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. nuser

    Jesus was a jew!

    March 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • YBP

      But the cult took off in a different direction. It's a pagan cult. So scapegoats were needed to make the story make sense.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  2. YBP

    The fact is that there is no written or archeological evidence outside of the Gospels, other than perhaps repeated rumors or later interpolations in a couple of ancient historical writings by Medieval scribes that this Jesus (whose name we are mispronouncing...it was Yeshua, Joshua in English) even existed. It's more than likely that he did not exist. That may sound crazy, or really way out there, but when you study this subject, you find that it is quite possible that Jesus never existed. We've been taught as children to believe in Jesus, so he's real to us. There are a lot misconceptions that children have about the real world.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  3. joe york

    quit the foolish talk "pope" ! you are just another person proffiting off the gosbel ! yes , jesus did lay down his life , but the fact is the romans hung jesus on the cross , but the jews condemed jesus and the fact is they that killed jesus has already died and have been judged by god ! the real story here is when will the people in politics quit with he said she said and act upon bringing are world to the piece it needs ? god-bless all

    March 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  4. 2011

    So pathetic, 1st: How can you believe that God can be killed when HE'S THE CREATOR OF CREATION?
    2nd: Where the hell is it mentioned that Jesus was God? Jesus never ever hinted, mentioned, said, wrote, acted, made gestures or thought that he was God or his son. Jesus was sent to the Jews as their Prophet, I don't how Europeans came to create Christianity in the 1st place and actually calling God a breathing, living human being who died by the way. God says to anything, BE AND IT IS. He created Jesus without a father, Eve without a mother and what about Adam; he had no father nor mother.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  5. oldborder

    Most Christians, and those who claim to be Christians, don't realize that the Jews nor the Romans killed Jesus. He said, "For this cause I came." He came to lay down His life for us, so that through His sacrifice the world "should not perish, but have everlasting life." Because He made man to live forever, and if man dies without Him, hell awaits. The Temple at Jerusalem was distorted in about 70 A.D., not because of the untruth that the Jews killed Jesus, but because "innocent blood was spilled" in Jerusalem, and also most importantly, because the LORD had left the Temple when JESUS said, "It is finished."

    March 2, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  6. Reality

    Again, going beyond B16 and the bible trap:

    (from Professor Crossan's book, "Who is Jesus" co-authored with Richard Watts)

    "Moreover, an atonement theology that says God sacrifices his own son in place of humans who needed to be punished for their sins might make some Christians love Jesus, but it is an obscene picture of God. It is almost heavenly child abuse, and may infect our imagination at more earthly levels as well. I do not want to express my faith through a theology that pictures God demanding blood sacrifices in order to be reconciled to us."

    "Traditionally, Christians have said, 'See how Christ's passion was foretold by the prophets." Actually, it was the other way around. The Hebrew prophets did not predict the events of Jesus' last week; rather, many of those Christian stories were created to fit the ancient prophecies in order to show that Jesus, despite his execution, was still and always held in the hands of God."

    "In terms of divine consistency, I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time, including Jesus, brings dead people back to life."

    March 2, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • YBP

      Excellent book. I read all Crossans work. The other day CNN ran a story about him, as if he was some nut-job. I disagree.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  7. YBP

    It turns out that religion has all been a big lie to control people and take their money and belongings, or what little they even have, and it's still going on in this modern day and age. Incredible

    March 2, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Dallas

      Since you or no one like you has been able to bring up a plausible scenario on who invented this grand scheme or who has directed it, let me ask you a question. Isn't it just a plausible to believe that atheism is an even bigger scam? Take a look at ANY officially atheist government and tell me what their motives were? How many people died? How many possessions were taken? The difference is to an atheist mind is that it was ok because morality doesn't compute. Why are atheist so desperate to spread their theory that they also can't prove? Just because you hate God and morality, don't expect everyone to fall into that hell.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  8. Dallas

