Criswell Theological Review 7.2 (1994) 103-123.

              Copyright © 1994 by The Criswell CollegeCited with permission.    



                  WHO KILLED THE LORD?




                                           THOMAS D. LEA

                       Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

                                              Fort Worth, TX


The background of Jesus was that of atypical Jewish boy. Jesus was

born of Jewish parents in the homeland of the Jews. He was raised ac-

cording to Jewish customs and dedicated in the temple (Luke 2:41-51).

He passed into adulthood practicing his religion in words and deeds,

and he regularly attended the synagogue. The teaching of Jesus is very

Jewish in its content, and a person hearing it is struck with the authori-

tative demands presented in it (Mark 1 :22).

            At the beginning of Christianity numbers of Jews accepted the

claims and teaching of Jesus (Acts 2:41; 4:4). The earliest church was

composed almost entirely of Jews. The idea of admitting Gentiles who

had not initially converted to Judaism provoked a serious controversy

in the church (Acts 15:1-35). The church later became chiefly Gentile,

but a remnant of believing Jews always welcomed Jesus as Messiah

and Lord (Rom 11:1-5).

            Most of Jesus' nation rejected his claims. We find evidence of this

rejection in the words of John: "He came to that which was his own, but

his own did not receive him" (John 1:11). Acts closes with Paul describ-

ing the Jews as people whose "heart has become calloused; they hardly

hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes" (Isa 6:10 quoted

in Acts 28:27).

            With the passing of nineteen hundred years the involvement of

Jews in the Christian church has changed very little. The church today

is predominantly Gentile, but we find a growing remnant of Jews. The

last two hundred years have produced some remarkable developments

among the Jews, and we see unusual evidence of this in our century.




The freeing of Jews from ghettos produced greater economic free-

dom for them. Despite some significant setbacks this century has seen

a general diminishing of social prejudice against Jews. Animosity and

prejudice have been replaced in many instances by growing trust and

dialogue. One result of this new freedom has been a constructive study

of Jesus by Jewish scholars.1

            The number of Jewish writers on the subject of Christianity has

mushroomed in our century. Jewish publishing houses are increasingly

producing materials dealing with Jesus and the Gospels.2 Jewish writers

demonstrate their own distinctive approach to the Gospels, but most

Christians would take strong issue with their views.

            Jewish scholars distinguish between the Jesus of history and the

Christ of faith. They view Christianity as the creation of the apostle

Paul, who imported Hellenistic ideas and changed the message of Jesus.

They show more interest in the teaching of Jesus than in his actions

and claims. The familiarity of Jewish scholars with the Old Testament

and with Jewish backgrounds of the Gospels equips them to share sig-

nificant insights about the content of the Gospels. Most Christians see

a deficiency in their approach, but Jewish scholars can provide assis-

tance in understanding Jewish customs, culture, and mindset.

            Contemporary Jewish approaches to the study of Jesus reflect the

following general beliefs by Jewish scholars:

            1. Jesus came to reform Judaism, not to bring teaching or ideas

which were new.

            2. The content of the Gospels reflects the theology of the early

church and is not always a historically reliable source of information.

            3. The Fourth Gospel and Paul are viewed as antithetical to Juda-

ism. Many Jewish scholars do not give them a serious consideration.

            4. The contact of Paul with Gentiles in spreading the gospel led

him to form a new religion different from what Jesus had intended.3


                                    The Jews in the Fourth Gospel


            The Fourth Gospel uses the term "the Jews" (Ioudaioi) seventy

times. The expression frequently occurs in a context to designate the


            1 Donald A Hagner, The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,

1984),24. Hagner's survey of Jewish developments proved helpful in providing material

for the summary of this section.

            2 The Jewish publishing house KTAV republished Claude Montefiore's work The

Synoptic Gospels in 1968 (first published in 1909). The same publisher has joined with

the Anti-Defamation League in reprinting Samuel Sandmel's A Jewish Understanding

of the New Testament (original 1956; reprint 1974).

            3 For additional discussion of these ideas see the chapter in Hagner, "The History

of the Jewish Study of Jesus; 41-71.

            Thomas D. Lea: WHO KILLED THE LORD?                    105


opponents of Jesus.4 R. Bultmann provided a classic definition to this

hostile use of the term when he said:

                 The term oi[  ]Ioudai?oi, characteristic of the Evangelist, gives an overall

            portrayal of the Jews, viewed from the standpoint of Christian faith; as the

            representatives of unbelief (and thereby, as will appear, of the unbeliev-

            ing "world" in general).5


            Typical of a contemporary Jewish response to the Fourth Gospel is

the article by M.J. Cook, Professor of Intertestamental and Early Chris-

tian Literature at Hebrew Union College.6 Cook indicates that for Jews

"the nub of the problem. . . lies preeminently with one expression in

John, namely, 'the Jews.'"7 He notes that the term "the Jews" appears

only sixteen times in the Synoptics in contrast with the seventy in

John's Gospel. Most of the usages in the Synoptics occur in relationship

with the use of the phrase "king of the Jews," and the term does not

normally denote the opponents of Jesus.

            After examining John's use of the term "the Jews,” Cook arrives at

the conclusion that the usage does not "signify any specifically pejora-

tive intent since in other words employing the term the intent is not

necessarily denigrating of Jews."8 Why then did John use the term?

            Cook concludes that John is not a historian, and thus we cannot

look to the Fourth Gospel for a historically reliable account of the ac-

tual role of the Jews. He finds support for his view in the Fourth Gos-

pel's usage of expressions describing Jesus, himself a Jew, talking with

"the Jews" (John 10:24). He also sees differences between John's chro-

nology and that of the Synoptics. The appearance of such data in the

Fourth Gospel leads him to question John's historical reliability.

            He suggests that John is primarily a theologian who has taken

over the term Ioudaioi as a "symbol of unbelief or disbelief in the

platform John is espousing."9 He feels that the designation of the Jews

as unbelievers reflects the historical perspective from which the Fourth

Gospel was written, a time when Gentile church membership was

growing, and Jewish membership was not. John, according to Cook,

used the symbol of Ioudaioi to picture unbelief or rejection of Christ,

but we should not ascribe too much reality to the portrait. He states

that "by virtue of John's literary license he has imputed to Jesus the

Johannine theology and, insofar as Jesus is presented as the Christ and


            4 Note, for example, the references to "the Jews" in 9:22; 10:31; and 19:7.

            5 Rudolph Bultmann, The Gospel of John (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971) 86.

            6 Michael J. Cook, "The Gospel of John and the Jews,” Rev Exp 84 (Spring 1987)


            7 Ibid., 262.

            8 Ibid., 264.

            9 Ibid., 268.



insofar as in John the Christ and the Father are one, John has imputed

his personal theology to God personally."10 For Cook the problem with

John's use of the term "the Jews" is that it represents a faulty, errone-

ous theology.

