Jews did not kill Jesus, pope writes in new book
Pope Benedict XVI on March 2, 2011.
March 2nd, 2011
12:47 PM ET

Jews did not kill Jesus, pope writes in new book

The Jewish people are not collectively responsible for the death of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI writes a book to be published next week.

Many Catholics and other Christians blamed Jews for Jesus' death for hundreds of years, but the Catholic Church formally repudiated that assertion in the 1960s.

Benedict underlines the new position in his book "Jesus of Nazareth."

"Who has insisted on the condemnation of Jesus to death?" he asks in the book, referring to scenes in the Gospels where the people of Jerusalem demand that Roman governor Pontius Pilate have Jesus crucified.

The Gospel of John says the people in question were "the Judeans," but the pope says the term "does not refer to - unlike the modern reader may tend to interpret - the people of Israel as such, and it doesn't even have a 'racist' connotation."

Far from meaning all Jewish people, Benedict writes, "the circle of prosecutors pursuing the death of Jesus" is the "aristocracy of the Temple," or the priesthood.

"Even that is not without exception," he adds in the book, excerpts of which were obtained by CNN.

Benedict has had a difficult relationship with Jews during his six-year papacy.

He infuriated many by welcoming back into the church a rebel bishop who is on record as saying that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler did not have a systematic plan to murder Europe's Jews. The rebel bishop also minimized the role of the Auschwitz death camp in the Holocaust.

Benedict later ordered the bishop, Richard Williamson, to recant his views, saying the Vatican was not aware of them when it decided to lift his excommunication.

Benedict also put his predecessor, Pius XII, on the path to sainthood, further antagonizing many Jews, who believe the World War II-era pope did little to save Jews from Hitler.

But Benedict also last year became the first pope to visit Rome's main synagogue since 1986, trying to smooth feathers on an annual "Day of Dialogue" with the Jewish community.

The Jewish community "believes that Benedict's desire to continue dialogue is sincere," said Lisa Palmieri-Billig, the American Jewish Committee's liaison to the Holy See, just before the January 2010 meeting. "They believe the dialogue and the relationship are very important."

CNN's Gisella Deputato contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Judaism • Pope Benedict XVI

soundoff (1,434 Responses)
  1. Phil in Oregon

    The Romans killed Him. If the Jews killed Him they would have stoned Him. Caiphus, in his place as High Priest did invoke the guilt on himself and all Israel when Pilate questioned him about it afterward. "His blood(guilt) be upon our heads, and the heads of our children" People have used that as an excuse to oppress the Jews ever since.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • albert

      If you paid the Mafia to have someone killed, yes I suppose that you can say that you didn't personally kill him, but guess who goes to prison anyway? The Jews were given a choice and they shouted "impale him". That makes them guilty of murder.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  2. GnatB

    Uhm... duh? It was the people *there* that asked for him to be put to death over the other guy, and even then it was the religious hierarchy pushing for it. A handful of people != a race of people. And as others have stated, Jesus and pretty much all the disciples were Jewish... (possibly ALL of them?) Christianity is basically a Jewish sect.

    And besides, If you're a christian then you believe Jesus was the Son of God, with everything that implies. At any time he felt like it he had the power to come off that cross. The only reason he didn't was to cleanse humanties sins. So it's humanities fault as a whole that he died. And if he didn't, under christian belief, we would all be going to hell. So one would argue whomever it was that had him killed should be thanked. If not, look in the mirror and blame yourself.

    Of course, if not a christian, then it's all pretty irrelevant.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  3. Mohammed

    Jews didn't kill him cause us Muslims did. We're gonna kill everyone that isn't a muslim and when we do that we'll start killing each other!

    March 2, 2011 at 5:35 pm |

      In RESPONSE TO MOHAMMED: YOU'RE AN IDIOT! You make your people look bad! Also, please go bomb yourself in the middle of no where, and this way you can do all of us a favor.

      June 20, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  4. Enoch

    Hey, if you are looking for accuracy in historical writings, look no further than the Catholic church.

    Oh, wait...

    March 2, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • albert

      Catholics are not Christians. I may say that I am 6'6" and great looking, but what I am and what I say or wish to be are two different things.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  5. Bill Henry

    @Jeebs – Re: Jesus didn’t exist.

