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The Passion Controversy

Steven Waldman of Slate has an interesting article on the issue of Jewish complicity in the death of Jesus. Mel Gibson's yet to be released The Passion has already reignited the debate about who killed Jesus. The points he addresses to all sides are these:

1) Jews should admit that some of their forefathers probably helped get Jesus killed.

2) There is a strong possibility that the Bible itself, in effect, distorted the history of the “Jewish” role

3) Christians who remain bitter about the Jewish role in Jesus’ death are being transparently un-Christian.

I agree that blaming Jew's (or Romans for that matter) for the death of Christ is silly. His death and resurection are the whole point of Christianity. As Steven points out: the real answer to the question ‘Who killed Jesus?’ should be: Who cares? Theologically, the answer is irrelevant.

Comments (18)

Given that, as best I can t... (Below threshold)

Given that, as best I can tell, the entire rationale for his existence was to get himself crucified.....

Not only is the answer irre... (Below threshold)

Not only is the answer irrelevant theologically, it's trivial historically.

1) Some Jews were involved in the execution of Christ,
2) What does it matter? That was then, and this is now.

Every people in history has been involved in some actions it would prefer to forget. Ought we to forget all of history except the warm-fuzzy parts, then? I think not.

Those who decry the Gibson film for being "anti-Semitic" are hypocrites and massively dishonest. They wouldn't hesitate a moment to praise a film about the Spanish Inquisition, whose main victims were Jews. Anti-Christian bigotry and the imposition of hereditary collective responsibility on today's Christians for the crimes committed by Christians in other places and times is currently acceptable in America, you see.

His death and resurectio... (Below threshold)

His death and resurection are the whole point of Christianity.

Exactly! Jesus died because that was the plan. It doesn't matter who actually killed him - the truth is we all killed him.

Jesus' death was required b... (Below threshold)

Jesus' death was required because of the fall in the Garden of Eden. If any of us could be perfect then our salvation wouldn't be needed.

To spite an entire group just because some individuals long ago did a horrible deed denies the individuality of those in the present.

Gee, let's think. Why would... (Below threshold)

Gee, let's think. Why would Jews take offense at yet another film blaming them for the death of Jesus? Hm. Could it have something to do with centuries of persecution by Christians for being "Christ-killers"?

It's amazing to me that you manage to contradict yourself in your own comments, Francis. For someone who says it doesn't matter, you sure are going off on critics who say the film is anti-Semitic.

Which is it? Trivial or non? Does it matter, or am I a hypocrite for saying that to blame the death of Christ on the Jews is anti-Semitic?

Because if it doesn't matter, how can I be a hypocrite?

But I will say this: I wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition to be brought up in a post about the Crucifixion.

[insert mandatory Python line here]

Gee, Meryl, for someone who... (Below threshold)

Gee, Meryl, for someone whose intelligence is celebrated all 'round the Blogosphere, you do have a lot of trouble with simple concepts. Let's try this again. Read with attention, please:

1. Some Jews were involved in the arrest, prosecution, and execution of Christ.

"Some Jews" is not the same as "the Jews." Got that? I can't use shorter words, dear. There aren't any.

2. That was then. No one involved in the matter is alive today. Their identities, national and religious affiliations are all irrelevant.

That's right. It seems to have escaped your notice that they're all dead. Therefore no one alive today, nor for that matter alive for some nineteen centuries, had anything to do with it. In mentioning the Spanish Inquisition, I was drawing what we simplistic types like to call a parallel. You know, when all the most important aspects of two distinct events are the same, so that one can draw the lessons of one onto the other?

Now, it's undeniable that there have been Christians who've evilly blamed "the Jews" for Christ's death. That's what I meant by "hereditary collective responsibility," an extremely malefic doctrine. But you must understand that, dear: it's the very same one you're purveying in attempting to tar contemporary Christians as the persecutors of Jews.

When Abraham Foxman defames The Passion -- without even having seen it! -- as anti-Semitic because it retells the story of the Crucifixion I lose all respect for him. I profoundly hope he's in no way truly representative of the sentiments of those he claims to be "protecting." Had he instead said something like this:

"I hope those who will see this film will remember that the persons involved in the Crucifixion were not acting on the dictates of the Jewish faith, properly understood. There have been evildoers among all peoples and all religions. No one, be he Jew or Christian, bears responsibility for the deeds of others, nor should any man hate his neighbor for a tenuous connection to others whose deeds defied his religious tradition long ago."

...I'd have awarded him lots of points for both grace and style.

After all, it's the Anti-Defamation League he runs, isn't it? So defaming others is nominally what he's against. It ought not to be on his short list of preferred tactics. Or should the name of the organization be changed to reflect another agenda?

Give that a few moments' thought, assuming you have the inclination.

