, ask questions! What do you think of the arguments I’ve made so far? Are there scholarly arguments and opinions that you think we should consider at this point? Do you think I’m wasting my time, that understanding the charges against Jesus is beside the point? Discuss!

  • Robert

    From my perspective, it is very problematic to use theological accounts to try and determine historical events that occurred 40 years prior to the theological account. It is difficult enough to determine the meaning of Mark’s theological account for him and his community, and yet we can have some success at this level. From Mark’s perspective, I think the blasphemy, messianic claim, and the destruction of the Temple are all considered as parts of a unified whole. Jesus does not merely claim to be the Messiah, but a Messiah who is seated in God’s presence, coming on the clouds of heaven, who will effect the destruction of the Temple, which has already occurred for Mark’s community. To look at each of these elements separately is to miss the point of Mark’s story, which was written from a highly theological perspective addressing current events some 40 years after whatever occurred historically. Matthew, Luke, and perhaps John were all directly or at least indirectly dependent upon Mark’s account so we need not assume that they have more reliable historical information, ‘though they may present what they consider to be a more likely historical account. The Talmud reports that the rabbis killed Simon bar Kochba for what they judged to be a false Messianic claim (b Sanh 93b). While no one today considers that to be histoically true, it was nonetheless an acceptable and plausible view within rabbinic Judaism. Luke’s focus on this element alone may have seemed more historically plausible to him, and in fact if we consider a messianic claim to be first and foremost a royal claim, there is no reason to understand the opposition of the sunedrion, the Roman form of aristocratic government imposed on Judea to supplant the monarchy (so Josephus), to have been any different from Pilate’s opposition to Jesus. This royal claim was contrary to the Roman form of government, as represented by the sunedrion and as represented by Pilate.

    • Robert, I agree with much of what you say. Mark and the other Gospel authors were not trying to write a John Grisham novel. They were not trying to write an historical account, or for that matter a theological account. They lived in a world where the historical and theological were not all that distinct.

      They were trying to communicate the meaning and importance of events that they believed were literally of cosmic importance.

      But the effort to understand the Gospels historically began long before I wrote this post!

      I was thinking about some of the things you wrote here when I wrote the introduction to this post. I have a post planned where I’ll consider whether the charge against Jesus was something more general: threatening the Jewish religious establishment, for example. But I think this topic deserves the attention I’m giving it. As a lawyer, I know it’s not adequate to say that Jesus died because the high priests and Pharisees wanted him out of the way. I’m trying to put my 21st century notions of jurisprudence to one side, but it’s true that first century Judaism had a considerable legal system, and all legal systems depend on a certain level of formality. We’ll get to this in later posts, but most scholars think that Jewish courts could not convict in the absence of minimum specified witness testimony. If Jesus was really tried at 3 a.m., with the goal of having him convicted and presented to Pilate by dawn, then the trial court must have had witnesses at the ready when Jesus was arrested, and there must have been given some thought to what these witnesses should say (as the witness testimony needed to agree). Yes, the Gospel-reported discrepancies in the witness testimony indicates that the charges and/or the witnesses may have been prepared in haste. But there should have been a charge.

      In the absence of a formal charge, we might conclude that Jesus was not given a fair trial. Or: we might conclude that Jesus wasn’t tried by the Jewish authorities, that the proceedings before Caiaphas were more like a modern police interrogation, or even a Grand Jury proceeding.

      As for your final point … you and I have discussed some of this before. Yes, Pilate is looming in the background of the Jewish trial of Jesus. But few historians conclude that the Jews were merely doing Pilate’s bidding. Most believe that the Jewish trial of Jesus has independent significance. That’s a big part of what I want to investigate.

      • Robert

        It is entirely possible that Mark’s account was intended to portray the arrest and Jewish trial of Jesus as illegal in several particulars, eg, the trial occurring at night, and in general. The Cairo Damascus Document, versions of which were also found in Qumran, prescribes death to anyone responsible for the death of a fellow Jew using gentile courts of justice. In the Talmud also this is one of the crimes to be punished by death without even the need for a trial. By this optic, it is the Jewish authorities, not Jesus, who are seen to be deserving of death, and this is confirmed for Mark with the destruction of the Temple (cf Mk 13,26 & 14,62). This level of polemical narrative against the Jewish establishment does not augur well for an historicized reading of the gospels.

        Of course, it is fine to try and create plausible historical reconstructions of what might have actually happened, and I have no objection to that, but there are very good literary and historical methodological reasons for not considering many if not most of these details of the trial as reliable. My position is not that the ‘Jews’ were merely doing Pilate’s bidding, or vice versa, but I have yet to see good historical reasons to reliably assert different interests on the part of Pilate and the Judaean aristocracy that was dependent upon Rome for their local governmental role.

