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If my people, who are called by my Name, humble themselves and pray (Part One)

The text, for those who have trouble with a rather individual cursive, reads as follows: Scandal after Scandal. No institution safe....

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Who Killed Jesus? Murder or Suicide?

These are not  facetious questions, even though they may look as such to most Christians. There are three possible suspects if this is a murder case. The Jews, by which the New Testament (NT) means the Jewish Authorities (just as we refer to 'the Brits' or 'the French' when we are referring to their political establishments) ; the Romans, although most ignore them and, in today's increasingly Godless West, the charge is levelled, indirectly, at God Himself! This is usually by means of portraying Sacrifice and Atonement as some sort of Divine Infanticide  and then denying that it could be so.

As far as the Jews are concerned, this charge of murder is the most serious as all Jews, in all time and space, are lumped in with the Jewish Establishment of 2000 years ago and all are found guilty.

I am going to examine the evidence as presented in the Scriptures, but I will not be confining myself to the NT. Both the Tenach (Old Testament to Christians) and the NT are collections of Jewish books. Christians believe both sets of writings to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. If that is so, as I believe it is, then we must look to Tenach to shed light on the NT and vice versa. "The New is in the Old concealed; The Old is in the New revealed".

I hope that I might have some interested Jewish readers, but I must warn them that I am not making any concessions on what I believe. If you bear with me I hope, as they used to say, that you will learn something to your advantage and that does not mean that I expect you to convert.

Are we dealing with a charge of Murder? My first witness is God Himself (!) as recorded for us by Moses. Genesis 3:15. This is taken by Christians to be the first promise of a deliverer and it isn't going to be easy. The deliverer will be hurt in the process but Satan will be destroyed. Also the promise is given to all Mankind.

I could write a book on this without leaving the Tenach and no doubt some have. For the sake of brevity, I am going to pick some classic highlights. My next witness is Joseph. His life is a picture, but not totally, of the Messiah. Rejected by his brethren, cast into a pit and slavery, then exalted but still not recognised but eventually saving both his people and the Egyptians. Jesus, rejected by his brethren, cast into the pit of death and the Suffering Servant of all, then exalted, not yet recognised by his brethren, but ultimately He will save both Jew and Gentile. 

Just a reminder, my purpose here is not to proselytise, (but if you are convinced or decide to give the Gospel further consideration, I won't complain).  Now I will turn to King David and Psalm 22 . Jesus actually quotes the first and last lines of this from the Cross; which makes Him my next witness!

I also call Daniel, that most profound prophet of all things Messianic , which means Anointed One in English and is Christos in Greek. Finally, I will call Isaiah and, in particular, the prophecy found in Ch. 53 . It is worth reading this in conjunction with the Gospel accounts of the Crucifixion. Daniel warns that the Messiah will be cut off and Isaiah portrays the Suffering Servant. The Rabbis teach that this is Israel. The Church teaches that this is Israel Personified in its greatest and the only pure Son.

My point so far, is that the Christian understanding of these texts is that there has always been a plan that would involve the death of the Messiah. In due course, I will show how this affects our understanding of the Murder charge.

Again, for the sake of brevity, I will pick a few witnesses from the New Testament. My first witnesses are one Simeon who was righteous and devout and Anna, a prophetess of the Tribe of Asher. Notice the warning of pain and the promise of revelation to both Jew and Gentile.

Next I turn to John the Baptist and his proclamations in the wilderness. Finally, I could adduce multiple texts from Jesus Himself, but I will content myself with one namely the Transfiguration. Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28–36 Please note the subject matter of the conversation between Jesus , Moses and Elijah.

My understanding, and the understanding of all Christians who study the scriptures carefully, is that the death of Jesus was part of a long term plan. It was not a tragic accident which had to be rescued by Divine Intervention at the Resurrection.

