A very good long-time Jewish friend wrote to me with concerns about my last blog, "Why Would Jewish Monotheists Start Worshiping a Carpenter from Nazareth?”
I was reminded that for centuries, Christians ghettoized and killed Jewish people using the general charge, "The Jews killed Jesus”. I was also reminded that there has been a large increase in anti-Semitic attacks (verbal and worse) on Jews in the last several years. The slaughter in the Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct 27, 2018 is just the worst example.
Several things are very important. First the sweeping statement that "the Jews killed Jesus” is very wrong. It is an evil, abominable thing to say or imply that all Jews (past and present) are responsible for Jesus’ death. It is wrong historically to say that "the Jews in Jesus day killed Jesus.” It was only a few Jewish religious leaders who urged Pilate to crucify Jesus, not the vast majority of Jews at the time.
Second, only the Romans had the authority to carry out capital punishment at this time in Palestine. So it was only the Roman leader and Roman soldiers who actually killed Jesus, although a small number of Jewish leaders at that time did urge Pilate to do that.
Third, in my blog, I said "the Jewish and Roman leaders killed him [Jesus] to prove that he was wrong.” I certainly did not say or mean that all Jews of Jesus’ day, much less all Jews of all time, killed Jesus. But because of the terrible history of Christians using this much broader phrase (“the Jews killed Jesus”) in terrible anti-Semitic ways, we must always be very careful to guard against anything that would in any way suggest that terrible idea.
Anti-Semitism is surging both in this country and in Europe. So is prejudice against Muslims. Tragically, our president makes statements that nurture rather than condemn these evils. Christians must take the lead to denounce and work against this growing evil of prejudice against Jews and Muslims.
That does not mean Christians should abandon central Christian ideas (e.g. the Jew from Nazareth is God incarnate and is the only way to salvation). But it does mean that we believe and will live out the truth that God loves every person (Jew, Hindu, Muslim, atheist, Buddhist, Christian) equally. And it also means that we will work for a civil society where people of all religions and none have full civic freedom.
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