Isaac ch 3 The Crime of Deicide

Isaac ch 3 The Crime of Deicide - III THE CRIME OF DEICIDE...

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III THE CRIME OF DEICIDE 1 No idea, has been more destructive and has had more deadly effect on the scattered Jewish minorities living in Christian countries than the perni- cious view of them as the c c deicide people." In a recent study, a learned Jesuit Father, review- ing the various solutions that have boon offered to the problem of responsibility for the Crucifixion, the first of which was "full responsibility to the Jews," remarked, "This opinion has not been ac- cepted." Not accepted, I agree, among the best modern biblical scholars; but what an overwhelming ac- 109
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110 The Teaching of Contempt ceptanco it has had throughout the Christian world, echoing down the centuries even to our own time, with its allegedly objective historiography! I merely report here a historical truth which history itself reveals, at least to those of us who do not choose to avert our eyes, as a tragic, bloodstained reality.' In Jesus et Israel I devoted over two hundred pages to this dreadful accusation, the "crime of deicide"; and if I were to rewrite the book today, some fifteen years later, my presentation would be even fuller, tighter, more conclusive. However, within the limits of the present study I shall con- fine myself to the essential points. First of all there is the violence, the persistence of an accusation born, like those we have already examined, in the unfortunate climate of .Indco- Christian polemics which became increasingly prevalent between the first and the fourth cen- turies-a climate that encouraged the worst kind of slander. From this background emerged the re- curring theme of murder-of Israel as Cain, as Judas, as a murderous people, a "deicide" people -an epithet at once indelible and absurd, singled out to be an abomination to the Christian world. By one flourish of the magic wand of theology, old Israel is transformed from a crucified into a crucifying people. All the insults, all the final tor- ments-the flagellation, the nailing of Jesus to the The Crime of Deicide 111 cross-become the work of the Jews alone. Gone is the Roman Pontius Pilate, the all-powerful Procurator of Judea; gone are the Roman sol- diers, the executioners; gone is all historical reality. In the apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas, written as early as the end of the first century, we read: " [The Jews] shall say, 'Is not this He, Whom once we crucified and set at nought and spat upon. ," "F if dH' h . .• -- i or . . . you crucl Ie 1m t e only spotless and righteous man," says .J ustin Martyr in his second-century Dialogue with Trypho. In t.he same period, one of the earliest apocryphal gospels, the so-called Gospel of Peter, assigns the Jews sole responsibility for the Crucifixion. Thus nurtured, by the fourth century the theme of dei- cicle has spread throughout the Christian Empire: "Since their deicide, the .T ows have been blinded, can no longer lead anyone at all," says Eusebius.
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