How does that Plan affect the charge of murder? If Jesus was to be the sacrifice, who was to be the Priest? Clearly, in Jewish terms, not just anyone could offer sacrifice and no Jewish Priest would offer a human sacrifice. That went out with Abraham, Genesis 22. Jesus Himself would be the priest as prophesied by David in Psalm 110 and as confirmed in Hebrews 6:19-20

At this point, I would refer the reader to my previous post . Here again, you will see that Jesus exercises choice.

Crucifixion normally took several days to kill a man. However, as you will see from the gospel accounts when Jesus quotes from the last line of Psalm 22, he then 'gave up the ghost/spirit.' Having accomplished His work, Jesus dies and there is certainly a sense of a deliberate release. Indeed, a study of the Greek text of Matthew and John only confirms that.

Finally, I refer to the words of Jesus in the gospel of John 10:18  on the one hand and of Peter, on the other hand, in his sermon from Acts 2: 22 - 23. Here Peter specifically charges the Jews with killing by the hands of lawless men (Romans). Jesus has said that He lays down His life, but Peter charges the Jews with murder by proxy. Peter certainly speaks of the intent, but he also includes the proxy. Peter was addressing the Jews, and Gentiles - eventually, of his day and not all Jews for all time. We cannot charge the Jew with murder unless we also include the proxy - and the Roman Empire stands for the Gentile World. It is everyone or no-one.

Peter does not mention the Romans directly, but he is a Jew living under a military dictatorship. Also, this is the start of a new work. It was not the time to pick a fight, martyrdom would come later. Furthermore, his immediate audience was Jewish. If this text is wrenched out of the overall context that I have sketched out then it will become a pretext, which sadly, is what has happened over the centuries. Nor is Peter interested in abandoning Israel. In fact, he takes some persuading to admit Gentiles to the Church (Acts 10 and Galatians 2: 11 - 12

We must remember that Pontius Pilate had washed his hands of the affair. This did not exonerate him, as he hoped. It is what the Americans call malign indifference. He is complicit in the conspiracy to kill Jesus, but so also it seems is Jesus! 

So was it murder or suicide? In so far as it is the sinfulness of every human heart that has brought us to this place, then if we remain in rebellion all that can be seen is our anger against God. In that anger we stand with Cain and are guilty of murder for our sin has placed Him there. If we repent, we discover that He gave Himself for us as a willing sacrifice. It is a suicide of a particular sort. Durkheim, the great scholar of suicide, calls it 'altruistic suicide'. It is the fireman returning to burning building, the soldier who covers a grenade with his body, the husband who gives his life for his wife, the father who plunges into a raging torrent to rescue his child - most especially this latter.

It is murder for the unrepentant sinner and the gift of sacrificial love to the believer, without any discrimination.

Two conclusions that are sometimes drawn from this scenario are utterly unconscionable.

The first is to select any group of people and accuse them alone of being Christ-killers. That this charge has been laid against the Jew is biblically illiterate and theologically ignorant. The Jew is no more or less a Christ-killer than any other person.  It is the same category of error as taking Noah's curse on Canaan, applying it all Canaan's descendants, especially Cush and then using it to justify the enslavement of Africans.

It is worth reminding ourselves that this whole thing of salvation has been delivered to the Gentiles by the Jews, even if they don't always see that, but there are plenty of Gentiles who don't always see that as well.

The second is to accuse God of  Divine Infanticide and then deny that one believes in this and with that deny the Atoning Sacrifice. What this does is to put believing Christians into the same pariah category as Jews have been put into over the centuries. Both are then accused, for different reasons, but the same motive of God-hatred, of revelling in a dead Jesus; conveniently forgetting the Resurrection.

To summarise: Who killed Jesus? Directly, the coup de grace, the killing blow, as it were, was given by Jesus Himself when he released His spirit. Indirectly, everyone, because our sins put Him there. Was it murder or suicide? Murder, because all rebels seek to destroy the image of God and even to storm Heaven and destroy God. Suicide, because God seeks to reconcile us to Himself in Christ Jesus because He loves us so much, John 3:16 and John 15: 12 - 17.