    What the Holy Father is saying here is that it's ridiculous to blame the ENTIRE Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ. Just like it's ridiculous to blame all Christians for the child abuse scandals, all Muslims for terrorism, and all Americans for the apathy of our nation. What he's saying should be common sense, but people have a habit of lumping all members of any group together whenever it suits their purpose, instead of admitting individual responsibility. The same people who had Jesus taken to the Romans also persecuted the sect who were the beginning of modern Rabbinical Judaism and many, many others.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • YBP

      There's no such thing as a Holy Father in the real world. Take the blinders off.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Dallas

      @YBP I don't live in a world of moral relativism and nihilistic "reality." I believe my actions and life matter and am conscious of their long term effects. You have no way to know how this universe ticks, bro. Yet you make definite statements about the Holy Father. How exactly are you in a position to know?

      March 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  9. YBP

    Who really cares what this guy has to say? He's no expert on anything in real life. And he protects hundreds, if not thousands of child molesters! And that's all beside the point! The foundation of his entire Church is crumbling as archeologists and Historians uncover more about the Middle East in Antiquity than we have ever known

    March 2, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  10. Reality

    Getting past B16 and to those who look outside the bible box for the truth:

    From Professors Crossan and Watts' book, Who is Jesus.

    That Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, as the Creed states, is as certain as anything historical can ever be.

    “ The Jewish historian, Josephus and the pagan historian Tacitus both agree that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea. And is very hard to imagine that Jesus' followers would have invented such a story unless it indeed happened.

    “While the brute fact that of Jesus' death by crucifixion is historically certain, however, those detailed narratives in our present gospels are much more problematic. "

    “My best historical reconstruction would be something like this. Jesus was arrested during the Passover festival, most likely in response to his action in the Temple. Those who were closest to him ran away for their own safety.

    I do not presume that there were any high-level confrontations between Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod Antipas either about Jesus or with Jesus. No doubt they would have agreed before the festival that fast action was to be taken against any disturbance and that a few examples by crucifixion might be especially useful at the outset. And I doubt very much if Jewish police or Roman soldiers needed to go too far up the chain of command in handling a Galilean peasant like Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine the casual brutality with which Jesus was probably taken and executed. All those "last week" details in our gospels, as distinct from the brute facts just mentioned, are prophecy turned into history, rather than history remembered."

    See also Professor Crossan's reviews of the existence of Jesus in his other books especially, The Historical Jesus and also Excavating Jesus (with Professor Jonathan Reed doing the archeology discussion) .

    Other NT exegetes to include members of the Jesus Seminar have published similar books with appropriate supporting references.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • erich555

      No way I'm reading all of that.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • William

      I find it utterly hilarious that Crossan would try to use a Patristic Creed (a later church source) to utterly sidestep what's written right in the New Testament. Laughable. Jesus Seminar people are so typical of those in academia: they will take a horribly stupid idea with no historical or textual support that defies common sense and churn the crap out of it until it becomes the established view.
      Though the priesthood was not Jesus' primary opponent during his ministry, they had a very good reason for wanting Him dead: 1) he exposed the sin of Annas TWICE (the sin of Annas was selling blemished sacrifices at exhorbitant rates and getting kickbacks for it. Even rabbis in the Talmud rail against Annas for doing this. This is why Jesus turned over the moneychangers' tables in the temple - TWICE), and 2) even without advocating for violence, His presence in Jerusalem at Passover and his raising of Lazarus from the dead just prior to Passover was enough for the priesthood to believe that the Romans would take action against Jesus and His followers, with MASSIVE collateral damage, unless they took action first [Ciaphas blatantly states as much in the book of John].
      Plus, there were a number of prominent Pharisees in the Sanhedrin, and they had wanted to kill Jesus for a very long time. So basically, at this point in time there were enough people in the Sanhedrin who wanted him executed, and they saw to it that it happened. Pilate complied once he realized that they had more power to incite a mob than Jesus did.

      March 2, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  11. Truth-out!

    No, they just set him up and handed him over to the Romans, demanding that he be put to death. But aside from that, they didn't actually kill him.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Dennis

      It was just a 3 day dirt nap.