            Cook does consider John to be anti-Jewish, and he asks how Chris-

tians of today could deal with the anti-Jewishness of the Fourth Gospel

so as to avoid offending the Jews. He suggests limiting the use of John

in Christian lectionaries and pruning some of the more strident lan-

guage of John into footnotes. He also suggests replacing the term Iou-

daioi in some contexts with a synonym such as "Jesus' own people."11

Cook concludes by saying that

                 John makes Jesus the only way to God, establishing for Christianity a

            monopoly on the truth, and excluding Judaism from access to God. . . . At

            the very least, Jews would wish for a deemphasizing of the Johannine view

            that "no one comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6) in favor of the

            judgment that "in my Fathers house are many mansions" (John 14:2)!12


            Cook's view that John sacrificed historical truthfulness to empha-

size his theological viewpoint is a common approach to solving the

problem of the usage of the term Ioudaioi in the Fourth Gospel.

            Slightly different from Cook's view is the outlook of a Jewish

scholar of the previous generation. S. Sandmel, late Professor of Bible

and Hellenistic Literature at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati,

Ohio, brands John's Gospel as anti-Semitic. He says, "Jesus in this Gos-

pel often appears not to be a Jew and, on the other hand, John is widely

regarded as either the most anti-Semitic or at least the most overtly

anti-Semitic of the Gospels."13 Sandmel does suggest that the contro-

versies in John "reflect not Jesus in his age but the ongoing bitterness

between Jews and Christians that had accumulated in the intervening

decades."14 Nevertheless, his concluding sentence in a chapter devoted

to an examination of John is that "one cannot deny the existence of a

written compilation of clearly expressed anti-Jewish sentiments."15

Sandmel recognizes that the term "Jews" is used in the Fourth Gospel

with a variety of meanings, but he views the content of the Gospel as

forthrightly anti-Semitic.

            Cook and Sandmel present an interesting study in Jewish ap-

proaches to the Fourth Gospel. Both believe that the Gospel is anti-


            10 Ibid., 270.

            11 Ibid., 269.

            12 Ibid., 270.

            13 Samuel Sandmel, Anti-Semitism in the New Testament? (Philadelphia: Fortress,

1978) 101.

            14 Ibid., 118.

            15 Ibid., 119.

            Thomas D. Lea: WHO KILLED THE LORD?                    107


Semitic in its content, but they differ somewhat in their explanation of

the evidence. Cook inclines more to question the faulty theology and

the unreliable history of the Gospel. Sandmel views the writer as anti-

Semitic and as reflecting the suspicions of a later generation of follow-

ers of Christ. Both Jewish spokesmen regard John's Gospel as deficient

in its attitude toward the Jews.

            The conviction that the Fourth Gospel is anti-Semitic is an idea

firmly rooted in the minds of many who are not biblical scholars. The

February 9,1995 issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contained the story

of an "educational and moral issue" at Swaerthmore College. Several

Jewish students objected to singing the German text of Bach's "St John

Passion," The text comes from Luther's translation of John's Gospel,

The protesters found John's frequent reference to Jesus' opponents as

"Jews" unacceptable.  Their dean supported their reluctance. However,

one Jewish member of the chorus understood that the text was not

spouting out anti-Semitic ideas but was expressing the Lutheran sense

of guilt and original sin and had no objection to singing the words.16

            A thorough analysis of the use of Ioudaioi in the Fourth Gospel

appears in an article by Urban C. von Wahlde,17 Von Wahlde divides

the Johannine usage of Ioudaioi into three categories. First, he notes a

"hostile" usage in which the Jews "desire to kill him, to excommuni-

cate him, to stone him, they accuse him of being possessed, of being a

Samaritan, of blaspheming."18 He finds broad agreement among ten

previous studies on this subject of the Jews in the Fourth Gospel. Writ-

ers of these studies generally agree in their identification of the pas-

sages in the Fourth Gospel which use the term "the Jews" in this

hostile sense.

            A second category of usage is designated by von Wahlde as "neu-

tral." In this usage the writer has spoken of Jewish customs (2:6), Jew-

ish people not showing hostility to Jesus (3:2-5), and the "king of the

Jews" (18:33).19

            His third usage sees the term Ioudaioi as a reference to the people

(6:41, 52).20 Van Wahlde suggests that the reference in 6:41, 52 is the

only allusion to Ioudaioi in the Fourth Gospel which clearly describes

the attitudes and opinions of the common people. He refers most of

the seventy references to Ioudaioi in the Fourth Gospel to the reli-

gious authorities. Von Wahlde does not support the historical reliability


            16 “In Addition to Which,” The Religion and Society Report 12 (May 1995) 8.

            17 Urban C. von Wahlde, "The Johannine 'Jews'; A Critical Survey,” NTS 28 (Janu-

ary 1982) 33-60.

            18 Ibid., 47.

            19 Ibid., 46.

            20 Ibid., 45.



of the Fourth Gospel, and he feels that redactional activity has oc-

curred in the text.21

            His suggested solution to the meaning of the term Ioudaioi has

implications for the question of the possible presence of anti-Semitism

in the Fourth Gospel. "The effect of von Wahlde's work is to narrow the

scope of John's vilification from the people and the authorities to the

authorities only."22 The unbelief and opposition in the Fourth Gospel

thus become an effort more supported by the religious authorities than

by the people as a whole.

            Still another interesting study of the use of the term Ioudaioi in

the Fourth Gospel has been prepared by M. Lowe. He gathers evidence

from Jewish, Christian, and pagan sources to argue that "the general

picture for the New Testament period is that the primary meaning of

 ]Ioudai?oi was geographical."23 He allows for the usage among Gentiles

and Diaspora Jews of the secondary religious meaning for the term.

