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Friday, March 04, 2011


Kenneth Covington

This is not at all a new idea. Catholics should have longer memories. Indeed, the Christian's guilt is greater than that of the Jews, as the 16th Century Roman Catechism attested:

Besides, to increase the dignity of this mystery, Christ not only suffered for sinners, but even for those who were the very authors and ministers of all the torments He endured. Of this the Apostle reminds us in these words addressed to the Hebrews: Think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds. In this guilt are involved all those who fall frequently into sin; for, as our sins consigned Christ the Lord to the death of the cross, most certainly those who wallow in sin and iniquity crucify to themselves again the Son of God, as far as in them lies, and make a mockery of Him. This guilt seems more enormous in us than in the Jews, since according to the testimony of the same Apostle: If they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; while we, on the contrary, professing to know Him, yet denying Him by our actions, seem in some sort to lay violent hands on him.

Michael Patrick

I am a Catholic who immigrated to the USA some time ago and am now an American citizen but at no time in my secondary education (in the 1950s) in the country I came from in Africa was I ever taught to hate the Jews or that the Jews were responsible for Christ's death. To be honest, I didn't even know that so many thought that way. It was only here in the USA when I heard Brittany Spears, a Christian (?) blame the Jews for Jesus' death that I became aware of this phenomenon. I have never had anything but good thoughts for the Jews who admittedly might drive a hard bargain in business matters but then so do most Christian businessmen and, who, generally and individually are no more or less a sinner than I am.

Mark Brumley

I have such mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, this is largely a deja vu moment. "Been there, done that." Repeatedly, and in so many ways, the message has been communicated that the Jewish people as a whole are not specifically responsible for the death of Jesus. It is annoying, then, when this is treated in certain segments of the media as if, "Finally, the Vatican has come around!".

At the same time, given the great evils perpetrated by people claiming to justify their persecution of the Jews on the basis of an alleged collective responsibility for Jesus' death, it is important to show that such persecution is not theologically underwritten by Scripture. And it is important for Christians to underscore this. The Holy Father has done a great job. His interpretation of Matthew's account is brilliant, because it takes the theological presentation of Matthew and shows the deeper meaning than one would reach on a superficial reading of the text.

St. John Chrysostom offers this gloss on Mt 25:27:

Nevertheless, the lover of man, though they acted with so much madness, both against themselves, and against their children, so far from confirming their sentence upon their children, confirmed it not even on them, but from the one and from the other received those that repented, and counts them worthy of good things beyond number. For indeed even Paul was of them, and the thousands that believed in Jerusalem; for, “you see it is said, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe.” And if some continued in their sin, to themselves let them impute their punishment.

Knowing the Holy Father's attachment to the Fathers of the Church, I wonder if he had St. John Chrysostom's gloss in mind?

Let us not forget that the point of the Pope's book is to draw us closer to JESUS, not to become fixated on world opinion concerning the Jews and their issues with the Church. Let us also be mindful that the Temple aristocracy is alive and well, and bears no love toward Our Lord. They would like nothing better than for the world to be distracted from the essential point of the Pope's book.

Mark Brumley

I'm not sure who the Temple aristocracy is you had in mind.



I mean the Jewish rabbinical leaders who pressed for the death of Jesus. The Pope refers to them specifically:

The entire early Christian community was made up of Jews. In John's Gospel this word has a precise and clearly defined meaning: he is referring to the Temple aristocracy. So the circle of accusers who instigate Jesus' death is precisely indicated in the Fourth Gospel and clearly limited: it is the Temple aristocracy — and not without certain exceptions, as the reference to Nicodemus (7:50–52) shows.

The Temple aristocracy also refers to those who persecuted the early Christians, as recorded in Acts. Who is the Temple aristocracy today? I would say that it consists of persons of influence within the Jewish community whose hearts are hardened against Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church, and who have the means to attack the Church in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Someone like Abe Foxman comes to mind.


All this is distraction from the mainstream media. Point one: Jews who reject Christ are no different than anyone else who rejects Christ. Period. Christianity is the fullness of the Truth for all people: the Jews are not excused from this reality.