        • You wrote: “I have yet to see good historical reasons to reliably assert different interests on the part of Pilate and the Judaean aristocracy that was dependent upon Rome for their local governmental role.” My reply: wait here. It’s coming. It is the basis of my yet-to-be-articulated thesis of “what happened.” Hint: the key concept is collaboration. Collaboration = different interests.

          Can you give me a cite to the Talmud provision you’re referencing here? The matters you discuss in the first paragraph go to what I want to later argue about the nature of collaboration.

          On the general question of theology v. polemic v. history in the Gospel arrest and trial accounts: I agree with you in a general sense. I mean, it’s possible that there’s precious little in the Gospels that reflects “what really happened” in Jesus’ ministry and passion. This is a general question that’s argued all the time, between camps of optimists and pessimists, and I don’t see the question being settled any time soon.

          Or: we can make a less sweeping argument, and say that once Jesus is arrested and separated from his disciples, we lose any kind of eyewitness testimony to what happened next. We might say, we don’t have a clue what really happened between Jesus’ arrest and his execution, and that the account of the trial before Caiaphas is as historically probable as Noah’s Ark.

          But remember where I’m coming from. I’m not a scholar. I’m a guy who does dialogue. I think it’s important to this dialogue to discuss Christian anti-Judaism. I started with 1 Thess. 2:14-16, which sounds anti-Jewish to me, but arguably is anti-Jewish only if the accusation there is false. I continually run into serious, responsible and Jewish-friendly scholars of early Christianity who say that Christian anti-Judaism is deplorable, but … the most plausible historical account of Jesus’ execution features some level of Jewish participation and responsibility. I think it’s worth looking at the record to see if they’re right, and if so, what was the participation and responsibility. If the correct take-away from this examination is that we don’t know what the hell happened after Jesus’ arrest, then we’d at least have to say that there’s no reason to assume any amount of Jewish participation or responsibility.

          But as (I think) the prevailing point of view is that we can know something historically about Jesus’ arrest, trial and execution, I think I’m going to proceed forward.

          • Robert

            Sorry for the delay, Larry. Been travelling.

            The Talmudic legend that the rabbis killed Simon bar Kochba as a false Messiah is found in b Sanh 93b.

            The idea that a moser, ie, one who hands over (think of MaSoRetes, those who handed down the traditional reading of the consonental text of the Tanach), should be killed before they can hand someone to the non-Jewish courts is found in several spots. This list is not exhaustive, but you can start here: CD 9,1; b ‘AZ 26a-b; b BK 117a-b 119a; b Ber 58a; b Shab 33b-34a. Throughout Mark’s gospel, we see a continual emphasis on the ‘handing over’ of Jesus: 1,14 3,19 9,31 10,33 13,9.11-12 14,10-11.18.21.41-42.44 15,1.10.15 If this emphasis on the ‘handing over’(typical Greek translation of MSR) of Jesus reflects the mosira of a moser, then this helps us understand the justification and symbolism of the sword incident in the Garden when Jesus is being handed over by Judas the moser. An attempt to defend Jesus from being ‘handed over’ with deadly force would be understood as a mitzvah by Maimonides. From Mark’s perspective, it is not only Judas, but the high priest himself who is seen as a moser, an informer, a traitor, a moser who hands over (mosira) Jesus to the court of the Gentiles. Even the Roman form of the council, the sunedrion, not a Jewish body, but the form of local government imposed on Israel by the Romans, may already have been seen as a foreign court presided over by the high priest.

            I see collaboration as more of a matter of similar, rather than different, interests. The high priest, appointed by the procurator, and his whole sunedrion gained their power only from Rome. This was the local governing body created by Rome.

            I would not make the divide between eye-witness accounts and the trial narrative. If one wants to be an ‘optimist’, as you say, there is no reason why someone present at the trial might not have related what had occurred, but my view is that very little of what precedes should be considered eye-witness testimony. The contrary is mostly wishful thinking on the part of conservative Christian apologists. For critical scholars, this question has been settled for a long time. But that’s almost a tautology.

            I would never advocate ‘assuming’ a role of Judean authorities in Jesus’ arrest, handing over, and death, but this is the consistent testimony of all of our earliest texts from Paul, which some date as early as 41 CE, through the gospels, the earliest post 70 CE, and Josephus, if there is an authentic core text below the current interpolation, which is currently commonly accepted. I consider Paul’s account, predating the earliest gospel by some 20-35 years, to be more likely reliable than the later gospels, but on this point they agree, but we only know of Paul’s ‘account’ within a polemical passage in which Paul is upset with the Judean authorities who have expelled him and tried to hinder him from making proselytes. I suspect Paul’s differences with the Judean authorities had as least as much to do with their contemporary disagreements as it did with their having crucified Jesus, which he readily excuses as mere ignorance on their part.

