As Passover season approaches, Pope Benedict is going on the record to affirm that Jews are not responsible for the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
Jim Caviezel portrays Jesus in ‘The Passion of The Christ’ (courtesy Icon Distribution)
In excerpts released today from his upcoming book, “Jesus of Nazareth. Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection,” the pontiff completely exonerates the Jewish people of any culpability of the death of the Son of God.
“Now we must ask: Who exactly were Jesus’ accusers? Who insisted that he be condemned to death?” the pope writes.
“We must take note of the different answers that the gospels give to this question. According to John it was simply ‘the Jews.’ But John’s use of this expression does not in any way indicate – as the modern reader might suppose – the people of Israel in general, even less is it ‘racist’ in character. After all, John himself was ethnically a Jew, as were Jesus and all his followers.
“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.”
Regarding the passage from the Gospel of Matthew where Jews state, “His blood be on us and on our children,” Benedict said it’s a mistake to interpret that as some sort of blood curse against Jews:
“The Christian will remember that Jesus’ blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24): it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment; it brings reconciliation. It is not poured out against anyone; it is poured out for many, for all. …
“Read in the light of faith, it means that we all stand in need of the purifying power of love which is his blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation.”
Benedict explained that the trial and ultimate death sentence for Jesus is demonstrative of the conflict of truth versus power. As Jesus said He was a witness to the truth, the local Roman leader, Pontius Pilate, famously asked, “What is truth?”
“It is the question that is also asked by modern political theory: Can politics accept truth as a structural category? Or must truth, as something unattainable, be relegated to the subjective sphere?” the pope said.
Benedict added that when “truth counts for nothing,” justice is merely hostage to “changing opinions and powerful lobbies.”
He linked the condemnation of Jesus and the modern “failure to understand the meaning of creation … the failure to recognize truth.”
“As a result the rule of pragmatism is imposed, by which the strong arm of the powerful becomes the god of this world,” he said.
Benedict also examined Judas, the only one of Jesus’ 12 apostles who eventually betrayed Him. He explained that the other disciples believed Judas had come under the grip of Satan in the betrayal.
The pope said Judas stepped toward repentance by acknowledging his sin and giving back the silver he was paid for his actions, but added Judas’ “second tragedy” was that he could no longer believe in forgiveness.