    I can understand that there are a tremendous number of mutually contradictory beliefs regarding who Jesus was, what he accomplished, and the relevance of all of this in one’s personal life. The point of this particular reply, though, is with regard to his historicity and whether or not he actually existed.

    Josephus and Tacitus were two respected historians who lived in the first century and were not Christians. They mention Jesus Christ as a historical figure. Describing how Roman Emperor Nero blamed the Christians for the fire in Rome in 64 C.E., Tacitus wrote: “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus [Christ], from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.

    Why would Nero have blamed an imaginary person for real-world events?

    Additionally, regarding the references made by first- and second-century historians to Jesus and the early Christians, the Encyclopædia Britannica, 2002 Edition, says: “These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds at the end of the 18th, during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.” In 2002, an editorial in The Wall Street Journal stated: “Most scholars, barring the stray atheist, have already accepted Jesus of Nazareth as a historical person.”

    Again, whether or not you choose to base your particular brand of faith Jesus is your concern. As you wish. But to state that he never existed as a person is a fundamentally baseless assertion.

    Mark Twain made the following comment: ‘…it is better to have people think you a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt…’

    Good day to you, sir.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  6. p. pilot


    Please refrain from using Latin abbreviations you do not know how to spell.

    I bet you think the "calvary" is what didn't save Custer at his last stand....

    March 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  7. fillcore

    Like this guy or anyone else has any idea who killed who 2,000 years ago. What a joke.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  8. Robert

    It's sad that the so called "followers" of Jesus use his crucifixion as an excuse for anti-Semitism some 2,000 years after the fact.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  9. am a Muslim !!

    and I think that the pope have a lot of things to do other than finding out some thing that happened in 2011 yrs ago right ?

    March 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  10. manicdrummer

    Thanks, Pope, even though it comes 1,900 years too late. Now let's see some proof that Jesus actually existed. I mean, proof outside of the New Testament. If you can find evidence that there was a King Herod and a Pontius Pilate, surely you can find proof of Jesus' existence. Otherwise, the whole of Christianity has no messiah, thus no foundation. And we'd like all those Christian "holy sites" all over Israel demolished. Israel will need the room to build new housing for all the Jewish refugees who will come pouring in from North America by the end of this year, yet another dirty little secret that most people don't know about.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • albert

      Historians are in agreement that Jesus did in fact exist. Whether you believe he was the son of God is a completely different topic. That would be the equivalent of someone saying 2000 years from now, prove to me existed. Just because you didn't see Jesus or don't believe in him doesn't mean he didn't exist. Don't try to deny or change fact. How will anyone be able to prove that YOU existed 2000 years from now?

      March 2, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Bill Henry

      I love your sweeping assertions. You certainly strike one as being well read, broad minded and a person given to reason.

      As such, I thought the following might bolster your already vast and in-depth understanding of world history.

      The New Encyclopædia Britannica (1987) states: “Independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus.”

      What are some of these independent accounts? According to the Jewish scholar Joseph Klausner, there is the testimony of the early Talmudic writings. (Jesus of Nazareth, page 20) There is also the testimony of the first-century Jewish historian Josephus. For example, he describes the stoning of James, identifying him as “the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ.”—Jewish Antiquities, XX, [ix, 1]

      In addition, there is the testimony of early Roman historians, especially that of the highly regarded Tacitus. He wrote early in the second century about “a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus [Christ], from whom the name [Christian] had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators.” (The Annals, XV, XLIV)

      Viewing the evidence that Jesus was a historical person as overwhelming, the French philosophical moralist of the 18th century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, testified: “The history of Socrates, which nobody presumes to doubt, is not so well attested as that of Jesus Christ.”

      However, as you already knew all of the above, maybe we should all defer to your wisdom and breathlessly await your sage response.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Mark9988

      Winner of today's silliest post

      March 2, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Gex

      Actually there is a wealth of evidence regarding Jesus of Nazareth and his existence... Starting with the Roman historic records themselves, but you will have to dig those up yourself if you are really serious about finding out if he existed. There are also cross references from other cultures which allude to Him. That is all outside of the of the bible. I also offer you one final point, you really think the whole of humanity is going to allow time to be split in the middle by a fictional character... AD or BC (Before Christ, After Death of Christ). That whole division of time may have religious origins, but the secular community did not have to perpetuate it if the figure did not exist. ...No doubt he existed, check your facts...