Francis, you're an asshole.... (Below threshold)

Francis, you're an asshole.

When you can discuss the issue without slinging mud, I'll be back.

And I won't call you an asshole next time, either. At least, not in seven letters.

Francis didn't seem to slin... (Below threshold)
Jason Hunter Watson:

Francis didn't seem to sling any mud he just posted it straight. Sure he was a bit curt with you but, you had that coming. I'm a black man. I don't blame white people of today for the centuries of slavery. I know some today are racist but I know many are not. The idea that someone's anti-Semitic because they retell the story of Christ is ridiculous. It's this kind of attitude that causes anti-Semitism.

When I was in college, I dated a Jewish woman. We were mostly friends but guess what, she didn't kill Christ. I figured that out by the fact that she was about 24 years old so it was a good chance she had nothing to do with it. I say that because I understand very clearly the point that's being made by some Jewish leaders so slyly is that Christianity is anti-Semitic. Sure no one will come out and say that but that what some people are trying to say in a round about way.

Every race has done wrong in their time. To take the cowardly stance that "we've never done wrong" is totally silly. Yes, Jews did play apart in Jesus death, so did Romans. How would Jews like the story to be written? That no one did it and Jesus was never crucified? Or maybe that it was all Rome.

Frankly I think some Jews need to get over themselves. Really. Some Jews think we Christians come home from a hard days work and think "those darn Jews." when we actually come home and think "What's for dinner." Jews are still living in a time when Hitler reigned and Jews were called Christ Killers. Wake up, you're in America 2003. Do some people hate you? Yep. Do some people hate me? Yep. Life goes on then you die. You sink or swim.

When I went out with this girl I didn't even know her last name. But she knew I was a Christian and I knew she was Jewish. Funny how a Jewish woman and a black Christian man sat at a table, shared a kiss, broke bread together and yet people like Abraham H. Foxman and even you Meryl, can't get over the past. Well Hitler's gone and most people in America probably don't even know enough about Christ to call a Jewish person a Christ Killer and those who do say this are probably not really Christians. All I'm saying is step out of past. There's a whole present and future waiting for you. And if Jews don't believe our take on the situation when are they going to tell theirs? I'd love to hear it.


I would like to point out o... (Below threshold)
Jason Hunter Watson:

I would like to point out one more thing and that is the fact that the Gospels say that Jesus said "They know not what they do." and asked God to forgive his persecutors, so those who do not understand this do a disservice to any kind of dramatic effort involving the story of Christ. And Jewish people need to understand that those who hate Jews don't hate them because they "killed Christ" they simply hate them because they want to and they need an excuse. Sorry, it's the way of the world and it doesn't seem to be changing. Some people hate me because I'm black. Not because I did anything to them, it's just because they want to. But no matter what, if you tell the story of Christ as depicted in the Bible it does point a finger at a Jewish/Roman conspiracy in that time.


Jen and Sean, right on...Ye... (Below threshold)

Jen and Sean, right on...Yes, the Jews did kill Jesus, but who cares about that. That's not the point. The point is that HUMAN BEINGS killed Jesus rejecting him while he was on earth. The Jews were representative of humanity, they killed him as sinful human beings (like we all are), not as evil Jews. Christians should not be mad at Jews, because a) mankind killed him, not "Jews" and b) if Jesus didn't die on the cross, our sins would not be atoned for, and there would be no hope for human beings. Jesus's death was the final act in God's plan of salvation. This whole anti semetic thing in the media about Mel Gibson's movie is not an attack on the movie as being anti semetic, instead it is a subversive attack on Christianity. They're probably hoping to put some sort of censorship on the New Testament through all of this nonsense.
And besides all of the theological reasons, if my great great grandfather murdered a man (which he didn't as far as I know) does that make me a murderer? Am I responsible? No, of course not, that's absolutely insane.

For years now we have been ... (Below threshold)

For years now we have been watching movies in the movie industry that dont accuratly depict the true nature of the story. One could say that all movies are biased and only true to the man calling the shots behind the scene. Why should this movie be any different?

I remember watching a movie about Nixon and my grandfather telling me how biased it was and how bad they made Nixon look. To my grandfather, this story was terrible and slanted. Similarly, some jews appear to be arguing this about the Passion. Unlike the Nixon movie however, none of US were there to see the Passion. Instead, we rely on the bible and OUR OWN interpretations, which apparantly differ. But be that as it may, it is still just a movie. It is a story, that one has written based on what he believes to be true.
If it is true, and I beleive the Pope said recently "It is as it was", then why take it personally? This is no dig to the Jews, I dont dislike or judge them any differently. The only upsetting remarks I have heard about the jews is from them. If there was a movie about Hitler, would not the germans look bad?

