Who Killed Jesus - A Question That Won’t Die

Tuesday, November 05, 2013 |  Tsvi Sadan

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recently marked its 100th anniversary by commissioning a survey that included questions regarding whether or not the Jews killed Jesus.

The ADL was founded at a time when anti-Semitism was rampant and deadly. Today, however, the latest ADL poll shows that (despite the rise in anti-Semitism particularly among Muslims and militant liberals) it is a dying phenomenon in the United States. According to the poll, “12 percent of Americans harbor deeply entrenched anti-Semitic attitudes,” while 26 percent believe that the Jews killed Jesus. Both numbers are down from previous years. Yet, the title of the article published in The Times of Israel says: “26% of Americans believe Jews killed Jesus.”

Why _The Times of Israel_ chose to misinform their readers so grossly is anyone’s guess. I would think that Jews should be extremely satisfied with this information. After all, a century of relentless Jewish effort to put an end to the collective charge against the Jewish people for killing Christ has, as the ADL poll shows, resulted in resounding success.

However, with an obvious sense of relief, one wonders whether or not it is good to fix one wrong by committing another, namely, ignoring the truth.

It may surprise a lot of Jewish people to learn that the Talmud goes even further than the New Testament on the question of who killed Jesus. While the New Testament asserts that the Sanhedrin (Jewish religious court) sentenced Jesus to death and the Romans carried out the crucifixion, the Talmud takes full responsibility by not mentioning any Roman who was involved in the legal process that ended in Jesus’ death.

Clearly, the ancients understood that the Jewish authorities were largely responsible for Jesus’ death. Since there seems to be no contention in ancient sources over the fact that Jews, with the aid of the Roman governor, killed Jesus, as bad as it sounds, it should be accepted as an historical fact.

What remains to be done therefore is checking one’s attitude toward this truth, rather than twisting or ignoring it.

In the book of Acts, for example, when Peter reminds his audience that “you killed the prince of life,” rather than freaking out and blaming him as an out-of-control anti-Semite, they repented. For his part, Peter wasn’t their accuser, but instead worked to reassure his conscience-stricken audience: “I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.”

By contrast, the inciting cry of “Christ-killers” is of a different nature entirely. It expresses a hateful, ignorant belief that blames the Jewish people for killing God. This charge, which is untrue and destructive, is the one that not only Jews, but every human being must oppose and reject.

Jews are right to be afraid of the “Christ-killer” charge. At the same time, no harm will come of our people owning up to our own history, which is also dotted with regrettable events.

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