Thus, the term Ioudaioi described "Judeans" in opposition to people

living in other areas of Palestine. The term "Judea" itself could refer to

(1) Judea in the strict sense, (2) the territory of Pontius Pilate including

Idumea and Samaria, or (3) the kingdom of Herod the Great which ap-

proximated the entirety of the historic land of Israel.24 He feels that

John's Gospel speaks of "Judea only in the strict sense."25

            In defense of his position Lowe suggests that the references to

feasts of the Ioudaioi occur in contexts requiring a trip to Judea. When-

ever the context makes it clear that Jesus was already in Jerusalem,

the words heorte, pascha, and other feast names "occur without any

appendage."26 Lowe questions the authenticity of the sole exception

which he finds to this principle in 6:4.27 Lowe interprets the phrase

basileus ton Ioudaion to signify "King of the Judeans" (John 18:33).28

In the instances where controversy develops between Jesus and the

ioudaioi (10:19, 24, 31, 33; 11:45; 19:38) he finds clear reference to the

Judeans. He contents that the rendering of "Judeans" is also the proper

translation in 7:35; 9:22; 12:9, 11; and 13:33. He allows that John 4:9

uses the term Ioudaioi in the sense of "Jews in general" because this

chapter reflects Samaritan usage.29  He accepts that John 18:20 may re-


            21 Ibid., 45.

            22 R Alan Culpepper, "The Gospel of John and the Jews,” RevExp 84 (Spring

1987) 274.

            23 Malcolm Lowe, "Who Were the IOUDAIOI?” NovT 18 (April 1976) 106.

            24 Ibid., 103.

            25 Ibid., 112.

            26 Ibid, 116.

            27 Ibid., 117.

            28 Ibid., 119.

            29 Ibid., 124-25.

            Thomas D. Lea: WHO KILLED THE LORD?                    109


fer to "Jews in general," but he suggests that Jews were Judeans in a

wider sense, and the meaning may still be "Judeans."30

            Lowe insists that an understanding of the geographical usage of

the term Ioudaioi in John's Gospel would prevent mistranslation and

the pernicious practice of anti-Semitism. He feels that this error in

translation has led to the practice of blaming the Jewish race for the

death of Jesus (John 19:7) and imputing to them and their descen-

dants the full responsibility for this act (Matt. 27:25).

            R. Kysar finds anti-Semitism in the Fourth Gospel, but his method

of finding it is more theological than exegetical.31 To Kysar "the text of

the Gospel nurtures an anti-Semitism that is properly understood only

in the light of the historical origin of the document."32 In a rapid liter-

ary analysis of the text of John's Gospel Kysar makes the following ob-

servations about its treatment of Jews and Judaism:

            1. References to Ioudaioi in the Fourth Gospel show that the nar-

rator is detached from Judaism, and the implied reader is thus dis-

tanced from an understanding of Judaism. Such expressions as 2:6 and

3:25 show the detachment of the narrator from Judaism.

            2. The narrator presents the Jews as enemies of Jesus. Such pas-

sages as 2:18; 6:41; and 8:48 picture the Jews as opponents who will

seek to kill him (5:16-18; 7:1).

            3. The narrator presents the Jews as untrue to their own faith and

tradition. They fail to observe the Torah (7:19), and they are truly the

children of the devil (8:39-44).

            4. The narrator presents an ambiguous picture of the Jews by oc-

casionally showing them as admirers of Jesus (10:24) and even as be-

lievers (8:31; 11:45). Those mentioned in 8:31 eventually become Jesus'

opponents, and those in 11:45 take actions to begin the death plot

against Jesus. This ambiguity leads the readers to view the Jews as

opponents of Jesus and his mission.

            5. The presentation of Pilate as giving in to the plans of the Jew-

ish leaders (18:31, 38-40; 19:4-8, 12-16) suggests that the Jews alone

are responsible for the execution of Jesus.


            30 Ibid., 126, n. 79.

            31 Robert Kysar, “Anti-Semitism and the Gospel of John," in Anti-Semitism and

Early Christianity, ed. Craig A Evans and Donald A Hagner (Minneapolis: Fortress,

1993) 113-27. Many scholars would differ with Kysar in his detection of anti-Semitism

in John's Gospel. Donald Hagner defines anti-Semitism as racial hatred. He designates

anti-Judaism as disagreement with the religious teaching of the Jews. Hagner finds anti-

Judaism in the Fourth Gospel, but not anti-Semitism (see Hagner, Jewish Reclama-

tion . . . , 289). We will frequently refer to this distinction between anti-Semitism and

anti-Judaism in this article. Not all scholars make this distinct a variation between the

terms. For one who seems to equate the two terms see Menahim Benhayim, “Alleged

anti-Jewish Bias in the New Testament: A Response," Bible Translator (July 1994) 339.

            32 Kysar, 114.




            6. The narrator presents Judaism as inferior to the message of

Jesus (4:21; 5:39, 45; 6:58). A true Israelite is one who becomes a dis-

ciple of Jesus (1:47).33

            Kysar notes after his survey that "the conclusion is inescapable

that the text of the narrative nurtures a negative mentality toward Jews

and Judaism."34 What prompted the narrator to present Judaism in this


            Kysar feels that the term Ioudaioi should be seen as pointing to

certain Jewish leaders rather than to the entire Jewish people.35 He

feels that the Gospel was written "in response to the exclusion of the

Johannine church from the synagogue and the subsequent dialogue

between these two religious parties."36 He suggests that the polemical

stance of the Gospel is due to this expulsion. He feels that this polem-

ical quality tells more about "the evangelist and the Johannine com-

munity than it witnesses to the ontological status of the Jews or

Judaism."37 He explains that "the vitriolic attack on Judaism is nothing

more nor less than the desperate attempt of the Johannine Christians

to find a rationale for their existence in isolation from Judaism."38

            F. Vouga also raises the issue of the presence of anti-Judaism in

John's Gospel.39 He approaches the issue largely from the standpoint

of the historical background of John's Gospel rather than by making a

complete exegetical examination of a term such as "the Jews." His

conclusion is that

                Die johanneische Christologie entwickelt sich innerhalb der judischen

            Tradition und in hermeneutischer Auseinandersetzung mit den Pharisaern,

            die die Synagoge angeblich kontrollieren. Von einem johanneischen Anti-

            judaismus kann insofern nicht die Rede sein, als keine Gegenuberstel-

            lung Juden/Heiden, sondern eine Kontroverse innerhalb der judischen

            Uberlieferung und innerhalb der Synagoge in der johanneischen Tradition



Since Vouga sees this debate as a discussion between Jews, he is un-

willing to describe it with the adjective "anti-Jewish." The issues in


            33 Ibid., 114-17;

            34 Ibid., 117.

            35 Ibid., 118.

            36 Ibid., 120.

            37 Ibid., 122.

            38 Ibid., 122.

            39 F: Vouga, “Antijudaismus im Johannesevangelium," Theologie und Glaube 83, no. 1

(1993) 81-89.

