Christ Killer has become a common moniker for Jews during these past 1,900 years. Under this theme, Jewish blood has flowed down the streets of not only Jerusalem but numerous other European cities as well. John Chrysostom, the fourth-century bishop, accused the entire Jewish people of deicide—the killing of God!
John Chrysostom (c. 347 – 407) was an important Early Church Father who served as archbishop of Constantinople and is known for his fanatical antisemitism, collected in his homilies, such as Adversus Judaeos. The charge of Jewish deicide was the cornerstone of his theology, and he was the first to use the term deicide and the first Christian preacher to apply the word deicide to Jews collectively. He held that for this putative 'deicide', there was no expiation, pardon or indulgence possible. —Wikipedia
But can an entire race of people be blamed for the death of Yeshua? The Church Fathers thought so and were intent on pinning the blame on all Jews. Here is just a small sample:
The true image of the Hebrew is Judas Iscariot, who sells the Lord for silver. The Jew can never understand the Scriptures and forever will bear the guilt for the death of Jesus…they bear the guilt for the death of the Savior, for through their fathers they have killed Christ. —Augustine
The blood of Jesus falls not only on the Jews of that time, but on all generations of Jews up to the end of the world. —Origen
What about the Romans?
And if you can blame an entire race or ethnicity for the actions of a few, why isn’t anyone calling for the death of all Italians? It was Pontius Pilate, the Roman who gave the death order, and Roman soldiers who callously mocked, beat, and nailed Him to the cross. Yes, the Jewish leaders were involved but Pilate carried it out.
And we must ask ourselves, did these Jewish leaders reflect the feeling of the Jewish people? It is recorded that these leaders were afraid of the multitudes of Jews who loved Him.
But when [the Sanhedrin] sought to lay hands on [Yeshua], they feared the multitudes [of Jews!]. (Matt. 21:46 NKJV)
Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.” (Matt. 26:3-5)
Mike Moore shares:
“They arrested him at night and tried him in secret so that on the morning of the crucifixion the majority of the population of Jerusalem appeared to have been astonished and dismayed to discover he had been condemned: "And a great multitude of the people followed him … who mourned and lamented him." (Luke 23:27 NKJ)
Yeshua was taken to the home of Pilate by a small group of jealous Jewish leaders, not the Jewish people.
“Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus.” (John 18:12)
“Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor.” (John 18:28)
Nowhere in the New Testament does it claim the entire city was calling for His death, but a crowd of people, out of about a half a million who were in the city at the time… and even the crowd had been worked up by the religious leaders. Yeshua was loved by the Jewish masses and they came from all over the region to hear Him teach and be healed of their diseases.
“And wherever he went—into [Jewish] villages, [Jewish] towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.” (Mark 6:56)
Part of the problem is the way the phrase, “The Jews” is interpreted in the book of John. More often than not, it is referring to the group of men who brought Yeshua to Pilate. In John 18, it does not use that phrase—the Jews—but ‘Jewish religious leaders’ and ‘Jewish authorities.’
The problem with the way many use the term the Jews is that it makes it appear as if all of the Jews were involved in Yeshua’s arrest. Scripture makes it clear that a very large number of Jews followed Yeshua, even some high-profile leaders like Nicodemus.
“When he had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’ So the multitudes said, ‘This is Yeshua, the prophet of Nazareth.’” (Matt. 21:10, 11)
Many of the people believed in him, and said, “When Messiah comes, will he do more signs than these which this man has done?” (John 7:31)
Nevertheless, even among the [Jewish] rulers many believed on him.” (John 12.42)
And in the book of Acts, it says that a great number of Jewish temple priests became believers (Acts 6:7). Some believe the book of Hebrews was written to these temple priests living in exile. After coming to faith, they could no longer perform their duties since the once-for-all-time sacrifice had already been made.
Who are "The Jews"
When John uses the phrase the Jews, referring to those who arrested Yeshua, it can be proven that he meant just the leaders. Check this out:
“Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.” (John 18:14)
This is referring to the plot to kill Yeshua after He raised Lazarus from the dead. John says Caiaphas advised the Jews… Who were the Jews? We need just return a few chapters to the story of Lazarus to find out to whom he is referring:
“Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin…Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’” (John 11:47, 49-50)
So when John says that Caiaphas said this to the Jews, he was referring to the Sanhedrin—just 70 men, the Jewish ruling council—not all Jews!
John records it was the leaders who shouted for Him to be crucified. “As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!’” (John 19:6)
In the other accounts, where it mentions the crowd joining in, it seems clear they were manipulated by the leaders, as Matthew writes, “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Yeshua executed.” (Matt. 27:20) We are not told the means by which they persuaded the crowd but bribery would have been the common resource of the time. (They had paid witnesses to provide false evidence at the trial the day before.)
And clearly, this persuaded crowd did not represent the people of Israel, as there were approximately 100,000 Jews living in Jerusalem, and because it was Passover, there could have been upward of another 500,000 visitors in Jerusalem at that time. Do we really think there were 600,000 Jews at Pilate’s Jerusalem Palace?
This is not a minor issue, as so many Jews have been falsely blamed for the death of Yeshua, even killed as part of this accusation of being Christ-killers. It is important to emphasize that it was primarily the Jewish leaders who were jealous of Yeshua and went to Pilate. The multitudes loved Him.
The entire Jewish nation has been blamed for the actions of a small group of jealous, politically-oriented leaders and a manipulated crowd. But it must be pointed out that not all the leaders were jealous of Him.
“Yet, at the same time, many even among the [Jewish] leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue.” (John 14:42)
These Jewish leaders believed but were afraid. Nicodemus was a Jewish leader, a member of the Sanhedrin, in fact. He was initially scared to be caught even speaking with Yeshua and so met with Him in secret, but eventually, he became one of His most ardent followers.
“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’” (John 3:1-2)
It is entirely false to claim:
1) That all Israel rejected Yeshua.
2) That the Jews, or even the Romans for that matter, were responsible for killing Yeshua.
Yeshua said that it was His decision to die.
“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)
Yeshua chose to die for us. If He did not submit to the cross, we would not be enjoying salvation.
Originally published on January 23, 2016