      Prometheus was chained to a stone and had a vulture eat his liver every day for an eon.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • YBP

      Which is what the early Christians would like you to believe. The gospels were written by first-third century cultists as (a) allegory, so none of it is historically true, and (b) as revenge toward the people that didn't accept them. It's all there in Mark's gospel. Read between the lines. Marks gospel tells you more about the people who wrote it than about anything historical.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  12. Dennis

    The great and powerful wizard of OZ has spoken.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  13. npguy

    Please Jesus protect me from your followers....

    March 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  14. rediranch

    As a Born-again Christian, I continually find it pointless to try to point fingers trying to say who killed Jesus Christ.

    It was God/Jesus Himself.

    The Jews simply played into the parts given to them by Him. If it wasn't the Jews, it would have been someone else. God sent His only begotten Son to Earth to die for the sins of man – the Jews didn't.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • YBP

      I would re-think the whole "born-again" thing. It just makes you sound like a fanatic.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  15. Joe

    He laid his life down and he took it up again. He did this for those who believe. And that is the gospel.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • YBP

      You sound quite brainwashed. Nevertheless, there's a bridge in Brooklyn that I would gladly sell to you, if you're interested.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  16. mc2323

    Welease Bwian!

    March 2, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  17. sockpuppet

    Hi atheists! Thanks for coming, yet again, to an article about something you don't believe in! Why are you so dang interested?

    March 2, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Wootie

      ...because it's only humane to assist those who need help. And as a class, anyone who lends any credence to any religion is in desperate need of help.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  18. Bill

    I want someone to prove to me there is a God...? You can't religion is outdated.....a friend once said and I totally agree "Religion is man's way of controlling man"....sounds about right to me. Just look at how many WARS have been fought because God said it was right....well who did he tell that to? Atheist and proud of it.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Ceri

      Enjoy your brief, meaningless life. You obviously don't know anything about my religion if you think it is being used to control me. That is a typical atheist excuse for not actually thinking aboutanyhting deeply. If anything, my faith frees me to be who I can be.

      As for wars, well my religion tells me to love my enemy and not to murder anyone, nor should I be greedy or long for other people's things. I'd be interested to know how you think that those teachings encourage me to start a war. You should not judge a religion by those who claim to followit but then IGNORE the religion's main teachings. Atheists like Stalin and Pol Pot, on the other hand, were real sweethearts, weren't they?

      March 2, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  19. Laurie

    We all are responsible for Christ's death. He sacrificed himself willingly to pay the penalty for our sins, because he loves us! If he had not died we would have no way to be saved.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Che-3

      Hey speak for yourself!
      We have NOTHING to do with HIS death. It's like blaming my 2-yr. old for the actions of Osama or Hitler or Dick Cheney. All we know and as stated in the Living Bible is that; it was the JEWS not Hindus who MURDERED, KILLED and NAILED the Son of The Living God (aka Jesus) to the CROSS on that fateful day. Read your Bible or The Scriptures thoroughly again. Lay blame where it TRUTHLY belongs.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • YBP

      It's more than likely that he didn't even exist. And it's impossible to die for someone else's sins. It's also immoral. Take responsibility for your own sins.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  20. mejazzbo

    How can anyone kill a fairy tale character.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • s1

      You don't need to believe in God, or even be a Christian to acknowledge that Jesus was a historical figure who did live at some point in history and was condemned to death b the Roman government. The rest of the story is up to you, but history is history.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Ceri

      mejazzbo, you need to study more, otherwise you just come over as a bigot.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • tim

      Jesus has never been a fairy tale character. Many do not believe he was the Son of God, but they don't doubt his existance. I suppose you think Mohammad was fairy tale character.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • YBP

      @ S1. You are absolutely wrong. Look into it. Get your facts straight. What proof do you have that a real-life Jesus ever existed? A bunch of ancient newsletters, written allegorically, several genrations, if not centuries after he was said to have lived? That doesn't really hold water.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
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