            40 Ibid., 88. The author's translation is: “Johannine Christology develops within the

Jewish tradition and in hermeneutical debate with the Pharisees, who putatively con-

trolled the synagogue. The speech therefore cannot be from a Johannine anti-Judaism,

since there was no Jewish/Gentile opposition, but rather a controversy occurred within

the Jewish tradition and within the synagogue in the Johannine tradition."

            Thomas D. Lea: WHO KILLED THE LORD?                    111


John's Gospel revolve around a debate within Judaism itself between

Christian Jews and those who have not responded to Christ.

            A final insight dealing with the attitude toward Jews in the Fourth

Gospel comes from the Bible translator R. Omanson.41 He asserts that

NT scholars have "nearly universally conceded today" that the NT con-

tains an anti-Jewish bias.42 Omanson offers four statements summariz-

ing the opinions of contemporary scholars who attempt to counter this


            1. Christian scholars have given first-century Judaism a bad press.

            2. Scholars today are learning to acknowledge the Jewishness of

Jesus and are attempting to understand him in the context of first-

century Judaism.

            3. The gospel accounts of Jesus read back into the Gospels the

conflicts of the early church with Pharisaic Judaism.

            4. New studies on Paul are moving to picture him as other than

the fierce opponent to Judaism which the church has long understood

him to be.43

            Omanson suggests that NT scholars should attempt to bring these

new understandings into their translations of John's Gospel. He sug-

gests as an example the following note for John 8:44: "Many New

Testament scholars consider the harsh language in this verse to reflect

the violent debate between late first-century Judaism and the Chris-

tian community which produced the Fourth Gospel, over the issue of

belief in Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God."44

            How do these approaches to understanding the attitude of the

Fourth Gospel toward the Jews assist us in approaching the text it-

self? Can we bring any of these understandings to the text in order

to explain its usage of the term Ioudaioi? Some of these scholars are

content merely to designate John's Gospel as anti-Semitic. Others see

the effect of John's content as producing anti-Semitism, but they feel

that the author is reading conflicts with Jews of his time back into the

NT period. This writer remains dubious of the adequacy of most of

these approaches because of the general suspicion of the historical re-

liability of John. It is not necessary to feel that the author of the Fourth

Gospel harbors a blatant prejudice against the Jewish race. It is not


            41 Roger Omanson, "Translationg the anti-Jewish Bias of the New Testament,"

Bible Translator 43 (July 1992) 301-13.

            42 Ibid., 301. Omanson does not clearly distinguish in this article between anti-

Jewish and anti-Semitic. Although he never uses the term anti-Semitic in reference to

NT content, he uses the term "anti-Semitic" in close proximity to the, term "anti-Jewish"

so that one would easily get the impression that he equated the two practices. See his

rejoinder to this criticism in a later article by him in Bible Translator 45 (July 1994)


            43 Omanson, "Translating the Anti-Jewish Bias. . . ," 302-5.

            44 Ibid., 309.



necessary to accept that John is reading events occurring during the

period of writing the Fourth Gospel back into the events of Jesus' life-

time. It is not necessary to accept the view that John's theology has dis-

torted his historical perspective.

            In our next section. we will undertake a survey of relevant pas-

sages in John's Gospel related to the charge of anti-Semitism. We shall

assume the historical reliability of John's Gospel after a few brief state-

ments which support this view. Then we will study the various shades

of meaning which Jesus has given to the term Ioudaioi.


An Exegetical Evaluation of the Fourth Gospel's Treatment of the Jews


            Some who study the usage of the term Ioudaioi in the Fourth Gos-

pel feel that the author is not using the term in reference to the people

of Israel during the years from A.D. 30-33, but "of the opponents of his

own time who denied the claims the Church makes about Jesus the

Messiah."45 Those who follow this approach feel that the author was

reading the controversies of his own lifetime back into the earlier de-

cades of the first century. This writer will assume that the author of

John's Gospel has faithfully represented the events of A.D. 30-33 and

has not rewritten history to reflect his own later experiences.

            Several features of the Fourth Gospel assist in convincing this

writer that John's historical accounts are trustworthy. First, John's own

statement of purpose in 20:30-31 encourages our belief that the author

has presented reliable information about Jesus Christ. If John's infor-

mation were not trustworthy, readers would have no foundation for the

belief which John professes to encourage. Second, John's frequent ref-

erences to both topographical (John 1:28) and chronological facts (John

1 :29, 35, 43) encourage a belief that he is concerned about the histori-

cal accuracy of his writing. Third, John's emphasis on “witness” (John

19:35; 21:24) suggests that he is presenting information capable of be-

ing relied on. For additional information supporting the reliability of

history in the Fourth Gospel see the author's paper “The Reliability of

History in John's Gospel.”46

            Assuming that we can rely on the author's accurate representati.on

of the events of A.D. 30-33, how did he use the term Ioudaioi? Some-

times the author used the term as an ethnic expression, referring to


            45 Robert G. Bratcher, “The Jews' in the Gospel of John,” Bible Translator 26 (Oc-

tober 1975) 403. Brown follows the same approach as seen in his statement that “in the

Fourth Gospel, then, the evangelist uses the term with the meaning that it had in his

own time." See Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel according to John, I-XII, AB (Garden

City, NY: Doubleday, 1966) LXXII.

            46 Thomas D. Lea, "The Reliability of History in John's Gospel," JETS 38 (Sept.,

1995) 387-402.

            Thomas D. Lea: WHO KILLED THE LORD?                    113


the Jewish people (5:1). Here we see no pejorative significance from

the word, and often the usage reflects a quite positive evaluation of

the Jews (4:22). A second usage appears as a reference to people who

live in Judea (11:19). In this usage the term sometimes refers to people

who are hostile to Jesus (11:8) and on other occasions to those who have

responded favorably to Jesus (11:45). We may designate this as a geo-

graphical usage. In a third usage the author employed the term to de-

scribe people who were hostile to Jesus (8:48). These were not

religious authorities, but people or groups of people who opposed the

words or deeds of Jesus. The fourth usage of the term spotlights the

authorities in Jerusalem (1:19; 18:31). These authorities do not always

openly express a hostile response to Jesus, but it is normally easy to

recognize that the activities of these "Jews" are contrary to Jesus. We

will examine each of the seventy usages of the term Ioudaioi in John's

Gospel in order to determine the category into which the usage fits.47


The Ethnic Usage

            The ethnic usage of the term Ioudaioi identifies a practice or a per-

son as Jewish in background. Some of the references present a clearly

positive picture of the Jewish people (4:22). Others are primarily ethnic

in their intent, but they convey a sense of opposition to Jesus (18:12).