  • Anthony Le Donne

    My question is this: what is “blasphemy” (its limits and standard forms) in Second Temple Judaism(s) and why are the NT writers (almost all of them!) so worried about it? -anthony

    • Ah! You want me to write a book in the comments.

      Here’s what I know. The Mishnah (Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 55b) says that a blasphemer is punished only if he utters the Divine name (the Tetragrammaton). This Tractate sets up an elaborate form of trial to deal with the knotty problem that it is difficult to fairly try someone for blasphemy without repeating the blasphemy. The witnesses (there needed to be three) are initially questioned by means of a substitute for the Divine name. Towards the end of the trial, the court is cleared except for the judges and three witnesses. One of the witnesses then has to repeat the alleged blasphemy verbatim, at which point the judges would all rent their garments. The other two witnesses then have to confirm what the first witness said (but without repeating the Divine name). The procedure is a neat balancing of the need for trial on the actual evidence with the desire to keep further blasphemy to a minimum.

      Naturally, Jesus’ trial did not look anything like that specified in this portion of the Talmud. But of course, we must add here all of the usual caveats about using the Talmud as an authoritative source for what happened in Jesus’ day.

      While the above may be the definitive statement of the Rabbis (at least with regard to a prosecution for blasphemy), a full treatment of the topic requires a look at Tanakh, Josephus, Philo, the Qumran documents, and other sources. In his book “Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism,” Darrell Bock devotes 92 pages to this question without reaching a neatly quotable conclusion. And as you’ve indicated, the New Testament talks quite a bit about blasphemy. In Mark 3:28-29, Jesus says that anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; “they are guilty of an eternal sin.” In Luke 22:65, the guards holding Jesus for trial were said to have spoken blasphemy to him; Matthew 27:39 might be translated to read that the crowds who passed by Jesus during his crucifixion blasphemed him. In Romans 2, Paul criticizes the conduct of Jews whose bad conduct results in G-d’s name being blasphemed among the Gentiles. Blasphemy also seems to come up quite a bit in Revelation. Again, my lack of ability in Greek is hampering me here,

      I’m not capable of answering your questions in any sort of definitive way, but I can put forth a hypothetical answer that may or may not be worth defending. I think the material I quoted you from the Talmud is the closest thing we have to a legal definition of blasphemy in first century Judaism. Just as clearly, the concept of blasphemy could be referred to in a less precise way, to refer to conduct or speech disrespectful of G-d or high Jewish officials. Just as we might say that gossip is “slanderous” even if it doesn’t meet the legal definition of slander, I think that Jews like Jesus and Paul were willing to use the word “blasphemy” to describe unsavory conduct that tended to show G-d in a bad light. And we might imagine that some conduct might be punished as blasphemy even if it didn’t involve speaking the Divine name.

      In the case of Jesus’ trial before the Jewish authorities: if Jesus was understood to say that he was the Son of Man referred to in Daniel who would sit at the right hand of G-d … and if he said this in a way seen as intending offense and insult to the high priests and their authority … and we add to this a possible defamation of the Temple … could all of this add up to a death sentence? It certainly seems possible.

      But we’d then have to layer in the fact that Jesus was executed for sedition, not blasphemy. We’d have to ask, if Jesus was really convicted for blasphemy, why bother Pilate about it? Why didn’t the Jews execute Jesus, the way the Jews would later execute Stephen? We’d then get into the knotty problem of whether the Jews retained any power to execute fellow Jews in Jesus’ day, even for violations of religious law that (presumably) the Romans had no interest in enforcing. We’d have to get a better picture of why the early Christians seem so troubled by blasphemy, and we’d have to ask whether Jesus’ conviction for blasphemy in the Gospels might be based more in theology and less in history.

      It is complex stuff.

  • John Brantingham

    What has always jumped out at me is the fact that Jesus had to be executed by his own plan. I think this is a fairly common question for a bright 10 year-old to ask, but theologically does that mean that those who executed him bore no guilt for having executed him? Weren’t they predestined to do exactly what needed to be done?

    • John, I think the conventional answer here is that Jesus had to die, but that no particular group of people had to participate in his death. That answer doesn’t work for me either, as it seems clear from the Gospels that everyone betrayed Jesus, including his closest followers (see Peter and his denials). If everyone was going to deny Jesus, then the Jews had to be a part of that “everyone,” because nearly everyone Jesus ever encountered was Jewish.

      I think ultimately that Christian anti-Judaism is about the Jewish refusal to regard Jesus as Christians do.

  • Sam

    False Messiah are s problem according to Jewish law. Possible they were convinced he is not the one sent by GOD they convicted him