      The question is, was He truly the son of God who died for your sins and my sins, and resurrected on the third day?... That question also has some proof which I will not go into, but it's not conclusive... and it will never by, because that question can only be answered from the heart and with faith... You either believe that or you don't. It's your choice and I won't put you down if you don't believe, don't put me down if I believe, which I do... That is the only thing I ask.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  11. JB!

    Jews didn't kill Jesus, we did. By not doing anything about the Jews

    March 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Moss Jacobs

      id like to do somthing about you before you do somthing to sombody else.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Thinker23

      You did A LOT about the Jews, buddy... You've murdered six million of them.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  12. am a Muslim !!

    I have a lot a lot of Jews and Christians friends but no one of us feel like am from a different religion at all !! because we are all HUMANS !! wht we should care wht s ur religion ?
    for me I dont care wht others religions are !! the only thing I care about is is he a good person or not ?
    and I shouldnt judge the whole religion from wht I hear or wht others say !!
    to the people who said some bad things about Muslims , do u have Muslim friends ? am sur u dont have according to ur view of point..
    then plz meet one or just talk to him not only one u should do this with alot of them !! because u'll never know the other except if u talked to him !!
    and thats wht I did , I didnt judge on jews or christians before I met alot of them ! and because of that I have alot of Different religions frinds , believe me 🙂
    sur in every nation there is bad and good people but maybe the good thing is not shown to all ...
    sorry for being expatiated 😛

    March 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  13. robert frost

    "Kristians" killed Jesus!

    March 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  14. albert

    And the Pope continues the Catholic tradition of killing Jesus in the spiritual sense. All there traditions and lies are not from the Bible. They do not follow the Christ. People like the Catholic Popes are the ones that had Jesus killed which is why Jesus spoke out against them (Pharisees, religious leaders).

    March 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  15. wendy5

    they may not have killed him but they didnt stop whoever did it; did they; but the jews want us to save them from the nazis and the muslims ect ect;

    March 2, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Well, Wendy, you DID NOT save the Jews from the Nazis.if you did then six million Jews would not be murdered. You also DID NOT save the Jews from the Muslims who murdered many thousands of them. This means that YOU are at least six million times WORSE than those Jews who did not save Jesus.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • fu9l

      stupid responce like you could stop a army if they tryed to kill someone yu love i doubt it same thing here sometimes theres nothing you can do

      March 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • pazke

      Um...the Jews were not in charge. The Romans were. So how do you suggest they would have stopped it?

      March 2, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Moss Jacobs

      Thinker23, you took the words out of my mouth. A+

      March 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  16. Pwanda

    I think it's obvious that they had to bribe the Roman guards to "mercy kill" Jesus, otherwise he would have hung up there for days...and Jesus was just starting to realize that god didn't exist, too!

    March 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Gex

      ...Yeah, and then the resurrection comes along and he realized God is pretty real after all.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • LookAndSEE

      Your unbelief is not accurate. All four Gospels tell of Jesus dying at 6:00pm.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  17. Wim

    "The Jewish people are not collectively responsible for the death of Jesus"
    Well, that's a relief, because rabbi Yeshua was a Jew himself.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  18. JohnQuest

    If not then who did?

    March 2, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Phred


      March 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Duh

      Roman soldiers

      March 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Mark9988

      No one was allowed to carry out an execution without the consent of the Roman government. This is why the Jews went to Pilate in the first place.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  19. joe

    They didnt kill him,just threw him under the bus.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • robert frost

      "Christians" killed Jesus!

      March 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  20. Otto

    Jesus was a JEW....

    March 2, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Michael58

      1900 years to late from a Nazi youth Go figure. Who killed the Jews there? Jesus? Come On Vatican Sell some gold and get modernized...

      March 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • nourmad

      An apostate jew.

      Its like saying someone declaring themselves the son of god to be catholic at this point.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • sealchan

      The way I look at it, it was Jesus' own people, the Jews, who pushed to have Jesus executed by the Romans. But this is not so much about Jews per se but any people who had to experience God becoming one of them. It could have happened t anyone. Like Malcolm X is believed to have been assassinated by the organization he worked so long to help...

      March 2, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
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