            The reference in 2:6 is clearly ethnic because it identifies the

purification of the water as following the custom of Jewish laws and

regulations. The phrase "passover of the Jews" in 2:13 has no hostility

in its usage. Carson explains this usage by pointing out that both Gal-

ileans and diaspora Hebrews called residents of Judea "Jews." Because

the Passover was celebrated in the temple in Judea, it was natural to

refer to it as the "passover of the Jews."48

            The reference of 3:1 is ethnic because it identifies Nicodemus as a

member of the Jewish ruling council. In 3:25 the author refers to a dis-

cussion between John's disciples and "a" Jew. The term may have been

used because the Jew who engaged in the debate was himself a Jud-

ean. John's disciples may well have been in Judea when the discussion

of 3:25 occurred. The statement of 3:26 suggests that John's disciples

may well have been away from John for the discussion and could have

come to him from some location in Judea. It is easier to designate the

usage in 3:25 as ethnic than to consider that it appropriately fits into

another category.


            47 Bratcher, 409. The author of this paper is indebted to Robert Bratcher for his clear

analysis of the usage of  Ioudaioi in the Fourth Gospel. Although I have not copied his cate-

gories nor completely adopted his interpretations, I have found his insights to be helpful.

            48 D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991) 176.



            The term Ioudaios appears twice in 4:9. The first usage in 4:9 com-

ments that Jesus is ethnically Jewish. The second usage in 4:9 indicates

either that ethnic Jews do not associate with Samaritans or that they do

not use the dishes which Samaritans have used. In either translation

the teml Ioudaios has an ethnic connotation. The positive statement

about the Jews in 4:22 suggests that God's revelation has emerged

through the Jewish people. Brown says, this line is a clear indication

that the Johannine attitude to the Jews cloaks neither an anti-Semitism

of the modern variety nor a view that rejects the spiritual heritage of


            The reference in 5:1 designated the feast under discussion as

Jewish religious custom. Since the event occurred in Jerusalem, it was

natural to designate it as a Jewish feast. The designation in 6:4 de-

scribed the feast as the Jewish passover. The reference in 7:2 identified

Tabernacles as a Jewish feast.

            The reference in 11:55 resembles the usage of 2:13; 5:1; 6:4; and

7:2. The choice of the teml "Jews" or "Jewish" was made for reasons

similar to those explained for 2:13.

            The designation in 18:12 refers to the Jews as officials sent to

arrest Jesus in conjunction with Roman soldiers. In 18:3 the author’s

usage of the term "detachment of soldiers" suggested that Roman aux-

iliaries accompanied the Jewish officials and police.50 The reference to

the "Jewish officials" in 18:12 is probably primarily an ethnic designa-

tion to distinguish them from the Romans who were a part of the

group. They are clearly Jewish officials who oppose Jesus.

            The statement of 18:35 is an ethnic reference used by Pilate. He

was stating that since he was not a Jew, he had no interest in the royal

claims which any ethnic Jew would make.

            The references to Jews in 19:21, 40, and 42 are all ethnic in their

intent. In 19:21 the speakers are the Jewish chief priests. In 19:40 our

author indicated that the burial of Jesus took place in accordance with

Jewish custom. In 19:42 he referred to Jesus' day of burial as the Jew-

ish day of Preparation.

            One final grouping of ethnic references in the Fourth Gospel re-

volves around the usage of the term "king of the Jews." This is a ref-

erence to the Jewish Messiah. The phrase appears five times in the

Fourth Gospel. In 18:33, 39 Pilate used the designation in reference to

Jesus. In 19:3 the soldiers used it in reference to Jesus. In 19:19 Pilate

ordered that the phrase be written and displayed above the cross. In

19:21 the chief priests protested against its use on the cross by Pilate.


            49 Brown, 172.

            50 Carson, 577.

          homas D. Lea: WHO KILLED THE LORD?                    115


The Geographical Usage

            A second category of usage of the term Ioudaioi in the Fourth

Gospel is to designate the residents of Judea. This usage focuses pri-

marily on those people who live in and near Jerusalem. Many of these

references have very positive overtones in reference to the Jews. This

positive usage provides additional evidence against the idea that the

author of the Fourth Gospel was deliberately anti-Semitic.

            Many of these geographical references are clustered in John 11. In

11:7 Jesus suggested to his disciples that they return to Judea. In 11:8

the disciples warned Jesus that the Jews had earlier tried to stone him

(10:31, 39). This reference points clearly to the Jews in Judea, a geo-

graphical reference. The usage also shows that these particular Jews

were among the opponents of Jesus, for they represent people who

were hostile to Jesus.

            In 11:19, 31, 33, 36, 45 the term "Jews" refers to those who came

to Mary and Martha to comfort them after the death of Lazarus. Some

of these came to faith in Jesus (11:45). The fact that those who came to

Mary and Martha are numbered as "many" suggests that the family of

Mary and Martha was prominent in Jerusalem. The author does not

discuss the depth of the faith of those who "put their faith in him"

(11:45). We would recognize that their faith was deeper than the faith

of those who went to the Pharisees and tattled about Jesus. All of these

references present positive statements about the Jews.

            In 11:54 the term "Jews" still refers to those who live in Judea, for

the author contrasts these Jews who live in Jerusalem with those indi-

viduals who reside in the city of Ephraim. Carson locates Ephraim as

twelve miles from Jerusalem,51 and it is certainly likely that some of

the Judean "Jews" resided in the area. However, Jesus was far enough

distant from Jerusalem that the use of the term "Jews" in reference to

hostile Jerusalemites would not apply to those in Ephraim. The hostile

Jews were those in the area of Jerusalem, and Jesus had removed some

distance from these.