At the school I attended from eleven to eighteen, we had a school chapel. Picked out in gold lettering around the panelling in the chapel were these words;



  1. As a Jew (coming here from Daphne Anson's blog), I would like to add a comment. Some years back, and on another site, I asked, with reference to the saving of Barabbas over Jesus by the crowd, whether this was, in political - even realpolitik - terms credible. Pilate had survived several decades in the bear-pit that was Rome, especially in the age of Augustus/Tiberius. To say the least, any Rule of Law that had survived under the Republic had gone.

    Pilate had to have been a wily politician. Barabbas was far less of a threat than Jesus. The former was merely a bandit. The Romans could have picked him up (to use modern police parlance) any time they wanted. And what were a few dead citizens (let alone subjects of the Empire)?

    Now, Jesus represented a real political threat: nothing less than a rewriting of the legal, moral and even political codes. A revolution in the offing if nothing was done. Nothing personal, Ian, but from a secular perspective, this might make as much sense as any other scenario, without needing to go into religio-moral mode.

    Well, it's a thought!

    1. Thank you for your comment. It is a very good one. However, the threat that Jesus represented was not so much a rewriting of the moral codes. He tended to tighten things up. It would take to long in a comment reply, but I'll make a note of this for later. This is exactly what I'm hoping for, intelligent comment that will spark further posts.

      Jesus wasn't really challenging legal codes except where they were not up to standard. The religious challenge was more complicated. If you accept that He was the Messiah, it changed everything, especially if the Messiah was God Incarnate.

      He had convinced Pilate that He was not a political threat. He was not interested in creating a Jewish Kingdom. If anything, Pilate might have bought into that. A moral and Davidic King, far better than the Herods, who had scandalised even Rome, could have been a real coup if He did not challenge Rome. The Establishment made it a challenge to the Emperor, 'We have no King but Caesar'.

      The problem was that Pilate was not a wily politician, you give him too much credit. He was well connected, but out of favour. His brutal and thuggish methods had caused unrest and Rome was not happy. In Luke 13:1, he is recorded as mingling the blood of Galileans with their sacrifices. This is entirely consistent with secular sources. He was far from subtle. The Establishment cornered him. The forty lashes were an attempt to avoid a decision. Had Jesus died under the lash, in Roman law, no-one would have been guilty. Good try, didn't work. Hence the Barabbas thing.As you say, this is moot. Perhaps he wanted the crowd to rescue Jesus, perhaps he did not. Either way, he then washes his hands and gave us all a metaphor. His contribution to civilisation!

      However, Pilate's motives, the establishment's, or even Judas' motives are not relevant. What matters are the underlying spiritual forces and the playing out of a battle between God and Satan that had already been foretold. Human motives, although relatively free (bad guys tend to be obsessed), are only the means by which the endgame will be achieved.

      Your point, though valid, also avoids the small matter of the Resurrection.

    2. Brian Goldfarb2 April 2013 at 22:28

      Ah, well, but I am Jewish, so, again, without wishing to be rude and certainly not to insult or start a religious dispute, this is of little concern to me. It is outwith my religious sphere.

      To put it plainly, to most Jews, the Messiah hasn't yet come, and to many (I put no figures on any of this), he will be heralded by a returning Elijah: thus "Elijah's cup" at the seder meal. This means that the Resurrection does not impinge on us, except insofar as too many Christians over the intervening centuries have used this as a stick (both literally and, too often, more than literally) with which to beat us. While I am disturbed by the Biblical injunction to hold guilt for sins even unto the 3rd and 4th generations, I'm even more disturbed by those prepared to place guilt on those 8000 generations after the fact (the number of generations depends on how long one measures a generation as covering). I don't hold those not alive at the time, and, more, those below the age of responsibility then, responsible in any way for the Shoah.

      As to your point that "the playing out of a battle between God and Satan that had already been foretold" is part of this scenario, there are many who would claim that this battle is yet to reach a climax. This is not something I have a view on.

      However, I am inclined to agree that at lest part of this discussion may well belong below (or above, depending on how one views the organising of a website.

    3. "I don't hold those not alive at the time, and, more, those below the age of responsibility then, responsible in any way for the Shoah."

