In a long article by Marc Winokur (April 9, 2004), the author complained of misplaced Jewish sensitivity to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” The writer draws upon a literal reading of the gospels to argue that it is irrefutable that the Jews killed Jesus. Here are several passages:
To insist that Jews of first century Judea were not engaged, at least in some way, in the crucifixion of Christ, is taking refuge in a moral comfort zone that serves only to punctuate inveterate denial.
His [Jesus’] exhortations and orations must have put a great deal of pressure on both the ordinary and well-appointed Jews to change their ways—no small matter for any prophet to sustain without an inevitable backlash. Again, to pretend, under these circumstances, that some of the Jews did not have an interest in his departure from the social-political landscape simply flies in the face of human nature. Ask yourself, what possible purpose does it serve to support this cloak of innocence, given that the people who felt threatened by his challenge to the status quo were only behaving as human beings behave, even to this day? Although, complicity with the capture, and likely mutilation of one’s own ethnic, corporeal relation is not a laudable evocation of the best in human nature, it was not, and is not, a weakness specific to the people of Judea, or Jews in general. The roots and residue of treachery go far back, and way beyond that of the Jews in Christ’s time. After all, the Bible, particularly the First Testament, is fraught with horrific acts of betrayal, violence and human iniquity. For Jews to consistently proclaim their impeccability in this matter only sets up a kind of transcendental ethic that we are implicitly ascribing to ourselves.
Any doubt whatsoever about a [Jewish] cultural collaboration to put one of its best to death for political purposes demands serious scrutiny and collective redress.
This article is a plain, if softly worded, restatement of the age-old canard, “Christ killer.” It raises many issues, including these:
First, this has to be about the only positive review of Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic “The Passion of Christ” ever published in a progressive newspaper.
Second, this is the only example we can find of theology being published in the Berkeley Daily Planet. We can find no articles examining the Islamic doctrine of jihad, the Christian concept of the Trinity,or Hindu polytheism—just this solitary “Christ-killer” article.
Third, the author is dead wrong that it is historically self-evident that the Jews were complicit in the killing of Jesus. Not only has the Catholic Church abandoned this position, but the world’s foremost authority on the historicity of Jesus, John Dominic Crossan, has concluded in his classic book, Who Killed Jesus, that the Jews were utterly innocent of the crime. According to Crossan, the Jews were framed by the synoptic Gospel writers. They wrote after the temple priests, the Sadducees, had been completely destroyed in the revolt against Rome of 68-72 CE, and at a time when early Christians were in very stiff competition for the future of Judaism with the Pharisees, who had risen to fill the void left by the Sadducees. During this period of mutual antagonism and competition between the Pharisees and early Christians, Christian polemicists pinned the murder of Jesus on these early pre-Talmudic Rabbis. However, the Pharisees were country preachers, who had held absolutely no authority in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ death. Jesus himself was either a Pharisee or closely aligned with them. Even the Sadducees would have had absolutely nothing to do with sentencing anyone to death. In any event, Crossan concludes, there would have been no trial in the first place. Romans routinely carted off troublemakers to the cross without any formalities. Crossan concludes that the Romans alone were responsible.