            In 12:9, 11 Jesus has returned to Bethany in the vicinity of Jeru-

salem. The Jews who came out to see Jesus in this location were likely

Judeans, largely from Jerusalem. The references to Ioudaioi in this

pair of verses' contain no negative overtones. We read that "many of

the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him"

(12:11). These Jews are also to be distinguished from the Jewish author-

ities in Jerusalem, who normally showed unrestricted animus against



            51 Carson, 424. Bratcher suggests that we do not know where "Ephraim" was located,

and he favors the idea that it was in Perea and not in Judea. See Bratcher, 407.



            The "Jews" of 19:20 were those who read the title which Herod

had placed above Jesus' cross. These clearly appear to be Judeans, and

they lived in and near Jerusalem. We should distinguish these Jews

from the Jerusalem authorities, who are also designated as "Jews" in


            This geographical usage of the term "Jews" presents a generally

positive picture of the Jews although its primary usage is to designate

the group as residents of Judea near Jerusalem. The reference in 11:8

is the sole clearly negative reference to the Jews. Although those in

11:8 are clearly Judean residents, we should distinguish their spiritual

orientation from that of those Jews mentioned in 11:19, 31, 33, 36, 45.


Hostile People

            Jesus received hostility from many different people and groups.

We are not always able to determine clearly the identity of the oppo-

nents, but we can often recognize that they may be either ordinary in-

dividuals who are hostile or authority figures who are hostile. In this

section we will observe examples of individual people who are hos-

tile to Jesus. In our next section we will observe examples of author-

ity figures who demonstrate this same hostility.

            The Ioudaioi in 6:41, 52 are probably the synagogue congregation

in Capemaum (6:59). Jesus' claim that he is the bread from heaven has

incensed them. They regard him as a fellow Galilean (6:42), and they

are outraged at his claims. Bratcher points out that it is reasonable to

identify "the Jews" with "the crowd" (6:22) and that the author used

the term Ioudaioi when it became clear that they were contesting the

claims of Jesus.52 The fact that this incident occurred in Galilee makes

it unlikely that these are Jerusalem authorities.

            The reference to the Jews in 8:22, 31, 48, 52, 57 is to individuals

in Judea who were hostile to Jesus. The hostility is not clearly evident

in 8:22, 31, but it becomes apparent as the discussion develops in 8:48,

52, 57. Bratcher feels that the reference in 8:22 must be to authorities

because the statement of 8:28 about "lifting up the Son of Man" would

not have been made to the people as a group.53 The cries of the people

as a group played as large a role in the death of Jesus as did the mach-

inations of the authorities (see Luke 23:13,18-21; Mark 15:11). This fact

provides a basis for feeling that the reference to Ioudaioi in 8:22 is to

hostile people.


            52 Bratcher, 405. Brown shows a suspicion of the historical reliability of the Fourth

Gospel at this point by suggesting that the objections of 6:41 have "been introduced here

from another scene” (see Brown, 270).

            53 Bratcher, 406.

            Thomas D. Lea: WHO KILLED THE LORD?                    117


            Carson points out that the faith displayed by the "Jews" of 8:31 is

a fickle faith.54 In the verses which follow, Jesus declared that endur-

ance in obedience distinguished those with a fickle faith from those

with an enduring faith (8:32-36). The actions of these Jews in 8:48, 52,

57 shows that they do not have an enduring faith. Brown suggests that

a later redactor added 8:31 and felt that it was reasonable to make

"Jews" the audience for what followed. He, according to Brown, saw no

contradiction in describing these believers as "Jews."55

            In 10:19, 24, 31, 33 the term Ioudaioi refers to a crowd of people

showing their hostility to Jesus. The hostility shown in wanting to stone

Jesus (10:31) and the attempt to seize him (10:39) appear to be the re-

action of an impatient crowd of people, not the scheming response of

authorities who held some authority in their hands.

            The references of 18:20, 38 describe people who are hostile to

Jesus. The fact that the "Jews" of 18:20 are those who come together at

the synagogues or the temple makes it more likely that these are people

rather than authorities. The designation of the "Jews" in 18:38 probably

includes some of the authorities supplemented by vocal supporters

from the people. Such a passage as Mark 15: 11 indicates that the crowd

was not composed merely of Jewish authorities opposed to Jesus.


Hostile Authorities

            Pressure from the Jerusalem Jewish authorities was a chief factor

in securing the death of Jesus. The weak-willed complicity of Pilate

in refusing to reject their requests suggests that the death of Jesus can

be attributed both to Jewish and Roman leaders. We should not fol-

low the logic of the request of the Jewish crowd in Matthew 27:25

and permit the death of Jesus to be blamed exclusively on the Jews.

In 1:19 those Jews who sent priests and Levites to inquire of John

were probably leaders of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. In 1:24 the au-

thor identified them as Pharisees.

            The Jews of 2:18, 20 are the authorities who had challenged Jesus

after he had expelled the animals from the Court of the Gentiles in

the Temple. Those Jews appearing in 5:10, 15, 16, 18 were those who

informed the healed man that carrying his mat on the Sabbath was

wrong. When they later talked with Jesus, his claim that he had a spe-

cial relationship with the Father riled them. These appear to be Jew-

ish authorities from Jerusalem.

            The Jews of 7:1, 11, 13, 15, 35 are the authorities in Jerusalem.

The reference in 7:1 seems clearly to describe the authorities because


            54 Carson, 347-48.

            55 Brown, 354-55.



of the prior statement about the authorities in 5:18. The statements of

7:11, 13 appear as references to the authorities because the "people"

are afraid to speak of Jesus for fear of the "Jews." Since it is the people

who are afraid to speak in 7:13, it must be that they fear the Jewish

authorities. It is also the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem who are sur-

prised at his teaching (7:15). In 7:35 those who ask where Jesus is

going may well be the guards sent out as representatives of the

authorities (7:32). The reference in 7:35 is particularly difficult be-

cause it is entirely possible that these "Jews" were the authorities

themselves or that the term refers to the people. The puzzlement ly-

ing beneath the question of 7:35 seems more to belong to the mental-

ityof a crowd of Jewish people than to the more suave, knowledgeable


            The references in 9:18, 22 designate the Jerusalem authorities. In

9:13 they are identified as the Pharisees. They press forward relent-

lessly in their opposition to Jesus.

            The statements of Jesus about the Jews in 13:33 may well refer

back to the words of 7:34. It appears that Jesus is speaking to the au-

thorities in the earlier reference, and it seems suitable to envision the

same audience here.