On the contrary, if it is not a true picture of what really happened, whats new? so many movies are just that. Do you noestly beleive what you see and or hear in movies is true?

The woman who plays Mary in... (Below threshold)

The woman who plays Mary in this movie is Jewish.
Both her parents were victims of the Nazi holocaust. She has no problems with the movie.
But I hear that jews are now calling her a "Self-hating" jew.
Geez! get over the holocaust it happened a long time ago and most jews that complain now were not even born .
Stop playing victim all the time is gets tiring to the rest of us that are not Jews. you scream WOLF !WOLF! so much that nobody is listening anymore.
The African Americans and the natives of this land went through holocausts too . I don't here them japping about it ALL the darn days of their lives .

I am a 17 year old junio... (Below threshold)
Madison Stegall:

I am a 17 year old junior in high school. From reading all this "i'm right and you are wrong B.S.," it makes me think how silly adults are and how much they complain about stuff no normal human-being cares about. Maybe it would be best if you got a life and worry about it, instead of about how Jews bitch all the time. In reality...we all bitch. I am a prime example.

I think that the issue is b... (Below threshold)

I think that the issue is being to narrowly focused on one event, the crucifixition. Look beyond that and ask this question:
Is Jesus the messiah, or is he not. If he is the messiah, then his death has meaning because of the resurrection.
If he is not the messiah, then like thousands of other Jews in the Roman lands, then he died a pretty nasty death.
It is a choice of belief.

Meryl Yourish reminds me th... (Below threshold)
BJ Goldstein:

Meryl Yourish reminds me that for a small number of Jews, and I hope I'll never be one of them, the crucifixion will always remain a fuzzy enigma. That's what they have chosen. You could trot out all the prophecies Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled and point out the extreme mathematical odds against one man ever doing so, but it would be like talking to masonry. Facts or no facts, they have made a volitional decision to tune out.

A feisty Jewish writer and speaker, a native of Tarshish named Saul Paulus once observed--presumably about that same small segment of Jews--that Jesus' execution was a stumbling block. I have a lot more respect for anybody who says, 'yes, I know Jesus suffered and died horribly and that he fulfilled the law and the prophets, but I personally have chosen not to buy in.' That kind of honesty is also a great way to shut down a would-be evangelist.

Lesson? Only one: people, Jew or Gentile, have the capacity to believe only what they want to believe. Threaten Yourish's delusion with history and he grenades. That's why Mel Gibson's Passion is so danged controversial.

All I have to say is what h... (Below threshold)

All I have to say is what happened to love thy neighbor?? instead of focusing on all the political garbage, how about spending time with your children and teach them not to hate and the actual meaning of salvation and JESUS. Finally, and most importantly, what about not JUDGING that is GODS job and when he comes back to get us he'll determine the right from wrong!! Those people will answer to him. So I suggest worrying about your own faith and salvation and stop JUDGING everyone else's.


I saw the movie recently. I... (Below threshold)

I saw the movie recently. I am a non-practicing Catholic (as I do not go to church like I should). I am educated open minded and honest. I did not leave the theater feeling anti-semetic. Personally, I think that the Jewish people who are complaining about the movie totally missed the point. They are primarily focused on how they were portrayed as the bad guys who malevolently demanded the crucifiction of Christ. Did they miss the scenes where Christ preached not to hate your neighbor nor those who persecute you? Did they not see how it was mostly the Romans who were enjoying doing the torture? Did they not see or hear those Jews who were sympathetic to Christ but were brushed aside? Did they not see how one Jew was asked to help Christ to carry the cross and how he angrily made the Romans see madness of it all?

They (Jews) totally missed the message. I agree with those who stated that Jews cannot seem to accept any responsibility for the wrong doing of their ancestors. As some of you indicated, we all have good and bad history and we need to learn to accept it. We are no longer responsible for it but we need to own up to the truth as it was. In my opinion the movie was not pointing the finger but telling the story as it happened in history. Their was a group of Jews at that time who wanted Jesus out of the picture for mostly political reasons. He was a threat to their kingdom. In their eyes he was dividing their people and becoming powerful. A similar thing happened with the Spanish Inquisition. The Spanish-Christians had regained control over their land from the Moors (after Centuries) and the Jews (among others) who had influential power at that time posed a threat to their religious kingdom......Am I proud of that or do I agree with that? No, of course not, but instead that's and example on the lame excuses that humans (of all types) have used to commit atrocities. It happened and we have to accept it and move on, but that does not mean we can't tell the story for how it was.

The message I got from The Passion of Christ was a positive message, yes for all people, even those who do not believe in Christ. Two notible messages that non-christians can take from the movie are "to love your neighbor and not hate those who persecute you". So why be anti-semetic?

i loved the close account o... (Below threshold)

i loved the close account of the movie i think it was a wake up call for every one who sees it






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