      I won't question the sincerity of this statement, but on its face it is disingenuous. If in fact some Germans continued, and certainly after '8000 generations,'to treat Jews as some Jews continue to treat Christians, I'm guessing that your animosity for Germans might continue for a long time after the Shoah and we might not think it unreasonable that you do.

      I don't care to construct a dissertation here on all the slights and lethalities against Christians from the time of Jesus's death through First Century persecutions and murders to later incidents such as Mamilla Pool outside Jerusalem where in 614 CE Jews massacred 60,000+ Christians who refused to deny Christ, which followed with church and book burnings throughout Palestine. Fast forward to the Bolsheviks, disproportionately represented by Jews, and the millions, yes millions, who were killed in part because of their Christianity. Spend an hour online doing research about Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn and Israel who harass and spit on Christian clergy as they walk by. Look into the hateful and obscenely insulting comments about Christ and Christians throughout the Talmud (and Zohar) and hear the things converted Jews share that they were told in their homes about Christians.

      I've long thought that the greatest disservice some Jews do to themselves and their culture is to continue to propagate - and believe themselves - that any distaste or discomfort with Jews throughout time is due to some mystical thing called 'antisemitism' that appears out of nowhere completely independent of any actions by individual or collective Jews. It's a convenient ruse if you can get away with it.

      Jews have since the beginning of Christianity, and do now, harbor a cultural hatred - not just distrust, but hatred - of all things and all people Christian. My experience is that Jews are much more consumed with Christians than Christians are with The Chosen.

    4. I have published this, not because I agree, I most certainly do not, but because whether or not his/her facts are true she/he hides behind anonymity.

      Either we face uncomfortable facts and work through them or we continue in hate and distrust. The value of this post is a reminder that we are all victims and perpetrators.

      However, it lacks Grace or Love and in doing so it loses sight of Truth.

  2. Of course, this is where the line is drawn. Is Jesus the Messiah/Christ? I will address that, briefly, here; but at length in due course. Briefly, in Abraham all nations are to be blessed. The Messiah, going back to Adam, was never solely Jewish property. The best of Jews would also be the best of men and all men would look to the Messiah for blessing. Now find me another Jew who has brought as many Gentiles to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as Jesus has and we have a discussion. As to how this all fell apart, again, that belongs elsewhere. No-one is blameless.

    As to Elijah, Jesus addressed that in three ways. Firstly, He said that John the Baptist had come 'in the spirit of Elijah'. Secondly, on the mount of Transfiguration, Elijah appeared with Moses, and thirdly, the communion cup that Jesus used 'after supper, He took the cup' is almost certainly the Elijah cup. In addition, there are two witnesses mentioned in Revelation. Those scholars who take this piece of Apocalyptic seriously are agreed that Elijah is most likely to be one of them. Many Christians agree with Jews that Elijah will come before the King Messiah. We think that Jesus was the prophet like unto Moses, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, and is currently interceding as priest (Joshua(!)in Zechariah and Melchizedk). This puts Jews and Christians in the same boat! Waiting for the King Messiah. The dispute is over whether this is a first or a second coming!

    The length of a generation is the subject of some debate. I have no definitive answer.I don't think any serious scholar has either.

    I agree with you about placing guilt on generations after the fact. That was one of the points I made, but not in those terms. I think that the third and fourth generation stuff is about the length of time consequences take to play out, unless renewed; sadly, renewed far too frequently. Righteousness lasts a 1000 generations, but most people forget that.

    Has the battle reached a climax? War tends to have several crunch points. Since WW2 an analogy has been drawn between D-Day (the Cross) when victory was achieved but had to be worked out and Berlin (The establishment of a new regime - the {1st./2nd.} coming of the Messiah.

    There are far too many misconceptions, on both sides, that have been built up over 2000 years. I hope to try and address some of these in the course of time. There is also a morass of pain. If I can do something towards navigating a path through this morass, I will have done well for Jew and Christian. Pray for me, it won't be easy :-)!