            The references of 18:14, 31, 36 designate the authorities of Jeru-

salem. Note the discussion of the reference of 18:12 under the ethnic

usage of the term. The usage in 18:12 is probably ethnic because it dis-

tinguishes the officers of the Jews from the group of Romans who went

with them to arrest Jesus. The advice which Caiaphas gave in 18:14 is

clearly to the Jewish authorities. In 18:31, 36 first Pilate and then Jesus

referred to the Jewish authorities. It is more likely that those who an-

swered the objections of Pilate in 18:31 are Jewish authorities. It is also

more likely that Jesus was speaking of being delivered to the Jewish

authorities. In 18:38 some of the people who supported the authorities

joined with them in calling for Jesus' death.

            The references in 19:7, 12, 14, 31, 38 describe the Jewish author-

ities in Jerusalem. Bratcher contends that those of 19:7, 12, 14 are still

part of the crowd which was hostile to Jesus.56 The responses in 19:7,

12 sound more like the responses and accusations of Jewish authori-

ties than expressions from the people. It is entirely possible that the

group of Jews in 19:14 may contain people hostile to Jesus as well as

the authorities. Those who request the body of Jesus in 19:31 would

most likely be the authorities. The "Jews" of 19:38 are also the Jewish

authorities. It is interesting to observe in this verse that Joseph of

Arimathea himself is ethnically a Jew. The author distinguished him


            56 Bratcher, 408.

      Thomas D. Lea: WHO KILLED THE LORD?                    119


from those Jews of whom he was afraid. It seems highly unlikely that

a writing that allows usages such as this contains racial prejudice

against the Jewish race. The author does point out the opposition of

the Jewish leaders to Jesus, and we should not fault him for attempt-

ing to display truthfully their opposition.

            The Jews of 20:19 are the same authorities whom Joseph of Ari-

mathea feared in 19:38. This same usage had also appeared in 7:13.

            The usage in this section is frequently described as anti-Semitic

by scholars convinced that John has traced the opposition of the Jews

to Jesus in deliberately stark colors. It appears that all which the au-

thor has done is to point out the consistent opposition of the Jewish

authorities in Jerusalem to the preaching and practices of Jesus. This

practice does not demonstrate racial prejudice against the Jews. It does

show opposition to the theological positions of the Jewish leaders, and

it is proper to call it anti-Jewish.57


The Historical Answer

            Contemporary scholarship may debate the role of the Jews in the

death of Jesus, but plenty of historical evidence exists to prove either

Jewish involvement in the crucifixion or Jewish opposition to Chris-

tians. Three chief sources corroborate Jewish participation in these


            The first witness to Jewish attitudes toward Christians appears in

the Jewish historian Josephus. After the death of the Roman procurator

Festus (Acts 24:27), Nero appointed Albinus as new procurator. He also

gave the Jewish high priesthood to the Sadducee Ananus. While Albi-

nus was en route to assume his office, Ananus convened the Jewish

Sanhedrin in order to condemn James (Acts 15:12-21; Jas 1:1), Jesus'

half brother, to death. Josephus reported the story in these words:

            Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assem-

            bled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus,

            who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others (or, some

            of his companions); and when he had formed an accusation against them

            as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.58


            The church historian Eusebius quotes the church father Hegesip-

pus (second century) in defense of the fact that Christianity was the

charge brought against James.59 The attitude of the high priest Ananus

dramatically echoes the opposition of the high priest Caiaphas in the


            57 See note 31 for a distinction between the term “anti-Semitic” and “anti-Jewish”

            58 Josephus Antiquities 20.9.1.

            59 Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 2.23.



gospels (John 11:49-53). Josephus provides evidence from a Jewish

source for the intensity of the opposition to Christ. Such opposition a

generation after Christ's death should make us hesitant to excise ref-

erences to Jewish opposition to Jesus which appear in the Gospels.

            A second source demonstrating Jewish opposition to Jesus appears

in the writings of early church fathers. Tertullian described the Jewish

opposition which led to Jesus' death in the following words:


            But the Jews were so exasperated by His teaching, by which their rulers

            and chiefs were convicted of the truth, chiefly because so many turned

            aside to Him, that at last they brought Him before Pontius Pilate, at that

            time Roman governor of Syria; and, by the violence of their outcries

            against Him, extorted a sentence giving Him up to them to be crucified.50


            In addition to the words of Tertullian we also find similar ideas

repeated in Justin Martyr. Justin indicated that the opposition to Jesus

which appeared among the Jews in Christ's time also remained among

Jews of his own time. Justin said,

               For other nations have not inflicted on us and on Christ this wrong to

            such an extent as you have, who in very deed are the authors of the wicked

            prejudice against the Just One, and us who hold by Him. For after that

            you had crucified Him, the only blameless and righteous Man,-through

            whose stripes those who approach the Father by Him are healed,-when

            you knew that he had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, as the

            prophets foretold He would, you not only did not repent of the wickedness

            which you had committed, but at that time you selected and sent out from

            Jerusalem chosen men through all the land to tell that the godless heresy

            of the Christians had sprung up, and to publish those things which all

            they who knew us not speak against us.51


            It is of course possible that scholars may dismiss the statements

from Tertullian and Justin by designating them as hopelessly anti-

Semitic. Those who would do this are trying to rewrite history instead

of interpreting it as it appears in documents of the times.

            A third source of information about Jewish attitudes toward Jesus

possibly appears in the Babylonian Talmud. Certainty about the refer-

ences to Jesus is difficult because scholars debate whether there are ac-

tual references to Jesus in this material.52 Tractate Sanhedrin uses the

name Yeshu in probable reference to Jesus and indicates that he had

five disciples, each deserving to die. The tractate notes that Yeshu was

put to death on Passover Eve for the practice of magic and the decep-


            60 Tertullian Apology 21.

            61 Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho 17.

            62 Hagner, Jewish Reclamation, 46.

            Thomas D. Lea: WHO KILLED THE LORD?                    121


tion of Israel. Prior to his death authorities had issued a plea for any-

thing to be spoken in his favor. No response was given to the plea.63

            Scholars do not accept the references as thoroughly reliable in

the historical accounts. The material is important because it reflects

the Jewish attitude of the late Talmudic periods. This distaste proba-

bly developed over the centuries, and we may feel confident that the

attitude could have reflected first-century attitudes toward Jesus.