Point two: now--having said that, should we ever force people to convert--NO, NEVER! But what is all this nonsense about one race being responsible for Christ's death? It's a distraction! Who outside of the 13th century ever believed that all Jews in all times and places were responsible for Christ's death anyway?

How many times do popes need to apologize for anti-semitism? How many times do popes need to say that all Jews are not responsible for Christ's death? Political correctness run amok! We should be able to say that ethnic Jews are people just like everyone else, but of course, we should also admit, that Judiasm--like Hinduism, Buddhism, shamanism, Islam, etc.... are incomplete religions that need Christ!

Now we can wait 15 years until the next pope announces that the Jews, as an entire race, were not responsible for Christ's death and the media can go crazy reporting it as if it were news again!

Mark Brumley

Who is the Temple aristocracy today? I would say that it consists of persons of influence within the Jewish community whose hearts are hardened against Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church, and who have the means to attack the Church in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Dave, if you mean only that there are Jewish people in positions of power and influence who are opposed to Christ and the Church, well, of course, that is true. But it seems to me that there are plenty of non-Jews in positions of power and influence who are opposed to Christ and the Church. Also, I'm not sure how relevant the enthically Jewish identity of the people in question is--they hardly seem accurately described as the "Temple aristocracy", which in Jesus' day purported to maintain a religious identity, to uphold a central aspect of the Mosaic covenant--the sacrificial system--and not just to identify ethnically with Israel. The people to whom you seem to refer today as "Temple aristocracy" do not seem to represent themselves primary as Torah observant Jews. I am sure that there are plenty of religious Jews today who would regard the people to whom you refer as anything but representative of covenantal Judaism.

Craig, while I share your frustration that what is sometimes presented as "news" in this regard isn't "news" because it isn't "new", it seems to me that plenty of people outside the 13th century have held all Jews as responsible for Christ's death. Or if they didn't actually believe this in their heart of hearts, they acted as if they did and tried on this basis to justify to themselves and others the idea that Jewish suffering and persecution were deserved.

One more point. It seems to me that we should affirm that Judaism is like the other religions in being incomplete because Judaism, like the other religions, does not affirm Jesus as the Messiah. At the same time, it seems to me that Judaism differs from these other religions in being founded on divine revelation and God's covenant with Israel.

This is a touchy and difficult theological subject. We obviously can't do justice to all the fine points of the matter in a combox exchange. But it seems to me that the developed teaching of the Church insists on a continued theological signficance, and even, in a sense, mission of Israel. Of course Israel would not see that mission in the same way as Christianity sees it--a mission to signify God's faithfulness to his promises despite man's infidelity and a pointing beyond Israel to God's establishment of a new, universal covenant in the coming Messiah or Messianic age.

But nevertheless, that mission remains, even if Israel carries it out, from the Christian perspective, in confusion and with a certain inability to understand its own covenant (2 Cor 3:15-16). Israel's mission will be brought to fulfillment when the Lord comes and prior to that coming "all Israel" is saved (Rom 11:26; cf. Acts 3:19-21; CCC 674).


Mark, I think that you're right about the whole "Temple aristocracy" thing. I was wrong to throw that term around so carelessly.

Not so sure about Israel's "mission". How can Israel point beyond itself to the coming Messiah, when the Messiah has already come? Do you refer to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? Also, the new, universal covenant has already been established. How can they point to it when they deny it? Doesn't make much sense.


Mark, has the Magisterium actually spoken concerning this alleged "mission" of Israel?


I've posted some musings on the "mission of Israel" topic here:

Hope this won't come across as a shameless promotion of my blog. :-) I'd just like to get some discussion around this topic, and I don't want to further hog the combox here.

Charles Stack

Christ came as a sacrifice. No one is to blame.


Charles, yes and no.

Christ's sacrifice should be our focus, not pointing fingers of blame. In this sense, the Pope's exegesis says more about Jesus than it does about those who plotted and executed His death.

On the other hand, those who plotted and executed the death of Our Lord bear responsibility for what they did, and they must answer for it at the Particular Judgment. The same goes, indirectly, for anyone who believes that the Pharisees where right to push Pilate into crucifying Jesus.

