Thoughts on Judaism

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Who killed Jesus?

According to the New Testament, in such form as it exists today, in all four versions of the story, there is no doubt that the Sadducees arranged to arrest, try and execute him, and the fact is beyond dispute.  The Sadducees even manipulated the Romans to perform the execution.  Who were the Sadducees and what was their relationship to "the Jews" of the John version, or the Jews of today?  The answers may surprise you.

The Sadducees were a cult of priestly lineage which controlled the Temple service in that time.  The Torah requires such lineage for service, so obviously the tribe demanded a great deal of power.  Ultimately, they rebelled against the Jewish nation and were considered a heretical sect, often called minim in the Talmud.  They rejected all court decisions and maintained their own courts, bound by none of the laws to which the Sanhedrin, the true ruling body, was bound.  Thus the trial of Jesus could be held on Pesach night (in Mat, Mark, Luke) or Pesach Eve (John), both illegal for such judgment in a Jewish court, held in the house of the High Priest, also an illegal place as the sanhedrin met in the room of Hewn Stone, and they judged him to death for "blaspheme", based on statements that he would destroy the Temple and that he was the Messiah, neither of which is blaspheme in a Jewish court (but rejection of the principle of the coming of the messiah is a known Sadducee position).  Obviously, the different versions of the stories have very different circumstances, but it is clear in all that the Sadducees, "the chief priests and scribes" were the holding the court, and they had the alliance and sway with the Romans to get political cooperation for the execution.

These Sadducees were bitter enemies of the Jewish sages, the Jewish people, and dangerously heretical in their stances

So even if one were to hold that the entire New Testament were true and historically accurate as written, there is no reason to hold the Jews responsible for the killing of Jesus.  Sorry Mr. Gibson, but you are wrong.  Blaming "the Jews" is no more accurate than blaming "the Americans" for the terrorist acts of the Weather underground or the Klan.  Certainly, in our times, we can finally accept the facts and even the most devoted fundamentalist Christians can rest easy in the fact that neither the Jews of today nor their ideological forebears and philosophical roots had anything to do with killing Jesus.

One of the underlying principles of Passover is that "in every generation, they have stood over us to destroy us" and this sad mistake has been part of that for the past two millenia in many parts of the world.  Reach out and correct this grievous error, which is based on ignorance of history. 


  • Never let the facts get in the way of a good pogrom.

    By Anonymous Mighty Garnel Ironheart, at 12:23 PM  

  • I don't think you can take Chazal's version of the Sadduccees as literal truth. They were writing hundreds of years later, and trying to establish themselves as heirs to the Pharisees.

    Josephus is basically pro-Pharisee but more of a neutral source. The Sadducees were not just a fringe group but the priestly aristocracy; they were leaders of the Jewish people just as the Pharisees were. But after the Temple was destroyed, the Sadducees disappeared because they were more focused on the Temple.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:45 PM  

  • Definitely, it was the Sadduccee, for the reasons you have mentioned. As they controlled the temple and tried to have good relations with Roman leadership, they were also very concerned about Jesus being called the King of the Jews, period - but especially entering Jerusalem during Passover. During this time, there was heightened Roman security for fear of riots, as there were many more Jews present, and the remembrance of being released from captivity for Passover, plus presently being oppressed by the Romans, and Jews waiting for a Messiah to deliver them, it was flashpoint to begin with. Then having Jesus marching in as King of the Jews? So it says right in the Gospels, the high priest stated that it would be better for one to die for the people rather than for all of the people to die. So they did this out of wanting to prevent problems with the Romans, both for their own interests, but also for the interest of the Jewish people to prevent a riot and violent crackdown.

    On a different note: the Pharisees. When Jesus speaks against Pharisees, it's likely the Shammai School (centered more in Jerusalem) rather than the Hillel School (more prevalent near Galilee). You can even see evidence for this in the interactions near Galilee vs. Jerusalem, and of course, in some similarities in Jesus' teachings with those of Hillel.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:46 PM  

  • It's also interesting that in Acts, the grandson of Hillel actually intercedes on behalf of the Apostles. He doesn't support their teachings, but rather prevents their persecution. So the idea of Jews persecuting Christians in the early days is not black and white, there was a varied reaction.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:25 PM  

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