            It is also important to point out the anti-Jewish attitudes in some

sections of the OT. We should be careful to define anti-Jewishness as

opposition to Jewish religious practices and not as prejudice against

the Jews as a race. The historical writer of 2 Chron 36:11-16 recorded

accurately the Jewish opposition to the messages of the prophets. The

prophet Isaiah described his people as those "loaded with guilt" who

had "forsaken the Lord" (Isa 1:4). Later he pictured them as "rebel-

lious; "deceitful; and "unwilling to listen to the Lord's instruction" (Isa

30:9). The words of Jeremiah corroborate the picture painted by Isaiah.

(Jer 3:6; 7:25-26; 11:7-8; 18:23). The OT prophets were quick to point

out the stubborn resistance of the Jewish people to messages from Je-

hovah. The words of Josephus, the early church fathers, and even the

words of the Babylonian Talmud substantiate this picture. A rejection

of the NT picture of Jewish opposition to Jesus and to Christians

seems to represent a tampering with the historical evidence. This evi-

dence presents a consistent pattern of Jewish opposition to Christians

and to Jesus.


                                                The Conclusion


            Who is responsible for the death of the Lord? Should we excul-

pate the Jews for Jesus' death because of alleged anti-Semitism in the

gospels? Should we allow our present sympathy for the victims of the

Nazi Holocaust to influence our interpretation of the NT evidence?

            In answering these questions in reverse order we should give a

resounding "No!" to the second and third questions. Those who have

followed through this paper should recognize that this writer has dis-

puted the charge of anti-Semitism in the gospels. It is admitted that

the gospel writers do show opposition to the unbelief and resistance

of the Jews of Jesus' time to Christians and to Christ himself. This ad-

mission represents the acceptance of the gospel portraits of the Jews

as historically accurate.

            Who then killed the Lord? There is a sense in which the sins of

all sinners contributed to the death of Jesus, but that is not the sense


            63 b. Sanh. 43a.



in which this writer has asked the question. We can develop an answer

to the question as we observe the following principles:64

            1. The idea of Jewish collective guilt for Jesus' death is totally in-

accurate. Jewish participation in the events of Jesus' passion should

not be used as a basis for explaining the death of Jews during the


            2. It is also improper to apply the idea of collective guilt even to

the generation of Jews contemporary with Jesus. Not all Jews of Jesus'

lifetime sought the death of Jesus.

            3. The Gospels accurately show that Jesus had his opponents

among the Jews, and we can assume that a crowd did shout, "Crucify!

Crucify!" Those who made this cry seem to have been "a group per-

fectly orchestrated by Jesus' priestly adversaries to demand the release

of Barabbas instead."65

            4. Jesus also had friends among the Jews, and most of these seem

to have been absent from the proceedings of his arrest, hearings, and

trial until it was too late. Some did get the message about Jesus' convic-

tion, and Luke reports that "a large number of people followed him,

including women who mourned and wailed for him" (Luke 23:27). It

is also important to remember the 120 Jewish Christians before Pente-

cost (Acts 1:15); the 3000 Jewish converts at Pentecost (Acts 2:41); the

5000 who soon appeared (Acts 4:4); and the many Jewish priests who

became believers (Acts 6:7). Paul spoke of a "remnant" of the Jews liv-

ing in his day (Rom 11:5).

            5. References to "the Jews,” particularly in the Fourth Gospel,

have at least four obvious meanings as proposed in the exegetical sec-

tion of this paper. Not all Jews opposed Jesus, but some, particularly

those influenced by the high priestly families, stubbornly sought his

death (Luke 23:13,21). We should not brand the Fourth Gospel as anti-

Semitic for similarly using the plural "the Jews." On the other hand, we

should not allow this "in-house" usage among Jews to lead those of us

who are Gentiles to make pejorative conclusions against the Jews.66

            6. We should not view the statement of Matt 27:25 as a wish by

the Jews but rather as a statement by those Jews who were present to

accept responsibility for Jesus' death. It goes beyond the biblical state-

ment to press these words into a basis for an eternal curse on the

Jewish people. Matthew may have included these words so that his


            64 Many of these ideas are developed from Paul L. Maier, "Who Killed Jesus?"

Christianity Today, 9 (April 1990) 17-19.

            65 Ibid., 19.

            66 Ibid.

       Thomas D. Lea: WHO KILLED THE LORD?                    123


readers could "understand that the loss of Israel's special status. . . is

to be interpreted in the light of their rejection of Jesus."67

            7. The words of the gospel writers are neither explicit citations

nor fabrications. They represent "the living and powerful words of

Jesus in a fresh way for his readers, while faithfully and accurately

presenting the 'gist' of what Jesus said."68 Luke's statements in 1:1-4

suggest that the gospel writers had a concern for accuracy, and most

Jews exercised great care in passing on divinely associated events from

one generation to another. We should realize that an accurate summary

of Jesus' teaching is fully as reliable as his actual words.

            Is it anti-Semitic to suggest that the Jews of Jesus' lifetime vigor-

ously opposed his teaching and his work? If we realize that the Jews

who opposed Jesus represented an elite group among NT Jews, we

are not showing a pejorative attitude toward the Jews as a race by

merely pointing out this fact.

            Is it anti-Jewish to suggest that the Jews of the first century and of

this century hold attitudes toward Jesus Christ with which Christians

would almost universally disagree? If we define anti-Jewishness as

indicating our differences with the Jewish religion, Christians would

only be stating their beliefs by demonstrating how they differ from

first-century and contemporary Jews. One contemporary Jewish be-

liever has explained his views in this way:

                The fact remains, that for many believing Christians, neither the Or-

            thodox Judaism of the New Testament era nor of our own era can be the

            ultimate word of God for anyone convinced of the uniqueness of Jesus

            Christ. It is not necessarily anti-Jewish to hold such a position.69


            Were the Jews involved in the death of Jesus? Yes, but we can also

say that the Romans were involved in his death (John 19:15-16). The

truth is that both Jewish and Roman participation led to the death of

Jesus. The admission of this fact is not an evidence of anti-Semitism,

but it represents an effort to accept the trustworthiness and reliability

of the Gospels.


            67 R T. France, Matthew, TCNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985) 393.

            68 Darrell L. Bock, "The Words of Jesus in the Gospels: Live, Jive, or Memorex?”

Jesus Under Fire (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995) 77. Bock's article contains excellent

additional information defending the trustworthiness of the gospel accounts of Jesus' life.

            69 Menahim Benhayim, "Alleged anti-Jewish Bias in the New Testament: A Re-

sponse; Bible Translator 45 (July 1994) 340.



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