Charles Stack

Christ's sacrifice should be our focus. Period. Amen

Charles Stack

Matt. 16:21-23


Charles, those verses are spot on. It had never occurred to me how relevant they are to this whole obsession (to which I have often succumbed) over the culpability of the Jews in the death of Our Lord.

Nancy D.

Charles is correct, although Matthew 16:21 identifies who the Temple aristocracy was.

"Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." - Christ

While there are elements of truth that exist in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc., there are also elements of error. In Christ, through which The Fullness Of Truth exists, there is only Truth, there is no error. One cannot be complete without being completely transformed through, with, and in Christ. Thus if in dying we are restored in Christ, Christ Has Died for many sinners, even those like the Good Thief, who, at the moment of his death, was converted.


Rabbi Eugene Korn has written:

But [the Pope's] supersessionism has always been focused on the end of time, and he has maintained that Jewish unification with the church is “hardly possible, and perhaps not even desirable before the eschaton.” In his latest book, he expands this idea, insisting that for now “Israel retains its own mission” and that saving Israel “is in the hands of God” — meaning, presumably, not in the hands of Christian missionaries.

I find this statement deeply troubling, especially the part in bold. Did the Pope really say that?

Does the Pope explain what this "mission" of Israel is in fact? It all seems very ambiguous and dubious. Rabbi Korn also suggests that the Pope's "eschatological supersessionism" doesn't really even require acceptance of Jesus Christ on the part of the Jewish people:

And if some Jews still object to his eschatological supersessionism, they should remember that it is not far from what most traditional Jews believe will occur in the “end of days,” when gentiles will accept Judaism’s God and, as Jews proclaim regularly in our Aleinu prayer, “In that day, the Lord will be One and His name One.”

"Judaism's God" as understood by Jews today obviously does not mean Jesus Christ. Quite to the contrary.

This is not good. Someone needs to set the record straight here, and quickly.

Manuel Razetto

Benedict XVI does provide new news in his Jesus of Nazareth II, like he did in Volume I (1). This time the Holy Father offers a new interpretation regarding who accused and handed down judgment onto Christ. We learn in Volumen II that the origin and enabling act came from a segment of the aristocratic priesthood. (2) In other words, the Sanhedrin.

Since Jesus publicly taught his Doctrine for three years and converted many Jews into Christianity, all others- among them Pharisees- that did not accept his teachings and blamed him of heresy and blasphemy could not express indifference but dislike and condemnation. Unless there was a distinct opposition of perception between all observing Jews and the priesthood, there had to exist cohesiveness of understanding about whom He was and what He preached.

If we place the concept of Sanhedrin under careful and thorough examination we really set foot in a dwelling of obscurity and contradiction. For example, this council had judicial and legislative jurisdiction, as reported by Mark, Luke, Acts like 'part in or adjudication' during the trial of Jesus, Peter and John the Baptist. But according to the Talmud, it was composed of 71 sages as a religious legislative court, administrating rituals, meeting on fixed occasions, in the Temple of Jerusalem.

The above discrepancy, when dealt by scholars -based on Josephus, N.T. and the Talmud- show a greatly divided elucidation regarding the nature, framework and responsibility of the Sanhedrin. Since Josephus and the Gospels assign it political/legislative duties and the Talmud just religious tasks, some scholars side with the former, others with the latter; a third group opines there were two Sanhedrins and a fourth who claims that one Sanhedrin handled both positions (!).

The make of the Sanhedrin is, as well, in much debate regarding members of the two major groups: Sadducees and Pharisees. There are those who say it was composed of Sadducees and others by Pharisees and a third opinion is that it was comprised of both. Ultimately there is no agreement among the scholars as whether the Sanhedrin had the power to hand down a death sentence.

I believe Pope Ratzinger has opened a new avenue in Hermeneutic interpretation. Aided by chosen scholar contributions he brings the life of Jesus closer to a better understanding of our Redeemer. Benedict XVI glides day by day labouring assiduously during his older years, as an intellectual prodigy.

(1)Based on work by Henri Cazelles the true writer of the Fourth Gospel was a pupil of John named Presbyter John, who wrote it from his teachings.

(2) Mt. 27:25 is no longer taken as it was before.

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